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American Muscle

It's finding itself outpowered by nerd-driven automobiles. Also: Conservatives lie at State. Solar suckers. Winning liberal disasters. Rite Latin. Plus much more.

11.6.07

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OFF THE RICHTER SCALE
Re: Eric Peters's Cruel Irony:

Cruel Irony, by Eric Peters, should be required reading for the Ford dealer in West Los Angeles. In the showroom they had four monster Mustangs. All "super v8's" and super priced!!! The "Boss 302" coming in at a staggering $67,000 + tax. Yikes.

While I muse of rumbling on LA streets with Richter scale registering power, the $3.65 per gallon is making me look at a Subaru or a VW.

I realize some folks have the cash to afford "American muscle," but can Ford, GM etc. afford building cars that just get dusty in showrooms.

I wonder if at stockholder and board of director meetings anyone dares ask...what went wrong?
-- Len LaBounty
Santa Monica, California

This country needs to move away from petroleum powered automobiles for two basic reasons; national security issues and environmental concerns. Even if all the car companies produced many more attractive models of hybrids, it would only minimally impact the U.S. demand for imported oil.

The use of hydrogen to power cars, trucks and yes, even locomotives and airplanes can be accelerated if the federal and state governments pass legislation exempting the producers of any hydrogen powered vehicles (including golf carts) from income taxes on profits for, say, 20 or 30 years. Also exempt should be suppliers and distributors of hydrogen.

If this were enacted there would be an absolute gold-rush by thousands of individuals and companies to perfect this technology and the means to produce and distribute hydrogen. Just as the profit motives of geeks initiated -- and still does -- the very rapid progress of computer and computer chip technologies, this same incentive can be utilized to promote the use of hydrogen powered vehicles.

It is imperative that research on hydrogen powered vehicles be expanded to as many firms and individuals as possible. We cannot rely solely on the federal government (the largest, most inefficient, most wasteful, and most corrupt consumer in the world) and a few auto companies to provide this research. The former giants XEROX, Digital Equipment, WANG, etc., proved incapable of adapting to changing technologies within the computer arena; it fell upon smaller, more innovative individuals and companies (mostly U.S. based) who had the vision, the requisite level of geekness, and yes, profit motive, to provide the benefits of computer technology to the masses.

Similar results can be achieved with hydrogen technologies given the proper incentives.
-- CA
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

When gas was plentiful and cheap I pretty much agreed with Rush Limbaugh's line of thinking: Hey, this is America, we're all about freedom, and so if somebody wants to drive a big, gas-guzzling SUV then the government shouldn't punish them for doing so and other people shouldn't criticize them for it.

But that was then, and this is now. Now it has become clear to me that the profusion of SUVs and gas-guzzlers have contributed significantly to the increasing demand for gas, which inevitably has helped to increase the price because supply has remained relatively constant. So now it's personal. Even though I drive a small, fuel-efficient car I still have to pay more to tank up, in part because others insist on driving vehicles that waste an increasingly precious resource.

It's not a big leap from that insight to a better understanding of why so much of the rest of the world looks scornfully upon Americans for our profligate consumption of, well, just about everything.
-- Chuck Vail

An inflation calculator used to bring forward the cost of regular gasoline from 1980 to 2006 will ring up $3.33 per gallon. Gasoline is getting cheaper as time goes on. It is the other costs of vehicle ownership that are climbing like financing, insurance registration, the regulation tax that requires air bags, matching bumpers, crash survivability, child car seats and the cost of roads is also a factor.
These facts are from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics table 3-14.

Eighty-eight percent of the time since 1960, the average amount of money spent on transportation was between 11 and 12 percent of disposable income. This remarkable statistic proves that taxes can be raised without harm to the economy provided that the use of the tax money generates additional productivity. Otherwise, raising taxes only reduces disposable income. State and Federal taxes went up sharply to finance the construction of the Interstate system of roads. Since about 1990, those same gas taxes have gone down in real terms due to inflation.

Traditional economic theory predicts that Increased fuel economy will resulted only in more driving. The last 18 months has seen the largest sustained drop in the Vehicle Miles Traveled in 27 years or since records are available. This sustained flattening of demand for Vehicle Miles Travel is unprecedented because it is not occurring during a time of recession.

Much of the alleged disadvantages of the big SUV can be blunted by looking at the vehicle as having potential to be a more efficient vehicle from a passenger mile standpoint. The SUV or large car can do articulated trips with multiple destinations before returning home to improve efficiency. The ability of the personal auto to do articulated trips 24 hours a day and on demand makes them the superior transportation of choice.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

It seems that the design, test, and tooling cycle for new cars, plus the time that it takes the public to realize that gas is going to stay expensive is about equal to the time it takes for oil prices to move from a local minimum to a new high. In engineering terms, the design cycle/product life has the same frequency as global oil costs. Unfortunately they are about 180 degrees out of phase so we got tiny, boring cars during the cheap gas days of the '90s, and big, fun, thirsty ones in the '60s to early '70s and again today. We'll probably have a petroleum glut in 8 or 10 years; just in time for a plethora of new tiny boring hybrids to hit the showrooms.
-- Glen Leinbach
Ft. Collins, Colorado

What's really cruel irony? How about a Senate that will not allow drilling in ANWR when oil is $100/barrel on speculative interest, not true demand. The announcement that the US is going to drill their would knock the price down 10% because it would show that the U.S. will do something to address this problem. It would also address the freefall in the dollar and, not cost the taxpayers one thin dime. TOO EASY.
-- Dan Hirsch
Waukegan, Illinois

"Maybe we'll discover that half a mile under L.A. sits more oil than in all of Saudi Arabia. That would be wonderful."

The problem is if we found oil the environmentalist would not let us drill. There is lots of oil off shore and in Alaska, but that is where it is going to stay as long as Dems are around.
-- Elaine Kyle

THERE THEY GO AGAIN
Re: William Tucker's Yet Another Energy Revolution (Yawn):

Mr. Tucker's report harkens me back to my early days in the energy business. Way back in the 1970s, when we were waiting in long gasoline lines, President Nixon established the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE was consolidation of a myriad of energy related agencies including the Energy Research and Development Agency (ERDA), which in turn had inherited the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

DOE's new mission, in addition to overseeing the nuclear weapons complex and the development of commercial atomic energy, was to lead the charge for finding new energy sources.

Oil shale in western Colorado and eastern Utah were prime targets for exploration and development. Sadly, after huge investments by the government and several energy companies, it was discovered that it was heck of a lot harder to squeeze oil out of rocks than predicted by the so-called experts. The oil shale projects were eventually canceled.

As mentioned in Mr. Tucker report, DOE subsidized several solar plants here in California that have been proved to be inefficient when compared to more traditional energy sources. DOE also pushed for the expansion of thermal energy and subsidized a new plant near the Salton Sea, which was also failed to meet the experts' production predictions, and was fraught with technical problems.

The only "new" energy source with the potential to provide cheap, efficient, and clean energy was nuclear. However, due to a number of problems including hysterical reporting following the accident at Three Mile Island, the nuclear energy promise was essentially reduced to a whimper.

It is ironic now that many are touting the renaissance of nuclear energy we are now reliant on foreign expertise to revive the promise when over sixty years ago the United States was leader in nuclear technology.
-- Thomas Bullock
West Covina, California

William Tucker is right to point out that the left opposes the development of nuclear power for electricity generation, but he misses one exception which proves the rule, namely Iran's nuclear program, which has yet to engender the opposition that ours does in Greens and Democrats. Perhaps if we offered to buy Iran's surplus output, the left would consent to our use of nuclear power?
-- Mike Harris

"[This] vanguard of entrepreneurs [Vinod Koshla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems] and financiers...believe their Silicon Valley success stories can be repeated in green energy...."

Some years ago, I got lucky in the stock market. Unfortunately, I confused my run of luck with being smart. I guess the same sort of thing can happen with people who really are smart. Like Vinod Koshla.
-- Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

FROM THE HAGUE
Re: Philip Klein's His Way:

Phillip Klein is concerned that the State Department is wresting control of foreign policy away from conservatives. Let's review the record of the conservatives:

1. The Taliban is regaining control of Afghanistan.

2. The reason for the surge in Iraq has yet to materialize (no, the goal was not to reduce casualties although this is desirable).

3. Our ally in spreading democracy in the Middle East (Pakistan) has just become less democratic.

4. The peace process for Israel and the Palestinians is going nowhere. This is because the Bush administration paid no attention to the problem for so long and, now, the real focus of the Middle East is the growing power of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

5. Iran's power has grown, in part, because the political check on that power, Iraq, was destroyed by the U.S.

6. We are working overtime to keep Turkey and the Kurdish rebels apart.

7. Unilateralism and arrogance have made it difficult for the U.S. to find enthusiastic allies anywhere, inside the UN or outside, for our diplomatic initiatives.

8. Mr. Putin, whose soul is more opaque than Mr. Bush realized, is taking Russia in a direction antithetical to our interests.

9. We are no closer to energy independence than we were when Mr. Bush took office which severely limits our options.

10. Problems south of the border, which are partly responsible for our immigration problem, haven't even appeared on this administration's radar screen.

Like Brownie, the conservatives are doing a heck of a job.
-- Mike Roush
North Carolina

UNNATURAL DISASTERS
Re: Jeffrey Lord's A History of Liberal Disasters:

You need to re-enter the real world.

Despite the near perfect record of disaster as a result of liberal policies, we had Al Gore come within a few votes of the presidency in 2000 and have a very real chance of Hillary Clinton becoming our next president. (Frankly, if John Kerry was able to disguise his super rich, arrogant, elitist snob personality he probably would have won in 04.)

How is this possible? Two reasons.

1. Republican ineptitude and stupidity

2. The Democrats' mastery of propaganda -- supported by the MSM -- and willingness to engage in dirty politics as needed.

Most voters do not read The American Spectator (or similar publications) nor listen to Rush Limbaugh. You can count on about half of the voters to vote for a Democrat (Hillary or equal). You can also count on 95% of black, Hispanic, and illegal alien voters to vote Democratic.

What matters to most voters, unfortunately, is what appeals to them on an emotional level (propaganda). The Democrats know this, the Republicans refuse to believe this or are too stupid to respond in kind.

This is why Democrat will become president, why the Democrats will take both congressional houses, and why the perfect record of liberal social policy failures does not matter.
-- CA
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Jeffery Lord might want to keep the cork in his champagne bottle. Most liberal policies are terrible, but they have a knack for being implemented and maintained -- often for decades -- in spite of the palpable damage they do.

Even worse, the Republicans who know better "go along to get along."
-- Arnold Ahlert

RITE STUFF
Re: Harry Mount's Latin Lovers in America:

The Harry Mount article makes for interesting reading. One phrase, however, I find bothersome. The third paragraph begins with, "The old Latin rite is a splendid sight -- the priest celebrates High Mass with his back to the congregation..."

The Latin rite is indeed a splendid sight and a joyful, meaningful Mass. However, this image of the priest "turning his back on the congregation" sends the wrong message. The priest is not turning away from the congregation. Instead, he along with the congregation, are facing the altar and the east. The priest in the traditional Catholic Mass is leading his congregation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, not turning away from them.
-- Jeff Francis
Boston, Massachusetts

Harry Mount wrote: "Because living languages are in a constant state of flux, there's a great deal of wriggle room when translating from one to another. Precisely because Latin is dead, there's none of that flexibility."

Why, with all their wisdom and learning, did not our Founders write the Constitution in Latin?
-- Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

FIRE AWAY
Re: George H. Wittman's A Revolting Development and Ken Shreve's letter (under "Wusses From State") in Reader Mail's Foreign Service Slackers:

Those in the State Department chanting "Hell no! We won't go!" at the prospect of being assigned to Baghdad should remember what President Ronald Reagan did to more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers back in the summer of 1981. He fired them.
-- Stan Welli
Aurora, Illinois

It appears Ken Shreve, in his rush to attack the Bush administration, missed these tidbits of news in the Washington Times that TAS covered, "The growing pressure on State Department personnel to serve in Iraq, which culminated in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's decision to resort to forced assignments...Last year...Miss Rice changed the bidding and assignment system of the Foreign Service. No assignments were allowed elsewhere in the world until those "high-priority" positions were filled...About 200 officers have been identified as "prime candidates" and given until Nov. 13 to present medical or other compelling reasons that could spare them an Iraq assignment. Those who refuse to go without such reasons could be expelled from the Foreign Service." This is just one more illustration that President Bush is the real Reagan conservative while his critics on the right are unwitting tools of the liberal/Democrat/socialist propaganda machine.

Instead of merely advocating a few firings conservatives should be demanding civil service reform that abolishes the union and polarizing Democrat partisanship in the Federal bureaucracy. That would help restore a modicum of patriotic service in the Federal bureaucracy. Time to think outside the box conservatives.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina

HONORARY MEMBERSHIP
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Missing Scandals:

Is Bob forgetting Ahmed Chalabi and Curveball's tales of Scary Saddam that were promoted by Right and Left Establishment press types? And what about Jeff Gannon-Guckert, the fake reporter by day, male prostitute at night character that fooled Rush and Hannity? Rush, my goodness, he still has Curveball propaganda on his website.

We in the reality based community largely agree with that the dishonesty of "liberal Establishment" reporting is epidemic, but, sorry, Bob, AmSpec joined the "liberal Establishment" a few years ago.
-- Charles Bowen

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