Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dear GM and Ford

I really want to like your cars.

And I do. Sometimes. But side by side with other brands, they're more expensive and not that much better, if at all.

Maybe it's my own fault. I like small cars. And that's not your forte. I look at cars like the Cobalt and the Aveo. I'm a small car kinda guy. I like they way they drive. I like the lower mileage. And I'm not ashamed to say it, I like the efficiency. Why drive three tons of steel when one ton does the same thing? Sometimes a pickup looks mighty nice when I'm hauling firewood or trash...but they're a bit out of my price point. And when remodeling our house in Iowa City we rented a pickup twice, and that did the trick. These days I have a good chum who is handy with his pickup. But 99.9% of the time I just need something that Goes and isn't a DeathTrap for me or the others on the road.

You're trying to compete on price, and you can't do it. So PLEASE just do this...make a damn good car. Make a car I lust after. The Cobalt has a HUGE engine for the size of the car, so it's got some oomph to be sure. But its crash test ratings blow, it's cramped, and from the reports I've been reading the drive train is crap. Your smaller car, the Aveo, has more room than the Cobalt. WHY? I know because like a big dork I took a tape measure to those cars. Your small cars don't stack up against cars like the Kia Spectra, the Hyundai Sonata, and the Toyota Yaris (though this one has a pretty sad crash rating) on basic quality and they cost about 1000 to 2000 more. The Honda Civic is a GOOD small car. Sturdy. Solid. Reliable. Safe. It's on the pricey side, but oh dear GOD I lust after it. Why can't you just make a car like that and price it accordingly. seem to think people buy small cars for economy alone. But I have to tell ya...if I had all the money in the world, I'd STILL buy a small car. I'd just buy a really damn good one. In other words, not a Ford or a GM.

Ford...why did you discontinue the Escort line? Dumbasses.

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's An Election Year: Remember to Bitch Slap Your Favorite Candidate

Thomas Jefferson said "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. " Let's make sure it doesn't come to that this election year and keep our political figures in line with a soft but humiliating bitch slap.

Our objective as Citizens is to ensure that candidates fear only one thing...US. Not each other. Not the Media. Not their parties. Not mice. All I ask is that they're terrified of the citizenry. I mean, really. Candidates, don't make us break out the guillotine and the basket. Cuz we'll do it. We may not have a public square, but the mall would do just as well. We're thirsty for entertainment, and reality TV is all the rage.

Politicians tend to drift off course and get caught up in the game of power. Their objective is to win and shore up power. As citizens, we have a game too. Our objective is to remind politicians that we, and only we, should be a politician's pathway to power. When they demonstrate an unhealthy lack of terror, they need to be smacked down. When they do wrong, call their headquarters and lay into them. Send an angry letter. Call and demand your contribution money back. Withhold your vote and let the Bad Guy win and let your candidate know why it happened. Be an ass. Be loud. Be a jerk. Flick them on the nose. When they're good. Give them a big bear hug and shower them with praise.

But remember this...elections aren't a game and politicians aren't your friend. Power turns everybody, EVERYBODY, into a dangerous, savage animal. Our system is designed to keep power on a short leash. And we're the ones who are supposed to enforce the system.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 really bug me.

I just have to say this to Obama and Edwards "Hey! Jerks. If you don't have the STONES to defy party rules in favor of what's best for The People and Democracy, you aren't so much LEADERS as party lackies ."

I'm a little pissed. I voted in the pointless Michigan primaries yesterday. Why pointless? Because Michigan has been stripped of its delegates for the Democratic candidate selection.

Michigan was sick of Iowa and New Hampshire being the states that effectively chose the candidates, saying that the states had way too much influence on the process. So Michigan decided it would have its primaries earlier, in violation of the Democratic Party rules. I might add that it also violated the Republican rules. While the Republican party somehow managed to work things out so that candidates could still do the Michigan primaries, the Democrat party did not. No. They stripped Michigan of its delegates and told party candidates not to campaign in Michigan or run in the primaries.

But as it turns out, just about everybody but Obama and Edwards ignored the marching orders and appeared on the ballot anyway. I voted for one of them. Sure I like Edwards and Obama. But they chose the Party Line over Me and My Right To Select My Preferred Leadership. Towing the Party Line isn't the CHANGE we want. It's the Status Quo we're goddamn sick of.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I need a Chrysler that's as big as a whale

Now I know why people end up driving HUGE cars. It's all about the car seats. The baby is surrounded by four inches of plastic and padding on all sides, and then clamped to the frame of the car. You're legally bound to do this. Hospital staff will follow out to your car when you take your baby home from the hospital to be sure the child's transportation is up to par with legal requirements. I'm not kidding.

If you have a small car, this isn't a problem if you only have one kid. The baby just occupies the whole back seat. Forget about fitting other adults back there. The problem comes along when you have two kids, both of whom are legally required to be properly protected against F=MA. In an attempt to thwart the merciless effects of physics, each child must be encased in plastic and padding.

At 132,504 miles, our loyal and tiny Ford Escort is developing a well deserved personality. So we're looking for another mode of transportation. We're drawn to the small cars like the Civic, the Yaris, or the Aveo. They use less gas, they're fun to drive, they're good on the snow, they're less expensive, and they make me feel like I don't need to over-compensate for anything. That's right...a small car makes me feel like a man *flex*.

But two carseats side-by-side in a small car just doesn't work. And the infant seat needs to be in the middle because A) it's safer and B) It doesn't fit on the sides.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I start to look at larger cars. Maybe I'll move up to a mid-sized car. Something in a Malibu or an Accord perhaps. While I realize it's important to have laws protecting infants and children, the conspiracy nut part of my brain suspects child safety laws were less about protecting the kids, and more about car lobbyists pushing for objects that required people to buy More Car.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why Don't We Have More Female Presidential Candidates?

I was listening to NPR last summer and a female US Congressperson was talking about her experience forming an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign in the 90s. Apparently she decided not to run because, according to her committee, America was not willing to accept a female president.

Hmm...well maybe that's true. If we go back and look at history, we see that there has never been a female president. Perhaps the exploratory committee took a long hard look at the pattern and at great expense delivered the report "History shows that Americans only elect men. Specifically white. 19% of the time for somebody named Bush, Adams, Johnson, or Roosevelt."

But wait a minute, how often have we been given a chance? How often have I had the chance to cast my vote for a female presidential candidate, even in a primary?

Since women achieved the right to vote in the 1920s, there have been fewer than 30 female candidates, Wikipedia lists 24 and the Center For American Woman and Politics lists 12 (with some overlap between the lists). And in most cases they ran for such powerful parties as the Socialist Party and the Workers World other words, usually parties where Nobody has a chance to win, male or female.

There have only been a small handful of female candidates prior to the 2008 elections who ran under a potentially viable party.

So perhaps exploratory committees looked at polls when deciding that a woman could not be elected president. According to the PEW Research Center, in 1969 a slim majority, 53%, said they would vote for a female candidate. Compare that to 2008 when the poll numbers show that 88% would vote for a female candidate. And since 1998, state gubernatorial election data shows female candidates faring BETTER when pitted against a male candidate, gathering on average 55% of the female vote and 47% of the male vote. Female Democratic candidates won 51% of the time while Male Democratic candidates won 47% of the time.

Today we seem to have Much Better numbers in favor of a female candidate. But that 53% willingness to vote for a woman in 1969 is telling. Women clearly had an up-hill battle.

But look at this...

By the mid 1970's,
America's professed willingness to vote for a female president jumped, and in 1972 America saw three female presidential candidates. Three! Incidentally, the acceptance of black candidates rose at a pace on par with the acceptance of female candidates.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we have a woeful ratio of female to male candidates. Indeed, we're lucky to have had a female candidate every election year for the past few cycles, but always with a small showing. One might imagine the ratios would at least mirror that of the US Senate ratios of male to female (83% male to 16.3% female). But they don't even come close.

For whatever reason, women don't run for US President as often as men. The appearance of women in the race shows our system isn't shutting them out with extreme prejudice. Certainly, female candidates face intense pressure, scrutiny, and ridicule. Though I think about Benazir Bhutto who became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and ran for the post again despite being aware of the very real possibility of being killed. Her final fate makes rhetoric and ridicule seem tame by comparison. Benazir Bhutto was killed December 27, 2007.

If ridicule is the worst and most likely fate of a female candidate in the United States, it's a small price to pay to make America a more fair and equal society. Women...just give us the chance to vote for you. We may not. But with every wave, America becomes more willing to embrace the inevitable, that our society will be governed by the full spectrum of its citizenry.