What’s New, Waste-o-crat?

Insanity, they say, is redoubling the same old efforts while expecting different results.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what’s going to be “new” about the post-bankruptcy auto industry?

I always say that it would take a committee of experts to conceive of a more wasteful arrangement than our autos-über-alles transportation system here in the USA.  Indeed, profitable economic waste — maximum foisting of salable parts and services — is the whole point of the thing.

Over at the “new” Ford, they are getting more blatant than ever about this.

maxheadroom460In a report on how Ford designers are using virtual characters and “mindset segmentation” to focus their manipulative efforts, The New York Times for July 16 conveyed this quote from “Murat Yalman, Ford’s director of global advanced product strategy, a strong supporter of an approach that personalizes the ideal buyer for everyone involved in a vehicle’s development”:

“We had done lots of models based on rationality, but now we are recognizing that emotions play a much more dominant role than we ever admitted,” Mr. Yalman said. “In buying a car, you have to fall in love.”

He added: “We now focus quite a bit on aspirations and dreams.”

These can be embodied in products. “Think of someone who has a really high-end parka in which you could climb Mount Everest. But the person only wears it on the train to work.”

Straight from the horse’s _____.

The Violence Inherent in the System

mva

In corporate capitalist America, cars-first transportation has always been unquestioned.  As a result, we have spent the largest part of the immense wealth that has flowed through our polarized, brutalized society in the last century building the vast automobile system with which we remain stuck.  It is by far the biggest, costliest public works project in human history — not even close.  It has always been devoted to serving its central purpose, too, which, contrary to long-running propaganda claims, has NOT been transportation, but rather maximum profit for business owners.

Yesterday, The New York Times published a story about new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  Take a look at the video embedded in this story.  It is heart-stopping, at several levels.

This extreme violence is what we have been trained to accept as not just normal, but “an emblem of the American spirit” and a confirmation that capitalism is the best of all possible social systems.

It won’t be long before we recognize, one way or another, how very insane we’ve been, ecological, socially, and, yes, economically…

The main IIHS finding, by the way, goes unreported by the NYT:

The death rate in 1-3-year-old minicars in multiple-vehicle crashes during 2007 was almost twice as high as the rate in very large cars.  The death rate per million 1-3-year-old minis in single-vehicle crashes during 2007 was 35 compared with 11 per million for very large cars. Even in midsize cars, the death rate in single-vehicle crashes was 17 percent lower than in minicars.

Sunk Costs: The Broken Iron Horse, Dead and Gone

a French tgv train engine In Europe and Japan, where they have spent and do spend a fraction of what we Americans have spent and do spend on transportation, they have fantastically fast, safe, pleasurable-to-ride, energy-efficient, and generally ever-improving modern railroads. We, of course, have the intentionally starved, dilapidated national embarrassment of Amtrak, plus the fantastically expensive, wasteful, and locally and geopolitically dangerous autos-über-alles system to which the iron horse was long ago sacrificed here.

Of course, another major marker of our overclass’s extreme hostility to sane transportation priorities is the airports-and-airplanes shuffle that (kind of) fills the gaps left by our scandalous lack of modern inter-city railroads. Like the dictated-from-above cars-first arrangement it (kind of) helps to patch up, that system is not only multiply and generally inferior to the rail systems they have built in Europe and Japan, but, being based on the burning of petroleum, is also under extra-severe stress these days.

It was in this light that James Howard Kunstler’s “Daily Grunt” caught my eye today. Here’s what Kunstler reports:

Death of the Airline Industry
I knew I was in trouble when I checked in and the Northwest departure board behind the ticket desk said the 5:39PM to Minneapolis was “delayed.” That’s when you know you’re in for an evening of, at least, being lied to and fucked around. Up at the gate, they let it be known that the 5:39 would now leave at 6:08. That was cool. I had a two-hour layover in the Twin Cities for my connection to Duluth. As it happened, though, they didn’t board us until 6:00. We pushed back at 6:30, taxied out to the runway, and then sat there for another hour. About halfway through that wait, the pilot got on the PA and said they were “waiting for their numbers.” A half hour later he came back on the PA and said the plane was “over its weight limit” and we had to go back to the gate and drop some people off. Huh…? This was a small regional jet. There were 12 rows of two across, and there were a few empty seats. So, we get back to the gate and we sit there for another half hour while a technician comes on board with a clipboard and palavers with the flight crew. It’s now two hours past the original schduled departure time. So even if we left that instant, I’d miss my connection to Duluth and be stuck in the Minneapolis airport all night. As it happened, the pilot asked for 13 volunteers to get off the plane. (There was some grumbling about the obvious illogic of a plane designed with 48 seats being unable to carry 36 passengers… but let’s not even go there….) If they couldn’t get 13 volunteers, the pilot said, they’d cancel the whole flight (and then everybody would be fucked, I inferred). I got up with a bunch of other volunteers — thirteen, finally — and straggled off the plane. We hung around the gate for another hour and half waiting to get re-booked for tomorrow, and to get our gate-checked luggage back. The most amazing thing about the whole misadventure is how dim the Northwest employees acted. From the flight crew to the gate agent, nobody really seemed to know what was going on or know what they were doing. I actually don’t know if the plane ever did leave. It was still parked at the gate when I finally left the airport at 9:30. By the time I got home it was 10:00 PM. I have to get up at 3:30AM to make a 6:00AM flight tomorrow. (Sigh….)