Tuesday April 29, 2008
Bye, Bye Mercury: Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on the long-anticipated demise of Mercury. And the sale of Volvo. "According to people close to Mr. Mulally, he is looking at selling Volvo despite Ford's repeated statements that it intends to hang on to the brand. Similarly, he hopes to shutter the ailing Mercury brand."
Back in December (12/10/07), I wrote, "Today's Mercury is the poster child for 'Badge Engineering' and is an almost-clone of its Ford-badged siblings. Mercury is a virtually unknown brand outside of North America; Ford stopped selling it in Canada a few years ago."
As for Volvo, it has been always been positioned as The Safety Car. Now that almost every car is as safe as Volvo, where do you go with the brand? I dunno.
If dumping Volvo and shuttering Mercury are what it takes for Ford to survive, so be it. At least, Alan Mulally is looking at Ford as an integrated business entity and seeking out the efficiencies he obtained while at Boeing. "Mr. Mulally was also dumbfounded to discover Ford's various global regions operated independently of one another. After one product-development review, he learned Ford built two Focus small cars, with different parts, depending on the market - one sporty, hot seller in Europe and a cheaper dud in the U.S."
"Can you imagine having one 737 for Europe and one 737 for the United States?" Mr. Mulally asked.
Consolidating brands, sacrificing market share for better profitability and trying to develop a relevant portfolio of vehicle offerings using Euro-developed platforms when appropriate - it sounds like a smart prescription for what ails Ford.
Of the three Detroit-based automakers, I think Ford has the best chance of survival.
Is Oil A Renewable Resource? Motor Trend's blog presents an interesting theory. Thomas Gold, an Austrian-born astrophysicist who died in 2004, was a "renowned maverick in the science community, a brilliant rogue whose anti-establishment proclamations were often proven right."
"In 1999, Gold published 'The Deep Hot Biosphere'," a paper that postulated that coal and oil are produced not by the decomposition of organic materials, but in fact are "abiogenic" - the product of tectonic forces; i.e., deeply embedded hydrocarbons being brought up and through the earth's mantle and transformed into their present states by bacteria living in the earth's crust. The majority of the world's scientists scoff at Gold's theory, and "fossil fuel" remains the accepted descriptor of oil. Yet in recent years Russia has quietly become the world's top producer of oil, in part by drilling wells as deep as 40,000 feet -- far below the graveyards of T-Rex and his Mesozoic buddies."
"Is it possible that Thomas Gold was right again, and that the earth is actually still producing oil? It's tantalizing to think so. Meantime, whether or not Brazil's recent find adds support to Gold's theory, for sure it's good news for Brazilians: Government-run Petrobras is one of the world's leaders in ultra-deep offshore oil extraction, and Sugarloaf Mountain alone could transform Brazil into another Venezuela or Saudi Arabia."
Stop Whining! A recent Drudge headline proclaimed: 'Consumer confidence falls to 26-year low...' Maybe that's because today's consumers are a bigger bunch of spoiled whiners and pussies than they were in 1982.
I remember '82. Business conditions were abominable. Linn County Oregon had a 27% unemployment rate; the national rate was more than double what it is today. The Dow was at 800 or so. Mortgage rates on conventional 30-year loans were 16-18%, depending on where you lived.
Most people received 5 to 12 channels on their televisions, not 512. Relatively few people had the capability of recording programs for later viewing. In those days, you couldn't buy a vente frappachino on every street corner. Pet grooming salons were scarce. People drove around in miserable crapmobiles, like Chevettes, GM X-cars or Dodge Aires/Plymouth Reliant K-cars. Or coughing, rattly, diesel-powered Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs.
Twenty-six years ago, there was no internet. (If you wanted trendy, colorful news, you picked up a copy of that brand-new newspaper, USA Today, which was mostly found in big city downtowns or hotel lobbies.) Not only did people not even have dial-up, many still had rotary dial phones. There were no cell phones. And there was one telephone company - Ma Bell (or one of her Little Bells). Long distance calls were expensive.
Today, people thirst for everything right away. Including water. That's why everyone carries personal water bottles. No one did that in 1982. If you were thirsty, you walked around until you found a water fountain. Or chewed gum. And no one died because they weren't properly "hydrated."
Speaking of death, twenty-six years ago, AIDs was a mysterious, untreatable disease. Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) was a death sentence. There was no diagnostic lab test; confirmation of the disease was by autopsy. As was the case with many other chronic illnesses which can now be managed. Or cured. Twenty-six years ago, organ transplants were relatively rare.
In 1982, people had real stuff to complain about. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "I know a man who is a diamond cutter. He mows the lawn at Yankee Stadium."
Friday April 25, 2008
Zehr Gut! If you've been watching any television at all, you've probably seen the new Volkswagen ads, featuring Max, a 1964 black VW Beetle, as a talk show host. Max has "chatted" with Bobby Knight, the chair-throwing basketball coach, model Heidi Klum and others.
Of course, Max has many siblings, including two black Volkswagen Beetle sedans from our former VW stable - 1963 and 1967 models.
Three VWs, if you count my son's red convertible pedal car. (1971 photos taken in New Jersey, permalink)
Miracle Discovery ... makes night driving safer than day. This 1931 Popular Science ad states: "An amazingly queer yet simple invention lifts the curse of night driving from the motoring world. This altogether new discovery called 'Perfect-O-Lite', replaces old glass 'bulbs' in your automobile headlights with truly amazing results."
His Pen and Brush Are Now Still: Disney animation legend Ollie Johnston, the last surviving member of Walt's Nine Old Men, passed away from natural causes last week at age 95. Johnston animated 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', 'Fantasia', 'Bambi' and other classic films.
Disney's Nine Old Men were the core animators who created the Disney studio's most famous works. Walt Disney jokingly called this group of animators his 'Nine Old Men', referring to what Franklin D. Roosevelt called the nine judges of the U.S. Supreme Court, even though the animators were in their thirties and forties at the time.
Johnston made Pinocchio’s nose grow when he lied to the Blue Fairy, drew the adventures and terrors of the young Bambi and created the exuberant dance of Baloo and Mowgli as they sing The Bare Necessities.
Ollie Johnston was also a railway enthusiast, and kept a 1901 locomotive and half a mile of track at his California holiday home. Ollie, fellow Old Man Ward Kimball and Walt Disney were all train enthusiasts and collectors.
Kimball, who died in 2002, has a collection of antique model trains as well as a full-sized steam locomotive, which Kimball ran on his private three acre backyard railroad known as the Grizzly Flats Railroad in San Gabriel, California. Kimball donated his loco and railroad cars to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA. (I saw them during my 2002 visit.)
Rest in Peace, Ollie. (permalink)
Best Political Comments Of The Day: Greg Gutfeld writes that Barack Obama is "every bit as liberal as Ted Kennedy on a bender". Daily Gut commenter Las2laf adds that Hillary versus Obama "is like Kang vs. Kodos from the Simpsons. Either way your planet is doomed!"
'Visualize World Peace': LauraW. at Ace just likes the bumpersticker, not the philosophy. "Mainly because I visualize World Peace as a vast lifeless wreckage, the ironic result of the US finally deciding we can't share the planet with genocidal assholes anymore."
The Above Two Postings reflect my generally foul mood, having just been exposed to two Powerpoint-equipped bleeding-heart turnips wasting an hour of my life at a meeting, whilst promoting their seriously-flawed charitable endeavor which is financed in its entirety by gummint edict (i.e. - our money).
I am convinced that 97.8% of these liberal 'we-gotta-help-people' ideas should be brutally tossed from the roof a thirty-five story building onto a rusty, urine-encrusted, loosey-goosey exposed box spring in the Alley of Results-based, Practical Experience.
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Southwest Airlines Now Taking Passengers To Destinations By Shuttle Bus'. Excerpt: "Equipped with a 70-gallon tank and a four-stroke engine capable of speeds up to 60 miles per hour, the innovative buses will reportedly reduce travel time by 75 percent on average. In addition, cushioned plastic seats and easy-to-hold metal poles will present passengers with a level of comfort never before experienced on Southwest flights."
Quote Of The Day is from the late Gracie Allen: "A young boy shouldn't be given up for hopeless just because he's lazy, surly, and good for nothing."
Wednesday April 23, 2008
Lex-Stats: I'm now receiving complimentary issues of Lexus magazine. The focus of this slick, colorful periodical is more on lifestyle than cars and the magazine is sprinkled with ads for expensive trinkets and posh resorts. Nevertheless, there was an interesting chart of Lexus ownership statistics. 23% of all Lexus owners live in California, followed by Florida (10%), Texas (9%), Illinois (5%), New York (5%), Georgia (4%) and New Jersey (4%). Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia are at 3% each. The other 40 states account for only 31% of owners.
By the way, I have no regrets about buying my LS 460 and enjoy it even more now that I've gotten used to it. It's a pleasure to drive and I get a lot of compliments on its looks.
Car Sighting: Spotted a 2008 Maserati GT coupe yesterday - parked at Red Robin (of all places!) in Vancouver. The silver coupe was stunning and had a sleek, powerful shape. It is a big improvement over the last generation coupe which looked stubby.
Moving Advertising: In Philadelphia (and many other cities), commercial advertising was placed on the inside and outside of trolley cars to provide an additional source of revenue for transit companies. Here is a selection of exterior placards from 1940s and '50s Philadelphia street cars ... (more >>>)
Mall Walking: Last week, I strolled around the Vancouver Mall and made my first visit to the new Macy's which is very nice. It's a big improvement over the old dumpy Meier & Frank department store, which Macy's took over.
The rest of the mall is in bad shape though, with a lot of boarded up vacant stores, including the big Mervyn's. In the U.S., shopping mall traffic peaked in the late 1980s and has been slipping ever since. Mall traffic was down over 10% percent last year. More than 300 U.S. shopping malls have closed in recent years. No developer has announced plans for an enclosed mall in 2008 or the first quarter of 2009.
In 2008, the number of new store closings will climb to 5,770, according to a recently released ICSC report, 'Retail Real Estate Business Conditions'. Ann Taylor announced that it will close 117 stores between now and 2010; Charming Shoppes plans to close 150 stores. Wilsons Leather is shuttering 160 out of its 260 mall stores as a result of declining sales. The Vancouver Mall Wilsons closed earlier this year.
Why? ... (more >>>)
Clap?! They Ought To Rename It 'Atlas'! Pound-for-pound, gonorrhea is the strongest creature alive. The gonorrhea bacterium "can pull with a force equal to 100,000 times their body weight as though a human could drag 10 million kilos."
Geezer Joke: A couple in their nineties are both having problems remembering things. During a checkup, the doctor tells them that they're physically okay, but they might want to start writing things down to help them remember.
Later that night, while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair. "Want anything while I'm in the kitchen?" he asks. "Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?" "Sure." "Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?" she asks. "No, I can remember it." "Well, I'd like some strawberries on top, too. Maybe you should write it down, so's not to forget it?" He says, "I can remember that. You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries." "I'd also like whipped cream. I'm certain you'll forget that, write it down?" she asks.
Irritated, he says, "I don't need to write it down, I can remember it! Ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream - I got it, for goodness sake!" Then he toddles into the kitchen.
After about 20 minutes, the man returns from the kitchen and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs. She stares at the plate for a moment, then asks angrily, "Where the hell is my toast?"
Definition Of The Day is for 'Dust': Mud with the juice squeezed out.
Monday April 21, 2007
Torturous Ride: Dan Neil described the Porsche GT2 as "a $200,000 street racer with suspension settings by Torquemada." Discussing European race track testing, he notes: "Most Americans think the Nürburgring is a lobster dish."
Finally, he states that the 2009 Nissan GT-R is "as pretty as a meat mallet."
It is always gratifying when a Pulitzer prize-winning writer shares one's own opinion, although Dan has stated his case more elegantly and succinctly. Earlier this year (1/4/08), I wrote, "The Nissan GT-R is ugly. From its low-res 1989 Game Boy lines, odd chopped roof, strange black-drool grille, hideous drawn-by-a-second-grader spoiler-wing to its Chevy Cobalt taillights, it sucks. Is this abomination really produced by the same company that brought us the lovely 1970 240Z and the awesome 1990 300ZX?"
Tough To Compete: GM Canada has released a background paper claiming the total cost (wages, pensions, benefits, etc.) for one hour's work in Canada runs the automaker $77.75, 11% higher than the 70 bucks/hour paid to core U.S. GM workers. The paper notes that, for U.S. transplant operations (Toyota, Honda, et al), the total cost is $47.50/hour, 39% less than the GM Canadian rate.
Rrrrummmmm-bumm-bumm-bummm-bummm: Iowahawk invites everyone to fire up something loud, fuel-sucking and ozone-destroying for his 'Earth Week Virtual Cruise-In 2008'. "By working together, we can raise awareness - and mankind's sadly pathetic 0.031% contribution to total atmospheric CO2. And, by inspiring others, we can push the needle on the Eco-thermostat back to where it belongs: a balmy 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer within the next 200 years."
He posted a photo of his own ride - a sweet "1931 Ford Model A coupe, a/k/a "the Coupe of Justice." 1959 Pontiac 389, .030 over, .010 under, balance/blueprinted, ported/polished heads, Isky cam, 3 vintage gas-eatin' 1958 Saaty Meteor 100 fuel injectors."
If the weather ever clears around here (it snowed Saturday!), I'll back the ol' Plymouth out of the garage and let those 350 cubes of Chevy V-8 goodness sling thousands of BTUs Gaia's way via dual Glasspacks.
Isn't This Sexual Assault? Chelsea Clinton stopped traffic last Friday night as she wandered the streets of Philadelphia on a gay bar crawl, winning rave reviews for both her politics and her appearance.
Chelsea was mobbed by local gays and lesbians, as she walked from one club to the next. They ran up to hug her, posed for pictures and certainly invaded her personal space.
"I grabbed her ass," one young dyke exclaimed to her friends. Hmmmmm. Where's the feminist outrage over such lewd, boorish behavior?
Pair Of Luftwaffe Bombers Spotted: During a night out at the opera, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's breasts prepared to burst out of her dress and invade Poland.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I bought some batteries, but they weren't included. So I had to buy them again."
Friday April 18, 2008
Convergence: Many car pundits have bemoaned the fact that there are too many car models today. I agree. But it's not just because of badge engineering. I think the larger problem is that too many models are converging toward a single size.
Big cars are shrinking. Small cars are getting bigger.
Consider this ... (more >>>)
Global Warming Update #473: Call Al Gore And Ask Him To Bring A Large Shovel. Yellowstone officials say heavy snow has resulted in the breakdown of two bulldozers as road crews attempt to remove snow from park roads before they open for spring.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said this winter stands out as the snowiest in recent memory: "This is the most significant winter in terms of snowfall in years. It could be the most snowfall we've seen in seven to ten years." During the month of March alone, the park's South Entrance received 101 inches of white stuff.
According to Nash, the snow is so deep in some places that the bulldozer operators have to push the snow off the roadway in layers to feed it to rotary plows that then blow it off the road surface. (hat tip - George Pradel)
"What I Am Opposed To ... is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors to get me to cross the Delaware." David Frum imagines Barack Obama as George Washington: Q: "Did you with your little hatchet cut down that cherry tree, yes or no?" A: "Your question raises profound concerns over hatchets and trees and their relations to humanity."
Nice Words from President Bush at the dinner welcoming Pope Benedict XVI: "The Catholic Church has been a rock in a raging sea and it is my prayer that it will never change."
Question Of The Day: Why do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while still-healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front?
Wednesday April 16, 2008
Welcome To America. Please Obey All Driving Laws. Pay careful attention to the vehicles in which Pope Benedict XVI rides during his U.S. visit. Including the current Popemobile which a highly-modified Mercedes ML 430 SUV mit bulletprüf glaz.
Popes have always had cool rides. Read more about them here.
'We Sweat The Details': Anyone else remember this now-abandoned General Motors slogan? I would think that 'sweating the details' or just plain ol' common sense would include looking after your concept cars, so that they're not rusted when you exhibit them to the public. What makes this incident this even worse is that the concept vehicle in question is the Chevrolet Volt, the next Savior of GM.
As someone who has done a lot of trade show and exhibition booth duty in my lifetime, I can tell you that the first rule is to never, never, never show a product which is less than perfect. We always hand-picked production examples and 'detailed' them so that they were like flawless diamonds.
Prospects at shows are eagle-eyed and will spot any flaws as easily as Kramer did on Seinfeld: "What's that red dot on your sweater?"
Auto Investment: Ken Fisher is an investment guru with a particularly good forecasting track record. It's not often that he speaks of the auto industry. But he just did so: "All my life General Motors and Ford Motor have tried to go bankrupt. It takes them a long time because, even at this sorry task, they're not very competent. I have faith. They will eventually succeed, which will benefit Toyota, the world's leading carmaker."
"Toyota grows, increases profits and gains market share. It's cheap because people fear weak auto sales, high-price oil, the economy, credit crunches, Japan and their mother's shadow. But at less than 12 times likely earnings for the Mar. 31, 2008 fiscal year and at 70% of annual revenue, you get one of the world's great megacap stocks. Some firms can't get credit the way they did before. AAA-rated Toyota can get even more than before. This is an easy ride."
Congressional Meddling And Overreaching: "There's a measure introduced in every Congress since 1995, by Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., called The Enumerated Powers Act that would require that all bills introduced in the U.S. Congress include a statement setting forth the specific constitutional authority under which the law is being enacted."
"The Enumerated Powers Act currently has 44 co-sponsors in the House. In the Senate, it has never had a single co-sponsor, and that's a Senate that includes our three presidential aspirants. ..."
I didn't know this and I also didn't realize the Constitutional limits which Congress routinely ignores.
"Most of what Congress is constitutionally authorized to spend for is listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and includes: coining money, establish Post Offices, to support Armies and a few other activities. Today's federal budget is over $3 trillion dollars. I challenge anyone to find specific constitutional authority for at least $2 trillion of it. That includes Social Security, Medicare, farm and business handouts, education, prescription drugs and a host of other federal expenditures. Americans who have become accustomed to living at the expense of another American would not want Congress to obey the Constitution, especially if it left out their favorite handout."
A harebrained politician or lawyer might tell us that the Constitution's general welfare clause authorizes those expenditures. Here's what James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, said: "With respect to the two words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
Later, Madison added, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions."
Thomas Jefferson explained, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."
At one time there were presidents who respected the Constitution. Grover Cleveland vetoed hundreds of spending measures during his two-term presidency, often saying, "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution." Then there was Franklin Pierce who said, after vetoing an appropriation to assist the mentally ill, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity," adding, "To approve such spending would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." (hat tip: Eternity Road)
I Wonder ... what would it take to get the Carter Center officially declared a terrorist organization? On Tuesday, "former U.S. President Jimmy Carter laid a wreath of red roses at the grave of Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat."
Quote Of The Day is from an article titled 'Six Formerly Kickass Creatures Ruined by Evolution' in Cracked: "Evolution isn't perfect. Just as the Kennedy family can produce a Ted, some noble species go down the wrong genetic path and what used to be the Tyrannosaurus Rex can wind up as a modern chicken."
Monday April 14, 2008
Wagon Master: Last week, while driving around in the People's Republik of Portland, I spotted several Toyota Prius sedans wrapped in logographics and used as courier vehicles.
Rumor has it that the next-gen Prius will be available in wagon form, perhaps even a panel van. In an era of sky-high fuel prices and business eco-awareness as a marketing tool, such a vehicle may be a top seller. I would expect buyers to include florist shops, small package delivery services, couriers, service trucks and parts delivery vehicles. (permalink)
Damning With Faint Praise: Dan Neil reviewed the 2009 Jaguar XF. Excerpt: "The XF is a very fine motorcar in a market segment that demands utter perfection; it's a reasonably attractive sedan from a company that needs a ravishing, wallet-emptying beauty."
True Character: Here's a touching and revealing story about John McCain in Slate - an excerpt from a 1997 New York Times Magazine profile on the Senator: "A nurse entered and seemed surprised to find anyone there, and it wasn't long before I found out why: Almost no one visits anymore. In his time, which was not very long ago, Mo Udall was one of the most-sought-after men in the Democratic Party. Yet as he dies in a veterans hospital a few miles from the Capitol, he is visited regularly only by a single old political friend, John McCain." (hat tip - Tom McMahon)
Here's an entirely different character story ...
They Call Me Mister Condescension: Last week, Barack Obama uttered something very revealing: "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Mark Steyn refers to it as the "mill-closures-drive-small-town-losers-to-guns-and-God" speech. I think I'll call it the "bible-thumpin', gun-totin' redneck racist losers" speech.
Talk about hurling insults at a class of voters!
It also sounds very Socialistic, for some reason. Who was it that said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses?" Karl Somebody-or-other, methinks.
Finally, I'd like to point out that Pennsylvania is not in the Midwest. Prospective U.S. presidents should have a good working knowledge of U.S. geography.
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "There's a new study claiming that a third of the population experiences moments of paranoia. The other two-thirds are probably totally behind it."
Friday April 11, 2008
Remember Yellow? Once upon a time, stop signs were yellow, not red. Yellow signs were the norm when I was a youngster in Philadelphia.
There were numerous colors used for stop signs until 1924, when yellow was standardized as the background color for maximum day and night visibility. Signs were either painted or enameled back in those days and red signs had almost no reflectivity, making them very dark and virtually invisible at night. Some stop signs were crafted from painted wood; others were tin. The most durable ones were made of heat-fired porcelain enamel applied to a steel backing. Some signs also had ... (more >>>)
In Accordance: Two friends (in different areas of the country) each have test driven the 2008 Honda Accord. Both came away very impressed. One has now taken delivery of a new EX.
Grudge Report: Washington Mutual (aka-WaMu) is in fairly deep trouble because of bad loans. "WaMu (has) already taken some drastic steps to reduce its risk, such as discontinuing all lending at subprime channels, closing more than half of its home loan centers and sales offices and cutting more than 3,000 employees and raising roughly $3 billion in capital by issuing convertible preferred stock."
You know those sentences which begin with "I take no joy in this ..."? I never believe the writer(s). So, let me tell you, joyfully, that - in this writer's opinion - WaMu's troubles couldn't happen to a bigger bunch of sanctimonious jerks.
We once had our home mortgage with Washington Mutual. When rates dropped by 3% in the early 1990s, I met with a loan officer to refinance at a lower rate. WaMu's fees were exorbitant and uncompetitive, served with a dose of attitude and arrogance. I took some money out of the market, paid off the WaMu bozos and never looked back. It may not have been the optimal thing to do from a financial planning standpoint but there is a real pleasure to be taken from actually owning your own home - free and clear.
Speaking of jerks, I'm now getting letters from the SOBs at all those insurance companies who refused to insure my newly-acquired Corvette when I got out of college - even though I had a good job and a clean driving record.
The letters begin with 'You've got a special birthday coming up' because they now want to sell me their brand of Medicare Supplement Insurance. Cram it, you creeps. I've got a long memory. (permalink)
A Good Read: 'Six Uncomfortable Truths About Race in America' By John Hawkins. Excerpt: "Everyone always says that they want a national dialogue about race, but what they really seem to want is a national lecture where a liberal mouths politically correct platitudes - and everyone else is welcome to either nod along or shut up out of fear that they'll be called a racist for daring to have an opinion contrary to left-wing doctrine."
And: "Affirmative Action taints the accomplishments of every successful black American because there is always an unspoken question: did they make it on their own merits or did they get a little extra help because they're black?"
Bad Science Joke Of The Day: Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, "I've lost my electron." The other asks, "Are you sure?" The first replies, "Yes, I'm positive."
Wednesday April 9, 2008
Chrysler's New Slogan is (no kidding): "If you can dream it, we can build it." I'll take a '56 DeSoto with a Viper V-10 engine, please. More on Chrysler here.
CR Snippets: The April Auto Issue of Consumer Reports was full of interesting facts. The most reliable model was the Toyota Yaris (81% better than average). The least reliable model was the Pontiac Solstice (234% worse than average). The most reliable brand was Honda (48% better than average); the least reliable was Land Rover (153% worse than average).
Mercury was more reliable than Ford but Ford was more reliable than Lincoln. Toyota outscored Lexus for reliability. The three most reliable marques were Honda, Acura and Scion. The three least reliable marques were Land Rover, Hummer and Cadillac. Ford was the most reliable domestic manufacturer. GM was as bad as Chrysler for reliability ratings.
The Mercedes GL450, Audi Q7, Saturn Aura, Chevy Corvette, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky and Hyundai Entourage have something in common. All got high customer satisfaction scores from owners despite having poor reliability records.
The Chevy Cobalt LS, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator received poor customer satisfaction scores despite average or better reliability scores.
CR also has a scoring system based on a combination of road test scores (performance, comfort, etc.) and reliability. The models with the highest scores were: Lexus LS 460L (99 points), Infinity M35X (97 points), Infinity M35 (96 points) and Porsche 911 (96 points).
The worst scores were awarded to Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara (17 points), the 5-cylinder Hummer H3 (27 points) and Jeep Liberty Sport (27 points).
Marketing Misfire: In the 1970s, plastic product designers were often substituting polystyrene for acrylic because of a three-to-one material cost difference. The makers of Plexiglas acrylic (Rohm & Haas) came up with a campaign to improve market share. A slogan, 'Plexiglas - Worth Every Cent', was developed and a giveawayreminder was designed - a coffee cup coaster made from injection-molded black Plexiglas with the slogan hot-stamped in gold and a Lincoln penny done in copper-colored Plex.
The company's purchasing department was told to order several thousand and did so ... (more >>>)
State Of The County: A recent news article in the Columbian reviewed 30 years of change in Clark County, Washington. In 1978, the population was 159,000; by 2008, it had increased to 413,000. During the same period, employment in the county grew from 65,000 to 135,000.
In 1978, employment was 40.9% of population. By 2008 it had dropped to 32.7%. Assuming that family size stayed approximately the same, this indicates that Vancouver and Clark County is more of a Portland bedroom community than ever.
This explains the bridge traffic congestion. It also indicates that the various private and governmental organizations trying to bring new business to Clark County are failing at their task.
In 1978 ... (more >>>)
Forty Years Later: Christopher Hitchens writes about Martin Luther King and the corruption of his ideals by those who would claim King's legacy: "Today, the national civil rights pulpit is largely occupied by second-rate shakedown artists who hope to franchise "race talk" into a fat living for themselves. Far from preaching truth and brotherhood, they trade in cheap slander and paranoia and in venomous dislike of other minorities."
Why Are The 'Facts' Always In Paris? Greg Gutfeld is complaining about those Congressional fact-finding trips. Fact-finding usually means, "Where's our money being spent?" Well, it's my money (and yours, too), so why can't we go instead of those globe-trotting senators and house members? Why are we giving this money away in the first place?
If Congress wants to "fact-find", why can't they just look it up on the internet, like everyone else does?
Who Cares? That was my initial reaction to Jane Fonda's endorsement of Barack Obama. To many people my age, Hanoi Jane's love of Mr. Obama is just another reason not to vote for him. For people in their 50s, a dim memory of some old VHS exercise tapes may be recalled. For younger people, Jane Fonda is as irrelevant as Eleanor Roosevelt was to people of my age group - just another loony old white woman.
However, I don't think Eleanor would have done a credible job playing the hooker in 'Klute'.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Have you ever noticed that opinion polls ask the opinions of people who have no expertise in the subject on which they are being polled and publish these opinions as if they were gospel truth instead of group ignorance?"
Monday April 7, 2008
Apply Directly To Forehood: Dan Neil comments on the pained and angry face of the new Murano: "I would like to give my Nissan Murano test vehicle an Advil, or Tylenol, or perhaps I should Simoniz its hood with that HeadOn stuff that you apply directly to the forehead. This thing looks like it's suffering from the world's worst migraine."
Indian Retro? Tata now owns the rights to the 'Lanchester' name. Lanchester was a British marque which disappeared in the mid-1950s. Will Tata revive this four-cylinder Brit? Will the original, stodgy, It-Couldn't-Be-Anything-Else-But-British styling be retained?
Automotive Testimonial Of The Week comes courtesy of Mike Lief: David Sneath, a 60-year-old Ford parts warehouse worker, quit his job when he won a $136 million lottery jackpot. Despite his longtime association with Ford, he said he won't be using any of the money to buy one of his former employer's vehicles.
"I worked for Ford Motor Company," Sneath said. "I won't be buying a Ford product."
Signs Of The Times: I've been looking at old photos of Philadelphia and have been amazed by some of the signage I've seen ... (more >>>)
Congrats ... to my grandson who - at the tender age of 10 - appeared in a music video: 'Too Tall For The Ball Pit'. He is a member of the X-Skulls and is the one wearing an orange t-shirt.
Bad Hangover: The local newspaper reports that a 51 year-old homeless man died of accidental strangulation after he fell and a strap of his heavy backpack became snagged on a top bar of the metal fence. He was climbing over a 6-foot-tall chain link fence to gain entry to a padlocked site while drinking beer and walking with his girlfriend "from their begging site to their homeless camp."
His 38 year-old homeless girlfriend, "who smelled of alcohol", said they'd been drinking beer after "flagging" for money at Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard and Interstate 205 in Vancouver. A police officer found about a dozen 40-ounce bottles full of beer in the man's backpack.
The only panhandler I've seen at Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard and Interstate 205 was a grizzly guy with a portable oxygen tank and nasal cannula. I always thought the tank and tubing were props. But maybe the tank was a well-disguised beer cooler.
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "My luck is so bad that, if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying."
Thursday April 3, 2008
Auto Evolution: Dramatic changes in car styling have disappeared as the basic machine has evolved ... (more >>>)
Worse Numbers Than Chrysler! Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker lost over $113 million last year. That's a loss of about $4.4 million per car, since the company only produced 26 vehicles in '07.
Deceleration: For most car companies, March was a lousy month. Overall sales were off pretty badly with Chrysler and GM down 13%, Ford dropping almost 8% and Toyota off over 3%. There were some bright spots - adjusted for selling days, Mini was up over 26%. Honda, Audi, Hyundai Infiniti, Saab, Nissan and Jaguar were up, too.
Sales are off because people are unsettled by $3.50+ per gallon gasoline, higher prices for food, especially grain products (thank you, ethanol wackjobs). Car sales have been propped up in recent years by ridiculously hot lease deals and waaay-too-easy financing - who ever thought there would be such a thing as an 84 month car loan? I've read that over 40% of all car loans are for 72 months or more.
Just as gullible people have overbought McMansions** and are now stuck with them, too many people who could only afford a Kia are driving BMWs. Now they are are upside-down on the financing and finding that fuel, maintenance and insurance costs on a Bimmer are in a different planetary orbit than those of a Kia. These marginal buyers are being squeezed out of the housing and car markets and are busy giving "ain't it awful ... it's so unfair" interviews to various Doom & Gloom media.
Meanwhile, the overall economy isn't all that bad. It's basically flat or growing in slower increments. But exports are improving - ask any railroad or shipping firm. Inflation is still relatively low. Unemployment is 4.8% - very near historic lows. Credit is eminently available to good borrowers; according to Federal Reserve banking data, weekly bank credit of all commercial banks hit an all-time record high of $9.49 trillion on March 19, 2008. Compared to the same week a year ago, bank credit in the third week of March increased by 12.62%, the largest annual percent increase in bank credit in more than a quarter century!
The price of gold seems to be dropping. And it may be goin' down even more. It is a telling sign that the Gold Chick from Monex - the blonde woman with the silky blouse, pearls and British accent - is now hawking silver as a primary investment in those TV ads.
||**If one buys a luxurious, overpriced geodesic dome dwelling, would that be referred to as an Egg McMansion?
Racy Automotive Perversion: The headline reads, 'FIA chief Max Mosley embroiled in S&M sex scandal'. FIA stands for Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (International Automobile Federation), a governing body for motor racing events that regulates, among other things, Formula One racing.
Mosley, 67, had taken part in a "sadomasochistic orgy" with five prostitutes that reportedly involved Nazi role-playing. According to a story posted by the London-based Times Online, Mosley and others "re-enacted a concentration camp scene in which he played the role of both guard and inmate."
Does anyone else remember when S&M just meant Spaghetti & Meatballs?
Max Mosley is the son of the late Oswald Mosley, founder of the pre-war British Union of Fascists. In 1940, Oswald was interned under the British Defence Regulations, along with most active fascists in Britain. His second wife, Diana Mitford (one of the loony Mitford girls), whom he had married in 1936 in the presence of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, was also interned - shortly after the birth of their son, Max. They lived together for most of the war in a house in the grounds of Holloway prison.
A psychiatrist could have a field day with all this.
About John McCain's Wife: Did you know she was into cars? I didn't. Then I read that "Cindy suffered a stroke, losing both her speech and partial use of the left side of her body. ... After a period of physical therapy, she is said to have fully recovered and has since taken up her son's love of "drifting" a kind of motor racing that involves driving cars sideways to improve her coordination."
The article quotes one of Cindy's closest friends, Sharon Harper, that, as First lady, Cindy would combine the "elegance of Jackie Kennedy with the graciousness of Laura Bush. Cindy will be the same person she has always been. She is reserved and shy. But she is good one-on-one with people. She will reach out."
Sounds like she'd make a cool First Lady.
Cell Phones Are More Dangerous Than Smoking Or Asbestos: "Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by Dr. Vini Khurana, an award-winning cancer expert, has concluded." Professor Khurana a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years and has published more than three dozen scientific papers reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.
Meanwhile, I'm sticking to smoking asbestos-laced unfiltered Camels whilst chatting on a rotary-dial phone which is compression-molded from asbestos talc-filled phenolic resin giving off vapors of residual Bisphenol A.
Fitna - The Film is posted on Kathy Shaidle's website. If you can't find it, Google 'Fitna'. This moving and jarring piece by Geert Wilders about the threat from Islam is worth 15 minutes of your time.
Spengler at Asia Times Online has written: "The West is not fighting individual criminals, as the left insists; it is not fighting a Soviet-style state, as the Iraqi disaster makes clear; nor is it fighting a political movement. It is fighting a religion, specifically a religion that arose in enraged reaction to the West. None of the political leaders of the West, and few of the West's opinion leaders, comprehends this. We are left with the anomaly that the only effective leader of the West is a man wholly averse to war, a pope who took his name from the Benedict who interceded for peace during World War I. Benedict XVI, alone among the leaders of the Christian world, challenges Islam as a religion, as he did in his September 2006 Regensburg address."
Never forget: We're still at war. It's a War On Terror. And radical Islam is behind it. Not convinced? Watch the movie.
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "In comparative terms, there's no poverty in America by a long shot. Heritage Foundation political scientist Robert Rector has worked up figures showing that when the official U.S. measure of poverty was developed in 1963, a poor American family had an income twenty-nine times greater than the average per capita income in the rest of the world. An individual American could make more money than 93 percent of the other people on the planet and still be considered poor."
Another perspective on poverty is offered here.
Tuesday April 1, 2008
Chuffley-Waite: I first wrote this fictitious story as a contribution to a car club's April newsletter in 1989. It begins thusly:
Since its founding in 1903, the Chuffley-Waite Motorcar Company, Ltd. of Bumpford-on-Thames, England had been known for the very powerful motorcars which it produced. The sheer might of these cars was symbolised in the radiator ornament used - a nickel-plated locomotive.
For many decades, these automobiles were purchased by men of power who could be seen roaring up and down the motorways forcing lesser cars off to the roadside, much like medieval times, when indentured serfs would throw themselves off the footpath, anxiously tugging their forelocks as royalty approached and passed.
The Chuffley-Waite was so famous that it was celebrated in many ... (more >>>)