the view through the windshield car blog

Miscellaneous Musings & Opinions 2013-14

More recent 'Musings' postings can be found here.

Africa Is Unfixable: Sorry to be such a pessimist but history shows that it's true.

The Z-Man, of The Z Blog, wrote, "Ebola was discovered in 1976, and it was once thought to originate in gorillas, because human outbreaks began after people ate gorilla meat. But scientists have since ruled out that theory, partly because apes that become infected are even more likely to die than humans.

Scientists now believe that bats are the natural reservoir for the virus, and that apes and humans catch it from eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on, or by coming in contact with surfaces covered in infected bat droppings and then touching their eyes or mouths.

The current outbreak seems to have started in a village near Guéckédou, Guinea, where bat hunting is common, according to Doctors Without Borders.

There's an expression old Africa hands used to use. It is 'AWA' or Africa Wins Again. The Europeans tried everything they could to turn their colonies into outposts of civilization, but they all failed. No matter what you do, the Africa can't stop being Africa. You're not allowed to think that so we think other things."

Africa is backward in so many ways because much of the Dark Continent is ruled by thugs, many of them sworn enemies of the U.S. There are better things to do with our charity - help flood and tornado victims in our own country, for example. (But most of them are from the South or Midwest - flyover country - and not nearly as photo-appealing as some helpless fly-bespecked black waif with an empty bowl in his/her hands.)

As I've written before, "With the likes of Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic, Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Joseph Mobutu of the Congo, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and a host of other kleptocratic gangsters in power, aid money has simply been stolen. Many African rulers rely on aid to feed their people while they destroy their livelihoods through a neglect of, and even by destroying, infrastructure. ... In badly run developing countries, governments channel aid to small elites. Poor people in villages and shanty towns never see any aid. Infant and child death rates remain high and women still die in unattended childbirth in countries on which aid is focused."

At the recent Southern African Development Community summit, African leaders showed their indifference to the suffering that the citizens of Zimbabwe continue to endure. At the closing news conference, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete announced that he and his fellow heads of state were "in support of the government and people of Zimbabwe." "We got full backing; not even one (SADC leader) criticized our actions," Mugabe boasted after the summit.

The Z-man concluded, "Despite all the efforts of missionaries, volunteer medical people, sociologists, military ... Africa remains a lost cause."

Ron Paul recently said, "It is no coincidence that many of those countries suffering from mass Ebola outbreaks have also suffered from the plagues of dictatorship and war. The devastation wrought by years of war has made it impossible for these countries to develop modern healthcare infrastructure." (posted 10/22/14, permalink)

Is It Just Me?

(posted 8/21/14, permalink)

And To Think I Used To Live There: Willingboro, NJ decided to rename its Kennedy Center as the Barack Obama Center.

Some residents are understandably upset. Kristina Darlin wrote on the Burlington County Times Facebook page: "What's next - naming malls after terrorists since he negotiates with them?! What a disgrace to America!!"

Lindsey Rotteau wrote, "The only place his name should appear is in school textbooks stating he was the worst president in our history. The only change he made was making people not be proud to be an American!"

When we moved into our first home in Willingboro, NJ, the town was a pleasant, racially-mixed community with a breadwinner in every home.

In the early 1970s, unscrupulous real estate people began pushing Section 8 programs, often submitting fraudulent applications to get approval. Broke, unemployed lowlifes arrived from Trenton, Camden, North Philadelphia and other seedy areas bringing with them bad habits, low expectations and a 'gimme' attitude.

Residents saw home values stagnate while houses elsewhere continued to increase in value. Many decided to flee Willingboro. We moved to another town after only five years and felt we got out just in time.

By the early 1980s, the Willingboro Plaza - a once-pleasant shopping center - had become overrun with drug dealers. Muggings, purse snatchings and shoplifting were common. It became so bad that people refused to shop there. Stores closed and the Plaza turned into an abandoned blight. All thanks to The Great Society.

I'm glad we're outta there. (posted 8/21/14, permalink)

Update: On 9/2/14, the Willingboro Township Council apparently had second thoughts and rescinded the name change.

"By The Sea, By The Sea ..." The fortunes of Atlantic City, once the jewel of the Jersey Shore, are sinking fast and there seems to be no hope in sight.

Atlantic City was founded in 1854 when a rail line was constructed from Camden, New Jersey to AC. The Atlantic City Boardwalk was the first boardwalk in the United States, opening in 1870.

The 1920s, with tourism at its peak, are considered by many historians as Atlantic City's golden age. Many Fortune 500 companies once had stores or showrooms on the Boardwalk - General Electric, Lucky Strike and Underwood Typewriter. General Motors had a showroom on the Steel Pier. H. J. Heinz once had an entire pier of its own. All to showcase products to the hordes of tourists who strolled the boardwalk.

The city's fortunes began to change after World War II, when improved roads and increased use of automobiles made newer, classier seaside communities more attractive. Many had boardwalks of their own, so AC's big draw was lessened. Additionally, the advent of home air-conditioning and affordable air travel to far-away places further reduced AC's tourist draw.

A matchbook cover for Mammy's, courtesy of James Lileks
Although people once visited the seaside in the winter for some "healthy and bracing salt sea air," by the late 1950s, shore towns had become seasonal places and the work available ended up being seasonal, too - extending from Memorial Day to just after Labor Day. Atlantic City never had any manufacturing or other year-round business enterprise on which to fall back.

AC always had a significant black population; in its heyday, blacks pushed rolling chairs on the boardwalk, cleaned hotel rooms, worked in restaurant kitchens or at local golf courses. Most were hard-working and honest but they struggled to find work during the off-season. Unfortunately, as Atlantic City's fortunes declined, so did those of its residents, many of whom ended up on welfare. At present, the black population of AC hovers around 40% and the problems of family disunity, crime and drug use are much the same as in other poor ghettoes throughout the U.S.

It was thought that casino gambling would change all that. In the mid-1970s, the new casinos added a bit of glitz to the old boardwalk but the tax revenues from gambling were diverted away from Atlantic City to the NJ state treasury and a few blocks from the boardwalk, seediness and decay prevailed. Some areas looked like a war zone. Or Haiti.

Speaking of glitz, during the late 1970s, one of the casinos located on the Atlantic City boardwalk was given a modernizing mirror-trimmed facade. The lower panels were fitted with mirrored Plexiglas for safety reasons. The sheets of acrylic were improperly installed and were wedged into the frames tightly enough to form convex shapes. Each panel became a focusing mirror and set the boardwalk on fire.

The problem was temporarily and inelegantly addressed by watering the boardwalk with an oscillating lawn sprinkler to keep the wood wet when the morning sun was reflecting off the mirrored surface.

Miss California rides along the Atlantic City boardwalk in a 1959 Oldsmobile convertible during the Miss America Pageant parade in September 1959. Mammy's Restaurant can be seen in the background at right; part of the Steel Pier is visible at left.

Sadly, most of the shops which used to line the boardwalk are gone as are the corporate showrooms, amusement parks, Million Dollar Pier as well as Steel Pier and its diving horse act.

Planters still has a small store on the boardwalk but the costumed Mr. Peanut - when he appears - doesn't venture very far from the firm's downsized storefront.

During a 2008 visit, my wife and I observed that Atlantic City has changed so much that we could hardly recognize it. One can no longer see the ocean from the boardwalk because of high sand berms and sawgrass. All the little shops are gone - replaced by flashy casinos and designer boutiques with few customers. In nearby, more upscale Margate, Lucy the elephant looks better than ever after a recent restoration.
Lucy the Elephant - circa 1948

Crime is rampant, druggies and panhandlers frequently accost visitors. Armed police with rifles and automatic weapons are sometimes seen patrolling the boardwalk.

Now several casinos are closing. The news is the latest in a cascade of setbacks for Atlantic City's gambling market, which until just a few years ago was the second-largest in the nation after Nevada; Pennsylvania has now taken over that spot. Analysts have long said that the casino market in AC is oversaturated and that some casinos need to close to ensure the survival of others.

In January 2014, Atlantic City had 12 casinos. By the end of September, it will have only eight. The city's casino revenue has fallen about 45% since its peak of $5.2 billion in 2006.

Sadly, Atlantic City will soon go the way of Detroit and become a ghost town filled with vagrants and other undesirables. Some people already refer to it as Camden by the Sea, a reference to another blighted - and equally unsaveable - New Jersey town. (posted 8/7/14, permalink)

Betting On Israel: Last week, the state of California and Israel signed a historic technology-sharing agreement. Forty-plus years ago, Intel opened a small operation in Haifa. Today, Intel employs over 9,000 in Israel and its new Adam processor for mobile devices in produced there.

Israel has an entrepreneurial, tech-driven culture and turns out more engineering graduates each year than either the U.S. or Japan. Two and one-half times as much venture capital flows into Israel than the United States. Meanwhile, in his typical, never-bet-on-winners strategy, our President is busy harassing Benjamin Netanyahu while befriending the useless, dysfunctional, terroristic Palestinians. What a moron.

Sometimes we sleep on sheets produced in Israel. Made from Egyptian cotton. Purchased at Costco. It's interesting that Israel has always had a manufacturing economy while most of the Middle East makes almost nothing; they let foreigners pump their oil (for a price) and they do a little agriculture - figs, cotton and opium, I think.

In contrast, Israel has an economy based on something real. That's who we should be supporting. 75% of Israel's 7.3 million people are Jewish. In my 70+ years on this earth, I've never met a dumb Jew.

It may not be a politically-correct adage these days, but Barack Obama should heed it: Never bet against the Jews. (posted 3/10/14, permalink)

It's Called Dope For A Reason: Marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington and I'm not so sure that's a good thing.

When I was in grade school - in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth and cars didn't have tailfins yet, one of the subjects we learned was Geography. Much reading and memorization were required. Test questions involved not just physical dimensions: "How large is Ohio?" (Answer: 41,328 square miles) but also what was made there: "What are the chief products of Bolivia?"

As a third-grader, I didn't fully appreciate the nuances of the goods produced but it was obvious that most of the really backward countries listed sisal and hemp as their chief products. I realized much later in life that perhaps these countries were backward because the populace spent too much smoking all that hemp instead of trying to build a stronger, more prosperous nation.

Even to my elementary school brain, it was apparent that a country must have desirable products which can be sold to other countries in order to become a major player on the world's stage. Most of these products were 'high value added': large trucks, mighty locomotives, massive extruders, huge rolling mills, etc.

America progressed from a dependent colony to a powerful independent nation because it took advantage of the Industrial Revolution and became self-sufficient. This land not only grew its own cotton; it added value by having all those 19th Century New England mills turn it into yarn and cloth. Which was turned into even higher value finished apparel in places like New York's Garment District.

We'll never return to greatness if everyone becomes a stoner. (posted 1/29/14, permalink)

Once Upon A Time In America: If you ever visit the TMZ site, you'll find it full of celebrity 'doings' - the tasteless antics of the otiose Kardashians, Miley Cyrus' latest self-degradation, Justin Bieber's bad behavior, Lamar Odom's drug-fueled behavior, the outrageous quotes from various low-brow rap stars, social flotsam or cultural jetsam created by ill-behaved reality-show stars and other appalling entertainment 'news'.

It wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, Hollywood was full of classy celebrities who worked hard to entertain and kept personal failings behind closed doors.

Scott Johnson of Powerline has provided a glimpse into those good old days. The setting is a 1958 'Steve Allen Show' broadcast from NBC studios in Burbank. Allen opened the show with his signature song 'This Could be the Start of Something Big', written by him and published in 1956.

Allen changes some of the lyrics to reflect the Southern California location of this 1958 television show. The five-minute video clip of the show is worth watching just to see the talent of the various stars who perform the song.

As you watch the performers during the long tracking shot, it is important to remember the severe technical limitations of live television in those days. Television cameras were full of vacuum tubes and very delicate - the slightest bump could cause a tube blowout and subsequent camera blackout. These cameras were heavy and mounted on clumsy floor dollies with casters. In these pre-wireless days, the cameras were connected to receivers with long, heavy cables. All of these things inhibited movement which made the video's tracking shot even more remarkable. The logistics, staging and timing must have been quite a challenge for performers and crew. Yet everything seemingly went off without a hitch on live TV.

It was a joy to watch the era's talented elite - Allen, Ann Sothern, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, Dinah Shore and a 'special guest' - performing in formal dress.

Very classy. Those were the days. (posted 10/21/13, permalink)

Misheard Music: Between the awful car audio systems of the '60s-70s (I use the word 'system' as an act of generosity; for many cars, it was an AM receiver and one, cheap, tinny speaker.) and my loss of hearing (resulting from running noisy injection molding machines, saws and routers in those manly, no-earplug, pre-OSHA days), I've probably misunderstood half the songs I've listened to.

Recently, I was losing myself in the sublayers of a Google search, when I came across the lyrics to 'Let 'Em In', one of those trite but can't-get-it-outta-your-head ditties from the mid-1970s. By Wings. You know the one. With the McCartneys warbling, "Someone's knockin' at the door ..." I always thought it was some kind of bizarre religious/political statement:

"Sister Suzie, Brother John,
Martin Luther, Falun Gong ...

Well, Google informed me that there is no reference to the China-outlawed spiritual group, Falun Gong. The correct phrase is "Phil and Don" - a nod to the Everly Brothers, who were an inspiration to Paul in his early years.

So, to Phil and Don Everly, my sincere regrets.

I'm still not yet ready to apologize to Neil Diamond over that 1978 song about the pseudo-hip preacher, 'The Reverend Blue Jeans.' (posted 10/16/13, permalink)

This Just Dawned On Me: I can correct and upload a spelling error on this blog in less time than it takes Wite-Out to dry. (posted 10/14/13, permalink)

Playing Offense: I played football in high school but this isn't about my athletic prowess - or lack of it.

The Oneida Indian Nation of Upstate New York plans to launch a radio ad campaign calling on the Washington Redskins to change their name.

In the ad, Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should "stand up to bigotry" by denouncing "the racial slur" in the team's name. I didn't know that Halbritter was an Indian name. How come their spokesman isn't named Blackfeather? Or Raindancer? Or Chief Thunderthud?

As someone of Irish descent, I am offended by Potato Skins. After all, we are a proud people, not a T.G.I. Friday's appetizer. I think it's time for chain restaurants to "stand up to bigotry."

The Irish deserve even more respect than Indians. We are a tribal people whose land was subject to numerous invasions by foreigners but still managed to produce the Book of Kells. What did Native Americans do? Made up stories about coyotes and bears - and never wrote them down.

Plus ... we can hold our liquor better.

I have a Polish friend who considers the following terms to be ethnic slurs: Nail Polish, Furniture Polish, Simoniz Car Polish and Pole Dancing. (posted 9/6/13, permalink)

I Can't Wait For All The Boomers To Die. The problem is I'm older than them and I'll most likely die first.

Not all baby boomers are jerks. Some have dignity, resolve and responsibility. Others ... not so much.

Paul Begala, a former Clinton adviser and a Boomer himself, published an article in Esquire titled, 'The Worst Generation'. He wrote, "The Baby Boomers are the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history."

Begala continued, "If they were animals, they'd be a plague of locusts, devouring everything in their path and leaving but a wasteland. If they were plants, they'd be kudzu, choking off every other living thing with their sheer mass. If they were artists, they'd be abstract expressionists, interested only in the emotions of that moment - not in the lasting result of the creative process."

Even though they're now getting old (the eldest were born in 1946), it's easy to spot Boomers. You can often see them Buying Local at Farmers Markets, waddling from stall to stall in Birkenstocks while stuffing reusable cotton bags with overpriced produce and handcrafted dreck. Or view Boomers on television: they're the wrinkled, gray-haired audiences at those Peter Noone 'My Music' shows - the ones broadcast by PBS during those all-too-frequent Begging For Money weeks.

Cobb wrote, "Most Baby Boomers "dressed up in grey flannel suits at work and listened to Steppenwolf at home. It was an impenetrable two-faced world. When 1992 rolled around I looked at Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown and it looked as if it was inevitable that the Boomers would finally wrest power from their Cold War parents. But both of those men exemplified quite perfectly what made me queasy about the Boomers. They wore suits. They loved Rock & Roll. They were lawyers who smoked weed. They were longhairs who could 'act presidential'. They danced the dance required of them, and I think ultimately they didn't care about anything but the expedience that finally got them more power than their shell-shocked parents."

"I am convinced that their struggle to undo and outdo their own parents has generated cynicism at an existential level of threat."

Some Boomers are responsible citizens who practice the core values learned from their Depression-era parents.

Unfortunately, too many Boomers are woefully ignorant, self-absorbed, dumbshit people - textbook examples of the Me Generation. At one time, they were shamed and shunned by their betters and were personally embarrassed by the fact that they couldn't answer any of the questions on 'Jeopardy'. Now are now classified as 'low-information voters' and brag about it. (posted 8/26/13, permalink)

Deadville: Detroit is not the only dying city in America. Camden now has a tent city located "off Route 38 at Wilson Boulevard under an overpass, through woods and down a path of trash lays a community of people living in tents. This particular community was relocated from Federal Street and it's inhabited by an array of people: addicts, people who have fallen on hard times and some with mental illness."

When I lived in New Jersey and commuted to downtown Philadelphia, the junction of Admiral Wilson Blvd., Routes 38 and 130 was a giant, busy traffic circle/overpass that I encountered every day. Camden was no prize when I drove through it in the 1970s but it's hard to believe how much further the area has fallen.

This 1963 Philadelphia photo appeared in and shows the view looking east from Market and Front Sts. The skyline of Camden, NJ can be seen across the Delaware River. Camden looks to be thriving with J.B. Van Scribner Furniture Co., RCA (Radio Corporation of America) and Campbell's Soup Co. all visible along Camden's waterfront. Sadly, all are long gone.

Once a thriving center for manufacturing and industry, Camden is a shadow of its former working-class self. With a crime rate of 87 per one thousand residents, Camden has one of the highest crime rates in America. One's chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 11. Camden has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle theft in the nation as well.

Camden is an old city with a lot of history. One of the America's first railroads, the Camden and Amboy was chartered in Camden in 1830. Poet Walt Whitman lived his final years on Mickle Street and is buried in the city's Harleigh Cemetery. At Camden's peak, 10,000 workers were employed pressing records at RCA, while another 40,000 worked at New York Shipbuilding. Campbell Soup was also a major employer and hired lots of high-school and college students during the peak tomato-processing season.

Located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden also had a thriving port business. Then the Democrats took office; many of them turned out to be crooks. They drove business away and replaced it with poverty and crime. The town hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1936.

In an attempt to 'revitalize' the riverfront, politicians built an expensive municipal aquarium - which people are afraid to visit because it's located in Camden - and a failing light rail line which connects Camden and that other NJ blightburg, Trenton.

Did the citizens of Camden wise up and throw out the Democrats? No. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 91.1% of the Camden's vote. Perhaps Mr. Obama could return the favor by sending a palletload of colorful Ikea Circustält tents, giving Admiral Wilson's Tent City ia kind of Renaissance Faire flavor.

Once a working class enclave composed of whites and blacks, today 53% of Camden's residents are black, while 38% are Hispanic/Latino.

Camden is like a microcosm of what's happening in America. Manufacturing departs for greener pastures, once-middle-class folks become impoverished and go on the dole, poverty breeds crime, violence and indifference. And the Beat goes on. (posted 8/16/13, permalink)

The Unbearable Dumbness Of Diversity: A recent article in the Costco Connection magazine carried this headline:

The article urges business owners to become more "culturally intelligent." No measurable benefits are touted. Are there stories told of craggy old white guys who save their little company by bringing a gaggle of gays and blacks onboard, increasing revenues by 56%? No. Do we learn of a bunch of skinhead punks who join a failing wholesaler and improve profits 41% while reducing inventory levels. Nope. The story doesn't even make reference to the role of tranvestites in saving a certain venerable English shoe firm, as told in 'Kinky Boots'.

There is no useful business advice in the article. Just a bunch of unicorn-flatulence, progressivism and political correctness.

Diversity is crap. Imagine Smokey Robinson telling The Miracles, "Now fellas, I know we got a tight group but the people are complainin' that its not diverse, So Ronnie and Pete, I've got to let you two go. I'm bringing on a tone-deaf Asian and a fat white flannel-shirted Lesbian to replace you."

You don't build success on diversity. You build success on talent and a single-minded focused performance from your team. That's how miracles are created in business. Just ask Smokey. (posted 7/12/13, permalink)

joe sherlock blogTime Travel: It would be wonderful if I could travel back in time - say fifty years - and see my dad again on Father's Day.

But, if I did, I'd have to bring him a gift. What would I choose? Most of the tech stuff wouldn't work - no cell phones or internet-powered devices.

Most medical stuff wouldn't work either. No doctor would know what to do with a handful of stents.

I had a look at the Father's Day Cabela's catalog and found something useful that would also amaze him and his friends - a spotlight so powerful that, with its 300 amp cold-crank rating, it could jump start a car. Its 20 million candlepower rating puts my 10 million candlepower Cabela's light to shame.

Back in 1963, my dad was driving a new black Volkswagen Beetle, which he later gave to me.

I don't know if the spotlight jumper would have worked since his '63 Bug still had a 6 volt battery.

But it's the thought that counts, right?

Besides it's in better taste than the camo-covered recliner chair Cabela's offered in the same flyer.

Happy Father's Day to all dads out there. (posted 6/14/13, permalink)

I Thought The Digital Age Made Everything Faster: In 1953, John Christie murdered at least eight women. He "was arrested in March, tried in June and hanged in July. Justice was brisk back then."

Fast forward 60 years. Cars are much faster. Movies and television feature rapid cuts which makes for a quicker pace of storytelling. Publishing is instantaneous in cyberspace - no waiting for the lead to heat up on the ol' linotype machine.

Today, we have convicted murders on death row who grow old and gray until their many appeals are exhausted and justice is finally delivered decades later.

In some ways, the good old days were better. (posted 6/14/13, permalink)

auto blogBogus Trademarks: Last week, I ordered parts for my outdoor grill.

Looking at the owner's manual, I noticed that the manufacturer has trademarked numerous words and phrases, including 'Designer Series' (used by Lincoln in the 1970s and '80s; also by Rohm and Haas to describe a special offering of trendy Plexiglas colors), 'Longhorn' (every third steakhouse in America has this in its name), 'Ready When You Are' (an old Delta Airlines slogan, I believe), 'AutoClean' (self-cleaning ovens have carried such badges since the 1960s) and 'QuickSet' (venerable brands of epoxy and concrete patching compounds, respectively).

It continued: 'Commercial Series' (truck makers, tool manufacturers and hundreds of industrial suppliers have used this term since at least the 1930s), Precision Flame (used by gas utilities and home heating marketeers for decades) and 'You Bring The Party' (found in pre-Internet Yellow Page listings for thousands of 'erotic' massage parlors and escort services).

This sucks. Hey, I think I'll trademark that phrase and make you send me two bucks every time you use it. (posted 6/14/13, permalink)

Shoe Story: Gregory Sullivan noted that Sperry Topsiders - aka deck shoes - have a Sperry label inside but "Justin Brands owns it, and Berkshire Hathaway owns that. That's Warren Buffett's bailiwick. Warren Buffett only buys things that have some strategic advantage someone's missing out on. A "Made in Maine" tag seems to be all you need to sell boat shoes in Japan. Who knew? Then again, Berkshire Hathaway used to make shirts when Buffett bought it. If I was working in one of his factories, I wouldn't buy any green bananas."

"Maine used to make a lot of shoes and boots. It was the state's largest industry until very recently, when free trade killed American piecework dead. The state's current largest industry is selling oxycodone you stole from grandma's medicine cabinet, I think."

I bought a pair of faux Topsiders at a Dexter Shoes Factory Outlet in New Hampshire 25 years ago. I never found them to be that comfortable so I kept them by our front door. I only wore my Dexes when I walked to the mailbox at the end of our driveway.

Warren Buffett once owned the Dexter Shoe Co. and called it "his worst deal ever."

"In 1993, Berkshire paid $433 million for the Maine-based company. Rather than use cash, Buffett used Berkshire Class A stock to fund the purchase. That Berkshire stock is worth eight times more now, giving the Omaha, Nebraska-based insurance and investment company a $216 billion market value.

Dexter didn't make it that long. It ended shoe production in the United States and Puerto Rico in 2001, and Berkshire folded what was left into its H.H. Brown Shoe Group unit."

In a 2008 letter to Berkshire Hathaway investors, Buffett wrote, "What I had assessed as durable competitive advantage vanished within a few years. By using Berkshire stock, I compounded this error hugely. That move made the cost to Berkshire shareholders not $400 million, but rather $3.5 billion. In essence, I gave away 1.6% of a wonderful business - one now valued at $220 billion - to buy a worthless business."

I recently noticed that the Vibram soles of my Dex deck shoes had worn down far enough to be translucent. I'm surprised. Although they are many years old, my deck shoes definitely qualify as low-mileage footwear.

I guess I'll have to find some new mailbox shoes. I'm not expecting Dexter to offer a partial refund for premature wear. (posted 5/27/13, permalink)

The Kardashianizing Of America: Jim Geraghty recently wrote, "We've always been a diverse country, but I suspect that a lot of conservatives click on the television or web or look at the morning paper or magazine and see a country they just don't recognize anymore."

"How many conservatives look out upon large swaths of their fellow countrymen and feel as if they're dealing with someone from another planet, someone whose thinking, values, worldview, and priorities are so alien, they simply can't understand them?"

That caught my attention, since I had just finished reading the Letters to the Editor page in the local weekly, where one moron - claiming to be a "life-long Republican," although that might just be what he dresses up as on Halloween - posited, "Who is spreading fear in our country today? It is not Islam or the Boston Bombers but our own home-grown, radical right-wing people and they are worth fearing." If you really feel that way, pal, you should move to a right-wing-free nation, such as Pakistan. Or Syria.

Geraghty continued, "Our political differences and culture wars are a big part of it. But I think it goes even further. How many times can a conservative encounter the low-information voters who don't know who the vice president is, or watch the folks on the street get stumped by basic questions in Jay Leno's 'Jaywalking' segments, and not lose some faith in the American people as a whole?"

There have always been stupid and misinformed people but it's seems that there are lots more of them now. I blame Honey Boo-Boo, the E! Network, profane rappers and lowbrow cable reality shows. But I'm old. I also curse the gathering darkness and shake my fist at the moon. And at Lindsay Lohan.

"I remember reading the joke, 'Far in the future, aliens will come and find the relics of our modern civilization and conclude that Kim Kardashian was our queen.' I really don't understand why I'm supposed to care about this woman, and I don't understand why it seems that I'm constantly being told things about her."

Of the Kardashians, Dennis Miller once said that "these people are charming grifters ... they know that we're an off-the-rack culture that likes to ogle a train wreck." And, in Kim's case, "the train has the biggest caboose of all time."

Regarding unrecognizable America, Jim Geraghty concluded, "Any American who worked their butt off through college and did the entry-level, low-pay jobs at the beginning of their working lives looks at the Occupy Movement and wonders how the heck someone can begin adulthood with such a ludicrous sense of entitlement." Amen. (posted 5/17/13, permalink)

Goodnight, America's Sweetheart: Annette Funicello, best known as a child performer on the original 'Mickey Mouse Club' and for her beach movies with Frankie Avalon, has died at age 70 from complications of multiple sclerosis. She had reportedly been in a coma for years. She lost the ability to walk in 2004 and to speak in 2009. She died on April 8, 2013. May she rest in peace.

Funicello was a 12-year-old dance-school student when Walt Disney saw her performing the lead role in 'Swan Lake' at her dance-school's recital in the spring of 1955.

She joined a group of other talented young performers hired to become Mousketeers on 'The Mickey Mouse Club', the children's variety show that debuted on ABC in October 1955 and quickly became a daily late-afternoon ritual for millions of young Americans. Annette's smile and girl-next-door demeanor unexpectedly turned her into the ensemble cast's biggest star.

Annette was a flat-chested 12 year-old when the series began but matured quickly, providing 10 million young students with a very visual lesson about the effects of puberty. Scientists have calculated that, had Annette's breasts continued to grow at the rate observed from 1955 to 1958, they would have reached the moon four years before Neil Armstrong.

She soon began receiving 8,000 fan letters a month - 10 times more than any of the other Mouseketeers. Realizing the commercial possibilities of her popularity, Walt Disney quickly licensed Annette lunch boxes, Colorforms dolls, coloring books, comic books and even mystery novels featuring her in fictionalized adventures.

Funicello received a big career boost when Disney agreed to loan her out to American International Pictures to make 'Beach Party', the song-filled, low-budget 1963 comedy in which she was first teamed on the big screen with '50s teen idol Frankie Avalon.

In the wake of the success of 'Beach Party', Funicello and Avalon co-starred in 'Muscle Beach Party', 'Bikini Beach', 'Beach Blanket Bingo' and 'How to Stuff a Wild Bikini' - semi-forgettable, simplistic 'beach' movies which captured the freedom of the early '60s so perfectly. In the late 1970s, Annette reappeared in the public eye when she starred in a series of television commercials for Skippy peanut butter. She and Avalon re-united in 1987 for the film 'Back to the Beach', parodying their own surf-and-sand films two decades earlier.

This 1957 Ford Thunderbird was purchased new for Annette by her father. The car was originally finished in Colonial White and was reportedly repainted in purple by George Barris, who also did some mild customizing while Annette still owned the car. Later, it was repainted a couple of other colors and is now red. Annette's Thunderbird was sold at auction in September 2021, fetching $150,000.

Annette was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the mid-1980s and later became a spokeswoman for treatment of the chronic, often-debilitating disease. In 1993, she opened the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation.

Her death made me reflect upon the coarsening of American culture. Ms. Funicello may not have represented the 'peak' of wholesome America but she is certainly its poster girl. A good dancer, she readily admitted that she wasn't much of a singer but her smile and girl-next-door demeanor made Annette famous.

There was never a hint of scandal around Annette. Her virtuous image on screen combined with exemplary behavior in real life, set an positive example for her fans. This was the way the movie and television business used to operate. Any explicit behavior by Hollywood stars was generally kept quiet in back in those days.

Tallulah Bankhead, a flamboyant bisexual actress of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, was a loose and loudmouthed woman who was also a heavy drinker and consumer of sleeping pills. But she was the exception. More typical was Kate Smith, singing 'God Bless America' and doing ads for Jell-O and Pillsbury Mills in her spare time. She had a long career spanning five decades but always exhibited proper public decorum.

Celebrity behavior changed in the 1970s - for the worse. As did movies. I don't think there's a single movie made before 1970 which contained the F-bomb. In those days, the blood, gore, profanity and general perversion prevalent in every Quentin Tarantino movie would have kept his films from ever lighting up the screen of any theater in America. 'Casino' and 'Goodfellas' would have been banned, too.

The 1970s brought us Liza Minnelli, a consummate party animal, who once arrived at an event at designer Halston's apartment and implored the host: "Give me every drug you've got." Later there were public drug and/or alcohol fueled scandals and sham marriages. My wife and I saw Minnelli in Las Vegas in 1993. It was one of the worst performances we've ever witnessed. Drugs, we thought at the time. An episode of The Simpsons summed things up perfectly: Bart Simpson opens a casino for kids in his tree-house. In a panic, he kidnaps Robert Goulet to perform there because Bart "hired a Liza Minnelli impersonator who was awful. Turns out she was the real Liza Minnelli!"

Today, there is an ever-increasing coarsening of society, reflected in the outrageous behavior of celebrities. Entertainers routinely appear in sex videos. One "leaked" sex tape can make multi-millionaires out of otherwise untalented people. Paris Hilton is exhibit A; Kim Kardashian represents exhibit B.

In politics and political media, there are countless statements made by personalities and pundits which are downright rude, crude and hateful. Just tune-in MSNBC and observe Ed Schultz, who called former Vice President Dick Cheney "an enemy of the country" who should go "to the Promised Land."

We have become witnesses to the antics of no-talent people who show up at overpriced merchandise debuts for big appearance fees - the Kardashians, Nicole Richie, Snooki, Paris Hilton et al. Lindsay Lohan's drug and alcohol problems are gleefully documented by papparazzi who stalk the entrances of rehab facilities and courthouses. Meanwhile, Diddy called a press conference to announce that he's "not bangin' Kate Upton." Rhianna sang the sexually-explicit 'Rude Boy' at a Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards. Don't get me started on Charlie Sheen, whose atrocious conduct is worn as a badge of honor. Or the drug-addled slutty 'singer' known as Courtney Love.

It's sad to reflect that head-shaving Britney Spears, a frequent patron in drug rehab centers, was once a Mouseketeer. That's why I miss Annette. And the nice-person culture she represented. (posted 4/19/13, permalink)

"You Might Be A Winner!" I've often fantasized about what I would do if I had a big monetary windfall. I may soon find out. Now, I don't want to write too much about this for fear of jinxing the deal, but it appears I may soon find my personal finances moving to a significantly higher level.

You see, I received a notification last week that I may be entitled to "$5,000 a week - forever!" I have been provided with a number "provisionally deposited on the Winner Selection List" on form I3115e - according to controller Michael Collins and executive vice-president Deborah Holland. They also indicate that "payment funding is guaranteed." When I read that, I must confess that I got goosebumps.

joe sherlock blogThis notification came from Publishers Clearing House. Like most of you, I've heard from them many times before. I remember when I used to get letters from Robert H. Treller, a guy who always signed his name in blue ink and used his pen to write lots of notes on the margin, like "You don't want to miss this!"

In the latest missive from PCH, Mr. Treller is conspicuously absent. It turns out that ol' Bob is a fictional character, like Betty Crocker. And, I guess, he's been retired. Or downsized.

Publishers Clearing House began in 1953, in the basement of founder Harold Mertz's house in Long Island, NY. The firm pioneered the idea of a sweepstakes as a way of selling magazine subscriptions. By 1991, the company had 700 employees, not including Mr. Treller.

The magazine subscriptions from PCH were never moneymakers for mag publishers, because the subscriptions were sold at deep, enticing discounts, but they did increase the magazines' circulation. Betting on the future, publishers hoped for profits from renewals.

PCH also helped boost circulation, so a magazine could charge advertisers more based on healthier ABC circulation data - on which ad rates were based. Back in the day, a magazine earned about 75% of its income from advertising.

Customers benefited, too. In those pre-internet days, you could buy magazines at newsstands for full retail price, save a little - sometimes very little - by buying a subscription or save lots of bucks by getting your favorite mags from Publishers Clearing House. The one disadvantage was that PCH sold odd subscription durations: 37 issues of Newsweek or 9 issues of Car Life.

The magazine biz is in quite a funk these days, as more and more people get news and information online. Time, Inc. just announced that it will lay off up to 700 staffers - almost 9% of its workforce - due to declining revenues.

"Time's stable of 21 U.S. magazines and 25 websites includes Time, In Style, Fortune, People, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated and Real Simple. It has over 100 titles worldwide." Today, there are few newsstands remaining to display these colorful rags. But many dog-eared, germy examples can be found in various physicians' waiting rooms.

"For the third quarter, subscription revenue dipped 6% and advertising revenue eased 5%, echoing trends across the traditional publishing world as consumers digest information in new ways. Digital advertising and expanding readership on tablets and other mobile devices hasn't made up for losses elsewhere."

The latest dispatch from Publishers Clearing House has lots of offerings - leather purses, elastic turquoise bracelets, rainbow scissors and various As Seen On TV products but not a single magazine. Since the print business is dying, I guess that Publishers are Clearing their own Houses.

One PCH offer was for red, white and blue "patriotic" malted milk balls - at an alarming $25 per pound. But they can be had for Four EZ Payments. What kind of person would buy candy on the installment plan? Probably the same kind of person who doesn't worry about things like our $16 trillion dollar national debt and went into a voting booth last November and voted for Democrats. Enjoy your sweets now, pay later. Or let your children and grandchildren settle your bill someday.

Publishers Clearing House knows its market and doesn't waste its printing presses and postage on items which are not popular sellers. Now you know how Obama won reelection and why so many people are eating not-yet-paid-for candy.

Even though I enjoy malted milk balls, there was no encouraging margin note from Bob Treller telling me that I "don't want to miss this!" So, I decided to pass, opting to continue purchasing those much cheaper, Communist-brown ones instead.

Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that my first $5,000 check will arrive any day now. (posted 1/14/13, permalink)

The Only People Who Want To Move To California These Days Are Mexicans: In the 1950s and '60s, California was perceived as America's dream, especially Southern California - a land of warmth and sunshine, blue ocean and beaches not far from the city. Then there were the palm trees, modern freeways, interesting and novel (for me) architecture and lithe, tanned people dressed in sharp clothes who drove gleaming, desirable autos. Just watch old '50s television shows set in the Golden State - like '77 Sunset Strip'.

Joe Sherlock blog

Unfortunately, the Golden State has fallen on hard times, with a poverty rate that is now twice as bad as West Virginia's and substantially worse than the rates of poverty in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, according to a new measure of poverty developed by the federal Census Bureau.

"Democrat-run California earned its last-place rank under the federal government's new measure of poverty, which incorporates more detailed analyses of welfare payments and the local costs of food, gasoline and housing.

The state's costs are boosted by its environmental and workplace regulations and by 38 million residents' competition for housing close to the sea. California snatched the last-place prize from Mississippi."

That's what being ruled by leftists and allowing the unrestricted flow of illegals will get you. It is extremely sad to see a state so rich in natural resources (especially its fertile farmland) be destroyed by politics.

According to the Census, in 1970 the "Non-Hispanic White" population of California was 78%. By the 2010 census, it was 40%. Over the same period, the 10% Hispanic population quadrupled and caught up with whites.

Remember the old saying, "As California goes, so goes the nation"? We better hope it's no longer applicable. (posted 1/2/13, permalink)

2013 Rose Parade: Is it just me, or are all of the floats becoming cause-centric? I seem to remember when parade floats didn't have politically-correct, guilt-inducing messages, just giant dogs made of flower petals or huge bears in helicopter beanies with waving arms, with hair made of dyed long-grain rice.

This year, there was 'The Global Face of AIDS' float, which - I am not kidding - was awarded 'The Queen's Trophy'. Not that there's anything wrong with that. They didn't say what florial items were used in its construction but I'm guessing pansies. I kept hoping that The City of Hope 'Journey To Cure' float would sideswipe the AIDS float, spilling vats of pharmaceuticals on it, while the lab-coated people on the Hope float yelled, "Die! Die! Die!" But, alas, such drama was not to be. Nor was my other wish that the unfortunate Indiana high school marching band - the one that ended up stuck behind the AIDS awareness float - would don rubber gloves and surgical masks while performing.

Farmers Insurance presented 'The Love Float' and actually married a couple before an audience of millions. Oh well, at least it was a man and a woman.

'The Nurses Float' inexplicably spotlighted forest animals - owls, raccoons and birds - constructed from various floral materials and grains. I expected it to feature a giant catheter made from crushed white carnations.

The Lutherans had a float with a live Jesus on it - a bearded dude in a white tunic. Next to him was an Asian fellow in a white puffy coat - at first, I thought it was Psy. Oh man, our Lord and Savior is now Gangnam Style. The night before, I saw Psy on ABC's 'New Year's Rockin' Eve Without Dick Clark', performing with Hammer. I thought, "Take a good look at MC Hammer, Psy. This is your future two years from now. Start saving." And where did Psy get that white outfit - from Elton John's rummage sale?

The Morgantown, West Virginia marching band featured a comely lass wearing an Indian headdress. How did the California PC police let her through? I bet next year she'll be replaced by a craggy-faced, pot-belied Native wearing a worn flannel shirt, hitting up the crowd for smokes.

Disney's 'Cars Land' float was cool and featured tow truck Mater coming to the rescue when the float 'broke down'. The RFD-TV giant farm tractor float was awesome and was what the Rose Parade used to represent: big, fun, decorated platforms-on-wheels presented without a guilt message.

All the floats won trophies, except the last one - a flatbed truck with a giant mountain of manure from all those parade horses. It didn't get an award even though it had a nice sign: '2013 - Pile It On'. Thanks, Obama. (posted 1/2/13, permalink)

More 'Musings' can be found here.

Other Pages Of Interest

copyright 2013-21 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


The facts presented on this website are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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