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Category: Opinion & Reader Forum

The Electric Car Revolution – D.O.A. (Discharged on Arrival)

I just read an interesting report. It seems the newest wave of electric cars are moving off of showroom floors at a rate that makes a glacier seem quick by comparison. To put it bluntly, sales are tanking. The buying public is showing these oddly silent vehicles about as much respect as they did comedian Rodney Dangerfield. To use an electrical impulse metaphor, the cars are currently “flatlining.”

This is distressing since these vehicles have been heralded as the most promising step in our path toward oil independence. The American government even offers generous tax incentives to lure drivers away from their dinosaurdrinkers in favor of these new “green” automobiles. Yet they barely sell. So, what gives? Well, I hate to kick an entire technology when its down, but I could have told them so.

In the beginning when electric cars were in their infancy their biggest problem was speed, or more precisely the lack thereof. With gas-powered cars easily capable of topping 100mph, not many were enticed by vehicles that could manage barely half of that – and at far stiffer prices to boot.

But that’s only part of the story. Designed in a classic form-follows-function style, these newfangled electric vehicles raised the ugly quotient by a sizable margin. Even if driving one benefitted Mother Earth and wrested proceeds from profit-crazy OPEC nations and equally greedy American concerns, not many were willing to pay big to go slow in one of these monstrosities. But that was then. Time and technology marched on and these deficiencies were eventually addressed. These days, if one wants speed and looks in their electric vehicle, they can drool over an ultra-sleek and blisteringly fast (0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds) Tesla Roadster wrapped up in Ferrari-like bodywork. Of course this exotic car carries an equally exotic price (over $100,000) but that misses the point. The Tesla, named for the inventor of AC current, has forever removed electric cars from the Poindexter category and made it “hip” to drive one. Nevertheless, some nagging problems continue to dog the technology.

The bane of electric cars is their limited range and lengthy recharge times. The far more affordable Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, for example, offer operational ranges of just 75 miles and 35 miles (when run solely on electric current), respectively, and lengthy charge times of 4-12 hours – hardly a setup that will encourage people to ditch their more practical gasoline-powered vehicles.

Sure, one can argue, Tesla also manufactures a series of sedans that will go more than 200 miles on a charge, but the buy-in for these beauties starts at around $50,000; a price that places them firmly in luxury car territory.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s simply this: Who in heck wants to get stuck for hours at Aunt Matilda’s house when their battery runs out after Sunday brunch? Let’s face it, there’s only so much fruitcake a person can eat!

So, engineers, if you’re listening here’s the answer from an admitted layman’s standpoint: Somehow, some way you MUST give these cars a 200- mile range or better, and a recharge time more in line with a gasoline fill-up than a human sleep cycle. Then price them to move – even if this means taking an initial hit in profits, stir, and count the pile of cash that’s certain to come your way down the road.

And for those of us who wish to drive farther still, a nationwide network of recharge stations makes as much sense as our current system of gas stations. I can already see the new “Get Juiced!” and “Catch a Buzz!” franchises. Hmm… I might want to trademark those.

When the slide rule gang accomplishes this, people will get all “charged-up” and electric cars will “hum” off of showroom floors. Then, it’ll be “bye-bye Dino-juice” and “hello DC power!”

Will it ever happen?

Perchance to dream. But in the meantime one thing seems certain: These oil-cheaters sure ain’t world-beaters. Or, as Kermit the Frog says: “It’s not easy being green!”

-Jeff Bahr

We’ve got mail

To the editor:

Once again, the residents of Belleville have received requests from the police and fire unions for donations to their unions. This reader wonders why?

The request from the police union indicated the money will be used for the little league PBA team, high school programs, food baskets and to help with the general operations of this union. This reader learned that the phone is paid for by the taxpayers, and PBA headquarters is in the police station. What other expenses are we being asked to pick up?

Police and firefighters are an important part of the community. Most of them are greatly appreciated for their bravery and their bravery and they exhibit courtesy, professionalism, and respect to the public, their employers. A few police members, however, are bullies and arrogant. The police should not assume one is guilty when arresting someone, and should not abuse him.

The average professional receives a salary and benefits of at least $100,000 per year. This is probably more than twice what the rest of us receive from work or pension. They can retire much sooner than the rest of us. Why can’t they fund their own charities and union expenses?

It would be great if they would help start a Police Athletic League Club and, if not possible, volunteer to help staff a new recreation building to show our young people that they are concerned with their quality of life, and that they are paid to protect them, not intimidate them. Each officer can improve community relations by his or her attitude.

The teachers, the public workers, and other groups donate to the town with their money. It should be mentioned, the teachers have to pay for their four years of education and lose four years of income. The police and fire personnel not only get vocationally trained for free for a short time, but are paid.

The second concern is the perception that those who contribute will get better treatment. Putting these stickers on a house or car, gold shields on front car windows, carrying a business card from the police union will prevent us from getting that ticket or a hard time.

During contract negotiations, many local businesses put up signs prepared by the unions: “Support your local police and fire.” Did they feel under pressure to do so?

Do unions financially support our businesses? Decals, gold shields, union cards, stickers all over a car – do they invite special treatment? What happened to “liberty and justice for all?”

-David Harris
Belleville

 

To the editor:

I was delighted to read the new USDA guidelines requiring schools to serve meals with twice as many fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, less sodium and fat, and no meat for breakfast. The guidelines were mandated by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Obama in December of 2010 and will go into effect with the next school year.

The new guidelines offer a welcome change from USDA’s tradition of using the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for meat and dairy surpluses. Not surprisingly, 90% of American children are consuming excess fat, only 15% eat recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, and one-third have become overweight or obese. These early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, raising their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

In recent years, Hawaii, California, New York, and Florida legislatures asked their schools to offer daily vegetarian options, and most school districts now do.  The Baltimore public school system offers its 80,000 students a complete weekly break from meat.

Parents should continue to insist on healthful plant-based school meals, snacks, and vending machine items.  They can consult www.fns.usda.gov/cnd, www.healthyschoollunches.org, and www.vrg.org/family.

-Kenneth Miller
Kearny

A new holiday would be ‘Super’

Around this time every year, I always end up asking myself the same question, why can’t the day after Super Bowl be a national holiday?

I know I’m not the only one who thinks this, as nearly seven million Americans annually conjure up the best excuse they can just so they can lay in bed all day in celebration of the biggest sporting event of the year.

As a Packers fan and having one class on Mondays at this time last year, I definitely “called in sick” (Sorry Mom, you didn’t just read that) the day after Jarrett Bush picked off Ben Roethlisberger in the final play of Super Bowl XLV.

However, now that the Giants have won this year and our whole area has apparently caught Giants fever, I think it was worthwhile now, more than ever, that I write this column, because there has to be a day off after the Super Bowl next year.
Belmar attorney Thomas Ehrlich noted in a Google posting that in New Jersey alone this year, there were 96 DWI cases on the day after the Super Bowl reported by the State Police. Ehrlich goes on to say the volume of DWI incidents gets even bigger if you include local arrests, which are presumed to number more than 300.

I know that the people who drive are doing so at their own risk of arrest, but think about the amount of people who could simply stay at a hotel or wherever their party may be, instead of attempting to drive back to their homes, saying, “I can’t stay; I have to be up in the morning for work.”

Americans consume millions of gallons of booze each Super Bowl, leaving mighty hangovers on “Super Mondays.” Can anyone say productivity really rises on days when people are hung over just trying to stay awake, and can barely look at the computer screen?

Even those who refuse to partake in the drinking aspect of Super Bowl festivities will still stay up later that usual just to catch the end of the game.

Again, this is still a choice people who watch the Super Bowl will have to make, but with an estimated 111.3 million people watching Ahmad Bradshaw fall into the end zone this year, that’s a lot of decision making turned one way.

The question is: What day would people choose to give up in exchange for “celebrating” Super Monday?

Would anyone actually care if Columbus Day was taken away and shifted to February to become Super Monday? Workers still get the 10 federal holidays off a year and wouldn’t be forced to give up a day of vacation in the process.

Moving a meaningless holiday like Columbus Day (celebrating a guy who never really discovered the United States and really just got lost, finding a cool place in the process) would allow Americans to move an off-day to a day when the nation could really take full advantage.

Even businesses across the nation would see an increase in sales. This year, Modell’s saw their sales skyrocket based on the Giants’ victory and could do even better the next day, provided the day after the Super Bowl is a federal holiday.

On a totally different point, couldn’t a presidential candidate make this one of his or her issues and grab a large portion of the 111.3 million people who watched the Super Bowl? I will never say that I understand politics and am currently not a registered voter; however, I feel like this is an issue that I could get behind.

Instead of honoring a man who has been completely miswritten by many grammar school history books (Columbus), make the day after the Super Bowl a day not only for adults to recover, but another day for children to honor the freedoms we have as Americans to be able to put on such a worldwide spectacle.

And if you dislike sports (which cannot be many of you because we all know loving sports and being American are one in the same) just claim the day as whatever you want, whether its “Do Some Laundry Day,” “New Years Resolution Catch Up Day,” or my personal favorite: “ I Don’t Have Work, Let Me Sleep In Day.”

-Anthony J. Machcinski
entertainment@theobserver.com

A man’s view: We do it ‘cause we love you!

Most of us know Valentine’s Day as the annual February 14 celebration of romantic love. That it certainly is. But what many don’t know is how it began or why we still celebrate it. I could bore you with obscure historical details and endless factual minutiae, but that would be about as much fun as standing 50-deep in a line of male “romantics” on February 13 solely for the thrill of forking over a C-Note for cruddy red roses that will prove, beyond doubt, our eternal love for our ladies. Yes, folks, I am about to explore this sugary annual rite through male eyes. Ladies, you’ve been warned.
First a little background. Do forgive me. An unclear number of Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine got to the heart of things (get it?) a few millennia back.  Their loving actions and deeds spurred Pope Gelasius to create a remembrance day for them in 496 AD. As a result Saint Valentine’s Day was born.  In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church officially stopped celebrating the holiday citing ambiguity concerning the original Saint Valentine as their reason.  Hmm…My guess is the change really came at the behest of male parishioners.
“Yo Padre, give us boys a break wit’ dis sissy holiday, wud ya’? Our guylz are spendin’ all our loot on frilly junk and askin’ us to be respectful too. It ain’t right! It goes against natural laws or somethin’!”
It may be true. The money that I’ve spent over the years on lingerie, jewelry, lingerie, fancy restaurants, lingerie, flowers, candy, lingerie, perfume, “Who Loves Ya’ Baby?” airplane-banners, lingerie, sappy mix-tapes, Vermont Teddy Bears, Please-take-me-back-before-I-jump-off-a-bridge cards and more lingerie, could have been far better spent. One example: I could’ve sent my long-suffering fiancé (AKA “The Fair Maria”) on countless weekend trips with suitably handsome and witty male escorts. Instead, my beloved will now spend yet another Valentine’s Day with yours truly; a tedious and unsettling pastime not dissimilar from digging out the last shards of an ingrown toenail.
Such colossal letdowns fail to factor in the epic battles that often occur on this blissful day of manufactured love. Like Christmas, the holiday can build up great expectations in the minds of those seduced by it (women only). This will often lead to an anti-climax, or worse, when the day doesn’t quite work out as planned.
Some years ago I took a romantic phone call from my sweet, loving lady on that heavenly February day. She was purring rather suggestively, affirming her undying love for me while whispering sweet nothings in my ear. At the risk of sounding soft, I must admit that the moment was idyllic, and, if I’m being honest a tear had come to my eye. Then my girlfriend picked up the extension line and ruined everything! Killjoy.
All kidding aside (or am I?) you’re probably asking why we “relationship guys” go through this tiresome ritual each and every year without fail? Ladies, get ready to grab your hankies – or a camera to record for posterity (or blackmail) that which you’re about to read – because I feel more male honesty coming on. We do it for this simple reason: We love you and want to make you happy.
There, I actually said it. Contrary to popular beliefs concerning men and their supposed locker-room Machismo, we troglodytes are really happiest when we know that you – the women that we love – are feeling fulfilled. There are scores of ways to accomplish that goal, and many ways to fall short of the mark. I’m certain I’ve cornered the market on the latter. Nevertheless, Valentine’s Day gives us a grand opportunity to prove to you how much you really mean to us. We’d be absolute fools not to seize it!
Look, I readily admit that the associated shopping can be a genuine pain in the butt, and getting in touch with one’s deepest romantic emotions is tougher for some men than others. Yet despite our gruff protests to the contrary, I don’t suppose there’s anywhere that we big galoots would rather be on a bracing Valentine’s Day eve than in the warm, gentle embrace of the women that we love.
So there you have it. Just don’t tell my gym buddies that I said so. They’d never let me back into the locker room.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
  

-Jeff Bahr
jeffbahr@theobserver.com

Added dimension not needed

While writing “Out and About” pieces during the summer, I stopped in to see the 3-D version of “Green Lantern,” the summer blockbuster featuring Ryan Reynolds. While the film itself was good, I’ve never quite understood the hoopla about 3-D movies.

Don’t get me wrong; seeing planets, stars, and space debris flying all around you is a pretty cool, but it didn’t really enhance the film for me. Ryan Reynolds is still going to be a decent-at-best actor who, in my opinion, only gets over with audiences because of his looks.

“Beauty and the Beast” is one of Disney’s best movies. Does the addition of 3-D make the movie that much better? Will a giant 3-D chandelier in the ballroom scene really thrill someone? I don’t think so.

If one of these movies could be decent in 3-D, Star Wars might be it. The movie has enough action and background jumping out at you to make you feel the film.

If 3-D is going to be done right, the best way is to shoot films with things coming out at you. This is what made 3-D successful in the first place.

The best example I can give is with the most recent “Transformers” movie. While the film has certainly had its plot issues, 3-D definitely enhanced this film. Why? Because Michael Bay puts enough explosions in the film to make sure that the audience has ample stuff flying at it. The “Transformers” film puts audiences right in the heart of the action, much like the recreation of “The Phantom Menace” can do.

Regardless of your opinion on the third dimension of movie watching, a bad plot cannot be totally masked. Just because you shined up your nice shoes doesn’t mean it’s going to mask the hole in the side.

The purest side of filmmaking is always in the story and how it is conveyed. Friday Night Lights will always be one of my favorite movies. Not because it is based on football, but because the film uses the imagery of west Texas and has an unconventional plot (spoiler alert: the team loses at the end).

This film didn’t need to be in 3-D to be good; it just needed to tell a story. Taking a film class in college, I watched some of the greatest films of all time: “Citizen Kane,” “On the Waterfront,” and “Hoosiers,” just to name a few. Two of these movies didn’t even need color to convey their message – let alone a third dimension. They all told a story. Somewhere along the line we lost the idea that films need a good story.

Despite huge marketing campaigns that entice me to watch a “recreated” film that I first saw when I was four, I’ll go watch a promising story in the new film “Redtails.” All two dimensions of it.

—Anthony J. Machcinski

U.S. Marine “pee party” is hardly surprising

It spread across the news outlets like free beers at a “kegger.” Four American Marines had done the unthinkable to the corpses of Taliban fighters who had once opposed them. If you missed it, suffice to say that, in a final show of supremacy, our boys indignantly trained their “weapons” on the combatants’ dead carcasses, effectively treating them as urinal pucks.

“Oh, the humanity!” the talking heads screamed.

“What were these vile young men thinking when they peed on the enemy?” asked a gaggle of high-placed politicians and press members whose feigned shock was worthy of an Academy Award.

To answer that, a football metaphor might prove helpful. The gridiron gang is trained with one goal in mind: to destroy the opposition at almost any cost. As long as a fairly liberal set of prescribed rules are followed, all is hunky-dory. Everybody loves a winner, especially team owners, so the men are drilled and then drilled some more until the squad becomes a crushing force to be reckoned with. When a player ultimately scores a touchdown, he has done all that he was trained to do. Hooray!

But at that instant, woeful is the player who dares to celebrate too exuberantly. We’ve now been told that this sort of thing is akin to “bad sportsmanship,” that “rubbing it in” isn’t the “American way.” Put another way, it’s perfectly alright for players to kick the living hell out of those standing in their way – in fact the most violent players are cheered on for their boneshattering “hits” while enroute to a goal – but it’s somehow bad form to execute a celebratory dance once that goal is achieved. Is it just me, or is there something ridiculously screwy with this rationale?

Human beings never cease to amaze me. Some of the very same people currently taking these soldiers to task for their “yellow” celebration have no problem at all with the idea of killing in the first place. It’s the “chest puffing” that occasionally comes afterwards that seems to annoy them. Here’s a question for these “concerned” Americans.

After you train a soldier to kill, after you systematically destroy and/or remove every instinct that a soldier once held regarding the sanctity of life, how can you then act surprised when that soldier turns tribal and decides to “take a whiz” on the bad guys? In the pre-politically-correct football era, this would be considered nothing more than a spiked ball; in tennis, it would be a ball hit into the crowd. You simply can’t have it both ways. When you encourage the taking of lives in the national interest you shouldn’t be too surprised when the participants sometimes forget their post-kill manners.

Some argue that this “outrageous” act will serve to incite the Taliban and its sympathizers and will be used as a propaganda tool to further their cause. That may be true, but I have a newsflash for those who labor under such a mindset: These extremists and extremist factions are going to hate us anyway. Period.

At this point, I’d be far more concerned with sending mixed messages to our soldiers – a seriously exploited group who receive precious little in return for saving our asses. In an allvolunteer military, where the perception that a soldier will receive a fair shake is basically everything, it’s mighty bad form to pick our heroes apart for their “bad manners” after the fact—after they’ve done the job that we asked them to do.

For those who don’t approve of such celebrations, I suggest you visit the local recruiting office. Then you can head off to boot camp and show us all how it should be done. Until that time comes, let’s cool it with the political correctness. “War is hell,” said Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman – a ruthless but effective warrior who knew a little something about the carnage of this ultimate human failing. If the taking of lives is considered necessary in order to preserve the American way of life, then an impromptu “Pee party” should be no big deal. Just ask some real soldiers – they’ll tell you. After they zip-up, of course.

—Jeff Bahr

jeffbahr@theobserver.com

Demise of the ‘9-to-5’ worker

No, I’m not talking about me. I’ve become accustomed to the rigors of the journalism world. I had a teacher once tell me that, “journalism has no hours,” but I digress.

Escaping the hassle of work has become nearly impossible with the onslaught of advances in technology.

I hear it every day when I go home. My dad’s cell phone constantly goes off, chirping wildly through the night with e-mails from his job.

Slowly, over the past decade or so, I have watched my father get off the train at Arlington Station (after work) hoping for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, only to fall victim to the slow, insidious influx of technology attached to his hip like a tumor (AKA Smartphone) – sucking his free time away in the form of “urgent” e-mails, text messages and phone calls.

I always hear people talking about what has changed today; why America seems so stressed out with everything going on in the world. No one, it seems, takes time to just stop and look at the world around them anymore.

In my own personal life, I look back at my college career and wonder where all the time went. Growing up in this high tech age, I, like many my age were unable to slow down and appreciate the finer things as they happened. It was a constant rush to get money, to get the latest phone, the latest shoes, or even just to pay tuition.

Every year, my family ventures to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. The best part of the trip is making that one, blessed turn onto Rt. 28 North where cell phone service vanishes (yes, such places do exist!).

It’s the most relaxed you’ll ever see my father, or the countless others who escape the urban jungle in favor of this vast mountain range.

The following suggestion may sound like something straight from our Message for the Soul columnist, Shweta Punjabi, but it bears repeating. Take a minute to appreciate everything around you. Whether it’s going to your kid’s Little League game or just taking a short walk in the park before the sun retreats — try to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of life without a cell phone. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, the burden of work may lift just long enough to allow a bit of your free spirit to shine through.

—Anthony J. Machcinski Editorial@theobserver.com

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:

Just read Senator Lesniak’s letter in The Record calling their opinion opposing Internet gambling “dumb.” What is really dumb is his position to allow Internet gaming that will reap billions of dollars for its casino businesses. These billions of dollars will come from desperate residents who are struggling to pay their bills and are turning to the false hope that they will strike it rich in the gambling world.

Gambling has not rescued New Jersey from its position as the highest taxed state in the nation. Neither has the sales tax or the lottery. These programs were simply scams to raise more revenue for the most dangerous “gang” in New Jersey – the Trenton “Gang of 120.”

Allowing people to gamble in the privacy of their home will increase gambling addiction and destroy lives. It’s more difficult to find the time to board a bus or drive to a casino than to simply turn on the computer in your pajamas at any time.

Senator Lesniak should explain why, after three decades of casino gambling that provided billions in new revenue, is Atlantic City still a depressed area. Does “dumb” apply to many of the decisions made by our elected officials on the state and local levels? History is the judge and the decision is GUILTY!

Vincent J. Frantantoni

Belleville

 

Don’t give in to holiday pressures

With all of the struggles of the holiday season, it’s no surprise that a holiday that is
meant to have positive emotions tied to it can easily spin people into fits of rage.
After experiencing a bit of anger and a lot of frustration attempting to get a gift for my brother (it needed to be returned which led to a series of difficulties), I started to think
about how humans naturally react to anger. I mean, I couldn’t possibly be the only one who wanted to beat down the phone sales associates, could I?
As it turns out, the answer is no – I’m far from alone here (not that I didn’t partially realize this already). Hopefully, some of this information that I am about to present gives you something you didn’t already know. All the information comes from an interesting How Stuff Works article that I found after searching “how anger works” on Google.
Anger is a natural emotion that is a response that occurs when something has violated
the natural order of how we believe things should go. Anger obviously varies between
gender, age, and culture, but there’s no way of predicting which factor influences anger
more than any other.
From a brain standpoint, the amygdala (the part of the brain that handles emotion) responds to a trigger event, and immediately sends blood flow to that portion of the brain that controls reasoning: the frontal lobe.
A great example of this process is the case of the mild-mattered Phineas Gage, a 19th
century railroad worker who after taking a rod through the skull (talk about a splitting
headache) became an absolute loose cannon, personality-wise.
Being chronically angry can have myriad bad effects on a person’s health. And this fails to factor in the damage it does to those forced to contend with such a “Grumpy Gus.”
So, how can you cope with anger so over the top that you go all professional wrestler and hit someone with a steel chair? It’s all about practicing anger control.
While it may be hard to do, talking things over with the offender is the best starting point. It allows people to move forward and fix a negative in their life. Even talking to a third party in a non-gossipy way can ease the growing frustration in your life.
So next time you need to order a replacement for the replacement for the product you bought for Jimmy for Christmas, try to address the phone operator with kindness
and hold back your anger when they tell you that you’ll eventually need to pay more
money or tell you that there’s nothing that they can do. And remember: You are not alone!

WE’VE GOT MAIL

The year 2011 has not been a good year for the meat industry.
There were more reports of devastating health impacts. In May, the World Cancer Research Fund advised limiting meat consumption to reduce the risk of
bowel cancer. The August issue of The Lancet projects that – based on the current meat-based diet – half of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030.
Last August, Salmonella contamination forced the world’s largest meat processor, Cargill, to recall 36 million pounds of ground turkey. The University of Florida places the national financial burden of pathogens in meat products at $4 billion.
Then there were cruelty issues. A March undercover investigation of the E6 Cattle
Company in Texas showed workers bashing cows’ heads with pickaxes and hammers. In November, ABC News publicized atrocious egg production conditions at Iowa’s Sparboe Farms. Bills attempting to criminalize such investigations were defeated in Iowa, Minnesota, Florida, and New York.
Accordingly, the USDA projects that Americans will consume 12.2% less meat in 2012 than in 2007.
Every one of us can welcome this trend by resolving to cut our meat consumption
in 2012. Entering “live vegan” in our favorite search engine brings recipes and tons of
other useful information.
—Cory Baker
Kearny