|Monday September 27, 2004
Fall Driving: Autumn has definitely arrived - cool, foggy mornings followed by afternoon sunshine with moderate temperatures.
This is perfect weather for driving ancient machinery, so I've been taking afternoon rides in my '39 Plymouth.
If you have an old car, drive it now before the weather gets nasty.
Inside Car Showrooms: Edmunds offers a lengthy but informative article titled 'Confessions of a Car Salesman.'
No-Blog Jon: The Daily Show's Jon Stewart on why he doesn't have a blog: "I can't. It's too hip. Then I'd have to get a BlackBerry, and I'm wired in, and next thing you know, I'm at a Black-Eyed Peas concert with a crack problem. I just can't go down that road."
Pate Alert: The Health and Agriculture ministries' branches in Israel seized 80,000 cans of dog food that had been disguised as foie gras.
The Tehrayza Factor: Andrew Sullivan writes, "Women look at Kerry's marriage and do not relate. They see a man who has married mega-wealthy heiresses twice, and they then look at the Bush marriage and see something simple and calming and traditional. I'm not saying that Kerry's marriage is any less admirable than Bush's; or that this kind of criticism is in any way fair. It isn't. I'm just saying that many people, especially in the heartland, are uncomfortable with it."
Quote of the Day is from James Lileks: "... Kerry has returned to his roots. His recent speech was indistinguishable in tone and timbre from the sonorous recitation of American woe he related before the Senate in 1971. We are losing, the "insurgents" are growing, the Beaujolais is late, and Saigon - sorry, Baghdad - does not yet resemble Beacon Hill. We must wash our hands and bow our heads and slump our way back home."
New Nickname: John Podhoretz calls Kerry 'The Whining Windsurfer.' Others think Kerry is C-3PO from Star Wars. Appropriate C-3PO line: "We'll be destroyed for sure! This is madness! We're doomed." Or: "Help! I think I'm melting! This is all your fault!"
But Democrats can take heart from this report that Klingons overwhelmingly support Kerry.
Another Scoop: CBS News is now reporting that George W. Bush skipped a Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast in 1972.
Maybe Nothing Is Real: Check out this optical illusion.
Saturday September 25, 2004
Mess Transit: C-Tran, Clark County Washington's transit agency, wants another sales tax hike and has put forth a ballot measure for voters to approve. The measure would double the existing 0.3 percent transit sales tax. If it fails, C-Tran would cut the number of routes, reduce frequency of service and eliminate weekend buses.
The commuter bus routes to Portland (which would be cut if the measure fails) keep drivers off the clogged interstates, said Val Ogden, a former state legislator. "For every bus that's there, you can take 30 to 40 cars off the road," Ogden said. This statement makes no sense. If the routes are that popular, why would they be cut? Wouldn't the less-utilized routes, such as the ones I always see - with two or three lonely riders on a big herkin', diesel-fume-spewing bus, be the ones to get the axe? If not, the regional transit management should be fired for incompetence.
Predictably, at any public meetings about mass transit, riders step forward with bleeding-heart stories - assuring the press of an poignant sound bite. "I'm going to be without my independence and ride to work," said an attorney, who uses a wheelchair.
Oh, pulleeeeeze. I suspect that this lawyer makes very good money at his job. (If not, he should sue for discrimination against the disabled!) If he's good, he probably makes somewhere north of $100,000 per annum. So, if his bus route is cut, he could likely afford to purchase a wheelchair-friendly van. Or hire a limo.
The lawyer neglected to mention that, as a person with limited mobility, he is most likely eligible for special curb-to-curb service for people "who cannot access regular route service and who qualify for service pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)." The service (C-Van) charges $1.00 per passenger but more than half the people who use it pay nothing. C-Van costs more than $23.00 per passenger to operate and the difference is made up by taxpayers - like you. And me.
Mr. Attorney should know ... (more >>>)
Friday September 24, 2004
Car Sightings: The roads seemed to be full of Mini Coopers and Dodge Magnums this week. The Magnum really looks striking in metallic silver. Both models stand out in a sea of anonymous jellybean-mobiles because their looks are so unique.
I probably had eighty times as many Tauruses, Camrys, Buicks or Accords in my field of vision but never noticed them.
Customer Service: Last Friday, I lost one of the decorative center caps from the Jaguar's alloy wheels. It's a two-piece heat-staked plastic assembly. An injection molded acrylic center has a silver face of a jaguar against a black background. It is attached to a 'chrome' ring which is, in reality, a chrome-plated ABS molding with snap tabs to secure the assembly to the alloy wheel.
I'm convinced that the tire store broke the snap tabs when removing it, but 85,000 miles of heat and weather takes its toll on the ABS plastic tabs.
I Googled to find a replacement and sent e-mails to eight possible suppliers. Four never responded. Two replied with "we don't have it." One wrongly stated that Jaguars only came with gold-toned cat's face emblems.
Coventry West, Inc. of Atlanta Georgia e-mailed "we have it in stock" and invited me to call their toll-free number. I did so on Monday and they shipped my order the same day. It arrived Wednesday; the new cap looks great and fits perfectly. Guess who I'll call the next time I need a Jaguar part? Thanks to Pete Bond and the Coventry West team.
I love the web - it makes buying stuff - even relatively obscure items - a painless experience.
Where Is Terri? Florida's Supreme Court has ruled that Terri Schiavo's husband can remove her feeding tube.
Terri suffered brain damage 14 years ago and has been, basically, a vegetable ever since. There has been much shouting, finger-pointing, inflammatory comments and hand-wringing about this case.
It is a very sad situation and God only knows (literally) what the right course is. Or where her soul is. Has it already left earth and all that's left is mindless mortal remains which barely function? I don't have the answer.
The situation just gives me another reason to thank God for His blessings, grateful that I'm not the parent or husband in this nightmare. I hope that God will grant/has already granted Terri's soul eternal rest.
Kerry's Resume Gap: Thomas Sowell writes: "If someone applied to you for a job but didn't want to talk about what he has been doing in the last 20 years, wouldn't you be suspicious?"
Quip of the Day is from the delightfully vicious Ann Coulter, commenting on CBS' 'source', Bill Burkett: "According to USA Today, an interview with Burkett ended when he "suffered a violent seizure and collapsed in his chair" an exit strategy Dan Rather has been eyeing hungrily all week, I'm sure."
Thursday September 23, 2004
Rental Car Extras: I try to give credit where it's due but, unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the witty and funny comedian on Dennis Miller last week. He remarked that, whenever rental car companies ask if he would like Extra Insurance, he asks, "Why? Are your rental cars Extra Dangerous?"
It's A Mystery: Last week, my wife took her Lincoln in for an oil change. As usual, the "mechanics" tried to hustle her: "Look at the dirt on your air filter. It needs to be replaced." Baloney. The light coat of dust means it's doing its job. She told them that will be replaced at 90,000 miles when it's due.
Then: "Your automatic transmission fluid is getting dark." She said, "No problem. I'll get that changed at 90,000 miles - along with the air filter." (Sotto voce: "And not at this place, either!") Then they tried the line about her Continental needing the special high-priced oil "for older cars." (It has 85,000 miles on the engine and burns no oil.) She told them to put in regular-priced oil.
My wife knows her machinery. Her dad was a gearhead and worked ... (more >>>)
Masked Forecast: Ignore the political pundits and election polls. The real key to predicting the outcome of the presidential election is Halloween masks. The winner in every election since 1980 has been the candidate whose Halloween masks were most popular.
This year, Bush masks are outselling Kerry masks by a 57% to 43% margin - even though Kerry has a more 'cartoony' face.
Headline of the Day is from The Onion: "Plastic Surgeon Has Leathery Wife."
Wednesday September 22, 2004
Titanic's Deck Chairs Rearranged: Ford, Mercury, Lincoln to sport more distinctive grilles. (Check out the article's photo of the new Lincoln Aviator. The front end bears a suspicious resemblance to that of a 1978 AMC Concord D/L.)
Messengers: If you have cable and you've ever channel-surfed, you've surely come across Paul and Jan Crouch on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Wearing a big platinum wig with cascading-ringlets, Jan Crouch could pass as Dyann Cannon's mother. Or much-older sister. But she wears so much black eye-shadow, she often looks like a badger. Or the Hamburgler.
She cries a lot, especially when describing the good works she and Paul do with all the money people send them. With his silver hair, mustache and bifocals, Paul Crouch looks grandfatherly. But a decidedly odd grandfather - he paid a former employee $425K to keep quiet about an alleged homosexual tryst.
The Crouches are usually perched ... (more >>>)
More Religious News: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, faced with possible multimillion-dollar legal verdicts from sex abuse cases against its clergy, has filed for bankruptcy protection. The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon went Chapter 11 in July.
For my take on the implications of these bankruptcies, refer to my posting of July 8, 2004.
Good News in Iraq: Mark Steyn provides some.
How To Fix The Illegal Immigrant Problem: A strict new rule for renewing driver's licenses in New York State is prompting undocumented Irish immigrants to quit the United States for good. "The number of people deciding to move back to Ireland is way up on last year and the new license requirement is a significant factor in this," said Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens. Why don't California, Arizona and Texas try this?
Pick A Winner: Irish betting Web site, TradeSports.com, takes wagers on who will win the presidential election. Currently, Bush is the favorite by about 3 to 1.
Speaking of the Irish: Last night with dinner, we had a fresh sourdough boule from Trader Joe's. I covered my slices with Irish Butter - also from Trader Joe's. Yellower, sweeter and easier-to-spread than regular butter, it was tasty and filling. But two hours later, I got an insatiable urge to attack the English.
Irony Personified: As a 1970s White House correspondent, Dan Rather could hardly conceal his loathing for Richard Nixon. Now that 'Rathergate' has entered the lexicon, ol' Dan has become positively Nixonian with reluctant "modified limited hangout" admissions and denials reminiscent of "I am not a crook."
Live Long And Prosper: A Texas lightbulb has burned for 96 straight years. And a Chicago-area goldfish is almost 20 years old.
Tuesday September 21, 2004
Your Mileage May Vary: David Thomas tested the Toyota Prius and remarked: "I've already become addicted to the display that constantly tells you your gas mileage. When you coast, it shoots up to 100 mpg. Hopefully this won't influence the way I drive but I'm guessing it will." My Jaguar has an instant mileage function that will do the same. As will my wife's Lincoln Continental. But all - including the Prius - are limited to a 100 mpg maximum reading.
Not my old 1984 Lincoln Mark VII coupe - it used to regularly hit over 100 mpg on hills. The record: 156 mpg on a long, steep stretch of Interstate 5 south of the Oregon-California border.
Unfortunately, on the uphill side of the same slope, the Lincoln's instant mileage display would read between three and five mpg.
That's My Money You're Stealing: Three years ago, energy companies manipulated market prices in Washington state, causing rate jumps in utilities costs for virtually all consumers. Representing the public interest, the Washington Attorney General's Office filed suits against the offenders. So far, so good. Now, the suits have been settled with Williams Energy, El Paso Energy and Duke Energy for $38 million. (Enron, the biggest offender, is bankrupt.)
This money belongs to all citizens of Washington, who overpaid utility bills, but Attorney General Christine Gregoire handed over the consumer portion of the settlement to The Seattle Foundation to "provide financial relief to those who most need it."
Instead of returning the money to the victims, it will be used to "reduce the future energy bills of poor people" - the new privileged class, I suppose. Some of the money will be used to subsidize purchases of energy-efficient refrigerators and washers for low-income customers. (So now they'll have newer and better refrigerators than I do.)
Christine Gregoire is now running for Governor of Washington. Just remember, if you vote for her, you're supporting governmental thievery.
The Way We Were: Personally, I think this is a funny line. After all, weren't we were all young and foolish once? "It's great to return to New Haven. My car was followed all the way from the airport by a long line of police cars with slowly rotating lights. It was just like being an undergraduate again." - a joke removed from Bush's 2001 Yale commencement speech, according to trashographer, Kitty Kelley.
Arab Stereotype Is Actually True: This is not from The Onion but from Arab News (Saudi Arabia): Goat fanciers turned out in force to admire beautiful goats showing off on the catwalk at a weekend festival in Riyadh.
Abdul Aziz Al-Khalaf, one of the five judges for the ''Most Beautiful Goat'' competition, explained that the "winners are chosen on the basis of a combination of factors and overall appearance." (Insert your own 'It's not what you think - I was just helping my goat over the fence' joke here.)
Monday September 20, 2004
Damning With Not-So-Faint Praise: While at the shop waiting for new tires to be fitted, I perused the September issue of Car & Driver. Best quote: "Driving the Toyota Echo is like taking Metamucil, you go ... but you're sure glad when you're done."
Jaguar In Decline: Jaguar is pulling out of Formula One racing at the end of this season after just two top-three finishes since joining the circuit in 2000. A Jaguar spokesman said, "... it was our collective view that it is time for Jaguar cars to focus 100 percent on our core business." Yeah ... selling cars. Jaguar is reportedly losing $100 million a month, largely to American disinterest in the brand. Why? Well, the aging XK-8 has little pizazz. And the X-Type, based on a compact Ford sedan, has cheapened the marque, driving away buyers of the flagship XJ sedan.
The X itself is selling poorly - priced higher than other mini-luxury cars and not offering enough "perceived value" to car shoppers. The S-Type is even more expensive and has less back seat room than the little X-Type. And some Jaguar dealers are notorious for poor service.
It's a shame. Jaguar has a great heritage. I hope it recovers but even The Faithful are dismayed. A Jaguar enthusiast rolled up at the firm's Coventry plant last week in a black E-Type with the words "RIP - JAG" stuck to the hood.
A Picture Is Worth ... I've posted photos of last weekend's toy train open house.
Cheers and Congratulations to my daughter who did the 5k walk in the 'Race for the Cure' on Sunday. And yes, just like last year (scroll down to 9/15/04 posting), those Starbucks jerks still wanted a $1 "donation" for a small cup of plain coffee.
Outsourcing: I have received two e-mails with an almost identical idea - so I can't identify the originator to give him/her proper credit. But it's a great one: "Many terrorists come to America legally and hang around on expired visas (some for as long as 10-15 years). Now, consider how Blockbuster operates ... if you're two days late with a video rental, those people are all over you. I think we should put Blockbuster in charge of the INS."
Dumb Dan: If anyone still doesn't believe that the CBS documents are fake, take a look at The Washington Post's side-by-side comparison of an authentic Killian document and the one that Dan Rather fell for. (hat tip - Instapundit)
Saving Dan: Can Rather keep his job? Yes. Here's my Two Step Program:
1. Watch the movie 'Network.'
2. Be Howard Beale.
Quote of the Day is from Thomas Sowell: "To say that Dan Rather has often shown poor judgment would be an understatement comparable to saying that hurricanes are windy."
Saturday September 18, 2004
Time for Coffee: Last year, the supermarket chain, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc. (aka A&P) sold off its Eight O' Clock Coffee division to a San Francisco-based private investment firm in a push to cut debt and reduce operating costs.
Under competitive pressures from the likes of Wal-Mart, the company sold its New England and Wisconsin stores earlier this year. Kind of sad - another icon from my childhood is being whittled away.
I remember, as a five year-old, going to the A&P at Frankford and Cottman Avenues in Philadelphia with my mom and strolling down the coffee aisle, inhaling the sweet fumes wafting forth from the chrome-plated grinder.
I have always liked the smell of freshly-ground coffee - even though I don't particularly care for the taste of it. When I drink coffee (infrequently), I always add lots of milk and a little sugar.
Bulk coffee had been sold at A&P since ... (more >>>)
Friday September 17, 2004
The End of an Era: Jaguar has been making cars in Coventry since 1928. Ford Motor Co. is planning to close that plant at a cost of more 1,100 jobs, The London Times reports. It said Ford representatives were due to meet unions on Friday at the Browns Lane factory in Coventry, where the XJ sedan and XK sports car are made.
Ford, faces falling Jaguar sales and overcapacity at the plants where the iconic British luxury cars are made. It has said it wants to reduce Jaguar output by about 15,000 this year.
Hot Volvos: After finding an electrical problem with engine cooling fans that could lead to overheating, Volvo has voluntarily recall almost every car produced between 1999 and 2001. It's the largest recall in the company's history.
Headline of the Day: 'Thieves Rob Bus Full of Policemen.'
Demand Letter: Forty Congressional Republicans delivered a letter to CBS, calling for a retraction of the charges in what is now referred to as Rathergate.
One congressman has asked for an investigation by the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Internet saying CBS News used the memos "to unfairly damage (Bush's) reputation and influence the outcome of the 2004 presidential election. Given the shortness of time between now and the election which the apparent fraud is meant to influence, and the even shorter time before Congress is scheduled to adjourn, I strongly urge that the subcommittee move with all deliberate speed to uncover the facts."
Thomas Lifson points out that "consequences could be either criminal liability, regulatory trouble, or political liability. Forgery of a federal document and of a federal official's signature are both potential criminal matters. People could end up in jail."
Fantasy of the Day: Dan Rather and Martha Stewart as cellmates.
Vox Populi: In the nation's top market, New York, CBS News with Dan Rather finished not only behind NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight but also pulled less audience than a rerun of The Simpsons. D'oh!
Quote of the Day is from Ann Coulter: "(Dan) Rather is TV's real-life Ted Baxter without Baxter's quiet dignity."
Thursday September 16, 2004
Car Sightings: A metallic red 1953 Buick two-door sedan, with a gleaming, toothy, chrome grille and husky whitewalls, went trundling down Mill Plain Boulevard in Tuesday's sun. It had a fat chrome sweep-spear on the side, looking like a scimitar mural made with a trowel. Spectacular! Spotted a maroon Cadillac XLR roadster in Wednesday's rain. The retractable roof was up, of course. Low slung and wet, it still looked great.
A bulbous, dark green 2000 Lincoln Town Car with a hideous tan padded canvas roof was hogging the left lane at 10 mph below the posted limit, forcing all cars to go around it. Wearing handicapped license plates, naturally. I swear, in Washington state, you can't get handicapped plates unless you can prove you're a bad driver, as well.
More California Anti-Car Legislation: Jay Leno is rightfully fighting a state measure to end smog check exemption for older vehicles. Representative Sally Lieber sponsored legislation to end a California exemption that spares 30 year-old cars from smog checks. Leno considers the bill "stupid" and let Lieber's legislative director know it. Rumor is that Leno is bending the ear of his buddy, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who must make a decision whether to sign this idiotic measure by the end of this month.
Tiny Nissan: Nissan Motor Co. plans offer a microcar to its U.S. product line in 2007. The Detroit Free Press speculates that it may be existing Cube, March or Micra models, now sold in Japan. PBS' MotorWeek reported that it will be the Nissan Micra, which is also sold in Europe.
In 1995, during a trip to Great Britain (including a pilgrimage to the famous, must-see Beaulieu Motoring Museum), we rented a Nissan Micra.
It was a pleasant little car but was incredibly small. Inside were tight quarters. I felt that the car and I were one - like wearing a suit of armor. (And it was probably about as safe as one in any kind of crash - not very.)
The little white Micra didn't have a lot of power - with a briefcase-sized, one-liter engine, although the 5-speed manual provided surprisingly decent acceleration. Over a two-week period, the eleven-foot long Micra got 56 mpg. The one we drove was made in Nissan's Sunderland plant in the U.K.
PS: While proofing this, my 'spell check' program wanted to change "Nissan" to "Insane"!!! (permalink)
Pick Another War: The latest Hammacher Schlemmer catalog arrived this week. That's the retail mail order gadget company with white-coated scientists on staff who test and determine which products are the absolute best in their respective fields.
I've noticed that, in the Electronic Nose Hair Trimmer arena, a new brand seems to win every year, displacing the prior year's champion. I realize that this is free-enterprise America and manufacturers have the right to develop whatever products they want. But for the good of the country, shouldn't they patriotically forego the Nose Hair Trimmer Technology War - at least temporarily - to work on stuff that will help us win the War on Terror?
Admiral Oldsmobile Reporting For Duty: Senator Edward M. Kennedy is launching a seven-week election drive for John Kerry that will pair fund raising and travel with a barrage of speeches condemning President Bush's policies.
While Teddy will resonate with old, liberal hard-liners (who will vote for Kerry regardless), does anyone really think this old dinosaur will sway young, moderate Undecideds, who are far more important to Kerry's success?
Kerry should have asked for Barack Obama instead.
All Politics Are Local: Sometimes politicians get blamed for things they're not directly controlling. A friend, who lives in a small town in Pennsylvania, reports that Kerry's popularity is dropping.
He adds: "Mrs. Heinz Kerry is a liability around here, since a local catsup bottler who once did contract work for Heinz & Co., lost its contract when Heinz moved its operation to Canada about two years ago. The tomato farmers aren't happy, either. Tempest in a Catsup Bottle?"
Headline of the Day is from The Onion: 'Kerry Vows To Raise Wife's Taxes.'
Wednesday September 15, 2004
Worthy Cause: The Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation 'Race for the Cure' arranges a series of 5K runs/fitness walks held in 100 locations across the U.S. Nearly 1.4 million people are expected to participate in more than 100 races in 2004. These races raise significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. They also celebrate survivorship of this devastating illness and honor those who have lost their battle with the disease. Corporate sponsors include: American Airlines, BMW of North America, Inc., Ford, Hallmark, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, KitchenAid, Lee Jeans, New Balance Athletic Shoes, Pier 1 Imports and many others.
I urge you to help this good cause by participating directly or by sponsoring a participant. The Portland, Oregon Race is this Sunday, September 19th.
Last year, my wife and daughter participated in the Portland event. There were many corporate booths happily giving away free stuff to all participants, except for those Starbucks jerks who wanted a $1 "donation" for a small cup of plain coffee. This is one more reason why I hate Starbucks.
My buddy from the wilds of North-Central Pennsylvania agrees: "I intensely dislike Starbucks. When I hunted for turkey in Colorado several years ago, I needed to use Starbucks' bathroom ... (more >>>)
The Changing World of Commerce: On Tuesday, I related the story of a Lionel toy train locomotive, purchased in San Francisco in 1903. Lionel was, in those days, a start-up firm located in Lower Manhattan.
It is difficult to imagine cross-country commerce in the very early 20th Century. Ordering was probably done strictly by mail; telephones were not in wide use and, in any case, there was no coast-to-coast long distance service. Bank wire transfers and credit cards were unheard-of. Mailed bank drafts and letters-of-credit were the primary means of money transfer. There would have been only two shipping options - rail shipment (expensive) or a slow cargo ship around Cape Horn (very slow). There was no Panama Canal yet. Offering, selling and delivering that little locomotive was a monumental effort by 2004 norms.
Yesterday, I ordered a model train - a set of self-powered Pennsylvania Railroad commuter coaches.
First, I e-mailed the manufacturer in North Carolina with some product questions; I received answers within 24 hours. Then I e-mailed several retail hobby stores, requesting prices and delivery information on the item. A firm in Massachusetts responded with the best price, so I called their toll-free number and gave them my order. They checked availability on their computer database and gave me a shipping date.
They asked only for my ZIP code; since I had purchased from them before, my address was already in their customer database. I paid with a Visa card; they entered the info into a terminal and got credit approval from Visa Merchant Services. I'm not in a hurry for the item but, if I was, it could easily be shipped by air and arrive within a day.
A 1903 purchaser would have been astounded by the details of my transaction. I wonder what things will be like 101 years from now?
No Pajamas Here: Jonathan Klein, a former VP of CBS News, dismissed the bloggers who raised questions about the authenticity of CBS' "memos" which question George Bush's military service: "You couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of check and balances (at CBS) and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing." This has led to the term 'pajama blogger.'
I want to assure all readers that I have never blogged in pajamas. Until a few weeks ago, I used to wear a tuxedo whilst at my computer but found that my cufflinks would often catch on my wrist rest. A couple of times, my long coattails became entangled while adjusting the height of my chair. So I now wear something more sensible - a Brooks Brothers suit with a freshly-pressed, button-cuff shirt and British regimental stripe tie. For Saturday's more casual edition, I generally don ecru linen slacks, deck shoes and blue silk shirt with a contrasting ascot. And a yachting cap.
So ... as Dan Rather would say, "Trust me. I dress well."
Unpopular as a ... In last week's Washington Post/ABC News poll, John F. Kerry was viewed favorably by only 36% of registered voters - down 18 points over the past six months.
Just how low Kerry's standing has fallen cannot be appreciated fully without comparing his standing with that of other household names in Gallup polls over the years. He's less popular than Michael Dukakis, Herbert Hoover, Jesse Jackson or Vladimir Putin.
Kerry finds himself in a dead heat with Martha Stewart and Joseph McCarthy and behind Herbert Hoover - although he narrowly beat O.J. Simpson.
Tuesday September 14, 2004
Terms I'll Have To Explain To My Grandson: Three on the tree. Four on the floor. The stick shift - an automotive mainstay since the days of the horseless carriage - is slowly going the way of the tailfin and carburetor. By 2012, just 6 percent of all vehicles sold in the North American market will have manual transmissions, according to a forecast by Germany's ZF Industries, the world's largest independent transmission maker.
In 2002, 10 percent of vehicles sold in the United States and Canada were equipped with manual gearboxes. In 1960, almost 30% of all American cars had stick shifts.
For the record, I bought my first automatic transmission-equipped car in 1980. And got rid of my last manual tranny vehicle in 1995.
Did You Buy A Hummer, But Still Feel Like A Girly-Man? Navistar can fix what ails ya. At 258 inches long, the Navistar CXT is about 4.5 feet longer than the new Hummer H2 pickup and about 2 inches longer than the Ford F-350 Crew Cab. And it's nine feet tall, standing more than two feet above the Hummer or the F-350.
This Should Help The Economy: Talk show host Oprah Winfrey celebrated the premiere of her 19th season by surprising each of her 276 audience members with a new $28,000 Pontiac G6.
Toot-Toot: A car-carrier loaded with vintage Porsches was struck by a Union Pacific freight train Sunday after becoming stranded (high-centered) on railroad tracks near Ventura, California. The train center-punched the trailer carrying the cars, split the trailer in half and the cars went flying. The vintage Porsches were "close to totaled, if not totaled."
Toot-Toot II: I had a most pleasant time over the weekend at a model train open house, sponsored by the local Toy Train Operating Society. The layout visited was spectacular - about 30 ft. by 40 ft. with a mix of O-gauge (Lionel-sized) and standard gauge (40% larger than Lionel) with prewar Lionel 'OO' gauge (about 10% larger than HO) trains running on the upper 'mountain' level. The walls of the large, train room were lined floor-to-ceiling with old and rare trains.
There were quite a few standard gauge 'State Sets' as well as reproductions - even the gold-plated Millennium State Set. There were model trains I had never seen in person before and some I had never even heard of! I would guess that the value of merchandise in the room was over $1 million. It made my own train layout efforts appear lame.
There were probably 10-12 different loops on the layout. All were running extraordinary trains of one kind or another. The structures and vehicles dotting the layout were mostly prewar collectibles.
On the layout was a 1903 loco - the only known 101 year-old Lionel train that still runs. Even the track is the original. It was obtained from the daughter of the original owner along with the 1903 bill of sale from the Emporium in San Francisco!
Running through the layout on about 70-80 lineal feet of 'track' was a 1930s-era Leland-Detroit monorail. It was lithographed tin (cream and maroon) and was very art deco-ish. There was even a vintage operating carnival with Ferris wheel and carousel. In addition to a Lionel O-gauge Milwaukee Road Hiawatha passenger train set on display, there was a huge standard gauge Hiawatha set - awesome!
There were also some train stuff for sale. I bought a freight car - an O-gauge, Pennsylvania Railroad 'TrucTrain' hauler. I remember when TrucTrains first came out in 1954. My dad talked-up the trailer piggybacking service, hopeful that this new technology would 'save' his employer, the Pennsy. It didn't but the basic concept remains in use on today's railroads.
Belly Up: US Airways Group Inc., the nation's seventh largest airline, has filed for bankruptcy protection (for the second time in two years) and hinted at possible closure and liquidation.
Remember, that just below the eggshell veneer of US Air is its true identity - Allegheny Airlines (aka - Agony Airlines), one of the most customer-unfriendly carriers ever conceived, in my opinion. I hated when I had to fly Allegheny, usually to Pittsburgh or some town in Indiana. Changing the name never fooled anyone. I won't cry over its demise.
Saunas May Be Detrimental To Your Health: A 6.5 foot diameter boiler that exploded at a Chinese sauna sailed over a six-story building and landed on a 63 year-old man crossing the road.
Monday September 13, 2004
Amaze Your Friends! Scare Your Enemies! Attach missile balloons to your vehicle!
Tire Tale: Last week, I went tire shopping for the Jaguar. Four years ago, I bought a set of Pirellis for $472. I called the same tire folks and they now wanted $640! Ouch! Time to Dial For Dollars. After three phone calls, I found a national chain that quoted $499. Sold!
This got me wondering if the price bump was a Euro-to-Dollar thing. I didn't know if Pirellis are made in the U.S. or only in Italy. Ten years ago, I would have shrugged the question off as a mystery. Today ... Google to the rescue! I found that Pirelli has a new 426,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Rome ... Georgia.
It is claimed to be the most automated tire facility in the world, using Pirelli’s revolutionary MIRS (Modular Integrated Robotized System) technology. This patented process uses robots, working at a high rate of speed, to complete the entire production cycle from compounding to finished product - without interruption, without intermediates handling and storage phases and without wasted energy. A tire can be produced every three minutes.
MIRS builds each tire around an appropriately shaped aluminum drum. Raw rubber is heated and extruded on to the drum, followed by successive layers of steel wires and strips as the tire takes shape. After curing, the drum ingeniously collapses, leaving a finished tire - ready for use. The system is flexible; change the shape of the drum and you change the tire that emerges. Properly programmed, MIRS can build car, motorcycle, truck and tractor tires.
My first engineering job was in a filthy, carbon black-laced, inefficient Uniroyal factory almost 40 years ago. Rubber manufacturing has come a long way since then.
It's a Little-Known Fact ... Google is great. When you type in a phrase - Pirelli tire factory - it immediately spits out just what you're looking for. But it also provides pages and pages of links to semi-related obscure trivia.
It finally dawned on me that Google is a virtual Cliff Claven, sitting in some cyberspace Cheers! pub, being careful not to spill beer on his postman's uniform, while rattling off little known 'facts' to anyone within earshot.
Best Cliff Claven quote: "Due to the shape of the North American elk's esophagus, even if it could speak, it could not pronounce the word lasagna." Runner-up: "It's a little-known fact that the smartest animal is the pig. Scientists say if pigs had thumbs and a language, they could be trained to do simple manual labor. They'd give you 20 to 30 years of loyal service and, at their retirement dinner, you could eat them!"
Driving in Style: Legendary auto industry scribe Jerry Flint writes: "If we are on the road to economic perdition, at least we are driving there in style. It's an election year, and the outs are saying that there are two Americas. One America is driving those new vehicles. The other America must be driving rust buckets and junkers. When I was younger I saw lots of old rusty junkers on the highway. But not anymore. Practically everything looks new. Now here's a prediction: Next year will be an even better one, even if unit volume is the same, in the sense that Detroit - at least two of three companies there - will make good profit."
Are you sure it wasn't a Cobra? Or a Viper? A woman test-driving a used 1999 Honda Accord in upstate New York, discovered a live three foot-long python under the hood.
Boom! If railroads are in decline, you wouldn't know it by the help wanted ads. Major U.S. freight haulers plan to hire thousands of engineers and conductors in the coming year to handle unprecedented volumes of coal and consumer goods. Union Pacific alone plans to hire 5,000 by year end.
In Agreement: Andrew Sullivan is an intelligent guy and a very skilled writer but I disagree with much of what he writes these days. Nevertheless, I concur with this assessment: "Bin Laden is surely dead: I've believed this for a long time now, but the latest video from al Qaeda's 'Number Two,' Ayman al-Zawahri, gives more credence to the belief. We haven't had a real, live, authentically-dated video that authenticates bin Laden's existence for well over a year. ... I'm working under the assumption that what remains of the mass murderer is under a rock somewhere on the Pakistani border."
Citizen Journalists - I like that phrase. "The citizen journalists who produce blogs on the Internet - and their engaged readers - engaged in the wholesale exposure of what appears to be a presidential-year dirty trick against George W. Bush." By CBS. Fronted by Dan Rather.
Whatever the eventual outcome, it looks like, as we engineers say, "the manure is impacting the rotating blades of the wind-making machine."
That Dog Won't Hunt. Here's a quote from Dan Rather regarding challenges to the authenticity of memos questioning President Bush's National Guard service: "Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not, I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill." Ol' Dan obviously doesn't cotton to the term 'citizen journalists.'
I'm sure that all of the bloggers who have investigated this story and/or helped keep it in the public eye, will be interested to learn that the high-priced Mr. Rather considers them to have "professional" status. Perhaps he plans to send them paychecks. Or consulting fees. Or invite them for drinks at The Plaza.
Most bloggers are unpaid amateur sleuths who have done a better job of fact-gathering than mainstream media giant CBS.
In the blogosphere, someone has a relative who golfs with old, retired Fred, who used to sell typewriters to the military. Or lives next door to Gus, who worked in the engineering department of IBM's Selectric Division. Dan Rather may have Ted Koppel's home phone number in his Rolodex but doesn't pal around with the likes of Fred or Gus.
The four memos Rather exhibited on 60 Minutes II were supposedly written in 1972 and 1973 by George W. Bush's commander in the Texas Air National Guard. First, a poster (screen name - Buckhead) on the Free Republic website questioned whether 1970s-era typewriters were capable of producing a "proportionally spaced font."
Soon after, the blogs Power Line and Little Green Footballs started picking apart the typography, suggesting that the curly apostrophes and a superscript "th" indicated that the memos originated in a modern word processing program like Microsoft Word. Instapundit spread the word and provided lots of links to other sites with additional information. National Review Online and American Spectator joined the fray with additional information and opinion.
The man named in one disputed memo as exerting pressure to "sugar coat" President Bush's military record left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half before the 'memo' was supposedly written, his own service record shows.
What does all this mean?
1. The mainstream media has become lazy.
2. Most have become so dependent on press releases, affiliate feeds and wire services that they've substituted clipping service mentality for investigative journalism.
3. Bloggers have become a reporting powerhouse, using their own networks of friends and contacts and with a dedication not often seen in "professional" media today.
4. Dan Rather and his pompous ilk are sooooooo over.
James Lileks expressed it well: "Blogs haven't toppled old media. The foundations of Old Media were rotten already. The new media came along at the right time. Put it this way: you've see films of old buildings detonated by precision demolitionists. First you see the puffs of smoke - then the building just hangs there for a second, even though every column that held it up has been severed. We've been living in that second for years, waiting for the next frame. Well, here it is. Roll tape. Down she goes."
Crap Economics: Vice President Dick Cheney says economic indicators miss the income made by hundreds of thousands who selling stuff on eBay. "That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," Cheney told an audience. "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay."
True - the crap we used to sell at garage sales for a buck, we can now sell on eBay for $58.77. This sounds great in principle. But the fact is, Dick, we're using the extra income to help pay for our health care premiums which have increased at an even greater rate than the eBay/garage sale dollar ratio.
Should I order cruise missile strikes? Or a hamburger? John Kerry says, "You know when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling, what do you want?"
Will Kerry-Hulk Smash Puny Bush? Check terms, conditions and nuances here.
Sink Kerry, Raise the Dow? Stephen Moore of National Review writes: "It's hard to remember the last time Wall Street was as repelled by a presidential candidate as it is by John Kerry. Many stock analysts are convinced that the mere threat of a Kerry presidency has caused equity values to slump in the past two months. "No one wants to make major investments in the wake of a presidential candidate whose economic agenda would substantially raise taxes on investment and thus substantially raise the cost of capital in America," says investment specialist Robert Grusky of New Mountain Capital."
I dunno - the market gurus said the same things about Bill Clinton ... and look what happened after he was elected. Boom!
Conspiracy Theory: This is probably too Machiavellian to be true but it makes for a fun read. Or a movie (Wag The Dog II?): "Last week all of Hillary's players were put in place. She immediately leaked Slick's advice to Kerry delivered by phone from his hospital so the Clinton-as-guru/Kerry-as-neophyte story dominated the news. She then conned Kerry into inserting a raft of Clintonistas deep into his campaign. Guys like Paul Begala, James Carville, and Joe Lockhart will just make a lot of noise, however. The real player is Hillary's former chief of staff, Howard Wolfson. What the media is clueless about is that Hillary is an agent provocateur. It was so easy for her to hijack Kerry's campaign right under the candidate's nose, because Kerry has always lived on Election Easy Street, a Democrat in Massachusetts who has never faced real competition and thus hasn't a clue on how to run a real campaign against an incumbent who has money and moxie and brains."
"It won't be Howard Wolfson's job to explain to Kerry how to run his campaign right. It's his job to submarine it. That's his assignment from Hillary. All that will go wrong, just as all that has already gone wrong, will be blamed on Mary Beth Cahill's "incompetence." As the campaign continues to implode, the media will never catch on to Hillary's role in the implosion. She will leave no fingerprints, and amidst the wreckage on November 3, Hillary will rise to the role of savior of emotionally devastated Democrats, promising to lead them to the resurrection of their party in 2008. The Democrats will be rid of the Kerry Albatross in less than two months. The Albatross of Hillary will weigh on their shoulders for years to come." (Hat tip - Donald Luskin)
Locust Commemoratives: Step right up and git yer biblically-correct plague domes right here. (Hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Grass Roots Funding: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has raised $6.7 million from 53,000 people. Much of that comes from small contributors giving $100 or less, the group says.
God bless these fine vets. You can make donations via a secure server on their website.
Saturday September 11, 2004
Never Forget: 9/11/01 - it was a terrible day. After three solid days of being glued to the television in one of those "I Cannot Look; I Cannot Look Away" numbing, spirals of horror, my wife and I had to get out of the house and connect with real people. So we drove to central Washington. I didn't have a blog at the time, but recorded this journal entry:
""Just got back from a Lincoln car club meet in Yakima, Washington. Drove through the heartland - farming communities of Washington/Oregon. Lots of American flags flying from homes, car antennas, pickup beds, etc. Passed a prayer service on the athletic field of the Goldendale (WA) high school. (No separation of church and state there!) Ran into a Studebaker driving club along the way - lots of cool old Studies including a bullet-nosed, red 1950 Commander convertible with patriotic red/white/blue bunting. Everyone at the meet was talking about the events of 9/11 - somberly, but with a positive resolve - "we'll get through this" was the operative feeling. People felt good about Bush's response and demeanor. He is projecting confidence and hope."
It's three years later and there have been no further attacks on U.S. soil. Divine Providence? Perhaps - but God helps those who help themselves. Despite some well-publicized flaws, the Department of Homeland Security seems to be effective. Meanwhile, Saddam is in jail and Osama may be just a pile of bones somewhere along the Khyber Pass. Terror plots within our borders are being discovered and stopped. What some see as a President "projecting confidence and hope" is now perceived by others as "Texas swagger." We have reclaimed the luxury of becoming a partisan nation again.
But Islamic terrorism has not disappeared. There is a global jihad being waged against all infidels - Americans, Europeans, Russians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and moderate Muslims - in order to re-establish the medieval Islamic global empire. In Russia, radical Muslims slaughtered over 400 people - half of them innocent schoolchildren - and injured hundreds of others. Babies were stabbed; schoolgirls were raped. Al-Qaeda-connected 'black-widow' suicide bombers blew two Russian airliners out of the sky.
In Moscow, 129 hostages died after terrorists seized a theater. Islamifascists killed or maimed hundreds of rail commuters in Spain. Islamist bombers murdered hundreds of innocents (and injured hundreds more) in a nightclub district in Bali. There have been many more horrors perpetrated in the name of Islam, from the Philippines to Nigeria. Including frequent attacks on Israel. And then there are those unfortunate hostages, brutally murdered on video by black-clad, black-hearted Islamic thugs. America must continue to protect and defend itself from this violent jihad.
Be sure to vote this year. Search your heart. Cast your ballot for the guy who will, in your estimation, never let another 9/11 happen again. Tax rates, health care, abortion, school vouchers, gay marriage and the economy will only affect you ... if you're alive! Life itself - safety from terrorists - is the only real issue in 2004.
Vote as if your whole life depends on it. Because it does.
Friday September 10, 2004
Are You Still Offering That $99 Interior/Exterior Detailing Special? A Dutch driver was covered in 370 gallons of manure when a tank burst on a lorry carrying fertilizer. Police said the man escaped injury but his car had to be towed away.
Nice Astra: Auto Express reports that Vauxhall has revealed the very stylish three-door version of its Astra will be available with an optional fighter jet-style windscreen. The glass, which extends seamlessly from the hood up into the roof as far as the B-pillar at the rear of the front door, will be unveiled at this month's Paris Motor Show.
A Vauxhall spokesman said: "The new windshield gives the front occupants an unlimited field of vision just like in an aeroplane's cockpit. This makes driving through mountains or a brightly lit city a really special experience." (Hat tip: Autoblog)
On our last trip to Ireland in 1997, we rented a red Astra. It was an Opel - a virtual Deutschland twin of the British Vauxhall model. (The Irish don't favor English cars but they like things German. You'll see few Jaguars on the Emerald Isle but Mercedes are relatively plentiful among the well-to-do.) The rental Astra was a pleasant little car - with reasonable pep. Then someone rear ended us and its trunk wouldn't stay shut. This became very inconvenient as we couldn't secure our luggage.
I began referring to the Opel as a Pain-in-the-Astra. (permalink)
Great Dessert Name: According to the current print issue of Forbes, the New York Restaurant 'David Burke and Donatella' offers a spectacular desserts, including Cheesecake Lollipops.
Sounds like the name of a 1970s Saturday morning kids' show. Or an '80s girl band.
Right-Wing Architects To Blame? This week, Newsweek ran a photo spread and story on Clinton's new presidential library in Little Rock. Is it just me or does it really look like a gigantic single-wide hoisted high on cinder blocks?
Hurricane Alley: Thomas Sowell offers a different viewpoint.
Russia and the Terrorists: James Lileks nails it.
Iraq Death Toll: A soldier's view.
The Plot Thickens: Powerline provides credible evidence that documents used by CBS' 60 Minutes to bash Bush's military service in the National Guard are forgeries. The National Review agrees. CBS looks like an idiot. Did Dan Rather forge them? "What's the font spacing, Kenneth?" "That word processor won't hunt."
Meanwhile, Scrappleface.com taunts Danny Boy: "CBS reporter Dan Rather today released the text of a recently discovered e-mail from then-Lt. George W. Bush's Air National Guard commanding officer which casts more doubt upon the military service of the man who would become the 43rd President of the United States. Mr. Rather said the authenticity of the 32-year-old e-mail has been confirmed by several Nigerian officials who specialize in electronic funds transfer by e-mail."
Balloon Malfunctions Throughout History: Lloyd Grove of the New York Daily News writes, "It didn't seem all that significant, at the Democratic Convention in July, when the balloons didn't rain down as planned on presidential nominee John Kerry. But it probably didn't seem all that important back in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter suffered a similar balloon-drop malfunction before facing off against Ronald Reagan."
Be Well: John Kerry wants to create a Department of Wellness. Apparently this idea comes from Teresa Heinz Kerry, who told the Boston Herald in January 2003 that she would, "be an activist first lady, lobbying for a Department of Wellness that would stress preventive health."
Who might head such a Department? While Ahnuld, Oprah and Richard Simmons come to mind, the idea of using someone with medical credentials has merit. Like Dr. Nick Riviera from The Simpsons ("Hi everybody! Are you feeling well?!") Or, if prior public sector service is paramount, I'd nominate Mayor McCheese!
From The Warped Mind of Al Gore: "The real distinction of this Presidency is that, at its core, he (Bush) is a very weak man ... I think his weakness is a moral weakness." On George W. Bush's faith: "It's a particular kind of religiosity. It's the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, in religions around the world ..."
Over?? Page Six reports that Kevin Phillips, author of "American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush," and former White House staffer was overheard at Litchfield's West Street Grill saying with a sense of resignation about John Kerry's chances of beating the president, "It's a lost cause. It's all over."
Editorial Name-Calling: A new nickname from The New York Post - 'Kerry The Incoherent.'
Humorous Headline from Scrappleface.com: "President George Bush today said he has a message for undecided voters: 'On November 2, vote for John Kerry. If you're undecided, he's your man."
You Couldn't Make Up a Headline Like This: 'Man robs bank with rusty pitchfork.
Quote of the Day is from Bill Clinton’s heart surgeon: "He is sedated. But he is arousable." Indeed. (Insert your own punchline here.)
Thursday September 9, 2004
Mini Success: The Mini is still popular, exceeding sales expectations. And more models are planned. These days, the key to success seems to be to resurrect the spirit of an old British brand but make it reliable. (Everyone knows that the original Mazda Miata was really a reincarnated, reliable 1966 Lotus Elan.)
Neither the Elan, nor the original Austin Mini were big sellers in the U.S. What's nice is that there are soooo many other old British models that never sold well in the U.S. available to revive. Like Armstrong Siddley, Humber Hawk, Hillman Minx, Sunbeam Rapier and Wolseley.
There are, of course, problems. For instance, 'Humber Hawk' sounds a lot like 'Hudson Hawk', one of the worst movies ever made.
"The Most Clueless Car Company in the World": AutoExtremist rants about Mercedes Benz.
Car Sighting: Wazzat? I don't often get stumped but I saw a car in Battle Ground today that I couldn't identify. Wasted about a half-hour with reference books and online trying to. (Then said to myself, "Get a life!")
Four-wheeled and very small - about the size of a King Midget, it had a bullet nose with a single headlight in the center. It had small front cycle fenders and a back that looked like a K.M. or Cushman. Seating for one - it had ugly side curtains and a canvas convertible top. A one-off custom? Beats me!
Also saw another one-off - a GMC dualie pickup with a Cadillac Escalade front end grafted on. Painted the brightest red I've ever seen. Vicious.
I Gotta See This Movie: "Team America: World Police" is set to come out Oct. 15 and 'South Park' co-creator Matt Stone says, "We're not sure how it's going to end."
The story is about an international police force which learns about a dictator who is brokering weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. Team America then recruits a rising star on Broadway to go undercover. They're blowing up the Louvre Museum, for which they had to have a dozen mini-Mona Lisa paintings. They're flooding the Panama Canal, beheading the Sphinx, taking out the Eiffel Tower and basing their heroic team beneath Mount Rushmore.
The 270 puppet characters include the Sultan of Brunei, King of Malaysia, Fidel Castro, Idi Amin, Moammar Ghadafi, Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong Il.
Michael Moore is leading a protest outside Mount Rushmore, and in the wings are dolls for Ethan Hawke (no relation to either Humber Hawk or Hudson Hawk), Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Matt Damon, Liv Tyler, Sam Jackson, Barbra Streisand and George Clooney.
Other puppets include Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and Danny Glover.
Who Wants To Be a Billionaire? Go here.
New Look: Newsweek files a report that's almost as good as The Onion: "Responding to calls from Democratic Party insiders to shake up his listless campaign for president, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) today changed his tie. According to those in Kerry's inner circle, the senator believes that his new neckwear could close the widening gap in the polls between him and President George W. Bush." Read the whole thing.
The Incredible Phoniness of Being John: Kerry's gun posing didn't fool gun owners. "Kerry cosponsored a bill last year - S1431 - which would have banned the gun he received from the United Mine Workers of America this week." It's not about guns. It's about being a two-faced phony. More from NRO's The Corner: "Notice in the pictures of Kerry shooting trap at Edinburg, Ohio that he has no eye or ear protection. No real trap shooter would do that. It is against ATA (Amateur Trapshooting Association) rules and the rules of every gun club I know. Thanks to the gun club where these pictures were taken for exposing Kerry as a phony by letting him shoot without protection."
Not Found In The New York Times: "John F. Kerry attended a meeting of his Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) group in Kansas City in November 1971, where they considered a proposal to murder top governmental leaders." Many of the delegates to the meeting (including Kerry) slept in the basement of a private house. "A one-pound chunk of marijuana was made available for those delegates wishing to indulge, and many smoked themselves to sleep."
Quote of the Day is from Mort Kondracke: "Is this a wartime election in which America's whole future hangs in the balance, or an ordinary contest over taxes, jobs and health insurance? President Bush probably wins the first. Democrat John Kerry wants the second. Bush and other key speakers at the Republican convention last week cast the election in historic, even epic, terms. Kerry's first response was about domestic policy and personal pique."
Headline of the Day is from The Onion: 'Hundreds Of Republicans Injured In Rush To Discredit Kerry.' Excerpt: "George Washington Memorial Hospital is struggling to deal with an influx of Republicans with concussions, broken bones, and internal injuries suffered during the recent stampede to discredit Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, emergency-room personnel reported."
Wednesday September 8, 2004
My Cups Runneth Over: The new 2005 Honda Odyssey oversized minivan has 17 cupholders. And, yes, 'oversized minivan' goes in the same oxymoron file as 'jumbo shrimp.'
Enjoy Yourself: Pininfarina, the Italian design house, has announced that it will make a production version of its Enjoy roadster. It will display the production model at next month's Paris Motor Show. Pininfarina plans to make only 75 models of the Enjoy in 2005 to celebrate the company's 75th anniversary. The roadster features an interior by Louis Vuitton and a 192-hp Lotus engine.
Grand Theft Auto: Someone stole the keys, title and original bill of sale for a one-of-a-kind Camaro at the Kruse Auction in Indiana. Former GM executive Pete Estes owned the only Z-28 convertible ever made. The car had been expected to bring $1 million to $2 million but bids fell short. Dean Kruse has promised a substantial reward for recovery of the stolen items.
Auto Analysis: The Economist has two well-written articles - one offering an excellent overview of the world's automakers and one about the American auto market. Both articles explain why the auto industry is feeling under siege these days.
Go Home: National Review's John Derbyshire offers a solution to the illegal immigrant problem: "Since many illegals work in domestic service, home improvement, landscaping, and the like, here is another avenue we might explore. If an illegal immigrant is injured while working on private property, instead of absorbing the costs of his treatment (which they cannot reclaim from state Workmen's Comp schemes since the worker is not covered), hospitals and municipalities should sue the property owner to recover those costs. A few well-publicized prosecutions like this - even unsuccessful ones, which could still cost the defendant a bundle of money in legal fees - would have homeowners clamoring for guarantees from home-service contractors that their workforce does not include illegal entrants." Good idea!
Insight of the Day: Jay Leno points out that even Kerry's recreational pastime involves flip-flopping - windsurfing depends on which way the wind blows!
Quote of the Day is from Arlene Peck: "Muslims are experts in killing babies ... But when they are in a real combat situation and have to fight, then they disappear or run with their hands in the air, waving white flags before the first shot is fired."
Tuesday September 7, 2004
Jeepers: Mark Phelan at the Detroit Free Press likes the all-new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It's available with a Hemi. I was surprised at this statistic: "Rear-drive models account for 20 percent to 25 percent of Grand Cherokee sales." Wow! I'm not a Jeep Guy, but I would have guessed 5-10 percent.
Sales Doldrums: FoMoCo's having a bad sales month. Lincoln's down by 26.8% compared to August 2003; Jaguar had a whopping 38.3% drop. The all-new XJ flagship sedan is off by 46.8 percent. I guess people don't like the new design. Or maybe it's the recent devastating report on AutoWeek's long-term test XJ - reliability and quality problems combined with bad dealer experiences. Sales of the Lincoln Aviator (Explorer clone) are down 41.5%. The Mercury Sable sedan dropped over 54%. At Land Rover, the overpriced, underwhelming Freelander is off by 58.2%!
Straight Talk At Church: Over the weekend, we visited the Church of Lowe's. It carries that appellation because we once stopped there on the way home from church, having passed several additional houses of worship along the way, and none of them had as many vehicles in their parking lots as Lowe's. Do-it-yourself - the biggest religion in America!
We purchased some long fence stakes and other items and needed a big trunk to haul them. So we took the '39 business coupe. The Plymouth is a great conversation starter and, sure enough - as we were loading up - an eighty-something guy stopped by to admire the car and tell us about his old cars. Regarding engine choices, he remarked, "I'm a straight-six man, myself." This got me to wondering - do gay car enthusiasts have a special, alternative name they use for inline engines?
The Church of Ron: Very early one Sunday morning last month, I arose in an insomniac daze and flipped through the cable channels. I found that, while there were several church services being broadcast, they were far outnumbered by infomercials hosted by Ron Popeil.
God is everywhere. So is Ron.
Pedophile Protection? Openly lesbian California Senator Sheila Keuhl (D) authored and is promoting Senate Bill 1313. The bill has gotten past both houses of the Democrat-controlled California State Legislature and is on its way to Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk for signature.
It drastically reduces the requirements for mandatory reporting of the known or suspected sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children. Critics are calling this bill the "Pedophile Protection Act." Under existing criminal law, all persons who regularly come into contact with children are required to report any instance where there is reason to believe that a child has been molested or abused. Typical mandatory reporters include pastors, priests, church volunteers, teachers, school volunteers, and medical personnel.
Incredibly, SB1313 would completely eliminate mandatory reporting for anyone who can be characterized as a "volunteer." This bill also eliminates mandatory reporting in cases where children are having sex with each other.
Here's the strange thing - there has always been the misconception that all pedophiles are gay and vise-versa. So ... one would think that a gay person would be the last one to sponsor such legislation. "But noooooo," as the late John Belushi used to say.
You Talkin' To Me? Last week, John Kerry proclaimed: "I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have ... I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty." (Hat tip: Econopundit)
Statistics indicate that only 8-12% of age eligible males went to Vietnam in the mid-to-late 1960s. And deferments of various kinds were very common. Dick Cheney had student deferments during his college years, as did I. As did John Kerry. And John Edwards - who was never in the military. Incidentally, Kerry unsuccessfully sought an additional deferment to attend graduate school in Paris, France.
As an mechanical engineer working at companies with defense contracts, I was given skill-related deferments. (Some of the products I worked on may have been on Kerry's swift boat.) By 1970, I had two children and was so far down on the eligibility list that deferments became irrelevant.
I have good friends who served honorably in Vietnam - one died horribly there in 1967, leaving behind a young wife and a newborn. I am grateful for their service and sacrifices on behalf of our Nation.
While I have never served in the military, I never refused to serve. Dick Cheney never "refused to serve" either.
When Kerry slams Cheney over deferments, he is also dissing people like myself. And, statistically, there are a lot of us voters who had deferments. I suspect that some of them resent John Kerry's intemperate remarks as much as I do. Cheney (and I) question Kerry's ability to "defend this nation" as president ... not based on his military service but his actions since then. Including his performance (or lack thereof) in the U.S. Senate.
In my lifetime, I have met many veterans and have never before encountered one who 'showcases' his military service the way John Kerry does. Most veterans are modest and reticent. Nevertheless, Kerry has the right to brag about his active duty in Vietnam. But Kerry does not have the right to question Dick Cheney's patriotism. Nor mine. To say that Dick Cheney (or Joe Sherlock ... or anyone else granted legitimate deferments) "refused to serve" is a blatant lie.
Another Reason to Hate The NYT: A couple of weeks ago, I excoriated New York Times' columnist, Maureen Dowd.
On Friday, NYT columnist and theater reviewer, Frank Rich writes: "Only in an election year ruled by fiction could a sissy who used Daddy's connections to escape Vietnam turn an actual war hero into a girlie-man."
This is one of the most mean-spirited and biased things I've ever read. It takes a really small man to harbor so much hate. Has the Times no shame?
Imus In The Toilet: Anyone remember when 'Imus In The Morning' was a great radio show? Now, it's just a lot of locker room towel-slapping with his minions. And phone-in pundits, like Frank Rich (see above). And country music gossip. And his wife's latest health fad. And visits from various has-beens.
Speaking of which ... last week, Dick Cavett put in an appearance, declaring, "Zell Miller looks like a Klansman." Senator Miller has a well-documented record of fighting the KKK, unlike Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, who is a Past Grand Beagle or whatever they call themselves.
Cavett has apparently evolved into one of those disgusting effetes who believes that anyone with a drawl 'lynches Negroes' for sport. What a jerk.
Anyone remember when Cavett used to be clever and witty?
Quote of the Day is from Dick Cheney - on the stump in Pendleton, Oregon: "Senator Kerry did not support the Healthy Forests Act when it came time to vote. Now, Senator Kerry says he likes a lot of the parts of the law. That makes one thing clear: it's not only wildfires that shift with the wind. He says he's in touch with the West. He must mean western Massachusetts."
Labor Day Weekend September 4-6, 2004
Art Fare: In the book, "Philadelphia Trolleys - Images of Rail", is a photo of fare booth.
As someone who acquired woodworking skills later in life, I now have an appreciation of intricate, detailed wood creations. (Acrylic fabrication was great training for woodworking; many of the same tools and techniques are used for both. Some of my original employees were cabinet makers. They gave me a lot of tips for bringing out the best in wood.)
These humble, token-vending, change-making structures were, in their original form, little works of art. The photo, dating from the 1920s or '30s, illustrates fare booth artistry at its peak.
By the time that I was a teenager and regular user of the El and subways, the booth's fine details were obscured by countless coats of thick paint, heavy soot, careless repairs and modifications. But, as presented by their original craftsmen, these lowly cubicles are full of interesting embellishments and have a certain boxy, utilitarian elegance.
Good Taste: It's only early-September but I have already received the 2004 Swiss Colony catalog of Christmas eatables. The Swiss Colony is a mail-order purveyor of sweet, delicious things like Genuine Dobish Tortes. These are the ones which are always described as "feeds up to 48" - only true if you cut the torte on a meat slicer with the setting on 'Shave.'
Maybe it works for feeding starving Ethiopian children: "Don't worry, little Baatuu; there will be some cake left for you - you're only 37th in line." Around here, the torte produces only about nine normal-sized servings.
Last year, I was offered ... (more >>>)
Friday September 3, 2004
Dull-Hundred: Paul and Anita Lienert, of The Detroit News, have preview-tested the 2005 Ford Five Hundred. This car does not seem to be the home run Ford needs to compete with the likes of the Chrysler 300.
The Lienerts note that an "unfortunate oversight is the lack of stability control, which provides even better all-weather safety and security than traction control. Curiously, Ford made side air bags for front-seat occupants and side curtain air bags for front and rear occupants an extra-cost option on all Five Hundreds."
Not good. A loaded, top-of-the line model will cost around $30,000. Ford is positioning this car against the likes of the Chrysler 300, Buick LeSabre, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. But the Five Hundred may be a slug amongst its peers - the only engine offered is a 203 horsepower V-6. The much lighter Honda Accord V-6 has 240 hp.
I think the conservative styling of the Five Hundred also pits it against the Toyota Avalon which will be completely redesigned next year - sleeker-looking and more powerful than the present Avalon, according to the rumor mill.
It's early in the game but this Ford seems like a dud.
Idiot of the Week: A store clerk at Fashion Bug, a Pennsylvania women's apparel store, accepted a bogus $200 (!) bill which carried a picture of George W. Bush. And she gave change, too.
Channeling Thurston: The Swift Boat Vets are running a new ad which features clips of John Kerry speaking in 1971. At first I couldn't place his odd accent - clearly an affectation. Then it hit me. Kerry is emulating Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island, brilliantly played by the late Jim Baccus (aka - Mr. Magoo). Best Thurston Howell III quote: "No one can pull the wool over my eyes. Cashmere, maybe, but wool, never."
RNC Finale: Tommy Franks was good; Pataki even better: "We're going to win one for the Gipper and they are going to lose one with the Flipper!"
The Bush video, narrated by Fred Thompson was outstanding. Then the President appeared. He made his case ... "you know where I stand." And, spelled out plans for his next term: "Governments should protect people's lives, not control them!" He was great.
The balloon drop was flawless. 'Nuff said.
Thursday September 2, 2004
Jag Woes: Justauto.com's Dave Leggett writes: "The big question for Jaguar is this: how much of its losses are down to an excessive cost base (basically too many assembly plants), weak dollar against sterling (certainly a factor) or just plain inferior product lines/wrong pricing versus strong competition especially in the U.S. market?"
Unusual Funeral: A Maine farmer's casket was transported on a hay wagon pulled by his favorite 1940 Allis-Chalmers RC tractor.
Seventeen other tractors - including a 1928 McCormick-Deering and a 1952 Farmhall Super Seed - followed in a procession from the funeral home to the cemetery.
Boom! Companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 are expected to boost capital spending 5.5% this year, reversing two years of cutbacks, says Standard & Poor's. They boosted spending 5.7% in the second quarter after a first-quarter increase of 5.5% - the first back-to-back quarterly increases since the end of 2001.
This is a big deal; when the largest companies increase capital investment, you know that the recovery has legs.
Republican National Convention: My thoughts, so far? What?! You mean you haven't watched/heard/read enough elsewhere already? Well, if you're a glutton for vapid political opinion, read on. Yes, I've been watching - mostly on tedious-commentary-free C-Span.
Monday: John McCain was good but subdued. At times, his style reminded me of Bobby Kennedy when RFK was really tired - those 1968 late-at-night, just-got-off-the-plane speeches. Rudy Giuliani hit many verbal home runs - a spectacular speaker! The line about Edwards' two Americas, one for Kerry to vote one way, and the other for him to vote the other was brilliant as was the story about Bush visiting the construction workers of lower Manhattan - Giuliani couldn't use the worker's exact profanity-laced quote because "this is, after all, a Republican convention." A nice jab at the DNC and their foul-mouthed celebrity pals (e.g. no-talent Whoopie G. and her ilk).
Michael Moore was at the RNC as a 'reporter' for USA Today; so, when you buy a McPaper, you're contributing to Moore's income. When he was unanimously and loudly booed, Moore-the-Jerk flashed the 'loser' sign at McCain and left in a Huff. I couldn't tell if it was a two-door or four-door Huff. Later, he said he's not going back to the convention hall - he was made to feel unwelcome. Boo-(expletive-deleted)-hoo!
Tuesday: I must start by confessing that Tuesday was a distracting day. I began by driving my '39 Plymouth about 60 miles to pick up two custom fabricated metal pieces for a special model railroading project. The business coupe's trunk is so big, it's like having a pickup truck. The large pieces were easily stowed and I headed home. Upon arriving, I found that we had no water - a big leak which our sprinkler guys, who were on-site, were able to correct - a split PVC tee with no apparent cause of failure. We were without water for seven hours. Meanwhile, I primed and spray-painted the large, bare-metal pieces while it was still hot and sunny outdoors.
By evening, I was sweaty, tired and achy. So I had several glasses of wine with dinner. I admit this because my exhaustion and the vino may have colored Tuesday night's opinions; nevertheless, here they are:
Elizabeth Dole is soooo over! Get off the stage! While channel-surfing, I saw Don King being interviewed. Does he use a Van de Graff generator to comb his hair?
It is sad that the 'not quite ready for prime time' speeches get such limited television exposure. Secretary of Education Rod Paige - an energetic 71 year-old - gave an excellent address. He was followed by Michael Steele, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Michael's presentation was even better; this is a guy to watch. Smart, black, Catholic ... and only 46 years old. I predict Big Political Things for him in the future.
Then came Ahnuld. Magnificent. An exceptional talk, which was superbly delivered - a rousing "bahn burnah" of a speech! Arnold evoked optimism and enthusiasm for America. Next, the Bush daughters appeared and were awful. (The best 'daughter speech' ever was given by Robin Dole in 1996.) Tuesday's grand finale was Laura Bush who made a solid, on-message, decently-crafted presentation. A very nice lady - with a smile that lights up a room - who has often admitted that public speaking is not her forte. The 'Governator', Arnold Schwarzenegger, owned the night! And, as icing on the cake, Tommy Franks endorsed George W. Bush on Hannity & Colmes!
Wednesday: The Reagan video was maudlin - too many hearse and casket shots, not enough on this great man's accomplishments. Mitt Romney had 'presence.' And offered a well-crafted speech. Best line (to John Edwards): "If you don't like it, sue me."
Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, a Democrat who supports the reelection of Bush and Cheney, gave an powerful and impassioned lecture and ripped Kerry to shreds in a way not politically possible for a Republican. His damning critique of the Democratic position was full of memorable quotes but, for me, the best was: "... no pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry."
Dick Cheney has never been a fire-and-brimstone speaker. But his calm, reasoned speech made the case for the administration and against Kerry. Best line: "Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. And that makes the whole thing mutual - America sees two John Kerrys."
My biggest regret: I missed the Barney-the-Dog video which I heard was pretty good. Nevertheless, it was a great night! I look forward to President Bush's address this evening.
News Bias: Linda Chavez writes: "I've been going to political conventions for 32 years, and I've never seen a bigger disconnect between what is actually going on at the convention and the way it is being reported." Michelle Malkin has similar feelings. And one name keeps popping up - The New York Times. Hmmmm.
Lots of Zip: A Boulder, Colorado man knows every ZIP code in North America. The Guinness Book of World Records has recognized David Rosedeitcher for most ZIP codes consecutively identified at random.
Quote of the Day is from David Letterman: "Michael Moore was at Madison Square Garden, which explains the super-tight security around the buffet."
Headline of the Day is from The Onion: "Historians Discover Children's Menu On Back Of U.S. Constitution."
Wednesday September 1, 2004
Cars, Guns and Politics: Last Saturday, John Kerry visited Tacoma. Of course, he didn't bother to stop by the LeMay Open House automobile event (see 8/30 posting), even though there were over 10,000 voting-age car enthusiasts at this meet. I didn't expect him to. Nor would I have expected George Bush to appear. Car people don't count much with candidates. We've never bothered to unite as a political force. Even though politicians and government edicts have profound effects on automobiles.
Most politicos are not car enthusiasts. I can think of only two with serious motorhead credentials. The late Senator Barry Goldwater used to pilot his '63 Corvette Sting Ray rapidly around the streets of D.C. He also owned a '56 Continental Mark II.
Current Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, is a bona fide car nut. He has been spotted at the Pebble Beach Concours and at a Lincoln & Continental Owners Club National Meet. Not to get votes; just to gawk at the cars - like any other car guy. Hastert has nine old vehicles, including a pickup truck, two fire engines, a '41 Lincoln Continental coupe and, interestingly, a '56 Continental Mark II.
I'm not a gun guy but, whether or not you like the National Rifle Association, you can't help but admire its effectiveness. Woe betide the politician who incurs the NRA's wrath. What a powerful hobbyist lobby! Imagine if car people had united under a single national club and elected a Hollywood actor and car enthusiast as our president - a man who would have given a stirring speech ending with "... they can have their ban on leaded gas - as soon as they pry the pump nozzle from my cold, dead hands!" How different things might have been.
Are car people simply 'good citizens' who bow to the perceived inevitable? Or are we a bunch of uninvolved, apolitical wusses who should be ashamed of ourselves for not standing up for our own interests? I must confess that my own answer varies with my mood of the moment. And the issue of the moment.
Cars and Health Care: Writing in the Sacramento Bee, Daniel Weintraub compares health care costs to new car prices. "The first new car I ever bought was a 1981 Toyota Tercel that cost me less than $6,000. My most recent vehicle purchase set me back more than $30,000. Does this mean there is a crisis in the cost of cars? Of course not. We have more people today than we did then, and more of us drive. We drive more comfortable, safer, more reliable cars." About soaring health care costs, he writes, "I'm not sure why we feel so bad about spending more to improve and extend our lives, while we take increased transportation costs in stride."
For me, Daniel's math doesn't add up. In 1961, my dad bought a brand-new VW Beetle for $1,600. In those days, an office visit to our primary care physician was $3. House calls were $5. At those prices, Doc Delaney could still drive a late model Buick. Most doctors drove Buicks in those days, usually Roadmasters. The Buick Roadmaster was as luxurious as a Cadillac (and cost almost as much) but didn't carry the snooty Cadillac image that might offend patients. Doctor's parking lots at hospitals were filled with near-luxury cars like Buicks and Chryslers. The few Cadillacs belonged to brain or heart surgeons.
Today, an entry-level Volkswagen Golf GL costs around $16,000 - an increase of 10-fold. By that measure, my primary care physician should be charging $30. But he charges $125 for an office visit. He doesn't make house calls. He drives an older Honda Accord. Doctor's parking lots are now full of fairly ordinary vehicles - Camrys, Ford Explorers and the like.
Doctors tell me that they are caught in a squeeze between ever-increasing, fast-rising malpractice insurance premiums and fee caps and/or discounts demanded by HMOs, PPOs and Medicare. They can no longer afford Roadmasters. I know two doctors who have thrown in the towel and simply closed their practices. One took a salaried job as an HMO executive; the other took early retirement.
Cars have gotten safer over the years. Medicine has gotten better over the years. But a bare-bones VW Golf priced at $65,000 would be as indefensible as current health care costs. My health insurance premiums have more than doubled in the past five years while the price of new cars has changed little. The health care system is in crisis; the car business is not.
I offer no magic solution; I'm simply opining that the car/health care analogy just doesn't work.
Tired of Sittin' Tall, Ridin' Rough and Guzzlin' Gas: Based on a new survey of 80,000 households by CNW Marketing, 37.2 percent of SUV owners have traded their rides for a car, minivan or crossover vehicle this year.
Boom! Yesterday, I could hardly get through our street - it was loaded with contractors' trucks. I believe everyone in the neighborhood has underwritten some major home improvement project this summer. Including us. Spending that tax cut money, I suppose.
Who says the economy is stagnant?
Headline of the Day is from scrappleface.com: 'Internet Turns 35, Moves Out of Parent's Basement.'