Wednesday September 30, 2009
Tightwad Nation: Canadian writer/blogger Kathy Shaidle once asked, "Why are Canadian Christians cheap, lazy and incompetent?"
I don't know about the rest but 'Cheap Canadians' is an alliteration that easily rolls off the tongue. And has the ring of truth about it. In fact, a study by The Fraser Institute indicates that Americans are 2-3 times more generous than Canadians when it comes to charitable giving.
In the 1991 Consumer Guide book, 'Cars of the 50s', there's a chapter titled 'Cars of Canada', which notes "Traditionally, Canadian buyers have placed more emphasis on a low price than U.S. customers." That's why Chrysler sold Plymouths with a Dodge front clips and emblems to Canadians as a "Dodge at Plymouth prices." And Meteors were just Fords with extra chrome trim.
O-Gauge Railroading magazine once featured a story about an elderly Canadian guy who built a three-feet by four-and-one-half feet O-gauge layout for his grandkids using cheap track, an old engine and cars bought at a swap meet, decorated with cheesy cardboard buildings which he scratch-built and painted with water colors to "keep expenses down."
In the same issue, the magazine asked for reader comments about content. I gave them an earful, writing that the story "is four wasted pages on some old cheap Canadian geezer (and I only bring up Canadian because it seems that cheap and Canadian go together - in every hobby I've encountered) who has a pretty basic layout - one which doesn't deserve the page space it was given." I purchase model train magazines to be inspired by awesome and elaborate layouts ... not celebrate frugality.
Canadians are nice-enough people but 70% of the ones I've met in the car hobby are a bunch of tire-kickers and penny-pinchers. They bitch about the cost of coming to a car meet or tour in the U.S.: "The ferry's quite expensive, you know." Or: "Gasoline is quite dear." They always want Americans to schedule car meets in Canada but they don't want to host them. Might have to buy a bag of potato chips or something. When an American runs a tour in Canada, the locals don't come anyway. "Well, I'd have to shine-up the car and wax is quite an investment, eh?"
Why have a hobby if you're not going to spend some money enjoying it? If you can't afford your particular hobby, get a new one like whittling twigs found at the side of the road. (Oh, wait ... they'd probably ask, "Do you realize how much knife oil costs these days?") These are mostly British Columbia people, although I've heard that some of the Eastern Provinces have the same 'budget' mentality.
On the other hand, Alberta people like to spend money and have a good time. They seem to dislike other provinces - and have no time for the national government. One of them once told me, "In Alberta, we're all a bunch of rednecks, just like you guys." Therefore, I'm certain that there are lots of Canadians who don't suffer from the dreaded Tightwad Syndrome.
Back in the day, when the U.S. dollar was worth significantly more than the Canadian one, I used to liven up conversations by telling B.C. people that I really love their country. They usually respond, "It's the natural beauty, eh?" I reply, "No, it's the fact that I can buy stuff and pay with an American hundred-dollar bill and get more than $100 in change. That's what I love about The Great White North!"
Beauty, eh? (permalink)
Your Tax Dollars At Waste: Apparently, the National Science Foundation is rife with corruption. And porn-surfing. One senior executive "spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially-clad women."
When finally caught, the NSF official offered, among other explanations, a humanitarian defense, suggesting that he frequented the porn sites to provide a living to the poor overseas women. "He explained that these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents and this site helps them do that."
Headline Of The Month is from Recoil Magazine: 'Right wing ants lobby for magnifying glass defense system.'
When Manufacturing Departs: Karl Denninger has written, "We ask "where did the credit go" repeatedly as consumer leverage has risen but personal consumption has risen at a slower rate. There is in fact no mystery: production was offshored to China, India and Vietnam (among others) and replaced with lower-wage "service" jobs. We have used credit as a means of masking our falling real standard of living by engaging in serial Ponzi Finance - first with the Internet Bubble and now with the Housing Bubble. But the Internet Bubble was small potatoes compared to the Housing Bubble, and we've run out of "bigger bubbles" we can blow to take the Housing Bubble's place.
As defaults mount the facts are exposed whether we want them to be or not: our earnings power has been severely damaged as a whole by the intentional off-shoring of high-quality jobs and the importation of lower-quality (and lower-wage) workers into the US and we have tried to make up for the deficiency through borrowing. But borrowed money has to be paid back - and we can't make the payments." (permalink)
Who's Gonna Buy It - A Consortium Of Dentists? Time Warner plans to sell Time magazine.
Planned Guppiehood: Fish, like people, don't respond to logic; sometimes harsh measures are required.
Jack Bogdanski has written: "Our guppies were breeding with gusto. We had adopted a no-flush policy, and had additionally segregated the newborns from the adults so that the little ones would not become tasty snacks for the big ones. But all this solicitude for the babies meant that their numbers were outstripping the room we had to house them all.
We tried various means to stop the fish from breeding. We banned the playing of all Marvin Gaye tunes within 25 feet of the tank. We hovered over the fish, hoping that parental supervision might limit the mating activity to heavy petting. On several nights, I rehearsed lectures about tax law right next to the tank, hoping to blunt the male fish's sex drive. Nothing worked.
And so gradually we adopted new policies. As the bowls of fry grew up a bit, we added them back in with the adult population, and as new batches of babies came along, we adopted a don't-ask-don't-tell policy about cannibalism. Although we had three teenage boys chasing around dozens of females, all day long, the numbers have pretty much leveled off, at least temporarily."
Quote Of The Day is from Ric at Pugs of War: "I think I finally cracked Victoria's Secret: She's kind of a slut."
Monday September 28, 2009
Out And About: Friday began foggy and overcast but, when the sun appeared, I hopped in the Plymouth and took a ride - the first one of this new season.
It doesn't look like Fall, the leaves are still green and they're not cascading from trees yet. But the night temperatures are getting colder, the heater is kicking on occasionally, the days are definitely getting shorter and the fading afternoon light has that Fall Look about it.
Auto Intense: On Saturday, we drove to the Olympic Peninsula (specifically, the Kitsap Peninsula), meeting up with the Lincoln Club for a winery tour on Bainbridge Island.
Then we caravaned to a club member's home in nearby Paulsbo to see his car collection. We were joined by the Ford Retractable Club and the Edsel Club.
It was a long trip - over 3.5 hours each way - but comfortable, since I took the Lexus. The weather was good - mostly sunny and 70 degrees - perfect old car driving weather.
On the way, we saw a number of interesting vehicles headed south on Interstate 5. Saw a line of a dozen or so PT Cruisers on some kind of driving tour. I spotted two big flatbeds carrying numerous old, but mint 1940s or '50s-era farm tractors, mostly John Deeres. I wondered if they were headed to a show or an auction.
Saw three ancient Chevy trucks - late '30s to late '40s vintage - goin' somewhere. Also observed what must have been a BOP club event - about 15-20 1950s and early '60s-era Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs traveling at speed on the freeway around Lacey. Most prominent in the pack was a huge 1959 Oldsmobile four-door hardtop. On Highway 16 near Bremerton, I spotted several motor-trikes, including a bizarre one with a VW 1500 notchback trunk, fenders and bumper installed on the back end.
There was a plethora of old cars in the winery parking lot, including a nice, unrestored 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan sedan. There were several 1957 and 1959 Ford retractable hardtops in the lot, including a gorgeous all-black '57. There were no '58 retractables at this meet - a shame because I think that's the best-looking year. (Whenever I opine this, I am roundly booed by every one of my car buddies. Apparently, I am the only person on earth who likes the styling of the 1958 Ford.)
There were numerous Edsels present as well, mostly '58 models, including a couple of Villager station wagons. There was also a rarely-seen 1958 Edsel Corsair four-door hardtop. I spotted a single '59 Edsel but no rare 1960 models. Several people brought suicide-door '60s-era Lincoln convertibles. There was also a triple-black Mark VIII convertible at the meet.
Our hosts live in a large cedar home on a wooded waterfront lot in Paulsbo with a view of Agate Pass and Bainbridge Island. They have several garages on the property including a wonderfully-appointed Garage-Mahal which holds a dozen or so cars in a showroom setting. All the cars were in great condition.
I didn't take notes, so I'm not sure I remember all the cars on exhibit, but the owner obviously loves 1955 cars (he turned 13 that year) and he has many '55s on the premises. He is very proud of his 1955 red Thunderbird; the build-plate indicates that it was manufactured on his birthday. He also has an original '55 T-bird electric kiddie car - the one sold by Ford dealers, powered by a Ford starter motor and a six-volt battery. He had an interesting story or two to tell about each of the vehicles on display.
Also on exhibit were a couple of DeSoto convertibles - a red and white 1955 and a gorgeous plum-colored '48 with the huge chrome waterfall grille - characteristic of DeSotos of the period. The host also had a fully-restored 1950 Ford woodie wagon and a rare 1951 black Mercury pickup. I had never seen one in person before. Mercury pickups were sold only in Canada from 1946 to 1968 but were manufactured in the U.S.
Other cars include a '55 Packard Caribbean two-door hardtop - just back from a Packard Club meet in Canada. A '58 Edsel convertible is under restoration. He has a 1957 Ford retractable, a green and white '55 Mercury hardtop coupe (his dad used to own one), a rare 1955 Kaiser Manhattan two-door sedan with the supercharged six-cylinder engine, a black over red '55 Lincoln Capri two-door hardtop and a green 1956 Continental Mark II. This car used to belong to a car friend of mine who died recently. It was good to see that the Connie is in the hands of an appreciative owner.
Our host related a humorous tale about the Kaiser. He purchased it in Canada and a customs agent tried to impose a special tax because he was "importing a German car."
On the way home, I passed an Audi R8 coupe on a trailer. It's the first example of this mid-engined two-seat $120,000 coupe that I've seen in person. After we exited the Interstate, I saw a couple of cherry-red street rods going the other way - either departing an event in Battle Ground or headed to an evening cruise-in somewhere else.
At the traffic light nearest our house, I was across from a turquoise-and-white 1959 Ford Galaxie retractable hardtop with the top up. I wondered where it had been or was going.
It was the perfect ending to a car-intensive Saturday.
Social Justice Often Means Injustice For Those Who Make Society Work: John Zmirak has written that "as someone who has taken the trouble to read seriously in the discipline of economics" - John wrote a book on the subject in the light of Catholic social teaching, he is frustrated with "Catholics who grandstand about "distributive justice" and offer Rube Goldberg schemes for re-engineering our country's economy, without knowing or caring how wealth is produced in the first place. Our country's relatively recent, hard-won, and fragile prosperity they treat as if it had descended in pennies from heaven, and the only question now is how to divide up the windfall fairly."
He later wrote, "Left-leaning bishops who wish to make this point note that Creation was given to man in common; they leave out the fact that our labor is our own, and that taxes enforced by the threat of imprisonment can mount up to a kind of slavery. Medieval serfs paid only 10 percent of their wealth to their feudal lords; you and I pay up to 50% when federal, state, local, Social Security, and sales taxes are added up - which means that half our time is spent working with a bayonet at our backs."
Zmirak concluded, "So in all our discussions of health-care reform and other economic issues, let's keep in mind that part of loving our neighbor entails not enslaving him at gunpoint to suit our vision of the Good - be it religious orthodoxy, economic equality, or anything else. On a prudential level, we must take with grim seriousness the threat that any health-care plan, even if it for the moment excludes abortion and sterilization, will expand - irrevocably - the power over our lives of a grimly secular State. That's power we won't get back." (hat tip: Kathy Shaidle)
Risky Business: Audit Integrity, a research firm, has come out with a list of the large American companies which are most likely to go bankrupt in the next year. The list includes Rite Aid, Sirius XM Radio, AMR (American Airlines), Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Continental Airlines, CBS, Las Vegas Sands, Liberty Media, Hertz and Macy's.
Quote Of The Day is from Bill Vaughan: "Money won't buy happiness but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem."
Friday September 25, 2009
Suddenly It's 1960: On Monday's post, I bemoaned the lack of exciting new cars this year. This got me thinking back to 50 years ago - the 1960 model year.
While there was no GM Motorama and not many concept or dream cars (the Valiant-based Plymouth XNR asymmetrical roadster was the only one I remember), there were some completely new models to inspect and examine at dealerships and auto shows. As high school Juniors, my car buddies and I toured the Philly auto show that year.
The big news was the introduction of compact models by the Big Three. The Chevy Corvair was a radical departure for Detroit - a rear-engined, air-cooled compact car with a host of aluminum components to save weight. It was full of technical novelties.
The Ford Falcon was a pleasantly-styled - if a little bland-looking - downsized Ford, in every way. It's entire powertrain was simply a smaller version of its larger brother's. But it offered proven technology for the less adventurous small car buyer. Period ads claimed the car had "three years and three million miles" behind it and that it was "the world's most experienced new car." Ford also reminded prospects that the Falcon provided "nearly four times more luggage space than the most popular imported new car."
The Plymouth Valiant had a unique, pseudo-European look, different than other Chrysler Corp. offerings, and was larger than either the Falcon or Corvair. It had a more powerful engine, too. An all-new overhead-valve slant-six replaced the ancient flathead six which had powered Plymouths since the 1930s.
While compacts were the big story, Ford's large cars - Ford, Mercury and Edsel had all-new bodies and completely different styling than the 1959 models. All Chrysler cars got new unibodies (except Imperial, which continued to use body on frame construction). All of Chrysler's big V8s got Ram Induction manifolds for '60.
General Motors cars had been vastly redesigned in 1957; they received softened restyling for 1960. Buick ads touted finned aluminum drum brakes and a Turbine Drive transmission. Not to be outdone in the compact car frenzy by anyone, Buick ran ads for its Opel Rekord: 'German Made. American Style'. Meanwhile Pontiac dealer ads promoted the Vauxhall Victor: 'A Quality Product of England since 1904.'
Ramblers were mostly carry-overs from the '59 models with a light restyling but AMC advertising pointed out that their compact offerings were "the most imitated cars of the year." Every AMC product now featured a "ceramic armored muffler and tailpipe."
In 1960, there was much to see at the auto shows. Less so in 2010. (permalink)
Falling Off A Cliff: BusinessWeek ran almost 6,000 advertising pages in 2000. That number dropped below 1,900 last year, and pages are down another 36% through the magazine's September 14 issue. "That puts the magazine on a course to run about 1,250 ad pages in 2009."
Wow. Just wow.
A Million Bucks Ain't What It Used To Be: In the original 'The Millionaire' television show (it aired on CBS from 1955 to '60), Michael Anthony gave one million dollars to seemingly random individuals from a wealthy benefactor who insisted they never know him. The show explored the ways unexpected wealth changed recipients' lives for better or for worse.
Because of inflation, Mr. Anthony would now have to cut folks a check for about eight million dollars to provide buying power equal to $1 million in 1955.
According to The Boston Consulting Group, the number of millionaire households in the world dropped from 11 million in 2007 to 9 million last year, a fall of almost 18%. The figure was worse in North America, where the drop was 22%.
The study also reported: "Global wealth fell from $104.7 trillion in 2007, measured in assets under management, to $92.4 trillion in 2008 - a decline of 11.7%. It was the first decline since 2001."
Having a million dollars in 2009 is no better than having $131,000 in 1955. So, being a millionaire isn't such a big deal these days. Most people with a net worth of a million or so don't consider themselves rich and probably live modestly.
Today, Michael Anthony would probably be working for a hedge fund. Or be in charge of the Disbursement Dept. at ACORN. Or the National Endowment for the Arts.
Liar-In-Chief: Last Sunday, during his television marathon, President Obama declared to ABC News that "we're not going to take a single dollar out of the Medicare Trust Fund" and that Medicare "benefits are going to be as good or better" than now.
Another lie. (Joe Wilson was right.)
Yesterday, the Democrats attempted to kill Medicare Advantage (aka: Medicare Part C). My wife and I are in Medicare Advantage, a popular program that allows seniors to receive benefits through private insurance plans rather than the typical fee-for-service arrangement in Medicare. Almost 25% of all seniors choose Medicare Advantage over conventional Medicare. It costs seniors more than basic Medicare coverage but offers more benefits.
Mark Hemingway of NRO has written, "Moreover, the popularity of Medicare Advantage has a lot to say about the problems of Medicare as it currently stands. The reason why Medicare Advantage has become so popular is that many Medicare Advantage plans offer services Medicare doesn't. Further, because of Medicare's poor reimbursement rates, the number of doctors accepting Medicare is rapidly declining. ... A report last year from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission found that 29 percent of Medicare enrollees had trouble finding a doctor who would take them - a figure that was up 24 percent from the year before. Obviously, more doctors are willing to take a private Medicare Advantage plan than the straight government-mandated fee-for-service. For this reason, enrollment in Medicare Advantage is significantly higher in urban and rural areas where it's harder to find a doctor."
I believe nothing Barack Obama says.
Dismal Prediction: Moody's forecasts that some home prices may not return to their pre-recession levels for decades. This means that hundreds of thousands of Americans may find it impossible to sell their houses without making payments to their banks to cover underwater home loans.
In many parts of the country, which include large states like New York and Illinois, home prices will not rebound to 2006 levels until 2018 to 2022. In the states where prices have fallen the most, particularly California, Arizona and Florida, values may not rebound until 2024.
Scary. Although Moody's predicts that Oregon and Washington will return to health by 2014-2017.
Quote Of The Day is from Ben Franklin: "A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats."
Wednesday September 23, 2009
Big Loop: On Monday, I took a drive to Hockinson and back in the Plymouth. We're having a heat spell here (highs in the 90s), but the leaves are beginning to turn - a sign that the end of old car driving season is approaching.
I'm enjoying my rides while I can - before the '39 gets tucked away for its winter nap.
Excuse Me While I Laugh: Chrysler brand CEO Peter Fong sees his brand being "a notch above Lincoln, a notch above Cadillac" in the future. I suspect that would be in the very far, Nostradamussy future. Chrysler hasn't been the equal of Cadillac since the early 1930s, if then. (I have a picture in my head of a LeBaron-bodied 1933 Chrysler Imperial Eight phaeton.)
When I was growing up in the 1950s, Chrysler was a mid-priced brand. That's why Chrysler Corporation broke out Imperial as a separate nameplate, although the Imperial brand never quite carried the cachet of Cadillac or Lincoln.
Everybody knows that, when Plymouth was killed, Chrysler became the New Plymouth. Witness the Chrysler PT Cruiser which was supposed to be a Plymouth model. In Europe, the Neon carried Chrysler badges and was considered a joke brand. In the U.S., it's now a commodity minivan-for-mommy brand. Or rental car fodder.
I would peg the reemergence of Chrysler as a true luxury brand at several decades after the last Sebring owner passes away. (permalink)
Bike Bozos: This was a major news story around these parts last week: "Police say ten motorcyclists traveling together as part of the Brothers Speed Motorcycle Club were injured, two critically, Friday afternoon in a multi-vehicle traffic crash south of Wilsonville on Interstate 5." This major highway was closed for several hours as a result.
Oregon State Police Lieutenant Gregg Hasting said that, on Friday, September 18th at 2:45 pm or so, "approximately 26 motorcycles were traveling northbound in the left inside lane near milepost 282 in a formation of two columns when traffic ahead began to come to a stop."
"The first two motorcycles maneuvered to avoid a collision with the stopped vehicle, but the rest of the motorcycles could not react in time and crashed into the vehicle in front of their group and into each other." Eight motorcyclists were transported to hospitals by ground ambulance; two more were LifeFlighted out to Portland trauma centers and were in critical condition at last report.
I don't know the people involved nor their club. And I wasn't there, so I can't comment on this particular tragedy. But I have seen too many examples of dangerous behavior by aging, gray pony-tailed, leather-clad men riding large motorcycles, usually Harleys. Riding in a tight pack is one of them. Following too closely is another. Still another is hogging the left lane, or both lanes, and blocking the orderly passage of traffic.
During last month's trip to Montana, we witnessed a lot of stupid and boorish behavior by motorcycle assholes. Since people on bikes are about six times as likely to be killed as someone piloting a four-wheeled conveyance, you'd think they'd drive six times more carefully.
"But nooooooo," as John Belushi used to say. And carnage such as this is the inevitable result.
Idiots & Morons: Suffering from a Cash for Clunkers hangover after August's party, September is on track to be the year's lowest rate of car sales, predicts Edmunds.com. The firm forecasts the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of sales in September will plummet to 8.8 million for the year's lowest rate following the year's highest rate of 14.1 million in August. 8.8 million will break a 28 year record - and not in a good way.
"The best month of the year for car sales is being quickly followed by what could be the worst month of the year," said Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl. "Cash for Clunkers was supposed to prime the pump, but that is a physics concept, and economics is quite different. Demand has dropped off significantly since the program ended."
By paying people to replace their cars with new ones - but only if they do it in a narrow window of time, the government exhausted the demand for new cars in the future. Democrats, who claimed that this "jump-started the auto industry," are idiots. The few economists on board with this program are morons.
Obama thinks this is one of His Best Ideas, declaring Cash for Clunkers "good for automakers, consumers and our environment," which makes him either Idiot-in-Chief or Moron-in-Chief.
Clunk! Two economists have analyzed the Cash for Clunkers program and have concluded that the cost exceeded the benefit "by approximately $2,000 per vehicle."
"With per vehicle environmental benefits at $596 and the costs at $2,600 per vehicle, the clunker program is a net drain on society of roughly $2,000 per vehicle. Given the approximately 700,000 vehicles in the program, we estimate the total welfare loss to be about $1.4 billion."
Irony, Man: Police in Millville, NJ found marijuana plants growing in a flower basket along one of the city's main streets - High St.
"I'd Gladly Pay You Next Tuesday For A Hamburger Today." The FDIC, which insures your bank deposits, is a little short of cash and wants to have the nation's healthier banks lend billions of dollars to rescue the insurance fund that protects bank depositors.
Such a move would enable the fund, which is rapidly running out of money because of a wave of bank failures, to continue to rescue the sickest banks.
This maneuver is apparently inspired by J. Wellington Wimpy from those old Popeye cartoons.
Faucet Follies: Victoria, B.C. residents are so good at conserving water, they might have to start paying more for it. The district's water services division is now facing a revenue shortfall.
Jack Hull, CRD water services general manager, said, "The difficulty for us is our cost for providing the service. Ninety-five per cent of our costs are fixed. So if we have a substantial drop in the revenue side, it impacts us financially."
Obviously, they should start putting my special water useage signs around town.
Did Someone Say 'Tort Reform'? For years, I've opined that health care reform without tort reform is meaningless. I think I first made the statement back in the '90s when Hillarycare was being bandied about.
David Freddoso has written, "Since passing tort reform in 2004, Mississippi has seen the number of medical malpractice claims plummet by 91% from its peak. The state's largest medical liability insurer dropped its premiums by 42%, and has offered an additional 20% rebate each year since tort reform went into effect." The entire article is worth a read. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson: "Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary … that's what gets you."
Monday September 21, 2009
Heart Flutter: Once upon a time, September would make the automotive part of my heart go pitter patter. (Now I take pills to prevent any unusual heart activity.)
There would be renderings and grainy photos of soon-to-be-released vehicles in car mags, followed by covert activities at local auto dealerships.
Every year, before the new models came out, dealers moved new cars into their showrooms in the dark of night and whitewashed all the big plate glass windows so people couldn't see in. The public got curious and excited. Prospective buyers and old customers were invited to preview parties hosted by the dealership.
There would be champagne, balloons, clowns and/or piano players to entertain. The service bays were scrubbed spotless and full of shiny new automobiles. People got caught up in the excitement and bought cars.
When you took delivery of your gleaming new vehicle, you were introduced to the service manager, who presented you with his card and gave you a personal tour of the parts and service departments.
In those days, cars really looked new and different each year. Your neighbors would be properly envious of your freshly-manufactured automobile, which looked nothing like last year's model.
Cars in showrooms looked great with glittering chrome and whitewall tires. (All the cheap stripper cars with no chrome and blackwalls were parked out back near the Dumpster.) Today, showrooms are full of cars with no chrome and blackwall tires. These vehicles aren't cheap but they sure look it.
Surprise, secrecy and excitement used to sell a lot of cars.
These days, the surprise is gone. There seems to be a three-year "unveiling" of new models beginning with something called a 'concept' dragged around to various auto shows. By the time the production model finally appears (think new Thunderbird, new Camaro, Volt, Challenger, etc.), buyer boredom has set in after eons of hype and overexposure.
No secrecy; no excitement.
With the 2010 model year now upon us, I find little to increase my heart rate. Chrysler is rudderless and is offering same-old-same-old, touting slightly less-crappy interior trim as its models' best feature.
Over at General Motors, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse is being trumpeted as the Savior of The Brand. I thought that's what the last LaCrosse was supposed to be. The latest iteration looks nice enough. But it's a Buick - a very damaged brand. Unless you live in China, where Buicks are still revered and the populace can't even pronounce 'very damaged brand'. The average age of U.S. Buick buyers is 70-plus.
For 2010, all Acuras still have that angular, happy-drooling-idiot grille.
Cadillac, not satisfied with demeaning its name by slapping crested emblems on SUVs and trucks, is introducing a CTS station wagon. I remember the good old days when the only Cadillac station wagons were hearses.
Ford is perhaps the only car company offering significant product changes. I like the restyle of the Ford Fusion. The redesigned 2010 Taurus is a big improvement but it's too big, too tall and I've heard that the interior is still somewhat chinzy. The Lincoln MKT is apparently for those who think not all hearses should carry a Cadillac emblem.
I like the photos I've seen of the Kia Forte, especially the coupe model. And the Soul is distinctive - a better-looking box than any Scion offerings. Who ever thought that Kia would be making attractive cars?
Probably the best of the new models is the Ferrari California. I'm keen on the metal retractable hardtop. The car is stylish and properly Ferrari-looking. Various style critics have deemed it chubby in the flanks but, in our contemporary everybody's-an-expert Twitter-blog-Facebook society, there exists a cadre of cultural revisionists who believe that Marilyn Monroe's slightly-and-pleasantly pneumatic figure rendered her obese.
These are probably the same married-to-an-anorexic-beatnik, mega-pierced losers who are criticizing the lines of Ferarri's latest lovely. While riding a garage sale bicycle to work. And thinking they're ultra-hip. Which simply proves that they don't know what the hell they're talking about.
The 2010 California is a curvaceous Italian beauty. Mamma Mia! I gotta go take another pill. (permalink)
Congrats: To my wife and daughter, who did the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Portland yesterday.
Low Expectations: Janet L. Yellen, President and CEO - Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, had this to say recently: "I regret to say that I expect the recovery to be tepid. What's more, the gradual expansion gathering steam will remain vulnerable to shocks. The financial system has improved but is not yet back to normal. It still holds hazards that could derail a fragile recovery. Even if the economy grows as I expect, things won't feel very good for some time to come. In particular, the unemployment rate will remain elevated for a few more years, meaning hardship for millions of workers."
"My own forecast envisions a far less robust recovery, one that would look more like the letter U than V. ... A large body of evidence supports this guarded outlook. It is consistent with experiences around the world following recessions caused by financial crises. That seems to be because it takes quite a while for financial systems to heal to the point that normal credit flows are restored."
"The slow recovery I expect means that it could still take several years to return to full employment. The same is true for capacity utilization in manufacturing. It will take a long time before these human and capital resources are put to full use."
The Stink Spreads: Only 22% of registered voters believe Obamacare would make them better off. Even among Democrats, that number is only at 36%. People can smell the rotting of the Obamacare lies a mile away. Pee ... eeeewww.
You want better health care? OK, let's drop the laws and regulations that keep insurers from competing across state lines. Make individual plans tax-deductible, just like employer plans. Stop tying health insurance to employment and we'll end much of the fuss about losing coverage when changing jobs. Make health coverage job-portable the way retirement plans now are. Then get some serious tort reform legislation passed.
Meanwhile, the Teleprompter Messiah is promising to get free health care for illegals by making them legal. Pee ... eeeewww. (permalink)
Maybe It's There To Keep Her Timed: Michelle Obama has been promoting the Democrats' proposed takeover of health care while wearing a timing belt around her waist. Why? I don't know. (A Drudge headline identified the device in question as a "bondage belt.")
But the First Lady knows much about health care; she helped pioneer the program officially known as the Urban Health Initiative, but most often referred to as "patient dumping."
Sen. Barack Obama's wife and three close advisers were involved with a program at the University of Chicago Medical Center that steered patients who don't have private insurance - primarily poor, black people - to other health care facilities.
I sure miss Laura Bush. She was a classy dresser. So was Nancy Reagan. (permalink)
Get A Life! The founder of the Jedi religion inspired by the Star Wars films was thrown out of a Tesco supermarket in North Wales for wearing his distinctive brown hood.
Daniel Jones, 23, who claims to have 500,000 followers worldwide, was told the hood flouted store rules and was ordered to remove it or leave the supermarket. As a result Jones, who also goes by the Jedi name Morda Hehol, claims he has been "victimized over his beliefs" and left "emotionally humiliated."
A Tesco spokesperson countered, "Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood. If Jedi walk around our stores with their hoods on, they'll miss lots of special offers."
May the Store be with you.
Trouser Frequency: James Lileks has written, "Eddie Bauer is having a 'Semi-annual Pant Event', which sounds like lament of an old married man."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Different people have very different reactions to President Barack Obama. Those who listen to his rhetoric are often inspired, while those who follow what he actually does are often appalled."
Friday September 18, 2009
Car Sightings: On Wednesday, I passed a stately, cream-colored Mercedes-Benz 280SE coupe of the post-fintail, pre-big-bumper variety eastbound on I-84 in Portland.
I had forgotten how gorgeous these cars looked. I almost ordered a new one in 1972, ultimately deciding to upgrade to a new, larger house and hang on to our two VW Beetles instead.
On Thursday morning, I spotted a bright yellow (all paint, no chrome) '37 Chevy four-door street rod rumbling along I-5 in Vancouver.
At lunchtime, I saw a turquoise '32 Chevy three-window coupe street rod parked - two spots ahead of my Lexus - in front of Bone's in Battle Ground. It still had the original headlights, indicating that it probably isn't driven often at night.
"If You Can Find A Better Car, Buy It." General Motors, in a desperate attempt to lure back skeptical, gun-shy buyers, is offering a 60-day return guarantee. People get their money back if they aren't satisfied with its vehicles.
It's a bold move but many are calling it a dumb one. I think it's a sensible idea. General Motors has lost so much credibility in the marketplace, that it needs to offer prospective vehicle buyers a reason to consider a GM vehicle.
Lee Iacocca took a parallel approach in the 1980s with his famous tagline and it worked pretty well, moving a lot of hideous K-Cars. And saving Chrysler.
Bloodletting: Phlebotomy is one of the oldest medical practices, dating back to the times of the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians. The withdrawal of sufficient blood as to induce fainting was considered beneficial. It also stifled the cries and complaints of the patient.
In recent times, the government has been engaging in gross phlebotomy on America's small businesses. Last month ... (more >>>)
Why America - Even In Its Decline - Will Outlast England: More than half of all Britons have been injured while eating biscuits, according to a recent survey.
And Furthermore ... A 9-year-old boy was in tears after security guards at a London park informed the child he could not use his toy boat in a local pond. His grandfather said when he questioned a guard about the ban on toy boats, he was told the toys can potentially frighten fish in the pond.
Ave Atque Vale: Henry Gibson, veteran character actor and fellow Prepper - who found fame in the late '60s as the poet on 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In', has died at age 73.
Laugh-In's cocktail party sketches often had Gibson as a religious figure holding a teacup and saucer, saying things like, "My congregation supports all denominations, but our favorites are twenties and fifties."
He was born James Bateman in Philadelphia and was a classmate of Cardinal Foley (SJP '53), who does the English-language TV commentary for the Vatican Midnight Mass at Christmas. When Foley was elevated to Cardinal in '07, a large continent of St. Joe's Prep alumni and friends, including Henry, traveled to Rome to celebrate with him.
Requiescat In Pace.
And ... goodbye to Mary Travers of the folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary, who has died at 72.
I saw the group in concert at Villanova in 1964 or so. They put on a great show, performing their soon-to-become folk standards with a rich three-part harmony.
In her prime, Mary was attractive and sexy.
Her strong, earnest vocals will always be remembered, along with that signature flip of her long blonde hair. RIP
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "Fretting makes us important. Say you're an adult male and you're skipping down the street whistling 'Last Train to Clarksville'. People will call you a fool. But lean over to the person next to you on a subway and say, "How can you smile while innocents are dying in Tibet?" You'll acquire a reputation for great seriousness and also more room to sit down. ...
And worrying is less work than doing something to fix the worry. This is especially true if we're careful to pick the biggest possible problems to worry about. Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes." (hat tip: Tom McMahon)
Wednesday September 16, 2009
Show Alternatives: In an age where there are many creative ways to reach prospective buyers, the lure of splashy and expensive auto exhibitions is dimming.
This phenomenon is something I've written about before. Toyota has chosen to debut the all-new 2010 Toyota 4Runner at the Texas State Fair in Dallas later this month.
Many foreign manufacturers have withdrawn from the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show in October. The Detroit 2.8 will be absent, along with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Maserati and others. The only non-Japanese car manufacturers exhibiting in Japan are BMW tuner Alpina and Group Lotus.
There are too many "major" shows: Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, London, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo. Car makers are now asking, "Do we need to spend all this money to promote our newest offerings in an age where photos and videos of the debuts are available on the internet even before the show opens?" It's a valid question.
Bad Shave: The Audi e-tron supercar concept looks like an electric razor. And not in a good way. Norelco wheels, Schick front end.
Charger not included.
Blue Beauty: I like the looks of the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne.
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid: The federal deficit in the 12 months ending August was just over $1.5 trillion - about 10.5% of GDP.
In the past, the major causes of deficits have been collapsing revenues. Scott Grannis has noted, "This time we have not only collapsing revenues but soaring expenditures."
The New Normal: Wal-Mart's new CEO Mike Duke has noted that Wal-Mart now has 200 million customers globally per week. He said that "Wal-Mart is not just the low-end customer, but all customers. There is a new sense of frugality." He noted that the value for items that last is replacing the throw-away society. Customers are also buying less 'in advance' and defer purchases until they are needed. Duke called this "the new normal."
It's nice to know that the rest of the world is finally catching up to the way our family has lived for 40-plus years. But then, we were always there first. Buy what you need - when you need it. (Unless, there's a big sale on a staple that you'll soon be using anyway.)
Of course, the economy has turned against spendthrifts. Consumer households, representing 72% of GDP, are broke. Household assets have fallen 35% since the 2007 peak - mostly reduced home values and retirement assets diminished by the 2008 stock market dive. The drop began when household debt reached a dangerous 135% of income. Households have been forced to reduce spending to in order to lower debt; this translates to less disposable income, lower consumer spending, lower GDP growth and lower corporate profits. And, it's not going to change overnight.
"Consumer credit is being rationed severely and this is one factor that argues for a slow recovery from this biggest recession since the Great Depression," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. Consumer credit fell by a record $21.6 billion, or 10% at an annual rate, to $2.5 trillion, according to a Federal Reserve report.
Major U.S. credit card lenders said defaults climbed in August as the unemployment rate jumped and the impact of tax refunds waned. Bank of America said write-offs rose to 14.54%, the highest among the six lenders reporting.
August unemployment in Clark County was 13.9%, highest of Washington's 39 counties. The county has had the highest rate of mortgage foreclosures in the state for seven straight months.
Sum up: It ain't over yet.
Hot News: "It seems clear to me that global warming is being caused by Daylight Savings Time. Think about it - an extra hour of the hot sun every day??? Did we have global warming before the advent of DST? This seems so obvious to me that I am surprised that it is not being talked about." (hat tip: Jonah Goldberg, NRO)
May I add that Freon used to be used as a coolant? Then the Montreal Protocol of 1989 phased it out. Now we've got Global Warming.
Coincidence? Or What?!?!
Too Soon? Here's a Teddy joke: Q: How many Ted Kennedys does it take to replace a lightbulb? A: One. But only after waiting 9 hours after it burned out.
Speaking of The Kennedys, one Irish writer doesn't think much of the late Admiral Oldsmobile: "The elevation of this drunken, boorish outsider to almost godly proportions within Ireland proves how simpering, vapid and insecure our politicians and our media really are. ... The senatorial cut-off of military aid, which he helped enact, left South Vietnam to the mercy of the Moscow-backed Stalinists of Hanoi. His Immigration Act introduced several million Muslims to the U.S., and it will take another generation to see the consequences of that. His failed health-care bills were the delusions of an obsessive political fantasist, and could have spelt economic ruin for the U.S.
Oh yes, and he killed a woman."
Reeding Be Fuun: The Philadelphia Free Library system has no money and will shut down on October 2nd, cancelling all branch and regional library events, programs for children and teens, after school programs, computer classes, and programs for adults, programs to support small businesses and job seekers, computer classes, after school programs and all library visits to schools, day care centers, senior centers and other community centers.
This is sad, but no surprise. The city is broke because Philadelphia's notorious tax structure has been driving firms away for over 50 years. Once famous Philly industrial giants which have died, left or reduced their presence in Philadelphia include Pennwalt Corp., Breyer's, Whitman's Chocolates, the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads, Baldwin, Barrett Chemical, General Electric, Rohm & Haas, U.S. Rubber and Scott Paper.
In the 1950s, iron and steel were the biggest industries in the state, followed by industrial and electrical machinery. Other large operations involved shipbuilding, hatmaking, textiles and the brewing of beer.
Today, Pennsylvania's largest employer is Wal-Mart, followed by the U.S. Postal Service, the City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia. Shocking.
In the 1950s, private companies provided steady, good wage work for white and blue collar residents for many years. When the firms left town, so did the jobs. And those second-tier business service jobs which those big enterprises created. That's one reason why so much of this once-vital city of commerce has become a run-down slum.
The other reason that Philly has no money is crooked politicians - just about every elected Philadelphia official from 1970 onward. The people of Philadelphia put them in office. Now they're reaping the results of their stupidity. Too bad their kids have to suffer for it.
Quote Of The Day is from Dennis Miller: "I like Sarah Palin because all the people who dislike her I have no respect for."
Monday September 14, 2009
Drive Time: For the last week or so, the mornings in Battle Ground have either been rainy, very overcast or foggy. On Friday, the sun shone brightly, so I fired up the ol' Plymouth and took a nice ride.
Skies were blue, the temperature was in the 60s and the leaves were just starting to turn.
Fall is in the air. Although the temperature did reach 90 on Saturday.
That evening, I grilled a large filet mignon outside just as the sun was fading and we enjoyed it along with a bottle of Renninger 2005 Merlot, one of our treasures from the recent Walla Walla trip.
It was 94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc and has been described as "bright, focused and juicy, with delicious cherry and pomegranate flavors, shaded with nice hints of tobacco and tar as the plush, savory finish expands." Thankfully, I didn't taste any tar. I'm not much of an asphalt man.
All I can tell you is that it was hearty and wonderful and loosened our tongues sufficiently that my wife and I talked about 50 year-old stuff that we had both forgotten about.
The Way Things Used To Be: My wife's uncle died last week in North Dakota; he was 96.
We take so many things for granted these days: if you've got an emergency, just dial 911. Here's an excerpt from his obituary:
"Before Tioga had an ambulance service, people would ask Bert or he would volunteer to take their loved ones to doctors and hospitals near and far as he owned Nash vehicles and they had reclining seats so the patients could lie down."
Nash introduced Bed-In-A-Car in 1936; it allowed the car's interior to be converted into a sleeping compartment. Improvements were made over the years and, by the early 1950s, Nash referred to the feature as Airliner Reclining Seats.
In addition to other entrepreneurial ventures, Bert owned one of the early Tastee Freeze franchises. The 1955 photo shows his '51 Nash Airflyte peeking out from behind the building in Tioga, ND. Parked next to it is a '47 Frazer.
The remote town of 500 people finally got an ambulance in 1952 when a red and white Cadillac model was acquired.
Bert was a great guy and did much for his community. Rest in Peace. (permalink)
Bruno Hauptmann Pizzeria: An Australian woman claimed that a pizza delivery driver was an hour late delivering her half-Hawaiian, half-supreme. When she refused to pay, the guy allegedly grabbed her four-year-old son and tried to hold him as 'ransom' for payment. ''He said, 'Give me the pizza back or the money.'''
Car Costs vs. Medical Costs: In 1961, my dad bought a brand-new VW Beetle for $1,600. In those days, an office visit to our primary care physician was $3. House calls were $5. At those prices, ol' Doc Delaney could still drive a late model Buick.
Most doctors drove Buicks in those days, usually Roadmasters. The Buick Roadmaster was as luxurious as a Cadillac (and cost almost as much) but didn't carry the snooty Cadillac image that might offend patients. (Why do you think Buick developed the Riviera? Physicians could pilot a sleek, luxurious automobile while assuring patients that they "still had a Buick.") Doctors' parking lots at hospitals were filled with near-luxury cars like Buicks, Ford Thunderbirds and Chryslers. The few Cadillacs belonged to brain or heart surgeons.
Today, an entry-level Volkswagen - a Golf GL - costs around $16,000 - an increase of 10-fold. By that measure, my primary care physician should be charging $30. But he charges $125 for an office visit. He doesn't make house calls. He drives an older Honda Accord. Today, doctors' parking lots contain fairly mundane vehicles - Camrys, Ford Explorers and the like.
Physicians tell me that they are caught in a squeeze between ever-increasing, fast-rising malpractice insurance premiums and fee caps and/or discounts demanded by HMOs, PPOs and Medicare. Many can no longer afford near-luxury automobiles. I know two doctors who have thrown in the towel and simply closed their practices. One took a salaried job as an HMO executive; the other took early retirement.
Cars have gotten safer over the years. Medicine has gotten better over the years. But a bare-bones VW Golf priced at $65,000 would be as indefensible as current health care costs. Prior to my eligibility for Medicare last year, my health insurance premiums had more than doubled in the prior five years while the price of new cars had changed little.
Today, a veterinary office visit costs $40-50, compared with $125-150 for a human doctor. However, many veterinarians make more money today than medical doctors do. Why? Their patients never sue. Lawyers, especially the ambulance-chasing kind are one of the main reasons healthcare costs so much.
Many of the tests that physicians order have no medical purpose; they are simply cover-your-ass tests to insulate doctors against possible lawsuits. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that malpractice cases lead to more than $200 billion in annual costs from defensive medical practices. And, a recent Harvard study revealed that 40% of malpractice suits are frivolous, leading to 15% of the payouts.
Veterinarians also don't have to deal with insurance and/or Medicare paperwork and the cash flow problems resulting from these two behemoths. In most cases, vets deal directly with the customer on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Tort reform should include hard caps on pain-and-suffering awards, as well as a board of lawyers and doctors to review potential cases. 'Loser Pays' legislation would probably eliminate 95% of all medical malpractice lawsuits. I have additional ideas on health care posted here. (permalink)
And Furthermore ... speaking of health care, almost 4 out of 10 uninsured Americans live in households making more than $50,000 per year. "There are 9.725 million uninsured Americans living in households making $75,000 per year or more."
Tea Party Thoughts: The health care issue rages on because: 1. no one believes Obama, and 2. no one believes Congress, especially since every member gets a special extraordinary medical care plan which is not available to the public. For some reason, these elected officials are disinclined to join the New and Wonderful Program they're trying to foist on the rest of us.
During Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress, South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" after Obama had talked about illegal immigrants and how they would fit into his proposed health care program. (Since then, Wilson's gotten over $1,000,000 in contributions to his campaign fund. Money has come from individuals all over the U.S. And, it turned out that Obama was indeed lying.)
People are very angry. It's not just about Obama. Or his loony health care proposals. It's about runaway government. On Saturday, busloads of folks from all over the U.S. were in Washington to demand government accountability. The demonstration was part of the Tea Party Movement that gathered steam earlier this year. Saturday's event was the culmination of a 34-city, 7,000-mile bus tour.
Meanwhile, Obama left town and gave a speech in Minnesota. On Friday, the White House claimed it was "unaware" of the planned rally. "I don't know who the group is," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs with a straight face. Unbelievably, David Axelrod, the president's top adviser, said on 'Face the Nation' that the demonstrators who marched in Washington were "wrong" because they represent "only a fringe section of society." "I don't think it's indicative of the nation's mood," he proclaimed - also with a straight face. (Unfortunately, Joe Wilson wasn't there to proclaim: "You lie!")
There were - depending on whom you ask - between 350,000 and a million people at the D.C. rally. The UK's Daily Mail claimed two million. It's worth remembering that the audience for Martin Luther King's famous 'I Have A Dream' speech' was only 200,000 or so.
Here's another example of old time media bias - based on a Google News search for Saturday's top stories (hat tip: Eternity Road):
• "Obama Takes to the Road to Promote Healthcare Reform": 14,488 news articles
• "Tea Party Protesters March on Washington": 126 news articles
The huge Tea Party got little coverage from the mainstream media. CNN claimed "tens of thousands" were present.
There were similar rallies in towns across the country. The one in Vancouver, WA attracted a crowd of 1,500-2,000. It got zero coverage in the local newspaper and only a brief mention on the radio with no attendance figure given.
A D.C. resident observed: "After the inauguration of Barack Obama, after 'Earth Day', after the anti-war protests, The Mall and all of D.C. was a-swirl with tons of litter. After the Tea Party yesterday? Hardly an energy bar wrapper to be seen." These 'protesters' take responsibility for their actions. And clean up after themselves. They want the government to take responsibility for its actions. And for Congress to clean up its act, too.
People are unhappy about bank bailouts, corporate payoffs, congressional waste and having nationalized health care proposals shoved down their throats. (A recent ABC News/USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed that 89 percent of Americans are satisfied with their health care.)
They're also angry about Obama's 'czars' who have not been vetted and are not answerable to anyone. Many have been unmasked as tax cheats and crooks. And worse. (One very well-endowed young woman at the Washington demonstration - she obviously had a great sense of humor - wore a tight top with 'Boob Czar' emblazoned on it!)
Power to The People!
Quote Of The Day is from Adrian Rogers: "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that, my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.
You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
Friday September 11, 2009
Never Forget: September 11, 2001 - it was unthinkable and ghastly. After three solid days of being glued to the television in one of those "I Cannot Look; I Cannot Look Away" numbing spirals of horror, my wife and I decided to get out of the house and connect with real live people. So we drove to central Washington state. In those pre-blog days, I recorded this journal entry:
"Just got back from a car club meet in Yakima, Washington. Drove through the heartland - farming communities of Washington/Oregon. Lots of American flags flying from homes, car antennas, pickup beds, etc. Passed a prayer service on the athletic field of the Goldendale (WA) high school. (No separation of church and state there!)
Ran into a Studebaker driving club along the way - lots of cool old Studies including a bullet-nosed, red 1950 Commander convertible with patriotic red/white/blue bunting. Everyone at the meet was talking about the events of 9/11 - somberly, but with a positive resolve - "we'll get through this" was the operative feeling."
It's been eight years and there have been no further attacks on U.S. soil. Divine Providence? Perhaps - but God helps those who help themselves. Despite some well-publicized flaws, the Department of Homeland Security seems to have been effective. Meanwhile, Saddam is dead and Osama may be just a pile of bones somewhere along the Khyber Pass. Terror plots within our borders have been discovered and stopped. We have reclaimed the luxury of becoming a partisan nation.
But Islamic terrorism has not disappeared. There is a global jihad being waged against all infidels - Americans, Europeans, Russians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and moderate Muslims - in order to re-establish the medieval Islamic global empire.
America must continue to assertively and aggressively protect and defend itself from this violent jihad. I hope and pray that President Obama and his staff realize this.
Thursday September 10, 2009
Car Sighting: Got a look at a gorgeous cherry-red 1940 Mercury Tudor parked at the Brush Prairie post office. The body was stock, the car was lowered slightly, had modern alloy wheels and radials but still had a flathead engine and three-on-the tree.
The non-stock dual exhausts rapped nicely - as flathead Ford V-8's are wont to do - when its geezer owner drove off down the road. Sweet.
Cartoon Cars: Hemmings Auto Blog featured an interesting posting about cars pictured in vintage Archie comic books.
The cover of Vol. 1, no. 102, (July 1959) shows Archie oogling a new car, although the whitewalls look a bit too wide for a '59 automobile. Archie is pictured with Betty, whom I always liked better than that rich, snooty, gossipy shopaholic, Veronica. Although Midge Klump was also pretty hot stuff and showed more skin than the rest of the gals.
Archie Andrews was created in 1941 and - even in 1959 - often wore a bow tie and sleeveless sweaters over long sleeve shirts - the same outfits worn by teenage jitterbuggers in prewar movies.
Twenty-three skidoo! (permalink)
Not Every Hypocrite Is In Obama's Cabinet: Michael Bryant, a former Ontario (Canada) Attorney General who made a career crusading for severe auto safety laws, has been arrested after witnesses say he killed a cyclist with his Saab convertible.
Bryant was best known for a 2007 law which deemed that anyone driving faster than 30 mph over the speed limit was racing and could have their vehicle seized. At the time, Bryant described cars as being "as dangerous as explosives."
Onlookers say Michael Bryant hit cyclist Alan Sheppard in downtown Ontario Monday evening, causing Sheppard to grab onto Bryant's vehicle. Although, there are conflicting stories. The CBC reported that Sheppard may have been intoxicated at the time. Witnesses said that Bryant then ran his Saab onto the sidewalk, apparently trying to knock Sheppard off by running him into streetlights and sign posts.
He succeeded when Sheppard hit a mailbox and died.
Obama In Winter: Victor Davis Hanson has tapped into Our Great National Disappointment.
He begins, "Once upon a time, a fresh new politician, Barack Obama - black, young, eloquent, and hip - soared with rhetoric about hope and change. The people were mesmerized. What a contrast with the tongue-tied outgoing president, George W. Bush, and his unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! ... The people were considering voting for this unknown, fresh, hope-and-change candidate - a decision made easier after the financial meltdown of mid-September 2008. They decided then that they wanted a new-frontier moderate, a JFK for the 21st century, who would put competence and style over ideology - and clean up the financial mess left by Wall Street and the greedy Republicans."
But what they got instead was an outlier masquerading as a mocha JFK. A man who seems to have neither a discernible moral compass, nor solutions to the economic crisis which propelled him into office.
Obama's presidency began ominously ... (more >>>)
Exodus 2009: The Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction."
Moses led them into the desert and said unto them, "This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat."
The Israelites grumbled. "You expect me to eat off the floor?" "How do I know this is Kosher?" "I'm gonna to file a complaint with the Health Department; I'm texting them now." "Eeeeewwww. Mine's all full of sand." "This is a meal?! It looks more like an appetizer. And not a very good one." "What are we supposed to drink with this? Beaujolais? A Riesling?" "Is this gluten-free?" "Anybody got Purell?"
And: "How come God didn't give us little individual tubs of cream cheese to spread on this?" (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Woody Allen: "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."