"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'll have my €1.50 back. Letter to the Irish Times

Dear Geraldine Kennedy,

Phil Dykewicz, director of market research at General Motors Europe conveys the difficulties in naming new car models in today's (30/11/05) Irish Times. In a market where the number of different car models is up by a third in 10 years the number of marketable names has dropped significantly. It is surely a very difficult position Mr Dykewicz finds himself in. This must only further compound the frustration already complicated by GM's tenuous hold on US market dominance.

While GM has chosen to remain in the dark ages with regards to the new corporate environmental posing, instead choosing to continue opposing government efforts to limit vehicle emissions. It has succeeded in stalling congressional efforts to improve fuel economy. Evidently the $48,260,000 spent in lobbying between 1998 and 2004 and the $8,500,000 spent in 2004 has not been wasted.

Another innocuous article, but one than seems at odds with the near apocalyptic news of near irreversible climate change that readers have been made aware of in recent editions of the Times. Having said this, today's Irish Times is no more schizophrenic than usual, flip flopping between environmental awareness and corporate propaganda from page to page, the reader is gently guided past the reality and towards whatever airline is offering the cheapest flights. Today, Continental airlines will be getting you to New York. The flip being they can get you there for a couple of hundred Euro, the flop being that the return journey is about equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by the average British motorist in a year. This shouldn't be news to any Irish Times reader or writer.

Jamie Smyth reported yesterday:
The level of carbon-dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today is higher than at any time in the past 650,000 years, according to a study published recently in the journal Science.

A major new report on Europe's environment due to be published today links climate change to a rise in the number of severe floods and heatwaves, and warns that it could spark a potentially catastrophic climatic event.

Frank McDonald reported:
To address the problem of climate change, the environment agency recommends reducing carbon emissions more drastically than currently proposed under the Kyoto Protocol. The keys to achieving this goal are reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency throughout Europe.

Addressing a seminar in Dublin as a prelude to the Montreal summit, principal officer Owen Ryan said making cuts "has to be the priority, rather than buying credits abroad". Last week, the Department of the Environment's most senior climate change policy official said Ireland will have to cut its dependence on oil, gas and coal "sooner rather than later."

The most recent estimates available put Ireland's emissions 24 per cent higher than they were in 1990.

In this unusual case the schizophrenic is aware of it's conflicting persona's, but is unable to choose between it's obligated goals, profit and news. This is no doubt caused by what Richard Douthwaite of Feasta was trying to explain in yesterday's Times, "Our national economies have been structured in such a way that if they don't grow, investment stops, unemployment soars and they collapse into a deep depression. Consequently, no government will dare tackle the climate crisis until that defect in their economic structure has been changed."

The Irish Times is similarly limited by it's structure, therefore it can only comment on environmental change, whereas it is obliged to continue contributing to environmental damage by advertising. Thus the Times will dutifully join the chorus praising whichever astonishing new technical feat is flavour of the month while at the same time informing it's readers of the climatic crisis around us. In essence, here's the product, here's the consequence, buy both. Actually, just buy the product.

One things for sure, with a cosy article like that with GM's Phil Dykewicz, the Irish Times is sure not to face the same fate as the LA times who lost up to $20 million in ad money for failing to allow "pressure from advertisers ... to shape coverage."

Again earlier this year the Times followed the dominant suit and heaped praise on Blair's pride and joy, the new Airbus A380, a project which Green Party Euro-MP Dr Caroline Lucas commented "undermines his stated enthusiasm for tackling climate change � and he should be hanging his head in shame.� The reporting departed little from open mouthed wonder, "[t]he size and capacity of the giant sky carrier is a sight to behold." Facts found between the awe were either misleading or just plain inaccurate. No where was it mentioned that "commercial jets add almost as much to global warming annually as the whole of Africa."

Newspapers are not obviously all to blame, the structure of our economies and the structure of the corporations that thrive within it has forced lies to be passed as truth. Having said that, I'll have my �1.50 back.

Yours sincerely,

1. http://www.tompaine.com/articles/20050406
2. http://www.publicintegrity.org/lobby/profile.aspx
3. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2492
4. http://toirtap.blogspot.com/2005_04_01_toirtap_archive.html
5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/732004.stm

A Testarossa by any other name?

Namin a car has always been a tough call, but now the industry is running out of ideas, writes James Mackintosh.

The Ferrari Testarossa. Lamborghini Diablo. Ford Thunderbird. Chevrolet Corvette. The names tell you all you need to know about these cars: they make your pulse race. But, a century after Gottlieb Daimler named his new car marque after Mercedes Jellinek, the daughter of his biggest customer, the motor industry is starting to run out of ideas.

"It's becoming really difficult to pick really good names, just because so many have been used," says Phil Dykewicz, director of market research at General Motors Europe.

Anything remotely positive named after an animal, Greek god, mythical creature, sign of the zodiac, tree, town, planet or even aspirational job (think Dodge Diplomat, Nissan President, Austin Princess, Pontiac Executive or Chevrolet Celebrity) has already been tried. Even some of the less positive animals have made it, albeit not very successfully (the VW Rabbit and Mitsubishi Dingo, for example).

The problem is becoming acute in Europe and the US, where the number of models on sale has soared in the past two decades. As well as the problem of finding so many more names - there were 313 different car models on sale in Britain last year, up by a third in 10 years - rapid globalisation of the industry means the names also have to work in foreign languages and not breach trademarks elsewhere in the world.

continued... The Irish Times