I completely agree that there's a lot of strange »design« out there. One of the fact is maybe that those who invest in a professional design won't call their products »design whatever«. It's like the waffle iron you mentioned in an earlier post.
By the way: here in Germany the word for »bath« is »bad« and strangewise some bathroom interior specialist call their shop »Bad Design« which is very stupid design in this case indeed. But back to the subject.
I only wanted to add to your post that design has to learn not only to solve but also create problems. Dunne & Raby for example call it »Design for Debate« - design that confronts people with strange products that embody future states of society and technology.
Bringing the design to the world already today opens the possiblity for a broad public to already discuss the problems that lie in new technologies like e. g. nanotechnology. I think this is also a very interesting task for design and for me it's a part of design research.
Doing research may also strengthen the designers image. Every profession needs an intellectual part so that it can be taken for serious. Otherwise we will still be stuck in the stereotypical stylist area for a long time I think.
Just some thoughts...