Friday August 29, 2008
Car Sightings: After clouds and rain on Wednesday, Thursday's skies were a picture postcard blue by afternoon - the kind of bright, too-good-to-be-true blue which can make your eyes hurt if you stare too long. The blue was interspersed with perfect Johnson & Johnson cotton-ball clouds and the afternoon temperature was just below 80. Perfect driving weather ... so I fired up the ol' Plymouth and took it for a spin with windows lowered to hear the exhaust rumble.
During my cruise, I spotted a new Mini but with right-hand drive. Strange. Later, I glimpsed something equally rare trundling east toward Hockinson - a Lincoln Blackwood pickup. Remember those?
Also saw a red Smart with nice custom wheels driving through Battle Ground. The wheels seemed slightly larger than stock and the tires were lower profile than normal. My first thought: Looks cool but, with the short wheelbase, those new wheels must make it ride like solid-tire forklift.
Word Of The Day is pomprius: (adj.) - exhibiting an attitude of excessive self-importance because you own a hybrid car; pompriusly (adverb). (Hat tip to my brother, who invented the term and does not own a hybrid) (permalink)
Another Reason To Get Rid Of Buick, Saturn & Pontiac: Cadillac plans to offer an 'entry-level' model with a four-cylinder engine in 2010. Rumor is that it will be badged as the Cadillac CIM(arron).
Race In Peace: Legendary driver Phil Hill, the only American-born racer to win a Formula One title, has died at age 81.
Hill was also the first American to win at the 24 hours of Le Mans, taking the title twice more and winning the 12-hours of Sebring three times.
He began his racing career as a mechanic on other drivers' cars and, in the early to mid-1950s, drove in races in Santa Ana, Pebble Beach, Mexico and Europe and eventually joined the Ferrari team.
In September 1958, Phil finally got the ride he wanted in a Ferrari Formula One car, which would culminate with his world title. The first of Hill's Le Mans victories also came in 1958, where he co-drove a Ferrari with Olivier Gendebien.
Hill won his Formula One championship in Monza, Italy, after he had swapped the series lead all year with his Ferrari teammate Wolfgang von Trips of Germany. In the same race, von Trips died in a horrific crash that killed 14 spectators. As a result, Ferrari did not participate in the season's final race in Watkins Glen, NY and Hill was unable to celebrate his championship in his home country.
Phil set the standard for other American drivers who competed overseas. He switched to sports car racing with Ford Motor Company and the Chaparral Cars of Jim Hall, retiring from driving in 1967 at 39.
Hill then focused much of his attention on his lifelong love of classic automobiles, co-founding Hill and Vaughn Auto Restoration, which specialized in classic Packards. Phil was also a contributor to Road & Track magazine. By all accounts, he was a real gentleman.
I remember reading about and admiring Phil Hill's exploits in various car mags in the late 1950s and early '60s. He was a truly a legend in the world of cars. (permalink)
Ketchup Overdose Causes Hallucination: Teresa Heinz Kerry believes that the results in Ohio in 2004 are illegitimate. The 2008 DNC, Ms. Heinz Kerry said, is "full of meaning and full of opportunity, and if you, as I, believe - and I know a lot of you do - we did not lose the last election, nor did Al Gore lose his last election. We won it."
The Speech At The Temple: Am I the only one who thought that weirdly-angled podium used by Obama during his stadium acceptance speech came straight from Pee-Wee's Playhouse? I kept waiting for Jambi to appear: "Mekka-lekka hi mekka Biden, Joe!"
Go Sarah! McCain's choice of Sarah Palin for VP is strategically brilliant. Her resume shows more experience/accomplishments than Obama's, yet she's younger than Barack. And, as a woman, she may appeal to some disappointed Hillary supporters.
Tactically, she'll ... (more >>>)
Absolute Worst: Maxim has named the Worst Comedians Of All Time, including Kathy Griffin: "Is she a gay dude? We're asking for serious.", Sandra Bernhard: "You're not attractive, and that makes you angry. We understand. But why not use some of that unattractiveness to make you funny, too?", Whoopi Goldberg: "Soccer moms love Whoopi 'cause they think she's "edgy." Soccer dads are terrified of Whoopi 'cause they think she looks like the "Predator." We don't like her because we like "comedy."" and Margaret Cho: "Mothers are difficult! But my Asian mother very difficult mother to have! She say things like, 'Me rikey flied lice.' She a very Asian mother!"
Yes, yes, these people are abominable but the list is far from complete. Therefore, I wish to expand the list to include the following unfunny people: Ray Ray Johnson, Roseanne Barr, Chevy Chase, Carrot Top, Joey Bishop, Wanda Sykes, Andrew Dice Clay, Lisa Lampanelli, Wayne & Shuster, Howie Mandel, Tom Green, Mickey Shaughnessy, Jimmy Fallon, Mo Rocca, Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, Bob Saget and Pauly Shore.
There are more but I just can't remember all of them right now.
Thought For Today: If you line up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them.
Wednesday August 27, 2008
Wide Stance: No, this is not about a certain Idaho Senator. I'm referring to the styling benefit of a wide track covered by a tightly wrapped car body. Last week, I was following a nearly-new black Cadillac CTS. While I don't care for the Caddy's overall styling, I must say that the muscular stance caused by the tires pushed out toward the haunches of the car gave it a look of power.
The mid-1990s BMW 7-Series had this same stance, as did the Lincoln Mark VII. I'm surprised more car companies don't try to achieve this effect.
Presenting General Motors' Next CEO: George Will has written, "Obama has also promised that "we will get 1 million 150-mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years." What a tranquilizing verb "get" is. This senator, who has never run so much as a Dairy Queen, is going to get a huge, complex industry to produce, and is going to get a million consumers to buy, these cars. How? Almost certainly by federal financial incentives for both - billions of dollars of tax subsidies for automakers, and billions more to bribe customers to buy these cars they otherwise would spurn."
Such elephantine trumpeting about "just around the corner" technology reminds me of the GM gas turbine cars, the GM Wankel Vega, the mid-engine Corvette and the Chevrolet Volt.
My goodness. If Obama fails in his bid to become President of the U.S., he can take over the top spot at GM. He already has the patter down.
Something In Common: I love trains. Joe Biden loves trains, too. Biden takes the Amtrak train home every night from Washington, D.C., to Wilmington. And had his lobbyist son placed on the Amtrak Board. That would be the board of a government-owned corporation which has never made a nickel.
But, I guess father and son will work together to make sure it doesn't get killed off. Or privatized and run at a profit. Hey, at least I pay for my little railroad out of my own pocket.
Two Men; Two Lives: Two famous, aging white men of liberal persuasion are suffering with terminal cancer and facing their final days on earth ... (more >>>)
A Couple Of Observations ... about the Democratic National Convention:
1. While America frets about Tehran's and North Korea's nuclear capabilities and Russia's new aggressiveness, the Democrats worry about whether the balloons at the convention center are biodegradable.
2. When I saw footage of the Recreate68 participants, I realized that a lot of them looked to be about 68. What a bunch of pathetic, wrinkled old anarchist losers.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Although you can block unwanted phone calls from commercial sources, you cannot block automated phone calls from politicians, which will be inundating us this election year. Apparently the courts think that the right of "free speech" includes the right to impose that speech on an unwilling audience. Maybe we need a new Constitutional Amendment, guaranteeing "freedom from speech.""
Monday August 25, 2008
Just Say 'No': GM, Ford and Chrysler have apparently approached the government for a total of $25 billion in loans (maybe $50 billion, depending on which source you read) at interest rates as low as 4.5%. The move to get fresh capital at a low rate is being championed by U.S. Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), described by Doug McIntyre as "a man who never saw a piece of pork he did not like."
Don't loan money to losers - they'll only piss it all away. And then want more.
Depreciating Faster Than A New Jaguar: Four years ago, the city of Seattle bought five self-cleaning, high-tech toilets at a cost of $5,000,000. Greg Gutfeld noted: "They said it was to accommodate tourists - but the real agenda was to keep hobos and whores from pooping in front of restaurants."
The toilets have been sold on eBay for less than $13,000.
Greg explained: "But why did Seattle get rid of them in the first place? Because the bathrooms had become get this disgusting hideouts for whoring and drug use. And herein lies the lesson: only bureaucrats are blind to what every average working Joe knows. And that is, bad people don't appreciate good things. They only make them bad. The fact is, if you don't want transients crapping in front of your Fuddruckers, enforce loitering laws and lock them up."
There's a lot of lessons to be learned from this experience. My take: If you buy a new car (or new anything else) and don't want it to depreciate steeply, don't let a homeless person crap in it.
Biden My Time: And so it came to pass that, in the dead of night, The One chose his Wingman. It's that hair-plug-toting, foot-oft-in-mouth, plagiarizing, egomaniacal, walking gaffe machine, Joe Biden. Oh my, this race is gonna be fun.
Obama's 3:00 am text message certainly seemed like a juvenile jab at Hillary Clinton - a not-so-subtle reference to her 3:00 am campaign ad. It seems like political naiveté to go around poking the Clintons with a stick. Obama needs all the help he can get and it's just plain stupid to antagonize Hillary and/or her supporters. Biden is (Oxymoron Alert!) a pro-abortion Catholic, which may cost additional supporters.
In his favor, Joe Biden appears to be an equal opportunity SUV user. I saw both a Cadillac Escalade and a Lincoln Navigator parked in the courtyard of his Delaware manse.
Hugh Hewitt thinks that Biden is really Cliff Claven, the mailman from 'Cheers', noting that "Obama has added to his unsteady candidacy an epic amount Beltway cluelessness and arrogance unsupported by anything except frequent flier miles and Delaware's love for a chuckle-headed fellow with a big smile." Hugh also points out: "Even stupid people who watched Biden embarrass himself during the Alito hearings - remember the "I hate Princeton" moment followed by the donning of the Princeton cap? - know that Slow Joe is all tenure and no talent."
Clarence Thomas doesn't think highly of Joe Biden and his "smooth, insincere promises." I suspect Robert Bork doesn't have a high opinion of Biden either. Mr. Rogers might have asked, "Can you say 'character assassination'?"
It's important to remember that, when Obama mentions McCain as one of "those guys" who have been around forever and are responsible for the messes we're in, he is - by definition - including Biden, who first took public office when Obama was 9 years old. Joe B. was elected to the Senate when Obama was 11. What's Joe done to solve the energy crisis - any of them - over the past 35 years? Or, for that matter, any other crisis?
During his short-lived 1988 campaign, Biden responded to a question about his law school record by saying, ''I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.'' For such a smart guy, you have to wonder why Joe graduated from the law school in 1968 with a ranking of 76th in a class of 85. And, as an undergraduate at the University of Delaware, Joe's grades were mostly Cs or Ds. He received an F in ROTC.
If he's so smart, how come Biden's not rich? This 65 year-old has the lowest net worth of any U.S. senator. Joe has invested his meager savings in over 20 (!!) mutual funds - miniscule amounts in each, apparently. Three of the funds are on Fund Alarm's 3-Alarm list, meaning they're real stinkers. And this guy handles our money!?!
Joe's spouse is a teacher at Delaware Technical & Community College. You'd think a distinguished senator's wife with a PhD would hold a poly sci chair at some university.
In August of last year, ABC's George Stephanopoulos challenged Biden: "You were asked is he (Obama) ready. You said "I think he can be ready but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."
Biden replied, "I think that I stand by the statement."
Headline Of The Week ... so far ... is from The Onion: 'Powerful 'His And Hers' Towel Lobby Stalls Gay Marriage Legislation'.
Excerpt: "Gay rights activists protested the defeat of bill S. 743 Monday, saying that the proposed legislation giving homosexuals the right to marry was derailed by the National Association of Semi-personalized Linens Manufacturers (NASLM), a powerful lobby representing the nation's gender-specific bath-towel makers. ... NASLM released a statement ... that expressed the organization's belief that "marriage is a sacred bond between a his and a hers."
Olympic Closing Ceremony: I didn't watch but was told it was very brief. Mr. Tuong Lu Kim, proprietor of South Park's City Wok, appeared and said loudly, "Show over. You go now." (permalink)
Fight Or Flight? Why not both? Presenting: flying sharks versus flying tanks.
Definition Of The Day is for 'Flashlight': A case for holding dead batteries.
Friday August 22, 2008
Luxiocrity: That would be mediocre luxury. And the term aptly applies to Lincoln's new top-o-the-line MKS sedan. While I had attended a 'sneak preview' presentation last year (see my 8-17-07 posting), I was interested in seeing what the production version would look and feel like.
Motor Week has just tested the 2009 MKS. The more I saw and heard on the PBS show, the less impressed I was. John Davis described the car as "Lincoln's new flagship." The test vehicle had "optional adaptive HID headlamps." What, you mean they're not standard on this alleged flagship? The car also featured keyless entry buttons on the door. That's sooooo 1980s ... my '84 Lincoln Mark VII had 'em. The MKS lets you revisit the '80s by pushing up your jacket sleeves, assuming a Kevin Baconesque Footloose stance and poking away at those buttons. (All of this assumes that you could remember your code. Or that your car could. My 1984's keyless entry system developed Alzheimer's and would periodically 'forget' my personal code. I finally made a Dymo label with the backup factory code on it and affixed it just below the front grille.)
Today's luxury and near-luxury cars use proximity sensors to open doors. Who wants to stand out in the rain pushing $#@&* buttons? MW complained about the car's "economy instrument cluster." Wow ... what happened to the impressive Lexus-like electroluminescent gauges which debuted on the 1995 Lincoln Continental? As Mr. Rogers might ask, "Can you say 'decontenting'?"
Performance of the MKS was hardly inspiring. Comparing Motor Week's road test data with Motor Trend's numbers from 1995, the 2009 MKS was pretty much the same as a '95 Continental. The 0-60 dash, quarter-mile times and 60-0 braking were almost identical. MW remarked that the handling of the MKS was "lethargic and understeer pronounced." The FWD understeer was the bane of the old Connie, too. Not much has changed in 14 years. This is progress?
Motor Week reported 20.4 mpg on their test loop. That's about what my wife's old '96 Continental pulled - and it had a real V8 motor, unlike the V6 which is the only engine offered in the MKS.
Lincoln's MKS has more overhang than many of its competitors. For example, it is a foot longer than the Cadillac CTS but has a shorter wheelbase than the Caddy. And it looks ungainly because it's waaaaay too tall - more than three inches taller than other sedans like the CTS, Toyota Avalon or Lexus LS460. It's a porker too. Even the FWD MKS (150-pound lighter than AWD) weighs 250 pounds more than the Caddy. And over 500 pounds more than the Avalon.
Edmunds summarized things in a single sentence: "A mix of modern features and accessories puts the 2009 Lincoln MKS a step ahead of some rivals, but so-so handling and a somewhat steep price tag make it hard to say where this new model fits in." The AWD model tested by Motor Week stickered at over $46,000. That's a lot of money for mediocrity. (permalink)
Why There's No Chevy Volt Yet: There's not enough development money. Instead, GM is spending it on Punch & Judy shows. No kidding. The Rick Wagoner puppet is hitting the Bob Lutz puppet with a very large mallet. Whack! "That's the way to do it!"
Cadillac Man: 84-year-old Joseph Macko of Flint, MI just picked up a new 2009 Cadillac DTS. He has been buying a brand spankin' new Caddy every year since 1955. "You only live one time. Money is to spend," Macko said. "I spend it once I get it."
His wife, Marcella, said the annual trip to the Cadillac dealership for Joe to trade in his old car and take delivery of his new one is something she just doesn't get excited about anymore. "He does, but I don't," she said, chuckling.
I Wish I'd Written This ... but it's from Randal O'Toole, aka The Antiplanner: "Light rail will not be the death of America.
But the attitude behind light rail - that we can and should spend billions on every feel-good project that comes along without evaluating its cost effectiveness - may very well be the death of the democracy and freedom we cherish." (hat tip - American Digest) (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Some of the most emotionally powerful words are undefined, such as "social justice," "a living wage," "price gouging" or a "fragile" environment, for example. Such terms are especially valuable to politicians during an election year, for these terms can attract the votes of people who mean very different - and even mutually contradictory - things when they use these words."
Wednesday August 20, 2008
No Sale: The 1958 Chrysler Diablo, mentioned in my May 21st posting, failed to sell at a high bid of $1,200,000.
On the other hand, an olive green 1948 Tucker Torpedo was sold for $1,017,500. Wow - in the early 1960s, you could buy a decent Tucker for two grand. Or less.
In general, Chrysler show cars and prototypes from the 1950s and '60s are less desirable and command lower prices than examples from General Motors and Ford.
General Motors has always obtained spectacular publicity for its concept cars. The traveling Motorama put these dreams in front of a wide audience. In addition, GM's dream cars would be exhibited at major U.S. auto shows. The following year, the vehicles would be seen at smaller shows. Sometimes, GM would loan aging concept cars to key dealers as perks to build showroom traffic. During the entire life cycle of a particular concept, GM's well-oiled publicity machine would be at work getting national - and later, local - press for the vehicle, whenever it made an appearance.
By 1953, the '51 Buick XP-300, having done yeoman's service in the Motorama and auto show circuit, could be found in the boardwalk front window of the permanent GM Exhibit at Atlantic City's Steel Pier. The sleek Buick had a velvet rope separating it from the public but, if you asked nicely, an attendant would open the door and let you sit behind the wheel of this dream car.
Ford also tried to publicize their concepts, although the Blue Oval Boys were less consistent in the pursuit of show car fame. But, when it put its corporate mind to it, FoMoCo also got significant press coverage for its dream creations.
After it traveled the auto show circuit, the '56 Mercury XM Turnpike Cruiser concept was carted around to various Lincoln-Mercury dealers throughout the U.S. in a special trailer with large transparent side glazing so that the car could easily be viewed while still in the trailer. The tractor and trailer were painted the same colors as the XM and fitted with wide whitewall tires.
Once its show circuit days were over, the 1955 Lincoln Futura was used in the 1959 Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds movie, 'It Started With A Kiss'.
In contrast, Chrysler was almost secretive about many of its dream cars. Often, they would be displayed at one or two venues, then hustled off the stage never to be seen again. Cars like the Plymouth XX-500, the Chrysler Falcon, Flight-Sweep II and the Dodge Plainsman received minimal publicity.
The Chrysler Diablo is another good example. It was originally known as the Chrysler Dart. It was built by Ghia in 1956 but because it didn't get publicized until the '57 models were in the showrooms, the car was generally referred to as the 1957 Dart.
The Dart was a stunning and interesting machine. With tailfins almost tall as the car's low roof, it was an attention-getting showcar and reinforced the idea that Chrysler Corp. was the King of Fins. (For '57, it certainly was.) The silver and black Dart was a retractable hardtop. The front of the roof slid backward beneath the rear window, then the remainder of the top dropped into the body where it hugged the sheetmetal of the upper rear deck.
After only a short time, the Chrysler Dart was returned to Italy for a serious rework. The retractable hardtop was removed and replaced with a conventional canvas convertible top. The fins were dramatically lowered, the compound curved wrapover windshield was replaced with simpler wraparound glass, the car was repainted red and rechristened 'Diablo'.
Despite the fact that it had been 'dumbed down', the Chrysler Diablo was still a visually appealing car. If you saw it, that is. The revised vehicle received almost no publicity in the press. Even though, as a teenager, I had voraciously consumed gearhead pulp like Motor Trend, Mechanix Illustrated, Motor Life, Car Life, etc. in the mid to late 1950s, I didn't know the Diablo existed until recently. The Chrysler Dart was publicized in various car buff mags but the Chrysler Diablo was noteworthy by its absence.
Today's deep-pocketed buyers of 1950s dream cars are mostly aging rich guys, fulfilling ancient 'Someday I'm Gonna Own That' fantasies. But it's hard to fantasize about something you've never heard of. That's why the bidding stopped at just over a million on this one-off Mopar dream, while the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 two-seater concept from GM's Motorama fetched over $3 million a few years ago. (permalink)
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being A Retailer: Westfield Vancouver Mall, Clark County's largest and first major retail center, was built in 1977. And has been refreshed a few times since. It's now full of empty storefronts and light on foot traffic, due to the nation's change in shopping habits.
Once upon a time, Mall Walking was a leisure activity, especially in the rainy Pacific Northwest. People strolled malls to be dazzled and see what was new and trendy. And make impulse purchases. And buy a Cinnabon or two.
Today, people do their shopping at big box stores. Or on the internet. Last month, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, and Costco posted solid gains in same-store sales - those at stores open at least a year - a key indicator of a retailer's health. Costco was up 10%, exceeding expectations.
In the first quarter of 2008, nationwide store-related retail sales were down by the largest ... (more >>>)
Why God Invented Concrete And Rebar: Tom McMahon has written, "The two words that never inspire much confidence: Earthen Dam."
Quote Of The Day is from Conan O'Brien on India: "A nation so richly diverse, you can walk into a single neighborhood and find cholera, dengue fever, malaria, typhoid, and plague."
Monday August 18, 2008
Who Needs Woodward Avenue? The Detroit Woodward Dream Cruise was held over the weekend. But I didn't need to fly to Michigan to gaze at some cool iron.
On Saturday, we drove to the Olympic Peninsula for a beach picnic at the lakefront home of a car club member. About seventy car enthusiasts enjoyed food, live bluegrass music, sunshine and swimming in the 1,000 acre lake. The weather was beautiful - sunny with blue skies. But hot - 99 degrees by 3:00 pm.
Across the street, our hosts own other lots on which they've constructed home-like structures which are actually garages for their car collection.
Vehicles in our hosts' garage complex included a black 1933 Lincoln Town Sedan, a rich blue '48 Lincoln Continental cabriolet, a stately Cadillac (custom made for Alfred P. Sloan, CEO of General Motors from 1923 to 1946), a cherry red '59 Corvette, a light green Series II Jaguar XKE coupe and several others my aging brain I can't recall. Plus lots of automobilia.
Cool cars driven to the picnic were parked every which way along the street. For the last mile or so, we followed a red and maroon 1932 Auburn sedan. It parked near a 1932 Packard Light Eight convertible with the characteristic shovel-nose variation of the Packard grille.
There was also a huge '33 Packard sedan in two-tone green, a sleek, silver-blue 1962 Thunderbird coupe, a tan MG-TF, a black '40 or '41 Chevy pickup street rod with a 350 Chevy engine (the same kind that's in my Plymouth right down to the billeted aluminum valve covers), a mildly-customized 1952 Chevy two-door sedan, a '39 Buick four-door cabriolet with dual sidemounts (it was lowered, had deep reversed wheels and was painted a stunning metallic brown), a quintessential turquoise and white 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hardtop, several Kennedy-handsome four-door Lincoln convertibles and other neat cars too numerous to mention.
We got to visit with lots of old friends - good conversation, good people and a good time. As Bing Crosby said to Frank Sinatra in 'High Society', "What a swell party this is!"
Driving up and back, I spotted several interesting vehicles. Saw a big white whale of a 1958 Chrysler 300D hardtop with huge fins and wide whitewalls sailing south on I-5. I passed a car carrier with a silver 2009 Nissan GT-R was hanging off the back on the lower level. It's an ugly car with low-rez Game Boy lines, odd chopped roof and strange black-drool grille. Dan Neil once described as the GT-R "as pretty as a meat mallet." But people are reportedly paying a $20,000 Dealer Gouge just to get their hands on one. These are probably the same people who think Stevie Nicks can sing. This traveling GT-R was well protected - there was thick plastic shrink wrap covering each alloy wheel. So, if you ever meet a GT-R owner, you can always say, "Nice wheels," referring to the pristine condition of the four circles - not the looks of the beast.
The interstate was full of rods 'n customs. Saw a bunch of them on a car hauler, probably being taken to a show. Talk about Trailer Queens! Spotted a blue and yellow '49-52 era Plymouth wagon with a severely chopped top (8-10 inches) roaring north I-5 in the late afternoon. Got a quick glimpse of a nice 1940 black Ford Deluxe coupe headed south. Later, I passed a classic fenderless black '32 chopped and channeled Ford roadster with wide whites and an exposed, chrome-bedecked engine. Gorgeous.
Spotted several Smart cars on the Interstate, including one in the passing lane doing about 80 mph. Brave but not Smart. Also saw several Jaguars in Shelton WA (there must have been a Jag meet in the area), including a pale yellow E-type convertible with the top down. Sweet.
The Gas Crisis seems to be over. Everyone is driving fast again. Which is fine by me.
Inventory Blues: Frank Williams at TTAC has noted that Dodge has "enough Durangos to last 354 days." Ummm ... that's like ... a year's worth, Chrysler dudes. Don't you guys know how to shut off the spigot a little more quickly?
Frank remarked that "FoMoCo inventories looked pretty good on the car side, with only the MKZ and Milan into three digits (102 days for both). Ford's car-based CUVs are doing well except for the Flex's 134-day supply." Wait a minute. The MKZ and Milan are the smallest Lincoln and Mercury models, respectively. And the Milan can be had with a four-cylinder engine. Holy cow, if L-M dealers can't move these babies in the current environment, they should just give up and close down. As for the Flex, is anyone surprised? It's huge. It's expensive. Didn't anyone at Ford learn from the Chrysler Pacifica fiasco? And the boxy Flex is uglier than the Pacifica.
Frank reported on GM's passenger cars, noting that, except for the "Buick LaCrosse (121 days), Lucerne (125 days), Corvette (145 days), GM's passenger car inventory looks pretty good." So, if you've been hankerin' for a 'Vette, now's the time to get a hot deal.
Dealer Gouge: DealerTrack provides software and systems for running auto dealerships and submitting auto loans. Annual sales are about $250 million.
On August 12th, Douglas A. McIntyre named DealerTrack CEO Mark O'Neil 'Most Overpaid CEO Of The Day'. O'Neil made almost $2.9 million in total compensation last year, even though the company's shares "will be off over 70% for over the last twelve months."
They Should Rename It NVSBA ... for Not Very Small Business Administration. A representative from the Small Business Administration said, "Effective Aug. 1, a new standard allows small businesses with a net worth of $8.5 million or less and a net income of $3 million or less to qualify for the program." That would be the SBA loan guarantee program.
This is a very bad idea ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Day is from The Onion: 'Johnson & Johnson Introduces 'Nothing But Tears' Shampoo To Toughen Up Newborns'. It's "an aggressive bath-time product the company says will help to prepare meek and fragile newborns for the real world."
A radical departure for the health goods manufacturer, the new shampoo features an all-alcohol-based formula, has never once been approved by leading dermatologists, and is as gentle on a baby's skin as "having to grow up and fend for your goddamn self."
Runner Up Headline is also from The Onion: 'Affair To Threaten Whatever It Is John Edwards Does For A Living.'
Quote Of The Day is from the late Will Rogers: "Everything is funny, as long as it's happening to somebody else."
Thursday August 14, 2008
Bye Bye, Big Caddy? A report by Frank Williams in TTAC claims that large Cadillacs are an endangered species and my soon be dead.
Unnamed "people familiar with the situation" have said that Caddy is adding more versions of the CTS and smaller SUVs while putting the replacements for updating the DTS and STS on hold. The Hamtramck plant where the DTS is built alongside with the Buick Lucerne is scheduled to switch over to produce the Volt in 2010. What happens to the biggest of Cadillac's cars after that is pretty much up in the air.
Frank writes, "It will mark the final step in taking Cadillac totally downmarket and mainstreaming a brand that once had a proud luxury heritage. king Cadillac totally downmarket and mainstreaming a brand that once had a proud luxury heritage. Lincoln's done it and now Cadillac is doing it. Sad. Truly sad."
Indeed. Fifty years ago, Lincoln and Cadillac defined luxury automobiles in America. Competition from foreign luxury cars was almost nonexistent. But times have changed.
Nevertheless, hip author and member of the Manhattan intelligentsia Tom Wolfe - described as the "chronicler of America at its most outrageous and alive" - drives a white Cadillac DTS with a custom all-white interior. To match his suits. (I always thought his daily driver would be a nicely restored Good Humor truck.)
I've always loved the song, 'Look At That Cadillac' by Stray Cats. That's the one where Brian Setzer sang, "I'm puttin' all my money straight right in the bank. Well, I'm a half way to gettin' my big black Cadillac tank!"
Without those big black Cadillac tanks, what will they make hearses from?
Paper Car Crisis: "If the economy were better, newspapers would be better," said Mort Goldstrom, vice president for advertising at the Newspaper Association of America.
Meanwhile, newspapers nationwide lost more than $130 million last year in auto ad sales. Car ads have gone from 10% of national newspaper ads, to less than 3% in just three years.
But it's not just newspapers. In 2004, about $24 billion was doled out to television, print, and radio ads. Slow sales coupled with cash-strapped automakers and dealerships have cut that number to about $15 billion in 2008.
Magazines are also suffering, losing $72 million in automotive advertising in the first quarter.
Newspapers and magazines are experiencing severe circulation drops as more people get news and information online.
Television viewership is not growing either; more time spent in front of a computer screen translates to lest time spent in front of a television screen.
Ad rates are based on circulation/viewership. When these decline, so do ad revenues.
My question is, "When newspapers are gone, what am I going to use to mask stuff off when I'm spray painting?" (permalink)
I've posted more thoughts about the newspaper biz here.
"Is That A Cuke Under Your Burqa Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?" A bizarre ruling banning women from buying suggestively-shaped vegetables such as cucumbers lost Al Qaeda the support of the Iraqi population.
Al Qaeda's enforcement of a severe form of Islamic law sapped support among the people for its campaign against American and Iraqi forces, allowing Arab tribal leaders to drive Al Qaeda out of the strongholds it had created, putting the terrorists in ... ummm ... quite a pickle.
Excerpt: "They regarded the cucumber as male and tomato as female. Women were not allowed to buy cucumbers, only men."
Cukes - is there anything they can't do?
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: "Al Sharpton protests disproportionate deaths of Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, calls for immediate deaths of David Letterman and Billy Joel to even score."
Thought For Today: Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it's called golf.
Tuesday August 12, 2008
Buh-Bye: General Motors' board of directors gave a vote of confidence to embattled Chief Executive Rick Wagoner after the automaker announced a $15.5 billion loss.
Jonathan Berr thinks that "all of this talk about the great job he's doing is a smokescreen to lay the groundwork for his departure from GM."
The General is already interviewing possible successors.
Party On, Garth. Something I learned from '101 Cars You Must Drive' on Speed TV: Richard Petty, Conway Twitty and Mitt Romney owned AMC Pacers. (permalink)
Their Window Stickers Have DNR Tags: The Mercury Sable and the Taurus X are apparently scheduled to die in 2009.
Advice For Political Candidates: The states of Washington and Oregon mail voter guides to all registered voters. I value these publications because I can take my time reading about various candidates and ballot measures, make notes on the margins, etc. This makes me more-informed and, therefore, a better voter.
In 2006, I offered advice to candidates - presentation do's and don'ts. Some of this year's crop of candidates obviously didn't read my posting. So ... I'm providing some additional examples here.
Now That There's Another War ... where are all the war protesters? Where are those 'Give peace a chance' banners ... Putinhitler signs ... effigies of the evil Russian bear ... paper-maché Boris Badenov heads? James Lileks wonders, too.
"Goodnight, Children": Issac Hayes, songwriter and musician whose 'Theme From Shaft' won Academy and Grammy awards, died at age 65.
He was also the voice of Chef, the school cook and all-around ladies' man in 'South Park'.
Interesting Fact: 22.4% of all U.S. homes have no mortgage.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Government bailouts are like potato chips: You can't stop with just one."
Saturday August 9, 2008
Design Lingo: Car designers have a special vocabulary - C-pillar, greenhouse, beltline, backlight, sail panel, tumblehome, etc. I just found out that designing the nose of the 2009 Acura TL is called 'doing a Karl Malden'. (permalink)
Edwardsgate: So, lemme get this straight: the rich guy with the expensively-groomed hair - the one who people thought was gay - has, after months of denials, 'confessed' to having an affair with a manly-looking angular blonde woman. Oh man, cue up the Prince Charles music ... oops, there isn't any. But both Charlie and John are The Men Who Would Be King. Well, maybe not so much anymore for John Edwards, the phony populist.
And there's so much more coming out - he didn't really love her ... he passed her along to his campaign aide, Andy Young, who got sloppy seconds. Or maybe thirds. Or ninths. Fred Baron, chairman of Mr. Edwards' presidential campaign finance committee, paid money for Ms. Rielle Hunter to move from North Carolina to another location. And Mistress Hunter was a paid worker - a filmmaker - in Johnny's campaign.
Then there's the matter of the
bast Love Child. Edwards claims it's not his. But he's reportedly paying $15,000 per month in child support. Perhaps the payment is some kind of Two Americas equalizer thing. You know, bringing his mistress to the Rich America side of things.
Edwards released his I Was A Liar announcement late Friday when everyone was distracted by the Olympics, the Georgian-Russian war or the weekend. And the mainstream media finally got around to reporting it ... mostly below the fold.
Instapundit has noted, "There are two Americas - the real one, and the one the press tries to fob off on us." Actually, Glenn, there are Eight Americas. But that's beside the point.
Gerard Van der Leun has predicted How It Will All End: "Here's how this seedy little Democrat soap opera is going to play out long term. It's going to be a remake of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor as performed by the Clampetts.
Mother of love child hunkers down and, sooner or later, the tsunami of scandal washes over and recedes. She goes on being mom and, in one way or another, money keeps appearing in her account.
Since Elizabeth Edwards' cancer is terminal, John stays loyally and celibately by her side until the end, being seen to support her through her final days.
Showy funeral with a lot of commentary and a good deal of praise for Edwards behavior at the end.
Then a decent or indecent period of mourning (depending on your own internal clock about these matters) and Edwards and Mom of Love Child marry in a quiet, secret, paparazzi free ceremony somewhere on a billionaire's private island. Love Child Mom gets multi-millionaire husband (Her fantasy plan all along come true at last.), love child is made legitimate and an heir, and the new Edwards family lives happily ever after as the Duke and the Duchess of North Carolina.
On their first anniversary they announce 'The Elizabeth Edwards Memorial Foundation' to benefit poor children everywhere. They announce this during a dinner to honor Al Gore in Davos."
May I add ... when both of them are finally dead, Rielle's jewelry will be auctioned off at Sotheby's and Limited Edition copies will be peddled by The Franklin Mint. Yours for Three Easy Payments.
Eventually, there will also be a Bradford Exchange commemorative plate.
Always Remember ... the 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
Friday August 8, 2008
Drunk Driving: Last year, John McCain said, "Ronald Reagan used to say, we (Congress) spend money like a drunken sailor. I never knew a sailor, drunk or sober, with the imagination of the Congress. I received an e-mail recently from a guy who said, 'As a former drunken sailor, I resent being compared to members of Congress.'"
Uncle Sam has 642,233 vehicles, operated with your tax money. Costs - maintenance, leases and fuel - ran a whopping $3.4 billion last year, according to General Services Administration data. Watchdogs say mismanagement of the government fleet is costing millions of dollars a year in wasteful spending.
That's over $5,300 per car per year. And doesn't include insurance, since the gummint self-insures. And, while the article mentioned leasing, most government vehicles are purchased, not leased. The report also mentions the cost of drivers. But most of the vehicles in question are self-driven. I doubt that vehicle depreciation is included, since most government car purchases go in a capital budget rather than an operating budget.
Is $5,300/year reasonable for a car? Sounded high to me. So, I took the average of my Jag's and Avalon's operating costs (sans insurance) for a two-year period and got an average of $1,490 per year each. For 624,233 vehicles, that would add up to less than a billion dollars.
My question: Where's the other $2.4 billion-plus going?
Diversified Product Portfolio: David Leggett of Just-auto reported that some auto manufacturers have made things completely different than motor vehicles. Peugeot invented the pepper grinder and the company has been involved in their manufacture since 1842.
He adds, "Did you know that someone at Fiat came up with the first garlic press and an inventor at Hyundai is responsible for the humble egg timer?"
Pentastar ReFi: Chrysler had a fair amount of trouble re-financing a relatively large portion of its debt. The company's finance division was only able to raise $24 billion to replace $30 billion of lines. The money did not come cheap, According to The Wall Street Journal, "The $24 billion it raised came in at 1.1 to 2.25 percentage points above LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate - roughly equivalent to the Fed Funds Rate but it fluctuates continually ... prime rate is typically three points above Fed Funds), making it harder for Chrysler to offer cars to consumers at attractive terms."
By the way, 'Prime Rate' is a misnomer. Most medium-sized and larger corporations borrow at rates well-below Prime.
Auto-Factoid: Since Rick Wagoner became CEO of General Motors, the stock has dropped from the $60 per share range down to its current price of $10.25.
That Lucky Ol' Sun ... Got Nuthin' To Do ... A recently published paper claims that global warming is racist. Greg Gutfeld wrote, "To almost quote the report, African Americans make up thirteen percent of the U.S. population, yet emit nearly twenty percent less greenhouse gases than us crackers. ... While rich white fat cats drive around in air-cooled gold-plated limousines immune to searing outside heat caused in part by sorrow of the homeless, the rest of the world must settle with a gentle breeze created by a pair of swinging oversized fuzzy dice hanging from a rearview."
Now wait a minute. Everybody who has ever taken Thermodynamics 101 knows that black bodies are net absorbers of solar heat, while white bodies are reflective, indicating that black people cause global warming. Why do you think Africa is so #@%& hot? And Scandinavia is so #@%& cold? Furthermore, the only air-conditioned gold-plated limousines I've seen belong to black rappers on MTV's Cribs.
And how can anything solar be anti-African American? The sun is a black dude. In every cartoon I've ever watched, the sun always has a big smile, gold teeth, sunglasses and claims to "make all the ladies hot." I rest my case.
And if you disagree with me, sir, then you are worse than Al Gore and Idi Amin combined. (permalink)
I Guess There's A Club For Everything: Captain Sayyed Shahada of the Muslim Moustache Association praised fellow nose-brush wearer, Adolf Hitler. "I respect the moustache of this Hitler, because he humiliated the most despicable sect in the world. He subdued the people who subdued the whole world ..."
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "The National Enquirer reports that John Edwards' mistress is receiving $15,000 a month in hush money. No word on how much the mainstream media is getting."
Monday August 4, 2008
Fire Sale: Buy something quick or Chrysler will fire more people.
Chrysler is offering 40 percent off sticker for the Ram, 25 percent off MSRP for the Aspen, 24 percent off the Town & Country minivans and 28 percent off Grand Cherokees. Chrysler Financial is offering up to $2k cash on "select" retail purchases and expanding its 72-month financing.
Actual discounts may vary and actually increase, depending on how desperate your dealer is.
If you run in to any remaining Chrysler employees who seem a little surly, it's because Chrysler has canceled the tuition reimbursement program for its white-collar non-union workers. The automaker will continue to pay for classes that its workers are currently enrolled in, but after that, the assistance will be gone.
Chrysler's sales fell precipitously in July - 29%. Jeep sales dropped by 61%. No wonder there's a fire sale.
GM = General Malaise. The headline reads: 'GM Posts Worse-Than-Expected $15.5 Billion Loss in Second Quarter'.
General Motors' humongous loss included a number of special charges "related to its latest restructuring moves. Excluding those charges, GM's loss was $6.3 billion."
Ah, those damn special charges. This is typical accounting crappola that troubled big public companies try to get away with - fooling only the dumbest stockholders, a surprising number of televised talking heads and the most superficial analysts, but certainly not a well-run bank.
Life is full of special charges. So is business.
If you own your own business, you know that unexpected stuff happens. Markets shift, obsoleting inventory, which - surprise! - must be written-off to zero. Machinery breaks and can't be fixed; an expensive replacement must suddenly be purchased. New competition-driven product/service offerings require that all company literature be redone - an unanticipated and costly proposition. These are a unusual events. But such events keep happening.
As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, "It's always something."
If, as a small business owner, you went to your bank and attempted to get a loan by showing financial statements sans those special charges, the loan officers would laugh you right out of the ornate marble lobby.
Bank managers understand the wisdom of Ms. Roseannadanna. To them, special charges include only incidents involving a hearse, ambulance, fire truck or multiple police cars with flashing lights.
Meanwhile, GM sold 2.29 million vehicles worldwide in the second quarter, down 5 percent from a year ago due to a 20 percent decline in North America. Sales outside of North America grew by 10 percent.
General Motors' July sales in the U.S. were particularly dismal, declining a whopping 27% from July 2007. Buick was down by 40%, Hummer off 62% to 1,877 units (outsold by Jeep twelvefold!), GMC and Saab down 38% each. Only 3,247 Saabs were old in July. Corvette sales were off 21%. Chevy Trailblazer sales fell 73%. Saturn only sold 1,555 Astras - its entry level, economy car offering. The Astra was supposed to be the division's top seller. It must be miserable to be a Saturn dealer these days. Maybe they take comfort by going bar-hopping with Hummer dealers.
"Revenue and earning in Europe was soft, with net dropping from $345 million to $99 million. But, it was revenue in Asia, where GM really needs growth that was the biggest disappointment of the quarter. Sales there were remarkably weak, dropping slightly to $5.2 billion. Asia moved from a profit of $294 million to a loss of $65 million."
It's not looking good for The General. KixStart, a TTAC commenter, compared GM's 'Let's Look At The Bright Side Of Things' July sales press release to "painting a smiley face on a casket."
Ups & Downs: July was a bad month for some other car companies, too. Ford fell by 15%, Toyota by 12%, Mazda was down 13%, Hyundai dropped 7%, Audi declined 5% and BMW slipped 2%. Honda dipped less than 1%.
VW was up 4%, Kia and Subaru were each up 5%, Nissan's sales increased by 9%, Mercedes gained 12% and Mini jumped 24%.
Ford's big sellers included - not surprisingly - the Fusion and Focus, both gas misers. But sales of the Crown Vic were up by a whopping 39% and the only Mercury to score an increase was the Grand Marquis - up 26%. Go figure. Lincoln sales were down and Volvo sales dropped 46%. Only 431 mini-Volvo C30s were sold in July.
Toyota Camry sales were up 1%, Yaris sales were up 6%, Corolla sales increased 16% but Prius sales were down 8% - probably due to capacity limitations and Toyota diverting shipments of the Japanese-made hybrid to other more profitable markets with stronger currencies. Avalon sales dropped 41% to 3,000 units. Lexus sales decreased 18%; LS sales fell 46% to 1466 units.
Acura was down 11%. Sales of the little Honda Fit jumped 93%; Honda Civic Hybrid sales were up 38%. The Accord gained 11% and regular Civic sales increased 4%.
God Bless Small Business: In an article titled 'Small Business Saves The Economy's Bacon', Douglas A. McIntyre wrote: "There are a host of reasons why small business employment numbers should have been anemic in July. But, they weren't. As a matter of fact, small business kept overall job growth from moving into the red.
The ADP National Employment Report showed non-farm employment rose by only 9,000 jobs. That is one of the worst showings in several years.
Large businesses, those with over 500 employees, lost 32,000 jobs. Middle sized businesses, those with between 50 and 499 employees lost 9,000 people.
Small businesses, those with less that 50 people, added 50,000 jobs.
The odds against small business pulling all of the load were considerable. In theory, high energy costs and tight credit should be shutting down the ability of companies of modest size to stay open, let alone expand.
Without any direct help from the Fed or the banking system, small businesses must, in many cases, be financing whatever success they have out of their own operating cash flow."
In Washington state, businesses with fewer than 50 employees employ half the private sector work force, according to the Washington Policy Center.
2008 vs. 1948: Dana Milbank of The Washington Post is no conservative but "breaks the silence and finally says what many of us have been thinking - that Barack Obama is a spoiled child with an out-of-control ego, and that even those who have jumped through burning hoops for him are getting disgusted."
In a piece titled 'President Obama Continues Hectic Victory Tour', Dana wrote: "Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee."
"Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally."
"Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president's. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities ..."
When Obama arrived at the U.S. Capitol, "Capitol Police cleared the halls - just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door - just as they do for the actual president."
Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, "This is the moment ... that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."
"Some say the supremely confident Obama - nearly 100 days from the election, he pronounces that "the odds of us winning are very good" - has become a president-in-waiting. But in truth, he doesn't need to wait: He has already amassed the trappings of the office, without those pesky decisions."
As an Christian, Barack should recall the Book of Proverbs: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
Sixty years ago, Thomas Dewey ran a campaign based on the assumption that 'the sale was already made.' He spoke in platitudes, trying to transcend politics. He gave numerous speeches filled with empty statements of the obvious, such as the famous quote: "You know that your future is still ahead of you."
Then a scrappy, come-from-behind, little guy named Harry knocked Dewey on his ass.
Let's hope that a scrappy, come-from-behind, little guy named John can do the same to a vacuous, overconfident Obama.
Thought For Today: Did you ever notice that, when you put the two words 'The' and 'IRS' together, it spells 'Theirs'?
Friday August 1, 2008
Top-Secret CEO Job Interview: Many auto industry observers believe that Rick Wagoner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors, is running the company into the ground. Robert Farago at TTAC has speculated that Wagoner will resign soon. But Rick's departure raises the question, "Who will step in and rescue GM?"
General Motors has been secretly interviewing CEO candidates. All of those interviewed so far have been high-profile individuals - powerful men whose names have a high degree of public recognition.
Through my sources, I have obtained an exclusive: a transcript of one of the interviews ... (more >>>)
The Bad News Never Stops: Standard & Poor's on Thursday cut ratings on all three major U.S. automakers deeper into junk status (B-minus - six levels below investment grade), citing expected losses due to higher gas prices and a weakening U.S. economy. It also cut to 'B-minus' from 'B' the finance arms of Ford, Chrysler and GMAC, which is 49 percent owned by GM.
Also, General Motors announced that it will get rid of 5,000 white-collar workers, about 15% of its salaried work force in North America.
Do You Hear A Foghorn? Well, that's the sound of my ship coming in. As of today, I'm eligible for Medicare.
I'm looking forward to being On The Dole, sucking up your hard-earned tax dollars, whilst substantially reducing the cost of my medical insurance.
Screw those generics - now I want only the best brands: Plavix, Nexium, Coreg, Lexus, Four Seasons, Glenfiddich, Robert Mondavi and Ruth's Chris.
Damn ... suddenly I have the urge to vote Democratic. Is Dennis Kucinich still a candidate?
Unappetizing: Bennigan's restaurants will probably be a thing of the past. The parent company, which also owns the equally-forgettable Steak & Ale chain, filed Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy. This is disastrous news for franchisees. Apparently, the company-owned stores have already closed.
Our nation will survive. Those looking for deep-fried mozzarella sticks, served at a restaurant which hasn't excited anyone since 1977, can always go to T.G.I. Friday's. Or Ruby Tuesday.
Speaking of retail establishments that haven't been relevant for decades, Circuit City and Pier 1 are also in trouble. And Mervyn's went Chapter 11 this week.
Gone But Not Forgotten: It saddens me to report that The Gables of Corvallis, OR has closed its doors. "We're going to retire the restaurant," owner Larry Hearing said Tuesday. "That's what we're calling it."
The Gables had been in operation for 50 years. My wife and I had a lot of memorable meals at the place. We hosted our son's wedding rehearsal dinner there. We celebrated many a wedding anniversary at the restaurant when we lived in Corvallis. On one occasion, my company rented the private wine cellar in the basement and hosted a special dinner for our key employees.
From the dark wood timbers, flocked wallpaper (replaced several years ago with something less '60s) and crisp white tablecloths, uniformed, attentive servers to the classic menu, once-complimentary relish dishes and well-stocked wine cellar, The Gables was pleasant and nostalgic throwback to an earlier, more elegant era.
When we were selling our firm, several negotiation dinners were held there. One of our suppliers hosted a celebration dinner for us after the sale was complete. I remember him asking Larry to see if there were more expensive wines available which weren't on the wine list. There were and I have no idea what was paid for the several bottles. But the Cabernet was excellent.
The Gables used to be the best steak place in town. The restaurant was famous for its Chicken Bisque soup which was very rich and was served at table in a bucket, so you could ladle yourself seconds. Also included were The Gables' signature fried croutons which were wonderful. Luckily, my wife still has the recipe for the soup. (permalink)
Dial Tone: James Lileks, complaining about connectivity problems, wrote: "People used to hate the phone company for being uncaring and monopolistic and slow, but at least they were competent. If your phone did break unlikely, since they were built to survive nuclear attacks you could take it downtown and get another one. It was all very Soviet-flavored, what with the long queues and the choice of colors (black) and the special Princess phones for the Inner Party, but at least it worked; it's not as if I can take in the Internet to the central office and get a new one."
Car Care Advice From A Politician: Barack Obama says that, if only we would all properly inflate our tires, we could save as much gasoline as "all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling." Yeah, right. Do the math, pal.
Hope. Change. Free tire gauges for the poor. And, if you're too crippled, drunk or stupid to check your own tire pressure, a government employee will come to your home and do it for you. This will create jobs and help to provide full employment.
Meanwhile, David Letterman devoted a Top Ten list to 'Top Ten Signs Barack Obama is Overconfident.' My favorite: "Having head measured for Mount Rushmore."
To Know Him Is To Love Him: Phil Spector appeared for a hearing in the retrial of the murder charge pending against him sporting a "Barack Obama Rocks" button.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Although most of the mainstream media are still swooning over Barack Obama, a few critics are calling the things he advocates "naive." But that assumes that he is trying to solve the country's problems. If he is trying to solve his own problem of getting elected, then he is telling the voters just what they want to hear. That is not naive but shrewd and cynical."