Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “protest”

Occupy Corvair – Roger Ingalls

If you read the blog last week, you probably understand the meaning of the title for this post. My plan is to rebuild and slightly reengineer a 50 year old Chevy Corvair as a protest against California’s crazy smog laws and the kissy-cozy relationship between Big Oil, auto manufacturers and their lobbyists. To understand why rebuilding an old car is a protest, read the previous post.

I did receive a few emails about last week’s post asking why the Corvair was selected for the rebuild protest project. The following few paragraphs explain the technical reasons. Keep in mind that this project is focused on creating a high performance hypermiling vehicle. In this case, high performance does not mean massive horsepower or super speed. It means long distance traveled per gallon of gas consumed or high performing efficiency.


The Corvair is a rear wheel drive, rear engine vehicle. Since the engine is in the back and connected to the rear wheels, there is no heavy transmission and driveshaft running the length of the car. Less weight means more miles per gallon. The elimination of a long heavy spinning driveshaft is important. A pound of rotating mass, in automotive engineering terms, is equivalent to seven pounds of static weight. Again, reducing weight improves mpg because the engine doesn’t work as hard per distance traveled. With the engine in the rear, the Corvair is lighter in the front. The reduced forward weight means less down force on the front tires so turning takes less physical force. The Corvair’s easy steering eliminated the need for power assistance. Most cars have parasitic power steering that takes energy from the engine which should be used to propel the car.

The Corvair has an air-cooled aluminum engine that is lightweight, again, less weight more mpg. Air cooling is also important. No radiator, water pump, hoses or heavy coolant is needed making the vehicle lighter. In addition, the water pump is a parasitic device that must be powered by the engine which further robs energy that could be used to propel the car. One of the engineering modifications I will make is to the air intake that feeds the motor. The new intake will take hot air coming off the motor which is expanded and carrying less oxygen. This has the effect of making the engine smaller. To maintain the proper fuel to air mixture required to burn, less gas is used. This will reduce the horsepower but the project is designed to increase mpg and not for racing at a track.

The Corvair has four wheel independent suspension. Most cars sold in America have their suspension adjust with a toe-out (front wheel slightly pointed outward on the leading edge) to make them easier to handle for novice drivers. This creates rolling resistance which robs power. Since the Corvair has independent suspension, I will be able to precisely adjust all four wheels so they are pointed forward decreasing roll resistance all the way around. As an example of this resistance, try pushing a car with the wheels pointed straight and with them turned; you’ll instantly feel the difference.

The Corvair will be turned into a pseudo hybrid. Multiple car batteries will be put is the trunk (located in the front of the car). These will be used to operate all parasitic devices such as, air conditioning, heater, and engine cooling fan which are normally powered by the gas engine. In addition, the alternator/generator that normally charges the single car battery will be modified. It will be present in the car but not engaged and, if needed, a lever will engage it (an alternator/generator is a parasitic device). Lastly, I will make aerodynamic and overall weight reduction changes to improve fuel efficiency.

This will be a fun project that proves we’ve had the technology to increase gas mileage for over fifty years.

My Dream Protest – Roger Ingalls

My wife’s family is big into vintage American cars; they collect and restore the classics. My brother in-law builds hotrods, ratrods and some of his work has shown up in automotive magazines. I’m a car nut too so I fit right in.

Rat Rod

Prior to meeting my wife and her family, I would frequently hit some of California’s famous road course tracks with my 200mph Viper GTS ACR to release the pressures of corporate life. Later, thanks to my wife, I was introduced to dirt oval track racing and got hooked. I raced in the local series for about five years until a turn three incident at Antioch Speedway put me headfirst into the wall at speed, I survived but the car didn’t. The mangled mess still sits in the trailer exactly where it was dumped two years ago. She’s a sad sight; the only working piece was the battery which now starts my brother in-laws racer.

Finances don’t allow the rebuilding of my racecar and, realistically, I’m too old to compete with the young bucks that don’t give a hoot about destroying theirs or another’s equipment. But I still get the automotive urge to get my hands dirty.

Like my in-laws, I want to rebuild a classic. When talking about the make and model of vintage car I desire, everyone scratches their head and laughs as if I were crazy. But, what they don’t understand, there’s a reason for my apparent lack of coolness. I have a dream. A dream project that incorporates many of the things that I enjoy: cars, engineering and social activism.

At this point, you may be asking, “what the hell does social activism have to do with rebuilding an old jalopy?” The project will show how big business conspires to keep the demand for oil high by not engineering cars that can easily get 50 plus mph. It will also protest California’s draconian smog laws by avoiding the issue altogether due to the old age of the car. I’m all for clear air but anti-smog regulations should be based on actual engine emissions and not on tactics truly meant to raise revenue for the state (don’t mask a revenue generating tax under the veil of smog reducing propaganda).


The desired car for my project that brings laughter to friends and family is…wait for it…a Corvair, the car that put Ralph Nader on the radar. The Chevy Corvair only had a ten year production run due to bad press, some deserved but most of it was hyped misinformation. The car was a technological marvel that was years ahead of its time. A list of design elements for a 1960 Corvair family car and the world famous Porsche 911 sports car, first introduced in 1965, are almost identical.

It’s my belief that with some engineering, this 50 year old car will get more than 40 mpg proving that technology has existed for many years to make automobiles more efficient. The only roadblock to improved mpg has been oil and automotive lobbyist. Since the Corvair was manufactured before 1975, it is exempt from CA smog requirements allowing me to give a big FU to the crazy smog regulation that have nothing to do with exhaust emissions.

This is my dream project, my dream protest. It combines cars, engineering and a little activism…fun stuff.

Special note: For those interested in knowing why the Corvair was selected for this project, leave a comment and I will explain the technical benefits of the car.

Loser Hippies with Nothing to Say

I’ve been a part of several protests over the years, some with thousands of other people and some with only twenty or so. But I have to admit I don’t like it very much. I get tired of standing around the same real-estate, shouting the same slogans while holding a sign. So while I have been cheering the “occupy” protests on from my couch, I haven’t played much of a part and, like most, I have formed my own image of what these camps of protesters are probably like.

So, just a couple of days ago, I finally paid a visit to, “Occupy Oakland,” (basically an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street) taking place in Frank Ogawa Plaza which has been unofficially renamed, “Oscar Grant Plaza.” I knew, before my visit, that the media had played to the semi-conservative crowd in criticizing the occupy protests as being basically a bunch of disorganized hippies with nothing significant to say. I knew what the media were trying to accomplish and so I knew not to believe it. But I was still somewhat stunned by what I did see.

When I took a walk through the ad-hoc campground at Oscar Grant Plaza, I saw organization everywhere. There was an information center near the entrance with printed information and people to answer questions. Leaning up against the information center was a huge whiteboard with the day’s events listed. Then, as I moved into the camp, I saw the cooking operation – almost military in it’s efficiency if not its appearance. A saw people lined up in a civilized manner, waiting for their food, which had been donated by camp members and other well-wishers and some of it purchased with donations.

Then I spotted – not too far past the garbage and recycling center, the library. As you might imagine, the library did not contain the collected works of Shakespeare, but mostly political books and information. Outside the library, was the energy center. A guy was riding a stationary bicycle, rigged to a small generator that powered laptop computers and several other devices. There was a schedule of riders such that someone would always be pedalling and keeping the camp alive and connected. Next to the library was the supply tent. In front was a big chalkboard listing the items needed by the camp. Inside were the things that had been donated but not given out yet. There is no money exchanged in an of this. Have – give. Need – get.

Then I took a walk through the middle of the “residential” tent area. The path had been “paved” with wooden pallets so as not to turn to mud and leave the grass destroyed. Signs were posted along the way saying that quiet time began at midnight. Near the end of the pallet path was a first-aid booth. There was an EMT on hand and the booth was, at the moment, manned by a guy that had been trained as a back-country medic of some sort. The booth looked like a little drug store, with lots of bandages and the like. While I was standing there one of the supply guys came up with some pain-killers, Advil, Tylenol, etc., that had been donated.

As I was walking around I talked to a few people. They were not homeless. They could go home to their apartments or houses if they wanted to, but the chose to be here at Oscar Grant Plaza. This and the other qualities of the camp that I had observed led me to beleive that this was a movement – not just a protest, and certainly not a cool new fad. These people are in it for the long haul and that’s exactly what is needed. If they give in to the various pressures, the movement will accomplish nothing. The “establishment,” as it is known, has shown in no uncertain terms its anxiousness to ignore, dismiss, and even accuse this group. “They are the losers of society,” I have actually heard on the news.

Take a walk into an established “Occupy” camp. These people are anything but losers. They’re just not filled with the desire to win at any cost – even at the expense of their neighbors. Cooperation. Comeradery. Consensus. Companionship. I’d call these the goals of winners. I’d say that those are the foundations of a great community and a great way of life. Many have asked, “Will they be successful?” They already have. I’ll ask this: Will we all be successful?

 -Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


Occupy Protest: The Demands – Roger Ingalls

Mainstream media is finally starting to cover the Occupy Protests but their reporting follows a common theme, “it’s a protest without a real purpose or demand”.

Well…here are the demands:

1)      Create a nationalized commercial bank to fund small businesses based on the prime lending rate plus overhead costs. Bank personnel wages and salaries must be similar to government or military pay grades. Most jobs in America are created by small business (70 to 80%). This will create jobs by providing affordable money to small business. The current Wall Street Institutions benefits from selling financial products back and forth to each other and therefore have little interest in small business lending.

2)      Reinstate the business and personal tax rates and codes (including write-offs and loopholes) used in the 1960s. This was a period of prosperity for both the general population and the business community. These tax rates will balance the budget without compromising public services and will stop the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich that has taken place since the early 1980s.

3)      Create a nationalized commercial bank for home ownership based on the prime lending rate plus overhead costs. This will revive the American dream, bring affordable money back to the housing market and separate housing finance from the risky investment banking practiced by Wall Street.

4)      Allow Medicare buy-in for all people regardless of age. This will provide affordable health care for more Americans. It will also bring needed funds to Medicare because the young and healthy will be participating along with the elderly (costs are spread).

5)      No individual person (real or artificial), company, corporation, PAC, Union or special interest group can donate more than $1000 to a political candidate. Organizations cannot be created for the purpose of funding candidates. Organization with multiple business units or multiple businesses owned by an individual or common group of individuals can only make one collective political donation of $1000 per candidate. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

6)      No artificial person, company or corporation can advertise in support or opposition to a candidate (directly or indirectly). This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

7)      Political advertisements, candidates, PACs, special interest groups, supporters and opposition groups of ballot issues must maintain an easy-access website that clearly identifies financial contributors. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

8)      No lobbyist can aid a member of congress unless they have not lobbied in the preceding six years. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

Keep the faith, spread the word and keep fighting…it’s a good fight!

-Roger Ingalls


Roger Ingalls is well-traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.


Anynomous, Hacking, Killing, and Free Speech

I’m on the road again this week, so maybe this will be a quick and dirty post. The life of a travelling toilet brush salesman isn’t as glamorous or relaxing as it sounds.

Until the recent series of protests and hacking incidents at BART, the San Francisco bay area’s public transit train/subway system, I had not really heard much about the spooky, underground hacker group, “Anonymous.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the events of the past couple of weeks, I’ll give a quick run-down.

Back in July, the BART police, once again, killed a man under questionable circumstances. He was a homeless person named Charles Hill and had been reported as a “wobbly drunk” on the BART train platform. He may have had a knife, which may have been visible as it was being thrown at a BART officer – just before he was shot and killed – almost exactly one minute after officers arrived on the scene.


During the protests of this killing, about a month later, some protesters got out of hand and engaged in some dangerous behavior, including climbing up onto the outside of the train and onto its roof. At some point (and I don’t know where on the timeline this fell), BART officials made the decision to cut off cell-phone access in the station because protesters were using their phones to communicate with each other and rally more people to the scene.

This seemed to me a useless, punitive measure that was already too late to prevent the dangerous behavior. But it was also seen as an attack on free speech by some, including Anonymous… and me.

So Anonymous lashed out against BART, by hacking not the main BART website (which is evidently pretty secure) but its auxiliary known as Mybart. Anonymous accessed and then published most or all of the users’ info, including home addresses, and published them on the internet. Then, Anonymous called for a second protest of BART, one mainly about free speech.

In defense of Anonymous, they didn’t have much time to react and plan a response to BART’s assault on free speech. They had to “strike while the iron was hot” – in other words while the protest was still in the news cycle. But I was disappointed in their methods – at least those concerning the Mybart users’ data.

When I heard about Anonymous and their plans to protest for free speech, when I heard that they were a pretty powerful and somewhat fearsome force, I was very hopeful. I am so ready for a formidable hero, standing up for the people. I wanted Anonymous to make strong series of attacks, all well coordinated and focused on those who have either oppressed free speech or have swamped it with their own, public-relations-firm-designed messages – messages designed to cut off dissention.

As I said, I’m disappointed. I think their response to this situation was weak and at least partially counterproductive. Anonymous says they are not finished with this issue, but what they’ve done so far (the hacking, anyway) will only serve to create negative publicity (they basically punished the wrong people) and to motivate better security and maybe even stricter laws in the area of “computer crimes.”

I wonder if hackers in general are losing their power as security is beefed up in the world of the internet. In general this would be a good thing. And I certainly don’t know enough about Anonymous to judge whether they are potential hero material or not. The internet is loaded with stories and tidbits about them; but what’s reliable? Many of these reports seem biased – mostly against them. In addition, it seems that anyone can claim that they are a member of Anonymous – who could prove otherwise? Any hacking-type activity anywhere can easily be blamed on them, as well.

How are we to know what are the real intentions or purpose of Anonymous? Do they even really have a set mission in the world? Or do they respond when they see a need or an opportunity? I think it’s very tempting to think of Anonymous as a well-organized, hierarchical entity – but that is probably far from the truth. These are probably fiercely independent individuals who sometimes come to a sort of consensus on what should be done.

So let me make a call, out to Anonymous: If you are just criminals, as some say you are, you will simply sink into criminal history. Maybe you’ll get a full page in the history of internet crime. But my hope is that you are much better than that. My hope is that Anonymous will use its power to fight the good fight. Free speech is worth fighting for. Oppression is worth fighting against.

I won’t forget that the members of Anonymous probably wouldn’t agree with me in many political aspects. But they might agree that both the right and the ability to freely discuss these ideas is the most critical element of Democracy. It is with this in mind that I say to Anonymous:


be heroes.

For that you will not be forgotten.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


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