Friday March 28, 2008
Second Time Around: When the Mustang was first introduced, it was a gigantic hit. During the 1965 model year, almost 800,000 Stangs were sold.
The Chevy Camaro didn't arrive until the '67 model year and faced a restyled Mustang. Camaro sales that year were less than half of Mustang's. During the next five years, Mustang always outsold the Camaro by a wide margin.
The Dodge Challenger arrived on the scene in time for the 1970 model year. Here's the approximate sales figures for that year: Challenger - 63,000, Camaro - 114,000, Mustang - 148,000. By 1972, Mustang outsold Challenger by 4.6 to 1.
The latest Mustang model was a big hit when introduced in late 2004. And it sold like hotcakes - about 20,000 vehicles per month. Things have since tapered off. In 2007, 135,000 Mustangs were purchased. In 2008, the slowing economy and high gas prices have depressed sales to the 7,000 per month level.
Why do GM and Chrysler think their Johnny-come-lately ponycars are going to succeed? They didn't do all that well the first time around. And this time, their respective entries are four to five years behind the Mustang.
After an initial sales burst driven by fanboys, I think Chevy will be lucky to sell 4,000 Camaros per month at retail (non-fleet). And Dodge Challenger sales will settle in at the 2-3,000 per month rate. That's not enough to amortize the tooling, start-up and hype costs for either of these models.
Speaking of fanboy fantasy cars that haven't paid back their tooling/startup charges, sales for the once-überpromoted Pontiac Solstice are now running about 700 per month. And, gasket fit/quality on that brand-new Solstice coupe is so bad, GM must have rented a time machine and gone back to the early 1970s to procure it.
Why Stop There? The AutoBlog headline reads: 'Chrysler tapping consumers to design future products'. Hey, why stop at design? Let's build 'em too.
Atomic Punk: I swear that I drew a car like this one when I was 15 or so. In the back of a Geometry book, methinks. But this guy drew it and then proceeded to actually build it. Waaaay cool!
Global Warming Update: On Wednesday, it snowed here. No accumulation but definitely white stuff falling from the sky. On Thursday, I drove to a morning business meeting in a snowstorm - big flakes, too, but the temperature was 34 degrees so it wasn't laying on the roadway. By the time I drove 5 miles south, the temperature warmed up to 38 and there was nothing but rain. TV stations forecast snow Thursday night with "accumulations on the valley floor of 1-3 inches."
We woke up Friday to large, heavy snow flakes which quickly turned our deck white. It later melted after the temperature climbed. But the weathervolk are predicting "possible" Dire Things for the weekend. (On the other hand, weather forecasters make their living predicting Dire Things, don't they?)
We've lived in western Washington and Oregon for 30 years and we've never experienced snow in late March before.
Global warming, my ass.
Wal-Mart To The Rescue: Since the company's launch of its $4 prescription program in September 2006, the program has now saved Americans $1,032,573,012.61 and climbing.
Mark Perry notes: "And that was $1 billion in only 18 months!! So while politicians and pundits in Washington fret about 41 million Americans without health insurance, and dream up the next grandiose, government-based health care reform, the most effective health care solutions may be right around the corner at your local Wal-Mart, which offers affordable $4 prescriptions."
Market-based solutions work much better than government ones. Combine this with my plan and the health care crisis will pretty much disappear.
I'm Just Wondering ... John McCain's visit to Iraq and Israel last week produced a lot of photo/video ops. It seemed to me that, in every one of them, Joe Lieberman was seen either beside McCain or standing behind him. Senator Lieberman, a former Democrat - now Independent, is well liked by independents, many Republicans and some Democrats.
Wouldn't it be interesting if he was McCain's VP choice? Personally, I think such a move would sew things up for McCain and almost guarantee victory in November.
Headline Of The Week: 'Ex-homecoming queen accused of attacking sister with fake leg'. Donna Sturkie-Anthony and her sister started arguing about alcohol abuse. Then, police said, Sturkie-Anthony pulled off her sister's prosthetic leg and beat her with it. Donna later stole her neighbor's telephone and threatened to burn down their trailer if they testified against her.
"The police, they call for backup when they come up here to deal with her," said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified. "They know who she is."
Quote Of The Day is from John P. Getty: "If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem."
Wednesday March 26, 2008
Shine & Show: Jeremy Clarkson weighs in on washing cars: "What a meaningless way of passing the time. You don't wash your vacuum cleaner or your television set, you have a machine to wash the dishes and you employ a man to clean your windows. So how much do you have to hate the sight of your wife and children before you think, "I'd rather go outside into the cold and spend a couple of hours burnishing my wheel nuts"?"
"First of all, it's very hard work. You have to do all the exercises favoured by homosexuals in gyms. Bending over, stretching, rubbing. But at least when homosexuals finish, they have glistening, toned bodies that make them look good. You? You're just going to put your back out. And the more you clean, the more you'll notice is dirty. If you're not careful you'll end up polishing the inside of the tyre valves and then not wanting to use your car if it's raining."
"This behaviour is called 'being a concours enthusiast' and its very dangerous. Many 'concours enthusiasts' go on to be murderers."
"And have you ever actually tried those cleaning products that are available in supermarkets? ... (T)hey don't actually do anything. "Simply spray onto the glass," it says on the tin, "then, after two minutes, wipe down with a clean cloth." Rubbish. You can never trust any instruction that begins with the word 'simply'."
Well, I disagree. Car washing is good exercise and is less pointless than running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. I washed two cars on Good Friday. This is a ritual which started when I lived back east.
Good Friday was the day that I turned on the water to the outside spigots and reattached the hoses which had been stored in the garage during the winter. Then I washed our cars, which generally went unwashed from the Friday after Thanksgiving onwards. (On that day, the outside spigots were turned off and the hoses brought inside.) Another ritual was putting on the studded tires on Thanksgiving Friday; reinstalling the regular tires on Good Friday.
Besides it's always nice to drive a shiny car to church on Easter Sunday.
Screw Jeremy Clarkson.
Dissin' Diesel: At TTAC, Justin Berkowitz noted that "Maximum Bob proclaimed "diesels are not the answer." While cynics might say that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, props to Bob for doing the math. Reuters reports the average price for a gallon of diesel has hit $4.06. It's as high as $4.60/gallon in places. As MB pointed out, "asking people to pay a 20 percent premium for a diesel engine and a 20 percent premium at the pump makes no sense at all.""
Welcome to the Club, Justin and Bob. Almost three weeks ago I wrote that diesel is the Esperanto of fuels and predicted that it would not become a mainstream passenger car fuel in the U.S. for a long time. If ever.
Ta-Ta, Jag: Ford has sold both Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors for $2.3 billion, less a $600 million by Ford into the retirement coffers of the brands. Meaning $1.7 billion net.
I had a discussion with a friend yesterday about this matter. He's a former employee of a Tier 1 supplier to the auto industry. He has had dealings with the Tata people and doesn't think much of them at all.
If I were a Land Rover or Jaguar dealer, I'd be very nervous.
Oh, Irony! Where Is Thy Sting? The Winter 2008 edition of Villanova magazine arrived in my mailbox a few days before Spring. This publication targets "the University's alumni, family and friends."
One of the feature articles was a report on the Villanova University Theology Institute's 2007 Annual Conference. The theme was 'God and Mammon'. One of the keynote speakers was a young, dreadlocked white fellow ... (more >>>)
Death For All: Jack Kevorkian is running for U.S. Congress, hoping to continue a crusade to fight for individual rights. Unfortunately, many of his staunchest supporters are now dead.
Geezer Joke: A little old lady was running up and down the halls in a nursing home. As she walked, she would flip up the hem of her nightgown and yell: "Supersex." She walked up to an elderly man in a wheelchair. Flipping her gown at him, she said, "Supersex."
He sat silently for a moment or two and finally answered, "I'll take the soup." (hat tip - George Pradel)
Lots Of 'Literation: Can someone get Tom Brokaw to read this headline?
Utility At Both Ends: Greg Gutfeld sings the praises of Kentucky Fried Chicken: "Okay - they were the only restaurant ever to put food in a bucket, but still - the profound brilliance of their crispy delight could never be denied. You could eat their chicken, and then use the bucket when the diarrhea hits."
Quote Of The Day is from Dan Neil on the looks of the BMW 1-Series coupe: "The styling is a vestige of what BMW then called its "flame surfacing" design vocabulary - though it has less the incandescence of fire than the weary drape of wet canvas. Or old skin."
Showtime! Exclusive! You'll find special New York Auto Show coverage and pix here.
Pointing Fingers: Jerry Flint writes that job losses can't be blamed on NAFTA. "A key reason for the job losses is the failure of the domestic automobile industry. Assembly plants shut down because there is not enough business. The problem with domestic assembly plants has spilled over to the auto parts companies, too. ... When we lose jobs to China, that is not the fault of NAFTA, either. ... The big problem for Detroit: The other guys built better cars. That may be changing, but today's customers are quite happy with their Hondas and BMWs so it is tough to win them back."
"Despite what you hear from Detroit, our country is a great place to build cars and trucks. The best auto companies in the world are building cars here and plan to expand production in the future."
Toyota built 1.3 million cars and trucks in North America last year, most of them in the U.S. Honda North American production was more than 1.4 million, of which it built 1 million in the U.S. Like Toyota, America is the heart of Honda's profit machine, and its American production was up from the year before. Honda has a huge car-building operation in Ohio, and it has a new factory going up in Indiana. BMW production in South Carolina was 150,000 last year, up nearly 40%, the company plans to raise capacity to 240,000 a year, and will move X3 sport utility production from Europe to the U.S. Of the 15.5 million vehicles built in North American last year, most of them in the U.S., foreign manufacturers accounted for 6 million.
Flint quips, "I think that it is better to work at expanding the growth than always complaining and blaming others for your misfortune." Yes! Yes! See my Open Letter To Detroit, written six years ago.
The Big 2.8 needs to make no-excuses cars people want to buy. (And quit whining.) It's the product, stupid.
Best Drag Race Ever! A Bugatti Veyron takes on a Typhoon fighter jet!
Eco-Factoid: "If you walk 1.5 miles and replace those calories by drinking about a cup of milk, the greenhouse emissions connected with that milk (like methane from the dairy farm and carbon dioxide from the delivery truck) are just about equal to the emissions from a typical car making the same trip."
Quip Of The Week is from Lucianne on Bill Richardson's endorsment of Barack Obama: "Half-Mexican backs Half-Black in another example of the Audacity of Taupe."
Quote Of The Day is from Doctor Strangelove (a Daily Gut poster) on Bill Maher: "If being a pretentious ass were a mating prerequisite, he'd be married to Keith Olbermann."
Friday March 21, 2008
Gray Market Vehicles: I like the 2010 Pontiac G8 ST pickup truck, a revived V8 El Camino. There is always a market for retro ideas, especially if the offering is priced right. The problem is that much of the market is OGFG - Old Graying Fat Guys. And their wives. These people buy such stuff as toys.
OGSC (Old Graying Skinny Guys) are more agile and seem to spend their money on Active Contemporary Stuff (Corvettes, Porsche Boxsters, custom mountain bikes, ski trips, climbing gear, etc.) rather than the Nostalgia Stuff favored by OGFGs.
How many OGFGs do you know who own reproduction Wurlitzer jukeboxes? Or old-timey Coke machines? Or line the walls of their garage with repro tin signs? OGFGs use their disposable income to attempt to recapture the aura of their youth. Marketeers need to recognize two things: 1.) It's a limited market. 2.) OGFGs are price conscious.
There is a pretty good database of price/volume info for the OGFG market: Plymouth Prowler, Ford Thunderbird, Chevrolet SSR: base price $40+K, volume too low to be profitable/sustainable; Ford Mustang, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR, VW Beetle, Mini: base price under $20K, volume good.
Low prices also draw in younger buyers who perceive the design as 'cool' in the same way that a Scion, Mini or Element is cool. If the design is also 'cute', low prices will draw in females as well. Look who's behind the wheel of many Beetles, PT Cruisers and V6 Mustangs.
The El Camino market may limited but, if the product is priced right, this Pontiac can be a success. Same for the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger. But if high base prices, limited supply and/or dealer gouge rockets these vehicles into a pricey stratosphere, they will fail.
What The World Needs Now ... is the device advertised in the October '57 issue of Road & Track:
In an era of nearly four buck a gallon gas, we could all use one. Do they make these for other cars too? How about Lexus? Or Toyota?
"This Company Is Dead." Watch this six-minute speech by Danny DeVito from the 1991 film, 'Other People's Money'. And then tell me you weren't thinking about Chrysler while watching.
War On Terror Report: Paul Mirengoff from Power Line writes: "Debates about how well or badly the United States is doing in the war on terror seem to have one feature in common. Those who say we're doing well rely on objective, measurable data - e.g., no successful terrorist attacks on the homeland in six and a half years; very few successful terrorist attacks against Europe; two governments that harbored terrorists and sponsored terrorism toppled and replaced by governments that don't do these things; scores of al Qaeda leaders captured or killed, etc. By contrast, those who say we're doing badly tend to rely on impressionistic, non-measurable arguments - e.g, we've alienated our allies to the point that we're not getting sufficient cooperation; countless otherwise peace-loving Muslims have been driven to a life of terrorism by our actions, etc."
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks on the economy: "Speaking as an utter amateur, I'm worried less about a recession than inflation. I'm worried most about a recession, inflation and jolly round of trade wars, coupled with fragile banks, overcapacity, diminished consumer confidence and aggressive messianic collectivism. Something about that smells familiar. I love studying the thirties and forties, but not first hand."
Wednesday March 19, 2007
A Different Perspective: James Lileks isn't a car guy, but his video report on the Minneapolis Auto Show is both insightful and funny. Worth 3 minutes and 40 seconds of your time.
Best Ever One-Sentence Sum-Up on automotive build quality: "Its crudely finished fiberglass body is a rolling wart of huge panel gaps, wavy surfaces and rough edges." It was written by Paul Niedermeyer and refers to the execrable Zap Xebra electric 'car'.
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'DOT Creates New Lane For Reckless Drivers'. "Signs for the lane will feature the icon of a swerving 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis with a mattress tied to the top by a single length of twine."
Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "These new lanes are for the millions of drivers who can't be bothered with speed limits, turn signal use, or not careening madly out into oncoming traffic," The first reckless-driving route is a steeply banked, guardrail-lined on-ramp to I-395 outside Arlington, VA. "Whether hell-bent on putting themselves and everyone around them in danger or just drunk off their gourds and out for a simple joyride, America's reckless will no longer be forced to putter along with careful, conscientious, considerate citizens."
Peters then cut the ribbon on the inaugural lane by speeding through it in a rusted-out 1984 Chevy Cavalier, steering with her knees as her left hand held a cup of hot coffee aloft and her right hand slapped her 4-year-old daughter sitting in the back seat.
Fierce Competition: Many people think that targeted, saturation competition - opening a Burger King across from McDonalds, a Starbucks up the street from a local coffee house, etc. - is a new thing.
Three shoe stores - Father & Son Shoes, Flagg Bros. and Thom McAn - are next door to one another in an early 1950s photo taken under the Frankford El tracks at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Orthodox St. in Philadelphia, PA.
Capitalism at its most intense. Battle to the death. Winner take all. (permalink)
On An Elevator To The Stars: Arthur C. Clarke, prolific science fiction writer, inventor and futurist, has died at age 90.
I read many of his books while in high school and college. His interesting predictions in 'Profiles of the Future' included mankind achieving immortality by the end of the 21st Century.
I wonder if it will happen.
Rest In Peace, Arthur. (permalink)
Bad Idea #3,674: Disneyland is having problems with the 40+ year-old 'It's a Small World' attraction. People have gotten heavier over the years and sometimes the boats get stuck under loads of fat passengers. "Employees ask larger passengers to disembark - and compensate them with coupons for free food."
Racist Redux: Barack Obama was supposed to transcend race. He presented himself as post-racial, and not as someone who recalls the Watts riots as "kind of a good idea."
But his pastor of 20 years, "spiritual mentor" and political adviser thinks otherwise. Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ preaches that blacks should say "God damn America" because "we are a country and a culture controlled by rich white people."
He refers to our country as "United States of White America."
Wright's post-9/11 sermon notes that we "bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and the black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas has now been brought back into our own front yard. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
And: "Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run Jesse (Jackson) and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body."
Wright represents a typical bitter, angry and racist black. He is, at heart, a bigot. A photo-negative of a KKK-wannabe. Luckily, such African Americans are in the minority. But I have met them. You probably have, too. Carrying 50 pound chips on their shoulders.
Jeremiah Wright is Barack Obama's "inspiration" and, for that reason alone (though there are many other reasons), Mr. Obama should not be president.
Better that Barack had found inspiration in the words of Martin Luther King: "The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom."
PS: I wasn't impressed with yesterday's speech. "Running an ongoing seminar on America and Race" sounds just like another one of those unpleasant and synthetic Diversity Training sessions. Yecchhhh!
Over at Ace, people have been summarizing the speech in haiku poetic verse. I like this one:
Wright is wrong I say.
But the man has a good point.
Crackas betta jump!
Change is difficult
There is much work to be done
Get to it, whitey.
My rev talks some shit
But I blame whitey not him
Liberals buy it.
PS II: Bruce Walker thinks that Barack Obama = Jimmy Carter. And presents a convincing argument. Frightening!
Little Known Fact: That "chickens coming home to roost" crack, made by Rev. Wright in reference to 9-11, is the same one used by another other loudmouth hatemonger, Malcolm X, in reference to 11-22 (November 22, 1963).
Quote Of The Day is from Don Luskin: "Saying that Hillary Clinton has White House experience is like saying Yoko Ono was a Beatle."
Monday March 17, 2008 ***** Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Irish Business Lesson: You'll find it here.
Irish Joke of the Day: McQuillan walked into a bar and ordered martini after martini, each time removing the olives and placing them in a jar. Soon the jar was filled with olives and the Irishman got up to leave. Another patron - puzzled over the man's strange behavior - asked, "Lad, what have ye been doin' here?"
McQuillan replied. "My wife sent me out for a jar of olives."
'Danny Boy', as sung by The Muppets, here.
Bad Pun of the Day: A Dublin band leader was standing on aluminum platform when it was struck by lightning. He was completely unharmed but the music sounded awful. Said McGrath, who was sitting in the third row, "Sure and it confirms what I've always suspected - the lad's just not a good conductor."
Friday March 14, 2008
Basement Archeology: A recent clean, toss and reorganize campaign in my basement unearthed a discovery - a box of Road & Tracks in the lower corner of a metal shelving unit. Most were from the 1980s and got tossed. But I found a treasure trove ... (more >>>)
Lexi Love: Artist and designer Andrei Avarvarii writes: "I used to detest Lexus' styling if you want to call it that. ... That all changed in 2005, when the beta "L-finesse" produced the magnificent second IS. The 2007 LS revealed that the IS was no accident. Maserati Quattroporte aside, I consider the Lexus LS the world's best-looking mass-produced luxury sedan."
Happy Birthday ... to my dad. He would have been 89 today.
Hungry For Insurgency: Last weeekend, my daughter brought Girl Scout cookies - a real treat since I hadn't had any in years. I like the Tagalongs (chocolate-covered peanut butter cookies) and the chocolate mints.
Every once in a while, I'll read something about uprisings in the Philippines by the Tagalogs (the second-largest Filipino ethnic group). Despite the spelling difference, every time I read about such conflicts, my mouth begins to water.
Laundry Malfunction reported by The Onion: 'Shroud Of Turin Accidentally Washed With Red Shirt'. (hat tip: Tom McMahon)
Definition Of The Day is for 'Cannibal': Someone who is fed up with people.
Wednesday March 12, 2008
Awesome Bus: The July 1935 issue of Modern Mechanix magazine had photos of a fantastic movie-prop bus. The 36-passenger vehicle is operated by a driver who sits in a glass-enclosed crow's nest jutting out from the 15-foot roof.
"The road liner has an oddly-shaped tail fin which extends high over the rear observation platform. The bus has four rear wheels and a circular vent in front in order to cool the radiator."
Speaking Of Finned Buses: I wonder whatever became of that black Checker eight-door Aerobus with a giant (six-foot) aluminum fin sticking up out of the center of the roof? And what's the backstory on that fin thing?
Jaw-Dropping Ignorance: A hat tip to reader Michael S., who sent me an article from Automotive News about Chrysler's plans to drop Johnson Controls as its Jeep Wrangler seat maker beginning in 2010. Chrysler plans to use a supplier in India.
Chrysler LLC purchasing czar John Campi is a longtime lieutenant of CEO Bob Nardelli and is "convinced that Chrysler can save money and possibly improve quality if it can find more suppliers outside North America."
As we all know, the well-paid but dummy duo of Campi and Nardelli did a wonderful job at Home Depot, pissing off vendors and running the company half into the ground.
But this notion takes ignorance to an entirely new level.
Seats traditionally are made near auto assembly plants so they can be delivered just in time to be bolted into vehicles. The Chicago Ford Assembly plant gets its seats just four hours (or less) before they are installed in Fords and Mercs.
Auto seats are bulky, making it expensive to ship them long distances. And India definitely qualifies as long distance; it is much further away from North America than China. Go look at a globe.
Seats from, say, a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle are durable enough to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping. The Bug's seat design is wonderfully simple. And totally incompliant with today's safety requirements and consumer preferences. 2008 car seats are bigger, more complex and crammed with electronics - motors, heat controls, etc. They are easily damaged.
This plan sounds like a brainless idea originating from someone who lacks auto industry knowledge. And common sense. It is one more example of the damage and turmoil that Chrysler's new overlords are causing to their valuable and long-suffering North American parts suppliers.
No wonder Chrysler is tanking.
Good Question: Professor Mark Perry notes: "College tuition has increased by almost 10X since 1976, compared to a 7.48X increase in oil prices over the same period." Then he asks, "Given the fact that college tuition has gone up by far more than oil prices over the last thirty years, why doesn't rising college tuition get the same attention as rising oil prices? Where are the Congressional hearings on 'tuition gouging,' 'windfall university endowments ($342 billion currently)', etc.?"
Whine Festival: Michelle Obama has made more verbal gaffes than Teresa Kerry. Recently, she quipped, "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country, because it feels like Hope is making a comeback."
What a statement! Born in the mid-1960s, she's not proud of the gains in civil rights since then. Nor the ultimate sacrifices of Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King. No pride in a free democracy (which so many 18th Century Europeans said would never make it) celebrating its Bicentennial. No exaltation over the Fall of the Berlin Wall, something that happened because we helped make communism fall. No patriotic feelings after our nation came together on 9-11. Incredible.
John Podhoretz notes: "When Michelle Obama was born, racial intermarriage was against the law in at least two dozen states. Governors were standing in front of university and classroom doors, attempting to bar black children and teenagers from entering white-only institutions. The per capita income of African Americans has risen sixteen-fold over the past 40 years. Black home ownership has risen tenfold. The black poverty rate has declined from 75 percent to 25 percent. Over the past 13 years, a breathtaking drop in the crime rate has made poor black neighborhoods safe and habitable in cities across the country for the first time in Michelle Obama's lifetime - since the crime spiral that made them intolerable places to live began in the year of her birth, 1964."
Michelle Obama has never been proud of her country... until her husband declared himself a presidential candidate. And dressed accordingly. Call him an empty suit - but it's a well-tailored suit with a nice drape. Even if he doesn't wear a tie very often. (In my opinion, the tailoring is the only JFK-esque thing about Barack.) He does talk about Hope, though ... every chance he gets. A vague, theoretical Hope.
Barack Obama and his wife went to exclusive private schools. (With government-backed student loans. And, in Michelle's case, possibly a little help from affirmative action.) He and his wife are lawyers who between them have earned four expensive Ivy League degrees. They may make about a million dollars a year, live in a $3 million home and send their kids to prep school. Mrs. Obama has a regular personal trainer and a full time housekeeper.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama continues to whine, portraying herself as barely managing economically "to keep it all together." This despite the fact that she and Barack earned more than $990,000 in 2005, according to their tax return.
The University of Chicago Hospital, where she is vice president for community affairs, bumped her pay from $121,910 in 2004 to $316,962 after her husband was elected to the U.S. Senate that year. The Obamas also have Barack's salary as a U.S. Senator ($169,300), royalties from his two best selling books, and an undisclosed amount of income from her service on six corporate boards.
"You're looking at a young couple that's just a few years out of debt," Mrs. Obama said. "See, because we went to these good schools, and we didn't have trust funds." It is, apparently, America's fault that the Obamas didn't have trust funds, and unfair that they had to repay their student loans. We're a country that is "just downright mean," Mrs. Obama said.
And people want these self-absorbed, complaining bozos as First Couple?! As Gerard Van der Leun noted, Ella Fitzgerald once crooned (Gulf Coast Blues) about folks who "got a mouth full of gimme, and a handful of much obliged." Sounds like the Obamas.
Meanwhile, John McCain has different feelings about America: "I've served my country imperfectly for many years but I've never lived a day - good or bad - that I haven't been proud ... proud of the privilege. Don't tell me we can't make our country stronger and the world safer ... we can and we must."
Now that's a real message of Hope.
Quote Of The Day is from the late Johnny Carson: "Happiness is your dentist telling you it won't hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill."
Monday March 10, 2008
Dying, Homely Kitty: Justin Berkowitz of TTAC (who, like me, doesn't have a single Microsoft product on his computer and boasts about it) has driven the new Jaguar XF sedan. He likes the interior: "The XF's interior's fit, finish and materials are the best I've ever seen in a production car, without exception. If you're the type of person that appreciates exquisite detailing of a fine watch, you can do nothing but marvel at the XF's cabin. The wood trim in my optionless "Luxury" trim model could have been fashioned by a bespoke furniture maker. The matte finish is both unique and stunning. ... Every surface is sensuous to the touch. For once, a Jag/Ford product feels… finished."
Justin is also satisfied with the performance, noting that "the new XF drives as well as you'd hope any Jaguar would."
The problem is the exterior styling. Justin writes that "the new XF's design is a pale shadow of the C-XF concept's drop dead gorgeous sheetmetal. We're talking supermodel versus neighborhood bartender. The XF's front end is a particularly boring transmogrification; it's a little weird and the snout's portal smacks of Volvo's blandest. The central bonnet creases are a particularly classless affectation. In fact, you could say the XF is nothing more than a Volvo in a slutty dress."
Aaaahhhh ... therein lies The Rub.
People buy Jaguars because they're 'Gorgeous'. Jaguar knows this; Gorgeous was the theme of a recent ad campaign. Gorgeous is Jaguar's history, starting with the low, lithe SS-100. And the XK-120. And the E-type. Etc., etc.
The XF does not meet the Gorgeous Standard. It is essentially a rebodied S-Type, covered with the dumbed-down morgue-skin of a stillborn concept car. That's not enough to save the brand.
Mr. Berkowitz concluded: "As it stands now, all they have is a bit of time to kill before Ford sells Jaguar or, let's face it, pulls the plug. Even as a swan song, the XF lacks the looks it needs to fly."
"It Looks Like The Car Darth Vader Drove To High School." Wow! This old Nazi minesweeper tank really does.
Larry Kudlow Is Usually An Upbeat Optimist. So, when he worries about something, I'm really concerned. Larry writes, "Right now the greenback is in virtual freefall. It's a disorderly drop. As a result, U.S. inflation rates are rising across the board as the global commodity boom leaks into higher domestic inflation. Inflation is the cruelest tax of all. It robs consumer and wage-earner purchasing power. It erodes business profits. It reduces the real worth of investor portfolios."
Then there's the recently-released jobs report that employers slashed 63,000 jobs in February, the most in five years. And the sudden spike in gas prices. And the business slowdown some of my clients are experiencing. And the Dow slipping below 12,000.
Also, there was the report late last week from JPMorgan Chase & Co. stating that banks are facing a "systemic margin call" that may deplete banks of $325 billion of capital due to deteriorating subprime U.S. mortgages.
"A systemic credit crunch is underway, driven primarily by bank writedowns for subprime mortgages," according to report co-author Christopher Flanagan. "We would characterize this situation as a systemic margin call."
The JPMorgan report included a revised bleaker forecast for subprime-related home prices. The bank now sees prices falling 30 percent, from its prior 25 percent forecast. Those prices have declined 14 percent since mid-2006.
Finally, there's the stockholders' report from our favorite independent local bank, stating that "the economic slowdown has been a strain on many of our clients, and we dramatically increased our investments in our loan loss reserves. For the first time in our history we experienced some loan losses that caused us to begin reserving much more to ride out this economic cycle. We will continue to build reserves in 2008 as we will inevitably face more loan losses. I am very proud of the great job our loan team is doing working with troubled borrowers. These are tough times for everyone, so we are demonstrating our skills in working through loans as well as continuing to grow our portfolio."
Not good. I feel a storm coming. Batten down the hatches. (I hope I'm wrong.)
Steve Jobs Is Actually Michael Corleone: Hmmmm. Does this make John Sculley Fredo? "I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever."
Or is The Woz Moe Green? "Is my credit good enough to buy you out?"
First Dog: He never told me his birth date but Winky was born 60 years ago this month. Yes, he did wink at people. I hope his little dog-soul is romping around happily somewhere.
I'll never forget you, old friend. (permalink)
Headline Of The Week: 'John Denver Karaoke Sparks Thai Killing Spree.' "A gunman in Thailand shot-dead eight neighbours, including his brother-in-law, after tiring of their karaoke versions of popular songs, including John Denver’s Country Roads."
The gunman killed eight people as they partied at a home in Songkhla Province, South Thailand.
"When I began shooting nobody pleaded for his life because they were all drunk," he said after his arrest. He said he was so furious with their awful singing that he did not notice he had murdered his own brother-in-law.
Quote Of The Day is from Rachel Lucas, referring to the uproar over an on-air remark on Rush Limbaugh's radio show about Obama having a resemblance to Curious George: "I'd understand people getting all hinky about comparing a part-black presidential candidate to a monkey if they hadn't spent the last 7 years populating the internet with hundreds of thousands of references to the sitting president as a chimp."
Friday March 7, 2008
Diesel Is The Esperanto Of Fuels: Some things look great on paper but, despite the overwhelming logic of arguments in their favor, never seem to become mainstream.
Consider Esperanto - the 'universal language' - developed in 1887 to "foster peace and international understanding".
Like diesel, Esperanto has its enthusiasts ... (more >>>)
BATter Up: The amazing BAT 11 concept, commissioned by American enthusiast Gary Kaberle - who owned the original 1955 BAT 9 car, was unveiled this week in Geneva.
"Based on a modified Alfa Romeo 8C platform, the BAT 11 continues some of the distinguishing elements of the original 'Berlinetta Aerodynamica Tecnica' cars designed by Franco Scaglione and developed by Nuccio Bertone. These include the tapered fins and faired wheels, all in a context where soft proportions are combined with strong, robust lines. The monolithic form has a simple dihedral bodyside section with fins that seem to have been designed as a shawl that wraps around the car beginning from the front fender and extending to the top of the side windows toward the rear."
The BAT 5 was the first of the Bertone-Alfa Romeo BAT project. It was first shown at the Turin Auto show in 1953. I got to see all three of these 1950s experimental aerodynamic vehicles (BATs 5, 7 and 9) at the 1996 Concours Italiano in Carmel, California. They were even more stunning in person.
The BAT 11 is less-stunning because car design is so advanced and aerodynamic, that it is now almost impossible to create a look as dramatic (compared with its 1950s contemporaries) as the original BAT series did.
Obsolete Skills - A Primer For Dinosaurs: Like me. This fun site lists skills which are no longer necessary for most people in the 21st Century. Ones that appealed to me included:
• Adjusting rabbit ears on top of a TV (I still have one.)
• Adjusting a television's horizontal and vertical holds
• Changing the gas mixture on your car's carburetor (I still have one.)
• Dialing a rotary phone (I still have one.)
• Mailing in the order form of a catalog
• Testing vacuum tubes. (And using the pin straightener.)
• Numbering punch cards with a pencil in case you drop your program
• Starting a car that has a manual choke
• Threading a 8mm or 16mm film projector (I still have one.)
• Using a slide rule (I still have three.)
Bad Pun Of The Day: A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Alright, I'll serve you ... but don't start anything."
Wednesday March 5, 2008
Car Sighting: Spotted my first Chevrolet Malibu in Kirkland, WA recently. It's not a bad-looking car. The Mailbu looks bigger than I had expected - only about eight inches shorter than an Impala and with less overhang. The C-pillar/sail panel has an Avalon-like look to it.
A Month To Forget: February was not kind to most automakers. Sales at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler fell 16 percent, 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Honda and Mazda were up. Mini was up a remarkable 38.5%. Toyota and Nissan/Infiniti reported declines of 6.6 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. Toyota Avalon sales were down 30% to 4,073 units; even Prius sales were off by 14.5%. Lexus brand sales were down 9.3%; the flagship LS sales (460, 460L and hybrid 600) dropped by 31.5% to 1,891 units.
Sales of the Honda Accord dropped by 12.7% despite heavy advertising of this new model. Are you as tired of ELO's 'Hold On Tight To Your Dreams' as I am?
Surprisingly, Ford Focus retail sales climbed 36 percent compared with a year ago. The Ford Edge crossover was up 46 percent; Lincoln MKX up 22 percent. Ford claimed that lower daily rental sales (down 20 percent) accounts for 60 percent of the decline. Brand sales for Mercury were down 21.9%; only 938 Sables were sold last month. Lincoln was off by 11.1%.
Want a rare car? Buy an X-Type Jag; only 180 were sold in February. Or a Caddy XLR roadster - only 140 units were delivered last month.
General Motors reported declines of 15.5% for Buick, 21.9% for Saab and a whopping 37.2% for Saturn. Sales of the brand-new Chevy Malibu were up a mere 6.5%, Cobalt sales rocketed up by 56.1% (rental fleet sales?), while Corvette sales dropped by 25.6% to 2,071 cars. (That's still double the sales of the Nissan 350Z, though.) Sales of the little Chevy Aveo dropped by a surprising 29%. Cadillac CTS sales were up a big 68%. And, Pontiac G6 sales jumped by a stunning 50.3%.
Analysts say that the generally dismal showings were caused by the slumping housing market, higher gas prices and tighter credit.
How Much Is 'On The Hood'? Edmunds has the answer on factory incentives: The Detroit 2.8 averaged $3,300-3,600 per vehicle (Chrysler was the worst), Nissan was $2,200, the Koreans averaged $1,800, Honda was at $1,100 and Toyota was $1,000. BMW cut its incentive spend by two-thirds compared with January.
Among vehicle segments, large trucks continued to have the highest average incentives, $4,466 per vehicle sold, followed by large SUVs at $3,702.
"Comparing all brands, in February Mini spent the least - virtually nothing - followed by Scion at $182 per vehicle sold. At the other end of the spectrum, Saab spent the most, $6,266, followed by Cadillac at $5,878 per vehicle sold. Relative to their vehicle prices, Saab and Pontiac spent the most, 17.6 percent and 16.8 percent of sticker price, respectively, while Mini spent virtually nothing and Porsche spent just 1.1 percent."
Edmunds' data takes into account all automakers' various U.S. incentives programs, including subvented interest rates and lease programs, as well as cash rebates to consumers and dealers.
Welcome To The Hotel Mexifornia: Victor Davis Hanson doesn't like the present immigration 'policy' or non-policy vis-à-vis Mexico. He cites five bothersome things:
1) We are wide open to terrorist infiltration.
2) We privilege illegal immigration from Mexico, while penalizing and delaying legal immigration from Asia, Africa, and Europe.
3) We serve as a safety valve and enabler for Mexico, which therefore will never make needed reforms.
4) We are creating a chauvinistic tribalism, a race industry that tries to convert the presence of 15 million illegal aliens into some sort of political movement.
5) We use cheap illegal labor to ensure our own entry level workers cannot bargain or organize.
Headline Of The Week: 'Man hits woman while on his way to anger management class'. "Why don't you show me some respect?" the man yelled at a woman waiting for a bus. A 63-year-old man tried to stop the 27-year-old man; the suspect hit him with a blue folder.
Police tracked the guy down through the folder, which included his anger management homework.
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "Protesters care less about the issues than they do about their genitals. In fact, it's their genitals that make them protest."
Monday March 3, 2008
I Think I'm In Love: It doesn't matter that I just bought a new car. I don't care if the Bentley Zagato GTZ is basically a VW Phaeton under its sexy skin. I still want one:
"Following the tradition of years of luscious Zagato re-skins of unattainable British whips, the design adds sleeker lines, crisp folds and its trademark double-bubble roof to the already hot Bentley GT Speed. A two-tone paint scheme in British Racing Green, a toned rear-end and Zagato's "Z" emblem on the front quarter round out the subtle, yet wholly distinctive re-skin."
Fool Cells: Buses powered by early versions of fuel cells used by Santa Clara, CA transit system have cost a whopping 32 times more than the overall running cost for comparable diesel-engine buses. Cost per mile for to operate a diesel bus: $1.61. Cost per mile for the fuel-cell buses: $51.66.
"The fuel-cell buses are not very dependable, and when they break down - which is quite often - they are shockingly expensive to fix, accounting for the largest factor in the exorbitant overall cost of operating the buses. The per-mile parts cost for the fuel-cell buses is $34.40, compared with 21 cents per mile for a diesel bus. The fuel-cell buses, which have racked up about 75,000 miles, averaged about 1,100 miles between road calls, the measure of reliability for such fleets. The figure for diesel buses is roughly six times better, at 6,000 miles between road calls."
You're Welcome. This is in response to your heartfelt "Thank you for solving our health care crisis."
After a great deal of thought, I have proposed a substantial revamp of the U.S. health care system, based on ... (more >>>)
Definition Of The Day is for 'Egotist': Someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.