A Worthy Read

richtel-book-imageTCTers may recall the actual journalism of Matt Richtel. Turns out, he has now shaped his work on the politics of distracted driving into a pretty fascinating book, A Deadly Wandering.

It reveals not only the forces promoting the form of mass murder known as “the connected car,” but reviews some pretty important research into the interface between technology and brain science. Both these topics speak volumes about the ruinous direction of human culture under corporate capitalism.

To that point, Richtel quotes David Strayer, the ex-GTE engineer turned safety crusader. While still employed by GTE (now Verizon), Strayer discovered proof that cell phone usage by automobile drivers was wildly and obviously dangerous. The reply of his bosses was, Strayer recalls, this:

Why would we want to know this? That will not help us sell anything.

marx This is not only Fred Taylor-level system voicing, but also a pretty direct confirmation of Karl Marx’s analysis of Mr. Moneybags’ core worldview and ethical status:

Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence, Capital is heedless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society.

Voice of the Sponsor

The gulf between the public/on-air claims and the behind-the-scenes realities of corporate marketing is scandalously immense. If journalism still had a pulse, there would be frequent exposes of this all-important chasm. Alas, the capitalists own the media, so there is only silence.

Consider the example of one Thomas Morgan, the CEO of MediaD.tv, who is busy coaching big businesses about how “Internet TV has the potential to be the most powerful ad-supported medium ever created, if we learn to leverage the strengths of both television and the internet.”

Here is how scumbags like Morgan talk to their customers about the core of what their Orwellian careers are all about:

Finally, the gap between TV and online is not as great as people think. Let’s compare a 1000 people watching a full prime show on TV, and a 1000 people watching the same show online. If roughly 40% of them are outside A18-49 then the C3 model will discard 400 people to start. The remaining 600 view 22 commercials at say a $30 CPM so about $.66 per viewer X 600 viewers = $3.96 of revenue. Compare this to online: 1000 people view 6 commercials at say a $40CPM, so $.24 per viewer X 1000 viewers = $2.40 of revenue. Hence the parity gap. However, if we upped the ad load to 12, and dropped the CPM to $35 on average for all viewers, online would generate $4.20 of revenue per 1000 viewers, exceeding the $3.96 of TV. Parity achieved and exceeded!

Such is the nature of the planning of citizens’ most common life experiences in our glorious “democracy.”

It’s the Capitalists, Stupid

From economist Emmanuel Saez, reporting on the share of personal income going to various percentiles of the U.S. households:

Year 2007 [was] the second highest year on record since 1913 almost equaling 1928, the record year when the top percentile share reached 23.9 percent. Even within the top percentile, the gains from 2006 to 2007 are extremely concentrated. The top .01% (top 14,988 US families, making at least $11.5m in 2007) share increased from 5.46% in 2006 to 6.04% in 2007 leaving well behind the 1928 peak of 5.04 percent.

One wonders whether the year 1928 doesn’t have rather a great deal of relevance as history repeating itself. 2007 looks an awful lot like that former pinnacle, with eerily similar effects seemingly ensuing, with the crucial difference that, behind the marketing facade, Obama is Hoover redux, not FDR II.

Cars in China

freeball Having long since reached saturation in their main citadel of car-pushing, what do the corporate capitalists have in store for transportation arrangements in China?

According to Yang Jian, Managing Editor of Automotive News China, present trends suggest that China will have somewhere between 200 and 300 million cars in operation by 2030.

If electric cars become cheap enough, it could be far worse:

Their influence could be profound.

Electric cars, for example, are prohibitively expensive today. Yet given advances, they could become affordable to the mass of consumers tomorrow.

If that were to happen, the many millions of people riding electric bicycles could switch to electric cars. That would boost vehicle ownership to a level that is now unimaginable.

Something to think about the next time you’re tempted to swallow the notion that inexpensive electric cars are a good thing for anybody but corporate investors.

The New Party Line on Cars

carload Keith Crain is the publisher and editor of Automotive News. In his latest editorial, he enunciates the new capitalist party line about the pivotal issue of transportation choice.

Crain begins with what appears to be some refreshing honesty:

For starters, there is the energy crisis. In truth, there has been an energy crisis since the early 1970s, only someone finally noticed. In the United States, those who could have helped end the crisis with an intelligent energy policy stuck their heads in the sand and hoped the thing would blow over. It didn’t.

Crain, of course, neglects to mention that nobody has shoved heads down into siliconic powder harder than capitalists in general and automotive capitalists in particular.

According to Crain, all that has now ended:

When Congress finally discovered the problem, it swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. So today the world is scrambling for new ideas and products that will help reduce the use of gasoline and open up opportunities for other forms of transportation.

Everyone knows about the Toyota Prius, now in its third iteration. It was the first successful gasoline-electric hybrid. It owns that market. But there are lots of hybrids on the market, and there will be plenty more.

This is where the crucial trick of the new orthodoxy occurs: After quickly mentioning “opportunities for other forms of transportation,” Crain returns to the business class’s century-old claim that micro-choices between car models is all anybody could ever want or need:

General Motors Co.’s long-heralded Chevy Volt will be introduced to the public next year. It is an electrically driven car with a gasoline engine that generates electricity for the car’s drive motor, not unlike the Electro-Motive trains GM manufactured for decades.

Plenty of new companies are popping up. Fisker will start production of a luxury plug-in hybrid in Finland next year. The car has enough design appeal that it turns heads wherever it is tested. Fisker has received a half-billion dollars in federal funds, most of which will be used for development of a second plug-in hybrid that will be built in the United States.

More minicars are on the way. The Smart, developed by Mercedes, will be joined by the Fiat 500 in the United States. And you can rest assured that the Asians will be right behind with similar vehicles.

We’re bound to see some electric vehicles and hybrids that use diesel engines for even better fuel economy. And it won’t be long before we see two- and three-cylinder engines being used for vehicles and charging systems.

It’s an exciting time for the engineers who are developing all sorts of new engines and vehicles.

It will be even more exciting for consumers. They have never had so many choices.

What Crain neglects to mention here is the extreme danger of his own intended purpose, which is to restrict public discussion of our continuing lack of serious transportation macro-choices.  Sure, if you can spend $40,000, you might soon be able to choose a Chevy Volt.  But, especially in most American cities, when will walking, cycling, and rails gain anything like equal infrastructural footing with automotive support systems?

They won’t, barring a social movement to reform the society.  That’s because the world’s corporate overlords are deeply and systematically hostile to anything that would spoil their ability to continue selling automobiles at something like present volumes. So, particularly here in the world’s largest car market, nothing could be farther off the official agenda than providing “opportunities for other forms of transportation” to genuinely compete with cars-first transportation arrangements.

If we hope to save ourselves from impending ecotastrophe, we must resist the heavily sponsored, increasingly strident tricks of the car peddlers. Towns and cities built to favor walking and bicycling over energy-wasting machines are the only possible basis for a sustainable, progressive global civilization. Cars, due to their extreme inherent energy demands, can only be a minor part of the human future. Anybody who suggests otherwise is an enemy of your children.

What is Capitalism?

enjoy_capitalismCapitalism is an inherently expanding social order in which the goals and powers of profit-seeking, wages-for-worktime-paying private investors are the most important force shaping society.

Capitalists hate free markets, which force them to pass along technological advances in the form of lower prices.  To protect themselves from that, in the late 1800s, leading capitalists lobbied state legislatures in the USA to win the right to form the giant conglomerate corporations that have since been the major units of the system.  Thomas Edison explained this to The New York Times in February 1892, when he was merging Edison Electric with rival Thomson-Houston Electric to form General Electric.

Capitalism presumes that Earth can sustain endless economic expansion and whatever level of resource consumption that may require.