Thursday, March 10, 2005

Why won't GM sell off their EVs?

Maybe some attorney out there can explain this:
Soggy southern California dried out enough on Saturday, February 26th for nearly 100 "vigiler" to rally in support of "freeing" the last 77 EV1 electric cars thought to be remaining in the state. They gathered in front of General Motors' Burbank training center, behind which are parked dozens of red, black, and silver highway-capable, battery-powered cars.

Using a solar-powered public address system and led by actress and environmentalist Alexandra Paul, organizers asked GM to sell them the cars for their estimated residual value of $25,000. Holding up a large art board check for $1.9 million, a dozen of the 80 people who had -- in just 48 hours -- expressed interest in buying the cars, stepped up into the bed of an electrically-powered Ford Ranger, itself the focus of a similar protest in Sacramento in January. In that case, Ford relented to media and environmentalist pressure and offered to sell the remaining trucks to their current lessees for a token amount of $1 rather than go ahead with its plan to crush the vehicles. That move heartened electric car advocates in the Los Angeles area who decided to take on the world's largest car maker. Ironically, it was GM that pioneered the rebirth of the modern electric car in 1990 when it debuted the "Impact", a concept car from which the EV1 was developed.
Obviously I don't have all the facts here, but it's not clear why GM won't rake in a quick $1.5 megabucks instead of crushing these cars. Buyers allegedly would assume all liability and free GM of responsibility for supplying parts or other support.

Lefties have only themselves to blame if GM won't play ball. My guess is that GM fears that some !#$! shyster will claim that GM knew or should have known about something that will impact the owners of the EVs.

Then again GM hasn't exactly been known for transparency or receptivity to criticism. They made Ralph Nader's career by their reaction to him when he reported allegations against their Corvair model. Former executive/automotive entrepreneur John DeLorean wrote an interesting book called "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors" which discussed internal politics and much more at GM, and while one might well question how well DeLorean would fit in in any corporate environment, GM sounded particularly dysfunctional. And of course GM was the target of Michael Moore's "Roger and Me", which led to more interesting behavior.

All that said, given my druthers I'll trust GM over the lefties.

Anyway, this could be fun to watch.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Build your own worm controlled synthesizer!

Right here.

TVA - then and now

Glenn Reynolds blames TVA dirt-burners for the allergies found in Knoxville. I don't know if there's any science behind this, and he himself notes that the air looks clearer.

But then I know a little about TVA. Back in the 80's people I knew who had worked at the dirt-burners such as Widows Creek said that things were done a little differently at night when the smoke wasn't visible. And plant workers knew better than to drive presentable vehicles to work, because the atmosphere in the immediate vicinity would eat the paint off the vehicles eventually.

Mind you, this was 20 years ago and much could have changed in their attitudes in addition to forced changes via regulations. But the best thing they might have done for the local environment would have been to complete their nuclear power fleet.

It's not as if TVA doesn't have any nukes - they completed 3 at Browns Ferry (west of Huntsville, AL), 2 at Sequoyah (Soddy-Daisy, TN, just northeast of Chattanooga), and I hear that they finally finished 2 at Watts Bar (near Maryville, TN between Chattanooga and Knoxville). But that's less than half of what was originally planned back in the 60's. I'm working from memory here, but IIRC TVA has 10 partially completed nuclear power plants at 4 sites. The ones closest to completion are Bellefonte 1 and 2 (near Scottsboro, AL between Huntville and Chattanooga), which were something like 80% complete on unit 1 and 50% complete on unit 2 as of about 1985 when work was stopped. Other sites include Yellow Creek (2 units near Corinth in extreme NE MS); Hartsville A and B (4 units at Hartsville, TN east of Nashville), and Phipps Bend (2 units near Surgoinsville, TN ENE of Knoxville in the Bristol/Kingsport/Johnson City area).

(You might recall Browns Ferry. An event occurred there in the 70's which at the time was the scariest ever at a commercial nuclear power plant in the US. Nothing was released to the environment and no one was hurt, but with less fortuitous circumstances things could have been much uglier. Analysis of the event caused a number of regulatory changes that were incorporated at BF and also propagated through the rest of the nuclear power industry).

Why did TVA back off? Well, for one the financial burden of trying to build so many plants was incredible. Under ideal circumstances it would have been difficult, but this was in the post Jimmy Carter stagflation economy which had caused future energy consumption projections to fall, which led decision makers to believe that the plants would not be needed at their planned times of completion.

Also, many other sites were under construction at the same time, so experienced engineering and craft personnel were stretched very thin. Here TVA had unique problems due to its quasi-govt status, because their pay rates were constrained by govt regulations. IIRC no employee could make any more than the $65K or so a Congressman made at the time, including the CEO of the organization. CEOs with less responsibility at other electric utilities at the time (and TVA was about more than just electric power) made 4 or more times that. So it was difficult to keep enough talented upper management or technical people on staff to get the plants built - someone else was always hiring and offering more money.

But Jimmy Carter probably did the worst by appointing S. David Freeman to the board that ran TVA. Freeman was and is an opponent of nuclear power, and even one as self-absorbed as Carter had to have known this. Thus Carter's intent was clear. May they both freeze in the dark.

Can TVA revive their program? Energy use predictions certainly have changed since the Carter dark ages. Money is cheaper. The nuclear power industry has been moribund for some time, driving many like experienced professionals like me to alternate careers - some of us might be able to be seduced back into the business. Regulation has stabilized, and entire new inherently safer technologies are available now. I'm sure TN and adjacent states would welcome several $billion in spending over the next half-decade or so.

But politics always seems to intrude. I haven't been in a position to know anything useful internal to TVA for some time, and it wouldn't surprise me to see that they had built dirt-burners at some of the original nuclear sites. And nearby utilities will complain justifiably about TVA's unique status wrt the govt, just as other mortgage industry players complain about Fannie and Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Whatever the current situation, President Bush might be in position to jump-start TVA via the right appointments. Frist, Lamar! - get to work!

Monday, March 07, 2005

ABC News: 'Minutemen' to Patrol Arizona Border

Some people are upset about this: ABC News: 'Minutemen' to Patrol Arizona Border. Next thing you know they're crying about "vigilantes".

A respondent quoted on Lou Dobbs' show had the right response. Those people aren't "vigilantes", they're "undocumented Border Patrol agents".

I hope it was worth it

Boeing CEO out in new scandal at embattled company - Mar. 7, 2005

He couldn't keep his hands off the help. Didn't he know you have to be a Democrat President to get by with that?


The local Sam's Club is ridiculously busy, and at peak times you're lucky to get a cart. I've learned to grab one in the parking lot on the way in.

But a woman I'll assume was an immigrant didn't know all this. I saw her walking through Sam's with 4 bags of something balanced on her head.

Overheard on CNN

Saudi #1: "Killing women is bad"
Saudi #2: "That is your opinion"

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Back to earth - NCAA Basketball - Ohio St. ends No. 1 Illinois' perfect season - Sunday March 6, 2005 2:40PM

I'm not superstitious, but I'm still glad I wasn't watching. I still haven't forgiven the Illini for the late 80's/early 90's swoons, losing in the NCAA tournament to teams like Austin Peay State College (Yeah, that's how they pronounce it - their battle cry is "Let's go Peay!" We won't even talk about South Carolina or Jacksonville State).

America's sweetheart

I have more faults than there is time to write about. One of them is that I start writing posts and then I let them sit for a while, often until they are stale. For instance, this one was mostly written last Monday.

What's more, I'm too lazy to update the time references. So pretend like it's last Monday again.

But I do draw a line somewhere - I swear I'm not a reality TV junkie.

I *do* keep up with pop culture though. This has rewarded me with exposure to characters such as Omarosa Manigault Stallworth, the much-reviled "Apprentice" reject.

Omarosa has been doing a fair imitation of a professional wrestling "heel" - the ones you love to hate. She makes a big show of vanity, gratuitous nastiness, a superior attitude...whatever you might associate with being a first-class bitch. But she suggests just enough vulnerability to give her detractors hope that she'll go down in flames.

So tonight she's on "Fear Factor" and of course everyone is rooting for her not just to lose, but to be humbled in the process.

Knowing that, consider one of the stunts the contestants had to do tonight. One hand was handcuffed to a pipe that ran along a long table with the remaining props. A key was tied down with aircraft cable and two studs with locknuts finger-tight on the bottom of a terrarium filled with some sort of hyperactive small snakes that struck incessantly. The contestant had to release the key to unlock a big pan full of worms, which had to be transferred to an adjacent lower pan using only the contestant's face. From the lower pan they had to be transferred by mouth only into a blender. Then the blender would do its stuff, and the contestant had to suck out its contents and spit them into a graduated cylinder until it was what appeared to be about a pint or more full. This released the keys to unlock the handcuff so the contestant could jump into a dumpster full of worms and black slime which allegedly smell like a barn. Somewhere in the mire was a container full of blended worms which the contestant had to find and drink. The contestant with the fastest time would win.

There were two other women competing against her and Omarosa was scheduled last. Would she do it?

Yes she did, and she didn't finish last either. One might have thought that the snakes wouldn't have struck her out of professional courtesy, but she got her share of bites, and she howled to the obvious joy of her opponents.

She didn't win the whole competition, but as she walked off the set she said we'd be seeing her again. Yee haw! - Blog-linked firings prompt calls for better policies

Right here.

IMO you're not likely to run into any trouble by blogging if you use your head.

"My truth"

On February 4 Guiliana Sgrena was kidnapped in Iraq.Here's an account
The abduction Friday, 4 February, of the journalist from Il Manifesto, Giuliana Sgrena, has Iraqi civil society living in anguish about her fate—they have added the burden of her disappearance to the litany of their daily, appalling, ever-mounting woes. In their utterly civilized and almost powerless humanity, they plead for her! I don't think it will be easy for even the brutality of the occupation to crush such a selfless strain of stubborn humanity!
Yes, in fact the source page has some political leanings. As did Ms. Sgrena, who wrote for a left-wing Italian newspaper and was a red diaper baby:
Her 79-year-old father, pensioned railroad-worker Franco Sgrena, was an anti-fascist and partisan fighter in the Italian Resistance against Nazi-fascism in WW II and is still today a member and leader of the Communist Party.
But she was released by her captors. Here's what happened next:
U.S.-led multi-national forces said the car carrying Sgrena was speeding and that soldiers fired warning shots in an attempt to stop it, before opening fire.

But the 56-year-old journalist, currently being treated for a shoulder injury in a Rome hospital, said the car was not speeding. Sgrena told Italian La 7 TV on Sunday "there was no bright light, no signal," according to The Associated Press.

And in an article for Sunday's edition of her newspaper, Il Manifesto, she said the shooting, which occurred Friday as agents were taking her to the airport in Baghdad, recalled her captors' warning that "the Americans don't want you to return."
Yeah, that's "her truth" all right. If she's as full-blooded a Communist as it looks, the truth is whatever serves her purpose. And it's pretty clear her purpose is opposing the war in Iraq. Whatever really happened, you can bet she'll spin it to the left.

Am I slandering Communists? If you think so, then I suggest that you read "Witness".