Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congress is finalizing a deal that would raise the fuel economy standards for most U.S. cars and trucks for the first time in more than 30 years.On the surface, this proposal seems like a great idea, it is (unfortunately) another result of the knuckleheads in Washington trying to fix something they don't understand.
But the bill also contains several significant loopholes that would allow auto companies to get around the new limits.
The centerpiece of the bill is a requirement that would raise the corporate average fuel economy standard, known as CAFE, from 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 22.2 mpg for trucks to 35 mpg fleet-wide by 2020.
The Senate passed the mandate in June, but the House has not yet voted. Congressional aides familiar with the negotiations said House leaders are hoping to work out final language this week and vote next week.
Large "work trucks" like the Dodge Ram, the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado would be exempt from the 35 mpg standard, according to sources involved in the negotiations.
Automakers will get credits to count against their fleet-wide average for selling "flex fuel" cars that are able to use alternative fuels or gasoline. Although U.S. manufacturers have built millions of flex fuel cars, ethanol is actually used in only about 1.5 percent of them, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Most continue to run on gasoline, the group found. Ethanol is not widely available to car owners.
Despite these loopholes, backers of the bill say it brings a significant change that will benefit consumers. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Global Warming, said in an interview that the higher standard "will be a huge victory. It won't be something, however, that will stop us in the years ahead continuing to look at ways to continue upon that further."
House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, D-Michigan, who has been a key negotiator on the compromise bill and defender of auto industry interests, is pushing for some significant changes to the Senate version.
In an interview Wednesday with a Detroit television station, Dingell said he's supportive of the new standard, but stressed "we've got to do it in a way that doesn't destroy our industry or manufacturing."
Dingell would like to include a provision that would build in job protections for U.S. autoworkers, requiring U.S. auto companies to continue to manufacture a certain percentage of their vehicles in the United States.
Dingell also wants to create separate standards for car and truck fleets.
"We have to address the Senate bill to make sure we don't combine light trucks and automobiles in a way that will destroy them," he said.
According to a recent analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit environmental group, if the 35 mpg limit was implemented, it would translate into a savings for consumers of $25 billion at the pump in 2020.
The bill will also include a requirement to increase the production of biofuels like ethanol to 36 billion gallons by 2022. According to the Department of Energy, the United States produced 4 billion gallons of biofuels in 2005.
"Our goal is over the next 10 to 15 years [to] see a revolution that results in a dramatic increase in SUVs and automobiles that can use these new fuels and the number of Americans that can use them," Markey said, "so that we can back out more millions of barrels of oil that come from OPEC every day."Congressional Republicans point out the proposal will do nothing to lower gas prices in the short term.
Now don't get me wrong; I think that cutting down on fossil fuel consumption is a great idea. It will definitely cut down on pollution and, while I don't think it's as big a crisis as Al Gore does, global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed and corrected soon.
Unfortunately, while the proposal looks good on paper, It will do virtually nothing to limit greenhouse gas output. there are a number of issues. First and foremost is the fact that the standard will not affect the millions of cars already on the road. My '98 Honda won't suddenly be putting out 35mpg when this bill passes, it's not physically possible. New cars make up a small fraction of the cars on the road today, and while the standard will begin to have an affect down the road, nothing significant will happen for years (something the article points out).
Second, the fact that the automakers can get credits for creating flex-fuel and hybrid vehicles that will lower their individual fleets. I see major exploitation of this taking place; all an automaker has to do is engineer all of its cars to run on ethanol and they've effectively gotten around the ban.
Another problem is that ethanol is not the be-all end-all savior that Washington thinks it is. First off, it takes more energy to convert corn into ethanol than ethanol actually puts out, and the energy used for the conversion usually comes from a conventionally (fossil-fuel) powered source. Second, cars that run on biofuel don't get better mileage than cars that run on gasoline; some cars even perform worse. Third, it's expensive; costing nearly as much as standard diesel fuel (which due to new diesel standards is now more expensive than regular gas). Forth, biofuel production is cutting into the growth of grain that is normally used for food. Lastly, despite the plethora of flex-fuel vehicles, ethanol is not widely available; there are just over 1400 gas stations nationwide that supply ethanol. Most of these are located in the Midwest; Illinois has 500 stations and Minnesota has 300, but most states have less than 20 and nine have no ethanol fueling stations.
Finally, raising the fuel economy limits do nothing if we as Americans do not curb our consumption of gasoline. Even with gas over $3.00 a gallon, we're still buying gas-guzzling SUVs. Doing something like imposing a gas tax, even if it's just $.10 or $.15 a gallon, will drastically cut down on consumption.
On paper, this proposal looks like a brilliant idea that is sure to cut down on pollution, but unfortunately it's yet another example of our (not-so) good-hearted politicians in Washington trying to come up with a solution when they don't even understand the problem. If Congress really wants to make a difference, it should start educating itself on the issues before tackling them.
Posted by Raptor at 9:16 PM
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Okay, I'm pretty sure it's been well-established that I am a huge Star Wars fan, to the point of wanting my own customized lightsaber. You probably remember the big fuss I made when I discovered Random Sabers, an outfit that would custom-make unique lightsaber hilts for its customers. Unfortunately, by the time I'd finally saved up enough money to make an order and had a design for a saber in my head, the company announced it had a massive backlog of orders and would not be taking new work orders for at least two years. Needless to say, I was crushed.
Recently, however, I happened upon a breath of fresh air, a light at the end of the dark tunnel, a glimpse of hope in the midst of my despair... okay, maybe I'm being a bit over-dramatic. The point is, within the last week I have discovered not one, but two websites that specialize in customizing lightsabers.
The first outfit, which I discovered by means of a Popular Mechanics magazine, is called Advanced-Light Weaponry. This site is run by a sculptor who specializes in high-end one-of-a-kind sci-fi props. He makes anything from simple stunt sabers to sabers that field-strip down to the "working" components to ultra-realistic sabers with LED-powered blades and working sound boards. Since every saber is ultimately designed by the customer, styles can range from generic Star Wars-style hilts to steampunk sabers to lightsabers that look almost organic. The site also offers custom-made sci-fi guns, some of which can include custom holsters as well. Probably the only downside to ALW is the steep prices; since each saber is hand-made out of high-quality materials, prices start at around $200 for a stunt saber; LED blades and sound boards jack the price up to over $500. Still, if you can afford it, the end product is well worth what you pay for. Also, since each saber is hand-made, construction can take several weeks, and that's before you factor in the long waiting list the guy has for other projects; which can tack another month or two onto the turnaround time. But again, given the amount of effort put into these sabers, they're well worth the wait.
The second site, appropriately named The Custom Saber Shop, bills itself as having "all your lightsaber building needs in one convenient spot." (Just listen to the theme song) While this site doesn't sell completed sabers, it does sell everything, and I mean everything, you need to custom-build your own lightsaber. The site has developed what it calls "The Modular Hilt System" where all of the major components (Hilt, center grips, pommel) easily screw together, making for easy upgrades and customization. In addition, the site sells all the electronic equipment necessary for adding LED or Electro-Luminescent (EL) blades and sounds to the saber, along with the tools required for some assembly aspects (drilling and tapping holes for set screws, for example). While this does make everything much cheaper than a saber custom-made by someone else, it does require a bit of electrical know-how in order to get everything working properly. Fortunately, the site does provide tutorials on hot to properly assemble all of the different electronics, as well as a Modular Starter Kit for an EL saber. Another downside is since all of the components are made of machined aluminum, this restricts the possible hilt styles to generic Star Wars-style hilts, so unless you're a skilled sculptor or you know someone who is, you won't get any steampunk or organic-looking hilts. Still, this is a great place for anyone who wants a saber on a budget.
Links to both Advanced-Light Weaponry and The Custom Saber Shop can be found in the "Links" section on the blog's sidebar. Check 'em out, especially if you want you're own custom saber (like me!)
Posted by Raptor at 4:34 PM
Friday, November 16, 2007
Straight from CNN.com:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Lindsay Lohan was a jailbird for just 84 minutes Thursday, becoming the latest celebrity to serve less than a day for a drunken driving offense.
Lohan, 21, turned herself in to the Los Angeles County women's detention center in Lynwood at 10:30 a.m. She was searched, fingerprinted and placed in a holding cell in the inmate reception area but got to keep her street clothes, sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
"She was cooperative," he said.
Lohan was released at 11:54 a.m. Her original daylong sentence was reduced because she met criteria that took into account overcrowding at the lockup and the fact that her crime was nonviolent, Whitmore said.
Did the celebrity receive special treatment?
"Absolutely not. This is what we do for most everybody in this position," Whitmore said. In fact, 30 to 50 women are granted early releases from the facility every day, he added.
An e-mailed message seeking comment from Lohan's publicist was not immediately returned.
In May, the star of "Mean Girls" and "Freaky Friday" was arrested after crashing her Mercedes-Benz into a tree in Beverly Hills. She was arrested again in July after the mother of Lohan's former personal assistant called 911 to report that her car was being chased by an SUV. The chase ended in Santa Monica, where police arrested Lohan for being behind the wheel. In both cases, Lohan was found in possession of small amounts of cocaine.
In August, she reached a plea deal on misdemeanor drunken driving and cocaine charges stemming from the arrests. The judge sentenced her to four days in jail -- the mandatory minimum for a second drunken-driving offense -- but gave her credit for 24 hours already served. She elected to complete 10 days of community service instead of 48 hours behind bars.
The total deal called for her to enter treatment, spend a day in jail and perform community service.
"It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs," Lohan said in a statement released by her publicist in August.
Lohan had until January 18 to serve the jail time.
She spent two minutes longer in lockup than Nicole Richie did in August for a similar offense.
Richie was arrested December 11, 2006, after witnesses reported seeing her black Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle headed the wrong way on a freeway in Burbank. She pleaded guilty in July to a misdemeanor DUI charge in a deal with prosecutors that helped her avoid a potential year in jail because it was a second driving-under-the-influence conviction. She served 82 minutes in custody, during which she was booked but never actually placed in a cell.Richie's co-star on TV's "The Simple Life," Paris Hilton, served 23 days at the same jail this year after she was found guilty of driving on a suspended license while on probation for an alcohol-related reckless-driving case.
I'm so pissed that I don't even know where to begin. 84 minutes. That's less than an hour and a half! Had that been pretty much anyone else, they would be in a cell, in a prison-issue uniform, for at least two days while their court-appointed lawyer who can't even find his way to the restroom tries to defend them!
This, for me, is a perfect demonstration of the absolute nonpartisan nature of our justice system. Actually, no. This is the perfect example of exactly how perverted and corrupt our so-called Justice System really is! It is absolute proof that if you are rich and famous, than you truly are above the law. This is sickening. It's obvious that the system does not work, and it will not be changed because the people who should be fixing it are the very people that benefit from its corruption!
"Liberty and Justice for all." Yeah, right.
Posted by Raptor at 11:31 AM
Monday, November 12, 2007
To all those serving in our Armed Forces, thank you for defending our country, for keeping us, and the world, free from tyranny and oppression.
To all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, to those who have given their lives in pursuit of freedom, thank you. Thank you for sacrificing your todays and tomorrows for us, people who you never knew, yet were willing to give up everything for. You are gone, but you and the sacrifice you made for us are not, nor will they ever be, forgotten.
Freedom is never free. It is paid for with the blood and innocence of our youth, and what a frightful cost that is.
Posted by Raptor at 6:18 PM
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Sorry I haven't posted in a while. College is crazy. I've been busy as heck for the last couple of weeks.
Anyway, I've got a new story brewing that I'll hopefully get posted up on the blog. It's kind of a fantasy story, only with 21st-century technology thrown in. When I find time (Thanksgiving? Hopefully sooner) I'll start posting it. Hopefully, this will evolve either into a mega-novel or (more realistically) a series, as I have three separate-yet-connected plot lines figured out.
BTW, new Mythbusters episodes are on Discovery Channel. Wednesday nights at 9:00 if you're interested.
Posted by Raptor at 9:30 PM