Car Wars – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Car Wars, The Rise, the Fall, and the Resurgence of the Electric Car” by John J. Fialka, published in 2015. This volume provided a brief history of how manufacturing and sales of renewable-energy vehicles has been evolving in the last few decades. Clearly, the author wrote about relevant subjects from documents, and people to which he had easy access.

The (lazy?) author dismissed the electric cars of the late 1800’s in two sentences, saying they were obsolesced by 1920 via an innovation by engineer Charles Kettering; an electric ignition system replaced a burdensome hand crank in gas-powered cars, especially in the Cadillac of 1912, and then just like that, everyone started buying gas-powered cars. A propaganda war, profiteering and politics likely played a role in that major development in standard-setting in transportation, but the reader wouldn’t learn that from this book.

Anyway, in the 1980’s, previously competing automakers were initially compelled to form alliances to comply with car-emissions limits and meet deadlines set by U.S. laws, especially in the state of California. They shared info on electric vehicle (EV) technology. Over the years, when the deadlines were relaxed by pro-business politicians, the automakers parted ways, and independently pursued only the specific projects they felt would be profitable. Environment be damned.

In 1990, near the campus of the California Institute of Technology, when drivers tested the plug-in recharging feature of the General Motors Impact in their personal garages, their neighbors’ garage doors and TV sets went crazy, because the recharger was actually a huge radio transmitter.

In October 1995, Japan’s Toyota beat American carmakers to the punch when it showed off its hybrid Prius, that got 70 miles per gallon of gas. Of course Japan, of all the industrialized countries in the world, is significantly more motivated to seek efficient, renewable energy sources for its transportation modes– for the sake of its economic survival.

In the late 1990’s in a few select places in California and Arizona, super-rich males leased the first few models of EVs, because the cars had the attractive features of fast acceleration and high velocity; high gas mileage was a secondary benefit.

Meanwhile, in the single-digit 2000’s, a group named the California Fuel Cell Partnership was formed. It consisted of Geoffrey Ballard, Daimler, and Ford, who were working on a competing vehicle that uses fuel cells– whose mechanical components chemically alter water molecules. The selling points for those cars, once the technology’s commercial application is perfected, include: zero-emissions and the ability to fill up the car at existing gas stations. However, oil companies would supply hydrogen tanks.

Read the book to learn some of the politics, economics, entrepreneurs and technologies involved in developing cars that ran on renewable-energy sources, up until the book’s writing.

The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree / The Last Nomad

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The first Book of the Week is “The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree, How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide” by Nice Leng’ete, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the following is still an all-too-common scenario in a poor village in Kenya: “… it is unlikely she will finish her education [meaning– graduating what would be equivalent to grammar school in the United States]. Her father married her [off when she was] young to get a dowry. Her husband wants her home to work and raise the children.” She is fifteen years old and already has two babies.

The author’s passion is to replace the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by certain Kenyan tribes, with Alternative Rites of Passage. For, the culturally entrenched FGM is one major reason females in her society have been so sheltered, limited and resigned to their fate for so long.

The author grew up in a Maasai village in Kenya, near the Tanzanian border. When she was about five years old, her mother took her to witness a FGM ceremony in her community. Maasai culture dictated that when girls showed signs of puberty, they underwent the ceremony. “The cut” (of the clitoris) was extremely painful, and the presence of complications such as infection or hemorrhage could lead to chronic medical problems or even death. There were no drugs administered.

But the cut, even in the absence of physical complications, signaled the next steps of arranged marriage, childbearing and servitude for the rest of a girl’s life, usually beginning in her early teen years. Even when a girl’s mother wanted to honor her daughter’s wish to finish school and have a different lifestyle, she had no power to persuade her husband or any other male relatives to allow that to happen. The males ruled the roost.

Read the book to learn how the author escaped her almost certain dismal fate, and how she is helping other females to do the same, without their having to endure all the traumas she did.

The second Book of the Week is “The Last Nomad, Coming of Age in the Somali Desert, by Shugri Said Salh, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s Muslim family was somewhat anomalous, in that her father was a multi-lingual scholar who believed in education for both genders, and her grandmother was an authoritative figure. The author was born around 1974. Her culture also still practiced female genital mutilation.

The sprawling family’s tribe was nomadic– they herded camels and goats, and seasonally migrated around the desert in Somalia, looking for water. Their religion allowed polygamy among the men. The author’s father’s biological children numbered 23 among 7 wives, 5 of whom he divorced; the author’s mother gave birth to 10 children before she passed away of malaria when the the author was six years old.

In 1988, Somalia’s government and tribes devolved into civil war. “Killing, looting, destruction, and chaos was now our norm.” The people had a complicated system of relationships in which they took care of their own family and tribe, and if their brains were poisoned by war, they became hostile to all others.

The author’s sister possessed a key survival skill– thorough knowledge of her family’s lineage so that, when questioned, she knew which tribal name to utter to quell sociopathic, armed-and-dangerous child-soldiers in the streets. When the family finally fled Mogadishu in 1991, their black-market connections allowed them to obtain provisions that kept them alive– fuel for a truck, food and ammunition. However, they braved many other life-threatening dangers, including atrocities (committed by people), harm from lions, poisonous snakes and baboons, disease and dehydration; not to mention lice and scabies.

The author and several relatives were able to cross the border and stay in Kenya temporarily. Even so, law enforcement officers in Nairobi were corrupt– arresting refugees and hitting them up for bribes just before they knew the refugees were due to legally leave the country.

Read the book to learn much, much more about the author’s checkered story.

Flipped

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The Book of the Week is “Flipped, How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power” by Greg Bluestein, published in 2022.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography), in the 2010’s, a Republican candidate in Georgia would better their chances of getting elected when they were on Fox News all the time and became a darling of hard-right conservatives.

Former president Barack Obama said manufacturing and mining jobs weren’t coming back. Former president Donald Trump contradicted him, saying the coal industry would be returning (but he was wrong). Similarly, in 2017, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told her opponent Stacey Evans, that a certain scholarship program wasn’t coming back. Significant funding that would assist financially challenged students was part of a bygone era in Georgia. Sadly, she was right. Nevertheless, a new Democrat political coalition in the state was on the rise.

For decades and decades well into the twentieth century, the Democrats, via gerrymandering, maintained a stranglehold on Georgia politics. The GOP implemented voter-suppression tricks in order to turn the tide, beginning in the 1990’s. In 2018, state election officials sent a postcard to voters telling them they were required to re-register to vote even if they changed residences within the same county in Georgia, or else they’d be ineligible to vote come election time. The ACLU put the kibosh on that with a lawsuit.

As is well known, the most recent decade saw especially vicious feuding between Democrats and Republicans in Georgia. A bunch of cliches apply to the campaigning environment:

Turnabout is fair play, but–two wrongs don’t make a right. And a pox on everyone’s house– because an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Two other cliches apply in politics, too: A man is known by the company he keeps, and when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.

When former vice-president Al Gore was campaigning for president in 2000, he cringed when former president Bill Clinton insisted on helping him campaign by making appearances and endorsing him. Gore’s association with Clinton was not a good look anymore. Similarly, messaging of former president Trump was unwelcome during the Georgia runoff campaigns between Democrat and Republican senate candidates at the end of 2020. The Democrats enjoyed the delicious irony that their side was helped when voters (who would have voted for the GOP candidates) were told by Trump to stay home and not vote in revenge for the “rigged” presidential election.

One theme the author also could not help but mention that involved the state of Georgia, was the recently concluded but contested, presidential election. Lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan appeared on CNN and Fox News shortly after election day in November 2020 to “… invite Georgians who had evidence of legitimate voter fraud to come forward. None could do so.” Governor Brian Kemp also stood pat and did the right thing, because the fact was, “State lawmakers can’t retroactively change election law after a vote to help a candidate [such as Trump].”

Read the book to learn of: the candidates’ campaigns, conflicts and confrontations, and their many attendant issues, such as GOP senate candidate Kelly Loeffler’s part ownership of a WNBA team and the suspicious timing of her stock transactions; the ambivalence of most GOP candidates in uttering anything negative about Trump lest they lose votes; and much more.

Fighting Back – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Fighting Back, a Memoir of Jewish Resistance in WWII” by Harold Werner, published in 1992. This slim volume contained a detailed, suspenseful account of one man’s survival story.

Born the oldest of six siblings in 1918 in eastern Poland, the author was a Jew typical for his generation. He spoke Yiddish and Polish. He spent his childhood in Gorzkow, a small farming village where his fellow religionists at an early age took up a trade such as tailoring, blacksmithing, shoemaking, or carpentering. They bartered with the non-Jews, who were farmers. The villagers spent their leisure time playing soccer or ping-pong, attending movies, or opera, or boating.

Poland declared independence in 1918, after the Americans and French helped them defeat the Bolsheviks. As is well known, after the death of the dictator Joseph Pildsudski in May 1935, the reigning right-wing National Democratic party, also known as Endecia or Endek, especially scapegoated and violently oppressed Poland’s Jews.

When the Germans attacked Poland in September 1939, they indiscriminately bombed residential buildings in Warsaw; in one of which was the author’s knitting machines– with which he had previously more or less, made a living, making winter sweaters. The following month, he, some of his family, and other people he knew, fled Warsaw on foot eastward to then-Russian-occupied territory.

The author thus began a years-long ordeal, suffering extreme physical hardship– alternately hiding from and, with his fellow Resistance fighters– sabotaging the war efforts of the Nazis in Poland and eastern Ukraine. He joined a group of partisans called Army Ludowa.

Even when the Polish Jews who had survived the war by evacuating or hiding thought their lives were no longer threatened, they still had nothing to live for. The author lamented, “…Jews had no homes to return to and no families to go back to … our mission was to fight, take revenge, destroy the enemy.” The ones who had stayed at the war’s beginning were killed in bombings or shootings in their expropriated homes, or in deportations to the death camp called Sobibor or killed in the Wlodawa ghetto.

All through history, Poles had always had a reputation for anti-Semitism. But the war had stirred up a frenzy of hatred that the Jews of the Polish Resistance felt against the sociopathic, sadistic Nazis and their collaborators– which included German and Polish security and law officers and tattling villagers.

Read the book to learn of how the author lived before his life was turned upside-down, the acts of kindness certain people displayed, the hatreds of others, and the numerous times he cheated death during his wartime experiences.

Speaking of a frenzy of hatred, here’s a question for the 2024 presidential candidates. As is well known, the campaign forecast is: extremely cloudy with 100% chance of shock and outrage.

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO RULE THE WORLD?

sung to the tune of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (the studio version) with apologies to Tears For Fears.

Welcome to some strife.
Your party’s got your back.
Even while you Tweet, morons and nut-cases track your every action, you won’t get no satisfaction.
Do you really want to rule the world?

It’s your time to shine,
but you must STAY the course,
feeding the grapeVINE.

If you CAN, preserve our freedoms and our pleasures,
without bullying or extreme measures,
we will LET you rule the world.

There’s no place where the SMEARS
won’t find you.
Dodging scandals while the media comes sniffing around.
When they do, your lawyers will be right behind you.

So sad that money rules you.
Social-media approval fools you.
Do you really want to rule the world?

We can’t stand this national division.
Charisma will gain you White House admission.
Do you really want to rule the world?

ACTUALLY dispense with the lies and the greed, please.
We’re fed up with the hypocrisy and sleaze.
Do you really want to rule the world?

We need freedoms and our pleasures,
without bullying or extreme measures.
Do you really want to rule the world?

Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds

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The Book of the Week is “Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds, A Refugee’s Search for Home” by Mondiant Dogon with Jenna Krajeski, published in 2021.

Born in February 1992, the author began his childhood on a cattle ranch in Bikenke, a village in Rwanda. His family was of the Bagogwe tribe, a subcategory of Tutsi. His ancestors had migrated between Rwanda and Zaire (aka Congo; the author was unclear as to which current country– “Democratic Republic of Congo” or “Republic of the Congo”– he and his family lived in and when; so the area will hereinafter be referred to as Congo.).

In the mid-1990’s, the genocide in Rwanda forced the family to flee their Congo home mostly on foot with little more than the clothes on their backs. They had previously lived harmoniously side-by-side with their Hutu neighbors in the Congo. But contagious hatred reared its ugly head. The family hid in a cave, at a school, in the woods and other places prior to trying to stay alive at less dangerous places (i.e., refugee camps).

By spring 1996, the family had finally made its way to a refugee camp in Rwanda, where the Red Cross provided humanitarian assistance. The author and others lived in a tent city on grounds formed by the eruption of the volcano, Nyiragongo. A refugee was shot by a sniper, so the UN moved them to another camp, guarded by the Rwandan Patriotic Army. That did not end well either, as child-soldiers in the terrorist group called Interahamwe killed hundreds of Tutsis with machetes.

In the next several years, the refugees were moved from one camp to another, as life-threatening dangers (mostly from human violence) presented themselves around every corner. They nearly starved to death many, many times, and suffered from malnutrition all the time.

Nevertheless, the author, at eight years old, was finally able to start first grade at school. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), there were no: chalkboard, desks, pens and books. He passionately took to learning, anyway. At recess time, he and his friends also played soccer with a makeshift ball– made with whatever material was at hand. The refugees continued to eat only tiny portions of beans and corn every two or three days.

In 2001, Kabila, the new dictator of the Democratic Republic of Congo, wanted to give the (false) impression that peace had been restored in his country, so he had officials from Kivu go to the region’s refugee camps, including those in Rwanda, and propagandize that refugees could come home and live as they had prior to the unrest.

However, unaware of the full extent of Congo’s then-civil war, the author, his brother and father endured a stressful, multi-day journey via on foot and bus to see whether conditions were sufficiently safe for their family to return to their pre-war property. They were unable to reach their home, but in a village many miles away, the father found work from a Hutu employer who showed no tribal hatreds. For a change. The author resumed attending school and achieved fluency in Swahili, giving him a survival skill when he was confronted by haters. Bullets flew around outside the school from all different rebel groups in Kivu.

Read the book to learn: of the numerous times the author cheated death; the many hardships he suffered; and how he parlayed his passion for school into various positive developments, including receiving recognition from a philanthropist who helped him rise above discrimination against his refugee status.