Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Polo BlueMotion

[Volkswagen] is going to show another world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show: the VW Polo BlueMotion which is titled as the most economical VW Polo ever. The VW Polo BlueMotion has a 1.4 liter diesel engine with a standard-equipped particulate filter, delivering 80 bhp and a torque of 196 Nm and uses less than 4 liters per 100 km. (German Car Blog

That's about 60 miles/gallon (US).

Monday, February 27, 2006

Wodehouse in India


Wodehouse never wrote about India, but sells better on the subcontinent than in Britain, with pirated copies in common circulation. He is one of the most heavily requested authors at the British Library in Delhi and there are clubs and internet chatrooms devoted to him.

[...]

The club’s president in the mid-1980s, Thomas Abraham, is now president of Penguin Books India, the country’s largest Wodehouse publisher. “We’ve all grown up with Wodehouse,” he says. “It’s a phenomenon here. When one of his books goes out of print, everyone goes ballistic. My publishing counterparts in the UK are very amused.”

The Times

Friday, February 24, 2006

US port debate

What's interesting to me in the US ports debate isn't the security aspect. (It seems quite clear that which foreign company handles operations won't make much of a difference. The ports are still staffed by Americans and security is still handled by US agencies.)

What's interesting is the lack of trust Americans, including both parties of Congress, have in the Bush administration. When Bush says that due diligence was done in vetting the United Arab Emirates company, nobody believes him. Not even the Republican congressional leadership. Sad.

NRA against self determination


The NRA, as usual, is fighting citizenry's right to decide what kind of guns they want in their city. 58% of San Franciscans voted for a handgun ban but the NRA wants the courts to overturn it.

Chuck Michel, an attorney for the NRA and gun enthusiasts suing to repeal the ban, said he was "sympathetic with the victims of gun violence," but he said lawful weapon owners "are part of the solution, and not part of the problem." (Associated Press)

You know what would be interesting would be stats on how many crimes are committed with "lawfully owned" firearms. Of course, if we really wanted to know if "lawfully owned" firearms are "part of the problem" or not, we'd also have to include those that are stolen and then used in crimes. Which is, what, all of them?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft & Cisco have no shame

One exchange, though, with Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, stood out. Lantos, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, quizzed executives from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems not about technical or legal details -- but about their view of the morality of cooperating with China's ruling Communist Party. Lantos, a Budapest-born Jew who represents the southwest quadrant of San Francisco, is the only member of Congress who is a Holocaust survivor.

[...]

Lantos, to Microsoft: Is your company ashamed?

Microsoft: We comply with legally binding orders whether it's here in the U.S. or China.

Lantos: Well, IBM complied with legal orders when they cooperated with Nazi Germany. Those were legal orders under the Nazi German system...Do you think that IBM during that period had something to be ashamed of?

Microsoft: I can't speak to that. I'm not familiar in detail with IBM's activities in that period.

Lantos: You heard (Rep. Christopher Smith's) speech. Assuming that his words are accurate, is IBM to be ashamed of their action during that period?

Microsoft: Congressman, I don't think it's my position to say whether IBM should be ashamed.

News.com

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Polo coming to US?


It wasn't too longer ago I was wishing Volkswagen would bring the Polo to the US. Will it happen via Dodge?

Chrysler’s US muscle brand Dodge could get a new entry-level car for North America – based on the Volkswagen Polo.

Chrysler, the North American division of DaimlerChrysler, wants a small-segment car in the US to better react to the trend toward small, fuel-efficient vehicles there. (Autoweek)

It can't hurt that every efficient car sold in America ensures a gas guzzler will also be sold. Gotta strike while the iron is hot if they want to sell a lot of Challengers!

The German press has speculated that a Dodge small car could be built at VW’s Puebla, Mexico plant, alongside a Polo sedan that VW is considering building there for the US market.

Hm? VW is considering the Polo sedan? I'd much rather have the hatchback, but the sedan would be better than nothing. No word on whether either car would be available in diesel.

Prostitutes call for ban on video game

Joining the ranks of politicians, policemen, and attorneys in their crusade to see [Grand Theft Auto] lifted from shelves are the nation's sex workers. On its Web site, the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA is asking parents to assist them in calling for a ban of Take-Two Interactive's controversial game.

[...]

Though the organization admits to being "adamantly opposed to any and all forms of censorship," as concerned parents themselves, they "wish to inform other parents of the potential danger extremely violent video games pose to children." Likewise, in the interest of promoting the rights of sex workers, the organization is opposed to the depiction of the rape and murder of prostitutes.

Gamespot

Educated white women responsible for the decline of Western civilization?

Salon has an article on the increasing gender gap in colleges these days and how some are (or are on verge of) practicing affirmative action for boys. One of the popular explanations for the gap is

the lack of male role models in American schools and [educators] alienating boys by prizing passive, "feminized" behavior such as sitting quietly, reading independently, and focusing on sedentary rather than dynamic projects.

Others disagree. Perhaps men aren't going to college because they don't have to?

According to Laura Perna, assistant professor of educational policy and leadership at the University of Maryland, the gender gap is all about economics. Last fall, Perna published a paper in the Review of Higher Education in which she determined that young women might be more motivated to pursue higher education because, consciously or unconsciously, they sense that there are real economic advantages at stake. Her examination of a Department of Education sample of more than 9,000 high school students, interviewed over a period of eight years, revealed that women with bachelor's degrees earn 24 percent more than women without, while young men with bachelor's degrees experience no significant economic gains. For practical proof of her hypothesis, one need only consider that most well-paid, skilled, blue-collar professions continue to be dominated by men -- while minimum-wage jobs in hospitality and service remain the province of women.

And maybe nothings changed on the male side -- maybe the gap is the result of women's increased success.

In the fall 2005 issue of Ms. magazine, Phyllis Rosser wrote that rather than being "celebrated for [our] landmark achievements, [women] have engendered fear," and offers up this fact, conspicuously absent from most media coverage of the gender gap: "There has been no decline in bachelor's degrees awarded to men," she writes. "The numbers awarded to women have simply increased." Put simply, in the words of Jacqueline King, director of the Center of Policy Analysis at the American Council of Education, who is quoted in Rosser's piece, "The [real news] story is not one of male failure, or even lack of opportunity -- but rather one of increased academic success among females and minorities."

But does the success of women in education have other implications for our society? (Here's where we get to the interesting part.)

"On the one hand, you want to embrace the success of women," [Tom Mortenson] tells me. "Yet, as more and more women substitute careers for having babies, I've come to see that we're looking at a population crisis. The most educated women have the fewest children -- this is not rocket science, it's just the way things work. We need women to have 2.1 children [in order to maintain the U.S. population], but the recent Census Bureau reports show that American women with bachelor's degrees average only 1.7. You can do the math -- if we continue this way the white population is headed for extinction."

Having worked for decades to increase educational opportunities across class, race and gender lines, Mortenson knows his talk about women's responsibility to preserve the species will get him in trouble -- indeed, it already has. He says his daughter, age 29, unmarried, childless (but equipped with a master's degree), won't speak to him on the subject. But even his fatherly concern ("I want my daughter to have it all, but I worry that in old age she'll be lonely") can't disguise some of the insidious implications underneath those concerns: that educated white women might single-handedly be responsible for the decline of Western civilization.

It's true the women busy getting their college educations and starting their careers don't have as much time to get married and start a family, so I'd agree that, left to itself, this has a negative effect on the birth rate. But it would be proposterous to suggest that witholding opportunity from women is the solution. Education is not the problem.

What we need are educated women (and men) that are not brainwashed with the idea that marriage and children are best put off as long as possible. We used to have a society where a man and woman would fall in love, get married, and then welcome children into the family as they came. This is very life-affirming.

Now we have people that develop sexual relationships and put off marriage via birth control and abortions. Then even when they're married they put off children via same. Once the inconvenience is at a minimum, a child might be allowed. What is this saying? That we only have children when we must? That there are other more important things to do, like show up at an office day-in day-out, increase your salary, drive a late-model car and live in an oversized house? I'm sorry, this is a culture of death.

Our culture is the problem, not education. How do we change our culture? I don't know. Arrayed against any change is a media based on selling people on those new cars, bigger houses and successful careers (so you can buy more). And you have endless reinforcement of the idea that children will end your life (as it currently exists) and are more trouble than they're worth.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Democratic party doesn't want me

Anne Lamott talks about a panel she was on recently.

I knew what I was supposed to have said, as a progressive Christian: that it's all very complicated and painful, and that Jim was right in saying that the abortion rate in America is way too high for a caring and compassionate society.

But I did the only thing I could think to do: plunge on, and tell my truth. [...]

I said I could not believe that men committed to equality and civil rights were still challenging the basic rights of women. I thought about all the photo-ops at which President Bush had signed legislation limiting abortion rights, surrounded by 10 or so white, self-righteous married men, who have forced God knows how many girlfriends into doing God knows what. [...]

And somehow, as I was answering, I got louder and maybe even more emphatic than I actually felt, and said it was not a morally ambiguous issue for me at all. I said that fetuses are not babies yet; that there was actually a real difference between pro-abortion people, like me, and Klaus Barbie.

Then I said that a woman's right to choose was nobody else's goddamn business. This got their attention.

A cloud of misery fell over the room, and the stage. Finally, Jim said something unifying enough for us to proceed -- that liberals must not treat people with opposing opinions on abortion with contempt and exclusion, partly because it's tough material, and partly because it is so critical that we win these next big elections. (LA Times via Looking Closer)

Anne, Jim is so right. As long as the Democratic party is dominated with this attitude and cannot welcome this "white, self-righteous married man" (who, by the way, didn't force any of his girlfriends to get abortions), guess what? I can't vote for it.

I am so confused about why we are still having to argue with patriarchal sentimentality about teeny weenie so-called babies -- some microscopic, some no bigger than the sea monkeys we used to send away for -- when real, live, already born women, many of them desperately poor, get such short shrift from the current administration.
[...]
We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.

This is perfect. Being pro-life means you're "patriarchal", don't care about "real, live, already born women" and want to "inflict life" on others. This is so twisted. I can see why you don't want me to join your party.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Evolution Sunday

Happy Evolution Sunday. In case you missed it, yesterday was the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin. A number of churches had sermons promoting evolution.

At the Evanston Mennonite Church, Susan Fisher Miller, 48, an editor and English professor, said, "I completely accept and affirm the view of God as creator, but I accommodate evolution within that."

To Ms. Fisher Miller, alternatives to evolutionary theory proposed by its critics, such as intelligent design, seem an artificial way to use science to explain the holy. (NY Times)

Someone here has a misconception. I don't know if it's Ms. Miller or the reporter, but her description of accommodating evolution within the view of God as creator sounds exactly like "intelligent design". Or maybe I'm the one with the misconception?

What many religious people have a problem with is many evolutionists' declaration that God had nothing to do with the way the world turned out. This is something the latter can't prove, something that cannot be scientifically verified, something scientists have no business saying. Feel free to offer your opinion, but isn't that all the ID'rs are doing? There's no need to get huffy about it.

But if one is going to be dogmatic about God not being involved, well now, that strikes me as religious and fundamentalist as can be. You don't know it for a fact and you shouldn't care, if you're really a scientist. Go back to work and leave the fundamentalism to the professionals.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Small minded elitism

we should not cater to small mindedness on the Right or on the Left. The prejudice of many people on the Left against religious and spiritual people, the view that they must necessarily be on a lower level of intellectual or psychological development if they believe in God, is a view that is elitist and destructive.

We need to make that kind of elitism as unwelcome in the Left as we once had to make sexist or homophobic approaches to the world. [...]

Leftists have to decide if they are more attached to winning peace, justice, and environmental sanity in the world -- in which case they need to make hostility to religion and spirituality an unwelcome sentiment on the Left -- or if they are more attached to their cynicism and elitism and ability to laugh at or ridicule those who hold on to a religious and spiritual vision of the world.

Michael Lerner on laughing with Bill Maher.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Evangelicals against global warming

Kudos to the 86 evangelical Christian leaders who are backing legislation that would require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."

Among signers of the statement, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller "The Purpose-Driven Life."

"For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority," the statement said. "Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough."

The statement calls for federal legislation that would require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through "cost-effective, market-based mechanisms" -- a phrase lifted from a Senate resolution last year and one that could appeal to evangelicals, who tend to be pro-business. The statement, to be announced in Washington, is only the first stage of an "Evangelical Climate Initiative" including television and radio spots in states with influential legislators, informational campaigns in churches, and educational events at Christian colleges.

And a big raspberry to "some of the nation's most high-profile evangelical leaders" who are trying to derail such statements.

Twenty-two of them signed a letter in January declaring, "Global warming is not a consensus issue." Among the signers were Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Their letter was addressed to the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of churches and ministries, which last year had started to move in the direction of taking a stand on global warming. The letter from the 22 leaders asked the National Association of Evangelicals not to issue any statement on global warming or to allow its officers or staff members to take a position.

E. Calvin Beisner, associate professor of historical theology at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., helped organize the opposition into a group called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. He said Tuesday that "the science is not settled" on whether global warming was actually a problem or even that human beings were causing it. And he said that the solutions advocated by global warming opponents would only cause the cost of energy to rise, with the burden falling most heavily on the poor.

I don't buy this reasoning that "do nothing about global warming" evangelicals are motivated by their concern for the poor. Basically everything falls "most heavily on the poor" (including the effects of global warming). They might as well advocate removal of safety standards in automobiles such as air bags because they increase the cost, "with the burden falling most heavily on the poor."

PS: Blithering Idiot says:

First, I am not sure that "global warming" exists; second, I'm not sure, if it does, that it is human-created; third, I'm not sure it would be a bad thing if it did exist.

I think it's pretty well established that the Earth is getting warmer. It's harder to determine how much of it is due to human activity. We've gotten warmer pretty fast in the last 40 years, which might make us think our pollution is having a great affect, but it's been warmer than this even before the industrial revolution. As to whether global warming might be a good thing, BI cites how between 750 and 800 there was global warming and great abundance. In northern Europe. No word yet on how the rest of the world fared!

Hybrids begets gas guzzlers


The NY Times had an article yesterday about how buying a hybrid may have zero effect on how much oil the US saves.

This is because of the CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) rule, which sets the minimum average gas mileage a manufacturer's product can have. Right now all of a maker's automobiles must average 27.5 miles per gallon, with its light trucks averaging 21.5 mpg. If a manufacturer has a car that averages 26.5 mpg, it must have another car that averages 28.5 mpg to make up for it.

So here's where the hybrids come in: if a hybrid truck averages 26.5 mpg, that allows a manufacturer to have another truck that averages 16.5 mpg. If they can make a hybrid truck that averages 31.5 mpg, they can have another truck that averages 11.5 mpg. So everyone that buys a hybrid with better mileage is essentially allowing someone else to buy a worse gas guzzler. As far as the country is concerned its a zero-sum game because every gallon of fuel you save is consumed by someone else.

This does not appear to be the case with Toyota's Prius (and, I imagine, Honda's hybrids as well). Toyota's cars are above the 27.5 average so buying a Prius does not mean Toyota is going to push the envelope in manufacturing gas-guzzling cars. But not so with Toyota's light trucks & SUVs. They are very close to the 21.5 mpg minimum, so your buying a Highlander hybrid means someone else can buy the Lexus SUV. Ditto for Ford's Escape hybrid; most likely a Lincoln Navigator owner will thank you.

The article offers two ways to really decrease the country's consumption of oil: financial incentives or financial disincentives (i.e., gas tax). I'd offer a third: increase the CAFE minimums.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Windows OneCare Live

Starting in June, Microsoft will charge users $49 for Windows OneCare Live, a subscription security service meant to protect you from the nasty malware that takes advantage of Microsoft's mistakes. You can't help but admire the vertical effectiveness of selling both the problem and the solution.

John Murrell

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Black genocide

The Democratic Party, true to its pro-slavery past, recently defined another group of human beings as non-citizens, thereby excluding them from legal protection under the law. This group of Americans is the unborn. In the tortured reasoning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, unborn children are essentially property. And just as the Dred Scott case predominantly (though not exclusively) affected African Americans, the Roe v. Wade decision has paved the way for a veritable black genocide.

Recent statistics indicate that since 1973, abortion has reduced the black population by over 25%.

Cook County Republican Party (via ProLifeBlogs)

Spontaneous Muslim rage

The more you study this story of "spontaneous" Muslim rage, the odder it seems.

The complained-of cartoons first appeared in October; they have provoked such fury only now. As reported in this newspaper yesterday, it turns out that a group of Danish imams circulated the images to brethren in Muslim countries. When they did so, they included in their package three other, much more offensive cartoons which had not appeared in Jyllands-Posten but were lumped together so that many thought they had.

It rather looks as if the anger with which all Muslims are said to be burning needed some pretty determined stoking. Peter Mandelson, who seems to think that his job as European Trade Commissioner entitles him to pronounce on matters of faith and morals, accuses the papers that republished the cartoons of "adding fuel to the flames"; but those flames were lit (literally, as well as figuratively) by well-organised, radical Muslims who wanted other Muslims to get furious.

Charles Moore

Ford subcompact


Ford may not be bringing the Ka to the US (at least not yet) but word has it that Ford is working with Mazda on a common platform for the next-generation Fiesta and Mazda 2. Still, it may be several years before we see anything in the US.

Siding with the strong

The Democratic Party, in many ways, abandoned its great tradition of caring for the weakest members of our society. It has elevated a philosophy of choice and individual autonomy above the needs of the unborn, the handicapped, and, on the question of euthanasia, the elderly. These are the very people I thought the Democratic Party should care about.

Bush administration senior policy advisor and speechwriter Michael Gerson on why he left the Democratic Party in the 1980s.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Colorado child abuse legislation targets Catholics

The Colorado Senate and Legislature are considering bills that remove damage caps and statute of limitations in child sex abuse crimes. The problem? Public schools are exempted.

But public institutions, including schools, remain protected under the principle of "sovereign immunity," which curtails the ability of citizens to seek harsh penalties against the government.
[...]
People who wish to pursue a lawsuit against a public institution have only 180 days to file an intent-to-sue notice and their damages are capped at $150,000.

Wow. Way to cover your a**, Colorado. In the meantime, be sure to continue fighting the fight against perpetrators employed by private (read: Catholic) schools. You have to look like you're doing something to protect children from abuse, and if it doesn't come out of your pocket all the better.

Superbowl commercials online

For those of you that decided not to waste precious hours of your time on the Superbowl but still want to participate in the commercialism, Google Video has all of the commercials online.

Friday, February 03, 2006

To err

The only direction given me by my father I believe to have been decidedly wrong was his advice to err on the side of conservatism. This has always been a temptation for me, for it has the sound of good advice, and taken to heart, would save one from the innumerable follies of “liberals.” But it is not Christian, and is no better than the advice always to err on the liberal side. It is what caused the Pharisees' blindness. I believe the narrow path Christ has marked out for us is to err on neither side, but to think and do the right thing at all times with his leading, for this is what he offers us with the Gift of his Spirit. Erring (and make no mistake, we all do it) on one side or the other is simply sin, which must be repented of before our footing on the Way is regained.

S. M. Hutchens

Your search history

Anyone interested in how Google (and other search engines) save your entire search history (which it could then make available to interested parties) should read When Google is not your friend.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gun-toting motorists ruder

GUN lobbyists like to repeat the quote often attributed to American writer Robert Heinlein, that "an armed society is a polite society". But this is certainly not true for motorists.

A survey of 2400 drivers carried out by David Hemenway and his colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that motorists who carry guns in their cars are far more likely to indulge in road rage - driving aggressively or making obscene gestures - than motorists without guns.
[...]
"Our findings indicate that the people driving around with guns in their cars are not among the most responsible and best-behaved people on the road," says Vriniotis. "In the interests of injury and violence prevention, it probably makes more sense to tighten rather than relax restrictions on gun carrying in motor vehicles." (New Scientist)

That'll be the day, when America's gun laws make sense.

Polarized politics

Polarization is not new to this country. It is hard to imagine a society more divided than ours was in 1800, when pro-British, pro-commerce New Englanders supported John Adams for the presidency while pro-French, pro-agriculture Southerners backed Thomas Jefferson. One sign of this hostility was the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798; another was that in 1800, just as in 2000, an extremely close election was settled by a struggle in one state (New York in 1800, Florida in 2000).

The fierce contest between Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan in 1864 signaled another national division, this one over the conduct of the Civil War. But thereafter, until recently, the nation ceased to be polarized in that sense.

James Q. Wilson

Universal daycare in Quebec

Those advocating universal daycare may want to look at a study that measures how it's affected Quebec (where it's implemented) vs. the rest of Canada (where it's not). It's not good!

As Lee Podles says, "Day care may be a necessary evil (because of irresponsible men) but it is an evil." I agree. There may be single mothers forced into using it, but I wouldn't do it just to increase my standard of living (as some dual income families are wont to do). But I do think it should be made available for those really in need.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union II

In one of his most striking declarations, Mr. Bush said "America is addicted to oil" and set a goal of replacing 75 percent of the nation's Mideast oil imports by 2025 with ethanol and other energy sources.

But even that goal was less ambitious than it might have appeared — the United States gets less than 20 percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf

NY Times

Our leader in spending

[President Bush] has added over $20 trillion in fiscal liabilities to the next generation. And he brags about alleged future savings of ... $40 billion. He makes the line-item veto the criterion for fiscal responsibility, knowing it will never pass. He says his proposal last year was designed to "save social security." But it had no long-term impact on the costs. To deal with the entitlement crunch, after five years in office, he proposes ... a commission! And urges Washington to avoid "partisan politics." I'm sorry but this is duplicitous when it isn't pathetic.

Andrew Sullivan

I'll buy a vowel, Pat

You gotta love it. Nissan recently sued Audi for daring to use the letter "Q" in a model name. (Too similar to Infiniti model names?) Now BMW is suing Nissan for using "M" in a Canadian ad. Karma's come to get you!

Depicting Mohammed


Remember when [Rolling Stone] magazine was actually cool? It hasn’t been since Hunter S. Thompson’s liver finally got larger than his cranium and they put P.J. O’Rourke out to pasture. Of course, for a long time now rock and roll culture has been less about subverting authority and more about moving units, so a minor controversy over disrespecting a tolerant religion is a valued as marketing ploy rather rather than a daring artistic decision. But as a few pundits noted with Kanye, if he wanted to be really rebellious, he would pose as Mohammed. Then we would see where the rubber meets the road when it comes to real artistic conviction.

Mollie Ziegler