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Archive for December, 2011

I was perusing Digg a couple of days ago when I ran across an article about a woman suing Honda in small claims court in California. She was disappointed with her 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid’s gas mileage. She was getting 20 mpg less than predicted. There were some comments on the article, saying various things about gas mileage and Honda.

I have a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid which has gotten just about the gas mileage predicted for it. I posted a comment saying so:

“I have a 2007 model year Civic Hybrid, and have been very happy with the gas mileage. I drive 3 or 4 highway trips each year of 1,000 miles or more and my average on those trips is 50mpg. Factor in the local driving, and I hover, for the year, between 42 and 43 mpg. I do not speed out on the open road, and generally no not have a lead foot. If I didn’t let my hot rod spouse drive my car, I’d probably be between 44 and 45 annually! If Honda reads this comment, they are welcome to my testimony.”

Someone styling himself as “Jeremy” thought to make a comment on my comment:

“Honda also supports slave labor and human misery. So go fuck yourself you are not intelligent or leading the species with your caring fabled existence. More people died collecting the lithium to power that piece of shit than died on sept 11. You would know this if you were educated. Also, to recharge a battery in a hybrid, is done by running off of coal fired power plants. So not only are you hybrid buyers less efficient overall, you’re also still ignorant. Great job now go suck more dick at the office you felch.”

I did not reply in kind, I’m happy to report. A different commenter addressed the actual factual issues raised by “Jeremy,” pointing out that the car in question doesn’t use lithium batteries and isn’t a plug-in hybrid, so it gets no electrical charge from power plants.

The internet, ya gotta love it. Does anyone know what a “felch” is?

Oh, for those interested, I made a calculation that, based upon EPA gas mileage predictions for the vehicles, I spent about $2500 less for gas operating my car since I bought it than I would have spent had I bought the non-hybrid Civic Hybrid. I have more than made up for the premium paid for acquiring the hybrid, and that gap will increase as I drive my car more. For those interested (your atavistic stick-shift lovers, naming no names here), the EPA predicted considerably lower gas mileage for the stick-shift Honda Civic than for the automatic, non-hybrid Civic.

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Top Ten Words, 3Q Very Much


Apparently, an outfit called “Global Language Monitor” uses a “Narrative Tracker” to select the 10 most tossed-around words of the times. Here are the winners for 2011:

1. Occupy.
2. Deficit.
3. Fracking.
4. Drone.
5. Non-veg.
6. Kummerspeck.
7. Haboob
8. 3Q. (My favorite)
9. Trustafarians.
10. (The Other)99.

If any reader wonders about these words, here’s a link to the article: http://www.livescience.com/17644-top-words-2011.html

Why is 3Q my particular favorite? Well, it is a cute play on words. It is a shorthand for “thank you” apparently. The 3 is pronounced “san,” and comes from the Mandarin and Japanese word for “three.” The Q is obvious: “SanQ very much.” I think I’ll start putting it in my text messages.

I am fascinated in general by words and language, and will doubtless gin up one or more screeds about the subject over time.

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Farewell Facebook, Farewell Reddit


I’ve decided to give up on Facebook and Reddit. I was in fact wasting too much time on them, and I could stop right there and feel justified in quitting them. Of course, I’m American, so I’ll say some more stuff.

Facebook. Most of the relatively few “friends” on my Facebook page/account were people of whom I think well, I suppose, but most of them were people who I pretty much never see, never converse with by telephone, never get emails (or that old-fashioned kind of mail) from, and with whom I share almost no real bond. I am related to a few of them by blood, but in most cases, by not much else. So, anyone of them who actually has something to communicate to me can easily find out how to get their message to me, and vice versa. If you get right down to it, I always felt sort of pathetic when I singed on to Facebook and spent time perusing the stuff there.

Reddit. For those who are unfamiliar with Reddit, stop reading. For the rest, here’s my version. Reddit went from being a fairly lively discussion board/bulletin board to a place where folks posted pictures of their pets, advice for the lovelorn requests, fanciful/hypothetical questions (“If you could have a dinner conversation with anyone in history, presently living or dead, who would you pick, and what would you talk about?”), tell us your deepest, darkest secret you never told anyone posts (like anyone’s gonna answer that honestly), and bunches of memes and other such dreck. All that’s okay, really, but I admit that I spent endless hours reading the silliness and commenting on it.

So, you might ask, would you rather spend your time working on a blog nobody reads? Yes, I would. If nothing else it keeps up my typing skills, and helps me remember how to write reasonably cogent sentences and paragraphs, with a stab at appropriate style (Strunk and White).

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Some folks contend that Ron Paul should not be flogged with the racist crap in his newsletters because it was written by others, he says he cannot now figure out who those others might have been, as in “ghostwriters.” They say his long history of sticking up for minorities counts for much more. Okay, Something to consider.

On the other hand, some say that if he had that little control of his little newsletter publishing business, perhaps he isn’t the best guy to try to run a government.

“Political analysts say that if even if Paul did not write the messages in the ad and newsletters, his apparent inability to control his modest newsletter- and book-selling operation may not bode well for a man seeking to run the executive branch of the U.S. government.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, said she has followed Paul for years and that the messages in the direct-mail ad were “emphatically inconsistent” with his frequent statements supporting minorities and gay rights.
But Jamieson questioned how it was “plausible” for Paul to deny responsibility for materials that had provided him income.
“What does that say about his managerial competence?” she asked.
Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia, agreed.
“Ron Paul would have us believe that this newsletter went out under his name and a direct-mail solicitation for it went out under his signature, yet he knew nothing about it. That is not credible,” Sabato said.
“Or is it that Paul can’t control his own staff?” Sabato asked. “Not exactly a qualification for the presidency. At the very least, more explanation is needed.””
(Reuters. Mark Hosenball. Dec. 23, 2011).

Here’s what I want to know. How does a medical doctor deny evolution?

As for Uncle Newt, he also doesn’t like getting jacked up about his past. When his censure by the House of Representatives for unethical conduct as Speaker of the House comes up, Newt’s view of history sounds quite familiar (relating to Dr. Paul’s defense of his past):

“Gingrich said in recent comments on the campaign trail that more than 1 million pages of documents were turned over to the ethics committee that investigated him, and that 83 charges were repudiated as false. “The one mistake we made was a letter written by a lawyer that I didn’t read carefully,” he said.
But he also accused the ethics committee of being partisan and said, “The way I was dealt with related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than the ethics.” The committee, then and now, has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.” Associated Press: Larry Margasak

Ghost writers weren’t supervised.
Lawyer’s letters weren’t read carefully.

And these guys want to be our leader.

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Nigeria, as I read the news, is about half Christian and half Muslim (discounting any local religions, of course, which the news usually does). It presents an interesting case when thinking about religion, tolerance, terrorism, and the notions of nationhood in general. Three bombings over the holiday, two of them at churches as I decipher the news, killed a bunch of people, and doubtless wounded or maimed many more. Apparently some Muslims in Nigeria want Sharia law to be imposed throughout the nation, and an outfit called “Boko Haram” might have been the specific group doing the dirty deeds. So, the idle news reader in far-off USA wonders, how the hell does a nation deal with this? Like India? Partition with much slaughter and permanent enmity? Civil war where one side just wipes the other out? Do outside nations “help” by supporting one side or the other with arms and other war-making goodies? Do the militant Muslims have some theological basis to insist that non-Muslims who are their fellow citizens adhere to Sharia law? (Yes, I know Christianity has a not-very-attractive history of killing and torturing “unbelievers,” and engaging in “forced conversions.”)

I’ll be the first to admit I know little about Islam. I grew up being pushed off to Baptist churches of various stripes by my mother, and learned a bit about Christianity. I learned enough not to like it and, not to put to fine a point on it, detest it (yes, the religious would call me an “atheist”). Accordingly, I didn’t make the other religions of the world areas of study either in my formal education or my personal reading. I didn’t, and don’t, have a notion that such stuff is worth my while. I could just quit thinking about it but for the stuff going on in the world which people involved put a religious spin on (and maybe they, including the guys who hijacked the planes on 9/11 and murdered a bunch of people, were sincerely religious and believed they were making their deity happy). I suppose I don’t really care to know the specific ins and outs of Islam (you know, the dress codes, and prayer schedules, and dietary rules, etc., etc.). What I would like to know is what is it within the actual teachings of Islam, if anything, induces certain Muslims to kill other people over religion.

It may be a side trip at this point, but I can’t go on without acknowledging the stuff I hear about Muslim-on-Muslim religious violence. I know they don’t represent 100% of Muslims, but the Sunni And Shi’ite branches get mentioned a lot. A lot of that mention involving them being real wound up about which of those outfits gets to be in charge of certain nations, and, if they are in charge, how they treat their fellow citizens who aren’t of their particular persuasion. Before the US stuck its nose into the matter of Iraq vs. Kuwait (a bit of nosiness I heartily disapproved of then and disapprove of now), I don’t think I’d ever heard of the branches of Islam, or if I had it went in one ear and out the other. Even now, when I read the sentence or so any news article devotes to the doctrinal issues between those guys, I can’t get too interested–because no explanation will ever convince me of the reasonableness of killing people because of their beliefs, particularly when the differences, to me, fall into the “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” category. This rivalry seems to be relevant currently because of how the post-US Iraq deal seems to be shaping up (meaning lots of murder as between the Sunni minority and Shi’ite majority). Before the US invaded Iraq post 9/11 (a stupid idea if you ask me), a Sunni dictatorship ran Iraq, and the Sunni folks got the most goodies from their “government.” (Not that it matters, but I read that Syria has a Sunni majority but is run as a feudal fiefdom by a Shi’ite clique). Okay, enough digression.

I don’t know if Nigeria has a Shi’ite/Sunni problem. I don’t really care, or see any relevance of the facts about that to my life. Other than the nice Nigerians which send me email every so often offering to make me rich, I don’t know anybody in or from Nigeria. I have no stake, if Nigeria descends into religiously-based civil war, in which side wins, and if total annihilation of the opposition is deemed necessary by the prevailing party. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do wish everyone would get along, and pull together to make a better life for themselves and their children while respecting Mother Earth. There’s just nothing I can do to make that happen, and, in my view, nothing my bankrupt nation can do about it or, for that matter, should do about it (talking Nigeria here, but I see the broader issue pretty much the same way).

So right about now anyone who reads this will be scratching their head and saying, “So, I get it, this guy doesn’t give a shit, so be it, why is he risking carpal tunnel syndrome typing all this?” Well, here’s why: I’m told I’m not supposed to think negatively about Muslims. I hear this “religion of peace” mantra pretty often. Didn’t Prez. Bush say something like that right after 9/11 (when speaking in the National Cathedral* maybe?)? I see Muslims doing bad things to us, to the Christians in Nigeria, and to each other (not forgetting the Muslim vs. Hindu thing, and the Mulims in Afghanistan shooting up the Buddhist antiquities), treating women badly, and so forth. So, what am I to think? I don’t mean by that “I’m determined to think of them badly, as a group/faith,” I mean “What am I to think?”

Really, what should I think?

*As for the National Cathedral, two things:
1) I watched the glimpses of Hilary Clinton while Prez. Bush was speaking in the cathedral right after 9/11, as did my significant other (yeah, I hate that phrase, too). She looked as though she’d rather have been getting a root canal without benefit of any painkillers. I saw a woman whose body language indicated something stronger than simple disinterest. It’s my lasting impression of her. Fortunately, she holds a meaningless position, Secretary of State, and there’s not much to worry about. I think she’s the only Democratic candidate I would have voted against (meaning for Sen. McLain) in the 2008 presidential election.

2) Years ago, I attended my significant other’s high school class reunion in the DC area. She had gone to a tiny, all female, boarding school in Northhampton, MA. After she graduated, that school merged with another, similar institution, and its old campus became part of Smith College’s campus. She, and the few women who graduated with her, started holding reunions on account of their “orphan” status, on an irregular basis, in various locations, usually the town where one of them lived. When we attended the even in DC, one of her classmates was a minister at the National Cathedral. One evening, dinner was held in the dining room of the College of Preachers (part of the Cathedral complex). It was a beautiful gothic room, and I remember the evening with fondness and nostalgia. The lady who was the minister there has since passed away. And speaking of orphans and school mergers, my SO matriculated at Carnegie Tech, but ended up being in the very first graduating class of Carnegie Mellon University (because of merger).

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Happy Winter Holiday


That ought to just about cover it.

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Ron Paul and the Race Issue

Today I read the following article. It follows several other articles. I am not here to say Ron Paul is a racist or ever has been. However, politics today operate on the basis that you cannot disavow your past. Mr. Paul, a physician as I’m told, was making money selling newsletters with racist content. He walked out of interview where he was asked about it. I really don’t feel like editorializing about it right now.

http://news.yahoo.com/ad-newsletter-ron-paul-forecast-race-war-011503908.html

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A direct-mail solicitation for Ron Paul’s political and investment newsletters two decades ago warned of a “coming race war in our big cities” and of a “federal-homosexual cover-up” to play down the impact of AIDS.

The eight-page letter, which appears to carry Paul’s signature at the end, also warns that the U.S. government’s redesign of currency to include different colors – a move aimed at thwarting counterfeiters – actually was part of a plot to allow the government to track Americans using the “new money.”

The letter urges readers to subscribe to Paul’s newsletters so that he could “tell you how you can save yourself and your family” from an overbearing government.

The letter’s details emerge at a time when Paul, now a contender for the Republican nomination for president, is under fire over reports that his newsletters contained racist, anti-homosexual and anti-Israel rants.

Reports of the newsletters’ contents have Paul’s campaign scrambling to deny that he wrote the inflammatory articles.

Among other things, the articles called the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a “world-class philanderer,” criticized the U.S. holiday bearing King’s name as “Hate Whitey Day,” and said that AIDS sufferers “enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.”

As Paul made a campaign stop in Manchester, Iowa, on Thursday, his Iowa chairman, Drew Ivers, repeated Paul’s assertions that he did not write the articles that resurfaced this week in a report in the Weekly Standard magazine.

Paul has said that he is not sure who wrote the articles that were published under his name. He has said the articles do not reflect his views, and noted that his public stances – supporting gays in the military for example – have run counter to the incendiary statements in the newsletters.

In an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger on Wednesday, Paul said of the newsletter’s articles: “I didn’t write them. I didn’t read them at the time and I disavow them.”

When Borger continued to pursue the subject, Paul removed his microphone and walked out of the interview.

“It is ridiculous to imply that Ron Paul is a bigot, racist, or unethical,” Ivers said.

However, Ivers said, Paul does not deny or retract material that Paul has written under his own signature, such as the letter promoting Paul’s newsletters.

When asked whether that meant Paul believed there was a government conspiracy to cover up the impact of AIDS, Ivers said, “I don’t think he embraces that.”

Paul’s newsletters “showed good factual information and investment information,” Ivers said. “It was a public service, helping people understand and equip them to avoid an unsound monetary policy.”

“EXTRAORDINARY SOURCES”

The letter promoting Paul’s newsletters was written about 1993. It was during a period in which Paul – who left Congress in 1985 after serving about eight years – returned to Washington after a decade’s absence.

(For a PDF of the solicitation letter see http://link.reuters.com/vud75s)

The letter was provided to Reuters by James Kirchick, a contributing editor for The New Republic magazine. He says he found the letter in archives of political literature maintained by the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Early in the 2008 presidential campaign – in which Paul was a candidate – Kirchick published an article in The New Republic in which he described Paul as “not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing – but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.”

The letter promoting Paul’s newsletters claims that Paul – through what he describes as a network of “extraordinary sources” in Congress, the White House, the Treasury and Justice departments, the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service – had acquired unique insider information that would his subscribers to “neutralize” the plans of “powerbrokers.”

Paul’s letter went on to describe various plots and schemes that he had “unmasked,” including a “plot for world government, world money and world central banking.” He also claimed to have exposed a plan by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to “suspend the Constitution” in a falsely declared national emergency.

Despite being “told not to talk,” Paul wrote that his newsletters also “laid bare” the “Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica,” and a “federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS.”

Paul claimed that his “training as a physician” helped him “see through” this alleged cover-up.

Paul also suggested that a planned U.S. currency with new notes designed to curb counterfeiting and money laundering would result in the distribution of “totalitarian bills” that “were tinted pink and blue and brown, and blighted with holograms, diffraction gratings, metal and plastic threads and chemical alarms.”

Paul said the money was designed to allow authorities to “keep track of American cash and American citizens.”

He urged the letter’s readers to send in $99, which would buy subscriptions to his monthly political and investment newsletters, a copy of his book “Surviving the New Money,” an investment manual and access to the “unlisted phone number of my Financial Hotline for fast breaking news.”

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