Monday October 31, 2005
Another Reason Not To Go To Church: Producers of a new documentary, 'Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price', will show it at about 1,000 churches, synagogues and religious sites nationwide on Nov. 13 in a bid to force changes in Wal-Mart's employment and other practices.
The movie is part of a broader campaign by a disparate group of critics who now include ministers asserting Wal-Mart's tactics are a moral as well as economic issue. The Wal-Mart film features interviews with company employees, small-business owners, teachers and others who sharply criticize it with charges of low wages, skimpy health benefits and a poor environmental record.
"Those are moral questions," movie-producer Robert Greenwald said. "They're questions of who we are as people, who we are as a country."
The 'new' church: Less God-worship; more Socialist crappola.
Toilet Virgin: When traveling, Mariah Carey's hotel demands include installing a new toilet seat in her room before her arrival. (How about three years before her arrival? Is that OK?)
Also, she and her dog both bathe "in expensive French mineral water."
He's Available: Bush should nominate Lewis Libby for the open Supreme Court position. "Judge Scooter."
I like the sound of it. Somehow the name reminds me of the lyrics from Jerry Reed's 'When You're Hot, You're Hot':
"... the judge was an ol' fishin' buddy o' mine.
I said, "Hey, Judge - ol' buddy, ol' pal, I'll pay you that hundred I owe ya if you'll get me outta this spot"
The judge gave my friends a little fine to pay ... then he looked at me an' said, "Ninety days, Jerry.
When you're hot ... you're hot!""
Too Many Transporter Trips? George Takei, who played Sulu on Star Trek, has come out as gay. Maybe that's why crew members always wanted "shields up."
Happy Halloween! Cool pumpkin carvings can be found here.
Joke Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "The doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, "Mrs. Cohen, your check came back." Mrs. Cohen answered "So did my rash!""
Friday October 28, 2005
A Perfect 10: Paul and Anita Lienert drove the new 2006 Honda Civic and were most impressed. Each gave it a 5 out of 5 rating. Excerpts: "The new Civic pretty much walks away from the competition while raising the standard for everyone else. ... The build quality, needless to say, is exceptional, which is a nod not just to the Japanese designers and engineers, but to the American suppliers and the assembly workers at Honda's factory in East Liberty, Ohio. ... We're not talking about just a great economy car, the 2006 Civic is an outstanding product by almost any measure."
I hate to say this before I've seen the car in person but, from the published photos, Honda seems to have produced one verrry cool little machine.
What The Hell Are You Doing In There?! Ford plans to monitor bathroom usage by employees. In a memo to workers at Ford's Michigan Truck plant, management said too many of the factory's 3,500 hourly workers "are spending more than the 48 minutes allotted per shift to use the bathroom."
Jeeeeez, that's almost an hour per day. In my manufacturing plant, if any of my employees had spent that much time in the bathroom, I would have fired them. Or had them drug-tested. And checked for discarded needles in the bathrooms' waste baskets.
After giving this matter some additional thought, I believe that this may explain why every electronic function involving the driver's door (mirrors, seat control, windows, etc.) failed within 10 miles after picking up our last brand-new Lincoln. The door guy at Ford's Wixom plant was probably in the crapper when he should have been properly installing wiring in our door. We haven't bought a Ford product since.
At those automotive subcontractor sweatshop factories in Asia, you can bet that no workers are wearing shirts with company or UAW logos. However ... you'll probably find the company logo on the mandatory catheters and butt plugs issued to all production line workers.
Tonya = Liza: Tonya Harding, who lives about 10 miles up the road, is - for sooooo many reasons - the Liza Minnelli of the Pacific Northwest.
Article excerpt: "Harding's boxing career has been a little rocky as well - she withdrew from a bout earlier this year after her opponent turned out to be a transvestite." Are you chuckling yet? (I am.) Relapsed Catholic proclaims Tonya as the "O.J. for working-class white girls."
Sign The End Times Are Near: Taiwanese airline EVA has repainted one of its jets with giant Hello Kittys. The plane's interior features Hello Kitty-related items as well, ranging from boarding passes, baggage tags, dining utensils and lavatory papers to flight attendant uniforms.
Meanwhile, the Hankyu Hotel is offering Hello Kitty-themed weddings. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
If You've Ever Loved MAD Magazine ... (And haven't we all at at least one point in our lives?) ... go here.
Lame Joke Of The Day: What's red and smells like blue paint? Red paint.
Thursday October 27, 2005
Bad Idea #1346: Ford is turning to employees for ideas to help guide a major turnaround of the company's North American operations. Salaried employees in Ford's Americas division received an e-mail Friday from division president Mark Fields and his management team, encouraging them to share suggestions with senior management.
This is stupid. Don't ask your employees; ask your customers. Better yet, ask the people who visited a Ford, Lincoln or Mercury showroom recently and bought Something Else instead. Or ex-customers who traded their FoMoCo product for Something Else.
Meanwhile, U.S. antitrust regulators have approved Ford's plan to sell Hertz, its rental car subsidiary, for $15 billion.
Fine Dining: Sometimes, everything just comes together - and you get the exact opposite of fast food. Last Saturday, I cooked filets on the outdoor grill in the fading autumn light. We savored them along with a fine bottle of Saint Laurent 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, which I had bought at the winery last weekend.
My daughter brought us a large beefsteak tomato which was delicious. And some wonderful Pugliese artisan bread from Grace Baking. We had Marie Calendar's fresh Boston cream pie for dessert. What a spectacular feast.
Interesting Statistics ... courtesy of George Will: "Between 1945 and 1982 the economy was in recession 22.4 percent of the time. In the 276 months since the recession ended in 1982, it has been in recession 14 months - just 5.1 percent of the time."
It Takes A Canadian ... to give Bill Clinton a proper bashing. Michael Coren writes that Bill Clinton received $150,000 for each speech to audiences of admirers in various Canadian cities, "where he told the same old stories and blamed the same old people." More: "Those who attended the events paid between $370 and $1,000 for the privilege of hearing Clinton try to charm them. Problem is, he probably did. He was, after all, one of the most charming and most appalling men ever to lead the U.S.
Clinton was a disaster as president, who enabled a culture of sexual and political pornography to permeate The White House, partly because he was unable to stay faithful to his wife and lied to his family and his people.
Those who are indifferent to his personal immorality ought to remember that Clinton also failed miserably as a liberal. As governor of Arkansas, for example, he allowed the execution of people who were mentally handicapped. As president, he became involved in senseless foreign wars and abandoned plans for health reforms." Read the whole article; it's goooood.
Nuttin' For Nobody: CAIR (described as either a Muslim rights group or a pack of terrorist supporters, depending on whom you read) wanted schools to shut down a day off in observance of Eid Al-Fitr, a Muslim holy day. The Hillsborough County School Board (Florida) has responded by scrapping all religious holidays.
This reminds me of a story told by a friend who attended college in the northeastern U.S. in the early 1960s. A professor assigned an exam on a Jewish holiday. Several students told him that they would be unable to take it, for religious reasons. The prof, an avowed atheist, suspected that some of the students weren't Jewish but had simply not studied. He scheduled the make-up exam for December 25th. When students complained that this was in the middle of Christmas break, the prof replied, "So what? You don't celebrate that holiday."
It's been my observation that public schools seem to declare holidays at the drop of a hat. Maybe the right idea is to eliminate all holidays and simply focus on teaching and learning.
Fright Masks Of The Famous ... can be found here. Oh, wait - these are their real faces. Perhaps you'll be inspired to design a Halloween costume around one of them. I like the Hillary Clinton face - very scary.
Quote Of The Day is from AutoWeek on the Lincoln LT: "The incongruity of a pickup with lots of chrome trim is rather like shaking the rough, calloused hand of a guy wearing a tuxedo."
Wednesday October 26, 2005
UAW = Unskilled Angry Workers: The Detroit Free Press reports that union workers are incensed over bankrupt Delphi's proposed wage/benefit cuts. "I'd rather walk off the job knowing I'm standing up for what I believe in," said a 31 year-old - a five-year Delphi employee. If Delphi drops his wages to $10 an hour, "it's either this or McDonald's."
Get a clue, pal - the era of businesses paying $30 per hour to unskilled, production-line workers is over. The market says you're worth $7-15 per hour. Don't like that? Either learn a skilled trade, start a business, go to tech school or prepare for a life in the poor lane.
By the way, I've worked in an auto plant. The average skill set of a McDonald's worker is higher than many assembly line jobs. So ... you may want to reconsider that McDonald's crack. 'Cause you may not be eligible for hire there.
Don't be fooled by reports of UAW "concessions" to General Motors. Read Jerry Flint first, then decide. Or Robert Farago.
P-Word: Unlike Ford and GM, DaimlerChrysler actually made a profit in the third quarter - because of desirable products, including the Chrysler 300 and Mercedes M-Class sedans.
Erich Merkle, a senior auto analyst at consulting company IRN, said GM has buzz-worthy products like the Pontiac Solstice roadster, but they're not being produced in high volumes. Chrysler Group is making cars like the Dodge Charger that are attractive and high-volume. "What they're doing right is coming out with good products that the market wants," Merkle said. "GM and Ford are selling on price. They're not selling on emotion."
Rest In Peas: Elmer 'Len' Dresslar, Jr., the voice of the Jolly Green Giant has died.
No Wonder: Folks in Washington and Oregon will soon lose Wonder Bread (the whitest of white breads - made from some kind of alien albino dough) made by the troubled, bankrupt Interstate Bakeries.
Strike A Pose: Finally, someone gives the Material Girl a good ripping: "'Madonna' is what happens when a person, who has accrued massive riches and vast celebrity for a life of moral subversion, finally begins to break under the weight of her own guilt and yet refuses to acknowledge any wrong on her part, pretending as if her moral crusade wasn't preceded by a life of moral bankruptcy and squalor."
"Her crazy religious outbursts and self-incriminating moral denunciations are evidence of either a tragic end-of-the-road insanity or a deep dark spiritual poverty. In the sharpest terms, she is either a blundersome idiot or a fool floundering in a milieu of moral and spiritual contradiction." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Shakin' & Quakin': Artist Elizabeth Hickock has created a gigantic Jello sculpture of the city of San Francisco. Waaay-cool, lit-from-under photo here. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Quote Of The Day is from Jerry Flint on the strange and confusing job titles at Ford: "Jim Padilla is president and chief operating officer of all Ford, the COO. But they just named Anne Stevens COO of NAO. So what is Padilla COO of, Thailand and Venezuela? And Fields is CEO of NAO and is that higher than Jim's COO? Aren't all these COOs and CEOs a No-No? Don't know."
Tuesday October 25, 2005
British Gulag? "Motorists who dare to stray into VIP lanes reserved for athletes and officials at the 2012 London Olympics face penalties of up to £5,000 under special powers sanctioned by the government. As many as 55,000 members of the 'Olympic family', including ministers, media and corporate sponsors, will be able to sweep past other traffic in scenes reminiscent of Moscow’s politburo-only Zil lanes." £5,000 = almost $9,000, folks - just for being in the wrong lane.
Car Sighting: I spotted a new black Chevrolet HHR on Monday. It's the first one I've seen. It looked smaller and less distinctive than in photos. I pointed it out to my wife, who asked, "What's HHR stand for?" I replied, "Heritage High Roof."
She looked at me and said, "GM spends billions on promotion and that's the best they could come up with?"
Extreme Testing: The Detroit News published an interesting article about testing prototypes of new cars. Excerpt: "With all this technology, it's rare that a major part gets installed in a car or truck with a hidden, serious flaw. Still, mistakes happen.
When a redesigned 2005 Toyota Avalon sedan was tested a year before its introduction, a new, flat windshield wiper design was found to have a major flaw. Engineers at Toyota's cold-weather center in Timmins, Canada, discovered that snow collected on the back of the aerodynamic blade until it was so heavy that the wiper stopped moving.
"We were proud of that design. It was really clean and smooth, but we had to send it back," Gulash said. The Avalon delivered to dealerships early this year came with a revised wiper blade bent at a steeper angle to shed snow."
The Longest Car ... in the world is here. The longest apple peel is here. And ... here's the longest traffic jam.
More Taxpayer Dollars At Waste: The city of Vancouver (WA) paid $3,600 to Australian "traffic taming wizard" David Engwicht, who stood on a street corner dressed in a magician's costume (a hand-painted silk cape and rectangular two-tone sunglasses with a purple throne) and caused traffic to slow as drivers gawked at him.
He called the exercise a "mental speed bump". Engwicht admits that none of his traffic ideas - tried elsewhere - have worked.
Gift Idea: Don't forget - Christmas will soon be here. Treat your friends and loved ones to a Mr. Suicide bathtub plug.
Mission Statement: James Lileks writes about his new column, The Daily Quirk, "The People-Themed Quirk will not concern celebs. I don't care whether Kirsten Dunst used her prominent canine teeth to pop open beer cans like a church key and threw the empties at Jay Leno's head. This will be about ordinary strangers encountered as I bounce around the Twin Cities."
Disappearing Icon: German photography firm Agfa Photo will likely face bankruptcy liquidation at the end of the year, a victim of digital technology and missed opportunity. The firm said it will end operations by the end of the year, after using up its warehoused materials.
Along with Leica and Rollei, Agfa was one of the legendary names in German photography. Founded in 1867, the company was at the forefront in developing color film in the 1920s. In 1959, it reached a photography milestone by introducing the first fully automatic camera onto the market.
Quote Of The Day is from Apple's Steve Jobs: "You know how you see a show car, and it's really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go ... what happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory!"
Monday October 24, 2005
Guess He Thought It Was A Hood Ornament: A 93-year-old Florida driver fatally struck a pedestrian, then continued driving his gold 2002 Chevrolet Malibu through a toll booth with the man's body on his windshield.
Good thing it wasn't raining - the wipers wouldn't work very well. (I identified the make of car involved because, for once, it wasn't a Buick.)
The World's Most Confusing 'No Parking' Sign ... is in Madison, Wisconsin. You figure it out.
Meatball Alert: IKEA is coming to Portland. A 280,000 sq. ft. store will open at Cascade Station near the airport in Spring 2007. IKEA has the best meatballs, you know. Do not dispute this fact; I'm an ME - Meatball Expert.
But I Thought They Were Our Intellectual Superiors: "Book production in Arab countries was only 1.1 per cent of world production, although Arabs constitute 5 per cent of the world's population. In 1996, Arab countries produced 1,945 literary and artistic books, which represents 0.8 per cent of international production. With print runs of books ranging for the average novel between 1,000 and 3,000 copies, a book that sells 5,000 copies is considered a bestseller." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
I Sure Hope So: In a speech at the Reagan Library, President Bush said, "Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is doomed to fail."
Don't Leave Home Without It: American Express is suing the CEO of a communications company for payment of $241,000 worth of credit card charges at a topless club.
Quote Of The Day is from AutoWeek on the Honda Element: "Honda's rolling dorm room has all the versatility you'd expect inside an ugly box on wheels."
Friday October 21, 2005
Car Sightings: I passed a 1969 Mercury Marquis convertible on Interstate 5 Thursday.
This big white whale was making good time but I'm sure it wasn't fun to drive with the rainy and overcast weather.
It was sailing down the road at 75 mph or so, pushed along by that big 429 cubic-inch V-8 - manufactured when gas cost less than 30¢/gallon.
Speaking of I-5, whenever I see a car all by itself in the left lane on any Interstate in Washington or Oregon, there's a 50% chance that it has British Columbia plates. Do we have billboards at the border, inviting Canadians to 'Try Our Low Prices & Left Lanes'?
Much Smaller Than A Mini: Forget those little runabouts at the Tokyo Auto Show. Rice University scientists have developed the world’s first single-molecule car.
It a small coupe that is devoid of any plush seating or conventional steering system. With a wheelbase of less than 5 nanometers, parking it is a piece of cake. (hat tip - George Pradel)
Sinking Thinking: AutoExtremist calls the GM-UAW health care deal "a momentary layover on the Oblivion Express."
Excerpt: "Sifting through the media reports on the GM-UAW health care deal, I noticed a few local journalists veered toward congratulating Rick Wagoner and Ron Gettelfinger for a job "well done" - as if waking up and smelling the coffee deserves some sort of medal. Well, the Autoextremist Prize Patrol isn't going to be stopping at Solidarity House or "The Tubes" anytime soon, because as significant as this tentative deal (it has yet to be ratified by the UAW's rank and file) on health care is, it is a mere blip on the radar screen of what really needs to be done - and it has only put a dent into the staggering problems facing GM and the rest of the domestic auto industry."
I agree. This "deal" is like tossing a few deck chairs off the Titanic to "save weight". (Oooohhh, if it's lighter, it might stay afloat and we'll be saved.) My official buzzphrase for this kind of thinking is 'Sinking Logic'.
And GM's musings about putting GMAC up for sale is the equivalent of the Titanic's captain ordering another bilge pump and requesting that it be sent FedEx. "We're in a bit of a hurry, old chap."
Speaking Of Bailing Water ... Ford Motor Co., hurt by weaker SUV demand, lower prices and higher warranty expenses, swung to a third-quarter net loss of $284 million. A year ago, the company earned $266 million.
Ford's struggling North American operations reported a wider pre-tax loss of $1.2 billion, compared to a loss of $481 million a year ago.
Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa explains: "Like GM, Ford overproduced in 2004, and like GM, it has had to resort to fire-sale tactics to clear excess inventory in 2005. Currently unable to find a way to effectively differentiate its offerings from its main domestic rival, Ford has let itself be victimized by GM's tactics ... like GM, Ford's already poor fundamentals look likely to worsen further."
Super-Plexi: When I worked at Rohm & Haas Co. - then the maker of Plexiglas - and people complained about the product's shortcomings, the unofficial sarcastic comeback was always, "Waddya expect - transparent stainless steel?"
Hmmmmm - looks like we're getting closer to such a product. Engineers are testing a new kind of transparent armor - stronger and lighter than traditional materials - that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is testing aluminum oxynitride as a replacement for the traditional multi-layered glass transparencies now used in existing ground and air armored vehicles. It's a ceramic compound with a high compressive strength and durability.
What's In A Name: Last week, I posited that they had run out of titles for books. They've run out of names for restaurants, too. Saw an ad for a dining establishment in Quincy, WA - 'Tendrils'. Repulsively odd.
Happy Birthday: Bubble gum is celebrating its 77th anniversary. Created in 1928 by Walter Deimer - a Philadelphia accountant, the perennial treat was pegged Dubble Bubble by its maker and sold by Fleer Gum, which owned the brand name.
Privately-held Concord Confections, Inc. of Toronto acquired the Dubble Bubble brand in 1998, selling it in 62 different countries and generating sales of more than $100 million.
Unhappy Birthday: The melody for the song is now in the public domain but the lyrics are now owned by and actively enforced by Time Warner.
It's not clear whether:
a) the Monkey Lyrics (Happy Birthday To You ... You Belong In A Zoo ...) are covered by the same copyright or ...
b) Marilyn Monroe paid the required fee when she publicly (and famously) sang the song to JFK.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Judge John Roberts whether his being Catholic would interfere with carrying out his duties on the Supreme Court but she would undoubtedly have felt insulted if anyone had asked her whether being Jewish would interfere with her carrying out her duties as a Senator."
Thursday October 20, 2005
This Headline Certainly Lifted My Spirits: 'Jaguar aiming for the 'gorgeous' set with new brand advertising campaign'. Excerpt: "Jaguar's new brand advertising campaign prowls the province of Gatsby's upper class. Leggy supermodels recline vacuously on chaise longues. Their unspeakably attractive friends attend a lavish dinner party. The Jaguar resides in the owner's stable, alongside the Agusta helicopter and Lurssen megayacht.
The ads vividly portray the entitlement of the Dom Perignon-swilling elite, for whom material achievement is a given. They also subliminally cultivate the envy of the lower classes, for whom a Jaguar XJ sedan is as unattainable as a date with Penelope Cruz."
A rising tide lifts all boats. Even my 10 year-old XJ 'boat'.
Quake Analysis: John Rutledge weighs in on the global aspects of the Delphi's Chapter 11: "The Delphi bankruptcy reveals the deflationary pressure on corporate balance sheets, in the same way an earthquake reveals the tectonic pressures deep underground. And like the earthquake, we should not ignore the signs.
You can illustrate this deflationary pressure in several ways. In the gap between Delphi's $65 per hour labor cost ($23 wages, $42 current and legacy benefit costs) and the pay scale in the BMW plant that Bob Mundell and I visited in Shenyang, in Northern China, two weeks ago. In the downward price pressure the post-Chapter-11 Delphi (relieved of the need to pay creditors) will exert on other US suppliers. In the downward pressure on fixed asset prices from the inevitable asset sales during the subsequent restructuring."
Therefore, more seismic events are coming for those in the auto supply biz.
Gritty Reality: HO model railroad runs through realistic 1:87 scale slums.
Compelling Title; Fascinating Read: 'The Alcohol and Adult Industries Ask: When's the Next Hurricane?' It's about your money being spent on lap dances for "victims".
Burning Question Of The Day: "If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?"
Wednesday October 19, 2005
What's In A Name? In 1959, the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors (now a separate company known as Guide Corp.) developed the Twilight Sentinel - a sensor system which automatically turned the headlights off and/or on at dusk/sunrise. It debuted on the 1964 Cadillac as an option.
This is not to be confused with ... (more >>>)
Honda And Toyota Should Be Worried: If I were shopping for a new sedan today, I think I'd have to take a closer look at the 2006 Hyundai Azera. It's bland-looking but has 255 horses under the hood and an impressive warranty - five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage. All for under $30,000.
Hi Ho And Farewell: Comedian Louis Nye died last week at 92. Louie was one of the funniest guys on 1950s television.
On Steve Allen's groundbreaking TV show, he became an audience favorite playing the bumbling Gordon Hathaway, a country club snob best remembered for his funny salutation, "Hi, ho, Steverino!" (I still smile when I think of that phrase.)
He also played an assortment of bemused characters in Allen's 'Man On The Street' interviews. In the 1980s and 1990s, Louie provided a range of voices for the 'Inspector Gadget' cartoon show.
What a talent.
How To Be Hip For The Next Few Days: James Lileks advises, "Buy an iPod nano, because it is cool and somewhere someone will laugh at you if you have one of those old cigarette-pack size iPods. Jeez, Gramps, might as well haul around a Samsonite with a turntable glued to the top."
"Do You Have Prince Albert In A Can?" The only problem with the Internet is that, if you write about something, people link to it, search engines rank it and, eventually, you are seen as some kind of authority source. Yesterday, I received a call from someone in China, asking (in very broken English) if I had Malcolm Bricklin's phone number.
No, I don't know Prince Albert's e-mail address, either.
'Career Victims': I used to call them 'Professional Victims'. Nevertheless, this essay is a must-read.
Opening paragraph: "One of the interesting results of a major catastrophe is watching how people seem unable to do anything without the help of the government. While it is true that one of the government’s main responsibilities to its people - in a sane, rational society - is to provide protection and succor in times of crisis, it is also true that no government is perfect in its dispersion of this protection and succor; in fact, due to the sheer size of most modern catastrophes, the government is usually as helpless as the victims themselves, pulled in 50 different directions, dealing with bureaucratic nightmares and the unavoidable human shortcomings that come with delegation of responsibility."
More: "Katrina taught us that even among wealth and excessive materialism, those who cannot survive on their own can still be found, usually among the career victims in lower socio-economic ghettos where a sense of entitlement can be found in the very plumbing. Some have said that the aftermath of Katrina looked like the slave days in America, with stunned blacks roaming around starving and beaten. The fact that they are starving because fellow blacks probably looted the food and attacked them is not mentioned of course." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Quote Of The Day is from AutoWeek on the Buick Terraza minivan: "Redesign it or remove it. Not just for us, for Buick."
Tuesday October 18, 2005
Tipping Point ... critical mass, straw that broke the camel's back, decisive event, defining moment. Call it whatever you want.
When the history of the automotive industry is chronicled, say, 20 years from now, the bankruptcy of Delphi will be recognized as a crucial turning point for the auto business, an event as profound and industry-changing as the Ford-UAW war of the 1930s or the gas crisis of 1973.
Remember, you read it here first.
Freefall: New-vehicle sales were down 33% in the first nine days of this month compared with the same period a year ago, and down 44% compared with the first nine days of September.
The biggest declines came at General Motors, where sales fell 57% and at Ford Motor Co., where sales were down 45%.
Freefall II: General Motors lost $1.6 billion in the third quarter, as its North American division continued to suffer from high health-care costs and plummeting SUV sales. Losses increased despite an 5% uptick in total revenue. Year-over-year losses in worldwide automobile operations ballooned sevenfold (!!!) from $219 million to $1.6 billion (which excludes any restructuring costs).
In an article titled 'The Masters Of Disaster', Jerry Flint posits that GM has wasted more than $16 billion on failed alliances (Subaru, Saab, Isuzu, Suzuki, Fiat) He suggests that the money could have been used to save Oldsmobile. "Heck, GM would have even been better off just parking its cash in money market funds. ... It's part of the sad story of Detroit's efforts to compete internationally by buying instead of creating."
Putting It In Perspective: A recent study estimated that pension and other retiree benefits add $1,360 to the cost of every GM vehicle produced, compared with $734 at Ford, $631 at Chrysler, $107 at Honda, and $190 at Toyota.
The Pot Lectures Us Kettles: Madonna warns that people "are going to go to hell, if they don't turn from their wicked behavior."
Don't Ever Get Sick: An elderly in-law with zero pharmacy coverage is undergoing radiation treatment and suffering from nausea. The doctor recommended Zofran - three pills a day at $39 bucks per pill! The cost alone is nausea-inducing.
Cheaper alternatives are being quickly explored, obviously.
Quote Of The Day is from Meatriarchy: "If God didn't want me to eat animals, why did He make them out of meat?"
Monday October 17, 2005
Trip Report: We spent the weekend in North Central Washington enjoying the changing colors and sampling the region's great wines.
We had a wonderful time on our 650-mile trip; the weather was sunny and the Fall colors east of the Cascade Mountains were fairly spectacular.
We left Friday morning, stopping for lunch in The Dalles, Oregon. For the past 15 years or so, we've patronized Cousins. But on our last visit, the food and service were sub par. So we tried The Windseeker - a restaurant perched on the edge of the Columbia Gorge. We had a window table with a pleasurable Gorge view. The food was tasty. It's our new Lunch Place.
In Wenatchee, Washington we visited the Wenatchee Valley Museum. It has lots of historic items including some old apple-sorting machinery (neat), a very well-detailed operating HO-scale railroad layout, depicting scenes from the Great Northern Railway (engrossing) and the de rigueur Indian heritage exhibit (yawn - a celebration of an underachiever culture which didn't write anything down, invented nothing, domesticated not a single animal, never had anything like the Renaissance, Magna Carta, Arabic numbers, noodles, an abacus, Book of Kells or Thomas Aquinas - a people that basically spent two-plus depressing millennia fishing, weaving and making up stories about coyotes and bears).
We had a hearty lunch at McGlinn's Public House but I was puzzled as to why they put a weird cucumber slice in every glass of water. Yechhhh.
There was apparently a waterfront tour train but we didn't ride it.
I will not speak of two pretentious wineries we encountered, nor of their unpalatable liquids and overpriced bottled offerings. Instead, I will single out the very best one we discovered - the Saint Laurent Winery in the hills of Malaga, overlooking the Columbia. It was a lovely setting:
Saint Laurent's wines were exceptional; I purchased a full case.
We returned to the Wenatchee Valley Museum for an evening of 'pasta and pipes' - a spaghetti-feed dinner accompanied by a concert on the museum's restored 1919 Wurlitzer theater pipe organ. Two Buster Keaton silent films were shown with musical accompaniment. A delightful event.
On Sunday, we headed home. Our trusty Avalon - with over 7,000 miles on the clock - returned 28.3 mpg.
I spotted a surprising number of Priuses in Central Washington. Towns there are small and most driving is rural. I can't figure out why anyone living in the area would invest in a Prius. This city car doesn't fit the country lifestyle. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Daniel Howes (Detroit News): "Ninety percent of the people who pay an average of $235,000 for a Bentley Arnage pay cash." The Rich are different.
Friday October 14, 2005
Life Is Full Of Choices: CAR magazine writes that the ultra-expensive Maybach 57 sedan is "truly vulgar. Verdict: Shows the difference between taste and money." CAR's recommended alternative: the Rolls Royce 'Get Out Of My Way, Little Man' Phantom.
Hey GM! Wake up! Quit screwing around. Slap some Buick emblems on this car (a Holden concept car) and start selling it. Where can I send my deposit?
The Dusty World Of Scale Plastic: We all have them. Or had them. A fellow named Coop dug out his old AMT and other car models and photographed them.
The Sound Of Pillars Crumbling: Newspaper people across the country have descended into a collective funk over a run of bad news in recent weeks - culminating with announcements of newsroom job cuts in San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
The future of their business, several young New York Times reporters concluded with dismay that most of their friends don't subscribe to the newspaper.
An industrywide circulation drop of ... (more >>>)
Funny, When I Think About Canada ... I think of Bob and Doug, not Flipper. This Canadian moonbat claims that "Canada is America's dolphin."
Incidentally, while on vacation in Vancouver, B.C. (1983), we made a special trip to a nearby movie theater to watch 'Strange Brew'. Good movie, eh? (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Sign The End Times Are Near: 'Silence of the Lambs' is now a Broadway musical. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Quip Of The Day: (use on long-winded co-workers) "Does your train of thought have a caboose?"
Thursday October 13, 2005
Car Sightings: I spotted two things yesterday that I've never seen before. The first was a vehicle wearing Hong Kong license plates. It was a late model white Honda Civic crossing the Columbia River on I-205.
The second was a Lotus Elise tooling around Vancouver. It was black. The car was so low that the rollbar didn't offer much protection for the driver, whose head was well above the height of the bar, exposed like a ripe melon on a very high, very narrow window ledge.
Reverse Evolution: Describing the new aluminum Jaguar XJ sedan, CAR remarks, "Looks like the old one but worse." I agree.
God Bless These Bikers: An effort by members of a Kansas church to protest at the funeral of an Oklahoma soldier Tuesday was drowned out by the roar of motorcycles. About 70 members of the American Legion Riders revved their engines as five protesters from Westboro Baptist Church held inflammatory signs. The protesters say American soldiers are being killed because of homosexuality in the United States. (?!?)
The protest took place as family members of Army Staff Sgt. John Doles gathered just down the street at a church for Doles' funeral. Doles, 29, of Chelsea, was killed Sept. 30 in an ambush in Afghanistan.
Doles' family asked the group to rev their motorcycle engines when the Kansas church group arrived. The riders also formed a barrier and waved American flags to block the view of the protest. Local residents joined the motorcycle riders in waving American flags. I'm not a motorcycle guy but these people seem like fine folks in my book.
MAD About MADD: They may have begun with the best of intentions but I'm no longer tying ribbons on my side mirror to support these bullies.
Radley Balko writes: "MADD's biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10. But when two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17, this move doesn't make much sense. It's like lowering the speed limit from 65 to 60 to catch people who drive 100 miles per hour. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed all the statistical data and concluded "the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol.""
Storyline I Never Expected: 'Chicago veterinarian puts braces on groundhog's teeth'.
'Some Muslims Are Idiots' File: Or 'They're wrapping their WHAT in aluminum foil?' (!!!) See story here. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Question Of The Day is from the Waterbury (CT) Republican-American newspaper: "You are an animal-control officer. One morning, you get calls about a roaming pit bull terrorizing people in several neighborhoods. Now, do you go out and impound every dog you see, or do you limit your search to pit bulls? If the answer is that obvious, why is it wrong for federal agents and state and local police to focus their attention on Muslims when they're trying to stop Islamic terrorism?" Discuss.
Quote Of The Day is from Don Luskin: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire."
Wednesday October 12, 2005
Dream On: My latest unattainable dream car is the new Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. In an age where all cars seem to look alike, this Pininfarina coupe looks like nothing else on the road. The 540 horsepower V-12 engine should provide more then sufficient ooooomph. There's even a Ferrari dealer in Portland. (If I wanted a Bentley or Aston Martin, I'd have to go to Seattle - an inconvenience.)
I was in awe watching this fine machine get wrung out on a MotorWeek road test last Saturday. Now all I need is the $265,000. Hmmmm. Maybe I'll add a Tip Jar to this blog.
Rolling: Referring to the Daihatsu Charade, CAR quips, "Want to know what an anti-roll bar does? Drive this."
Steam Loco Photos: I've posted the last set of photos of the Union Pacific Challenger running at speed here.
Big Gum-mint: Michael Barone points out the irony of the Ronald Reagan Building - Washington's largest federal building - being named after the one president who said government was the problem not the solution.
You Don't Have To Be Jewish ... to love Levy's rye bread. Or so says the ad. And you don't have to be American to know that Jimmah was a bad President. Canadian Alan Caruba writes, "I already have my nomination for the dumbest, dopiest, most goofy President we ever elected to office. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jimmy Carter!" Excerpt: "Jimmy had been a graduate of Annapolis, but had left the Navy to return to peanut farming. Consider that as a career choice! .... Jimmy Carter is an embarrassment. He didn't have a clue when he was in the Oval Office and he still doesn't." I second that nomination.
TSA Tale: The TSA, which one Lucianne.com poster claims stands for 'Thousands Standing Around', is picking on 90-somethings according to an article titled 'Airport security shook down wrong guy'. It's a humorous but infuriating read.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "A husband should not teach his wife to drive and a wife should not teach her husband to drive. Driving lessons are a lot cheaper than a divorce."
Tuesday October 11, 2005
Town Car Redux: The current Lincoln Town car is a beast - an ugly, bulbous one on an ancient frame. Instead of fixing it, Ford is planning to phase it out.
Here's an idea - now that Ford is making Lincolns outside the U.S. (the Zephyr comes from Mexico), why not badge-engineer the Hyundai Centennial limousine as a Lincoln Town Car? It's roomier than the stretchy L-series TC and has a 274 horsepower, 275 cubic-inch V-8. It's not a great looker but anything's better than the present bloated TC.
If you want complete specs, you can download an e-brochure here. (hat tip - Eric Bryant of Autoblog)
Ominous Odds Of The Day: Bank of America analyst Ronald Tadross raised the chances of GM being forced into bankruptcy from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.
A Good Tailor Makes The Difference: Brit mag, CAR, calls the Bentley Continental GT "Volkswagen's unloved Phaeton in a handmade suit".
The Trouble With Stretches: Stretch limos are driving up on curbs and falling into ditches when trying to maneuver around tight corners. In the parking garage at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, they're hitting cars and a column on their way in. And on hills everywhere from Pittsburgh to San Francisco, they are getting high-centered.
Article excerpt: "Because so many of the longest limos are not new vehicles and technically qualify as buses under NHTSA's rules, the agency is considering teaming up with the federal government's bus-oversight agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and tagging along on its regular inspections. Among other things, NHTSA would be checking up on its required bus-safety features such as escape hatches in the roof or windows that can be opened and used as exits."
In my driving lifetime, I've only high-centered one car - a Volkswagen Scirocco. The gas station driveway involved gave a new meaning to the word 'steep'.
Headline I'm Dreading: 'Bush Replaces Greenspan With Bowling Buddy'.
Not Quite 'Nobel': The 'Ig Nobel' prizes for 2005 Literature have been announced. The winners? The Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, "for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters - General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq." The scams are notorious for asking people to reveal their private bank information to help fictitious characters transfer large sums of money."
Hey, at least they e-mail me occasionally. William Golding, V.S. Naipaul, Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis - I never hear from those stuck-up SOBs.
2006 Ig Nobel Candidate: Last week, I got a junk e-mail about mortgage refinancing titled 'mortician driveway perspiration'.
Below the ad, the body copy read, "took may primp try do it's poi be megohm try catalyst notfiendish thesleepy ! bilharziasis it's galois butpretoria itallan see agreeable tryplywood be waterfall a heart, bakery and expressive in aeolian it englishman !lotus see."
This is even harder to understand than 'Finnegan's Wake'.
Joke Of The Day: A blonde was sitting on the train, reading a newspaper. Its headline blared: '12 Brazilian Soldiers Killed'. She shook her head at the sad news, puzzled. Then she turned to the stranger seated next to her and asked, "Excuse me. How many is a Brazilian?"
Monday October 10, 2005
A Peek At The Future: Delphi Corp., the nation's largest auto parts supplier, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Saturday. With $28 billion in annual sales and 34,000 hourly workers in the U.S., Delphi is the biggest U.S. auto company to file Chapter 11.
A follow-up article in Sunday's Detroit News (headline: 'Delphi's bankruptcy ominous sign for fading auto industry') correctly points out that the filing has "altered the course of U.S. automotive history and cast a huge shadow over contract talks in 2007 between the Big Three and the United Auto Workers. ... Industry analysts predict the filing will trigger bankruptcies of smaller suppliers in Michigan and elsewhere that rely on Delphi for business."
Delphi said earlier that it might avoid bankruptcy if union workers agreed to pay cuts of 63%. The UAW was nonplussed.
In the manner of the ancient Oracle at Delphi, this filing portends a rocky future for the automotive industry. You can't remain a viable business and pay unskilled laborers $28.00 per hour plus benefits, especially if you're locked into a union contract that says you have to pay these people the same wages after you lay them off. Not when you're competing with plants in Tegu, South Korea, Monterrey, Mexico or Suzhou, China - where employees consider it a privilege to have a job. "Benefits? What benefits? Job bank? What's that?"
Who will die first? The UAW? Every UAW plant in the U.S. and Canada? Ford? GM? Or all of them?
Book Titles: I spotted 'Lincoln Lawyer' in a bookstore recently. It's a novel about an officeless, down-at-the-heels attorney who does business from the back of his Town Car. I guess publishers have run out of book titles, so they've reverted to car brands. What's next? 'Chicken Soup For The Pontiac Aztek Soul'?
The English View: CAR magazine describes the Audi TT as an "old Golf in lingerie."
Rocky Rails: In August, K-Line Trains - maker of O-gauge toy and model trains - filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Earlier, both Lionel and K-Line reported that a settlement had been reached concerning a lawsuit filed against K-Line, accusing the company of wrongly incorporating Lionel technology into its products. Lionel claimed ... (more >>>)
Only In California ... would child molesters and rapists be a "protected class". Disgusting.
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "Last night I ordered a whole meal in French. Even the waiter was amazed - it was a Chinese restaurant!"
Friday October 7, 2005
No Wonder GM Is In Trouble: Cadillac offered $15 million (!!!!!!) to the surviving members of The Doors for the for the rights to use 'Break On Through'. Drummer John Densmore turned it down: "All of it made me think about this book I want to write. It's about greed." Another band member said: "Cadillac said we could all fly out to Detroit and give input as they start putting together their hybrid models and the way they would be presented to the public. Artists and corporations working together, that's the 21st century. That's the true Age of Aquarius. But John's ego wouldn't let him see it was a good thing to do."
In the end, Cadillac held on to the motto 'Break Through' but used different music - Zeppelin's frenetic 1972 single 'Rock and Roll.'
Fifteen million could have bought a nice little chunk of product development. Or quality control.
Get Off The Phone! Connecticut has become the third state to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The new law carries a $100 fine for anyone caught behind the wheel of a moving vehicle holding a phone to their ear. This is great. I sometimes think cell phone drivers are worse than drunk drivers.
Happy Days: Citroen is using The Fonz to sell cars. Jours Heureux? Aaaaaaaay.
Speaking of Gaz, they've made an SUV (photo - right) that looks like a bad marriage between a Jaguar S-Type and an International truck. Apparently, the unhappy couple fell into a chrome-plating tank.
Lincoln Redesign: I spent much of last week working on a redesigned website for The Lincoln Club, of which I'm a member.
The primary objective of the site has always been to get new members for the Club. Top search engine rankings and good traffic should accomplish this. I originally designed the site with the primary goal of getting page-one positions from search engines for selected search terms. That goal was met. Other than maintenance and housekeeping items, I hadn't changed the website much ... until now.
When I built the Club's website in 1998 or so, the internet was a still a baby. Web-building software was limited in capabilities. There was a great deal of difference in the way various browsers operated, further limiting design. Connections were slow - 28.8k was considered 'fast' and broadband was limited to the wealthy and major corporations. Sites had to be designed to deal with 480 pixel width screens. Images had to be small to facilitate fast loading of pages.
The Club's site had been in need of visual updating; I finally bit the bullet and redid it. Text size and font selection are now more consistent. I've added new, larger and more colorful images on many pages. I've dumped some pages and articles which are no longer relevant.
Maybe I'll redo it again in another seven years.
PS - In case you didn't notice, I've tweeked the look of this blog page as well.
Somehow I'm Not Surprised: Former FBI Director Louis Freeh says that his relationship with President Bill Clinton - the man who appointed him - was a terrible one because of Clinton's scandals. In Freeh's new book, "My FBI," he writes, "The problem was with Bill Clinton - the scandals and the rumored scandals, the incubating ones and the dying ones never ended. ... His closets were full of skeletons just waiting to burst out." Sounds like an interesting read.
Just In Time For Halloween: An emaciated 52 pound man, makes his living by playing a ghost or skeleton.
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Farago on the 2006 Ford Explorer (of which he's very fond): "Falling in love with a 14 mpg SUV at this precise moment in time is like getting engaged to the boss' daughter a week after the old man's been indicted by the SEC."
Thursday October 6, 2005
Do It Yourself: Jerry Flint thinks car company mergers and joint ventures (internal and external) are, generally, bunk. Excerpt: "GM says it is shifting to global development of its cars and saving wads of money in developing new models and in buying parts. What this really means is that the Germans in Europe are developing the basic engineering for most of GM's future American cars. They tried this before without much success. What if Americans just don't like the cars developed by GM's engineers in Germany? As for saving money, GM always says it is saving wads of money, but a funny thing keeps happening on the way to the savings bank: The losses in the North American automobile business grow and grow. So I have trouble believing all those tales of savings."
I agree. In my manufacturing company, we only did one joint venture. It was successful because it was with another local firm that had the same values and work ethic as ours. We worked for a single customer - a firm with well-defined objectives for the project. I have rejected every other joint venture offer since because something - the people, the product, the objectives and/or the market - was mushy.
I know I sound like Grandpa Simpson, but there's too much mushiness in business today. Why ... when I was young, business people were decisive. We'd interview, hire and even fire executives and dance the Charleston at the same time, I tell ya. Now that was multitasking!
Woof: Honda has designed a car that's friendly for dogs. The W.O.W. concept vehicle (Wonderful Openhearted Wagon) has special crate for dogs in the center console allows owners to interact with their pets while driving. That sounds like a bad idea - more distracting than a cell phone. A bigger crate pops up from the floor in the back seat area and can be folded back into the floor when it's not needed. For even bigger dogs, just buckle them up with a special seat belt to the floor. The W.O.W comes with removable, washable, rollout flooring and has wide sliding doors to keep dogs happy.
I don't know about Japanese dogs but, in America, dogs are happy when they're looking out the window.
Expensive Gas Hog: The Lienerts tested the 2006 Mercury Mountaineer SUV and were turned off by its $42,000 price tag and the 14 miles per gallon in city driving.
Forty-two grand for a Mercury?! Is Ford serious? And, it's not even dog-friendly.
Who Owns A Parish? In a bizarre legal maneuver, the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon listed all 390,000 parishioners as class-action defendants in its bankruptcy filing. Every parishioner had until October 3rd to formally "opt out" of the class action. Less than 200 Catholics did so, in part because attorneys for alleged abuse victims have said they probably will name any parishioner who opts out as an individual defendant. A court document that says class-action parishioners are "bound by any judgment entered in the lawsuit, whether favorable or unfavorable to you individually."
This is a novel concept in customer-appreciation: Name all your customers as co-defendants in any lawsuit filed against you. It makes one wonder what the Archdiocese has been drinking. Or smoking.
Anxiety among ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from marketing guru Jack Trout: "You must move against your smaller competitors as soon as possible so they cannot develop legitimacy and momentum. General Motors hung back when the Germans and Japanese invaded the U.S. market with small cars. It felt they couldn't make money on this type of car, so it quickly rationalized its position by convincing itself that Americans wanted big comfortable cars. Wrong."
Wednesday October 5, 2005
I'm Saving Gas ... because I no longer have to drive to downtown Portland and converse with the folks hanging around Pioneer Courthouse Square. I just use the Autorantic Virtual Moonbat. Try it here. (hat tip - Andrea Harris)
September Vehicle Sales - Further Thoughts: Dave Thomas at MPH Magazine wrote and asked if I noticed sales of large SUVs and trucks from Asia were up. And that Ford's passenger car sales were up, too.
Big import SUVs? A mixed bag, I think. The Nissan Armada was way off. The big import SUV numbers seemed kinda random to me. In any case, Ford's and GM's domestic SUV brands were the definitive losers here.
It's hard for me to get excited about FoMoCo's car sales being up 3 percent, when sales of Toyota passenger cars jumped 19 percent and the pattern was the same at Honda, where sales of the compact Civic jumped 37 percent. Sales of the Nissan Sentra jumped 66 percent and the Altima 24 percent. The folks in Dearborn's glasshouse have no cause for high-fiving. High-oneing, at best.
Taking a closer look at passenger sedans, 9,094 Ford Five Hundreds were sold. The base model costs $22,230 and is discounted by $1,100 or so in my neighborhood (according to Edmunds). In September, 7,871 Buick LaCrosses were sold. Its entry model lists at $22,935 and is discounted by $2,000 or so. The big, aging Ford Crown Vicky and Mercury not-so-Grand Marquis have starting prices of $24,600 or so and are, typically, discounted by about $800. Sales for both totaled 8,180 - the Crown Vic was down 20%; Mercury dropped a whopping 41%. Meanwhile, there were 8,707 Toyota Avalons sold in September - up 270.8% (!!), despite a high base model price of $26,625. And there are no discounts from Avalon's MSRP according to Edmunds.
Which car is the real success story here?
Other Interesting Car Stats: The Prius gas-electric hybrid mid-size sedan enjoyed best-ever September sales of 8,193, an increase of 90.1 percent. Only 226 Cadillac XLRs were sold during the month. And Corvette sales dropped by 36%.
Remember, I'm just one guy doing this blog in my spare time ... and after a while, all the numbers began to run together. I think I'll defer to the professionals to further sort things out.
Pop Culture Math: In statistical analysis, the two most extreme numbers (high and low, polar opposites, oddball data points, etc.) are often discarded when trying to assign an average value. In the same spirit, I think it's time to eliminate Cindy Sheehan and Louis Farrakhan. Let's all make a pact to never speak of either again.
Oink If You're Muslim: A British city council has declared, following a complaint by a Muslim employee, that all work pictures and knick-knacks of novelty pigs and "pig-related items" will be banned - including one employee's box of tissues, because it features a representation of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.
Mark Steyn writes: "When every act that a culture makes communicates weakness and loss of self-belief, eventually you'll be taken at your word. In the long term, these trivial concessions are more significant victories than blowing up infidels on the Tube or in Bali beach restaurants. An act of murder demands at least the pretense of moral seriousness, even from the dopiest appeasers. But small acts of cultural vandalism corrode the fabric of freedom all but unseen."
Screw these hyper-sensibilities. In the old days, when Catholics couldn't eat meat on Fridays, we never demanded that non-Catholics give up their hoagies, burgers or ham sandwiches. We didn't issue a fatwa because some Baptist jerk waved a slice of baloney in our faces. We didn't whine; we were just slightly inconvenienced and offered up our mild sufferings to the Almighty. Muslims should stop griping and do the same. Or go live in an all-Muslim, pork-free country.
Oops. Now I'll be unable to become the mayor of Copenhagen.
Drudge Headline Of The Day: 'Britney Giving Bra In Hurricane Relief'. Titillating story here.
Do What I Say; Not What I Do: M. Scott Peck, who has died aged 69, was a psychiatrist and author of 'The Road Less Travelled', the ultimate self-help manual, which has sold some 10 million copies and which set a record for a nonfiction book by spending more than eight years on the New York Times bestseller list. I read it in the late '80s and found it well-written and helpful. I 'discovered' it in the library of a vacation house we rented in Sunriver, Oregon.
Its opening sentence, "Life is difficult", introduced a tome which argued, uncontentiously and sensibly, that human experience was trying and imperfectible, and that only self-discipline, delaying gratification, acceptance that one's actions have consequences, and a determined attempt at spiritual growth could make sense of it.
By contrast, Peck himself was, by his own admission, a self-deluding, gin-sodden, chain-smoking neurotic whose life was characterized by incessant infidelity and an inability to relate to his parents or children. When he died, two of his three children were estranged from him. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Working Off One's Sentence: I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this. Let's arrest all illegal immigrants and sentence each to six months of hard labor. Doing what? Helping construct a tall wall at the U.S./Mexican border. It's good punishment and cheaper than union help. When their sentences are completed, deport them. For most, it will be a short walk.
Quote Of The Day is from David Frum: "Only 8% of Americans describe themselves as "not very satisfied" or "not at all satisfied," as opposed to 18% of French, 16% of Germans, and 20% of Italians. Only 32% of Americans agree that success is determined by forces outside our control. But 54% of French agree with that statement, as do 68% of Germans, and 66% of Italians. Between 2025 and 2050, the population of Europe is projected by the EU to shrink by some 20 million people. The plague threatening the continent is not a disease. It is despair."
Tuesday October 4, 2005
Here Come Da' Judge: The amount of bile spilled over the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Count would breach a New Orleans levee, reminding us all that there are too many pundits. The developments of the past decade - 24/7 cable news, ultra-specialty magazines and the blogosphere - have resulted in talking heads proliferating faster than the number of armored Mercedes S-Class limos at OPEC meetings.
Meanspiritedness is everywhere. Conservative pundits claim Ms. Meirs is a lightweight; several liberals are hinting that this unmarried 60 year-old may be a lesbian. This is a delicate theme which must be treated honestly and candidly.
I have no opinion to offer. She might make a great Supreme Court Justice. (And she's better looking than Ruth Bader Ginsberg.) I just can't think of the name 'Judge Harriet' without some mental sophomoric snickering.
And I bet 'Lilyan Brock' was the nom de plume for some cigar-chomping, bald fat guy.
Small Ship; Big Sail: Bob Elton wants to stuff a V-8 into a Pontiac Solstice. Sounds like a great idea to me.
How To Be A Chick Magnet: Dan DeBraga, owner of Redline Automotive, unleashed a floodgate of inquiries when he decided to conduct a series of free women's automotive workshops.
Buh-Bye: Once upon a time, The Daily Show was hilarious, poking fun at everybody. Now it's devolved to a liberal rant machine. I think it started when Jon Stewart got very full of himself and mouthed off on CNN's late, unlamented 'Crossfire', calling Tucker Carlson a "dick".
I have now removed The Daily Show from my VCR's auto-record menu. This gives me more space to record stuff on Single Syllable Tuesday: 'Bones', 'House', 'Dog' and (soon) 'Shield'.
The Third World ... is right here in the U.S.A. This lengthy (almost 3,000 word) article offers a viewpoint different than the conventional, wire-service widsom-pap about illegal aliens. It is well-written and eye-opening.
The Party's Over (For Some): Sales of Ford and GM's SUVs tanked in September. Everyone who wanted one bought during the summer blowout sale. Even though the sale was extended into September, the gas had gone out of the balloon. Literally. And you all know the noise that makes.
Bicycle and hybrids sales are booming, though. I think I'll invent a hybrid-bicycle and make six kajillion dollars. And then become senile, drooling and ranting about a cabal of Jewish bankers taking over the world. I'll publish my own newspaper and have union organizers beaten senseless by my hired goons. Ummmm ... never mind. It's been done before. By that Segway dude, I think. Or maybe it was Homer Simpson's brother, Herb.
Ford Motor Co.'s vehicle sales fell nearly 20 percent - sales of trucks and SUVs fell nearly 28 percent. General Motors Corp. sales were down 24 percent overall - car sales declined 14.5 percent and truck sales were off 29.5 percent. Chevy Suburban sales dived 57%.
Lincoln sales were off 27% across the board; the unloved LS sedan dropped by 51%. Jaguar was down by over 41%, lead by the overpriced, underwhelming X-Type which dropped a whopping 71%. (Only 603 X-Types were sold in September.) The Mustang - the only exciting thing in the Ford lineup - continues to soar; sales were up over 73% versus last year.
DaimlerChrysler's U.S. sales rose 4 percent in September. Nissan's sales were up 16.4 percent, led by a 26.5 percent increase in car sales. Toyota's sales were up 10 percent, thanks to a 22 percent increase in car sales. Honda's sales rose 12 percent.
People may not be buying cars from Ford or GM but they're buying stuff. The nation's manufacturing sector expanded strongly in September - the industrial sector's 28th consecutive month of growth.
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "A drunk was in front of a judge. The judge says "You've been brought here for drinking." The drunk says "Okay, let's get started.""
Monday October 3, 2005
Cars Made By Giant Hand: And giant knife. Go here and scroll down a few pix. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
It Swivels. So Does A Bar Stool: Nissan's new concept car, 'Pivo', features an egg-shaped cabin atop a wheeled platform that can swivel 360 degrees.
Oh, This Makes Sense: Ford Motor Co. (a company losing buckets o' money) has taken control of auto supplier Visteon Corp. (another company losing buckets o' money) in the hope that a miracle will occur. Ford spun off Visteon, its former parts division, in 2000. Hey, Ford, better buy a bigger bucket.
Some Headlines Just State The Obvious: USA Today proclaims: 'Ram Mega Cab Is Too Big'.
Public Forum: Last week, we attended a Battle Ground school board meeting. A new restaurant, Lloyd's Grill, wanted to open in town, but it was within 500 feet of school property and the school board has veto power over the granting of a liquor license. The restaurant owner already operates an upscale establishment in Vancouver, Bacchus. We've been there many times and have never observed rowdy or drunken behavior.
There is an eight-foot high wall between the school property and shopping center where the restaurant was to be located. We wanted to voice our support for this restaurant. Over 200 people attended the meeting. The crowd was well-behaved. Applause followed each speaker. The applause was definitely heavier for the pro-restaurant speakers, although the anti-restaurant people were very vocal, shouting "Whoooooo" when someone from their side was at the mike. My wife and I finally got to speak about two hours after we arrived. We spoke separately in support of Lloyd's Grill.
When we left (to have some dinner - and wine), the speakers were running in favor of the restaurant by more than two-to-one. The next morning, I read in the newspaper that the school board had unanimously voted to veto the liquor license. So much for "public input", eh? The tip-off was a little speech by the school head as the meeting opened. Theme: 'It's All About The Children.' As they used to say in Philly, the 'fix' was already in.
Lloyd Taylor, the owner of Bacchus, told a reporter that he was "done with Battle Ground" and will go elsewhere to expand. That's a shame. I guess we'll continue to leave town to dine.
Size Matters: James Lileks writes: "Macy's! The very name summed up the rough-and-tumble brio of Gotham retail, with pouty, stork-thin sylphs floating haughtily around the cosmetic counters upstairs." I've never understood why cosmetic departments are staffed by skinny women. People like to do business with like-minded folks. Shouldn't cosmetics people be favoring plus-size women? There are more sales to be had - more square feet to cover, you know.
Lies And Rumor Mills: Reporters and local officials contributed to the general hysteria of Katrina by passing on unsubstantiated rumors and telling outright lies. The New York Times reports: "It is still impossible to say if the city experienced a wave of murder because autopsies have been performed on slightly more than 10 percent of the 885 dead."
Hey! What about that '10,000 dead' number that the mayor of NO was tossing about? "State officials have said that 10 people died at the Superdome and 24 died around the convention center - 4 inside and 20 nearby. While autopsies have not been completed, so far only one person appears to have died from gunshot wounds at each facility."
More: "Superintendent Compass said that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue. Asked about reports of rapes and murders, he said: "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault." And about the looting at a local Wal-Mart: "Not one piece of educational material was taken - the best-selling books are all sitting right where they were left," Captain Canatella said. "But every $9 watch in the store is gone."
Three auto parts stores were also looted. In a house on Clara Street, Dan Anderson of the Sixth District picked his way through a soggy living room, where car parts, still in their boxes, were strewn about. "The nation's realizing what kind of criminals we have here," he said. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Quote Of The Day is from Hugh Hewitt on the quality of Katrina press reports. He said that the coverage was "an emotion-binging joyride fueled by urban myth, rumor, and a deep desire to injure the Bush administration."