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Archive for February, 2011

What’s Your Price to Perform for a Dictator?

Posted by middlerage on February 24, 2011

apparently, some recent exposure by Wikileaks has shown that Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Usher have all performed at private parties for the sons of Libyan tyrant Qadhafi. Quoting from black spokesweb, the Grio:

[…]what were these performers thinking when they accepted these gigs? Do stars like Usher, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé consider themselves culpable for the crimes of their employers by accepting their cash? And perhaps more to the point, and especially given recent events, should we, as music fans, concerned U.S. citizens, and consumers of media, hold them responsible?

What were they thinking, indeed. And the answer is yes, I will hold them responsible, though not exactly sure how.

I’m old enough to remember Steven van Zandt’s protest of Sun City in Apartheid South Africa. The Grio also mentions this:

Of course, Beyoncé, Mariah, and Usher aren’t the first performers who have been criticized for performing in countries where human rights abuses have occurred.

Some may remember the famous “Sun City” protests of the 1980s, when a group of artists came together to protest performances at a resort in South Africa that catered to wealthy white tourists in Apartheid South Africa. Many famous entertainers had performed at the resort, despite its racist policy, until “Little Steven” Van Zandt put together a protest music project and invited the contributions of over 50 artists including Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Run-DMC, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Bono, Melle Mel, Keith Richards, Jackson Browne, and George Clinton. The artists on the record vowed never to perform at Sun City so long as it remained segregated, because to do so would in their minds be tantamount to an acceptance of apartheid.

File this under Asshole Jobs. Nuff, said.

(I’m especially disappointed in Carey, who turned in a stellar performance in the movie Precious. If you haven’t seen Precious, you need to. Amazing movie.)


Posted in Asshole Jobs | 2 Comments »

A Reader Has Me Backpedaling

Posted by middlerage on February 22, 2011

I need to add this to my list of Phrases I like: Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. In a cogent dissent, reader John H. decidedly did not salute my defense of the California Stop. Here is what he writes about yesterday’s post:

Doesn’t the “Pittsburgh Left” encourage jack-rabbit starts, to clear the intersection? From a climate-change perspective, isn’t it better (as well as legal) to pull all the way out into the intersection, so that that cross-traffic can’t go until you move, and turn off your engine if you’re going to wait more than 30 seconds? As an added benefit to driving a small car, another driver can also pull out into the intersection behind you, if you’re not driving a personal school bus.

The problem with California Stops is that it becomes habitual, and drivers start to do it when turning right at a stop sign. In that case, the driver is frequently looking left to make sure no cars are approaching, and they don’t notice the pedestrian legally crossing the street to their right. Sorry, but from a safety perspective I can’t support the California Stop.

So I have to say that on the safety front I am rethinking how advisable a rolling stop is, and John H. also leads me to the belated and uncomfortable realization that I have previously lambasted bicyclists for not heeding traffic rules. Hypocrisy – unintended but still there.

Additionally, I also have to say that I’m not positive that there is an environmental benefit to Pitt Lefts and Cali Stops. We need metrics! How much fuel is actually saved by these maneuvers? I am merely guessing, that if the economies of scale made it advisable for the whole UPS fleet to turn off their engines at stoplights, then by the same macroscale there would be a reduction in pollutants if a million cars started from 1mph rather than 0mph. But I don’t really know.

I do, however, feel safer defending the Pitt Left, based on my experience with the narrow geometries of eastern cities. It wouldn’t work to have a “leading lefter” pull out and hover in the intersection while traffic behind him went ’round.  There simply isn’t the space for that. And without clearing left turners in an efficient manner, you get frustrated drivers who selfishly pull out into the intersection and cause gridlock. However, I must admit that the Pitt Left is narrow solution for only a few metropolises; it isn’t really a good idea for most places, especially out west.

Posted in Climate, Environment | 10 Comments »

In Defense of the California Stop

Posted by middlerage on February 21, 2011

Have you ever heard of the Pittsburgh Left? I’ve only recently learned of the concept. A Pittsburgh Left is when a car jumps the green light in order to make a left turn in front of oncoming, straight-line traffic. There’s one intersection near my house where the roads don’t meet at a 90˚ angle and the lefts are on the acute side. This makes it attractive and easy for the left turners to do their business before oncoming traffic is anywhere near colliding with them. Apparently, the Pitt Left was invented in Pittsburgh where many of the city streets are only two lane, and if you are at the head of the line and want to make a left, you’ll never accomplish this if you don’t jump the oncoming traffic. It is considered such a part of the culture that straight traffic purposely pauses for a bit to give left turners a chance to clear.

Of course most of us have heard of the California Stop, aka the rolling stop, where you roll through a stop sign [my addendum – if there is no opposing traffic]. The thing is, the acceleration of a car from standing stop to traveling speed is the time when the most fuel is burned, and as a person concerned with global warming, I am keen for any slight reduction in the amount of car exhaust produced.

So both the Cali Stop and the Pitt Left are against the law, but what I like about both these bits of civil disobedience is their slight lessening of inefficient, CO2 spewing traffic dynamics. If it is safe to do so, you’ve looked both ways, and there is no oncoming traffic, why come to a complete stop at a stop sign, when that is only going to result in the least miles-per-gallon you can get? Likewise, if a left turner is at the head of a queue on a two lane street and he is unable to proceed, every car stuck behind him is getting zero miles-per-gallon, waiting. What we need are Robots! Robo-traffic signals that can adjust the traffic flow in the most efficient realtime dynamic. (I invoke robots rather than computers, simply because one could envision a person sitting on a crow’s nest, directing traffic with the unique human ability for on the fly adjustment. And who better to substitute for humans than robots?)

Lately, gasoline prices have risen above $3 again. Unlike last time, when speculation drove prices close to $4 nationally, there has been far less hand-wringing and news headlines. Last time UPS instructed their drivers to turn off the engine at stop lights. Whether that’s the case again, I don’t know. I am amazed at the giant SUVs I see jack-rabbiting from stop lights and racing to the next red merely to come to a stop and repeat. Are they numb to the expense for no return? I’ve also read (somewhere) that 60mph is a magical break in mpg efficiency, and for every 5mph over 60 you dramatically lose the mpg fight.

So do it for your wallet. Do it for the planet. Roll, Jump, tune in and turn off.

Posted in Climate, observations, Where are the Robots? | 2 Comments »

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