I realized a little while ago that the only person who I hadn’t communicated directly with about this whole “atheists are evil” North Carolina Senate flap is Elizabeth Dole. So I decided to write her a letter. And to share it with everyone else.

Senator Dole,

As an atheist, I am appalled at your blatant bigotry against my co-non-religionists. While I am painfully aware that we are the last minority group for whom bigotry against is still politically correct, your trio of attack ads against Kay Hagan is most blatant example I’ve seen since President George Bush Sr. said “No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

There is nothing wrong with what Kay Hagan did. Taking money from atheists is not bad, and it does not mean that she will support their agenda. Neither is associating with atheists. (I’m sure that if you asked your staff to fill out anonymous forms, you’d find some atheists among them.) We are not evil or immoral. I am a loving father and husband, a hard worker, a loyal friend, and a patriotic American. And yet my lack of belief in god makes me ineligible to lobby my congressman for fear that they would be attacked by the likes of you, preying on the obvious bigotry that still exists in this country.

I do share the ideals of the Godless Americans PAC. I would like to see “under god” taken out of our pledge, to which it was only added in 1951. I would like to see “In God We Trust” taken off of our currency, to which it was added in the mid-1960s. And I support giving people floating Federal holidays rather than forcing them to take Christmas off regardless of their beliefs.

I don’t feel these are extreme positions. I shouldn’t have to lie when I say the Pledge of Allegiance. Something I disagree with should not be put on the money I am forced to use. I should be allowed to observe my own holidays, not forced to observe yours.

I am ashamed that, even in the 21st century, in the most advanced nation in the world, an honest, hardworking American citizen can still be discriminated against in this manner. I would ask for a public apology, but I know that you would never do this. All I can hope is that these desperate smear tactics work against the bigotry that I have felt because of my lack of belief.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Rothrock

Elizabeth Dole has released an ad that has audio of her opponent, Kay Hagan, shouting “There is no god.” But there’s a little problem with it. That never actually happened. Dole either faked the audio, or used another women who sounds a lot like Hagan to record it and played it over a picture of Hagan. Kay responded with two ads of her own, and a cease and desist letter calling the accusation that she is an atheist slanderous.

Now, slander is defined as “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation.” Now, I can understand that calling Hagan, who is active in her church, an atheist would be innaccurate. But is it defamatory? Are Christians really that insulted by being accused of being atheists that it would be slander? Would it really be so bad for a group of people to think you’re an atheist.

So I’m not sure which is more insulting: That calling someone an atheist is considered a political attack, or that such an attack is considered slander by believers. I mean, how do you think people would have responded if Obama had called the attacks that he is a Muslim slander?

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I’ve become a pretty big fan of Leo LaPorte’s various podcasts. They’re funny and informative and make me feel like I’m not surrounded by people for whom light bulbs are a sinful decadence.

But when it comes time for their recommendations, I feel like a country bumpkin. Recent Leo and Steve Gibson were talking about the new Sony Reader and Leo said that it only costs $349. Only $349? That’s half my weekly salary!

I think that a lot of the folks out in Silicon Valley and, to a lesser extent, New York City have a distorted perspective as to what is affordable. In a place where a house like mine can cost five times what I paid for it, the idea that $349 for a version 1.0 eBook reader is a good deal is probably correct. If you’re paying $2500 a month or more for your mortgage, that probably is a good deal. (And if you’re making, as you should be, four times your mortgage payment every month, it’s definitely a good deal.) And judging by what the folks on MacBreak Weekly or TWiT are saying, they’ve got tons of money to throw around, buying Quad Core Mac Pros with dual 30″ monitors and $600 BluRay players and $400 gaming systems to go with their $2,000 HDTVs. (And if it sounds like I’m jealous, you’re right. You wouldn’t like to be able to afford things like that?)

But for most of the rest of the country, where the cost of living is significantly lower, $349 is a pretty big chunk of change. I’d have to spend a few months saving to be able to afford a Sony eBook reader, so I don’t want to buy one until it’s compelling enough to make it worth it. And before that, there’s a bunch of other things I’d rather buy. I still haven’t picked up a 250GB hard drive to do backups, and my Powerbook is starting to feel its age. (And it also doesn’t stay closed.) So I don’t think I’ll ever have an eBook reader, at least not Sony’s.

So to any tech columnist who might read this; I understand that you’ve got tons of money because you’re a super duper tech writer. But realize that not everybody is a super duper tech writer or a Web 2.0 millionaire. Some of us are still poor schlubs pounding keyboards and paying mortgages.

(Hey, maybe there’s a niche out there for a “Penniless Geek” column. I’m not going to say that would make a good domain name, because I want to avoid the quantum domain name effect.)

I’m turning off trackbacks and pingbacks because there’s some spammer out there who thinks it’s “advertising” to post unrelated comments to disreputable websites.

Now, I hate normal advertising. But advertising using the server space and bandwidth I pay for? That’s a paddlin’.

I’ll be taking suggestions in the comments as to what I should do about/to this spammer.

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So here’s a car that is not only a hybrid, but can also run on pure ethanol and run all-electric at low speeds. And it fits into their conventional body styling and provides a “sporty” ride for those who need that sort of thing. And what does GM do?

Kills the project.

This is the sort of car that could lead GM into the future. Not the idiotic Yukon or Tahoe that’s been chipped to run E85. A real, honest-to-goshness innovation. And GM killed it.


FYI Blog: Same Company. New Tune.

There are a lot of polls and research that show Americans are worried. Things like world conflicts, higher gas prices and natural disasters (just to name a few) are unsettling us. Americans are seeking reassurance. The nostalgic footage featured in “Then and Now” is engaging and reminds people of simpler times. Someone once told me, “When times are tough, the world looks better through the rear-view mirror.” “Then and Now” taps into that aspect of human nature.

World conflicts and high gas prices and natural disasters, oh my!

But you know what makes it better? Thinking about better times. Simpler times. Times when the darkies let us take our oil from under their sand. (They probably stole it in the first place, anyway.) When only dirty hippies talked about pollution. When gas was ten cents a gallon, just like Gawd Hisself intended.

Only beany-wearing eggheads want “solutions.” They’re the same ninnies who point out that high gas prices, world conflicts, and natural disasters can all be connected by the fact that people are burning fossil fuels at faster and faster rates. They’ll want us to do things like drive less, and drive smaller cars, and put solar panels on our houses and buy strange looking light bulbs. They’re just a bunch of spineless wimps. And probably Communists, too.

I say, buy that big-block V8! Put the hammer down and roll right over those tiny little cars! It’s your right. As an American. Because I don’t listen to my head, or my heart. I listen to my gut. And my gut’s hungry.

via GM’s FastLane Blog

And finally, time-starved women are hungry for a chance to get away from it all – so our dealerships are hosting “ladies night out” events to create a relationship that goes beyond our products. Recently we’ve had dealers host a Bunco party and a Girl Scout Girl Power Clinic; we’ve also hosted many ATHENA events locally with our dealers.

Now, I’ll skip the parts about how the H2 and STS gas guzzlers got awards for their interiors. And I’ll skip the part about how the real thing women need are adustable pedals and seats that pull forward so you can placate junior whilst in traffic. But this, honestly, is rediculous. They say that women need a chance to get away from it all, so they give them another thing to cram into their schedules; one more thing to get into their car and drive to.

Let’s explore the real reason women are time-starved. The average daily commute in the US is 51 minutes. So women are losing almost one hour a day just getting to and from work. Now combine this with schlepping Brent or Ashley to soccer practice or piano lessons and picking them up when you’re done and they’re spending literally hours in their cars every day. And they wonder where all their time goes and why they’re too tired to cook when they get home. (Not that men shouldn’t have to cook. Men should know how to cook and clean just like women should know how to hang curtains and fix broken drywall, but that’s another topic.)

Now, imagine a world where your commute was a 20 minute walk or bike ride, stopping occassionally to pick up or drop off your dry cleaning or grab some food for dinner. Imagine a world where the kids don’t need you to get to and from practices, rehearsals, lessons or to see their friends. They carry themselves on their own two feet, and you know and trust your neighbors to keep and eye on them. Imagine a world where you get enough exercise just running errands that you don’t need to make time to drive to the health center and work out. (One of the most rediculous things I can imagine.) No more traffic, no more mechanics ripping you off, no more buying gas every other day.

GM thinks women need better cars. (Can’t blame them, though. They’re in the business of selling cars. If they proposed a different solution, they’d be violating their fiduciary duty.) I say women need what we all need; better communities that are designed around the person, not the automobile, as the basic transportation unit

GM’s FYI blog has a post up profiling Lori Wingerter. She looks like a nice enough person, and what I’m about to say has no bearing on what I think of her as a human being or a professional.

But have you read this stuff? It’s full of half-truths, omissions, disingenuous statements, and out-and-out lies. Here are a few examples.

They make little mention of where hydrogen or ethanol come from, instead focusing on how they’ll “replace” fossil fuels. Hydrogen isn’t an energy source, it’s an energy storage medium. It’s a fancy battery, and depending on the advancements in battery technology, a pretty mediocre one. And where do we get the power to generate it? Sure, we could use solar or wind or tidal or wave. But the cheapest power, and the industries with the largest lobbying budget, are coal and nuclear, which is where the hydrogen. Of course, that’s if we use electrolysis to crack water. The easiest way to get hydrogen now is by processing natural gas. So there’s another status quo industry who will benefit immensely from the hydrogen economy.

And what of ethanol? Well, there’s not mention of the fact that, since we get ethanol from corn, we’re using immense amounts of fossil fuels to grow it and fertilize it and also to process it. Ethanol isn’t carbon neutral if you use coal power to run the processing plants. And it’s only truly green if you farm the corn or switchgrass or hemp organically. And if there’s anything big agribusiness doesn’t do, it’s organic farming on a large scale. And that’s who’ll profit if we mandate ethanol. Them and GM.

Also, there’s no way to retrofit a car to run E85. That means people need to buy brand new cars! From who? GM of course. Because they’ve invested millions telling people that the Tahoe isn’t a gigantic SUV, it’s an earth friendly ecomobile because it runs on E85. If you can find it.

Finally, there’s no talk of energy conservation. This is the cheapest and easiest way to make more energy available. If our population grows by 20%, but we cut individual energy usage by 20%, we can support more people using the same amount of generating capacity. Is there mention of this anywhere on there? Of course not. Efficiency isn’t nearly as profitable as pie-in-the-sky technologies that make the corporation look good. Turn down the thermostat? Drive less? Use different light bulbs? Put on a sweater? Not in America, you commie pinko treehugger.

Essentially, this is a big GM ad campaign. Kids will learn about hydrogen and ethanol and will run home and tell mommy and daddy who will go out and buy a GM car because it runs on corn and think they’re ‘saving the environment’, but won’t be able to find an ethanol fueling station and will still get 20 miles per gallon. But they’ll have their big-block, pushrod, 300 horsepower V8. Just like every good American.

To their credit, GM has posted my questions on their blog. I can’t think of many other corporations that would allow dissenting voices to use their soapbox. Of course, they’ve deleted my trackback to the article.

Saab Aero X Concept Car. (c) 2006 Saab/GM/etc.
Ethanol is a red herring. It’s a way for GM to point to something and claim they’re being environmentally responsible. What good is ethanol if the car still only gets 20mpg? And the fact that this 100% ethanol car is a pie-in-the-sky sports car is just more evidence that ethanol and fuel efficiency is just a gimmick for GM.

Americans don’t need sports cars. They don’t need more SUVs. They need an efficient, inexpensive, reliable car. Gimmicks optional. Toyota and Honda and even Hyundai have been delivering them for years. I can’t point to a single GM car that’s comparable to the Civic or Corolla, let alone the Yaris, Prius or Fit.

Now, most people who frequent GM’s Fastlane Blog are folks who have something to lose if GM admits their mistakes. Their identity is wrapped up in the idea that GM is a wonderfully amazing thing, and that people want V8s and 300 horsepower. Sure, people say they want super powerful cars, but how often do they actually use that power? Sitting in traffic?

And, no, 34 miles per gallon is not especially efficient. It’s average. It’s a C. And striving for average is what got you into this mess.