Friday, December 10, 2004
Enjoy life, you only get one trip aroundthe track.
Let's start with a fact: we own a 1993 Toyota Camry XLE with a V6 engine. Our fuel economy has been consistent over the years at about 25 - 28 mpg (highway driving at the upper end of that range). We've been thinking about getting a newer car - not that the Camry has problems, but it's the urge for something newer. So we've looked around a bit, and, of course, have considered getting a hybrid.
Our thinking in regards to a hybrid vehicle is political and environmental: let's use as little fuel (i.e. foreign oil), and pollute as little as possible. We can afford to buy gasoline, so that's not really the issue. So, being the kind-of compulsive guy I am, I've been doing some research.
Basically, what I've found is that the fuel economy of automobiles has generally not improved since 1993; in fact, in many cases, it's gotten worse. I know that the American, Japanese, German and other automotive engineers are smart people, and they can certainly design automobiles that use less fuel than the 1957 Chevy I owned when I was younger. So the reason fuel economy hasn't improved much has to be political. (There are probably also limits with internal combution engines based on the science of physics and thermodynamics.)
Let's look at some more facts. I visited a government web site (www.fueleconomy.gov) to look at fuel economy numbers. You should try this yourself, if you really want to be amazed and depressed. (I understand that the listings may not be the same numbers that you or I get from our vehicles, but the relative values are instructive.) The following numbers are for various makes and models (model year indicated), automatic transmission.
Passenger cars (sedans):
Our 1993 Toyota Camry 6 cylinder: 18mpg city/ 24 mpg highway
2004 Toyota Camry 6 cyl.: 21/29
2004 Buick Century 20/30
2004 Cadillac Seville 18/26
2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser 21/26
2004 Ford Taurus 20/27
2004 Chevy Corvette (why not?) 18/25
Trucks and SUVs
2004 Chevy Silverado 2WD 17/20
2004 Suburban 14/18
2004 Hummer H1 16
2004 Hummer H2 9.6
2004 Cadillac Escalade 4WD 13/17
2004 Ford Expidition 14/18
2004 Ford Explorer 15/20
2004 Toyota Tundra 16/19
2004 Toyota Sienna 18/24
2004 Toyota Highlander 21/25
2004 Lexus LX 470 13/17
2004 Land Rover Discovery 12/16
OK, so how about those hybrids?
Interestingly, there are a lot of hybrids coming out in 2005; many of the car companies are introducing these in various product lines.
GM, for example, has some full-size pickup trucks ready for 2005. The Siverado Hybrid is rated at 18mpg city and 20mpg highway. This is interesting, because the non-hybrid for 2004 is listed at 17 and 20. Maybe there is an error?
Ford has a hybrid version of its small SUV, the Escape, on the market for 2005. Let's compare:
2004 Escape 4WD 18/23
2005 Escape Hybrid 4WD 33/29
And then there are the two hybrids that have been on the market for a few years:
2004 Honda Civic hybrid 49/48
2004 Honda Civic (non-hybrid) 29/38
2004 Toyota Prius 60/51
So, what does this all mean? Well, for one, there are some vehicles on the market that get greatly improved fuel economy. But more importantly, I think, fuel economy on regular vehicles has not improved much over the past decade or more. What's more, the larger vehicles, trucks and SUVs, including the "designer" SUVs, get terrible fuel economy.
So, wouldn't you think that as Americans we would tend to buy more vehicles that get better fuel economy? I mean, after all, we don't want to rely on the Arab states, or others, for our oil. We want to protect the environment and the health of our children, right? Well, apparently not.
Just watch television for awhile, and you'll see car and truck and SUV ads that all have the same message - freedom of the road, very fast, high performance machines, machines that can climb mountains, trash deserts and swamps, get all muddy and macho, machines that attract women (or men), maqchines that do spinning ballet in the rain - anything and everything except use less fuel and protect the environment! When was the last time you saw a car or truck ad on TV where the vehicle was in city traffic, the most realistic situation? When was the last time you saw an automobile ad on TV that focused on, or even mentioned, fuel economy and environmental protection? When was the last time you saw an ad on television for a hybrid vehicle? When was the first time? Probaly never.
Where I've seen ads for hybrid cars is in magazines targeting liberal readers: Mother Jones, Atlantic Monthly, etc.
So, take home message: Americans have lots of different cars and trucks and SUVs to choose from, and more every year, but there has been little progress in fuel economy. You can drive a hybrid, if you want to get on a waiting list and pay an inflated price.
How about the politics behind all of this? That will be in a future posting: Automobiles, Part 2.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
But this one is different. I don't think I've ever felt so unaccepting of an election result as I do now, ten days after. "Oh, we need to understand the other side, the Heartland," some say. "We need to appeal to different moral values," "we need to use the same tactics the BushRovians used." Bullshit, says I.
This election is different because there has been a revolution, and the left side of the voting public (anywhere left of moderate right) lost. The extreme, evangelical, neo-facist right has waged and won a political and social revolution in the United States of America. And the rest of us (almost one half - perhaps more) need to fight back.
This will not be business or politics as usual. This evil "group of folks" is going to go all out now to complete their ruination of this country as we've known it, and the real values that make us who we are. They will solidify their power in ways that will be difficult, but not impossible, to overcome.
So, my friends, don't wallow in pity, don't move to New Zealand, and most of all, don't give up. We need to be in their faces at all times, resisting, prodding the elected people on our side to stiffen their backbones and fight back.
And we need to organize. But we need to organize around a different strategy; electing a Democrat isn't the answer anymore. We need a quantitative change of direction in America, based on an examination of who we are and who we want to be in a global sense. We need to re-create a nation of, by and for the people, not one run for the exclusive benefit of multinational corporations and very wealthy individuals (this is a generalization, but you know what I mean).
So don't give up, that's the easy way out. Democracy - real democracy - is something we have to live, work and die for.
(written on November 13, 2004)
Saturday, November 06, 2004
In the weeks after September 11, 2001, I complained to everyone who would listen that we, the people of the US, missed a huge window of opportunity. In addition to responding to the attacks with strength and resolve, we should have started a national dialogue about who we are in the world. What do we do and what is our impact on the world - the good, the bad, and the ugly (thanks Clint). For what reasons are we looked up to? For what reasons are we hated? What affect does our affluence have on other people in the world? What affect does our education and technology have?
A national dialogue such as this needs to to be facilitated by a national leader. Unfortunately, we did not have that kind of leader in 2001, and we won't for the next four years either. So how do we start this dialogue? How do we involve the largest number and cross-section of citizens? Who will facilitate this discussion, and what actions can come out of it?
Great questions. I'll be thinking about how to answer them.
In the months after September 11, 2001 we had unprecedented sympathy and support from people throughout the world, and yet this incredible goodwill was squandered. Now the world will be watching with apprehension as the Bush administration launches its next four years. The half of our citizens who voted for Kerry need to find a voice and let the people of the world know that we, too, will be watching with apprehension - but - we also need to let them know that we will be fighting back in thoughtful and meaningful ways.
So let the talking continue....
Friday, November 05, 2004
I am writing this essay based on an overwhelming sense of frustration and helplessness concerning the direction my country has taken in the past four years under the direction of the administration of President George W. Bush, and the seeming lack of understanding by a large number of my fellow citizens of the dangerous changes brought about by this President.
I am an avid reader/listener/watcher of the printed, radio and television news. What I perceive to be the reality of the world today is not the same reality presented daily by the Bush administration. The Bush spin on reality is amazing in its total opposition to the reality presented by the news media (of all sides). One example is the day I bought a newspaper in the Rome, Italy airport on the front page of which every headline and article was about terrorist and genocidal acts: in Israel, Iraq, Sudan, Europe and elsewhere. And yet, when I listened to a summary of the Republican national convention the next day, I learned that we now live in a safer world than before the Bush administration came to power. Do the American people understand the difference between reality and “spin?”
Are we better off today than we were four years ago, in terms of domestic issues? The Bush folks tell us that we are, and yet I see a very different reality. I see an economy that is faltering; jobs, especially good, well-paying ones, disappearing faster than ice cream and cake at a kids birthday party; health care and medicines becoming more expensive and out of reach for more people (while the drug and insurance companies make out like bandits); public education falling apart because of falling levels of funding; and crime on the rise. Life for all but the wealthiest Americans has become more difficult and worrisome no matter what domestic indicator is used.
Are we safer today that we were four years ago? On the international front, terrorism is stronger than ever, even according to the State Department. The Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq has created a magnet for terrorists, and a fertile training ground for killing and terrorizing Americans and those who dare collaborate with them. Bush has changed Iraq into a country where terrorism (non-governmental) has changed from a minor occurrence, at best, into a major industry with far-reaching implications world-wide. North Korea and Iran have accelerated their development of nuclear weapons during the past four years, with some tough talk but nothing more from the Bush administration. And Bush has turned unequaled sympathy and support for the United States by people all over the world into fear and loathing in the three years since September 11, 2001. We are increasingly alone in the world, with only our historically unprecedented military might to comfort us. I don’t consider this a safer condition than before.
On the domestic front, we are certainly more aware of the threat of terrorism, and faced more and more with inspections, screenings, body and property searches and other intrusions into our normal routines. Bush Cabinet members tell us that we are “traitors” or supporters of terrorism if we don’t agree with the administration about invading Iraq, and the over-zealous, far-right John Ashcroft and others of his ilk have eroded many of our Constitutional rights and freedoms. Are we safer today? In Portland, Oregon, the police don’t bother arresting known criminals (drug dealers, burglars, etc.) because they know that these “perps” will be out on the streets again within hours as a result of no jail space. We have a brand new jail facility in Portland that sits empty because the County has no money to run it.
“A safer world; a more hopeful America” was the theme of the Republican convention in New York City. The Bush team has made the world a lot less safe, and I don’t know any Americans who feel more hopeful about the future. If we strip away the spin, what’s left is “a more dangerous world, a shakier future for America.” Bush has instituted some very far-reaching foreign and domestic policies that do not bode well for the future of the world. His doctrine of pre-emptive attack is an arrogant and dangerous turn towards global instability. Imagine, if you can, what our reaction would be if China declared the unilateral right to attack any country it considered to be a threat, including the USA. Bush has pushed for development and testing of a new breed of nuclear weapons; never mind that the nations of the world have been moving steadily towards nuclear dis-armament. Bush’s actions prohibiting support for birth control in other countries, and his meager spending of the promised funding for AIDs relief have doomed millions of people in the world to continued poverty and disease. Bush’s record on the environment has set America’s progress on this front back decades, with magnified reverberations world-wide. And Bush’s touted War on Terror is, in his own mangled words, a successful catastrophe.
The United States of America under George W. Bush is rapidly becoming a fascist country. This sounds extreme, but the signs are all there: ultra-nationalism, increasing reliance on military and security forces to control the citizenry, state-supported consolidation of wealth in the pockets of a small percentage of the population, military aggression against other countries, labeling liberals and progressives as “traitors,” and scapegoating of minorities (gays and lesbians). Fascist Amerika will certainly not be a safer and more hopeful America!
Why do so many of my fellow citizens support George W. Bush and his arrogant group? In my lifetime there have always been differences between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, haves and have-nots. But this time is different. The gap between us is a growing chasm that soon will have no possible bridge. We seem to be in a growing cultural civil war that may not have a pleasant reconciliation.The bottom line is: this is not the America in which I grew up; these are not the values that I so strongly support as American values; the strengths and goodness that are America are being squandered by a group of selfish, radical and arrogant people, with disastrous impacts on the future. I can only hope that the people of America understand what is happening, and vote the fascists out of office before it’s too late.
so let the blogging begin...