Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

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Darrin Bell Cartoon

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Clay Bennett editorial cartoon 981193_1_cartoon160516-01_standard

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I was perplexed. I couldn’t figure out what all the fascination was with self-driving cars. Why all the investment in designing cars that could be operated with little or no hands-on attention by a human driver?

So, I asked a friend what that was all about, and he quickly responded: it’s really about trucks, not cars.

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In a country whose system of transporting commodities is insanely organized around highways and trucks (as against, e.g., railroads and trains), and where truck-drivers’ pay is once-again rising (average pay for long-haul truckers jumped 17 percent since the end of 2013, as against the 4-percent increase in average U.S. wages), it makes perfect—profitable—sense to design trucks that can operate without drivers.

Higher costs are driving shippers to reconfigure their supply chains. In August, Whirlpool Corp. opened a distribution center near a railroad spur outside Chicago so the company could load appliances directly from trains, avoiding the need to hire trucks. The amount of goods moved by train is also increasing—but trains can’t deliver to as many locations as trucks, which carry some two-thirds of cargo nationwide.

“Given the fact that the cost of transporting products over the road is rising, it has kind of forced us to rethink our distribution network strategy,” said Jim Keppler, Whirlpool’s vice president of integrated supply chain. “Driver pay is a big part of that.”

Self-driving trucks mean fewer workers (with their wages and benefits), more hours on the road (since robots don’t need to rest), and ultimately more control over driving and delivery (even when truckers are themselves wired these days to eliminate detours, stops, and other departures from more-profitable operation).

Apparently, it’s already legal to drive across Texas and Nevada with nobody at the wheel. . .

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A national strike against austerity measures by Portuguese labor unions on Thursday shut down many public services.

 

This is a film, by Alan Sekula and Noël Burch, I’ll be considering for one of my courses in the fall.

Here’s a Guardian review of the film. And this is from the directors’ notes:

The subject of the film is globalization and the sea, the ‘forgotten space’ of our modernity. Its premise is that the oceans remain the crucial space of globalization: nowhere else is the disorientation, violence and alienation of contemporary capitalism more manifest. But this truth is not self-evident and must be approached as a puzzle, or mystery; a problem to be solved. Sea trade is an integral component of the world-industrial system, but we are distracted from the full implications of this insight by two powerful myths. The first is that the sea is nothing more than a residual mercantilist space: a reservoir of cultural and economic anachronisms, relics of an older and obsolete economy—a world of decrepitude, rust and creaking cables, of the slow movement of heavy things. The second is that we live in a post-industrial society, that cybernetic systems and the service economy have radically marginalized the ‘old economy’ of heavy material fabrication and processing. Thus the fiction of obsolescence mobilizes reserves of sentimental longing for things which are not really dead.

We’re #1!

Posted: 20 January 2011 in Uncategorized
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We Chicagoans are #1 in urban congestion—a position shared jointly with Washington, D.C.—according to the latest report by the Texas Transportation Institute.

The battle over cars, especially its class implications, is taking place in cities across the globe.

Right now, it’s taking place in Montreal—specifically, in the Plateau Mont-Royal borough. Luc Chartrand (in French) contends the plan to widen sidewalks, add bike paths, and close some streets to traffic is a form of class warfare: it’s “nothing but a strategy by the wealthy to grab territory in a centrally located district. . .to the detriment of the general interest of the City.”

Bianca Mugyenyi and Yves Engler counter that “making life difficult for cars could be, in fact, described as a form of class war, but one that works in the long-term interests of the poor and working class.”

The different ways in which the private car strengthened wealthy people’s grip over culture and mobility have largely been forgotten. At the same time, the immense financial burden cars place on the working class seems of only passing importance to its critics.

The largest source of capitalist profit over the past century, the automobile has shaped landscapes, culture and the environment in a host of harmful ways. It’s time for a class-focused challenge to private automobility.

The fact is, without appropriate public transportation, working people are forced to have the freedom to purchase and maintain private cars, to travel to work and to engage in after-work leisure. When private cars are the primary mode of transportation, they’re the hardest hit. Changing the capitalist urban landscape to promote ways of living, working, and getting around other than with private cars can only be to their benefit.