Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Binder's Simple Tips for Radically Improved Gas Mileage

It’s time to conserve, to cut back, to sacrifice, as gas reaches $5/gallon. We know the usual bromides: mass transit, and car pooling, not to mention bicycles, and walking/jogging. Keep your tires inflated and filters clean.

So what’s new?

Be adventuresome. Try skateboards, in-line skates or roller blades.

How about commuting to work by hang gliding or wind surfing? Not likely!

The real secret to improved gas mileage lies within each of us. Dig deeply into your soul and ask these existential questions:

What do I drive?

How do I drive?

When do I drive?

Where do I drive?

I know, I know. These are simple questions with easy answers. Not exactly, they’re existential! What would Sartre do?

If you really want to save gas, quit the office or school and stay at home. Telecommute. Order all your food from supermarket delivery services. Pay all your bills electronically. Use the solar clothes dryer. Couch potatoes don’t waste energy.

Back to driving! We know today that minor adjustments in our driving habits will result in substantial improvements in our individual gas mileage.

The major factors in gas mileage are weight, design, engine displacement, speed, and driving habits.

Reduce weight. Let your mantra be: The smaller the better. The once, and perhaps future, Governor Jerry Brown said it best: “Less is more.” Therefore get a really small car. The mini is oh too maxi. A Smart car or Fit is about the right size. A 2 cylinder car is preferable. Only in exigent circumstances should you even consider a 4 cylinder.

Get the weight out of the car. Clean the trunk, not that you should have one. The gym bags and golf clubs have to go. Toss out the spare tire and tire irons while you’re at it, as well as the extra 10W-40. Every ounce improves mileage.

Since weight is critical, no carpooling! Take a critical look at the passengers. Anticipate the divorce. Throw your husband or wife out the car now. Are the kids becoming a pain? Leave them at home. Don’t even drive them to the bus stop. Let them walk. Remember, you love them, so tough love is in order.

A motorcycle is the answer. Time to buy the Big Hog! Hit the open road; feel as one with the road. See how good you will feel wearing leathers. Free up storage space in the garage. If not a Harley, then perhaps a Vespa in the city.

Take a second look at the design. Luggage racks are both a drag and weight, and almost always superfluous. They should be history.

The next step is to rethink your driving habits. Since automatic transmissions are a substantial drain on power, drive a stick shift and watch the mileage climb. Don’t worry about the cost later of replacing a burnt out transmission. That’s in the future and you are driving for now. You are the Now Generation.

You already know how air conditioning reduces your car’s power. That’s gas mileage you’re eating up. Therefore, no air conditioning. (You always had slight guilt over Freon anyway).

Don’t open the windows though to offset the loss of air conditioning. Open windows create almost as much of a drag on mileage as the air conditioner. So windows stay rolled up, not down. That may mean driving only at night. Sweating is a good way to diet, but what a small personal sacrifice to make for the greater good of all.

No matter what size car you drive, auto or manual, driving in stop and go city driving is a killer. Ergo, only long drives in the countryside as you commune with nature.

Steady on the accelerator; never come to a full stop at the traffic sign. A rolling California stop is recommended, as long as no camera is working the intersection.

Also, cold weather hurts, especially starting up on a freezing morning. Stay at home and throw a few extra carbon emitting logs onto the fireplace. Remember how our ancestors survived under similar conditions.

Of course, putting the pedal to the metal is ill-advised even if you avoid tickets. Leadfoot is not your hero.

In the 1970’s we dropped down to the double nickel, 55. That’s too fast. Think in terms therefore of forty four. As all those jerks on the road speed past your heroic, green 44MPH, think to yourself, you really are Smarter than them. This one time only, roll down your window and salute the fools.

Therefore, in conclusion,




Friday, June 20, 2008

The GITMO Circus is Coming to Town

Children of all ages,

Justice Anthony Kennedy welcomes you to the greatest show on earth, the GITMO Circus.

Get your peanuts, crackerjacks, cotton candy, and bear nuts.

Souvenirs and programs

For souvenirs, we have unexploded IED’s, AK 47’s, RPG’s, suicide belts, and fake passports

On the program, straight from the capital punishment cases, the paralysis of the judicial system and endless litigation

Interlocutory interrogatories

Motions in limine

Verbose briefs

Summary judgments

Bills of attainder

Corruption of blood

Generals genuflecting before Congress

Interminable delays

Watch for our flying warrants

Thrill, Ladies and Gentlemen, yes, thrill to the artistry of clueless clerks as they navigate uncharted waters, steering between the treacherous shoals of Shia and Sunni

Thrill, Ladies and Gentlemen, to an all new extravaganza this year, The Discovery Wars, as only pettifogging lawyers can perform

Yes, yes, res ipsa loquiter and non curat de minimis lex

Watch the subpoena duces tecum and the trespass de bonis asportatis and yes, even more, the bonus trespass quare clausum fregit

On the left we have Elgar and his dancing depos.

On the right is the renowned Madame Zinger from Damascus and her performing dogma.

In the center ring, we have Lazlo the Great wrestling with the constitutional conundrum

Up, up and away, in a hot air balloon, we have the soaring Soros.

Time for fun and frolic

And now, fired from the left ring to the target in the right ring, Abdul the suicide bomber, with his suicide belt full of nails, all the better to kill innocent women and children.

Thank you, thank you,

On the left, we have the precedent denying, scintillating Supremes

A thrill a moment
The grace and beauty
Slick Willie and the Whirling Dervish

Up in the trapeze, the high wire act of the Fantastic SCOTUS, on a blind leap of faith into the abyss of Dickens’ Bleak House.

And in the center ring, watch the death defying valor of our heroic marines. They never know if they’ll be shot at or prosecuted as they defend our rights without a safety net or security blanket in a veritable desert of ever changing and always narrowing rules of engagement.

Ladies and Gentlemen, check the obviating bravado of pusillanimous politicos

And now, send in the clowns, led by the Blind Sheik and his merry masters of martyrdom, the murderous mullahs.

See their boisterous buffoonery, the prestidigitation of practitioners, with their writs of error coram nobis

Yes, bring in the clowns,

The apostles of appeasement

The baying donkeys

The cavorting counsels

The harassing habeas

The Jumping Jihadist

The litigious litigants

The masters of plastique

The mendacious mendicants

The pontificating pundits

The sultans of subpoenas

The Tribulating Trial Lawyers

Ladies and Gentlemen, Right in front of your own eyes, the Grande Finale, Watch the company pass in review and the implosion of the American legal system.

We salute the UN.

And as we release 300 doves of peace, we say thank you and goodbye

(With thanks to London Phase4 recording of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus)

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Commencement Address Never Delivered

Congratulations Class of 2008 at Podunk University!

As you pause here on your path through life, let our final words be brief, for we know all too well you really do not want to be sitting here on this hot, humid day. Neither do we. You are only here because your parents want to see with their own eyes the fruits of their over-investment in you and our glorious institution, Dear Olde P. U. Besides, they also promised you an expensive dinner.

Let us honor first all the chord wearers: the magnas, summas, cums, and honor roll recipients. Your academic excellence is a source of pride to your parents and to us.

Let us now especially honor the rest of you, the silent majority, who have been academic underachievers at Podunk. I ask you to put down your cell phones and flasks as you stand for recognition. I especially salute you for I too am one of you. Let me point out that I am giving this commencement address rather than my chorded classmates because I have been the great success in life. I gave the million dollars to endow the dining room/pub.

Parents, four, five, six, seven years ago you said a tearful farewell to your 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 year old sons and daughters as they entered the hallowed elms of Podunk. And now, one, two, three, four, five majors later, they graduate. Well, maybe. We let everyone walk. We won’t know for another two weeks if they actually satisfied the conditions for graduation.

For those of you who graduated on the 4 year plan, please stand and be recognized. We will truly miss you, especially your tuition dollars.

Our scholar/athletes did not win many games, but we were able to keep them academically eligible through summer school and especially the Herculean efforts of our popular Professor James Smith and his hundreds of directed research courses in Popular Culture.

Parents, you trusted us with the education of your brilliant child. We have fulfilled that trust by providing your child a wonderful education in the meaning of life and self, the details of which need not concern you. Occasionally, on an all too rare a time, they stumbled into class.

Parents, when your children entered our campus, they were at the stage in life when they were embarrassed to be seen with you. Now that our degree tells them how brilliant they are, they recognize how stupid you are in comparison to their omniscience, which word they may not understand.

Parents, you are so elated because no longer will your son or daughter be on your health, auto insurance, or cell phone plan. Nor will they be bringing home their dirty laundry for you to clean.

Wrong! Children are the gift of life that never stops receiving.

Graduates, just because you will no longer pay us tuition, do not ever think your payments to us will cease. We own you. You will write us out a check every year to spend any dammed way we please. Your checks will get bigger as your own children reach college age and seek admissions as a legacy. You will even remember us in your will. You can run from us, but not hide for our development officers are more relentless than the IRS or FBI.

One last admonition to you distinguished graduates. Do not follow the path of last year’s commencement speaker, who has since pled guilty to attempting to bribe a judge.

Remember parents that your generation tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. You achieved and so will they.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Amazing Grace- The Movie

We were privileged last year to attend a screening of Amazing Grace, celebrating the life of William Wilberforce (1784 - 1833) and the 200th anniversary of the British ban on the slave trade.

The movie was a great motion picture: fast moving, gripping, crisp plot, exceptional acting, and engaging dialogue.

Yet, we also realized that the movie was not destined to be a great financial success. (The dvd was quietly released recently with little publicity).

First it was a historical set piece, the ending of which is well known.

Second, the cast is all-British, incredibly solid, but still British. Albert Finney plays a great John Newton, Ioan Gruffudd is Wilberforce, and Michael Gambron a wily Lord Fox.

Second, it lacked violence (on the screen that is, for movie has only a few vignettes of the sordidness and squalor of the slave trade)

Third, it lacked sex.

Fourth, it was 17-18th Century British history.

Fifth, it was a look at inside politics of Parliament 200 years ago. The witty repartees in Parliament are illustrative of the debates today.

Sixth, it was about a now obscure British politician William Wilberforce, who served in Parliament from 1784 unti 1826, when he resigned because of poor health. He suffered from colitis most of his adult life.

Amazing Grace could more easily have been about the epic life of John Newton (1725-1807), who penned that great, inspirational hymn, Amazing Grace. A slaver, a reformed slaver, wrote one of the greatest, most powerful hymns of all time. Newton was a slaver, empty of religious beliefs, when on May 10, 1748, his ship encountered a violent storm. Newton found himself praying to God for salvation. His road to Damascus was not instantaneously, but he began the route on the voyage back.

He slowly gave up slavery, and later became a minister. We meet Newton clad as a monk swabbing the floor of his church, while wallowing in self-recrimination.

One of his protégés was William Wilberforce, who had also experienced a conversion, albeit on land in 1785. Wilberforce almost gave up politics, but was talked into staying in it. Newton and Wilberforce were early day evangelical Christians.

Bill Moyers, himself an ordained minister, produced a 80 minute PBS special on John Newton and Amazing Grace in 1990.

Wilberforce was not the first abolitionist in England, but he became the political face of the movement. He essentially led the movement for decades in England. Through force of will he moved Parliament to ban the trade. One person can make a difference.

He spoke out in 1789 against the slave trade. The first vote to ban the slave trade in 1791 was 88 yea, and 163 nay. The final vote in 1807 was 283 yea, and 16 nay. The United States followed in 1808 in banning the slave trade. The struggle to end the slave trade took two decades in England to resolve because of the ongoing American and French Revolutions and then the rise of Napoleon

The opposition was led by Lord Tarleton, best known in America for his ruthlessness and brutality in fighting the Americans during the Revolutionary War.

Wilberforce was honored in the United States when a new black college was established in Ohio in 1856. It remains Wilberforce University to this day.

The slave trade, part of the historic triangle trade, was a major commercial success for England. Banning it entailed a major loss to many, especially in the great port of Liverpool. Yet England incurred the economic loss for moral reasons.

The triangle trade consisted in British goods being traded for slaves in Africa. The slaves were transported, often in “coffin ships,” to the Americas for slave grown products, such as sugar, cotton, tobacco, and coffee, and then back to England.

The coffin ships were a human tragedy. Many of them were also tragically used decades later to transport the “potato” Irish to America.

Many an American fortune was also built on the slave trade, including that of the Brown family, for whom Brown University is named.

The Anti-Slave Trade Act of 1807 not only banned the trade in slaves, but enforced it through the Royal Navy. The ban was preceded a year earlier by a ban on British citizens trading slaves through French vessels or to the French colonies. This stratagem, which effectively ended much of the slave trade, was dreamed up by a lawyer.

Parliament followed up in 1833 by essentially banning slavery throughout the British Empire. It appropriated £20 milion to compensate slave owners for the loss of their slaves. Wilberforce died three days later and is buried in Westminster Abbey next to his classmate and close friend, William Pitt the Younger, a strong ally throughout the struggles.

Our resolution of the slavery issue was incredibly bloody with all the wounds still not fully healed.

We know not of Wilberforce today because he was a man of peace, not of violence. We all know of his contemporary, Napoleon, who ultimately was a colossal failure. We know more of Nelson and Wellington, and perhaps even Horatio Hornblower (ironically played by Gruffudd on the A&E series), than Wilberforce.

His though was a greater contribution to civilization and humanity