Friday June 29, 2007
'Mild Hybrid'? Chrysler is developing a mild hybrid for some future vehicles. The system shuts off the engine whenever the vehicle stops. In the early days of my plastics business, we had an orange '77 Chevrolet Vega company car that did exact the same thing. We didn't call it a 'Mild Hybrid', though. We had several other ... ummmm ... less printable names for it.
It's All My Fault: Over the past three-plus years, I've posted a lot of stuff for this blog - over three hundred thousand words, I'd guess. It's impossible for me to remember everything I've written but it's all posted in cyberspace and - thanks to Google - eminently findable.
Recently, I received an e-mail from a 64 year-old Lincoln Town Car owner. He didn't like what I wrote about the Lincoln brand in 'The Decline of the Lincoln Automobile', written in January 2005 - a long time ago. Over 17 dog-years. Or 130 Internet years. In that essay, I commented "for the first time in 21 years, there will be no Lincoln vehicle in our garage. It's because none of their product offerings are of any interest to us."
Mr. Town Car Geezer was displeased, feeling that his choice of vehicles had been impugned, concluding his missive with "people like you are the reason America is going downhill."
If ... (more >>>)
"American History and Practical Math ..." Jeremy Clarkson wrote: "I read last week that children must be taught in schools how to be black. And that if this isn't possible they must be made to go on school sharing exercises to other educational establishments, where everyone is a Muslim. That's all well and good, but wouldn't it be better if the teachers showed them how to mend a bicycle and how to refit the belt on a front-loading washing machine."
"I've just realized that my 12-year-old daughter cannot wire a plug. So how's she going to get by if she ever finds herself at a remote Arctic weather station with a blocked runway." And: "When the chain comes off my son's bicycle he can no more put it on again than he could perform a heart transplant on a wasp."
In the 1950s hit record, 'School Days', Chuck Berry sang about his high school curriculum, including ... (more >>>)
The People Have Spoken: The #%@&*! immigration bill has gone down in defeat; the Senate switchboard was shut down due to overwhelming calls. A press release from Giuliani notes "a majority in the Senate made clear this bill shortchanged the American people by failing to end illegal immigration and failing to secure our borders. The bill did not deserve to move forward."
"As I have said before, this bill - which I believed was based more on compromise than on principle - failed to do several basic things, including: securing our borders, creating a uniform tamper-proof ID card for all foreign workers and students, establishing a single nationwide database of foreigners, and mandating the full implementation of a biometric 'check in-check out' system." Go, Rudy, go!
Jessica - Hot And Smart, Too: Jessica Alba, a third-generation American and actress, is under fire from fellow Latinos for comments she made to Para Todos magazine: "Alba is my last name and I'm proud of that. But that's it. My grandparents were born in California, the same as my parents, and though I may be proud of my last name, I'm American. Throughout my whole life, I've never felt connected to one particular race or heritage, nor did I feel accepted by any. ... I had a very American upbringing, I feel American, and I don't speak Spanish. So, to say that I'm a Latin actress, OK, but it's not fitting; it would be insincere."
My grandparents emigrated from Ireland but I don't know Gaelic except for a couple of choice profanities I learned from my grandmother.
Definition Of The Day is for 'Toothache': The pain that drives you to extraction.
Wednesday June 27, 2007
Possibilities: In Monday's posting, I discussed the strange events of 1967/68, pointing out that the 2008 U.S. political race is still in the Anything Can Happen phase. Here are a couple of imaginable scenarios ... (more>>>)
Monday June 25, 2007
Suddenly It's The Summer Of 1967: Whenever I hear pundits declaring who the next president will be, I tune out. It's simply too early to make predictions. Don't believe that? Just travel back 40 years.
I was alive and well and just beginning my business career in '67. Unlike the "historic" clips that are run on television these days, hippies were not everywhere. One rarely saw people on the street dressed like the Mommas & Pappas. Some of us grew sideburns though. (Oh, the horror!)
People went about their daily lives just like today, working, shopping, drinking and watching television. Except the water cooler question was: "Did you see the finale of 'The Fugitive' last night?" rather than: "Did you see the finale of 'The Sopranos' last night?"
I remember 1967 well - the politics and the events. Here's what it was like ... (more>>>)
Friday June 22, 2007
Fish Story: There are many tales about guys exaggerating about the sizes of fish they've caught. I have no experience with this since I'm not a fisherman. However, I have encountered the automotive equivalent of "It was this big!" on numerous occasions. I'm talking about gas mileage, of course.
Last week, my friend Ray called and asked what kind of mileage I used to get from my VW Beetles. I had to rely on my memory (I've owned three Bugs but sold my last one 12 years ago) but I replied, "The worst I ever got was city driving using Rocket Gas (a cheap off-brand, in case you haven't guessed) - 23 mpg. It was lousy gas but was only 22.9¢/gallon in 1964. The best, I recall, was in light traffic at 55-60 mph on a long trip - 32 mpg." "Me, too!" he exclaimed. "My Beetle pulled the same numbers. But, I met someone at a party last week and he claimed that his Beetle always delivered at least 42 mpg."
This led to a general discussion of the BS artists we've met who brag about gas mileage, quoting unbelievable numbers. Last month, I met a guy who claimed that he regularly got 28 mpg in his Lincoln Mark VIII, tankful after tankful. Now the Mark VIII has basically the same engine that my wife's '96 Continental had. The best tank mileage we ever got was 24 mpg on a long, all Interstate trip. Typical mileage was in the 18-22 mpg range, depending on the type of driving and time of the year. The EPA-mandated 'winter mix' fuel typically dropped the Connie's mileage by 1-3 mpg. That's true for my Jaguar as well.
The Jaguar typically gets 17-21 mpg in mixed driving. On an all-highway trip, it has achieved 22.5 mpg. My wife's Toyota Avalon has averaged slightly over 23 mpg since we purchased it. On long Interstate trips, it will pull 28. (In our household, gas mileage is calculated and recorded in the car's logbook every time the tank is filled - we've been doing this for 40 years. We do not rely on the numbers calculated by the car's trip computer. My experience is that the computers are always optimistic.)
The 'official' EPA city/highway mpg estimates for the aforementioned cars are: Mark VIII - 18/26; Continental - 17/25, Jaguar - 17/23, Avalon - 22/31. My 25+ years of exposure to EPA data demonstrate that cars I drive do better than the 'city' figures on average but never as well as the 'highway' numbers.
My 1984 Lincoln Mark VII had a trip computer which reported "instant mileage" and went up to three digits (the Jag's instant mileage display tops out at 99 mpg). On a long steep downhill I-5 stretch just south of the Oregon border, I once experienced a 156 mpg reading. And that's no fish story! (permalink)
Carrying On The Tradition: A website has posted renderings of the 2009 Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and Mercury Milan. The Ford looks good, the Lincoln not so good and the Merc looks completely anonymous - a Mercury tradition for the last several years.
Fire Sale On Kilns And Looms: Antioch College is closing. Claiming to not be a typical liberal arts college, the Ohio institution didn't grade classes and encouraged students to experiment and develop their own study plans.
The school also has been a fertile ground for social activism. Civil disobedience has been part of that, with anti-Vietnam war protests in the 1960s and '70s, and demonstrations against the Iraq war in recent years. In 1994, students took over a campus building for 32 days to protest the school's plans to turn it into an admissions office instead of a student activity center.
John J. Miller writes, "The Chronicle of Higher Ed says that Antioch College is "known for its activist politics." That's like saying lunatic asylums are known for their colorful characters. Seven years ago, the college had convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal deliver its commencement address."
Man, that place musta been worse than Villanova.
More Evidence That Elvis Is Still Alive: A mystery man has ordered an Airbus A380 for "personal use for him and his entourage." The giant aircraft has more than 10,000 sq. ft. in cabin space and has room for up to 840 passengers.
American Ingenuity: Greg Gutfeld has a new product in development: "I came up with an idea for food you can feed to people who are unconscious for long periods of time. I call it Comatoast!"
Quote Of The Day is from P. J. O'Rourke: "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."
Wednesday June 20, 2007
Goodbye, Cruel World: According to Isaac Newton, the world is going to end in 2060. Damn. There goes my dream of buying a new Rolls-Royce in 2063.
Hollywood Greenies: Greg Gutfeld describes the Toyota Prius as "cross between a Mazda and a miscarriage", noting that it is embraced by "celebrities, environmentalists, and the nexus of evil: the celebrity environmentalist. Leonardo DiCaprio helms a hybrid hackeysack, allowing his conscience to remain clear while banging truckloads of broads who may or may not have been born before the Lillith Fair." Greg also notes that "George Clooney tools around in a Tango electric car. It looks like a phone booth." And: "Did you know that Ed Begley Jr., powers his toaster with a stationary bike? You just know he has odor issues."
What Will Gasoline Cost in 2008? In 2016? The Heritage Foundation has made estimates. (hint: consider buying a Prius. Or a bicycle.)
New Foster Parent Needed: Advertising Age has an interesting article about how Jaguar and Land Rover lost their luster under Ford's guardianship. Excerpt: "Where did Ford go wrong? Mainly by treating them like Fords - except in terms of actually investing in their marketing. The parent tried to manage them like it does its mass-market lines by sharing basic vehicle underpinnings, called platforms, and adding some variations in an attempt to differentiate models." (hat tip - Tom McMahon)
"What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" Last week, Dan 'Has-Been' Rather sounded off about his replacement, Katie Couric. Puffed up his withered morgue-skin chest and beat it with arthritis-gnarled fists as he attempted a wheezy, blustery bellow, he did. And muttered about the Sad State of the Evening News. And cursed the night.
Who the #@&*! cares?! The only people who watch the evening news these days are really old people. In nursing homes. Or on dialysis machines. Or drooling all over their wheelchair tray. They think Katie is "cute" and looks kinda like that nurse who comes around bearing a tray full of suppositories. "Just lay on your side and breathe through your mouth, sweetie, while I get this thing in ya."
The only time I watch the evening news is when I'm trying to take a nap and having trouble falling asleep. Unless Larry King is on, of course. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
As for Dan Rather, he's probably mouth-breathing and laying on his side right this minute. (permalink)
Gay Bomb: In 1994, the Wright Air Force Laboratory proposed that a chemical bomb be developed that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay and to have their units break down (or, perhaps, break into disco dancing) because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another. Cost of the project would be $7.5 million to develop such a weapon.
Oh my. Where does one begin to comment? This was proposed on Clinton's watch. I wonder if he asked if any good lesbo-on-lesbo videos might result from the research? Or maybe he was simply hoping that this project would eventually free up more ladies for himself. I'm having trouble picturing soldiers who are too busy getting their colors done to fight.
Is there an antidote - a heterosexual bomb? Would it be considered unethical to drop it on San Francisco?
Is this 'G' bomb project is underway yet? Hmmmm. I guess we'll never know because it falls within the military's 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy.
The Dead Never Kill Again (Except In Zombie Movies): "A series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer."
"Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor."
"The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston."
Holy crap! Those scummy-looking biker dudes who used to wear those black shirts with the message 'Kill 'Em All; Let God Sort 'Em Out' were right after all!
Still Waiting For Those Jackson & Sharpton Apologies: Greg Gutfeld comments on the Fake Rape case at Duke: "With the exception of a Golden Girls rerun, there was nothing better than watching D.A. Mike Nifong weep like a school girl. After trying to destroy the lives of three Lacrosse players, he deserves hell."
"But so do others. What about the reporters and bloggers who assumed that it's common sense that a bunch of white students would gang rape a black stripper? And what about the sheeplike academics at Duke? If lynching were legal, they'd bring the rope. And then there's the stripper herself - a girl as stable as shelving purchased at IKEA. I haven't heard from her in weeks. Maybe she's crashing at Sharpton's pad."
And, is Jesse Jackson still going to pay her 'tuition'?
Will those 88 Duke University faculty members, who took out an ad which demonized the accused students, now publish a paid apology in the same newspaper?
Try Not To Sound Like A Moron ... if you're interviewed by the press. A local woman "executive" said in a newspaper interview that her first job at a now-defunct drive-in theater in Longview, WA "gave me a taste of what it's like working for the entertainment industry." This is like saying that a job at Burger King "gave me a taste of what it's like working for royalty."
Quote Of The Day is from George Bernard Shaw: "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."
Monday June 18, 2006
Like Nothing Else On The Road: Check out these photos of bizarre custom vans from Japan.
Succinct Auto Industry Summation ... of the week (month?, year?) comes from Robert Farago of TTAC: "Lest we forget, The Big Three used to own the U.S. auto industry. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, VW, Mercedes and BMW came in with better products. So what? The domestic market was Detroit's to lose. And lose it they did. A few decades of crap products and even worse service literally handed the American car market to the transplants. If GM, Ford and Chrysler didn't suck in their own right, the transplants would still be nibbling at the margins."
And: "When you're facing massive market share domination, the only sensible option is to 'go where they ain't' - create a new product category where you can be first in and dominate. The PT Cruiser is a good example. Toyota did it with the Prius."
Rough But Restorable. That's the 'optimistic' condition of the messy and muddy 1957 Plymouth Belvedere unearthed from that 50-year time capsule in Tulsa, OK. The car had quite a bit of rust and water damage. And the engine wouldn't crank. The key was rust-welded to the ignition switch.
There were a few bright spots, literally - shiny chrome was still visible around the doors and front fender - and workers were able to put air in the tires. But the unveiling in front of thousands of people at the Tulsa Convention Center confirmed fears that the past 50 years had not been the kindest to Miss Belvedere. "I'll tell you what, she's a mess. Look at her,'' said legendary hot rod builder and publicity hound Boyd Coddington.
What I found most interesting was that 10 gallons of gasoline (in glass jars) were buried with the Plymouth, "in case internal combustion engines became obsolete by 2007."
Made In USA: Last week, a freshly-Botoxed Hillary Rodham Clinton told union workers that the country must spend more on manufacturing.
"If we don't have a strong manufacturing base in our economy, it won't be long until we don't have a strong economy," the Democratic presidential candidate said. Clinton also said revitalizing the beleaguered manufacturing industry is critical, given fierce global competition and growing health care and retirement costs.
While I, too, would like see the rebirth of manufacturing in the U.S., I do not see how some sort of government "spending" is going to revive it.
The fully-burdened rate of a worker in China is around $1.80 the rate that the employer pays once all the benefits (in China's case, free food, housing, medical care, day care, etc.) are factored in. In the U.S., the average wage & fully-allocated benefit rate is around $26.00 per hour - more if it's a union shop.
Corporations will move manufacturing wherever it is most-cost effective. For over 50 years, manufacturing work has been moved from high-cost locations to lower cost ones (from the Northeast to the South in the 1950s, to Japan in the 1960s, to Southeast Asia in the '80s, Mexico in the '90s and, now, to China). The advent of low-cost telecommunications and the ability to send files electronically is now causing high-paying American white-collar, non-manufacturing jobs to move to lower-cost locales such as India and China.
The value of goods imported from China exceeds the value of U.S. goods exported to China by a factor of more than six to one. The trade deficit with China comprises 20 percent of the total U.S. trade deficit and is the largest trade deficit the United States has with any single nation.
The only way to totally remove worldwide trade inequities is to abandon the unfettered free-trade policy (GAAT/MFN) of the U.S. and replace it with some kind of variable tariff program where there is no tariff with nations whose imports from the U.S. are less or equal to their exports to the United States. Any other nation would pay a tariff - the amount being based on its trade gap with the U.S.
It would be very tricky to implement such a plan without causing a trade war and, very possibly, a worldwide economic depression. Think Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 and its dire consequences. The easier solution would be to target China - presently the biggest thorn in our side. I discussed that very idea in an April 2005 article posted here.
China is, after all, the biggest trade deficit 'offender' and gained the coveted Most Favored Nation trading status in 1979. (Thank you, Jimmy Carter.) This means that imports from China typically have a maximum tariff of 2% even though China maintains a 30% to 40% tariff on most U.S. goods. After China suppressed its democracy movement and the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, Congress opposed continuation of the country's MFN status, yet both President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton chose to renew China's MFN benefits. Clinton pushed to get China into the World Trade Organization; it was admitted in 1999.
Given her husband's support of the nation whose trade imbalance is hurting domestic manufacturers the most, it is cynical for Ms. Clinton to be wringing her hands and shedding (crocodile) tears about our country's manufacturing woes.
If Hillary (or any other candidate) wants to 'save' our manufacturing industry, we need to hear a specific multi-point plan - not just rhetoric and union-pandering speeches.
Speaking Of International Trade ... let's make sure we don't upset Guatemala. They buy all the cereals we won't eat. For every box of Special K sold in America, 8.8 boxes of Ordinary K are produced. Only the Guatemalans will eat the stuff; they are a happy but somewhat constipated trading partner. Why? Because ... "Only Special K Keeps You Regular."
Wizard No More: Television pioneer Don Herbert, who explained the wonderful world of science to millions of youngsters in the 1950s and '60s as 'Mr. Wizard' and did the same for another generation of youngsters on the Nickelodeon cable TV channel in the 1980s, died last week. He was 89.
Herbert launched his weekly half-hour science show for children on NBC in 1951. Broadcast live from Chicago on Saturdays the first few years and then from New York City, 'Watch Mr. Wizard' ran for 14 years. In the early 1950s, sales of vinegar and baking soda tripled, leading to widespread shortages and price controls. (And you thought it was all due to the Korean War!)
By 1955, there were about 5,000 Mr. Wizard Science Clubs nationwide, with more than 100,000 members.
I remember Mr. Wizard and his cool show with fondness. He made science fun. Whenever I smell vinegar, I shall think of him. Requiescat In Pace.
My Eternal Gratitude ... to my wonderful wife who, as of today, has been married to me for 41 years.
Q&A Of The Day: Q - What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers? A - Mechanical engineers build weapons; civil engineers build targets.
Friday June 15, 2007
To All Dads: Happy Father's Day. This weekend, I'll be enjoying the company of my children and grandson. I've posted my thoughts about fathers here.
Wednesday June 13, 2007
Distress Sale: FoMoCo has hired Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to shop around what's left of the Premier Automotive Group - Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Ford's been talking to Fiat about a purchase agreement of Jaguar and Land Rover. There is also a report that report that private equity firm Alchemy has put in a bid with Ford for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands.
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. Ford bought Jaguar in late 1989 and immediately began taking steps to save it. 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), a 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 making money. Then came the dotcom bust, the fall of the House of Jac and 9/11. Followed by a seriously weakening dollar - a big deal because the U.S. is Jaguar's largest market. And the dilution of the brand with the introduction of the 'cheapie' X-Type Jag. All of these things had a profoundly negative effect on Jaguar's fortunes.
Jaguar needed to move at least some of its production to the U.S., following in the steps of BMW and Mercedes. The failure of FoMoCo to do so five years ago probably helped seal the brand's fate. Although the dismalness of the current offerings (the now-ancient S-Type - a design which hasn't aged well, the dreadful X-Type that no one wants, the stodgy and DOA aluminum XJ and the sleek but Taurus-faced XK) ain't helping either.
I hope the marque can survive (and be revived) under new owners. (As a Jag owner, I have a soft spot in my heart for the old girl.)
I have more thoughts on Jaguar here.
Oooops, Wrong Number! Jeremy Clarkson thinks that putting a diesel engine in a Range Rover would be "like putting diesel on your supper instead of gravy. The worst thing about a diesel is the noise it makes when you start it up. A Range Rover is elegant, dignified, luxurious. And a diesel's rattle and clatter just don't go with the look at all. It's like ringing a sex chat line and being put through to the Duke of Marlborough."
Wine Report: I've been drinking Timbuktu Big Block Red lately - with pasta and pizza. The 'nose' is complex and astounding for a low cost wine. The more you drink, the more astounding it smells. The label features a picture of a 1955 Chrysler Imperial. (It's an Australian Bordeaux-profile blend - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and more.) It is a screw top wine - no cork - but it will surprise you.
Last Sunday, we had friends over for dinner. We served two wines picked up on our recent Spokane winery visits - 2005 Latah Creek Merlot and 2002 Arbor Crest Merlot. These were excellent wines. Our friends brought a bottle of 1999 Preston Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (CA). It was spectacular; best one of three worthy contenders.
Good Idea: On Sunday's Face the Nation, Joe Lieberman called for military strikes against terrorist training camps inside Iran:
"We've said so publicly that the Iranians have a base in Iran at which they are training Iraqis who are coming in and killing Americans. By some estimates, they have killed as many as 200 American soldiers ... if there's any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can't just talk to them." He added, "If they don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing."
"They can't believe that they have immunity for training and equipping people to come in and kill Americans," Lieberman said. "We cannot let them get away with it. If we do, they'll take that as a sign of weakness on our part and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home."
Do We Need Twelve Of 'Em? Rudy Giuliani has just released a blueprint for his candidacy which he calls his 'Twelve Commitments to the American People.' My first reaction: How come God could get by with 10 items covering the whole world and Rudy needs 12 just for modern America? Are we that bad?
Anyway, here they are (with my comments in blue):
• I will keep America on offense in the Terrorists’ War on Us. (Yes!!!!)
• I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders, and identify every non-citizen in our nation. (Yes!!!!)
• I will restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending. (Yes!!!!)
• I will cut taxes and reform the tax code. (We don't need more tax cuts, we just need protection from tax increases and a simpler tax code.)
• I will impose accountability on Washington. (Good luck with that.)
• I will lead America towards energy independence. (How? Please provide specifics.)
• I will give Americans more control over, and access to, healthcare with affordable and portable free-market solutions. (I like the free-market thing but need details.)
• I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children. (How? Please provide specifics.)
• I will reform the legal system and appoint strict constructionist judges. (Yes!!!!)
• I will ensure that every community in America is prepared for terrorist attacks and natural disasters. (How? Please provide specifics.)
• I will provide access to a quality education to every child in America by giving real school choice to parents. (This will destroy the moribund public school system as we know it. Yes!!!!)
• I will expand America's involvement in the global economy and strengthen our reputation around the world. (I don't care what the rest of the world thinks of us. Screw 'em. With few exceptions, they has alternated between sneering at us and despising us since two years after the Berlin airlift. F**king ingrates.)
Speaking of Rudy, here's a very positive, revealing story about him.
Liberate This! Thomas Sowell writes, "Some of the painful consequences of various 'liberations' that began in the 1960s have included the disintegration of families, skyrocketing crime rates, falling test scores in school, and record-breaking rates of teenage suicide."
"A long downward trend in teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases sharply reversed during the 1960s, starting a new trend of escalating teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases, climaxed later by the AIDS epidemic."
"Sometimes bad things happen because of adverse circumstances - poverty or war, for example. But our post-1960s social disasters occurred during a long period of peace and unprecedented prosperity. Murder rates, for example, were much lower during the Great Depression of the 1930s and during World War II than they became after various 'liberating' changes in the 1960s." (hat tip - Kathy Shaidle)
Vox Populi: A New York Times/CBS News poll released yesterday found that 69% of American adults believe illegal immigrants should "be prosecuted and deported for being in the U.S. illegally." Just 24% disagree and say they should not.
Gee, my poll among friends pulled even higher numbers: 100%, not 69%.
Quote Of The Day is from Jason Apuzzo: "Quirky really is nothing more than irony gone retarded."
Sunday June 10, 2007
"Oh The Humanity!!!" Paris Hilton is back in jail. On Friday, Hilton was taken from court screaming and crying after Judge Michael T. Sauer ordered her to return to jail to serve the remainder of her entire 45-day sentence. "It's not right!" she reportedly shouted, then called out to her mother in the audience: "Mom!"
No doubt her imprisonment and recovery will be a Fall Movie of the Week on some desperate network ... say, NBC. It will probably be titled 'The Shawskank Redemption'.
Fifties rocker Jack Scott once recorded a song, 'Leroy'. The chorus began "Leroy's back in jail again ..." It's time to update the lyrics ("Paris is back in jail again ...") and make this the Paris Hilton Anthem.
Let's not forget that, while this 26 year-old crybaby is getting nonstop media attention, real 26 year-old men and women are risking (and sometimes sacrificing) their lives in faraway lands to protect the rest of us (including Ms. Hilton).
Judge Sauer, who ordered Paris back in the slammer, was appointed to Los Angeles County Superior Court Bench by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972. Ronnie's legacy lives on. God bless 'im.
When History Sort-Of Repeats Itself: Paris Hilton is becoming part of America's history. She has much in common with another country's historical icon ... (more >>>)
Friday June 8, 2007
Ugly Butt: Jeremy Clarkson suggests: "If you were to buy a BMW 6-series, I recommend you select reverse when leaving friends' houses so they don't see its backside."
Shortcut: Michael Leedon writes that "Darfur is a catastrophe that could and should be solved in an hour or so. The killers largely operate from helicopters and small fixed wing aircraft. We could destroy them all in an hour or so. But that would be "wrong," because it would violate the current hymnal."
"Go tell the victims. Explain why sanctions are better, because it makes the Western politicians feel pious. Even though black Africans are being slaughtered."
"And while you're at it, tell the starving people of Zimbabwe why their killer and oppressor, Robert Mugabe, is left untouched by the entire outside world. Explain why St. Nelson Mandela doesn't give a damn, while you're at it."
I've watched Diplomatic Solutions in action for the last ... oh ... 35 years or so. None of them have worked, that I can recall.
Two Views: Eating less meat and dairy could help tackle climate change by reducing the amount of methane gas emitted by cows and sheep, a British government agency has said.
Jim Treacher believes that "they're looking at this completely backwards. Think about it: The more meat you eat, the quicker you die. The quicker you die, the less waste you produce. The less waste you produce, the happier Mother Nature is."
Jim suggests a slogan: "Give the Earth a break ... eat a damn steak!"
PS - Commenter Mike B. adds, "The best steaks are made from vegetarians."
Thought For Today: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
Wednesday June 6, 2007
X Files: Brad Kozak at TTAC thinks that General Motors' Death Watch began in 1980 when the X-cars were introduced. "In 1980, the buff books were all a-twitter about GM’s fabulous X-Body platform. From its front-wheel drive and transverse engine to its "sleek styling" ..., they were deeply smitten. Even Popular Science did a multi-page spread, complete with foldouts. I hadn't seen that kind of print-gasm since Hugh Hefner put a staple in Marilyn Monroe's navel."
I remember the hype very well, having bought a 1980 Oldsmobile Omega, whose woes have been chronicled here.
Kozak writes about the X-body heater cores: "First, they were made of plastic. Second, when they broke, they dripped anti-freeze on your passenger's feet (you may have guessed that already). Third, you had to pull the engine to replace them. Fourth, they cracked if you looked at them cross-eyed. ... What's more, my slavish devotion to maintenance did nothing to stop the Citation's body from rusting out after just three years. It looked like a chemo patient with bedsores."
I, too, had to replace the heater core in my Omega. And fight the rust demon even though, in the Pacific Northwest, cars just don't rust.
This is one more reason why many people won't buy GM again, regardless of how much it touts its newfound alleged reliability.
"Fool me once ..."
Losers And Winners: Ford lost $5,234 on each vehicle it built in North America last year, a shortfall that's nearly eightfold what it was a year earlier, according to the much-anticipated Harbour Report study on labor productivity. Nissan again was the most profitable automaker on a per vehicle basis followed by Honda and Toyota. Nissan made $1,575 per vehicle sold in North America. In contrast, Toyota made $1,266 per vehicle, while Honda made $1,368.
Each of Detroit's automakers lost money. General Motors was the only automaker to improve but still lost $1,436 per vehicle, trailed only by Ford. The Chrysler Group lost $1,072 per vehicle.
Bring A Shovel! On June 15th, that time capsule containing a brand-new, gold-and-white 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe will be unearthed in Oklahoma. Swaddled in rust-resistant preservatives and gently placed inside a giant concrete sarcophagus, the tailfinned Plymouth was interred on June 15, 1957 as the centerpiece of a time capsule created for the 21st century citizens of Tulsa 2007.
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."
Model Train News: Davis Electronics, Inc. (aka - Davis Trains) of Milford, OH (near Cincinnati) is closing its doors. After a stint in train repair, Joe Davis opened a small, one-room sales floor to showcase and sell model trains in 1970. Davis' website says it is "the nation's largest model railroad superstore, carrying trains of all sizes and styles and accessories to go with them" with nearly 10,000 square feet of sales floor.
No reason was given for the closing, although there has been speculation that internet price competition combined with manufacturers' delivery problems and service woes on increasingly complex model trains may have prompted the closure. This is apparently not a bankruptcy action; the company is just rolling up its hobby train operation.
When I built my train layout in 2000, I purchased a lot of items from Davis. Nice folks. I used to deal with Lisa Hewitt who was always helpful; she later married the owner and got promoted! I haven't bought from Davis lately because I haven't needed anything.
More Model Train News: There are some interesting market data in the recent Lionel bankruptcy plan.
For instance, Lionel estimates there are 300,000 model train consumers in the United States who spend $300 million a year on the hobby. HO is the most popular gauge, followed by O-gauge.
The O-gauge market is about ... (more >>>)
I'm Not! Wesley at Independent Sources asks, "Is anyone surprised that the TB carrier who put his interests ahead of the lives of hundreds is a with a law firm specializing in personal injury cases?" He continues, noting that "one would think that the passengers who were sitting next to (this guy) on his various flights would have cause to sue him for mental anguish."
"You can add "purposeful" to the claims against him: Despite later warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, he decided to fly to Canada and sneak back from there to the U.S."
"By now you know the other weird twist which is that his new father-in-law is an expert in TB. This same father-in-law was aware of Speaker's condition and yet allowed his daughter to travel and, since it was Speaker's honeymoon, presumably fornicate (presumably) repeatedly with Speaker. If it was my daughter, I don't think I'd her have sex with a man who has untreatable tuberculosis, it just doesn't seem like something a loving father should do."
May this TB-infested jerk be sued back to the Stone Age. By everone affected. (Update: Now they're saying he didn't really have TB. Yeah, right.)
Presidential Politics Is Supposed To Be About ... credentials, policies and other serious issues but I can't help but notice that Fred Thompson's wife, political media consultant Jeri Kehn, is a real hottie. Go Fred!
Why I Hate Scientific Studies: Scientists have found that heavy snorers have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. (Does that mean fat people who snore? Or people who snore heavily? Or both?)
Last week, there was another study stating that drinking regularly helps reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's. But everyone knows that drinking also contributes to increased snoring.
Whaddya do? Best to get just drunk enough to fall asleep, I suppose.
Quote Of The Day: Redistribution of wealth is a great concept until you get a job and pay taxes.
Monday June 4, 2007
What Ails America: In a speech to the Bel Air Partners Elite Dealer Summit in New York, Peter DeLorenzo (the AutoExtremist) said this: "Detroit is the perfect microcosm for what ails America. And now that Detroit is on the ropes, it doesn't take much to see how America has lost its way too. We have gone from being a swashbuckling go-go nation to a nation paralyzed by polarizing factions more interested in perpetuating their particular dogmas than in propelling this country forward."
"The American educational system has become the land of the "it's okay to fail" attitude - where academic mediocrity has become the currency of a nation rapidly falling behind a world that still places the emphasis on winning and losing. America is stuck in neutral, mired in our rationalized, delusional "pass/fail" synthetic nirvana - while the rest of the world is blowing right past us."
"As a result of this almost total breakdown of our educational system, America's workplace has become a cesspool of mediocrity - a grim, day-in, day-out slog where entire careers are carved out around a "cover-your-ass" mentality and where more time is spent keeping track of "feelings" and interpersonal issues than productivity."
Squandered Inheritance: Peggy Noonan writes an eloquent and cogent article about the abandonment of George Bush's base. "What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration ... the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future."
"For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad."
But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."
The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic -they "don't want to do what's right for America."
Noonan concludes: "One of the things I have come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son, though different in many ways, are great wasters of political inheritance. They throw it away as if they'd earned it and could do with it what they liked. Bush senior inherited a vibrant country and a party at peace with itself. He won the leadership of a party that had finally, at great cost, by 1980, fought itself through to unity and come together on shared principles. Mr. Bush won in 1988 by saying he would govern as Reagan had. Yet he did not understand he'd been elected to Reagan's third term ... he raised taxes, sundered a hard-won coalition, and found himself shocked to lose his party the presidency, and for eight long and consequential years ... he wasted his inheritance."
Well said. Just as the country was suffering from Clinton Exhaustion by 1999; we are now in the throes of a Bush Exhaustion mega-dose.
Disturbing News: Speaking of mega doses ... if you take vitamin C tablets, they probably came from China. In less than a decade, China has captured 90 percent of the U.S. market for vitamin C, driving almost everyone else out of business. China makes 70 percent of the world's penicillin, 50 percent of its aspirin and 35 percent of its acetaminophen (often sold under the brand name Tylenol), as well as the bulk of vitamins A, B12, C and E.
Since U.S. laws don't require food and drug sellers to label products with the country of origin of ingredients, it's impossible for consumers to know where food or supplements are coming from, not to mention what factory produced them.
Life Imitates The Simpsons: Christopher DeLaurenti has produced a CD: 'Favorite Intermissions: Music Before and Between Beethoven, Stravisnky, Holst'. It's a collection of the ambient intermission sounds - murmurs, coughs, tuning, musical warm-ups - before and after orchestral performances.
On a Simpsons episode first aired in 2000, Homer watched a PBS pledge drive where it was announced that "the next twenty callers will get this album of museum noises. Now your music room can sound just like the Metropolitan Museum in New York." The announcement is followed by the sounds of footsteps echoing through a quiet hall and a light cough.
Little Known Fact: Alan Colmes is really Jimmy Smits turned inside out.
Quote Of The Day is from Winston Churchill: "I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."
Friday June 1, 2007
Hybrid Encounter: Last weekend, I finally drove a Toyota Prius. It was owned by a friend. The car was very quiet and surprisingly roomy with an amazingly big trunk. I was very impressed - overall rating: Mirabile dictu!
If a loaded-up, more-stylish Lexus version of the Prius were offered - with lots of little luxury touches and less-puny wheels, I'd probably buy one.
My friend reported that he got 43 mpg overall on the trip across Washington state to Spokane. By comparison, we got 'only' 28 mpg driving to/from Spokane in my wife's Avalon.
Car Sighting: On the way home from Spokane, I spotted a vintage Mercedes 300SL gullwing headed eastbound on I-84 about 20 miles east of the John Day Dam.
This is the first time I've ever seen a gullwing at speed and the first black one I've ever seen in person. Gorgeous. It was an awesome sight as the minimal chrome sparkled in the blazing sun with a Kodacolor-blue sky and rugged umber/rouge Columbia Gorge cliffs as a backdrop.
All-Hybrid World: Toyota is hard at work developing lower-cost hybrid systems. Reuters reports that Toyota is hoping to make as much money from hybrids as it does from conventional cars by the end of the decade. Toyota's vice president in charge of powertrain development, Masatami Takimoto said cost cutting on the electric motor, battery and inverter were all showing positive results and by the time Toyota's sales goal of one million hybrids annually is reached, the company expects "margins to be equal to gasoline cars."
Takimoto predicted that by 2020, hybrids will be the standard drivetrain and account for 100 percent of Toyota's cars.
New Number Two? Toyota is moving closer to ending Ford's 76-year reign as the second-biggest seller of automobiles in the U.S., according to Bloomberg News. "May sales for Ford dropped 9.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the average estimate of eight analysts in the Bloomberg survey. Toyota's gained 6 percent, said Ronald Tadross of Bank of America."
Sounds Awful: James Lileks once owned a car that screeched "like Fran Drescher being fed into a wood chipper."
Six Degrees Of Immigration: Illegal apologists often say, "We are all immigrants." That must really piss off the Indians. Of course, they're immigrants too, having apparently crossed the Bering Strait land mass. And then, perhaps, taken light rail to a nearby casino.
If you subscribe to the theory advanced by many anthropologists, the first human was a small black woman in central Africa. Based on that hypothesis, everyone is descended from her ... so, unless you're living in central Africa, you're an immigrant.
Even though I'm the whitest shade of skin possible - one palette-notch down from Edgar Winter's pet albino bunny, I believe I may indeed be descended from that ancient black woman. Sometimes ... (more >>>)
Kindness To Strangers ... but not friends: Here's an interesting political observation from Kate O'Beirne: "Too bad Scooter Libby can't prove that he was in the country illegally before January of this year so he could be pardoned for past offenses. Apparently, President Bush's compassion extends to 12 million illegal aliens but not to someone who loyally and tirelessly served him."
Cornball Economics: Colin Carter of the Christian Science Monitor writes, "Although corn is a renewable resource, it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than either biodiesel or ethanol from other plants. Moreover, ethanol yields about 30 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly. Finally, adding ethanol raises the price of blended fuel because it is more expensive to transport and handle."
"Lower-cost biomass ethanol - for example, from rice straw (a byproduct of harvesting rice) or switch grass would make far more economic sense, but large volumes of ethanol from biomass will not be commercially viable for many years. (And production will be delayed by government policies that subsidize corn-based ethanol.)"
"American legislators and policymakers seem oblivious to the scientific and economic realities of ethanol production. Brazil and other major sugar cane-producing nations enjoy significant advantages over the US in producing ethanol, including ample agricultural land, warm climates amenable to vast plantations, and on-site distilleries that can process cane immediately after harvest."
"Thus, in the absence of cost-effective, domestically available sources for producing ethanol, rather than using corn, it would make far more sense to import ethanol from Brazil and other countries that can produce it efficiently."
Bad Pun Of The Day: Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms.