Wednesday August 30, 2006
Sightings: I see more and more Dodge Sprinter cargo vans every day. Introduced in 2004, replacing the Dodge Ram van, the Dodge Sprinter sold 19,578 units in the United States in 2005, while Freightliner sold approximately 2,500 units. I have seen very few Freightliner Sprinters, despite the strong local brand presence - Freightliner has a large assembly plant in Portland.
As far as I can tell, the only difference is the grille and badging. Both versions are powered by a 2.7 liter 5 cylinder inline diesel engine.
These vans are apparently assembled from knock-down kits made by Mercedes. (The same basic vehicle - with appropriate grille and badges, and with more engine options - is sold as the Mercedes Sprinter in Europe.)
Having owned a Dodge van in my manufacturing business (way back when), I can see that the higher roofline and increased load capacity - now 3,000 pounds - is a major improvement.
Driving Uphill: Anita Lienert was less than impressed by the new Saturn Aura sedan, noting that "it's clear that Saturn faces an uphill battle in the tough mid-size family sedan segment. ... For as much as the Aura is intended to lift up the Saturn brand, with its European roots and styling, there is too much old-school about the sedan to make it more than a classic, blue-collar Detroit offering."
According to The Truth About Cars, Motor Trend wasn't impressed with the Aura either, mentioning evidence of "corner cutting" and a "crude" engine with "some looseness in the drivetrain".
Robert Farago of TTAC notes that "GM shot itself in both feet and both arms for decades, building rental fleet fodder instead of competitive product." I couldn't agree more; see my report on a 1980 GM offering I used to own.
Restaurant Review: We had lunch at Philly Bilmo's in East Vancouver yesterday. This shopping center sandwich shop has Philadelphia memorabilia on the walls and offers great cheese steaks and pizza steaks, served on genuine Amoroso rolls - flown in from Amoroso Baking Co. in Philadelphia.
I've tried just about every establishment in the Pacific Northwest claiming to offer 'genuine' Philly cheese steaks; this one is the closest I've found to the Real Thing. The only thing missing was the rattle of pots and pans as the Frankford El passed by. And Rocky Balboa yelling, "Yo, Adrian!"
My wife ordered a cheese steak. I had a pizza steak. We also shared a humongous order of cheese fries. For dessert, I had Tastycake cupcakes - yep, they sell 'em here - a three pack, which I hadn't seen in years. They tasted fresh, nostalgic, correct ... and Tasty, just as they do in the City of Brotherly Love.
I consumed a year's worth of cholesterol in 30 minutes. You know how, when you shift gears waaaay too early, the engine lugs so badly it actually shudders? Well, that's what my stents did!
But I lived to write about the experience. So, we'll go back again but skip the cheese fries next time. (permalink)
Westfield Deathtown? I took a stroll around the Vancouver Mall recently. There were so many shuttered spaces, I could hardly believe my eyes. And many remaining stores had such cheap signage, you could tell they weren't planning to be there long term.
Long-Term Investing: Looking at the U.S. stock market averages for the period from 1926 to 2005 and examining average returns for various time periods, the following are worthy of note:
• The worst 10 year period produced a return of -0.8%.
• The worst 20 year period produced a return of +3.1%.
• The average 5 year period produced a return of +10.4%.
• The average 10 year period produced a return of +11.2%.
• The average 20 year period produced a return of +11.4%.
• The best 20 year period produced a return of +17.8%. (source: Vanguard)
Bad Deal: James Lileks writes, "The Brits foiled a terror plot to blow up airplanes, and since it reminded us there are still suicidal maniacs around, it felt like bad news. Then the West struck a deal with Hezbollah and its paymasters, and it was regarded as a positive development. Peace in our time, and all that.
It's a wonder they didn't pass out tiny collectible umbrellas from the Franklin Mint "Neville Chamberlain Collection" to solemnize the event."
Music Of Your Life ... according to Greg Gutfeld: "I never understood the concept of accents. I just don't get how where you live affects the way you speak. I also don't understand the variations you find in music across different cultures - and how music can so accurately reflect the culture it's from. For example, when I hear music in an Indian restaurant, somehow in my brain, I know it's from India. It just sounds Indian. The same thing occurs when I hear Chinese music in a Chinese restaurant. I just know it's Chinese. This, however, never happens when I dine at Bennigan's.
And don't hand me that, "Well, it's because from an early age, you've been trained to link specific types of music to its cultural origins." I don't buy that. I didn't start eating out until I was 15.
When I hear the Mexican Hat Dance, I can't help but think of tacos. And Erik Estrada. But that's another story, for another time."
Be Ye Lookin' For A Place To Live, Matey? Costco will sell you a $18,500 Pirate Tree House. Delivery included.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
Monday August 29, 2006
It Makes Sense To Me ... but I just bought a leather-wrapped Momo toilet seat from an ad in Road & Track. So what the hell do I know?
"Car steering wheels carry more than twice as many germs as a toilet seat, according to research. The study found the average steering wheel had 41,600 germs on its surface, compared with toilet seats, which have an average of 17,400."
My reaction: So what?! Look, we've all been driving along at 75 mph on the Interstate and sneezed on the steering wheel. No time to grab a tissue or wrestle a handkerchief out of one's pocket without sideswiping a huge freakin' log truck.
But, I mean, there's a big #@!$%& difference between, say, nose germs and ass germs. Right?
Burnin' Off Pounds: Daniel Howes writes about Ford's 'Way Forward': "Ford can no longer afford to pump billions - literally - into the cash furnace that is Jaguar Cars."
Hoping For A Miracle: The headline over an AP story in Sunday's paper, 'GM pins hopes on hybrids - 2008 trucks and SUVs', seemed equivalent to 'Morbidly obese pin hopes on fewer donuts'.
The Empire Of Apu: Here's an interesting factoid - the nation's 112,000 convenience stores account for 80% of all U.S. gasoline sales. Of course, that doesn't mean convenience stores are converting to gas stations - it's the other way around.
The only two gas stations in East Battle Ground have closed their repair bays and remodeled them into little Quickie Marts.
Good News ... from Larry Kudlow: "For the first time in fifteen years, the number of oil wells drilled in America has surpassed the 1,000 mark. The rotary rig count is up 23% from a year earlier. Total exploration and development is 30% higher than last year. Unleaded gasoline futures have been dropping, suggesting relief at the pump."
A Capsule History Of Lamborghini ... courtesy of Jeremy Clarkson: "In the whole of human history it has been impossible to buy a Lamborghini unless you are Rod Stewart. They've always been just too silly, strutting around in their leopardskin underpants asking all and sundry if we thought they were sexy.
The company began making industrial heaters but quickly the proprietor realized that this was a waste of his name. If you're called Stan Arkwright you can make industrial heaters, but if you are called Ferruccio Lamborghini you need to start making cars with guns on them, for Rod Stewart."
Thanks ... to Kathy Shaidle, who thinks I should change the name of this blog to "Your Mileage May Vary". Congrats to Kathy, who has snagged a regular columnist gig in 'Our Sunday Visitor.' (If you grew up Catholic, you'd know exactly what Our Sunday Visitor is. And, ladies, it has absolutely nothing to do with My Monthly Visitor.)
Kathy is a popular blogger (Relapsed Catholic - a daily must-read for me) and I'm very happy to be mentioned on her site.
Funeral Planning ... from Greg Gutfeld: "When I die, I plan to have my remains scattered over my neighborhood - and no, I don't intend to be cremated."
Thought For Today: Eckankar is the only religion that sounds like a multi-level marketed nutritional supplement.
Wednesday August 23, 2006
New Wheels: Got a silver 1955 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 9 today. A 1:43 scale model, that is. It looks spectacular. This hand-crafted resin model was made by Bizarre Models.
Earlier this year, I acquired a model of the Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 7, made by the same company. I already have a model of the B.A.T. 5 - a hand-cast white metal model from Design Studio.
I saw all three full size-versions of these one-of-a-kind cars together at California's Concours Italiano in 1996. (permalink)
California = The Future: According to the California Motor Car Dealers Assn., Toyota-brand cars and trucks accounted for 23.4% of all sales in 2Q/06, followed by Honda at 12.4%. Ford was third with a 9.6% share, and GM's Chevrolet weighed-in with a 8.2%.
California has always been a predictor of national buying trends, especially for automobiles. These stats don't bode well for Detroit, do they? In my neck of the woods, imports dominate the passenger car market. Most common sightings: Toyota, Honda, Hyundai - in that order.
Most trucks around here are full-size American pickups (Ford and Dodge are the most conspicuous) and 80% are work trucks. But, I think they're purchased because of 'The Deal' and because Toyota is not very contractor-oriented, marketing-wise.
Think Globally; Act Locally: Driving around Portland last week, I ended up behind a twenty year-old beater (1980s Acura Legend, if you care about such things). The rear end of the car was full of bumper stickers. Liberal ones. Proposing two and three word solutions to all the world's problems. 'Impeach Bush', etc.
The car had no working brake lights. And either the turn signals didn't work or the inattentive (count to five after the light turns green, then slowly begin forward motion) driver was too lazy - idiotic - stoned (pick one ... or all) to use them. The vehicle was last washed in preparation for the Millennium celebrations.
Before you fix the world's problems, fix on your own. Get your lights working. And pay attention while driving, jerkface.
My observation, based on almost fifty years of driving experience: The more bumper stickers, the worse the driver.
Revisionist History: The Archbishop of Denver speaks out against it, noting: "Islam has embraced armed military expansion for religious purposes since its earliest decades. .... Much of the modern Middle East was once heavily Christian. Muslim armies changed that by imposing Islamic rule. Surviving Christian communities have endured centuries of marginalization, discrimination, violence, slavery and outright persecution - not always and not everywhere; but as a constant, recurring and central theme of Muslim domination.
That same Christian suffering continues down to the present. In the early years of the 20th century, the Muslim Ottoman Empire murdered more than 1 million Armenian Christians for ethnic, economic, but also religious reasons. Many Turks and other Muslims continue to deny that massive crime even today. Coptic Christians in Egypt - who, even after 13 centuries of Muslim prejudice and harassment, cling to the faith - continue to experience systematic discrimination and violence at the hands of Islamic militants.
Harassment and violence against Christians continue in many places throughout the Islamic world, from Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq, to Nigeria, Indonesia and even Muslim-dominated areas of the heavily Catholic Philippines. In Saudi Arabia, all public expressions of Christian faith are forbidden. The on-going Christian flight from Lebanon has helped to transform it, in just half a century, from a majority Christian Arab nation to a majority Muslim population.
These are facts. The Muslim-Christian conflict is a very long one, rooted in deep religious differences, and Muslims have their own long list of real and perceived grievances. But especially in an era of religiously inspired terrorism and war in the Middle East, peace is not served by ignoring, subverting or rewriting history, but rather by facing it humbly as it really happened and healing its wounds.
That requires honesty and repentance from both Christians and Muslims. Comments like those reported in the recent news story I read - claiming that historically, it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who disagreed with them - are both false and do nothing to help."
A Conspiracy Theory Begins: You give your two cents worth. But all you get is a penny for your thoughts. So, where's the extra money going? I mean, it can really add up over time.
Quote Of The Day is from Dave Barry: "You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'My God, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'"
Monday August 21, 2006
Reputations - Like Odors - Linger: People learn from their life experiences. Someone who gets food poisoning from oysters may never eat them again. Whack part of your finger off on a table saw and you may give up woodworking as a hobby.
In the field of automobiles, people make purchases based on past experiences. Much has been written about the quality improvements of Detroit's recent offerings. But Detroit is still plagued by the sins of its past. Many of those who owned poorly-built Detroit iron in the 1970s and 1980s have abandoned domestic vehicles for more reliable Asian brands. And they won't be back anytime soon.
Detroit's target buyers - in the 25-45 age group - may be the children of these dissatisfied customers and may well have memories of the Ford, Dodge or Buick (which was always in the shop) and later memories of a family Honda or Toyota as a reliable workhorse. Therefore, these target buyers have an ingrained reluctance to visit a showroom full of Detroit iron; they tend to take their business elsewhere.
Ford, GM and DaimlerChrisler have a real uphill battle on their hands. Here's a specific example ... (more >>>)
Summer Reading: 'Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era' by Ken Emerson.
This book enthusiastically recreates a wonderful and historically significant time in music - 10 or so years beginning in the mid-to-late 1950s, when rock-and-roll and do-wop merged into a mainstream American sound. It chronicles 14 songwriters; all inhabitants of two music buildings in New York City, the Brill Building and 1650 Broadway. It's full of gossip, biography, music critiques and sociology. Tales are well-told and interwoven into a very readable work.
Here are some gems I gleaned from reading 'The Bomp':
• Once upon a time, the kings of rock (and blues), Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, wrote whitebread pop songs for The Cheers. Bert Convy was one of the group's members.
• The Coasters were so-named because the were bi-coastal - an LA group recording on a NY label. Lieber and Stoller wrote many of their hits, including 'Yakety-Yak'. 'Charlie Brown' was recorded in 10 minutes.
• Mike Stoller gave an on-screen performance as Elvis' piano player in the movie, 'Jailhouse Rock'. Leiber and Stoller wrote the movie's title tune.
• Other people thought that The Monkees were ill-behaved jerks who couldn't sing. And documented it.
• Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote some odd songs in the 1950s, including Perry Como's 'Magic Moments' and 'The Blob.'
• Legendary songwriter Doc Pomus was born Jerome Felder. A polio victim, he used crutches and a wheelchair to get around. He wrote songs for Elvis, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Dion and the Belmonts and Bobby Rydell.
• When Neil Sedaka's mother was pregnant with him, she rode a roller coaster to try and induce a miscarriage. Nevertheless, as a young adult, Sedaka would ride the Cyclone, Coney Island's fierce wooden coaster, over and over again.
• 'Stupid Cupid', a 1958 Top-10 hit for Connie Francis, was written by Sedaka. He also played piano during the recording session and ripped off a fingernail during one of the chorus' glissandos, spraying blood across the keyboard.
• Impresario Don Kirshner succeeded because he partnered with a money man, Al Nevins. Nevins was a former member of the Three Suns, a trio from the 1940s. The Three Suns produced a series of instrumental hits with the brothers playing accordion, organ and guitar.
• I'm grateful to learn that I'm not the only one who thinks Carole King can't sing. (She's a petite woman, but, to my ears, she sounds like a large animal being tortured.)
If you're of a certain age, this book will bring back a lot of musical memories and provide the backstories you never knew. It's a very cool read. (permalink)
What Ever Happened To That Good, Old-Time Religion? Mark Steyn writes: "Many mainstream Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political cliches.
In this world, if Jesus were alive today he'd most likely be a gay Anglican vicar in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally-friendly car with an 'Arms Are For Hugging' sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams."
Rich Black Man Poor-Mouths Capitalism: Tiresome, cliche-spouting, civil rights leader Andrew Young - asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close - said: "Well, I think they should; (Wal-Mart) ran the 'mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood. But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."
Young is a multi-millionaire. And has lots of rich black friends. So, why don't they get together and start a chain of black-owned mom and pop stores and run the Rip-Offs out of business?
Oh, I forgot. He never puts his money where his mouth is. Rhetoric is cheaper (and less risky) than actually doing something.
Pulitzer-Worthy Paragraph: Reporting from Cindy Sheehan's 'Camp Casey' in Crawford Texas, David Casstevens (of the Star-Telegram) writes: "As night fell, about 50 peace activists sat in a circle under a blanket of stars and chanted a Hindu mantra. "Ommmmmm," they began, as one, in a droning monotone. Again. Then again, drawing out the syllable until they were out of breath. In the darkness, from a nearby pasture, a sound broke the meditative bliss. MoooooOOHhh."
Circle Of Life ... according to Greg Gutfeld: "Whenever I think of Bob Denver, I think of Cindy Sheehan. And when I think of Cindy Sheehan, I think of Paul Hogan. And when I think of Paul Hogan, I think of Bob Denver. And then it starts all over again."
Quote Of The Day is from Warren Hutcherson: "Remember in elementary school, you were told that in case of fire you have to line up quietly in a single file line from smallest to tallest. What is the logic in that? Do tall people burn slower?"
Friday August 18, 2006
Mark Your Calendars: In June of 1957, a gold-and-white 2-door '57 Plymouth Belvedere two-door hardtop was buried as part of the Tulsa's Golden Jubilee Week during Oklahoma's 50th birthday. The car served as a time capsule and was buried near the southeast corner of the Tulsa County Courthouse. The Plymouth was filled with numerous items that reflected the culture and society of the time. Participants entered guesses as to what Tulsa's population would be in the year 2007.
On June 15, 2007, the car will be unearthed as a part of the Centennial events and presented to the person (or heirs), who provided the most accurate prediction.
The car is buried in a concrete and steel vault and is covered in cosmolene and wrapped in plastic. So, it should still be in good shape.
Incidentally, Plymouth's ad campaign for 1957 was that the restyled Plymouth was three years ahead of its time - 'Suddenly It's 1960'. True for the styling. And for the relatively new V-8. But, beneath the hood of six-cylinder models was the same venerable flathead block which once powered my 1939 model.
A friend had a '57 two-door Savoy hardtop - white over black. It had the ol' 132 horsepower flathead six with three-on-the tree. In late 1961 or early '62, I was riding in that car when it was broadsided at an intersection in Northeast Philadelphia by a motorist running a red light. No one was seriously hurt - but the Plymouth was totaled.
Future Past: Here are the top five things people in 1957 thought might be said when the buried Plymouth was exhumed in the far-distant future (2007):
1. "Mama! Look! That old car only has two fins!"
2. "Son, that old automobile has a lot of paint on it with some chrome doodads stuck on it. Nowadays, we just chrome-plate the whole damn vehicle."
3. "Man, those fins sure are tiny compared with today's cars."
4. "Those black rubber things are called 'tires', children. In those days, vehicles had to roll along on the ground because they couldn't fly."
5. "Ya know, that old car's motor runs on a liquid fuel called gasoline. We used to have to buy it at special stores, called 'gasoline stations'. Not like today, when - if we're low on fuel - we can just pick up a new plutonium rod at the 7-11."
How About Birkenstock Roller Skates? AutoExtremist's Peter DeLorenzo rants about "anti-car intelligentsia zealots who populate such beacons of tolerance as the Sierra Club and others of its ilk" noting, "If it were up to them, we would all be better off driving balsa wood clown cars put together with a hug and a smile - a land of Shiny, Happy People blissfully pedaling along, reveling being back in the Stone Age."
We All Have A Face That We Hide Away Forever: George Bush read 'The Stranger' by Albert Camus while on vacation. Hmmm. While on vacation, I sometimes play Billy Joel's 'The Stranger'. Coincidence? Or what?!
In 1960, Camus had a fatal auto accident while in a Facel Vega. Forty-four years later, Billy Joel had an auto accident in another French car, a Citroën 2CV. Coincidence? Or what?!
The Legacy Of Fidel: James Lileks points out that history "will note that the people in the American jails at the tip of this island ate better than the average Cuban."
You'll Never Read ... this stuff in the New York Times or Washington Post: "It was Israel who came to help the Christians in Lebanon. My mother was wounded by a Moslem's shell, and was taken into an Israeli hospital for treatment. When we entered the emergency room, I was shocked at what I saw. There were hundreds of people wounded, Moslems, Palestinians, Christians, Lebanese, and Israeli soldiers lying on the floor.
The doctors treated everyone according to their injury. They treated my mother before they treated the Israeli soldier lying next to her. They didn't see religion, they didn't see political affiliation, they saw people in need and they helped.
For the first time in my life I experienced a human quality that I know my culture would not have shown to their enemy. I experienced the values of the Israelis, who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments. I spent 22 days at that hospital. Those days changed my life and the way I believe information, the way I listen to the radio or to television. I realized I was sold a fabricated lie by my government, about the Jews and Israel, that was so far from reality.
I knew for fact that, if I was a Jew standing in an Arab hospital, I would be lynched and thrown over to the grounds, as shouts of joy of Allah Akbar, God is great, would echo through the hospital and the surrounding streets."
Anger Management: Greg Gutfeld comments on the new security procedures at Heathrow airport: "I'll never figure out what "outrages" British Muslims. They certainly don't get "outraged" when members of their mosques try to kill thousands of innocent people. Yet they "may" become outraged at British authorities for focusing on them during security searches.
But these new invasive procedures would never have been necessary had British Muslims spoke out against their own nutbags in the first place."
Quote Of The Day is from Johnny Carson: "If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead."
Wednesday August 16, 2006
Big Cat Reality Check: Here's what AutoExtremist wrote last week about Jaguar: "Prime target on the hit list is Jaguar, the once-heroic British brand that had the misfortune of falling into the wrong hands, in this case the stumbling, bumbling and flat-out incompetent managers assigned by Ford to "right" the company, but who instead damn near ran it right into the ground with a series of missteps, ill-conceived strategies and rampant cluelessness. ... a wildly attractive brand ripe for the picking when Ford acquired it in 1989 for $2.5 billion. Who knew back then that the initial purchase agreement would be the high point of the association?"
In my judgment, this is an unfair statement, made without a proper nod to history. The fact is, Jaguar was a profitable entity producing reasonably reliable vehicles until it was acquired by British Leyland in 1968. BL's management destroyed Jaguar's quality and brand image so badly that, by 1980, Jaguar only produced 14,000 cars.
Ford bought Jaguar in late 1989 and immediately began taking steps to save it.
A source in the auto business told me that - following the acquisition - Ford was appalled at the poor quality of vendor components supplied to Jaguar, especially electrical ones. Initiating frank discussions with suppliers, Ford got the equally frank reply that crap was supplied because Jaguar was a crappy customer and very slow in payment. Ford traded prompt payment and other 'relationship' changes in exchange for improved component quality. Jaguar quality and reliability began to markedly improve.
Ford moved to replace the ancient (1976-era) and non-Jag-looking XJS with a more stylish design, the XK8, with sleek lines reminiscent of the legendary E-Type.
FoMoCo also put a 'face' back on the XJ sedan, dumping the generic rectangular headlights and blacked-out taillights in favor of a more traditional look. Ford also oversaw and funded development of a modern V-8 to replace the long-in-the-tooth six and 12-cylinder engine offerings.
By the end of the 20th Century, Ford had a worthy Jaguar lineup - a swoopy touring car (XK8), an elegant luxury sedan (XJ8) and a smaller sports sedan (S-Type) which recalled the old 3.8S of the 40-plus years ago. And Jaguar was reportedly making money at that point. Then came the dotcom bust, the fall of the House of Jac and 9/11. Followed by a weakening dollar - a big deal because the U.S. is Jaguar's largest market. All of these things had a profoundly negative effect on Jaguar's fortunes.
Jac Nasser's big blunder was the X-Type but, to be fair, other luxury car manufacturers were dipping their corporate toes into the entry-level luxury market at the same time. The problem was that the little X looked too much like the big XJ in style and was too much like its Ford Mondeo brother in most other ways. By that time, FoMoCo had so many other problems (Lincoln, Mercury, Ford Explorer rollovers, product recalls, management turmoil, cash flow, etc.) that it lacked the energy and money to properly address Jaguar's problems.
In 1989, Ford saved Jaguar from the brink.
The question now is - who will save Ford from the brink? (permalink)
A Tale Of Two Castros: Fidel Castro is dead. Or almost dead. Or something. (There have been a couple of Fidel photo-ops. Or were they just Photoshops? I'm waiting for The People's Cube to offer Flat Fidel. Insert your own 'Weekend At Bernie's' joke here.)
Born in 1926, Fidel Castro was a rebellious, loud, and troublesome child and was sent to a Jesuit boarding school in Santiago de Cuba, where he was often teased by his wealthier classmates who called him a "peasant." He later earned a law degree at the University of Havana. .... (more >>>)
I Thought So: BBC stands for Boobs, Bastards and Chuckleheads, claims Greg Gutfeld. He feels that the British Broadcasting Corporation's approach "mirrors the rule of the leftwing blogosphere: as the threat of terrorism grows, the more you will hear about global warming. And other crap like global warming. Why is that? Thank God for Fox News."
I won't tell you what I think CBS stands for. But you'll probably figure it out yourself.
Bull Market? Charles Biderman, of Trim Tabs Investment Research in Santa Rosa, Calif., is bullish, noting that individuals "now hold $6.3 trillion in savings accounts, money market funds and CDs. In contrast, short-term debt - notably credit card and installment debt - stands at only $2.2 trillion, and is growing slowly. So, despite the housing slump, consumers have an excellent cash position. That is why Biderman is very bullish on the stock market, which he thinks will rise by 15 percent to 20 percent by year-end."
Crappy Web Design: James Lileks describes a particular website as "ugly as a bathroom floor in a Mexican dystentary ward."
I Always Wanted To Learn Piano. But I hate taking lessons. So, when one Bertha Riddle sent me an e-mail with the subject line: 'Order this powerful pill and begin to play!', I thought my prayers were answered.
But, alas, it was for something else entirely.
Quote Of The Day is from Dan Neil on the new Volkswagen Rabbit: "If VW wanted to name the car after a pagan fertility symbol, they should have named it the VW Britney."
Monday August 14, 2006
Jolly Good Fun: VIP visitors to the Isle of Capri this summer are being ferried about in the new Fiat Panda Jolly concept car. In their heyday of the late '50s and early '60s, the Fiat 500 Jollys were a favorite toy of the rich and famous, including Yul Brynner and Aristotle Onassis, who used them as estate runabouts, yacht tenders and golf carts.
On our last trip to Italy, we visited Sorrento and took a boat to Capri. It's a very small island with narrow, winding and steep roads. Many of the tour taxis are tiny white Fiats which have been converted to stretch-limo convertibles. Hilarious-looking.
Ho-Hum Lincoln: FoMoCo has announced that the Lincoln MKS concept sedan (the one that Looks like a Lexus reject) will go into production.
AutoExtremist writes: "Not-so-good news is that the Lincoln MKS concept will become a production car for the 2008 model year. The uninspired near-luxury car, which manages to incorporate every current design cliche out there in its flanks, will continue to send Lincoln into the depths of mediocrity. They just don't get it in Dearborn when it comes to Lincoln - and they'll never get it, apparently." By the way, the MKS is based on the Ford 500 platform.
Nomenclature: The Archbishop of York, the Church of England's second-highest figure, has reprimanded George W. Bush for "risking division" by warning that the West was at war with "Islamic fascists". OK, how about "#$%@!@ Muslim terrorists"?
"None of this would be happening if Bush had not invaded Iraq." The Anchoress responds to this rallying cry of the Left: "Riggggght. ... Because before we went into Iraq, there were no terrorist attacks anywhere … World Trade Center 1993, Khobar Towers 1996, Nairobi 1998, East Timor 1999, USS Cole 2000.
Gee whiz … looks to me like in the 1990s we were seeing an attack (on specifically American holdings, interests or vessels) almost every 18 months or so! Then … New York City 9/11/01, New York City 9/11/01, Washington, DC 9/11/01, Bali 2002 ... Oh, wait … we're not seeing attacks every 18 months, anymore - are we? In fact … it looks like President Bush's terrible policies helped foil this latest attempt, despite the best efforts by the NY Times and others to cripple necessary programs.
The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.
In short, Democrats who claim to want "focus" on the war on terror have wanted it fought without the intelligence, interrogation and detention tools necessary to win it. And if they cite "cooperation" with our allies as some kind of magical answer, they should be reminded that the British and other European legal systems generally permit far more intrusive surveillance and detention policies than the Bush Administration has ever contemplated. Does anyone think that when the British interrogate those 20 or so suspects this week that they will recoil at harsh or stressful questioning?
I keep remembering Harry Reid crowing, "We killed the Patriot Act."
There is a time to be a child, to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. Then there is a time to put childish things away. If you want to disagree with policies meant to keep you safe, do it. If you want to hate a man or even a movement, do it … but do it with something that goes beyond adolescent spouting off, backed up by nothing more than 'feelings,' 'caring', and hysterical, dramatic angst. Sometimes I read the drivel some of you folks write me, and I want to take you by the shoulders and shake you and say, "Grow up. Grow UP!"
Stop talking nonsense. Just, finally, stop it. ... And grow up!"
Well said, Anchoress.
Exposing Terrorism: A poster on National Review's website has suggested that airlines "should immediately adopt a policy that all passengers must check all items and fly naked. We're not that far from naked already as we pass through security and it would no doubt speed the security process greatly.
With no ability to hide dangerous items, threats from bombs and highjackings would be greatly reduced. Furthermore, consider that the people who want to bring down these planes are so terrified of women's effect on them that they demand women be covered from head to toe. An army of naked female passengers would prevent these primitive cowards from ever boarding another plane. Attack them where they are most vulnerable - their sexual insecurity and their fear of the female form."
A side benefit is that many of us would suddenly decide to eat less and exercise more.
How About A Rum Punch? A bar in eastern China has come up with a novel way of attracting clients - they are allowed to beat up the staff. The Rising Sun Anger Release Bar in Nanjing lets customers smash glasses, rant and even hit specially trained workers, state media reported.
The owner, Wu Gong, told China Daily that he was inspired to open the bar by his experiences as a migrant worker. Interestingly, most of his customers were women working in the service or entertainment industries, he said.
The bar employs 20 men who have been given protective gear and physical training to prepare them for the job.
Is That A Telephoto Lens In Your Pocket? Or are you just glad to be a Reuters photographer? If so, you need Flat Fatima to enhance your photographs.
Flat Fatima is courtesy of The People's Cube, a very funny website I just found. I especially liked this posted headline: 'Jews take day off from banking and entertainment industries to kick Hezbollah's ass back to 7th century.'
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson on the BMW X3: "More evidence that BMW is losing the plot big time. Why make something smaller and uglier than the X5, make it so it doesn't drive so well, then price it out of contention to its natural rivals so it's in competition with ... the X5?"
Friday August 11, 2006
Little Cars: Ford will deliver more than 600,000 Fusions in August, through a new promotion with Kellogg's cereal. Kellogg's will include diecast Hot Wheels Ford Fusion model cars in more than 600,000 boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Krispies. A single red Hot Wheels Fusion will be made. Whoever finds it will win a brand-new, full-size Fusion.
I like this idea. In earlier times, it was believed that little cars helped to sell big cars. Starting in the 1920s, Citroën actively assisted toy manufacturers, freely supplying technical details to toymakers and acting as a distributor, selling little cars in its dealerships.
The theory was that young children would bond to the brand of auto and, as adults, would be more prone to purchase the full-size namesake. It was just one more way to build brand loyalty in the marketplace.
In the 1950s, it was very common to find 1/25th scale promotional models at U.S. car dealers. These plastic vehicles were fairly realistic and were available in factory colors.
When I bought a new Scirocco in 1976, I purchased a few 1:43 scale models of my new car - in the same color as my 1:1 scale Volkswagen. These little diecast models were made by the German firm Schuco and were pretty accurate.
Sometime in the 1980s, the bean counters and attorneys at Rolls Royce and Jaguar decided that the toy industry could be a new source of revenue and began charging licensing fees to modelmakers. This dampened some of the interest in producing miniatures of these brands.
In 1990, General Motors had U.S. Customs seize a shipment of Brooklin scale models entering the United States. Brooklin was a fairly small cottage industry producer of collectible handbuilt 1:43 scale vehicles. Located in Bath, England, Brooklin modeled marques that others ignored.
While other manufacturers were knocking out another million Candy Apple Red '57 Chevies with mag wheels, '57 T'birds, Porsche 911s or Rosso Red Ferraris, Brooklin was producing small batches of Pierce Silver Arrows, Pre-WWI Chrysler Newport Parade Cars, 1934 Chrysler Airflows, '31 Hudson Boattails, '41 Packard Clippers, '53 Oldsmobile Fiestas, etc.
Brooklin models are strictly low-volume items manufactured from white metal using rubber molds, carefully assembled and painted in authentic factory colors.
GM wouldn't release the impounded shipment until Brooklin signed an agreement and paid licensing fees. Ford and Chrysler soon followed in GM's footsteps, demanding payment from all manufacturers - large and small. I suspect that these licensing arrangements have inhibited the choices of vehicles modeled to some extent.
Perhaps the Fusion promotion is the beginning of a swing back to the old days. I hope that it's a signal that Ford is looking for ways to build brand loyalty over the longer term.
Anglican Angst: Jeremy Clarkson sounds off about cars ... and everything else: "A couple of weeks ago the third most senior bishop in the Church of England announced that it was a 'sin' to jet off on foreign holidays and drive a gas-guzzling car. ... I suppose we shouldn't be surprised by this. Few organisations know quite as much about selfishness as the Church of England. They preach to their increasingly small congregations about the iniquities of homelessness, and then lock up their churches at night to make sure tramps can't get in and nick the communion wine.
They tell us about the need for tolerance and to forgive those who trespass against us, but won't let homosexualists into the pulpit because that sort of thing is a sin too. And so is being a woman. And so is greed, of course. The sort of greed that turned a simple belief into one of the richest institutions in the world.
Then there are those who practise bell-ringing for two hours a night. Is that not a bit selfish; imposing your hobby and your vision of traditionalism on everyone within five miles?"
Do Windmills Come With A Sport Package? In the same article referenced above (a review of a minivan), Jeremy Clarkson also opines on the temperature of the planet: "I don't know what's causing global warming. I've read several reports saying it's the Land Rover Discovery and that you must immediately part-exchange it for a windmill.
But then I've read an equally large number that say global temperature variations are cyclical and that choosing to become an automotive vegetablist won't make the slightest bit of difference."
Unbelievable: Thankfully, an Islamo-Fascist mass murder bomb plot - a plan to blow up 6-10 planes in mid-flight over ocean - has been foiled. The intended victims would have been British and American citizens.
This event tells me that the war on terror is still very close and we must be vigilant. I'm very grateful to the many anonymous security and intelligence people who uncovered the plot. I'm grateful to the British and American leaders who take these threats seriously.
I thought all Americans would feel the same way. But that's apparently not so.
John Hawkins writes, "In Democratic Underground postings, only 21% believe the US and British story about the foiled terror plot. Many posting refer to it as a 'hoax'. "we have one party that believes in defending American and another party full of people so blinded by ideology that they can't react, or even fully acknowledge, a threat when it's staring them right in the face. It's sad really."
Ann Coulter notes that "in 2004, pollster Scott Rasmussen asked likely voters if they believed America was generally a fair and decent country and whether they believed the world would be a better place if more countries were like America.
Republicans agreed that America is generally fair and decent, 83 percent to 7 percent. Eighty-one percent agreed that the world would be a better place if more countries were like the United States.
By contrast, Democrats were nearly split, with only 46 percent agreeing that America is generally a fair and decent country, and with 37 percent saying America is not a generally fair and decent country. Only 48 percent of Democrats said they thought that the world would be a better place if more countries were like the United States."
It disturbs me that so many who have been blessed to live in the United States don't think that it is a "fair and decent country".
Maybe they should leave.
Conspiracy Theory: If you believe ABC News reporter Ann Compton looks "like a feminine version of the great character actor Anthony Zerbe", then you should consider this: "Zerbe was the villain in 'The Omega Man,' and a recurring bad guy in 'Hawaii Five-O.' Hawaii has six letters. Six plus five equals 11. On 9/11, Compton was the only broadcast reporter allowed to remain on Air Force One when President Bush couldn't return to the White House. ... Where was Anthony Zerbe on 9/11, if in fact Ann Compton was on Air Force One?"
Let's not forget that Zerbe was also the villain in numerous 'Mission Impossible' episodes. And one of those awful Timothy Dalton 'James Bond' flicks - I think it was 'The Living Daylights' but I'm too lazy to look it up on imdb.com. Timothy Dalton - Worst Bond Ever.
Smells Delicious: Ben & Jerry's sells Waffle Cone 'Flavorama' Room Spray. Product claim: "Make your room smell like freshly baked waffle cones!"
Today's Inspirational Business Thought: Eagles may soar to great heights, but weasels never get sucked into jet engines.
Thursday August 10, 2006
Wine Report: I recommend that you seek out 2004 Timbuktu Big Block Red. It has a picture of a 1955 Chrysler Imperial on the label. (It's an Australian Bordeaux-profile blend - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and more.) We had it for dinner on last night and it was spectacular, all things considered. The 'nose' is complex and astounding. The more you drink, the more astounding it smells.
Around here, it costs less than $10 per bottle, maybe a buck more than Red Truck Red. But it tastes better. It is a screw top wine - no cork - but it will surprise you. I had it with meatballs and angel hair pasta. Excellent.
I Wish I'd Said This ... because I've long been a fan of Joe Lieberman. "It strikes me that it's a perhaps unfortunate and significant development from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, that what it says about the direction the party appears to be heading in when they, in effect, purge a man like Joe Lieberman, who was just six years ago their nominee for Vice President, is of concern, especially over the issue of Joe's support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.
The thing that's partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task. And when we see the Democratic Party reject one of its own, a man they selected to be their vice presidential nominee just a few short years ago, it would seem to say a lot about the state the party is in today if that's becoming the dominant view of the Democratic Party, the basic, fundamental notion that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't - we can't be.
So we have to be actively engaged not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but on a global basis if we're going to succeed in prevailing in this long-term conflict."
But, I don't need to say it because it has already been spoken - by Dick Cheney.
And, let's not forget the words of Ronald Reagan: "I didn't leave the Democratic Party the Democratic Party left me."
Today's Inspirational Business Thought: Doing a job right the first time gets the job done. Doing the job wrong fourteen times gives you job security.
Wednesday August 9, 2006
"Giant Robot Imprisons Parked Cars": This headline is soooo compelling that I would have posted it anyway even if the story was lame. But it happens to be a very interesting tale ... (more >>>)
Don't Screw Around With Seniors: William Edney, 23, picked the wrong vehicle to carjack, trying to steal a wine-colored 2004 Ford Expedition in West Philadelphia.
A seemingly easy target, a senior citizen with a slow gait, climbed out of the SUV. Edney clutched a 9 mm handgun and crept up to the senior, whispering, "Don't do anything funny." George Newton, 78, unhesitatingly handed him the keys then pulled out his revolver and shot him.
Edney was listed in stable condition at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and has been charged with robbery, carjacking and related crimes.
Newton is fine. I mean ... really fine.
Summer Reading (Lightweight Edition): I just finished Clive Cussler's 'Black Wind'. It's another Dirk Pitt novel. These books are easy-to-digest, adventure-type stuff. Pleasant but not too heavy. I've read them all, I think.
Clive is an avid car collector; he has over 80 cars in his collection, including a Continental Mark II and the '58 Chrysler 300D convertible featured in 'Black Wind'.
Cussler's car museum in Arvada, Colorado (near Denver) is now open to the public. I think every Pitt novel has at least one old collector car in it and it's always one that Cussler owns in real life. The 1936 Avions Voisin featured in his novel, 'Sahara' - published in 1996 and made into a movie last year, is on display in the museum.
I guess I'll have to schedule a trip to Colorado next year. Besides, I'd like to see the Forney Transport Museum and Colorado Railroad Museum again.
Summer Projects Pix: Last month, I wrote about two home projects. I've now posted photos of my wife's new kitchen and my refurbished garage.
James Lileks reports that he is in the "midst of a blur of upgrades" to his house, noting: "The front door, which had been blasted by decades of Minnesota weather, was refinished."
I also had our front door refinished (sanded, lightly stained, three coats of lacquer varnish) but I didn't bother to take a photo of it. My bad.
Quick! We Need Legislation ... requiring belts, harnesses, airbags and rollover bars. And class-action lawsuits. Lots of them. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that shopping carts were involved in injuries to more than 24,000 children last year, mostly when a child fell out or a cart tipped over.
A Different Perspective: Michael Ledeen is in Africa, and and notes that "here, more people are dying every day than the sum total of Iraqis, Iranians, Lebanese, and Israelis in a month.
They are dying at the hands of marauders, of tyrants who starve them to death and then beg the West to provide money and food to the regimes who caused the artificial famines in the first place. And they are dying of disease, of course, the biggest of all the killers."
Words Of Wisdom ... from Ben Stein: "The line of the fight between civilization and barbarism runs right along the Israel-Lebanon non-border. If it's not won there, it won't be long until the front line is right here, and then it will be too late."
Healthy Investment: Dan Wiener, of the subscription-only 'Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors', writes about PrimeCap Management's outlook: "The managers say that price-earnings multiples for drug companies are near 40-year lows and drug company market capitalizations (their market size) are near 20-year lows as well.
Clearly, investors aren't pricing these companies up with the rest of the stock market. Why? Well, listing a litany of woes that befell the sector, including rising health care costs, slowing of research and development productivity, patent expirations, re-importation of drugs from overseas and generics competition, the managers say investors are over-reacting and have lost sight of the tremendous growth prospects that exist in the industry.
In particular, the team notes that the leading edge of the baby-boom generation will begin turning 65 in 2007, hitting the period of their lives when health care spending will be at its highest. The team claims that when the tide eventually does turn their health care investments will become very profitable."
I'm glad that we've invested in the Vanguard Health Care Fund. For the 10-year period ending 12/31/05, it has averaged a 17.43% per year return. And, it sounds like this fund has a bright future.
Media Bias Unleashed: Chris Matthews sounded off on George Bush during an interview with Don Imus: "He didn't have any philosophy when he went in, and they handed it to him, these guys with ... you know, the guys you used to make fun of at school, pencilnecks, the intellectuals, the guys you never trusted. All of a sudden, he trusted the intellectuals, the guys he knew at school. They're a bunch of pencilnecks, and now he buys completely their ideology, because he didn't have one of his own coming in. That was his problem. I don't know what Bush stood for, except I'm a cool guy and Gore isn't."
Chris Matthews, once a fairly reasonable guy, has become a total moonbat.
People For The Ethical Treatment Of Gutfeld: The Great Greg writes that "PETA only exists on the backs of industrious, meat-eating people who, by their own hard work, have created a prosperous and comfortable society that makes it possible for misguided organizations like PETA to exist.
In that sense, they are no different than pacifists, holistic practitioners and David Blaine."
Quote Of The Day is from a very good friend of mine - a fellow car enthusiast in North-Central Pennsylvania: "I saw my first Lincoln Zephyr - black with green windows. Boxy, square and too much chrome. This is what is going to save Lincoln?? I don't think so!!"
Monday August 7, 2006
Fidel And Ford, Too? The Truth About Cars has instituted a Ford Death Watch. Sadly, I found the article to be full of depressingly convincing facts and assertions. I do hope Ford survives and, ultimately, prospers. But I'm not betting the farm on it.
Excerpt: "Even with accelerated product development, it will be two to three years before Ford can readjust its product line to match the new sales environment. Most of Ford's '07 to '10 models will be SUVs and pickups.
At the same time, Ford is pulling the plug on its big rear wheel-drive sedans and ill-fated minivans: the Mercury Monterey (down 40%) dies next month and the Freestar (down 20%) goes away in April. FoMoCo's move to deep-six (rather than re-engineer) their big sedans and people carriers when the American market is flooding with SUV refugees reflects a lack of resources, imagination, will or all three.
Ford has also failed to refresh their fuel-sipping, dynamically superlative Focus - before it fades away like the once-great Taurus. ..."
Damn. I hate to get all sentimental, but I learned to drive in a Ford - a '56.
Cruisin': Saturday was my birthday and my 9 year-old grandson was here. I gave him his first ride in the '39 Plymouth; we made a big loop featuring some lightly traveled back roads.
I had the windows down so he could experience the rumble of the Glasspacks. Upon our return, he pronounced the ride as "awesome!"
Next Time, Use Real Nails (Alternate headline: Aging Slut Craves Attention): Rome's Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders condemned Madonna's decision to stage a mock-crucifixion in a concert held near Vatican City. The long lapsed-Catholic diva's latest performance has her wearing a fake crown of thorns and descending on a suspended, mirror-tiled cross as part of her 'Confessions Tour'.
Cardinal Ersilio Tonino of Vatican City, speaking with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, said: "This time the limits have really been pushed too far. This concert is a blasphemous challenge to the faith and a profanation of the cross. She should be excommunicated."
Bishop Velasio De Paolis commented: "Wizards and Satanists use religious objects for black masses and she is simply following them."
Greg Gutfeld quipped: "It's funny that Madonna's greatest achievement in her life will be the unification of religious leaders under one belief - that Madonna sucks."
Our Enemy: Charles Krauthammer writes that "Hezbollah is a serious enemy of the United States. In 1983, it massacred 241 American servicemen. Except for al-Qaeda, it has killed more Americans than any other terror organization.
More importantly, it is today the leading edge of an aggressive, nuclear-hungry Iran. Hezbollah is a wholly owned Iranian subsidiary." Read the whole article.
And ... you've probably already seen this headline: 'Iran Is Compensating Families of Hezbollah Dead'.
What else needs to be said?
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson, "The Mazda5 is about as exciting as MPVs get and that's not saying much. You would do better to sell a couple of your children and get a decent hatchback."
Friday August 4, 2006
New Crap Replaces Old Crap: The Detroit News headline reads 'Big 3's future rides on new models'.
My first reaction was: Don't they run this same headline every six months or so?
My second reaction was: This describes Detroit's problem in a nutshell.
For too many years, Detroit auto companies would launch a vehicle - sometimes a total turkey, sometimes a decent but flawed machine - and then do nothing more ... no improvements to fix the problems, unless there was a safety recall. Instead, they poured all their efforts into the next generation of vehicles, leaving angry buyers stranded and sinking the reputation of the current model ... and the brand.
You want me to name names? Here's a few: GM's front-wheel drive X-cars (1980 to '85 or so) including Chevrolet Citation, Buick Skylark, Olds Omega and Pontiac Phoenix. Phoenix? 'Rising from the ashes' indeed. Perhaps the Phoenix moniker was an ironic hint that, due to its propensity to rust away to nothing, that the car soon would be ashes. But I don't think it ever rose up and reconstituted itself.
Maybe, in a nod to 7-Up's brilliant 1970s marketing campaign, the Pontiac should have been named The UnPhoenix.
Then there's the GM J-cars (example - Cadillac Cimarron) and A-cars (Chevy Celebrity). Both had many of the flaws of the X-cars, even though they were introduced later.
The Ford Tempo was a consistent Pile-O-Crap throughout its ten-plus year production life. Then, there were Chrysler's many miserable K-car variants. (If you ever owned one, you can stop reading ... just close your eyes and mentally write your own distressing, 1000-word essay about it.)
The fwd Lincoln Continental was introduced in 1988, and was a problem-plagued dog every year, until the final unlamented 1994 model sauntered erratically off the assembly line. The all-new 1995 Continental was ceremoniously trumpeted to the public and then slowly decontented over its 8-year life. Its flaws were never addressed either. Meanwhile, Lincoln scratched its corporate head and wondered why sales tanked. Same story with the Lincoln LS. And the Mercury Cougar. Etc.
If Detroit automakers would simply operate on a "program of continuous improvement" (Hmmmm. Where have I heard that Asian-sounding phrase before?), they wouldn't be betting their "future" on new models every #$%@ year.
And while on this subject ....
Lost Compass: Paul & Anita Lienert of the Detroit News don't think much of the new Jeep. Excerpt: "It's a rare vehicle in our test fleet that falls so short of expectations. But the Compass was exactly that - a car that promises much, then fails to deliver." Paul cited a "grossly underpowered engine, slushy-feeling CVT" transmission and loose and poorly-made trim.
Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler has issued a recall on all 2002-2006 Jeep Liberty SUVs, affecting more than 800,000 units. "According to the automaker, a front suspension lower ball joint can separate under excessive use. The problem has already received over a 100 complaints with three injuries possibly attributed to the problem."
Told Ya: Ford is putting Jaguar up for sale. (I first reported on this in a July 21st posting.)
David Sedgewick, editor of Automotive News, said: "Jaguar is in big trouble. It is bleeding money and that is not something Ford can abide for long. Land Rover is doing quite well, so I can see them using that as the candy to lure someone to take Jaguar off their hands."
Stock Market Boom Ahead? Dan Wiener publisher of the subscription-only 'Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors' writes: "Over the past four calendar years, 2002 through 2005, operating earnings for the companies in the S&P 500 have risen at double-digit rates for a total gain of 120%.
Expectations are that earnings could rise another 10% for all of 2006 before slowing in 2007 puts earnings up a total 142% from the end of 2001 through the end of 2006. Meanwhile, from the end of 2001, when the S&P 500 index was at 1148, through the end of 2005, the index gained less than 9%. To my way of thinking the stock market has some catching up to do."
What's In A Name? John Stossel notes that "The Association of Trial Lawyers of America recently changed its name to the American Association for Justice" and points out that "trial lawyers say they "protect the little guy," that's a myth. In truth, for every little guy they help, they hurt thousands." His article is definitely worth a read.
Fun Cancelled: A Muslims-only day at Britain's biggest theme park has been axed after a huge bookings flop. The organizers had hoped to attract 28,000 people to the event but less than 1,000 tickets were sold.
Greg Gutfeld writes, "No smoking, alcohol or gambling on "fun day." And we wonder why so many young Muslim extremists are willing to blow themselves up? If my lifestyle involved this kind of "fun" I'd probably strap on some explosives and blow up a bus in Tel Aviv, too. And I'm Jewish.
Luckily I seem to have found a middle ground between Muslim fun and Mel Gibson fun, though it's interesting how both extremes seem to involve blaming the Jews for everything. This is as good an argument as any for going around moderately drunk all the time. But then again, any other argument for going around moderately drunk all the time is as good as this one."
My take: Muslims, fun? Close your eyes and try to imagine a young Cindy Lauper singing, 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' while prancing around in a burka.
Don't Forget! The pay-per-view 'Mel Gibson Exorcism' starts Sunday at 8:00 pm. Check your local tv listings to be certain. The phrase 'sugar tits' will not be uttered. Not even in Latin. Or Aramaic.
Saddle Up And Ride! The Rocking Horse Toilet challenges the traditional form of the toilet by toying with the nostalgic familiarity of the rocking horse. The inclusion of foot pegs "provides real health benefits by raising the knees above the waist, which facilitates a thorough expulsion of waste." Giddyup! (hat tip - Dave Barry)
Bad Pun Of The Day: Acupuncture is a jab well done.
Wednesday August 2, 2006
But Will It Have Heated Seats, Air and Cruise? The Automotive X-Prize will invite teams from around the world to focus on a single goal: "design, build and sell super-efficient cars that people want to buy."
Last Ride Discount: New Zealanders have been registering their cars as hearses to avoid paying registration fees, it emerged yesterday.
The scam came to light when a Christchurch woman told a radio station she had paid just NZ$58 (about $36 U.S.) to register her car, instead of the usual NZ$183, by registering it as a ''non-commercial hearse'' that would be used to carry dead animals.
The woman's definition of carrying dead animals: "Taking frozen chickens home from the supermarket."
Car Sighting: Spotted a charcoal Lotus Elise with either chrome or polished aluminum wheels near Brush Prairie, WA.
That is one very tiny car.
July Car Sales: Compared with July 2005, most Ford products experienced sharp declines and overall sales declined 34 percent. Sales of the Ford 500 are off by 42%, the Focus is down 40% and Jaguar sales are off by 30%.
GM's total vehicle sales were down by over 19%. Buick sales dropped almost 22%. Saab sales were off over 41%.
DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales decline of 35 percent for July.
Toyota reported its all-time best-ever monthly sales of 241,826 vehicles, an increase of 16.2 percent over July 2005. Sales of Lexus passenger cars were up almost 22%. Honda, meanwhile, said its July sales rose 6 percent.
At this rate, you'll soon be seeing nothing but Hondas and Toyotas through your windshield.
Prius-Driving Poseurs: Jeremy Clarkson writes about hybrids and their owners: "But saving polar bears, of course, is not the point of a hybrid car. The point is not to save the planet but to be seen trying. I saw a Prius in California the other day with the registration plate 'Hug Life' and that's what the car does. It says to other road users, "Hey. I've spent a lot of money on this flimsy p.o.s. and I'm chewing a lot of fuel too. But I'm making a green statement." Think of it, then, as a big metal beard, a pair of open-toed sandals with wheels."
Screwed-Up Priorities: Portland, OR has more crimes than jail space. In Multnomah County, burglars, thieves and drug dealers are routinely let out of jail within minutes.
Cases are regularly plead down to almost zip.
Meanwhile, a woman is hauled before the court because she rides a bike without caliper brakes. And police find the time to testify against her.
A Nation Of Idiots: P. J. O'Rourke writes, "I was out on the patio the other day wondering (as writers of conservative opinion pieces constantly do) what's wrong with America. I noticed a tag affixed to my collapsible canvas deck chair, and my wondering ceased. What's wrong with America was printed on the tag:
Do not attempt to lift the front end of the chair while sitting down on it.
Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that chair manufacturers feel compelled to tell Americans this."
Good Show, Tony. I guess I don't have enough to do, because I watched about 20 minutes of yesterday's White House press briefing on C-Span. Tony Snow brings long-absent personality and focus to the job of press secretary.
Newspaper Death Watch, Part 423: In 1970, nearly 1 out of 6 people living in the L.A. basin subscribed to the Los Angeles Times everyday. While the population has multiplied almost 70% in the 35 years, the Times' circulation has actually fallen.
Today, about 1 in 13 people subscribe, and the trends are getting worse.
Squirrel Will Spend Its Life Smelling Other Squirrels' Butts: A dog in Iowa has taken in an orphan squirrel as her own. The mother is also raising a three-week-old puppy with the squirrel at the same time.
Quote Of The Day is from Brit-mag, Car, on the Jeep Cherokee: "The quality of cabin plastics can only be described as 'sub-Daewoo."