Greg Prince's Blog

Musings and pontifications from a reality based progressive

Archive for April, 2006

Forty-one miles per gallon

Posted by Greg on April 28, 2006

I filled the Jetta last night for the first time since I bought it.  Diesel's running the same price as gasoline in the Twin Cities.  I got 41 mpg in mixed highway/city driving.

This is going to be nice. 

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Posted by Greg on April 27, 2006

From brilliant satirist Andy Borowitz:

FOX NEWS – WHITE HOUSE MERGER COMPLETE

Bill O'Reilly named Secretary of Defense 

One day after being named the new White House spokesman, former Fox News pundit Tony Snow announced that a deal merging Fox News and the Bush White House had been successfully completed.

"The merger between Fox News and the White House can be summed up in one word: synergy," Mr. Snow said. "The two entities have been working in lockstep for five years now and this merger is a formal acknowledgment of that fact."

While many Beltway observers had long assumed that a merger between the White House and Fox News was inevitable, not until reporters saw workmen hanging a "Fair and Balanced" sign from the White House portico this morning did they know a deal had finally been struck.

According to those familiar with the deal, the final sticking point in the negotiations was ironed out late last night when President George W. Bush agreed to report to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.

Moments after the merger was announced, Mr. Snow introduced the latest member of the Bush Cabinet, Secretary of Defense Bill O'Reilly.

In his first official act as Defense Secretary, Mr. O'Reilly called CNN "a gathering threat" and added the cable news network to the Axis of Evil.

Mr. O'Reilly's comments drew sharp criticism from Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del), who told reporters, "I don't see how CNN can be considered a threat when their biggest weapon is Larry King."

Elsewhere, when asked how it felt to publish her first novel and then be charged with plagiarism, author Kaavya Viswanathan said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Posted in Bush Adminisration, Media | Leave a Comment »

WTF

Posted by Greg on April 25, 2006

by Sean at Hiding in the Backwaters  

In a recent column in the Opinion Journal, Daniel Henninger talks at some length about the prevalence of vulgar language in the blogosphere and wonders at the trend of “disinhibited language” in society.1 I am hardly innocent of waxing vulgar in my own blog, and I really don’t have any problems with vulgarity judiciously applied. I do think there comes a point, however, when vulgarity only shows you don’t have anything more intelligent to say and the frequent use of, shall we say, colorful metaphors just makes me want to tune the speaker, or writer, out.

Case in point: Mr. Henninger talks about “The Sopranos” (indeed pretty much any of HBO’s serials) as a prime example of the “disinhibited volcabulary” acceptable in society today. I don’t have HBO, so I couldn’t watch their shows if I wanted to, but from the one or two episodes of “The Sopranos” and “Deadwood” I’ve seen, I wouldn’t want to watch them if I could. I find the language overbearing and don’t care to wade through the vulgarity to find whatever story might be hidden behind it.

While Mr. Henninger and I probably have broadly similar concerns about a society’s descent into the vulgar, what really caught my attention was the following statement.

The human species has spent several hundred thousand years sorting through which emotions and marginal neuroses to keep under control and which to release. Now, with a keyboard, people overnight are “free” to unburden and unhinge themselves continuously and exponentially.

It never ceases to amaze me how the conservative male conflates his class with humanity at large. Who really defined appropriate language in our society? The landed and the educated, in other words, the wealthy elite. Language was one badge of the aristocracy and a key indicator of social class. In fact, it still is. How often do you hear someone with a thick accent and your first impulse is to assume they’re uneducated if not outright dumb? The assumption is an education would have weaned them from their vulgar2 language. You can dress up someone from the lower classes in fine clothing, but their language will betray them every time. Even in societies where personal restraint is paramount, such as Asia, I suspect there are still class differences in personal expression. The point is, it has hardly been humanity who has made these determinations, but the ruling classes, a rather small percentage of “the human species.”

I have to wonder if the root of many conservative causes wasn’t (and isn’t) so much any kind of true morality as it is a concern that the aristocracy is losing its power to exert its will on society at large. The aristocracy in the U.S. may not be as blatantly oppressive as it was in feudal days of yore, but it still exists. Think on this: Only one in four Americans have a college degree. The Internet has certainly given people from all walks of life a public outlet for self-expression, something once regulated by society via editors and review boards of all different stripes.

I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing. I’m certainly not in favor of dumbing down society, but I’m not sure what else people to expect to happen. Not only do educational opportunities remain out of reach of the lower classes, but they are often actively discouraged from pursuing them.

1Henninger, Daniel, “Disinhibition Nation”, Opinion Journal, April 12, 2006, opinionjournal.com.2webster.com

Posted in The Right | 1 Comment »

An honorable house…

Posted by Greg on April 25, 2006

SLYTHERIN!
You scored 72% Slytherin, 20% Ravenclaw, 20% Gryffindor, and 28% Hufflepuff!
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
These cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.

Slytherins are known for their ambition, guile, and Machiavellian sensiblities.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 98% on Slytherin
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 24% on Ravenclaw
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 4% on Gryffindor
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 27% on Hufflepuff
Link: The Sorting Hat Test

Posted in Humor | Leave a Comment »

How much for a ticket in sardine class?

Posted by Greg on April 25, 2006

Standing room only seats on commercial airlines?  Don't laugh.  Add it to your list of bad ideas from Europe:

The airlines have come up with a new answer to an old question: How many passengers can be squeezed into economy class?

A lot more, it turns out, especially if an idea still in the early stage should catch on: standing-room-only "seats."

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal.

Holy cow!  Pay attention….to airlines to avoid.

Hat tip: Americablog.

Posted in Business | Leave a Comment »

Internet freedom fight

Posted by Greg on April 24, 2006

READ THIS

Then Act!

Posted in Civil Rights, The Blogosphere | Leave a Comment »

Doing the limbo

Posted by Greg on April 24, 2006

How low can he go?  That's the question du jour.  A CNN poll puts Bush's approval rating at only 32%.  Sixty percent disapprove, and a solid 8% are just happy to be alive…

But it's kind of scary to think about.  Look at this line from the CNN article:

Dissatisfaction with their leader appears to parallel Americans' unhappiness over gas prices. More than two-thirds of Americans (69 percent) said recent increases in the cost of gasoline have caused them hardship, with 28 percent saying they have not, and 1 percent saying they have no opinion. 

Oh gimme a break.  Everything going on and they're pissed off about gas prices?  Sheesh people…. 

OK, I hate high gas prices too.  But if that's the only thing driving Bush's numbers down, then people are a lot more disengaged and a lot more stoopid in general than I'd dare believe.

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Knowing the market

Posted by Greg on April 24, 2006

There's a certain amount of angst in Minnesota's manufacturing sector as Ford announced their St. Paul plant is to be shut down in the coming years.  There have been the typical rants in the letters to the editor about people with "support the troops" stickers on their foreign cars, and how we should all be driving domestic. Sorry folks, but I just don't buy it, so to speak. 

Not that I have anything against Fords, mind you.  In fact, I have a Mercury in my driveway.  But what do American consumers actually need? The vehicles manufactured in St. Paul, the Ford Ranger pickup trucks, have been selling less and less every year, and frankly it's not hard to see why.  Small pickups are fine, as far as they go, but if you get the larger engine and four wheel drive – and if you're using a pickup as your main vehicle in Minnesota you need four wheel drive for winter – you're really not getting any better gas mileage than in a full size.  And with gas approaching $3 a gallon, something that's getting 15 mpg around town just doesn't cut it. 

What is a "domestic" car anyway?  Ford's Crown Vics are manufactured in Canada, and the Fusion is manufactured in Mexico.  Meanwhile Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes, Mazda, Hyundai, etc. all manufacture in the US.   Even Kia is building a plant in Georgia.  The major brands are so interrelated anyway, I'm not sure "domestic" versus "import" is going to be a meaningful term very far into the future. I'm sorry to see the Ford plant go – it's closing in 2008. 

I like Fords, and if I were in the market for a pickup it would probably be a Ford.  But for me, a pickup is a want, not a need.  And for the few times I genuinely need one I have friends who are happy to lend me theirs.  And you can hardly fault the imports for having a better product mix going into times of high fuel prices. 

I purchased a car over the weekend – a Volkswagen Jetta TDI.  It's tight and nimble as a German sedan should be, and with its turbocharged diesel engine I've got nearly 300 miles on the odometer and haven't used even a half tank of fuel yet.  

I've driven diesels before, and they perform just fine.  Their power curve is different than a gasoline engine, but it's not worse, just different.  With a light foot around town it seldom breaks 2000 RPM and on the highway it pulls the hills just fine in sixth gear.  Torque galore.  And still enough power, with a heavy foot, to make the tires squeal for mercy. 

So I'm sorry for the letter writers, but I just don't get it.  I have a sports sedan that rides and handles magnificently while pulling down 40 mpg in town and a solid 50 on the freeway, and I'm supposed to be feeling guilty that I didn't purchase a locally produced tank that won't comfortably fit my whole family, and would cost more than twice as much to run?   

How the hell is foolishness "patriotic"?   

Posted in Business, My Musings | 1 Comment »

Happy weekend

Posted by Greg on April 22, 2006

Going away with the family for the weekend.  Don't expect much if anything here.  Have a good one!

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Real chuzpah

Posted by Greg on April 20, 2006

A couple days ago I spoke of a Mick posting discussing executive salaries and benefits.  Ironic then that yesterday United Health Group CEO William McGuire is thinking maybe abuse of stock options has gone on long enough and they should curtail the practice.

Well, that is to say, they should curtail the practice now that he's managed to enrich himself by it to the tune of $1.6 BILLION.  Yes I said billion.

As Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman observes:

I admit that at first glance, $1.6 billion looks bad. But let's do the math. Doc McGuire has been with UnitedHealth for 14 years, which means he has gained only $114 million a year in stock options. And when you break each year into 52 weeks of 40 hours each, grinding away behind a big oak desk, you find that 2,080 hours went into that $114 million. This guy is a workhorse, I'm telling you. He probably worked a few Saturday mornings and took his laptop to Aruba. But here's the clincher: His earnings were below the average earnings of registered nurses in Minnesota. There's your outrage!

By my calculations, Doc McGuire was making $55,000 while nurses, according to labor statistics, made $58,000! Yes, nurses have a tough job, but McGuire runs a health care empire and is totally responsible for making sure we all feel perky. Shouldn't he get paid more than some frazzled nurse trying to keep grandpa alive?

Um, wait a minute. Something doesn't seem quite right. I may have missed something. Oh, yeah. Here it is:

Nurses earn $58,000. A year.

McGuire made $55,000. An hour. Hmmm. Today's registered nurse would have had to start working way back in the Year of Our Lord 41 — a few years after Jesus was crucified — in order to have earned the $114 million that McGuire made every year for the past 14 years. 

Keep that in mind when people bitch about rising healthcare costs…

Posted in Business, Health Care | Leave a Comment »

Smileworthy

Posted by Greg on April 18, 2006

Not sure what a perfect synthesis would be, but this makes me laugh.

Posted in Humor | Leave a Comment »

Tempting fate

Posted by Greg on April 17, 2006

The matter of CEO salaries has been an ongoing irritation for many on the "progressive" fringe.  I admit it bugs me too when compensation seems to have little to do with actual job based performance.

It seems Exxon's CEO has managed to come up with one heck of a retirement plan.

Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes. 

My UNCoRRELATED co-blogger Mick opines:

I am not exactly the kind of guy who protests during World Bank meetings, and I am fully cognizant of the economics of gas prices and annoyed at the routine grandstanding of politicians whenever gas prices get a little high. Yet, I find no way to defend the excessive compensation lavished on top corporate officers. In my view, its just plain theft from the shareholders and I just don't know how it manages to continue.

No, he's not the type.  In fact, in some things he makes me look quite liberal.  But how on earth does ANY performance justify that kind of package? 

Good call my friend.

Posted in Business, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap | 2 Comments »

Now that takes something…

Posted by Greg on April 17, 2006

The Carpetbagger Report asks, "'Does chutzpah translate into Spanish?"

{The} RNC has put together a Spanish-language radio ad, for broadcast in four western cities with large Hispanic populations, which blames Democrats for an anti-immigration provision sponsored by a Republican, approved by Republicans, and inspired by a Republican presidential administration. The RNC's ad, to put it mildly, is wildly misleading. 

It'd make you laugh if it weren't so pathetic.

Posted in Bush Adminisration, Immigration, The Right | Leave a Comment »

Illegal pioneers?

Posted by Greg on April 17, 2006

Great Washington Post editorial that brings our own history into focus:

A number of the politicians calling for the criminalization of illegal immigrants may not be aware that they and a good many of their constituents could themselves be direct descendants of people who did some illegal migrating of their own many years ago. Much of the territory of the United States was settled by people — hundreds of thousands of them — who disregarded the law by squatting on public lands.

Of course, they had a ready reason for doing so: Like today's immigrants, they were seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Indeed, many of the current residents of the states between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains can trace their roots directly to these onetime criminals — whom we now call "pioneers."

Hat tip: The Debate Link

Posted in Immigration | Leave a Comment »

A new low

Posted by Greg on April 17, 2006

Interesting stuff from the new Rasmussen poll:

Sunday April 16, 2006–Thirty-nine percent (39%) of American adults approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. That's the lowest level of approval ever measured by Rasmussen Reports.

Sixty percent (60%) disapprove of Bush's job performance, the highest level ever recorded.

Interesting because Rasmussen seems to oversample Republicans a bit, but for the most part they're fairly consistent and accurate.  So what you're telling us is people don't approve of Bush?  Hm…

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