Monday June 29, 2009
Late To The Party: Forbes, list purveyor extraordinaire, has published a list of "Ten Cars That Changed the World."
Been there; done that .... back in 2007.
Mass Energy Waste: Randal O'Toole, the Antiplanner, has written, "Public transit buses tend to be some the least energy-efficient vehicles around because agencies tend to buy really big buses (why not? The feds pay for them), and they run around empty much of the time. But private intercity buses are some of the most energy efficient vehicles because the private operators have an incentive to fill them up." Think Greyhound, Trailways, Coach USA, etc.
Randal reported, "When it comes to energy consumption per passenger mile, the real waste is generated by public transit agencies and Amtrak. Instead of trying to fill seats, they are politically driven to provide service to all taxpayers, regardless of population density or demand."
Every time I see a C-Tran bus around here, it is ... (more >>>)
Jacko To Be Embedded In Lucite? This is a very unlikely story but it would provide an appropriately-weird ending. Plus, he could actually fulfill his London tour commitment:
According to the Daily Mail, Michael Jackson's body will be plastinated by Gunther von Hagens of the controversial Body Worlds exhibition. Excerpt: "Von Hagens said that he spoke with representatives of the Jackson family 'many months ago' and it was agreed that his body will be plastinated and placed next to Bubbles, his late pet chimp who was plastinated a number of years ago and is exhibited at The Body Worlds & Mirror Of Time exhibition at the O2 Centre in London. Von Hagens also confirmed it was one of Michael's final requests to be reunited with Bubbles."
"There is no better place than to do this at the venue where Jackson was due to perform his world record 50-date tour," said a spokesman for Von Hagens, adding, "Von Hagens has hinted that a moonwalk pose would naturally be favoured. It is hoped the exhibit will be unveiled towards the end of July." M-kay.
I am reminded of the old SNL parody: 'Elvis cape on tour'. (permalink)
MJ - What Good? This is now a great opportunity to excuse yourself for any as-perceived-by-others failings:
• "Michael Jackson was skinny and what good did it do him?"
• "Michael Jackson made a lot of money and what good did it do him?"
• "Michael Jackson was a vegetarian and what good did it do him?"
• "Michael Jackson had a cardiologist on standby and what good did it do him?"
• "Michael Jackson always flossed and what good did it do him?"
• "Michael Jackson was a Jehovah's Witness and what good did it do him?"
• "Michael Jackson used a hyperbaric chamber and what good did it do him?"
• "Michael Jackson was a Muslim and what good did it do him?"
I invite you to develop with your own excuses and use them on spouses, parents, doctors, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.
RIP: My Little Margie is gone. Gale Storm, star of the popular 1952-55 television series, has died at 87.
She also had several hit songs, including 'Dark Moon' in 1957.
Dead Roof Inn: Occupancy at Red Roof's motels, which averaged 62% in 2007, sank to 50.7% in the first four months of this year. Red Roof Inn Inc. has defaulted on $332 million of mortgage debt.
Well, they could always convert 'em to mini-hospitals. Go here to learn more.
Looking at the local hotel business, I can report that 20 years ago, there were only three decent business class hotels in the Vancouver, WA area. Today, there are over a dozen. Neither the population nor the business market has risen by the four-fold needed to support such expansion. Vancouver is neither a vacation destination, nor a convention magnet.
This is a clear case of overbuilding; that's why so many local properties are in trouble. Including the city-owned (taxpayer-owned) downtown Hilton. The Columbian reported, "During the first five months of the year, the hotel-convention center's profits were 36 percent below what was considered to be a pessimistic budget when it was adopted in late 2008.
The project registered a $103,000 operating loss for those five months, said Janet Frank, Vancouver accounting manager, during last week's meeting of the Vancouver Downtown Redevelopment Authority board of directors."
The 226-room Hilton, which has 30,000 square feet of convention space in two ballrooms, nine meeting rooms and lousy parking, opened in June 2005.
Credit Woes Continue: "Credit cards losses are accelerating at Capital One, a trend one should expect to continue given the rapidly rising unemployment rate." Capital One Financial Corp. wrote off 9.41% of U.S. card loans in May on an annualized basis, compared with 8.56% reported for April. In May, American Express wrote off 10 percent of managed U.S. card loans.
In a related story, banks sent out only about 500 million credit card solicitations in the first quarter, half as many as in the last three months of 2008 and fewer than in any year since 2000.
Meanwhile, Bank of America Corp. - the largest bank in the U.S. - said its default rate (loans the company does not expect to be paid back) soared to 12.5% in May from 10.47% in April. Citigroup - the largest issuer of MasterCard branded credit cards - reported credit card chargeoffs rose to 10.5% in May from 10.21% in April.
"Chargeoffs went up to record highs," said Walter Todd, a portfolio manager at Greenwood Capital Associates, referring to the entire U.S. credit industry.
"We expect the chargeoff rate index to continue to rise in the coming months but at a slower pace, as it peaks at around 12 percent in the second quarter of 2010," Moody's senior vice president William Black said.
The Truth ... Well Said: TTAC poster Ronnie Schreiber has called Jimmy Carter "a vain, narcissistic oxygen thief who cozies up to dictators and thugs" and pointed out that "Carter got good press for helping Habitat for Humanity. BFD. Lucky Luciano made sure the docks operated smoothly during WWII but that didn't make him a saint."
Quote Of The Day is from David Brinkley: "The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were."
Friday June 26, 2009
Breaking News: Michael Jackson is still dead. Lucianne put it all in perspective: "Michael Jackson's celebrity suicide - a bizarre life is covered by a lazy media with endless file footage to fill the vapid hours of blather."
If you turned on your television yesterday afternoon it was All Michael All The Time. (Except for NBC which continued broadcasting Oprah. Nobody preempts The Oprah.)
I accurately forecasted the pre-nightfall appearance of people selling votive candles and T-shirts at the hospital. I have also predicted that the body board used to carry the corpse to the 'copter for transport to the ME's office would appear on eBay within a month.
TMZ which seems to be on top of everything, speculated that Jackson OD'd on Demerol. Other news outlets have followed suit. At this writing, police are looking for a doctor who lived at Michael Jackson's home; the doc's BMW was towed from Jackson's manse last night. Wouldn't it be a hoot if he turned out to be Dr. Nick?
Yesterday, when the coverage switched to the Apollo Theater in New York and Al Sharpton's mug appeared before the microphones, my wife and I decided that, since Thursday was trash night, the only fitting thing to do was to abandon the television and take out the trash. And we did. Sharpton apparently wanted to - as usual - talk about himself, remind everyone that he was involved in planning James Brown's funeral (hint, hint) and exaggerate his relationship with Michael Jackson, which seemed to be tenuous at best.
This was the Celebrity Week Of Death (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and MJ) and I've never seen Larry King so alive. It's given him a reason to exist. Therefore, you might conclude that Jackson's death has helped at least one human being, not counting, of course, the children he can no longer molest. And that brings me to another point. Given the drug abuse stories, hermit lifestyle, excessive spending, the gated mansion and sudden death by heart-stopping polypharmacy, there will be inevitable comparisons with Elvis Presley. It's very important to remember that Elvis never harmed a child. Yes, he shot a couple of televisions and a Pantera that wouldn't start but he respected the rights of fellow humans.
Elvis was declared the King of Rock and Roll by fans. The 'King of Pop' was Jackson's self-proclaimed moniker.
The last word on MJ Goes to Jim Treacher: "Defame a polite, soft-spoken beauty pageant contestant who holds the same opinion as the President of the United States and most of the voters in her own state: Hero.
Defame a hideously self-deformed pedophile who went insane and died of a self-induced drug overdose: Villain.
Our society deserves Perez Hilton."
On the other hand, here's a wonderful and uplifting story about Stevie Wonder.
Capturing Sinatra: Gregory Sullivan at Sippican Cottage, in an essay about Michael Jackson, perfectly summed up my feelings about another icon, Frankie S.: "Quincy Jones is a very talented man. ... Quincy warmed up by tinkering with Sinatra, after Sinatra had blown his voice out with poor method and booze and cigarettes and putting his head in ovens over Ava Gardener and couldn't sing much anymore. Sinatra had gotten all the mileage he could from just sort of talking in a singsong way in a low register, with Nelson Riddle riding herd over the half a gross of string players sawing away behind him. Quincy coaxed one last blast of Brooklyn funk from ol' Blue Eyes' leather lungs by putting Count Basie behind him, and perhaps reminding him of what he used to be."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "We seem to be moving steadily in the direction of a society where no one is responsible for what he himself did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did, either in the present or in the past."
Thursday June 25, 2009
Get It While You Can: The weather forecast called for rain today, so I fired up the Plymouth yesterday and took a drive in the country. The weather was fine. It was sunny but I could see big cloud formations to the north and dark ones towards the west.
Competitive Edge: Toyota has already booked 180,000 domestic orders for its third-generation Prius hybrid model. It is generally considered to be the best hybrid made by any car company and has sold well in the U.S. since it was first introduced.
Meanwhile, GM and Chrysler have cut to the bone just as some of Japan's best products, with the Prius out in front, are about to attack the American market.
Douglas A. McIntyre has reported that "many of the auto plants of The Big Three are idle and the domestic manufacturers are hardly in a position to produce tens of thousand of hybrids during the rest of 2009. Even if they could, their products don't have the reputation of the Prius. The trouble that GM and Chrysler will have fielding competitive products says a great deal about the problems with the government bailout. ... The way that GM and Chrysler are now structured they will offer fewer brands and won't have the kind of product development budgets which will allow them to put out large numbers of truly competitive, next-generation cars."
Your Tax Dollars At Waste: Silicon Valley soap opera star Tesla Motors is getting a solid backer above and beyond any investment so far: Uncle Sam. The electric car company announced that it has received approval for about $465 million in low-interest loans, from none other than the US Department of Energy, to accelerate the production of affordable, fuel-efficient electric vehicles.
Food Tastes Better ... after it has traveled along a conveyor belt.
If you grew up in Philly during the 1940s-60s, you know this to be true. Because every Philadelphian from that era dined ... (more >>>)
Walk The Line: A letter writer to The Reflector, North Clark County's weekly newspaper, lamented the presence of protesters at abortion clinics, noting that "every day patients and their families must walk past protestors just to get their reproductive health care needs met."
She pointed out that "the vast majority ... are low-income people who cannot afford to see a private doctor for their health care." Nor can they, apparently, afford to buy rubbers either. Although the vast majority seem to have enough bucks for booze, smokes and lottery tickets.
In this country, you may have a right ... (more >>>)
Another Euphemism Unmasked: Vin Suprynowicz has written about "trespassing illegal aliens, who violate multiple laws, including the statutes against fraud and identify theft, every day they're here."
He has noted that calling these people "undocumented" is meant to create the impression their "documents merely failed to show up in the mail," a situation easily remedied by filling out a couple pesky forms. "That's like calling a rapist an "insensitive lover" or a bank robber a "customer who makes withdrawals without presenting proper withdrawal slips."" (hat tip: American Digest) (permalink)
I'm Ahead Of 125.6 Million Others: According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. "That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream - or at least an ambition - unfulfilled."
Thank You ... and Goodnight: Ed McMahon, the loyal 'Tonight Show' sidekick who bolstered Johnny Carson with guffaws and a resounding "H-e-e-e-e-e-ere's Johnny!" for 30 years, has died at 86.
McMahon, whose grandmother was a cousin of Rose Kennedy, put himself through college as a pitchman for vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City boardwalk. He began his television career in Philadelphia at WCAU in 1949. Ed came to Philly ... (more >>>)
Did You Know? At five minutes and six seconds after 4:00 am on the 8th of July this year, the time and date will be 04:05:06 07/08/09. This will never happen again. Well, not in my lifetime.
Headline Of The Week: 'Obama Accidentally Sets White House On Fire While Burning Constitution, Bill Of Rights'.
Question Of The Day is from Stewie Griffin: "Do these Huggies make my ass look big?"
Tuesday June 22, 2009
Changes: I've recently spent quite a bit of time creating and rearranging web pages for this blog. They include:
The 'Greatest Hits' index has been substantially revised. New categories have been added to make locating related topics an easier task.
Friday June 19, 2009
Step Into The Wayback Machine: Spokesmodels from the 1968 Chicago auto show are here.
This one's from a 1955 auto show.
Old Grump Favors New Stuff: Jeremy Clarkson doesn't particularly like old cars, noting that "you know what happens when a cliff has been exposed to the wind for long enough. So can you imagine what a piston will be like after it's spent 25 years headbutting a hundred billion explosions. It'll be like a pebble.
This means there will be no compression, which means you will have a top speed of one. You'd go faster if you got out and pushed. ... Classic cars are all rubbish. My Mercedes Grosser is rubbish. The Ferrari 250 GTO is rubbish. Even a Lancia Stratos is rubbish. They are typewriters in a computerised world. So why would anyone choose to buy such a thing?"
Look, Jeremy, when you buy an old car, you assume liabilities. Fifty year-old wiring will fray - always in an spot not visible upon normal inspection - and will short out and strand you on the way to a car meet 330 miles from home.
Ancient metal which has been cycled millions of times will fatigue and break when you least expect it. And that piece of metal will most likely be rare and difficult-to-replace.
A 1951 Packard will not ride, drive and steer like a 2009 Mercedes - even if you put new tires on it.
In the world of old cars, "It'll drive perfect once ya put set of radials on it" is the equivalent of "Yeah, that'll buff right out."
But, when everything runs right, an old car is great fun. I speak from experience.
Welcome To Bizarro World: In a TTAC piece titled 'What Would Deng Xiaoping Do?', Bertel Schmitt remarked that "China is becoming the new America, while America is becoming the old China." It would be hard for me to argue with him, since Bertel has spent considerable time in China while I've never been there.
Bertel cites Jack Perkowski, who thinks it's happening right now. "During my time here, China has become the third largest economy in the world, the world's largest market for cars, computers, cell phones and a host of other products, and the country has accumulated $2 trillion of foreign currency reserves. China is now the single largest investor in the United States, unthinkable in 1994 when China had less than $50 billion of reserves."
Perkowski has written, "Over the past 15 years, China has invested heavily in infrastructure, much as the United States did in the 1950s, building the roads, railroads and airports that make a country much more productive. Thousands of state-owned enterprises have been turned over to their managers and employees and encouraged to develop as private companies. Favorable tax policies, free land, and bureaucratic tape cutting have all been used to promote investment, which the Chinese understand is the lifeblood of any economy. And finally, all levels of the government - central, provincial and local - have been committed to economic development."
"Given all that has transpired, the leaders at Zhongnanhai must be scratching their heads, wondering what their counterparts in the United States are up to. It began with Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and a host of accounting scandals. In a flash, the financial statements of Chinese companies were just as believable and just as transparent, if not more so, than those of U.S. companies. Then it was Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG, Bank of America, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Citicorp and the meltdown of the U.S. financial industry. Hoping to learn how to develop its own financial system, China encouraged investments in its state-owned banks by leading U.S. players. Maybe they aren't such good examples to follow after all?"
While China is trying to divest itself from state-owned companies, what is China's largest debtor doing? Just the opposite.
"But the sharp left turn that the Obama Administration has taken since coming to power must really have China's leaders wondering. Not just the banks, but now large industrial companies, are owned by the U.S. government, and the United States is doing what any government does when it owns companies - it meddles, and political, not economic, considerations are taking precedence."
"Rather than let the bankruptcy system work as it has over the years to restructure companies, billions of dollars, much of which will never be recovered, have been pumped into General Motors and Chrysler, two companies that represent less than 30 percent of the U.S. automobile market and have been losing market share to foreign-owned companies that now also happen to manufacture in the United States - all in the name of saving the jobs of the United Auto Workers, whose support played an important role in getting the current administration elected."
"An administration-appointed car czar, not the company's board of directors, has fired the General Motors chairman and CEO and installed a new CEO, president and chairman. General Motors is told what plants it cannot close and where its offices should be located. Barney Frank personally called the General Motors CEO to reverse a decision to close a GM distribution facility in his district, and President Obama himself assured Detroit's mayor that GM's headquarters would remain in Detroit, rather than move to a neighboring suburb. Undoubtedly, the Obama Administration and Congress will tell their management appointees what types of cars GM should produce. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and their U.S. workers must be delighted with this turn of events."
What a scary, Bizarro World we are living in. China is more of a capitalist country than the U.S. and Pravda reports "the American descent into Marxism is happening with breathtaking speed." To learn more about the Pravda article, scroll down to my June 1st posting.
Breaking News ... from Iowahawk: "The widow of the housefly murdered by Barack Obama during a recent CNBC television interview announced this morning that she would be filing a wrongful death suit against the President in federal district court. The plaintiff brief - citing pain, suffering and loss of income - seeks a formal apology and an unspecified quantity of shit."
"Bob was wonderful husband and provider," said the widow, Mrs. Vivian Vvzzvzwwzzz, wiping tears from her compound eyes. "Even though he was always busy at the Rose Garden turd pile, he always flew home in time to tuck in our maggots."
Ed Anger has weighed in on Flygate: "At least when he was in the White House, Bush killed a few terrorists. All the Communist-in-Chief can manage to do is swat a fly! I'm surprised Obama didn't set up the fly in its own little fly Gitmo: someplace warm with lots of dead dogs and garbage and no spiders to torture it."
Recycled Newspaper: The Columbian, now in Chapter 11, hopes to exit soon. Emphasis on the word 'hope'. The paper will need lots of that ... and luck, too. At its May 1 filing to the bankruptcy court, the company ... (more >>>)
1984 Redux: Victor Davis Hanson has written the longest insightful sentence ever. "When in, Soviet fashion, a critical overseer is dismissed as being "confused" and suffering mental problems in carrying out the law, as Gerald Walpin probably did in uncovering waste and possible fraud in connection with the mayor of Sacramento; or when the government begins to create new words like "overseas contingency operations" and "man-made catastrophes"; or when Justice Sotomayor says that a Latina is inherently a better judge than a white man - and then says she does not mean what she says - or that a female-only club that has no males does so because no males apparently applied (using the argument of pre-Civil Rights Southern country clubs); or when the president begins nationalizing companies because he has no interest in the federal government interfering with private enterprise or swears that he is going to uncover waste and insist on financial sobriety as he runs up a nearly $2 trillion deficit, we see a creeping Orwellianism everywhere."
Nothing Special: Every time I read an disappointing earnings report, there's always an excuse, usually under the heading "special charges."
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 ... (more >>>)
Truth In Packaging Needed: If hobo stew were made with real hoboes, surely we'd have far fewer homeless people. (permalink)
To All Dads: Happy Father's Day. I've posted my thoughts about fathers here. I miss my dad; he would have turned 90 this year.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "Always brush your teeth before bed. You never know who you might meet in your dreams."
Wednesday June 17, 2009
Weather Fake-out: June always fails to meet expectations. There's usually a lot of rain in May and, when a nice sunny day occurs in June, you suddenly think, "Ah, summer's here." But June in the Northwest can still be wet.
For the past week or so, it's been darkish and overcast with that gonna-rain-any-minute look. Sometimes, it did. Other times, the sunshine was hit-and-miss. On Monday, the sun finally showed itself just before noon. And stayed out.
After lunch, I fired up the '39 Plymouth and went for a drive. I'm glad I waited. By 1:00 pm, the skies were a light blue with a few small puffy clouds. Everything was in bloom, the grass was emerald green and the temperature was a moderate 65 degrees. Perfect old car driving weather. For an old guy.
I went for a ride again on Tuesday; just as I was backing the Plymouth out of the garage, the sun disappeared. It got progressively cloudier as time went on but didn't rain during my travels. On Battle Ground's Main St., I spotted my first Kia Soul. It's a cool-looking car; the design flows nicely from front to back. The silver one I saw looked bigger than expected. The specs say the 2010 Soul is 162 inches long - I would have guessed at least a foot longer.
2009 Euphemism Award: General Motors has described its bankruptcy thusly: "As you may know, GM is using an expedited, court-supervised process to accelerate the reinvention of our company."
Oxymoron Watch: This week, as my thoughts turned to financial planning, it occurred to me that the term 'Variable Annuity' is much like 'Unsafe Volvo'. (permalink)
Filthy Room At The Inn? Extended Stay Hotels, which has 684 mid-priced hotels in 44 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, has filed for bankruptcy. It had $7.1 billion in assets and $7.6 billion in debts at the end of last year. The company employs approximately 10,000. Industrywide hotel occupancy is off more than 10% compared to last year and revenue per available room is down more than 20% - a very difficult operating environment, especially for this overleveraged, debt-laden chain.
Here's a good reason not to stay at one: the Wall Street Journal has reported that some creditors are "worried the value of the assets is eroding. They claim Extended Stay has cut back on maintenance and upkeep of the sites while letting go hundreds of employees. It had 13,000 employees last year."
Costly Transfers: Dennis Cauchon of USA Today has written: "The recession is driving the safety net of government benefits to a historic high, as one of every six dollars of Americans' income is now coming in the form of a federal or state check or voucher."
"Benefits, such as Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance and health care, accounted for 16.2% of personal income in the first quarter of 2009, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That's the highest percentage since the government began compiling records in 1929."
In 1959, total government transfers were only 6.5%. This percentage began to rise ... (more >>>)
Say All The Bad Things You Want ... about former President George W. Bush or presidential-wannabe John McCain. But under a Bush administration or a McCain administration, you never would have seen photos of four former Gitmo detainees splashing around in Bermuda's blue waters.
I'm particularly miffed by this because ... (more >>>)
Iran: I don't have much to say, except to point out the contrast between Iran and its neighbor, Iraq, when it comes to elections. Democracy makes the difference.
James Lileks has expressed it best: "I have a bad feeling about the Iranian uprising; something tells me nothing will change in the end, because the bad guys have too much highly motivated muscle.
Brittle regimes crack when conscript troops refuse to fire on the people; it's a different matter when you have imported thugs and strong-arm squads who not only draw a check for beating people back into place, but in some cases believe they have the Allah's Good Mosquekeeping Seal of Approval on their side. So in the end the mullahs remain in charge, and after a decent interval, we do the indecent thing, and resume Talks.
It is an utterly futile path. They will never give up their nuke program. There's no reason for them to give it up."
Maybe we need to help Israel take out Iran's nuclear capabilities before it's too late.
Recession-Related Factoid: Back to back, Union Pacific's idled railcars - box cars, bulk hopper cars, centerbeam lumber cars and the like - would reach from Seattle to Albuquerque, NM.
The economic slump has idled about 70,000 Union Pacific railcars, now sidetracked wherever space can be found, said Zoe Richmond, a Union Pacific spokeswoman in Roseville, Calif. The railroad has also furloughed 5,000 of its 48,000 workers.
Other railroads are in the same predicament, Zoe added.
Gives A New Meaning To 'Man Up': Chastity Bono, the celebrity offspring of Cher and late husband Sonny Bono, is changing gender from female to male.
Forty year-old Chastity, known to family and friends as Chaz, publicly came out as a lesbian in 1995. Bono intends to "make the transition from woman to man." Details are left to your imagination.
In a related story, John Wayne died 30 years ago last week. His real first name was Marion. Go figure.
More Headlines Of The Week ... this time from The Onion: 'Underfunded Scientists Force Lipstick-Covered Rat With Cancer To Run Through Maze' and 'Health-Conscious State Fair To Offer Steamed Twinkies'.
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "'Government conspiracy'? They can't even deliver our mail and it's got our address on it and everything!"
Monday June 15, 2009
Act Now! This One Won't Last Long! The 600 horsepower Atomic Punk can now be yours. "EPA mileage estimates: 35 mpg city, 45 highway, give or take a decimal point." Visit here for photos photo and awesome video test drive.
Aaaahhhh, if only I were 30 years younger and 30% crazier ...
The Atomic Punk with its 1959 Plymouth fins reminds me of a car I drew some 50 years ago, probably on this clipboard.
Mine had '59 Chevy fins instead. And '59 Ford taillights. (I cleaned up my old drawing a little, shading it with Photoshop. Otherwise, it's original.)
The difference is I only sketched my dream, Aaron Grote actually built his.
Breaking Diplomatic News: The State Department has launched a crash program to develop new, previously unused adjectives and phrases to describe future North Korean atrocities and outrageous acts.
"We feel that an entire new set of adjectives will be effective in changing North Korea's outlook and will be the first step toward bringing them into the world community," said State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly. "After all, the pen is mightier than the sword but it seems that things like "extraordinarily provocative" just don't seem to be working."
It's A Financial Roller Coaster Out There: Amusement park operator Six Flags has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, saying it has $2.4 billion of "unsustainable debt."
Mr. Six, the dancing geezer, has apparently been laid off.
The Audacity Of Hope ... amongst conservatives is that, if they make enough noise, the embarrassment known as David Letterman will be canned by CBS.
Last week, Letterman compared Sarah Palin to a slut and joked that, at the Yankees game she attended, "There was one awkward moment during the seventh inning stretch. Her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez," said the 62 year-old, gap-toothed, television host geezer, referring to 14 year-old Willow who was at the game with her mom.
It's hard to remember when Letterman was actually funny - at least 25 years ago. Maybe 30. Today, he and his smiling musical dildo, Paul Shaffer, operate one of the ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week ... (so far) is from The People's Cube: 'Dancing with the Czars - Obama's New State-Run Show.' Runners-up from same source include 'Obama mistakes Inspector General for a private CEO, orders him to resign' and 'DHS simplifies procedures, cuts learning curve, renames all terrorism 'right-wing'.'
Quote Of The Day is from George Bernard Shaw: "If all the economists were laid end to end, they'd never reach a conclusion."
Friday June 12, 2009
Obama-Motors Drinking Game ... here's how it works: Every time a television pundit uses 'government' and 'auto industry' in the same sentence, you have to down a shot.
Last one conscious gets to write an editorial for ... I dunno ... Motor Trend. Or The Nation.
Vox Populi: During a CNBC interview last week, Scott Griffith, the chairman and CEO of Zipcar, said, "We are not buying GM and Chrysler cars. In fact, we have never bought a GM or Chrysler product. What we do is we survey our members, we ask them what kind of car do they want to drive. And when we hear back what they want to drive, if we don't have it, we consider it and look at it. We have never had a request for a GM product. That's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. Out of 300,000 users that we survey every six months, I have never had a request."
This is an amazing statistic and a damning statement about General Motors' reputation. Once upon a time, GM had a stable full of desirable vehicles.
I won't pretend that these 300,000 'car-as-an-appliance' opinions represent those of the entire U.S. ... but 300,000 is a significant number.
Car-sharing service Zipcar Inc. said it will post its first profit in the third quarter and go public in early 2010.
Car Sightings: Passed a 1960s-era Volvo 1800S on Portland's I-84 the other day.
The silver-blue paint was tired but the Frua-penned coupe still looked good - a timeless design. I couldn't tell if Simon Templar was behind the wheel.
Earlier, I spotted a turquoise street-rodded '37 Ford sedan rolling my way in rainy Vancouver. Sweet.
Under New Ownership: Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg has signed a letter of intent to purchase Saab. "Final negotiations about details on the deal will go on in the next months."
Christian Erland Harald von Koenigsegg is only 37 years old; he made his fortune running a trading company called Alpraaz in Stockholm while still in his 20s. The success of this venture gave him the financial wherewithal to develop and produce a supercar impressive enough for Jeremy Clarkson to buy. The Koenigsegg CCX sells for about $2,000,000 - the price of about 60 Saab 9-3 Aero sedans.
Koenigsegg receives backing from Volvo, which provided access to a wind tunnel as well as providing financial aid. Koenigsegg only produces about a dozen cars per year, customized for every buyer.
It will be interesting to watch what he does with Saab. Clearly, von Koenigsegg is the exact opposite of the button-down, don't-rock-the-boat, bean-counter General Motors culture. (permalink)
Drudge Headline Posted Without Comment ... because I'm just speechless: 'New GM Chairman declares: "I don't know anything about cars" ...'
In Praise Of Doing Something Real: Matthew B. Crawford, author of 'Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work', has written, "High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become 'knowledge workers'. The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses."
I've written about this subject before and I offer the following unscientific observations:
• College was a good idea until everyone started matriculating. Universities have dumbed-down their educational programs ("Don't Flunk The Customer!") to the point where a sheepskin is meaningless. Too many college grads are morons. Employers know this and discount the value of a degree to the point where the cost of a BA - even from a low-cost state institution - will often never pay off.
• People in skilled trades - electricians, plumbers, cabinetmakers, machinists, etc. - now make far better wages than many college grads.
• Most of the unhappy people I've met are college graduates. My theory is that they were fed high expectations at the university (You're special!) which have been largely unmet in the workplace. (No, you're not.)
• I've met very few depressed carpenters. Why? Because there is something especially fulfilling about creating with your hands. Something physical - more than just a CAD rendering. Getting paid good money for it helps with that happiness thing - someone 'values' your accomplishment.
• While most cars, toasters and other appliances can no longer be repaired at home, there are still opportunities for manual creativity, whether it be modification of ordinary devices, making furniture or building a model train layout.
My advice: Learn a skill. Give your hands something to do. Someday, you may be able to make a living from it. And your creations may very well outlive you, providing joy and fascination for generations yet unborn.
Something which will never happen with, say, data entry. Or diversity consulting.
Warding Off Evil: James Lileks has written, "The fact that the Holocaust Museum has several armed guards tells you why we need a Holocaust Museum."
Quote Of The Day is from Lin Yutang: "When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set."
Wednesday June 10, 2009
Don't Expect A Sebring With Lexus-like Build Quality Anytime Soon: J.D. Powers' 2009 UK Vehicle Owners Satisfaction Study rated Fiat dead last. Just below Chrysler. Lexus and Honda topped the list.
Hope For Ford: Fortune posted an interesting profile of Alan Mullaly and FoMoCo. Excerpt: "Ford Motor is still losing money, like nearly every other automaker, but it shows signs of recovery.
In the U.S. its market share of retail sales to individuals (as opposed to wholesale sales to fleet customers) has gone up in six of the past seven months. It has negotiated four new agreements with the United Auto Workers, bringing its hourly labor cost down from $76 an hour to $55 an hour and, Ford says, promising to make it competitive with Toyota."
Minimizing no-profit fleet sales is one of the best moves Ford can make.
GM's Legacy: Mark Perry has written, "In Michigan there are 193,301 GM retirees and 46,467 active manufacturing workers, which is a ratio of more than 4 retirees per active worker. For Ohio, the ratio is more than 6 retirees per active worker, and in Indiana there are 8.6 retirees per active worker! Assuming that all of the retirees are receiving full pension benefits and lifetime health care coverage, it's pretty clear that GM's legacy costs are huge, and explain why the hourly cost per active worker in 2008 were $69 in full labor costs (including legacy costs)."
As someone said recently, "GM has become a health care benefits management firm that sells cars for a loss as a side venture."
Grounded: Portland International Airport is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. Passenger traffic was down 15.2% in the four months through April from the same period in 2008.
Why? I think there are three reasons: 1) Corporate travel is off because of the recession, 2) Leisure travel is down as people cope with the lousy economy by taking 'staycations' and 3) folks are considering alternatives in light of the general suckiness of today's air travel experience.
A Different Take On Unemployment: An article in the Corvallis (OR) Gazette Times provided this quote: "We've seen the number of people who are unemployed go up more than the number of jobs that are lost," Pat O'Connor, the Employment Department's regional economist, said. "We're still trying to get our heads around that."
One theory is that, unlike past recessions, this one is "pushing stay-at-home spouses to look for work, along with retirees who've seen their investment accounts gutted by declining stock values. In a time of mounting layoffs, that makes it tougher for everyone to find a job."
Not to pick on little Corvallis - it wouldn't surprise me if such discrepancies are happening all over the U.S. - but a small database is easier to investigate. What a concept - the number of claims is exceeding the number of jobs actually lost. Sounds like it's time for a criminal investigation.
So How's That Workin' Out For Ya? A few months ago, the Obama Team warned America that without the Stimulus Package, TARP, Shovel Ready and its assorted other schemes, the economy would be in deep do-do. They even drew a graph showing expected unemployment rates with and without the Recovery Plan.
And so, the Recovery Plan was enacted. But the unemployment data ... (more >>>)
Need An Office? In May, there were 1.19 million square feet of available Class A and B office space in Clark County WA, creating a vacancy rate of 20.2%.
I have mentioned before that many insurance firms, wealth management specialists, attorneys and high-end CPA firms are abandoning skyscrapers. Their space requirements are now less because many assistants and associates can work from home, thanks to the internet. They need less people - and less office space - because technology has increased employee productivity. Also, they are finding that clients are no longer impressed with fancy offices at 'name' addresses. Many former Class A dwellers have moved to lower-cost, shorter-commute, hassle-free business parks in the suburbs.
Downtown Vancouver is dying because it's hard to park there, the city keeps changing its mind on whether streets are one-way or two, Stormtrooper meter maids prowl the downtown core and many of the people with disposable incomes live in east Vancouver and find it less hassle to do business there or in east Portland.
My office used to be in a marble-foyered, Class A office tower downtown but I bailed in 1999. Technology allowed me to move home; I visited clients using my Jaguar mobile office. Or, on certain sunny days, my '39 Plymouth mobile office. Or did business by phone and online. Many other small business owners have since gone mobile as well - and never looked back.
Someday, downtown office towers will seem as quaint as soda fountain emporiums, trolley barns, skee-ball-only arcades, sundries stores, vegetable hucksters, public steam baths and hat-blocking establishments. (permalink)
Communicating With The Almighty: Gerard Van der Leun has written, "So, for whatever reason, God is sometimes away from his desk. But does that stop the prayers? Not a bit. They keep coming in at the same pounding rate that they always do from every corner of the cosmos. After all, prayers are postage paid so you don't every have to look around for a stamp. You just make it, hit "Send," and, Bingo, off it goes with that little swooshing sound that comes with Macintosh Mail. (Yes, God prefers Apple - especially after some of the smartest, richest monkeys in the world came out with Vista.)"
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'New Prescription Fish Tank Eliminates Need For Glasses While Looking At Fish.'
Monday June 8, 2009
Another Gift Malfunction: During his Middle East trip last week, President Obama presented King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with a gift from America - a 2009 Chrysler Sebring LX sedan. Obama pointed out that the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine gets remarkable gas mileage "although - with all the oil you've got - that's probably not an important consideration around these parts."
The President also informed the King that the pale brown mid-sized car was finished in 'Light Sandstone Metallic Clearcoat', a paint color which he assured Abdullah would be renamed 'Arabian Sunrise' for the 2010 model year.
The presentation ceremony was marred by yet another of the Obama administration's gift gaffes, when it was discovered ... (more >>>)
Reporting Error: The headline reads 'World's Cheapest Car' Coming To U.S.' Excerpt: "India's Tata Motors hopes to offer the Nano, dubbed the world's cheapest car, in the United States within two years. ... The company plans to offer a European version of the car, which costs about $2,300, in 2011."
As usual, the press has it wrong. The world's cheapest car is a 1976 Pinto parked on a lawn in Sweet Home, OR. The cardboard sign reads 'Runs. Needs work. $350 OBO'.
Hardboard Hardship: I was saddened to read that Masonite Corp. filed for bankruptcy a few months ago. I have always been fascinated by the versatile, durable material. Masonite sheets are widely used by construction and moving companies. During the post-World War II Pegboard Era, Masonite pegboard lasted longer than other materials and didn't wear or splinter around the holes.
I have an ancient, beat-up but still-functional Masonite clipboard which is over 50 years old. It has had a tough life. I took it ... (more >>>)
Hotel Bargains Available? Smith Travel Research, reporting on the hotel/motel industry, has noted, "In year-over-year measurements, the industry's occupancy fell 10.2% to end the week at 51.6%."
I've been told that if a hotel falls below 65% occupancy, it's losing money. Sometimes even a 69% occupancy rate isn't enough: "Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc. intends to forfeit the 258-room W San Diego to its lenders after its efforts to reach a compromise on the luxury hotel's $65 million securitized mortgage failed. Sunstone, a real-estate investment trust that owns 43 hotels, bought the W for $96 million in 2006 ... Sunstone estimates the W San Diego is worth much less than the $65 million balance on its mortgage. At the end of last year, the hotel posted an occupancy of 69% and generated revenue per available room of nearly $153."
Parade-Watching: On Saturday morning, we gathered 'round the plasma big screen and watched the Portland Grand Floral Parade, the culmination of the 102nd Rose Festival. The skies were cloudy and, towards the end, there was some rain - a Portland tradition - but the parade soldiered on, as always.
There were more than 90 entries, including 15 floats, old cars, equestrian units, dancer troupes, marching bands and llamas. The float count was down considerably; many of the corporate floats were absent - due to the recession, I'm sure. The Battle Ground float - constructed entirely by 100 or so local volunteers - won the President's Trophy. The Battle Ground High School Band took third place in the out-of-state division.
A most pleasant surprise was the appearance of the Philly-based Woodland String Band which has competed in the annual Philadelphia Mummers Parade every New Year's Day since 1927. They were a great sight to behold, dressed in their King Tut-like Egyptian costumes - the same ones that won them eighth place in the 2009 Mummers Parade. They performed 'When You're Smiling', 'Golden Slippers', 'Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie,' 'Mr. Sandman' and other standards. Did they do the Mummers Strut? Of course.
The lack of cogent parade commentary was appalling. Local news anchor Tracy Barry, who has been at NBC-affiliate KGW tv for 24 years, was cohost. She has a syrupy intonation which gives her the ability to deliver horrid news about a machete-wielding serial murderer with the same happy-talk inflection as a feel-good story about a kitten rescued from a storm drain.
Acknowledging the Woodland String Band and its Egypt-themed costumes, Tracy remarked cluelessly, "I guess that's why they're called Mummers because they're all Egyptian mummies." What a moron.
Also making a parade appearance was Nii Ardey Allotey & Ekome Cultural Group - a motley local crew offering "Ghana-style African drumming and dancing." Or it could have been a bunch of enthusiastic drunks - a lot of noise and jumping around without much talent, I thought. I guess they let anybody in the parade.
Another event highlight was the appearance of D.B. Cooper - the Northwest's favorite hijacker. Wearing trademark sunglasses, a parachute on his back and carrying a vintage pebbled charcoal Samsonite briefcase full of greenbacks, he was perched on the back of a Mini Cooper convertible which - amazingly - was driven by the now-retired FBI agent who spent many years trying to track Cooper down. (permalink)
Was Her Attorney Lionel Hutz? The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has dismissed a complaint filed by a woman who said she had purchased 'Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries' because she believed Crunchberries were real fruit.
"The plaintiff, Janine Sugawara, alleged that she had only recently learned to her dismay that said "berries" were in fact simply brightly-colored cereal balls, and that although the product did contain some strawberry fruit concentrate, it was not otherwise redeemed by fruit. She sued, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated consumers who also apparently believed that there are fields somewhere in our land thronged by crunchberry bushes. ... Plaintiff did not explain why she could not reasonably have figured this out at any point during the four years she alleged she bought Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries in reliance on defendant's fraud."
I wonder if Ms. Sugawara has suits pending against BlackBerry, Berry College, Halle Berry, Chuck Berry, actor Ken Berry, Berry Gordy of Motown Records or novelist/poet Wendell Berry?
P.S. Cap'n Crunch may not be a real captain.
Quote Of The Day is from Woody Allen: "I want to achieve immortality through not dying."
Friday June 5, 2009
Something Else I Didn't Know: Reading P.J. O'Rourke's latest book, I learned that 'Stand On It', a book whose authorship was attributed to Stoker Ace, was actually written by AutoWeek journalist and legendary automotive artist Bill Neale and writer Bob Ottum. O'Rourke described it as "the best (and only) comic novel ever written about car racing." I remember reading (and enjoying) 'Stand On It' when it first came out in the early 1970s.
It was later 'adapted' (butchered) to become the abominable movie 'Stoker Ace' - one of the worst car movies ever made. Even Loni Anderson's hot 1983 body couldn't save this lifeless turkey.
CEO, Ego Motors: "President Obama used the first-person singular pronoun 'I' 34 times on Monday when he announced he was nationalizing General Motors. He used 'Congress' once and 'law' not at all."
And They're Good Atop Grilled Burgers, Too: A heart disease pill based on tomatoes could save thousands of lives. Scientists believe the treatment could also stop strokes by cleaning up cholesterol-clogged arteries. And they think it may work better than the statins millions already take to combat the conditions. Lycopene - the antioxidant red compound in tomato skins - stops cholesterol build-up. It is said to be the reason Mediterranean people live longer on a tomato-rich diet.
Speaking of tomatoes ...
Sometimes We're All Tomatoes: Earlier this week, I watched a PBS concert (public television is having one of their 'Begging For Money' marathons) by Pink Martini, an enormously-talented, quirky, Portland-based musical ensemble which blends many genres of music - Latin, lounge, big band, classical and jazz.
I was so impressed that I bought three of their songs on iTunes, including 'Hang On Little Tomato' which features lead singer China Forbes. The song was inspired by an advertisement for Hunt's Ketchup in a 1964 issue of Life magazine.
The music has a 1930s depression-era air about it, beginning with a soulful, 83 second clarinet solo. It is a very clever piece - sung from the tomato's point of view - but never mentions the word "tomato." Instead, it becomes an ultimately uplifting song about the human condition. (Unless you're a tomato - then it becomes a song about the tomato condition.) I like it. It begins: "The sun has left and forgotten me ... It's dark, I cannot see ..."
Haven't we all had days when the sun has left and forgotten us?
My daughter reminded me that we had seen Pink Martini perform live - at Monte Shelton Motors in Portland during the introduction party for the Jaguar S-Type some ten years ago. Back in those days, Pink Martini was a relatively obscure local band but I remember their performance well. They played pleasant '40s-'50s swing music and were tucked in the corner of the showroom where the chrome wire wheels and accessories were usually displayed.
Pink Martini has come a long way since then. And they're certainly doing better than Jaguar. (permalink)
End Of An Era: McCormick & Schmick's has closed its original downtown Portland restaurant at Southwest First Avenue and Oak Street. The 9,400-square-foot restaurant, along the MAX light-rail tracks south of the Skidmore Fountain (aka - Skidrow Fountain), would have celebrated its 30th anniversary later this summer and was well-known for the powerful, old-school cocktails mixed at its dark-paneled wood and brick bar and the sparkling white tablecloths in the dining room.
My plastics company used to have its Portland sales office within walking distance of McCormick & Schmick's. It was a fine place to dine; the wait staff was always professional.
Ever-shrinking parking opportunities near the restaurant (thank you, MAX Mass-transit Overlords; thank you, People's Republik of Portland) caused fewer potential customers to choose it as a dining spot. Many of the nearby businesses that once regularly patronized M&S have moved away as the bum-friendly neighborhood got seedier and less safe. (Bums love to ride MAX in the fare-free downtown zone. They stink up the cars and cough incessantly. I refer to the downtown MAX train as The Tuberculosis Trolley.) The restaurant stopped serving lunch about two years ago.
Most higher-end, expense account eateries are hurting in this economy. McCormick & Schmick's has struggled with mounting losses recently. It lost nearly $70 million in 2008 and $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2009 and announced it would curtail future expansion plans. The restaurant chain has 93 locations in the U.S. and Canada and went public in 2004. (permalink)
Why Government Spending Is Outta Control ... summarized in one sentence: This week, Vice President traveled to New York City and spent $2,421 on a designer suit at Barneys.
Saving The Economy: You can't combine big wars and big social programs - you must pick one. If you insist on choosing both, you will pay dearly in less than 10 years. We learned this in the 1960s when Johnson's failed and expensive Great Society program was launched just as the cost of the Vietnam War was escalating. The result was the Misery Index of the late 1970s - a number expressing high inflation combined with a stagnant, high-unemployment economy.
Blame it on both Republican and Democratic administrations from 1965 through 1980. In 1981, Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker cut spending and cut taxes; we also had a period with no big wars. Things got much better. The Misery Index disappeared from the nation's vocabulary.
Everything changed after 9-11. Suddenly ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Chrysler CEO Jim Press: "We have no net worth. We are out of business."
Wednesday June 3, 2009
I Always Wanted To Own A Car Company. Now I do. So do you. We taxpayers now own 60% of General Motors. Since we're owners, do we get to design cars? Let's go for something retro-silly. Hey, it worked for the cartoony New Beetle.
How about a mock '48 Tucker Torpedo revival based on the old Pontiac G6 tooling? (permalink)
Another Reason Why GM Went Bankrupt: Jeremy Clarkson recently tested a "ghastly" Vauxhall model: "With just two miles to go, the engine coughed. I thought at first I'd fluffed a gearchange. But then it coughed again. And then it ran out of fuel. And it didn't matter how much I pointed defensively at the gauge, which showed I had a quarter of a tank left; the facts were these. It was the middle of the night. It was the middle of nowhere. And the raindrops were now as big as rabbits."
More: "Then there's the steering wheel. It's made from the cheapest plastic in the world and has a diameter exactly an eighth of an inch bigger than the outer ring round Saturn."
General Motors' Opel, which includes the British Vauxhall brand, is apparently being taken over by a consortium of Sberbank in Russia, Canadian parts supplier Magna and Opel employees.
Today's Vauxhalls are basically Opels, manufactured in Great Britain with English badging and right-hand drive, although the Irish won't buy anything with a Vauxhall badge on it. So, German Opel makes right-hand drive Opels and sells them in the Republic of Ireland.
I drove a Vauxhall once - a rented blue 1991 Nova. It got the job done ... barely. Although I finally managed to get it over the century mark on the M40 motorway. I remember that that Vauxhall still had a manual choke pull on the dash. The last time I had driven a car with a manual choke was in 1961 - my dad's '56 Ford Mainline 6.
In 1997, I rented an Opel Astra in Ireland. It was larger and somewhat nicer than the Nova.
Back in the day, I drove my friend Marty's (God rest his soul) peppy new 4-speed '68 Opel Kadett coupe - yellow with black stripes. I think 80% of the Kadetts imported in 1968 were yellow.
He later traded it in for a stripe-free yellow 1970 Opel GT sports coupe - a gorgeous little beast. It wasn't much faster than the Kadette but looked - in a good way - like an un-Sanforized Corvette Sting Ray of the era. The Opel's pop-up headlights were mechanically-activated by a lever inside the car and required a bit of ooomph to open.
Marty found the GT too small and soon moved up to a white Mercedes 280SL with a black pagoda roof. (permalink)
It Could Be Worse: Auto sales for May generally reflected recessionary times. May was the best month of 2009 (on seasonally adjusted basis, with annualized sales of 9.91 million units), but sales are still on pace to be the worst since 1967. On a positive note - they're better than the housing market.
Toyota and Honda were off 41%, GM declined 30% while Ford was down a 'mere' 24%. Chrysler's sales fell by 47%; the sales they managed to obtain were typically done at deep discounts. Mitsubishi dropped an eye-popping 58%. Sales at Nissan were off 33%, Hyundai was down 20%, while Kia declined only 16%. Subaru's sales fell a mere 5%. Many manufacturers press releasees touted the fact that these month-over-month comparisons were an improvement over the ones of the past several months. And that's a ray of hope.
I found some interesting stats:
• Ford wants the Lincoln MKS to be the brand's new flagship but it was outsold by the ancient Town Car in May: 1,553 to 1,321. Overall Lincoln sales were up slightly - the only marque in positive territory.
• A big bright spot at Ford is that Fusion sales are up 9.4%.
• Ford is ditching Sable, Mercury's Taurus clone. But Sable sales dropped less (-40%) than those for the Ford Taurus (-51%) in May.
• Volvo offers 10 different models in the U.S. Sales for May were 5,577 - less than 600 per model. Volvo must be losing a ton of money; it has become Ford's new Jaguar. (Jaguar USA doesn't even report sales numbers anymore - probably too embarrassed.)
• When we bought our Avalon in 2005, we cross-shopped the Buick LaCrosse and Ford 500/Taurus. Last month, 3,211 Toyota Avalons were sold (-25%) versus 1,748 Buick LaCrosse models (-49%) and 3,263 Ford Tauri (-51%).
• When I bought my Lexus, I didn't know I was acquiring a collector car. But with May sales of just 315 LS models (-62%), it appears I have done so.
• GM is selling Hummer to a Chinese company, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd. - an obscure manufacturer of bridge piers, expansion joint fittings, cement mixers and oil-drilling equipment. Only 1,094 Hummers were sold last month; so be careful what you wish for, Sichuan.
• Only 783 Saabs were sold in May, demonstrating why that brand needs to go away. But there seem to be no takers.
Gummint Thinking: The Obama administration and the old management at General Motors (who mismanaged GM into bankruptcy) are now busy creating a New GM. The government wants The New General to make small cars. But most GM small cars have been crap, except the ones made at NUMMI - the joint venture between General Motors and Toyota to build vehicles in the United States. It is one of the most productive manufacturing operations in North America.
In the true gummint spirit of No-Good-Left-Behind, Obama-GM Motors is not sure about continuing the NUMMI joint venture.
The NUMMI plant in Fremont, California has been turning out small cars for GM for over 25 years. These cars - Chevrolet Nova, Geo Prism, Pontiac Vibe - have been awarded the highest reliability ratings of any American-badged American-made small cars. And they're made by UAW workers. They are the only worth-a-damn little cars GM offers.
This is the kind of mindless logic which prevails at Obama-GM Motors. It is similar to the thinking at GAZ (Gorky Automobile Works), the Soviet car company that - in the 1950s - gave the world the Pobeda and the Volga.
Like the old GAZ, the New GM is not a car company; it's a government-operated jobs program.
Crisis In The Making: Manufacturing is vital to the economy of the United States because it is a generator of wealth. By taking low cost raw materials (wood, baking flour, steel) and processing it to produce much more expensive items (furniture, cakes, automobiles) creates profit. This in turn creates wealth - for individuals and for a nation.
Furthermore ... (more >>>)
Here's An Overflowing Bucket Of Leaky, Stinking Not Good: Loan quality at American banks is the worst in at least a quarter century and the it's deteriorating at the fastest pace ever, according to statistics released this week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. "Of the entire book of loans and leases at all banks - totaling $7.7 trillion at the end of March - 7.75% were showing some sign of distress ... was up from 6.9% at the end of 2008 and from 4.1% a year earlier. It also exceeded the previous high of 7.26% set in 1990 and 1991, during the last crisis in American banking."
The F.D.I.C. has been collecting the figures since 1984.
Current Events: Here are some headlines from The People's Cube: 'Al-Qaeda Kidnaps Obama's Teleprompter' and 'Lady Justice undergoes extreme makeover on TV, becomes sexier, more empathetic, less blind'.
Quote Of The Day is from Ernest Hemingway: "All things truly wicked start from an innocence."
Monday June 1, 2009
RIP: The time has come for me to pen an obituary for the once-mighty GM.
General Motors has gone bankrupt after a long, painful decline. The corporation may 'survive' as a downsized, money-draining, quasi-government entity (think Amtrak) but The General we used to know is dead.
GM's bankruptcy signals the end of the American Car Century. It began just over ... (more >>>)
Book Reviews: Over the years, I have written numerous book reviews. The postings have been scattered thoughout the archives of this blog. I have now created a Book Review section for all such material.
Here's my latest review:
'Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending' (subtitled: Celebrating America the Way It's Supposed To Be - With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a Cadillac Escalade In Every Carport and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn) by P.J. O'Rourke
Mr. O'Rourke is familiar to regular readers of The View Through The Windshield; he has been awarded the Quote of the Day on several occasions - an honor which confers more prestige than two free Big Mac Extra Value Meals or four Grammys.
O'Rourke was born with a vested interest in cars ... (more >>>)
Alcohol Fueled: So, you think the use of ethanol as a fuel source is a 21st Century wonder?
Recently, I watched 'Daylight: The Most Beautiful Train in the World', a 2005 railroad documentary hosted by Michael Gross. The film tells the story of the famous Southern Pacific Daylight trains which traveled the Pacific Coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco from 1937 to 1971.
The trains had tavern lounge cars built by Pullman-Standard. Railroad historian Richard K. Wright said that revenues from the tavern car paid for the entire operating cost of the of the Daylight on every trip in the 1930s and '40s. All other revenues - tickets, dining costs, etc. were pure profit.
All hail the power of alcohol! (permalink)
It Takes One To Know One: Remember Pravda? Once the leading newspaper of the old Soviet Union and official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the online version just published an article stating that "the American descent into Marxism is happening with breathtaking speed." And who would be better-equipped to spot Developing Marxism better than Pravda?
The article continued, "First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in D.C. that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonald's burger or a Burger King burger than for their constitutional rights."
"Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses."
The author, Stanislav Mishin, continued his train of thought: "The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe."
"These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison."
"The American president has followed this up with a "bold" move of declaring that he and another group of unelected, chosen stooges will now redesign the entire automotive industry."
The article concluded, "The proud American will go down into his slavery without a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker."
Pravda has no problem calling out Obama as a blatant totalitarian Marxist; they know one when they see one. Pravda draws logical conclusions while the American mainstream media publishes the Obama Central Party line. Hmmm. How do you say 'Oh, irony!' in Russian? I only know is that 'Pravda' is Russian for 'Truth'.
Proof That The Saudis Aren't All Bad: The headline reads 'Saudis Behead, Crucify Convicted Child Molester, Murderer'. Excerpt: "Saudi authorities beheaded and crucified a man convicted of brutally slaying an 11-year-old boy and his father ... shop owner Ahmed al-Anzi molested the boy and then strangled him with a length of rope."
He stabbed the boy's father to death when the man came looking for his son. He hid both the bodies in his shop and threatened police with a knife when they came to arrest him.
Al-Anzi had previously been convicted of sodomy and owning pornographic films, a crime in conservative Saudi Arabia.
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno on his start as Tonight Show host in 1992: "When we started this show, my hair was black and the president was white. Seventeen years ago, John & Kate were eight."