Tuesday, August 11, 2009

230 mpg!

Allahpundit throws some cold water on the excitement being generated by the new Chevy hybrid the Volt before he gives us his take on the upside:

.... If it's true, then you're looking at the first car with triple-digit gas mileage, fully four times the amount of its nearest competitor. Actually, it's even better than that: It can run on electricity alone for up to 40 miles, so if your round-trip commute's within that range, you don't need gas at all. Thrilling news, not because the Volt's going to solve America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil overnight but because the baseline technology's now not only available but almost cost-effective.

Why do I say almost? Let's do the math. Initial sticker-price estimates are $40,000; assume it'll be a bit more than that, then deduct $7,500 for the federal tax credit you'll get for buying one. Let's say that leaves us with a cost of $35,000. Figure a new car with standard fuel efficiency will get 20 mpg and run you $18,000. Now assume gas prices of $3 per gallon. Buying the cheaper car will save you enough money to afford 5,667 gallons of gas, which, at 20 mpg, means it would be a better deal than the Volt for the first ... 113,000 miles. That also doesn't account for (a) the (comparatively tiny) cost of electricity to charge the battery, (b) the headaches for apartment-dwellers in finding a place to charge the thing, (c) the possibility of higher maintenance costs as the Volt's new technology suffers glitches, and (d) the strain on urban electrical grids a decade or two down the road when these suckers become popular.

There are, of course, some definite positives to cars like the Volt and some of these are mentioned at the link. I just wish it wasn't government-owned GM that's come out with the darn thing.


Iranian Prisons

You doubtless remember the revelations about how terrorists were treated at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. As bad as the detainees were, the treatment some of the received at the hands of a few American Guardsmen was unconscionable and illegal, and at least most of the persons responsible have been held to account.

You've also heard that the prison at Guantanamo Bay is scheduled to be closed in January because it fails to meet the exacting standards of American penology even though it's apparently a model penal institution whose detainees live better than do many inmates in our civilian penitentiaries.

In any event, amidst all the talk of prisoner mistreatment in American detention camps what's often omitted is any insight into how political prisoners are treated in most countries around the world.

Alexander Sohlzenitsyn was imprisoned in the former Soviet Union during the late forties and early fifties and survived to write an extraordinary book, titled The Gulag Archipelago, about the ghastly horrors of communist "justice."

Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned behind the iron curtain because he was a Christian minister. His book titled Tortured for Christ describes the incredible cruelty of which men hostile to God are capable.

Armando Valladares was a Cuban who was deemed a political enemy of the Castro regime and was imprisoned in a system Dantesque in its hellishness. He wrote about his experience in Against All Hope.

In the aftermath of the war in Iraq we read of the unspeakable tortures perpetrated by Saddam Hussein, his sons, and his henchmen. We read about the horrible manner in which people who opposed them or stood in their way were tortured, mutilated, run through wood chippers, and suffered other grisly torments to the amusement of the Baathist psychopaths.

Some of the victims of these governments lived to tell their stories. Millions of others around the globe, especially in communist and Islamic countries, have not been so fortunate. The tortures they've suffered, and are suffering today, for no reason other than that they are political or religious liabilities are unimaginable.

Now word is beginning to leak out about the prisons in Iran and the brutalities to which hundreds of dissidents rounded up in the wake of the recent political protests there have been subjected. If the reports are accurate, they should be mailed to every person who applauded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his visit to New York City and Columbia University last year. If the reports are accurate this man and his political patrons among the mullahs are as demonic as Saddam Hussein, and they deserve the same fate.

Here's part of the report:

Until the defeated Iranian presidential contender Mehdi Karroubi broke the wall of silence surrounding the Islamic Republic's prisons to demand an investigation into allegations of rape, little attention was paid to the abuses meted out to protestors who dared to claim that the June 12 election was rigged.

These abuses are inflicted routinely and systematically in seven secret prisons where political detainees are held at the behest of the revolutionary Islamic regime. Those prisons are described by DEBKAfile's Iranian sources as inhuman hellholes:


This is the jail which supreme leader Ayatallah Ali Khamenei wanted razed to the ground to conceal the outrages committed there against scores of reform-seeking protesters who had the cruel fortune to be dumped there. Kahrizak on the southern outskirts of Tehran was notorious as the penal facility for Iran's most violent thugs and gangsters. Those inmates were let loose on the political prisoners who were incarcerated in cells ten meters square. An unknown number suffered rape and bloody beatings, which not all survived.

The commander of Iran's internal security forces Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam said Sunday, Aug. 9, that he would not deny his share in the blame for the "terrible things that took place in Kahrizak" where two protesters were admittedly found dead. He claimed that two of the security officials responsible for "widespread prisoner abuse" had been fired and awaited trial.

The prison remains open and our sources doubt those responsible for the outrages will be brought to trial.

Six more jails and detentions centers operate in the Tehran area.

Ghamar prison

A low, inconspicuous door behind the Ghamar Bani Hashem Hospital on Resaalat Street near the security ministry leads into a top-secret holding facility for interrogating political prisoners. It is closely guarded by Iran's intelligence ministry.

It has two floors and a yard, containing four interrogation rooms, eight isolation cells and eight holding cells in which dozens of detainees are crammed, allowed access to showers once a week and toilets three times a day. Here, the detainees undergo their first inquisition and beatings before they are transferred to other prisons. Their eyes and mouths are bound with leather straps to prevent them from identifying their tormentors. Their agony ends when they sign written confessions.

Most of the victims' families do not know their whereabouts.

Esharat-Abad prison

Several hundred political prisoners are crowded into this facility for drug offenders which is designed for 250 to 350 inmates. It is situated in the Narcotic Unit's headquarters in central Tehran.

The building consists of three large units broken up into cells of 1.5 x 2 meters, into each of which up to five detainees are squeezed for an agonizing three to seven days. Under interrogation, their arms and legs are broken to make them confess and give up information. Accustomed to beating and humiliating dope traffickers, the wardens carry on abusing the political detainees.

Sanitary conditions are appalling and the inmates are fed scraps from the prison staff canteens. The stench of vomit and sweat in the unventilated cells is unbearable. Whenever a detainee dies of torture or disease, prison authorities file a fictitious report. After the questioning finishes, those who survive are transferred to the central prison at Evin. No one has been brought to book for their deaths.

There's more at the link. Abu Ghraib was abominable, but I suspect that if prisoners in almost any jail in the communist or Islamic worlds were offered the opportunity to be transferred there, they'd accept without a moment's hesitation.


You Know You're a Racist If ...

There are legitimate grounds for criticizing some of the antics of the people who attend the town halls. Some of them have been rude and discourteous, and worst of all, a few of them have acted as if they worked for ACORN, but these people are frustrated and they have legitimate concerns. Thus, it's as insulting as it is weird to have someone like Chris Matthews even raise the question of whether these people are motivated by racism, but the answer he receives from nationally syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker is even worse:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Put 100 of these people in a room. Strap them into gurneys. Inject them with sodium pentathol. How many of them would say "I don't like the idea of having a black president"? What percentage?

CYNTHIA TUCKER: Oh, I'm just guessing. This is just off the cuff. I think 45 to 65% of the people who appear at these groups are people who will never be comfortable with the idea of a black president.

Tucker admits she has no idea, but she's willing to aver on national tv that about half of the people who show up at these meetings are racists. Why? What evidence does she have of this? In the strange and febrile imaginations of liberal progressives most white people (except them) are racists, and if they're pressed to support this self-righteous assumption they point to the widespread opposition to a government takeover of our economy. How does this opposition demonstrate that whites are racists? Well, people like Tucker and Matthews will tell you, it must be motivated by racism since, after all, it's a black man who's leading the takeover.

Paul Krugman strikes the same chord in the New York Times where he argues that because some of the angry town hall attendees are a little confused on some of the implications of health care reform they're probably racists:

[P]eople who don't know that Medicare is a government program probably aren't reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading ... But they're probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they've heard about what he's doing, than to who he is.

That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that's behind the "birther" movement, which denies Mr. Obama's citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don't know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn't be surprising if it's a substantial fraction.

Does this sound familiar? It should: it's a strategy that has played a central role in American politics ever since Richard Nixon realized that he could advance Republican fortunes by appealing to the racial fears of working-class whites.

Krugman's implication here is that no objection to our headlong rush over the economic cliff can possibly be legitimate. It must instead be grounded in white distaste for a black man as President.

And here's an MSNBC anchor suggesting that perhaps the word socialism has become the new "n-word." He doesn't come right out and say it, but he seems to be laying the predicate for the idea that if you call President Obama a socialist or call his policies socialist, you might just be a closet racist:

Here's what appears to be happening. Racism is anathema in this country, so the left, in order to get its agenda passed, sees an opportunity to weaken the opposition to it by identifying opponents, in the public mind, with racism. Pretty soon, if you're a Republican you'll be assumed to be a racist. If you don't have an Obama sticker on your car it'll be assumed you're a racist. If you don't accept the President's vision of what America should be it will be perceived as an indication that you're a racist, and if you call a black man a socialist it's the same as calling him a "nigger."

This is the state to which the left has reduced our public discourse.


Journey Inside the Cell

A new video titled Journey Inside the Cell narrated by Dr. Stephen Meyer, the author of Signature in the Cell, gives a glimpse of a small part of the amazingly complicated process by which proteins are produced in the cell. As Meyer's book makes clear the process is much more complex than this, but even so, the video does a nice job of illustrating why so many people today have trouble believing the materialist story that the astonishing complexity of the cell is all a product of blind chance and natural selection.

The kind of information required to operate a structure like the cell is only known to be the result of intelligent minds. To think that it could come about by sheer accident would be risible were it not for the fact that so many bright people think it did. Even so, the acumen of these thinkers notwithstanding, none of them has ever been able to explain how it could have happened. Their reasoning goes something like this: Only material, physical processes can be considered in science. Enormously complex structures like cells exist. Therefore these structures must have been produced solely by physical processes.

The error here, of course, is to confuse what science has limited itself to considering with what the best explanation for biological entities might be. Just because some people think that science should be restricted to physical causes it certainly doesn't follow that only physical causes operate in the world.

Nor does any scientist who insists on dealing only with physical causes - and not all scientists think this exclusivity is wise - have any right to rule out intelligent causes. The most a materialist can say is that he chooses not to theorize about causes that can't be observed or measured. He cannot say that they don't exist or haven't operated or can't be inferred from what we can observe or measure. Yet materialists do say this all the time.



Openness, conscientiousness, and extrovertedness all tend to increase longevity, this article claims, whereas neuroticism shortens it. Curmudgeonliness, thank goodness, seems to have no effect.