Government Motors (GM)

Posted in general rant, Political with tags , , on June 3, 2009 by Justin

Larry Kudlow continues one of the points I’ve been trying to make over at the National Review online:

And with CAFE mileage standards ratcheting up — all while GM is going down — Team Obama’s green vision for the economy will soon be crystal clear. With President Obama in the driver’s seat, we’re going to get little green two-door cars that most folks won’t want to buy.

Even worse, UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger has made it plain that his powerful union won’t let these cars be manufactured in low-cost non-union plants overseas. The result? Obama’s little green cars are going to be unprofitable as well.

Now that the American taxpayers own 60% of GM, it would be nice if our elected officials would let them make cars that actually sell so we can get our stinking money back. (Which never should have gone to them in the first place.)

C.A.F.E. Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2009 by Justin

Two weeks later I am finally getting around to writing part two of this series, from high above the US somewhere above “flyover country”. Last time I addressed the issues with CAFE standards as they pertain to their involvement in the rise in popularity of the SUV. This time I’m going to cover what happens bow that SUVs have been added to the vehicles under restriction.

In order for companies to offset the low fuel economy vehicles in their fleets, like SUVs, they must build high fuel effeciency vehicles. What that often means is smaller vehicles with smaller engines, or hybrids. The biggest problem with these vehicles is that, in general, the American public is wholly uninterested in driving these vehicles. How many of your friends drive Honda Fits? The automakers are required to build cars they can’t sell, and this lose money. They then have to offset those costs with higher prices on the vehicles people actually want to buy, such as SUVs and trucks. In the end the people that lose out are the consumers, you and I.

Besides the problems the automakers face from having to produce unpopular cars, and the added cost to consumers that results, there is a further issue with these econoboxes. Most of them just aren’t that safe. Firstly with their size they are pretty much guaranteed to be on the losing end of a crash with an SUV. Secondly, in order I make up for their lack on size, many of these cars are built with more rigid frames. These more rigid frames counteract the “jaws of life” and greatly increase extraction time in the event of a crash. So, not only do the passengers come out worse as far as injuries it takes longer for econobox passengers to receive he medical attention they need. Finally, with less powerful engines, these vehicles re more likely to impede traffic entering a freeway, or in other traffic situations. This impediment causes other drivers to have to alter their course of travel and therefore can led other drivers to be involves in crashes, which may not involve the econobox drivers.

Part 2…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2009 by Justin

Is coming I promise. After writing part one things have not slowed down for me, I will have some time in airports and on airplanes tomorrow, and may try to get something written up from my phone while in the process of traveling. We’ll see how that goes.

C.A.F.E.

Posted in general rant, Political with tags , on May 20, 2009 by Justin

This is part one of a multi-part series, not sure how many this will end up being, probably either two or three parts, we’ll see how it develops. Here’s a bit of history, and some of the unintended consequences that we’ve already experienced due to Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE Standards), which our current president just raised yesterday.

The CAFE Standard was first passed in 1975 by Congress as a response to the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, and took effect in 1978. The purpose was to raise the fuel economy of cars and light trucks sold in the US. There were different rules that applied to passenger cars versus light trucks (SUVs fall under the category of light trucks). Passenger cars were expected to meet an 18 mpg standard in 1978, and that number was raised to 27.5 mpg in 1990 where it has stayed since. The newest standards will require 30.2 mpg by 2011 and 35.5 mpg by 2016. Light trucks have only been required to reach around 20 mpg during most of this time.

At the time these CAFE standards were introduced most manufacturers produced large station wagons, which most families purchased and drove. These large station wagons were unable to meet the fuel efficiency requirements of those current day CAFE standards. However, those same standards did not apply to SUVs which qualified as light trucks according to CAFE standards. Most people will realize that many SUVs are basically tall station wagons. Auto manufacturers were forced to stop making station wagons in order to meet CAFE standards, but the public still had a demand to be met, and the SUV fulfilled that demand. As a result, SUVs have been top sellers in the US for the last fifteen years.

The resultant popularity of SUVs has caused several problems. First, SUVs get lower fuel economy than the station wagons they replaced, therefore the creation of the CAFE Standards resulted in an initial drop in average fuel economy. Second, SUVs are less safe than what a normal station wagon would be. The general designs are very similar, but an SUV has a higher center of gravity and therefore is more likely to roll over when performing evasive maneuvers. (See Isuzu Trooper, Ford Bronco II, and Ford Explorer). Also, the heavier SUVs, with higher bumpers pose threats to the other vehicles on the road that a normal station wagon would not. Over the years, SUVs have been demonized by those that would seek increase fuel economy, and other environmental standards, but in reality were popularized, in part, as a response to those very same fuel standards.

In recent years the gross vehicle weight restriction which determines where vehicles fall in the spectrum of CAFE Standards has been raised several times, therefore leading more SUVs to fall under tighter and tighter fuel efficiency requirements. This has had an impact on the overall car market, causing a further drop in safety, which will be covered in part two of this series.

The US Government Is Chrysler’s Biggest Problem

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2009 by Justin

On the Neal Boortz show today one of the things he discussed was the current state of affairs at Chrysler. Mainly he addressed the fact that the best selling cars at Chrysler, the ones that are keeping the company afloat are Jeeps (the whole line, not just Wranglers), muscle cars (Challenger, Charger, Viper), Trucks (Ram), and minivans. The government problems are two fold, however. The first is C.A.F.E.(Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards which require Chrysler to manufacture highly fuel efficient cars (that don’t necessarily sell that well in the US) to offset the lower fuel economy of trucks, SUVs and muscle cars, therefore raising the overall average to the government mandated level (which is on the rise, I do believe). Secondly, the current administration, which has semi taken over the company, wants “more fuel efficient cars” to be part of the program to get Chrysler back on track. Given what Chrysler’s more popular cars are, this is a bad idea.

Neuroenhancing

Posted in general rant with tags on April 27, 2009 by Justin

A friend on Facebook, who happens to still be in college posted a link to an article in The New Yorker about healthy people taking stimulant drugs (such as Adderall and Ritalin) intended for treatment of ADHD as “neuroenhancers”. The article goes into detail about some specific uses by people interviewed, as well as some of the studies done on the subject. It also outlined some of the potential ethical concerns with their use.

The consensus positive of the drugs is that they enable the user to focus more intently on a given task, for a longer period of time. Some of the negatives are unknown, but it seems that at least one is that some of the drug can have a damping effect on creative thinking. Another is that if the user takes one of the drugs with the intent to focus on a paper, but instead decides to start sorting their cd collection, they will expend that extended period of intense focus on that task, and not get to the originally intended task. Another negative is that the drugs can be potentially addictive. The article also stated that it seemed that the drugs worked better on below average people to bring them up to normal/above average productivity far more effectively than elevating the performance of already above average individuals.

In the area of ethics, the article compared the use of such drugs to plastic surgery, and one of the users interviewed said it would not be accurate to compare their use to that of steroids by athletes. I am inclined to disagree. I think that it is exactly the same as athletes using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Both parties use said drugs to get ahead in their chosen field of endeavor, be it athletics, academics, or whatever their corporate field and I think that is wrong. I do however feel – in agreement with one of the people interviewed, Nicholas Seltzer (I believe) – that whether or not an adult person uses such drugs should not be a legal matter, in that said users are not infringing on anyone else’s rights by doing so.

I believe there are some negative effects of “neuroenhancing” not mentioned in the article. First of all, I would say that many people use the drugs in a manner that is harmful relationally. They allow the user, who is most likely already somewhat of a workaholic, to extend their working time, therefore further decreasing their time spent with family and friends and damaging those relationships. Secondly I suspect the drugs are harmful emotionally. The article stated that part of their effectiveness seems to come from artificially created dopamine. When artificially created dopamine enters the brain, if the brain becomes over whelmed with dopamine, it turns off dopamine receptors and/or produces less natural dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain responsible for feelings of pleasure. If your dopamine receptors are turned off, or your naturally occurring dopamine levels are decreased you will experience pleasure in life less often and to a lesser degree. (This is what happens to cocaine/meth/other drug addicts.) Also, in the end I believe you will experience a net loss in cognitive ability. Finally, there may be physical detriments, since these “neuroenhancing” drugs are stimulants, they will have the same negative affect on the body that other stimulants have over time. To what level they have these affects has yet to be shown.

I’ve been a bad blogger

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 by Justin

So… yeah you’re supposed to blog more often than I do. My apologies. I’ve sort of let this blog fall by the wayside, got busy at work for a while, then I started writing for MMAFrenzy then I got to playing too many apps on Facebook. Plus I didn’t have that many readers anyways. ::big sigh:: So I’ve cut back some on my facebooking, but I think I need to do more cut backs, and work is busy again…. soo, there’s probably not going to be a huge turnaround anytime soon. Then again, maybe there will be, who knows.