One hears so much these days about the anemic American economy — it’s striking to read a different account. Here’s an article on the Daily Beast about a stronger, faster America.
Such innovations, if they can be made to work at industrial scales, will bring the performance of electric cars (slow to charge, limited in range) closer to that of cars that use gasoline. I’d guess that a lot of money is flowing toward research into better batteries, especially for cars. From stories like the ones above, it sounds like this is starting to pay off.
What with global warming and peak oil, some car manufacturers, notably Toyota, are intent on pursuing a new and greener power source for cars, to replace gasoline. Of course, auto manufacturers probably also intend that the world to come will have even more cars than exist on the planet today.
Here’s the thing: so far, the electric cars treated as a serious alternative in the market closely resemble the cars we’re used to, in their size, speed and comfort.
This reflects a great error or blindspot in much of the discourse about automobiles and what they must become. Cars like the Chevy Volt proclaim: business as usual! No sacrifices demanded, in speed, comfort and range! The Volt is transitional technology; but it sets an expectation: this is more or less what the car of the future will be like. As/when batteries get better, your next next car (the affordable and range-anxiety-free EV that is surely in the pipeline as we speak) will let you kick the gasoline habit and this will be mostly painless. Happy motoring!
Electric cars can be seen as a manifestation of economic continuity, not economic change. The core assumption: manufacturers will keep making cars, and you’ll keep paying for ‘em, ideally every few years. Maybe you’ll pay relatively more for your next car, but won’t it be worth it to save the planet and all?
It’s important to ask, what are the unchallenged economic assumptions about a future when the global market for cars is growing? What else has to persist, so that the automobile industry can endure? Here’s a problem that stays with us: what to do with the cars we don’t want any more?
Meet Herman Cain, if you haven’t already. I’ve been reading and hearing about this man for some time, and until now I’ve been a little mystified by his popularity. Having seen this video, I think I understand the man’s appeal.
As I write, Herman Cain has been gaining steadily in the polls, moving now to the front of the pack in the Republican presidential primaries. In other words, he might well be going up against Obama for POTUS in 2012.
John Brunner, as a futurist, you rock.
Though I wish every success to the farmers in this story, I can’t help but be tickled to learn what’s happening in American states like Georgia, where they’ve enacted legislation to drive out or otherwise punish illegal (Mexican) immigrants.
Illegal immigration into the U.S. has become quite a hot button in the Republican party debates, where it’s taken as an article of faith that illegal immigration is to be suppressed, if necessary by shooting or electrocuting people who cross the border inappropriately.
The crowds cheering such policies don’t seem to grasp the subtleties of policy-making, or they just don’t care. The significant economic consequences of anti-migrant legislation are now being felt, and lo, it turns out that Mexicans illegals were doing good and useful work:
Though surely, everyone already knew that?
I recently ran across a saying about the difference between leadership and management. Leadership, goes the maxim, is about direction: doing the right things. Management is about execution: doing things right.
Here’s a story from the New York Times about the myth of the safety of nuclear power, and its construction or assertion in Japanese society.
Slide show: Building Japan’s Nuclear ‘Safety Myth’
Who in Japan said that nuclear power would be safe, and who said that it would not? The story talks of “vast resources in the form of elaborate advertising campaigns,” some aimed at children, whose intent was to “persuade the Japanese public of the safety and necessity of nuclear power.”
People often seem to have difficulty, on a personal level, making realistic assessments of the risks, both personal and collective, that we take on with the use of different technologies. By all accounts, automobiles are a far more deadly and destructive technology than nuclear fission.
I mentioned a while back how much I was enjoying Rachel Maddow’s work. I’ve quite recently discovered two of her shows in which Canadians in general, and Mr. Harper’s government in particular, have drawn her attention.
I’m not the only person to have noticed what she has to say. Here, someone has excerpted her on Youtube. Listen to what she has to say about proroguing parliament (a concept surely new to me and I’m sure new to many Canadians, the first time Mr. Harper invoked it:
Where can I find such lucid reporting and political commentary, from within the borders of my own country? It’s probably here and I just don’t know about it.
Here’s another clip, this one quite recent: Maddow’s reaction to the recent vote in the House of Common that brought down Mr. Harper’s government, in which she contrasts American government with ours:
I’m reminded of what I was taught about the most fundamental conceptual divide between American and Canadian government. They get the sovereign rights of man — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — while we get POGG.
I’ve just finished watching Inside Job, a 2010 documentary about the 2008 global financial crisis and its causes. It was directed by Charles Ferguson, the same fellow who made No End In Sight: a highly engaging account of the American invasion of Iraq after 9/11.
I’ve read various accounts of the American real estate bubble and its collapse in 2008; and so much of the information and argument in this film is familiar. Inside Job paints a picture of deep moral and fiscal corruption in the American financial industry. The filmmakers’ skill is brought to bear in presenting an economic history lesson, and making it comprehensible, eventually as a story of greed and recklessness on the part of powerful (mostly) men in America, who succeeded in establishing a legal climate to facilitate financial fraud (as some would style it) on a titanic scale. (Of course, that’s the trillion dollar question: was this fraud?)
I’ve found a panel discussion about the popular uprising in Egypt, offered by a group of American academics most of whom specialize in Middle Eastern studies, and who have some interesting stories to tell about what’s happening. It’s called Egypt Arising… have a look.
It’s so nice to be reminded that American intellectuals are still out there. I’ve just started watching this, it’s good.