car blog, a blog about cars

The View Through The Windshield
A Blog About Cars ... and Everything Else I See
by Joe Sherlock
This blog is about cars, automobiles and more.

Monday July 30, 2007

Car Sightings: Spotted a very nice black/black '32 Ford roadster with wide whites driving around Maple Grove and Battle Ground on Friday.

joe sherlock car blogEarlier in the week, I had the Plymouth out and ended up driving behind an all black '46-48 Ford street-rodded coupe. We were on ultra-bumpy Parkway Blvd. and that ol' Ford was bouncing around even worse than my Plymouth.

Here's some additional on-the-road observations: I see two dozen PT Cruisers for every Chevy HHR semi-clone. Yeah, I know the PT has been around for a long time but no one around here seems to be buying those little Chevys styled like a Soviet halftrack. I spot five PT Cruisers for every VW New Beetle. Beetles are sooooo over in these parts.

I see maybe two PT Cruisers for every Prius. Those little hybrids are hot stuff around here - 75% of them are either silver or light green. There is one Smart in the rural neighborhood - it apparently lives in nearby Hockinson. I see it passing through Battle Ground once in a while and it is scary small.

There seem to be no more current-gen Mustangs on the road than a year ago. That tells me that sales have stalled around here. Same goes for Minis. I observe far more recent vintage Lincoln Town Cars than MKZ/Zephyrs. I do spot the occasional Ford Fusion but almost no Mercury Milans. I see ten current-bodystyle Toyota Avalons for every Ford 500. And I hardly ever see the Mercury version.

One doesn't see many cars broken down on the side of the road these days but, when I do (if it's not some 20 year-old beater), chances are it will be a Ford Focus.

Except for the aforementioned Priuses, I cannot discern any movement away from big vehicles to smaller fuel-efficient transport. But I'm seeing a lot of newer vehicles than I used to - people around here seem to be in a buying mood.

None of these observations are necessarily indicative of the national car scene. But every trend starts locally - somewhere.

Park It: Patty Murray (D-WA) has secured $400,000 of federal funds for a Community Center to be located in a Battle Ground park: "The Battle Ground Community Center will serve as a recreation and educational programming space for citizens of Battle Ground. Construction of the Community Center is part of a larger project to spur increased activity in Battle Ground's downtown core. This facility would be built in Fairgrounds Park."

I admit that my first thought was, "Cool. Free money for something a couple of miles from my house." Then I came to my senses. What the hell is the federal government doing? It's not their job to spend money on stuff like this. If the good people of Battle Ground want a community center, let them pay for it.

Now, I can't fault Senator Murray for her part in this. It is traditionally considered part of the job description of an elected representative to glom-on-to as much money as possible for her/his district. Nevertheless, the whole concept is wrong and it's got to stop.

New York congressman and professional publicity-whore Charlie Rangel is seeking a $2 million earmark to create a 'Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service' at the City College of New York. A 20-page glossy brochure describes the proposed center as a "magnificent Harlem limestone townhouse" ($4.7 million to restore it) that will house the center. It will take another $2.3 million endowment for its operating costs. It will contain "a well-furnished office for Congressman Rangel" and "the Rangel Library," which will be "designed to hold the product of 50 years of public service by the major African-American statesman of the 20th and early 21st centuries." This egregious monument to one man's ego is to be financed by your money. Are you angry yet?

In the old days, projects were financed by communities or by the public themselves. The base for the Statue of Liberty was not built with congressional "earmarks". It was funded entirely by single-dollar donations from grandmothers and pennies from the piggybanks of schoolchildren - more than 120,000 individual contributions.

At the end of the 19th Century, when Philadelphia's Betsy Ross House was falling apart and was about to be demolished, over one million 10¢ certificates were purchased by schoolchildren to finance its purchase and restoration.

Mark Tapscott has more on Congressional Pork and Earmarks here.

We need to return to the financing of worthy public goals by the public themselves. Let us make the decisions - with our own checkbooks.

Actions Have Consequences: The Telluride (CO) Town Council adopted a resolution calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Now the ski town, which depends almost exclusively on tourist dollars, is in trouble and suffering a backlash - as Cheney would say - "Big Time."

"It's huge, unbelievable," said Telluride Mayor John Pryor. "Ski groups are canceling for the winter. Hundreds of people are bailing." And the town's website "is flooded with people saying they're canceling their vacations here."

Heh-heh. Next time, stick to fixing potholes and keeping the streets clean.

Health Choices: An article by Alicia Colon in the New York Sun describes the travails of the Falzone family as they fought to get proper treatment for their five year old daughter, who has a cancerous tumor on her spine. Initially, their health care provider refused to cover treatment, deeming the cancer center to be "out of network." Eventually, the insurer relented.

Alicia compares the U.S. health care system with those in Canada, Great Britain and France. She concludes, "Our system has flaws, and what the Falzones' case has taught us is that we have to shop around, while we can, for the health insurance that offers the widest network with quality doctors and low co-payments. A national health system, however, is not a good substitute for the freedom of choice."

Amen.

Definition Of The Day is for 'Committee': A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.


Friday July 27, 2007

Whose Lifetime? Chrysler has announced that it is extending its powertrain warranty from 3-year/36,000-miles to a new "Lifetime Powertrain Warranty" on new vehicles. Hmmmm. Would that be your/my lifetime (good) or Chrysler's lifetime (probably not so good)?

The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways: A nun who worked for a local home health care agency was out making her rounds when she ran out of gas. Luckily, there was a service station just one block away.

She walked to the station to borrow a gas can, so she could start the car and drive back for a fill up. The attendant regretfully told her that the only gas can he owned had just been loaned out. If she would care to wait, he was sure it would be back shortly.

Since the nun was on the way to see a patient, she decided not to wait and walked back to her car. Looking for a container of sorts, she spotted a bedpan she was taking to the patient. She returned to the station, filled the bedpan with gasoline, and carried it back to her car. Before pouring, she set the pan down next to car, folded her hands and prayed that she wouldn't spill too much gasoline from this makeshift device. Meanwhile, two men on the other side of the street stopped to watch.

One turned to the other and said, "I know that the Lord once turned water into wine but, if that damn car starts, I'm going to church every Sunday for the rest of my life."

Goodbye Kitty: The New England Journal of Medicine reports that a cat named Oscar can tell when patients are about to die at a nursing home in Rhode Island.

This story is probably nothing more than a subtle plug for The Simpsons Movie. Consider this dialogue from a 1995 episode:

Abe Simpson: "At my age, you see death everywhere. Death stalks you at every turn!"
Lisa Simpson: "Grampa!"
Abe: "Well, it does ..... Aaaah! Death! There it is - Death!"
Lisa: "Grampa! That's only the cat."
Abe: "Oh. ... Aaaah! Death!"

Thought For Today: Never be 'irreplaceable'. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.


Wednesday July 25, 2007

sherlock auto blogSmall Wonder: Jack Odell, a self-trained engineer whose daughter's mischievous habit of taking spiders to school in a matchbox prompted him to make her a tiny steamroller as a substitute - an invention that led to Matchbox Toys, maker of 3 billion Lilliputian vehicles in 12,000 models - died earlier this month at age 87.

The little steamroller so impressed his daughter's friends that Odell built a company from the idea and Matchbox the diecast toy line was born in 1953. Matchbox offered miniature vehicles sized just right for a child's hand but hard to swallow. No batteries required either.

By 1962, Matchbox was pumping out a million toy automobiles a week, more than the number of real ones made by all the world's major automakers combined. The firm later saw its sales drop 75% after the introduction of Mattel's slick and fast Hot Wheels in 1968.

Matchbox declared bankruptcy in 1982 and has several owners since. In the '80s, Odell founded a new company to make diecast cars and trucks. He christened it Lledo - his name spelled backwards.

automobile blog

You can read more about the travails of the diecast toy car business here.

Rest in peace, Jack.

Motoring On The Other Side Of The Road: The big story in Britain this month is that Lord Montagu of Beaulieu is giving his first public interview about the time when he was jailed for a year - convicted of homosexual offenses at Winchester Assizes (appropriate name, eh?) in 1954. The outcome of that trial was a seismic shift in British public attitudes and a change in the law to legalize sex between gay adults.

Lord Montagu, the 80 year-old founder of the National Motor Museum, who has always maintained his innocence, has admitted he drives on both sides of the road, so to speak. "I am bisexual. To describe it any other way would be dishonest. I remember feeling that I didn't have to apologise to anybody. I am what I am." Hmmmm. Shades of Popeye the Sailor.

Consensual sex in private between homosexuals was approved by Parliament in 1967.

Lord Montagu has since been married twice. To women.

The National Motoring Museum at Beaulieu in southern England is an enthralling place and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. We visited there in 1995:

the view through the windshield

I met Lord Montagu once (at the 1996 Pebble Beach Concours); he seemed like a nice guy. I don't care if he's gay, bisexual or whatever. He's a car guy ... and a pretty damn decent one at that.

Bad Pun Of The Day ... is from Ric at Pugs of War: "David Petraeus is the U.S. Surgin' General."

Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "It's not that Hummers are environmentally immoral. It's that they're ostentatious and absurd on a highway. But if you roll it over a Prius, you're okay by me."


Monday July 23, 2007

Peeling Out From The Dictionary: Iowawawk offers some cool hot rod definitions. Here's a sampling:

Flathead: Common garage injury caused by $3.95 Harbor Freight jackstands.

Blower: Lawn maintenance device, frequently used by hot rodders trying to earn extra money to pay for expensive supercharger.

Ported: Opposite of "imported."

Tuck and Roll: Emergency safety procedure after igniting you hair with acetylene torch.

Stroke: What wife/girlfriend has after finding your parts receipt shoebox.

Writer's Block: Doug Flint, son of venerable auto scribe Jerry Flint, is a talented guy who has written convincingly about his experiences in the auto repair field. No wonder - he owns his own repair shop in Virginia.

Doug used to write for The Car Connection but nothing new has been posted since January. That's a shame, because he has interesting and useful information to relate. I hope somebody else picks up his column.

Inarguable Logic ... from Greg Gutfeld on why God is male: "If God were a woman, we wouldn't have pornography."

Sic Transit Mascara: As you read this, Tammy Faye is attending an Avon Party in the Great Beyond.

Used To 'Duel' On Stage With The Temptations: Wasn't 'George And The Five Polyps' a Motown group?

Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Bad music, for instance, has gotten much briefer. Wagner's Ring Cycle takes four days to perform while "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies lasts little more than three minutes."


Friday July 20, 2007

car blogAmerica Bites The Bullet: Recently, I saw a news report about the newest generation Japanese Bullet Train, the N700. It looked fantastic and very futuristic. There's nothing like it in America. Amtrak uses blocky locomotives which look like they were styled by Soviet bureaucrats armed with T-squares. Or Legos.

What happened to America? We used to have the coolest trains in the world. In 1957, our passenger trains were sleek streamliners with stainless steel cars pulled by mighty, swoopy-styled GM Electromotive E-series diesels. The rest of the world had lame trains - puny coaches painted in dull earth tones pulled by tired-looking, wimpy engines.

We had the best cars, too. ... (more >>>)

XK-Apu: Two Indian auto companies are among the bidders for Jaguar. May FoMoCo tell them at the conclusion of the transaction, "Thank you, come again."

For The Ghoul Who Has Everything: Three-inch long milk chocolate caskets. "Each delicious miniature chocolate casket is wrapped in gold foil for extra freshness."

Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "Middle-aged single women with four cats who watch The View regularly are a decade away from being an old lady with 100 cats."


Wednesday July 18, 2007

Rejoice ... the Chrysler Imperial is dead. Let the all the Tasteful gather and celebrate.

Prepare the Fatted Pig.

Auto Euthanasia: When do you pull the plug on a car? Grant's Auto Rants discusses an article in the Globe & Mail about a late-model Volvo station wagon with 100,000+ miles on it. "The car's overall condition is very good. With it is a late 90's model, the body is rust free with paint in good shape. The wheels are mark free, the interior looks good and all electrical systems work just fine." Then symptoms of a major engine problem present themselves. The fix will be far more than the value of the car: "within minutes the vehicle that was worth thousands of dollars is now worth $50 at the nearest junkyard."

We had this problem with my wife's Lincoln Continental when, suddenly ... (more >>>)

What Would Jesus Drive? I dunno but it might have these wheels.

Not-So-Futuristic Future Cars: The soon-to-be Porsche Panamera looks like a Lexus GS from the side. Meanwhile, a fleet of experimental ''plug-in hybrid'' vehicles is to be developed under a partnership announced by Ford and Southern California Edison. Ford says cars incorporating the technology could go on sale "within the next decade," providing battery technology continues to improve. "Within 5 to 10 years we will start to see this technology in our hands," Ford CEO Alan Mulally said.

Oh yeah? What will Ford do if the next-gen Prius is a plug in, available in this decade?

What's In A Name? Or Not? PCH101, a poster on TTAC, describes Motor Trend as "a rag that, in my years of reading, has never analyzed a single trend."

Raging Words Of Wisdom ... from Greg Gutfeld: "I am very angry right now. So angry I can barely speak! What is the root cause of my anger? People who use the phrase 'root cause'."

"Whenever it comes to crime or terror, rather than assess blame, certain folks prefer to address the "root cause." These are the vacant-eyed lunatics who keep saying that instead of imprisoning or killing bad guys, we should first address the "root causes" of their behavior."

"What's a root cause? Academics say it's the underlying reason for a problem. But what it really is, is an excuse for evil behavior."

"People who worry about root causes think that killing terrorists only creates more terrorists. Instead, we must find out why there are terrorists in the first place. Translation: it's America's fault. Because the root cause of all that's bad in the world, for a root causer - is always America."

"So what is the root cause of the root causers? Perhaps they hate themselves for their own coddled incompetence - and America's success reminds them of their own weakness. Or maybe it's tenure, since most of these dopes are brain dead blowhards who have locked-down lifetime jobs making kids stupid."

"Either way, the next time some weenie tries a root cause out on you, kick him in the root."

Go Greg! And, in 2008, let's all vote for Rooty Giuliani. (hat tip - Shannon)

I Know It's Old News, But ... at least one of John Edwards' haircuts cost $1,250.

Jim Geraghty has written, "I'm willing to bet that most of the small dollar donors Edwards has solicited don't have that much. For them, that $20 or $50 or even $100 contribution is a big sacrifice. Yet given the choice between taking out his own checkbook or having his campaign pay for the (haircut), someone made the choice to put this on the contributors. ...  People expect their money to be well spent by campaigns, not used as personal slush funds for whatever luxuries they may want."

Nevertheless, I'm sure Johnny would like to thank all those 'little people'. After all, as Leona Helmsley once pointed out, only they pay taxes. Meanwhile ...

Edwards' Newest Promise ... is reported by The Onion. Former Sen. John Edwards has made his most ambitious policy announcement yet: "a promise to eliminate all unpleasant, disagreeable, or otherwise bad things from all aspects of American life by the end of his second year in office."

"Many bad things are not just bad - they're terrible," said a beaming Edwards, whose 'Only the Good Things' proposal builds upon previous efforts to end poverty, outlaw startlingly loud noises and offer tax breaks to those who smile frequently.

Quote Of The Day is from Ragin' Dave: "Universal healthcare gives you all the efficiency of the government, combined with the compassion of the IRS."


Monday July 16, 2007

I Gotta Name For Ya: With the sale of Chrysler nearly complete, the overlords at Stuttgart are looking for a new name to represent the automaker formerly known as DaimlerChrysler. Company executives would like to call the company 'Daimler AG', but others want the company name to once again include both 'Daimler' and 'Benz'. Still others want 'Mercedes' in the name.

Given the big financial bath from the Chrysler debacle and the desire to incorporate one of their products into the name, I'll suggest 'Not Too Smart'.

Wanna Buy Volvo? "Ford Motor Co. is considering selling its Volvo Cars business as it assesses the future of its European operations," a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday. Ford had so far not hired financial advisers for the project.

"Ford is not in discussions with any company to sell Volvo, however we are continuing to assess options for all our operations," a London-based spokesman for Ford said, while declining to comment further.

The Ford 'spokesman' is laying the groundwork for things to come:

Assessment > Advisors > Appraisal > Sale Sign > Buh-Bye

What Good Is A Lamborghini During Rush Hour? Brit Johnny Vaughan (aka - Motormouth) writes: "Every car ad you see boasts of improved performance, better off-road ability, increased fuel economy. But will advanced engine engineering improve the quality or duration of your journey to work? No. And why not? Because the advances in our cars have been directly proportional to the decay of our roads and the increase in congestion."

"So your new-shape BMW may have a top speed 8 mph faster than the last, be 0.5 sec quicker from 0-60 mph, have 8% less drag and boast a list of advanced handling system acronyms that are all undoubtedly kilometermarkierungpfosted on the autoentwicklungstrasse, but sadly you're never going to appreciate these clever touches. This is because you're not lapping a test track in Stuttgart or giving it the flat-knacker down a German autobahn."

"Let's face it, you might be in a Bugatti Veyron, but if your air-conditioning's knackered, you're stationary on the M3 during a heatwave, and your engine's kicking out so much heat that when you open your window it's like lifting the lid on a Weber barbecue, you'd swap places with the guy behind in a five-year-old Nissan Micra if his vents were pumping out the chilled miracle of conditioned air."

the view through the windshield

"We're In The Money": The number of millionaires in the world increased by 8.3 percent in 2006, with about 9.5 million individuals estimated to have more than a million dollars in financial assets. A survey by financial services group Capgemini and US investment bank Merrill Lynch said strong global economic growth and gains on the stock market explained the expansion of the exclusive club of 'High Net Worth Individuals'.

The number of Ultra-HNWIs (individuals with financial assets exceeding 30 million dollars) increased by 11.3 percent in 2006, with the global population of this extremely affluent group now estimated at 94,970 people.

Remember The Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill? It was supposed to be the End of Alaska As We Knew It. "Six years after the cleanup, a study was conducted to determine ecological recovery in the sound. What researchers found was that the areas that were not cleaned were in better shape - with more wildlife and cleaner water and soil - than the areas that had been cleaned. The chemicals and high-pressure washing used to "clean" the area had destroyed the ecosystem in some parts of Prince William Sound."

"The environmental disaster was the cleanup," said Corrie Pitzer, an industrial psychologist from SAFEmap International.

Does this mean that Rainier Wolfcastle's shampooing of cute baby seals was done in vain?

Got Fat? "Obese people seem to have a better chance of surviving heart attacks. A 2005 study found that one year after a heart attack, the death rate for normal-weight patients was 4.3 percent. For obese patients, it was just 2.2 percent. Scientists are stumped."

I'm not. It's from stamina - eating all those Heart-Attack-On-A-Plate meals in the first place.

Bad Pun Of The Day: Without geometry, life is pointless.


Friday July 13, 2007

sherlock car blogLooking Back: I'm throwing out most of my Road & Tracks. Having carted them through three moves and racking up over 4,000 miles on them, I've decided to let go. I'm no longer afraid that someone on the street will give me a pop quiz, asking the cc displacement of a 1974 Fiat.

My R&Ts are in the recycling bin because they're basically worth nothing. No one wants them. Even if someone did, the cost of shipping them exceeds their miniscule market value.

I'm discarding a controlled amount each week, since our recycling bin only holds so much. This gives me time to peruse each issue before I get rid of it. During the past two weeks, I've been checking out the 1970s and 80s and I've learned some interesting things ...(more >>>)

Real Life Is Not Just A Popularity Contest. Especially when you're dealing with moral principles.

Wahrheit at Eternity Road wrote: "I remember the moment of clarity I experienced when I read an observation on polling by Peggy Noonan in her book What I Saw at the Revolution. To paraphrase: If Abraham Lincoln had had a pollster he would have been told in September, 1862 that over 60 percent of Americans thought the war was lost and favored a negotiated settlement. ... As long as the United States takes an active role in the world, fighting murderous tyrants and promoting liberty when and where we feel it is in our interest we will never, ever be very popular with the average Muslim on the Street in a number of countries.  The only way we could be really popular with said Muslim and the government he lives under is to retreat within our own borders and wait to be surrounded on four sides by a hundred million warriors who demand submission, or death.  And after that we'd have peace, peace at the price of everything else, our material prosperity, our self-respect, our honor and freedom and dignity and our nation itself."

"That is the price of popularity in opinion polls. I like to think I know how Lincoln would have responded."

Global Warming Update: I guess that Live Earth concert must have worked - global warming is now apparently in remission. Buenos Aires just experienced a rare snowfall - the first in 89 years. Thousands of people cheered in the streets of Buenos Aires at the sight of the capital's first snowfall since 1918.

In Bolivia, heavy snowfall blocked the nation's main motorway and forced the closure of several airports. In Argentina, several provinces in the Andes have been placed under a storm alert, according to the national weather center. Argentine meteorologists are predicting more cold and freezing weather over the next few days.

Dangerous Imports: Mark Steyn writes about those incendiary Islamic doctor-terrorists in Great Britain: "... if you want to get a jihadist into the United Kingdom, the National Health Service is an easy way to do it: The NHS has traditionally depended on overseas doctors to help keep the health service running."

"The most recent figures show that almost 128,000 of the 277,000 doctors on the GMC register have been trained abroad. Of these 1,985 are from Iraq and 184 from Jordan. The skills gap has meant that, with the exception of consultants, doctors did not require a work permit until last year."

"That's one of the lessons from the last few weeks in America: immigration as a societal bonus may be grand and enriching, but a dependence on mass immigration is always a structural weakness, and should be addressed as such."

I guess this means that "free" health care is great, if you don't mind the occasional terrorist act.

Quote Of The Day is from Andrea Harris: "I think that the only more embarrassing death than being drowned by molasses would be to be run over by a Scion. It would be like being killed by a toaster."


Wednesday July 11, 2007

Presented Without Comment ... because none is really necessary; you can draw your own conclusions. For the first six months of 2007 model year, here's the portion of a model's production that end up as highly discounted fleet sales:

Ford Crown Victoria: 91.3% Dodge Caliber: 45.1% Ford Mustang: 29.0%
Dodge Avenger: 79.4% Chrysler 300: 44.0% Cadillac DTS: 27.4%
Chrysler Crossfire: 70.6% Ford Five Hundred: 43.1% Ford Fusion: 26.8%
Chrysler Sebring: 63.5% Chevrolet Cobalt: 39.7% Toyota Avalon: 15.3%
Chevrolet Malibu: 58.8% Volvo S40: 37.5% Toyota Camry: 7.7%
Lincoln Town Car: 58.5% Buick LaCrosse: 29.2% Honda Accord: 4.9%
Mercury Grand Marquis: 50.0%

OK, OK, I'll comment. This is another indication that the Big 2.5 are in deep doo-doo.

How deep? Mariana Trench deep, methinks.

Lotsa Flash; Little Substance: Justin Berkowitz of TTAC writes that "General Motors is a trash talker. The automaker brags about future show-stoppers, unveils concept vehicles with a sly wink (knowing full well they're stuck in development Hell) and offers press hacks "preview" drives of half-baked green machines. ... And as far back as 2003, board-certified spin specialist Bob Lutz was busy proclaiming that Buick will be "an American Lexus. As if."

Think about Sunday's debut of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There were gasps from the crowd as the gorgeous new plane was unveiled. Boeing has such a stellar reputation in the aircraft arena that it already has 677 orders for the 787; production is sold out through 2015.

Boeing has a reputation for delivering on its promises; General Motors doesn't. The last time GM got people waving checks at them during a product unveiling was in 1953 when the Corvette prototype debuted.

That was over 54 years ago. Nothin' since.

Saint Ronald, Be Our Guide: D'ja ever notice how often the Republicans invoke Reagan's name? Wishing for those good ol' days when The Gipper was the quarterback, the field grass was as green as an emerald and, just past the stadium, there was a Shining City On A Hill. Sigh. Life was pretty good then.

D'ja ever wonder why the Democrats never invoke Jimmah Carter's name? Is it because he makes such outrageous nutcase proclamations these days? Is it because he's an anti-Semite at heart and the Dems can't afford to lose the Jewish vote?

Or maybe it's because he made such a miserable frickin' president: the inflation rate was 13.58 percent in 1980 and the unemployment rate was over 7 percent. Stagflation-to-the-Max, folks. Stocks were in the toilet and, in Iran, a vicious theocratic regime was holding our embassy staff hostage. President Peanut, who deliberately abandoned The Shah, seemed utterly impotent. And was afraid of rabbits.

In 1980, even Teddy Kennedy seemed like a better deal as a Democratic presidential candidate. Unless your last name was Kopechne.

What Michael Moore Hasn't Told You: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17 million of those without health insurance live in households having over $50,000 in annual income. That's 38% of the uninsured in America. In fact, 9 million - 20% of the uninsured - reside in households pulling down more than $75K a year. These people have chosen to self-insure, running their own pay-as-you-go system.

Then there are the "young invincibles". Over 18 million of the uninsured are people between the ages of 18 and 34. They spend more than four times as much on alcohol, tobacco, entertainment and dining out as they do for out-of-pocket spending on health care. They represent 40% of the uninsured in America. These people also have chosen do the pay-as-you-go thing.

14 million people without health insurance are eligible for government health care programs like Medicaid but "choose not to enroll." (!!!!!!) They represent 31% - nearly one third - of the uninsured in America.

The U.S. also has 12+ million illegal immigrants who don't buy health insurance but still get health care.

How many people are truly uninsured? Around eight million. Just 18% of the 45 million that we hear about so often.

Q&A Of The Day: Where are all those illegal Muslims coming from? Mexico.

Ineffectual Ninnies: Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, who is no right winger, writes about the pathetic state of today's American Left: "The sad truth is that, if the FBI really is following anyone on the American left, it is engaging in a huge waste of time and personnel. No matter what it claims for a self-image, in reality it's the saddest collection of cowering, ineffectual ninnies ever assembled under one banner on God's green earth. And its ugly little secret is that it really doesn't mind being in the position it's in - politically irrelevant and permanently relegated to the sidelines, tucked into its cozy little cottage industry of polysyllabic, ivory tower criticism. When you get right down to it, the American left is basically just a noisy Upper West side cocktail party for the college-graduate class."

"Thus, the people who are the public voice of American liberalism rarely have any real connection to the ordinary working people whose interests they putatively champion. They tend instead to be well-off, college-educated yuppies from California or the East Coast, and hard as they try to worry about food stamps or veterans' rights or securing federal assistance for heating oil bills, they invariably gravitate instead to things that actually matter to them – like the slick Al Gore documentary on global warming or the 'All Things Considered' interview on NPR with the British author of Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. They haven't yet come up with something to replace the synergy of patrician and middle-class interests that the New Deal represented."

"The problem is the 'spirit of inclusiveness' stretched to the limits of absurdity. The post-sixties dogma that everyone's viewpoint is legitimate, everyone's choice about anything (lifestyle, gender, ethnicity, even class) is valid, that's now so totally ingrained that at every single meeting, every time some yutz gets up and starts rambling about anything, no matter how ridiculous, no one ever tells him to shut the f**k up. Next thing you know, you've got guys on stilts wearing mime makeup and Cat-in-the-Hat striped top-hats leading a half-million people at an anti-war rally. Why is that guy there? Because no one told him that war is a matter of life and death and that he should leave his f**king stilts at home."

Well said.

RIP Live Earth: Greg Gutfeld writes, "Live Earth is officially dead. Celebrity do-gooders from all over the world came to throw a party for the planet, and we had better things to do. ... Live Earth was designed to make celebs feel good so they can bang even more bulimic models without guilt." Greg suggests that maybe we should now "put together a benefit for celebrities - to raise funds for therapy to fix their wounded egos."

He concludes with "what if we raised awareness for something we should ALL get behind: death. How about a concert against death? ... If Islam takes over, it's goodbye to Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, if we're lucky, Cameron Diaz. If you're gay you'll be strung up like a pinata before you can say, "Terrorists have mommies too." Yes, even you, Rosie."

PS - The BBC blamed low viewing numbers on Saturday's good weather. NBC experienced a very low viewer 'footprint' as well. Greg summarizes: "Global warming is blamed for lack of interest in global warming."

Attention-Getting Factiod Of The Week is from First Things: The Golden Gate is a magnet for suicides, but the jumpers' bodies are pulled under and lost in the north Pacific.

You may leave your heart in San Francisco but not your corpse.

Flaming Death Notice: Recently I came across one from Philadelphia where the deceased was "a poet who performed with musicians, dancers and fire-eaters at bars, bookstores and festivals."

Well, that's another obit more exciting than mine will ever be. I've never performed with fire-eaters - not ever.

Then I found another obit ...

Obituary Of The Year: "Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead at age 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies. The great-great-grandson of Prince Otto, Germany's Iron Chancellor and architect of the modern German state, the young von Bismarck showed early promise as a brilliant scholar, but led an exotic life of gilded aimlessness that attracted the attention of the gossip columns ... When not clad in the lederhosen of his homeland, he cultivated an air of sophisticated complexity by appearing in women's clothes, set off by lipstick and fishnet stockings."

Ya know, in this day of excessive nonjudgementalness, you just don't see the word 'louche' in print much anymore. Or used in conversation. I think one of the reasons is because of the pronunciation.

If you walk up to a cop and say, "Officer, there's a louche woman hanging around up at that corner", you'll probably get arrested for public intoxication.

Speaking of pronunciation ...

Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "If Barbara Walters had been in the B-52s, it would have been 'Tin Woof, Wusted'."


Monday July 9, 2007

That Darn Cat: Robert Farago of TTAC writes about Jaguar's current image: "Sir William Lyons left clear instructions for his brand: pace and grace. Under Ford's stewardship, Jaguar has fashioned a lineup of vehicles that can only watch their German equivalents disappear into the horizon, whose sheetmetal displays less grace than a meth-crazed mosh pit dancer. A Ford Taurus nose on an XK? Puh-lease."

"Much has been made of Jag's ruinous move down-market. But the success of BMW's, Audi's and Mercedes' entry level machines proves that Jag screwed-up in X-ecution, not concept. The X-Type was an under-engineered mini-me version of the XJ sedan, which was an aluminum-skinned clone of the previous XJ, which was an "homage" to the XJ that preceded the model it replaced."

"Ostensibly, Jaguar could return to Sir Billy's formula. Unfortunately, Jag's non-Teutonic competitors have filled the pace and grace mindspace. Maserati and a resurgent Alpha have nailed it. More importantly, Lexus' L-Finesse style has given their products something very much resembling sex appeal. Equally disheartening, Jag's last shot, the new XF, only gets it half right: it's pace without grace."

Meanwhile, Dave Leggett writes, "Max Warburton from UBS Investment Bank suggested that there are two to three potential private equity firms in the running for Jaguar and Land Rover and that no industry participant wants it."

I've had nine-plus years of enjoyable and relatively troubler-free ownership of my Jaguar Vanden Plas (and it's still a great looker) but I doubt if I'll replace it with another Jag.

joe sherlock auto bloggerDulled Edge: Apparently, Consumer Reports didn't think much of the Ford Edge, ranking it 15th among 18 midsize SUVs, calls it "a disappointment" and "no challenge to the four-year-old Nissan Murano." And: "The engine provides quick acceleration, but it lacks refinement. The handling is lackluster, fit and finish is subpar, and the transmission is not as smooth or responsive as it should be.

The Edge feels lumbering, with pronounced body lean and slow, vague steering." The interior lacks "the fine detailing of other vehicles in this group. Hard, unpleasantly textured plastic is abundant."

Remember, the Edge and its cousin the Lincoln MKX were hailed as the new "savior" of FoMoCo following the less than stellar reception given to the bland 500. CR ranked the chubby-faced Lincoln MKX 16th out of 18 in its survey of luxury SUVs.

I've heard that these two beasties get pretty crappy gas mileage as well.

Meanwhile sales of the 500/Taurus/Freestyle/Montego/Sable are tanking faster than that 'Helen Keller Sing Along' album.

"Thank You, Come Again." MTV's movie blog has a report on one of the converted 7-11s which has been magically changed into a Kwik-E-Mart in order to promote The Simpsons movie. The store features pink iced donuts, Buzz cola, Krusty-Os and WooHoo Blue Vanilla Squishees. Brilliant! But where's the Duff Beer?

Top Ten: In a related story, after a lot of thought and thousands of hours watching reruns (to pick up all the nuances), I have compiled my list of the Best Simpsons Episodes Ever ... (more >>>)

Headline Of The Week ... is from The Onion: 'James Gandolfini Shot By Closure-Seeking Fan'. Excerpt: In his statement, alleged killer Louis Bowen "used the word "betrayal" to describe the series' resolution, which he was convinced set up a climactic death for the sociopathic mafia don. The realization that Soprano's brutal life of constant fear and anxiety would have no real end slowly drove the obsessed Bowen over the edge."

Be Aware. Be Very Aware. Greg Gutfeld writes about the weekend's Live Earth concert: "What I love most about raising awareness about the planet is that it allows you to ignore the real problems in your life. Like hygiene, or your mortgage. By thinking globally, you neglect locally."

And: "If (Al) Gore spent more time thinking about offspring instead of offsets, maybe his son would not have been caught on a freeway operating a pharmacy on wheels at a 100 miles per hour. But thank God, Al the Third was driving a Prius., the ultimate environmentally friendly hybrid. And by being arrested in it, the punk did his part to raise awareness for global warming! Just like good old dad!"

Quote Of The Day is from Norman Tebbit, a former Thatcher cabinet member: "The word 'conservative' is used by the BBC as a portmanteau word of abuse for anyone whose views differ from the insufferable, smug, sanctimonious, naive, guilt-ridden, wet, pink orthodoxy of that sunset home of the third-rate minds of that third-rate decade, the nineteen-sixties."


Friday July 6, 2007

Selling In Bulk: 2007 was supposed to be the year that the domestic automakers weaned themselves from unprofitable fleet sales.

For GM, they've been doing pretty well, limiting their offloads of 10 or more vehicles to one company to around 24 percent of total sales. Chrysler and Ford, on the other hand, are still relying on the practice, coming in at 36-percent and 34-percent respectively - the highest of any automakers. (Although Ford's sales to rental-car companies fell 39 percent in June and 30 percent for the first six months of '07.)

Fleet sales are near-zero profit transactions at best - if you calculate 'profit' based on out-of-pocket costs. If you use fully-allocated costs, fleet sales are big losers. Fleet sales also harm the resale values of the brand/model and, since the fleet cars are often ill-maintained, semi-stripped examples, they provide negative impressions to anyone who rents them.

Right To Your Door: It seems hard to believe in today's world of self-service-everything (they call it "self-service" because it sounds a lot better than what it really is: "no-service"), but there was a time in America when merchants actually brought goods right to your door - free. Hucksters drove through neighborhoods in station wagons and pickup trucks, selling fresh meats, fruits and vegetables.

Ice cream trucks prowled neighborhoods on hot summer afternoons. Milk and bakery goods were delivered early each morning in Divco delivery trucks. ... (more >>>)

Mind The Gap: Samir Syed at TTAC reviews the GMC Envoy and notes that the SUV's panel gaps are "large enough to accommodate an illegal immigrant. While the wheel wells could hide enough undocumented Americans to harvest our annual avocado crop, you kinda expect that in an old school SUV. But what God-fearing GM loyalist wants to cross the border only to discover they've inadvertently imported an economic immigrant in between their tailgate and the rear bumper? You know that ain't right."

And: "The Envoy SLE's seats offer up the type of thinly-padded insult only a Ford Ranger owner could love. OK, endure. My gluteus was maximized after just 90 minutes of highway driving."

Dear GM, It's 2008. Honda, Toyota and others 'solved' the panel gap problem in the 1970s. And have learned how to make vehicles - even entry level ones - with comfortable seats. (Hint: stop trying to beat every last #*&%!@ nickel out of your seat subcontractors.)

It's the 21st Century; get competitive or die.

PS - Ooops! You're already in intensive care (see next posting).

Dismal Domestic Doings: Ford's 8.1 percent June sales drop was its eighth consecutive monthly decline. DaimlerChrysler's volume slipped 1.8 percent. General Motors Corp. plunged a whopping 21 percent!

Buick sales dropped 33%, Cadillac sales were down by 31%, Chevrolet was off 26% and Pontiac sales declined by 21%. Jaguar sales were off by 35%; Volvo's were down 12%.

Meanwhile, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda posted monthly U.S. sales increases for the fifth time this year, stealing a bigger slice of the world's biggest auto market from domestic rivals. Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's largest automaker, had an 11 percent increase in June.

Toyota reported a 10 percent gain in June, Honda rose 11 percent, and Nissan was up 23 percent. Mazda sales were up 8.6%.

Toyota's passenger car sales were led by Camry, which posted best-ever June sales of 46,630, up 8.4 percent over the same period last year. Camry Hybrid reported sales of 5,530 units in June. The Prius hybrid gas-electric mid-size sedan posted best-ever June sales of 17,756, an increase of 76.3 percent over June 2006. The Yaris subcompact reported an increase of 28 percent, posting best-ever June sales of 9,155 units. Corolla reported best-ever June sales of 36,499 units. Toyota's light truck sales were up 10 percent, with a best-ever June total of 88,631 units, led by the Tundra full-size pickup with all-time best-ever sales of 21,727, an increase of 137.2 percent over a year-ago.

Sucks to be Detroit.

Bad Idea Of The Year: The green-light has been given to start production on a remake the Steve McQueen classic movie, 'Bullitt'. McQueen's role will be reprised by Brad Pitt. Oh well, at least it won't be Tom Cruise. Or Rosie O'Donnell.

Oh Boy, Oh Boy, A New Toy: First, never-seen-before, exclusive picture of the new BMW 1-Series coupe.

Not From The Onion ... although it sure sounds like it. As the saying goes, "You couldn't make this sh*t up!" Al Gore's son was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana and prescription drugs (including Xanax, Valium and Vicodin). Al Gore III, 24, was driving a blue Toyota Prius at about 100 mph on the San Diego Freeway when he was pulled over by sheriff's deputies. Gore was jailed in Santa Ana on $20,000 bail. Hmmmm. Can you buy 'jail offsets'?

Murder, Inc. .... but with falafel not calzone: David Frum writes that "Rudy Giuliani skips lightly over crucial details. ... But the spirit behind them is exactly right. People say he has no background in foreign policy. I was left wondering whether a lifetime of fighting the Mafia is not exactly the right background for dealing with Islamic terrorism. As he said: the mullahs released the hostages in 1981 because they looked into Ronald Reagan's eyes and saw something they did not see in Jimmy Carter's. I saw that same something in Guiliani's."

Muslim Terrorists Have Conquered Great Britain: New Prime Minister Gordon Brown has banned ministers from using the word "Muslim" in connection with the terrorism crisis. The PM has also instructed his team that the phrase "war on terror" is to be dropped. The shake-up is part of a fresh attempt to improve community relations and avoid offending Muslims, adopting a more "consensual" tone than existed under Tony Blair.

Officials insist that "no direct links with Muslim extremists have been publicly confirmed by police investigating the latest attempted terror attacks." Mr. Brown himself did not refer to Muslims or Islam once in a BBC TV interview on Sunday.

Yeah right. Maybe they weren't really screaming "Allah Akbar!" as they rammed into the Glasgow Air Terminal. Maybe they just wanted directions to Ollie's Act Bar, a small pub near Crich, Derbyshire.

Meanwhile, as Fox Muldur used to say, "Trust no one." After all, the next terrorist you meet might be Hindu. Or Presbyterian. Riiiight.

One Man's War On Terror: I wish I could read a headline like this one every day. It's from The Daily Record, a Scottish paper: 'Hero Cabbie: I Kicked Burning Terrorist So Hard In Balls That I Tore A Tendon'. (hat tip - Jonah Goldberg)

Television, Materialism & American Sloth Conquer All ... as reported by The Onion: "Five years after settling in southern California and trying to blend into American society, a six-man terrorist cell connected to the militant Islamist organization Army of Martyrs has reportedly grown too complacent to conduct its suicide mission, an attack on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station." "We remain wholly committed to the destruction of America, the Great Satan," Nadar al-Sharif said. "But now is not a good time for us. The season finale of Lost was such a cliff-hanger that we have to at least catch the first episode of the new season. After that, though, death to the infidels."

He also noted that his nearly $6,000 in credit-card debt from recent purchases of a 52-inch HDTV and a backyard gas grill prevents him from buying needed materials for the attack.

Though the members of the cell said that they "live only to spill the blood of crusaders who oppress Muslims," they cited additional reasons for the delay, including an unexpired free Netflix trial and nagging lower-back pain.

"5:00 am is when the facility is most vulnerable to attack, when the morning shift security personnel replace the overnight crew," said Adib Dhakwan, the cell's second-in-command. "Unfortunately, Starbucks doesn't open until six, and I don't know about you, but if I don't have that first cup of coffee, forget it."

'An Infidel's Garden Of Verses': Poems scratched on styrofoam cups and written with toothpaste by inmates at Guantanamo Bay will soon be available in book form. Here's one:

Roses are red,
Violets are not;
All unbelievers
Must be blown up or shot.

Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Jefferson: "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."


Monday July 2, 2007

The View From The Pickle Barrel: Jeremy Clarkson comments on Ford's financial status: "Ford is in what economists call "a right old pickle". As an investment opportunity it's up there with a semi on the Gaza Strip. Its shares are listed as junk, biscuits are banned in board meetings to save money, it has sold Aston Martin, it is shutting 14 plants, shedding 30,000 jobs and business articles speak of there being no obvious solution. One analyst I spoke to said: "If it were a corner shop, it would have gone bankrupt years ago.""

In The Business World ... it's helpful to learn basic math skills before becoming a CEO. Here's a little arithmetic problem:

In 1998, Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler Corp. for $36 billion. In 2007, they sold it and had to pay Cerberus $673 million to take Chrysler off their hands.

How much poorer is Daimler-Benz now? Haben Sie die Antwort, Herr Schrempp?

Stranded Snobs: Robert Farago of TTAC writes about Land Rover's legendary reliability problems: "A brand can only get so far playing the snob card. An off-roader that's destined to leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere (or the Neiman Marcus parking lot) is a less coherent brand proposition than a $250 McDonald's Happy Meal."

Yet people still buy 'em. P.T. Barnum was right.

News Flash ... "The Department of Transportation reports gridlock can be eliminated by simply honking your car's horn." It's from The Onion, of course.

Dilution, Marginalization And More: The Beach Girl, posting on Eternity Road, writes about the recently defeated amnesty bill: "The fact is the President and the Senate folks who support the amnesty bill want the North American Union; they want the destruction of our national sovereignty; they want to marginalize American blacks totally; and they want to start the process of disengaging from American whites although illegal Mexicans are considered white. It is all in how we are classified. The only option for me when identifying my ethnicity is 'non-Hispanic white.'"

Hispanic is, at best, a language or culture segmentation. It's like creating a special "ethnicity" for everyone with far-northern European ancestry ... Pale 'n Freckled.

I hereby demand a checkable PnF box on the 2010 census form.

Paging Senators Fizz and Nerf: James Lileks describes the U.S. Senate as "a place where the fizzy effervescent passions of the day are poured into a saucer, where they can go flat and get warm and sticky and attract flies. Good a definition of the Senate as any, I guess. It's like a bowling alley with no pins, circular lanes, and nerf balls."

Ya know, I had a nightmare about a similar bowling alley in 1981. I think I had been swilling Gallo Hearty Burgundy before bedtime though.

Truth Of The Day ... is from Greg Gutfeld: "The scariest thing we face right now is terror. At any moment we could be bombed by demented dipwads whose hatred toward our way of life is matched only by their desire for goat porn." And, meanwhile, "Mother Earth just sits there, rotating lazily, absorbing Sheryl Crow's compost. When you're assessing real threats: terror is red meat, global warming is tofu."

Political Prediction ... from Steve at Hog On Ice: "Like I keep saying, barring an unforeseen scandal, Fred Thompson is going to be the next President. Largely because the same kind of stupid people who fall for the Edwards shtick actually believe Thompson is the sharp, savvy DA from Law & Order. It's a good thing he didn't play the Easter Bunny, or about twenty percent of the public would be pestering him for chocolate eggs."

I Believe ... if Catherine Crier bulked up on cheese fries and started taking meth, she'd morph into Nancy Grace.

Question Of The Day: Is it possible to have a beef with a vegetarian? (My answer: I dunno but we'll be cookin' meat on the grill Wednesday. Happy 4th!)


Disclaimer

This blog is about cars, automobiles, vehicles of various sorts and more.

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

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by giving me free cars to test.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this car blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal), while patiently attempting to prove that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.

copyright 2007-12 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved

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