Thursday December 31, 2009
The Year In Review: 2009 is over; let's hope that 2010 is better. I almost hate to use the 'H' word. Dave Barry wrote that 2009 "was a year of Hope - at first in the sense of 'I feel hopeful!' and later in the sense of 'I hope this year ends soon!'"
I'm still alive and reasonably healthy; my family is fine, too - something for which I'm very grateful.
In October 2009, my wife and I got new computers. In October 1959, I got my driver's license. That fact made me feel unbelievably ancient.
But I got to relive those long-ago happy days at wonderful lecture given by former Mouseketeer Cubby O'Brien.
This year, I added seven model cars to my collection. (In the heady days of the 1980s, I often bought that many in a week.) My favorite acquisition of 2009 was a black and silver 1:43 scale Ixo model of a handsome 1933 Hispano Suiza Coupe De Ville.
We didn't do any home remodeling work this year - although we spent money on hot water heater and heating system repairs.
We took only two trips this year - a winter getaway to Palm Desert and a driving trip to Montana. I wore my Miracle Hat on both trips.
While we dined out less often than last year, we welcomed two new neighborhood restaurants: Bone's Steak & Chop House and Laurelwood Public House & Brewery. Both are in nearby Battle Ground Village, which opened this year.
We have no plans for large purchases in 2010. We're perfectly satisfied with our automobiles; they have plenty of life left in them.
We are not planning many flying trips either; TSA security is becoming too much of a hassle, making air travel an unpleasant experience for us.
Let's look at the rest of the world:
Car Stuff: In 2009, the American automobile industry was shaken to its core. Chrysler and General Motors went bankrupt. Billions of dollars were
spent wasted on government bailouts and funding Cash for Clunkers. Several historic GM brands were relegated to the morgue: Saturn, Pontiac and probably Saab. Hummer too, if the Chinese won't buy it.
Douglas A. McIntrye of 24/7 Wall Street has written, "Chrysler is going out of business. The company just hasn't made it official." Just look at its dismal sales and lack of new product.
Edmunds estimates 2009 vehicle sales at 10,383,000 units - a 21.3% decline from last year - the industry's lowest sales figure since Nixon's first term in 1970.
General Motors spent much of 2009 wishing that its Tech Center in Warren, MI would invent a time machine to go back 50 years to the auto industry of 1959 when The General was King.
GM went through two CEOs this year: Rick Wagoner - for crimes too numerous to mention - and Fritz Henderson - for reasons not explicitly stated. General Motors is reportedly interviewing a new potential CEO.
Robert Farago, founder of The Truth About Cars, has left for (hopefully) greener pastures and the site has been sliding downhill ever since - although I still check it daily.
The Chevrolet Volt is still not in production although I've figured out why that panel below its windows is painted black. Despite rumors of its demise, Mercury is still alive. For now. So are Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
The Economy: A year ago, I wrote that "this is going to be a fairly bad recession - the worst in over 25 years." Sadly, that was true by almost every benchmark. In 2010, credit markets will remain tight which will dampen consumer expenditures for autos, travel and housing.
The housing market will remain anemic and the construction industry depression will continue due to a weak residential real estate market and a nonexistent commercial segment.
I expect a sluggish-at-best recovery in 2010 and I believe the unemployment rate will stay near 10% for the entire year.
The phrase 'jobless recovery' will be next year's most popular phrase, followed closely by one describing a Kardashian female body part.
In 2009, there were a slew of bank failures (138 as of 12/18/09), including the Bank of Clark County in which we were shareholders. Expect an even greater number of bank closings in 2010 as the full impact of the commercial real estate collapse kicks in.
Politics: In 2008, Americans wanted 'Change', so they elected Barack Obama as president. So ... how's that workin' out for ya? Not too good, eh?
Many are experiencing Obama-Remorse, after realizing that the Great Healer is just a clueless leftie who is too easy with their money and not tough enough on terrorists and the nations that support 'em.
Obamites are disturbed by promises broken, hopes unfulfilled and 'change' they never expected.
O's presidential approval index (it's now at minus 18 or thereabouts) has fallen faster than Jon Gosselin's bank account balance. Or Mo’Nique's donut inventory.
Many have claimed that Barack Obama won the '08 election because people were "sick of George Bush." But now, if you Google 'Bush worst president', you'll get a mere 1,600,000 results versus 21,900,000 for 'Obama worst president'. What a difference a year makes.
Victor David Hanson chronicled the beginning of Barack's presidency, "Obama went on an apology tour abroad. He inflated the accomplishments of the Islamic world, magnified his own country's sins, and once again blamed Bush for America's global unpopularity." Obama likes finger-pointing rather than workable solutions. His anti-Israel stance surprised his Jewish supporters.
Many were appalled by the bowing to dictators and tyrants, the insults to our allies, the dancing around with Iran, the support of the Lie That Is Man-made Global Warming and the snub of the Dalai Lama. Tyrants of all sorts now thumb their noses at him. And us. North Korea challenges; China lectures about money management. Terrorists try to blow up our airplanes, laughing at our 'security measures'.
The President's poorly-managed stimulus program is a failure. His massive federal spending package and his plans to raise taxes scare the fiscally prudent. No one thought that closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay meant establishing Gitmo North in Porkulus, Illinois.
The there's the socialist health care plan, which the majority of Americans don't want. The ugly partisan maneuvers in Congress to get it passed along with the maudlin exhortation: "Do it for Teddy" - pitching the bill as a tribute to the late Senator Kennedy, brought a knowing smile to those who recognized the phrase as the very one used by the Ol' Drunk himself when he propositioned Georgetown cocktail waitresses.
Those who pinned their hopes and dreams on Obama as a "a new-frontier moderate, a JFK for the 21st century" have now deemed him Our Great National Disappointment.
Meanwhile Congress, as Dave Barry has noted, "finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it."
Want 'Change'? Watch the 2010 Congressional elections.
Passings: Deaths this year include wrestler Captain Lou Albano, John S. Barry - the man who made WD-40 a household name, news anchor Walter Cronkite, lovable funnyman Dom DeLuise, former Angel Farrah Fawcett, veteran character actor and fellow Prepper Henry Gibson, legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey, Lawrence Henry - a writer at The American Spectator, Cheryl Holdridge - once the little blond Mouseketeer with the big smile, weirdster and probable child molester Michael Jackson, one-time vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, liberal icon and water enthusiast Teddy Kennedy, Nicholas Kueny - renowned math teacher and athletic trainer at Philadelphia's St. Joe's Prep.
Also gone: Tonight Show sidekick and commercial pitchman Ed McMahon, actor Karl Malden - his prominent proboscis inspired the design of the latest Acura TL, Godfather crooner Al Martino, TV huckster Billy Mays, actor Ricardo Montalban, conservative columnist Robert Novak, guitar legend Les Paul, Bert Peterson, hilarious kiddie-show host Soupy Sales, actors Ron Silver and Arnold Stang, Gale Storm - star of the 1952-55 TV series My Little Margie, actor Patrick Swazye, singer Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary, Rabbit novelist John Updike, award-winning novelist Donald E. Westlake and actor James Whitmore.
In 2009, we said goodbye to Chastity Bono's female gender. Apparently, she now sports some kind of mangina.
Corporate corpses (as well as the severely comatose) include Interlink, the parent of Motor Trend, Hot Rod and Automobile (bankruptcy), Buddy Greco's Dinner Club in Palm Springs area, McCormick & Schmick's original downtown Portland restaurant, Philadelphia's Old Original Bookbinder's, the legendary 116 year-old Society Hill restaurant, General Growth Properties Inc., the second-largest shopping mall owner (bankruptcy), Gottschalks Inc., a venerable Western department store chain, German car body manufacturer Karmann, legendary Portland appliance retailer 'Tom Peterson's (and Gloria's Too!)' and chemical colossus Rohm & Haas (merged into oblivion as a Dow subsidiary).
Icon of my car-crazed youth, Crane Cams, has been shuttered; Ritz Camera Centers, the largest camera-store chain in the U.S., went Chapter 11. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News declared bankruptcy as did Vancouver, WA's Columbian and the Sun-Times Media Group, owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and dozens of suburban newspapers. Germany's venerable and iconic model train manufacturer, Märklin also filed for bankruptcy.
Local obituaries include the Bank of Clark County, Joe's Sports & Outdoor (formerly G.I. Joe's), Koplan's Home Furnishings in downtown Vancouver and Studer's Floor Covering. Jennifer's Cafe in Battle Ground quietly closed, probably because it opened too quietly and was mostly unknown. Kmart said it would shutter its only Clark County store after the first of the year.
Everything Else: This was a year of surprises. Tiger Woods turned out to be a serial philanderer. Meredith Baxter came out as a lesbian. Sixty-nine year-old music producer, former member of the Teddy Bears, convicted murderer and all-around creep Phil Spector is now doing prison time.
Father Damien, the Catholic priest who served in the Hawaiian leper colony on Molokai, was canonized, making him the first saint whose statue is in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol.
In 2009, water was found on the moon. Yet people are still thirsty. In 2010, I hope to make money from this phenomenon. With the ruination of health care and the probable demise of Medicare Advantage, I'll need all the revenue I can get.
There was good news in '09:
• Osteoporosis - the leading cause of health problems in the elderly - may become a thing of the past. A new compound (denosumab) - now under review by the FDA - appears to stop the formation of those bone-gnawing cells.
• A planeload of lives were saved in January when heroic pilot Chesley Sullenberger successfully ditched a US Airways passenger jet in the Hudson River. The 155 survivors dubbed the feat 'The Miracle on the Hudson.'
• Toyota announced that it will increase it production to 7.5 million cars and light trucks in 2010 - about a million units below 2007 but a significant improvement over '08 and '09. A good omen for the economy.
• And finally, bon vivant child molester Roman Polanski was arrested and jailed.
A Christmas Prayer
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus' sake.
May the Peace and Blessings
of Christmas be with you.
Wednesday December 23, 2009
Our Automotive Savior: Coming home from church, I was stuck behind an early-'90s Cutlass Ciera. It was either gray or once-upon-a-time silver (before the weather got to it). Driven at 10 mph below the limit by some seventy-something geezer, the Ciera had - right next to the ABS badge on the trunklid - a chrome script emblem spelling out 'Jesus'.
Having lots of time to think as I witnessed the world's slowest reaction time at every stoplight, I wondered, "What would an 'ABS Jesus' be like?" Stopping sin in an instant, perhaps. Keeping you on the straight and narrow while you slow down your life to appreciate the little things.
Then the road opened up to a four-lane highway and I zoomed past.
If I were given a choice, I think I'd prefer to follow a turbocharged Jesus.
Mall Desperation: James Lileks has described one shopping mall as seeming crowded "because the main floor was full of temporary kiosks, which gave the place a rather jumbled, desperate feel, like a souk set up in a warehouse to trade things after civilization had collapsed."
Meanwhile, Doug McIntyre has reported, "The e-commerce industry posted its first $900 million day, ever ... on December 15, e-commerce sales hit $913 million. The surge held put holiday online sales up 4% to almost $24.8 million through the week ending December 18. So far this year, the spending on nine days has risen above $800 million.
E-commerce will almost certainly ... (more >>>)
Why Room Rates Are Falling: Hotels now have the "lowest occupancy rate (annual) since the Great Depression." (Approximately 55% for 2009.)
In the Chicago area, the 466-room Wyndham O'Hare in Rosemont is being shuttered around January 1st. The Sheraton Chicago Northwest in Arlington Heights will close by December 28th. The Wyndham Drake Hotel in Oak Brook closed last October. Reasons cited were a dearth of business travelers, a drop in convention trade and lack of financing.
Last week, I was at a waterfront hotel in Portland. This establishment is right off I-5, has a 'name' restaurant and is part of a well-known chain. It was dead. I expected to see a lot of lunch traffic - vendors taking customers out for a nice meal, holiday parties, etc. Nada.
On the plus side, I found a great parking spot near the front door - handy, because it was pouring rain at the time.
Oh No. Boss Cat Is Gone: Arnold Stang, the ubiquitous character actor variously described as 'nerdy', 'Milquetoasty' 'brash' and 'having an annoying' nasal voice', has died at age 91.
I remember him best from watching on the old 'Milton Berle Show' as a child, the cartoon series 'Top Cat' as a teenager and - as an adult - the movie 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World', where Arnold played one of the hilarious service station owners.
Then there were the many times I heard his annoying voice in the Chunky candy bar commercials. "What a chunk of chocolate." Arnold did a lot of voice-over work. So, I guess now Ben Stein will be making more money than ever.
Rest In Peace, Mr. Stang.
Once Upon An Aerotrain: I've already written about the stylish but impractical General Motors Aerotrain. And I've previously mentioned that I have an model of the Pennsylvania Railroad Aerotrain on my layout. Now you can view a 2.5 minute video of my O-gauge PRR Aerotrain model in operation:
Keeping the iPod nano video camera steady is a challenge. For one shot, I created a tripod substitute using a cereal box (for height) and a wooden clothespin clipped to the nano (for stability).
Saved By A Child: Here's a remarkable Christmas story from 1948. A miracle, if you will. God works in mysterious ways.
"I told her that medical science had gone as far as it could go. As I explained why in detail, she listened with a quiet dignity and an amazing resignation. I told her that her Creator now had the final verdict. It might not be what either of us wanted, but it would be the best for her under the circumstances. Amazingly, she was still alive on Christmas Eve ..."
Read the whole thing. (hat tip: Charles G. Hill)
Quote of the Day is from Victor Borge: "Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year."
Monday December 21, 2009
It's Official: Saab is dead. GM plans to "wind down operations in an orderly and responsible manner." Saab now joins Saturn and Pontiac on the list brands to disappear in this tumultuous year for the global auto industry and GM in particular. The sale of Hummer to a Chinese company still not a done deal.
The 1950s was an even tougher decade for car marques. In 1951, the last Frazer was produced. 1952 saw the last Crosley roll of the line. In 1954, the Henry J was discontinued. 1955 was the final year for Kaiser and Willys automobiles. In 1957, the Nash and Hudson nameplates disappeared.
Don't get me started on the 1930s.
Weather Report: Snowy weather in France and England was the cause of four trains getting trapped in the undersea Channel Tunnel linking France and Britain (two were high-speed Eurostar passenger trains).
There was a blizzard on the East Coast over the weekend - it dumped two feet of snow in parts of the Washington, D.C. area, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The system, which stretched from the Carolinas north to New England, crippled travel across the region and left hundreds of thousands of customers without power. And winter didn't officially arrive until today.
Meanwhile, the global warming conference in Denmark was a bust. Are you surprised?
By the way, we're only getting rain around here. We received our 10-year quota of snow last year - see my December 22, 2008 posting.
Christmas Memories: In 1947, my dad gave me a wonderful Christmas present - a huge three-level Lionel train layout. It had been built in the basement of our small Philadelphia row home and, because it was too big to carry up the basement stairs, was taken out the back door and around the block to the front of our house. It barely fit through the doorway, even after the storm door and front door had been removed. It took up a large portion of our living room.
I was too young to appreciate all of the effort that my dad put into it. He worked a regular job (45 to 50 hours per week) with the Pennsylvania Railroad and produced this three-level layout in his spare time without using power tools of any kind. Every piece of wood was hand-sawn, every hole was hand-drilled and all burlap was hand-tacked. Watered-down plaster was applied by brush to create the snowy ground.
For me, the most memorable train on that layout was a colorful, prewar Lionel Hiawatha passenger set.
When I decided to build an O-gauge layout ten years ago, my first acquisition was an identical set - a 1988 reissue of the 1935 Lionel classic streamliner. I replaced its anemic whistle (considered a technological wonder back in '35) with a QSI sound and train control system, which included a realistic digital whistle, steam loco chugging and puffing sounds and a 'station stop' sequence with announcements.
Last weekend, I shot some video with my iPod nano, capturing the sights and sounds of this nostalgic set on my layout:
For The Person Who Has Everything ... or for Tiger Woods: A London law firm is selling Christmas gift vouchers for divorce advice. Lloyd Platt & Company, which normally charges 325 pounds ($530) an hour, said it had been swamped with inquiries since it launched the vouchers early last week.
So far, more than 60 have been sold - a steal at 125 pounds for a half-hour session with a divorce lawyer. The firm's founder, Vanessa Lloyd Platt, said she had been amazed at the response to the vouchers. "They seem to appeal to an enormously widespread spectrum of people looking for that 'must have' gift for Christmas."
Ripping Dissertation: A recent article in Plastics Distributor & Fabricator magazine extolled the benefits of print media. Unfortunately, I can't provide any details because the Post Office ripped the page almost in half.
Publishing - it's not just about content; it's also about content delivery. At least the U.S. Postal Service has kept their mitts off the web. So far.
I'm Not A Big Fan Either: James Lileks has opined about Sinatra: "Never liked Frank. I'll be honest: Frank was a jerk, and he's overrated. Half the songs for which he's beloved have more to do with orchestration and the fact that he was singing wistful songs at the uh-oh-my-prostate age."
Yeah, and that Sinatra - after all those years of booze and cigarettes - could still stand upright while wearing a tux at age 80. BFD.
Bad Pun Of The Day: One of Santa's helpers was sent to a therapist because he seemed depressed. Diagnosis: Low Elf Esteem.
Friday December 18, 2009
Dreams For Sale: At least three vintage concept cars are coming up for auction in Arizona next month.
RM Auctions will offer the 1956 Chrysler Plainsman station wagon and the 1954 Mercury XM-800. These two one-offs look like cousins; the Chrysler has a very Ford look about it. RM is also offering a 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt in bright green with the characteristic lightning bolt on the side and a novel retractable steel top. It is one of five produced.
Four years ago, RM sold a red '41 Thunderbolt for $1,210,000. (permalink)
Worst Idea Of The Year: The Smart Car Woodie Package. The only thing needed to complete the horror would be a fiberglass faux '37 Ford-style snout, a Continental kit and a giant nickel-plated wind-up key. (hat tip: Auto Prophet)
To Tell The Truth: Writing in the Asia Times, the ever-insightful Spengler doesn't believe the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics "official" unemployment figure of 10%. He makes an excellent case, citing 10 solid reasons for his skepticism.
Excerpt: "The level of un- and underemployment is so huge by historical standards as to make the usual sort of measurement questionable. With nearly 20% of the population unable to find proper work, there is a different sort of workforce. The vast majority of job creation in the US during the past two generations came from small businesses, which display only vaguely on the radar of government agencies as well as the bigger private surveys. The financial crisis killed small entrepreneurs as surely as Joseph Stalin killed the kulaks, and the roots of the economy are dead and dry."
In Local News: Clark County Washington's unemployment rate was 13.2%, up from a revised 12.7% in October and 8% in November 2008.
The Decline Of America: Dan Riehl has presented a credible but pessimistic outlook, "In previous waves of immigration, we got assimilation because teachers, politicians, media, etc. believed in it, and thought America as it was an indisputably good thing, and thus acted accordingly. This time, they feel differently, and act differently, and so we get different results.
Multi-culturalism, combined with immigration and birth demographics are on track to end the America we've know for over two-hundred years. That's not a political opinion, it's driven by numbers far more solid than the ones holding up the climate conspiracy.
It also likely has a great deal to do with why blacks never enjoyed much benefit from the civil rights movement of the sixties. It came couched in this same misguided progressivism that is destroying traditional America today. Blacks as a whole, particularly inside the cities where they are captive to the liberal/progressive political machine, weren't told to celebrate equality and become part of America. They were encouraged to stand apart from it.
America will survive. It's just not clear what it's going to look like politically, economically, and so forth. I'm just glad I knew her when and won't be around to fully see what it becomes."
I hope and pray that the U.S. becomes a true melting pot again, full of just-plain Americans, not hyphenated ones.
Restaurant Review: Laurelwood Public House & Brewery: Battle Ground, WA.
We were there on the day it opened and have been back several times since.
It's a nice friendly place with very good food located in the newly opened Battle Ground Village complex. I like ... (more >>>)
Where Have All The Great American Novelists Gone? To the internet, apparently. Consider this delightful parody - a perfume review for Dior's Addict fragrance posted on Amazon.com: "It paints a picture of an evening spent at the carnival set up in the parking lot at Sears in the 1970s, when I was fifteen and wearing tube tops with overalls to flirt with the carnies. Redolent of Marlboro light, cotton candy, tilt-a-whirls, the Himalaya ('barracccuuuudaa!'), and maybe a rum and coke washed down in the GTO beforehand. When I put this on, I feel my IQ drop 30 points, but my boobs are perkier."
God Has A Sense Of Humor: World leaders flying into Copenhagen to discuss global warming will be greeted with 4 inches of snow and freezing weather.
"Temperatures will stay low at least the next three days," said an official at Denmark's Meteorological Institute, said, forecasting more snow. "There's a good chance of a white Christmas."
Bad Pun of the Day: Sign at a nudist camp: 'Sorry - Clothed for Winter.'
Wednesday December 16, 2009
Customer From Hell: TMZ has reported that the auto leasing and buying service where singer Paul Anka gets his vehicles is fed up with Anka's soon to be ex-wife, Anna.
Eric Brooks, president of L.A. Car Connection, sent Paul a letter to comfort him during the big split ... by describing Anna as one of the most foul-mouthed, over-the-top and unreasonable people on the planet.
Brooks offered details:
• "I have never heard so much (sic) vulgar words and profanity come out of someone's mouth within a 30 second episode."
• "She left her lights on and her battery was dead and really tried to blame it on the 'piece of **** car' she bought."
• "When I recommended that she (get new tires) because I could see the metal sticking out of the tires ... She blamed it on the piece of **** car ... a Mercedes Benz S63."
Brooks concluded the letter with, "I can assure you that you deserve much better."
As Predicable As Toilet Paper Shipments To A Mexican Dysentery Ward: Goldman Sachs senior investment strategist and perpetual optimist Abby Joseph Cohen, who looks more and more like the late James Whitmore - of 'The Shawshank Redemption' and Miracle-Gro fame - is, once again, officially bullish on the stock market. I don't know if she has ever been bearish.
Cohen recently noted that the current stock market picture is "muddled", but "nicer", and still "a reasonably good environment" for investors. Which I think means 'All Signs Point To Yes'. Or something.
In early 2008, Ms. Cohen confidently predicted that the Dow would roar back and finish 2008 at 14,750. The Dow-Jones Industrial Average ended the year at 8,776.
Beware Of Bad Brokers: Malcolm Berko, the wizened, school-of-hard-knocks, 71 year-old investment advice columnist, recently received an inquiry which began: "I'm 66 years old, retired at 59 with $682,000 in a rollover IRA, which is now worth $417,000, from which my wife and I take out $1,000 per month to supplement our two pensions. But in the last year, we stopped taking money from this account because it has done so badly. We've had two brokers in the last seven years, both nice young men who use their companies' research to manage my IRA."
Nice young men, eh? At best, they and their firms are idiots. At worst - crooks. During the time period cited, my IRA has almost doubled in value. I'm not bragging about my investment prowess; every year since '02 (when the letter writer turned 59) has been an up year for the stock market - except 2008, when the S&P 500 declined by 37%. But it's up over 26% in 2009 so far.
Even with 6 years of $12K/yr withdrawals, this guy should have an IRA worth close to $1 mm by now.
The lesson here is to choose carefully when looking for investment help. Investigate before you invest.
Mmmmmm ... Bacon: Vegans beware. Genetic changes that apparently allow humans to live longer than any other primate may be rooted in a more carnivorous diet. These changes may also promote brain development and make us less vulnerable to diseases of aging, such as cancer, heart disease and dementia.
As Robert Mitchum used to say, "Beef. It's what's for dinner."
Caterwauling Frog Update: Jeremy Clarkson and I agree about Bob Dylan. Clarkson has written, "Some say he is the heart of modern music. But I don't think he's even the stomach lining. He's just an annoying wart on the gall bladder of rock'n'roll. Certainly, I'd never tire of flushing everything he's written or recorded down the lavatory.
Even when he's doing a happy song, he always manages to sound so bloody miserable, like a widower trying to be cheerful at his wife's funeral.
And when he's being down in the dumps, which is usually, I can't understand why he would want to inflict his bad mood on everyone else. If I want to feel sad, I'll poison my donkeys. It'd be better than listening to Bob droning on."
Back in 2005 (3/23/05), I wrote, "Bob Dylan's success is a mystery to me. He is an ugly, pretentious man with an adenoidal frog's voice, singing trite lyrics unintelligibly."
Quote Of The Day is from Jim Treacher: "The job of the media is to reluctantly report the news it can't ignore anymore & then explain why it wasn't important in the first place."
Tuesday December 15, 2009
I Sing the Body Electric: Toyota announced yesterday that it plans to begin commercial sales of its first plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2011, aiming to meet growing demand for fuel-efficient cars. The plug-in hybrid runs 14+ miles in the electric mode alone on one charge and has an average fuel efficiency 85% greater than a conventional Prius.
Toyota describes the new vehicle as ''affordable'', upping the ante on General Motors' Chevy Volt which is expected to carry a Cadillac-like price tag. This may mean that GM is DOA with its Volt and any overpriced (and overhyped) electro-hybrid variation.
But ... please remain calm everyone, because GM has now developed a Chevrolet Volt musical dance routine.
Didn't the orchestra keep playing after the Titanic hit that iceberg?
It's Magic: My wife bought me an early Christmas gift - an iPod nano. This device, smaller than a business card, can hold over 4,000 songs in its 16 gigabyte memory. (I have less than 1,400 songs in my iTunes library; I'm not sure that there are 4,000 songs I'd want to listen to.)
The nano also has a video camera with a tiny, pinhole-sized, fixed-focus lens which shoots in widescreen format. A built-in mic captures audio.
In addition to the standard ear pods, my wife gave me an adapter so that I can play the iPod audio through my car's speaker system. As well as a tabletop speaker dock so that I can play it like a table radio.
I tried out the video function by shooting my train layout. Everything was filmed handheld in ambient light. I took the raw footage and edited it with iMovie (on my recently-purchased iMac computer). I created a background music track using Apple's GarageBand. Then I published the video on YouTube:
PS: I had never used the iMovie or GarageBand software before and this is my first posting on YouTube. If you're over 60, all new technology is a form of magic. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Morgan at the House of Eratosthenes: "Most of us want to be capitalists on payday, and Marxists on the day before."
Monday December 14, 2009
Big Bed Winner: The 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty has been named Motor Trend Truck of the Year, apparently because the bed is large enough to haul all unsold issues of MT in the L.A. area to a recycling center.
Between the time Motor Trend went to press and now, Chrysler changed the name from 'Dodge Ram' to 'Ram'.
Royal Jerk: Britain's Prince Philip once mocked a hero Army cadet blinded by a terrorist explosion by poking fun at his dress sense.
The Queen asked brave Stephen Menary how much sight he had left, but before he could answer, the gaffe-prone Duke of Edinburgh joked: ''Not a lot, judging by the tie he is wearing.''
Philip's tasteless joke was met "with an embarrassed silence all-round and Her Majesty gave her husband a disapproving glare."
Not Me. I'm Holding Out For Zombie Reagan: 44% of Americans would now prefer to have George Bush back as President.
The Gift Of The Wal-Magi: Gerard Van der Leun visited a Wal-Mart and was amazed that "amidst three or four circular racks, I saw a selection in blue, grey, black, green, and red of bright and shiny new winter coats. Above the racks was the simple sign in red and it said: '$7'."
He purchased one. "Perfect fit. Smoothly made. Ample pockets. Serious zipper for closing. Nice shade of blue. And reversible to another nice shade of lighter blue with ample pockets on that side as well. I zipped it up and felt my temperature rise until it was uncomfortable to keep on."
"I can't get over it. A winter coat for $7? The Goodwill won't sell you a dead man's old winter coat for $7."
Headline OF The Week ... so far, is from The People's Cube: 'Time editors still undecided who to select as 'Barack of the Year' in 2009'.
Joke Of The Day (courtesy of my son): A guy goes into a restaurant for a Christmas breakfast while in his home town for the holidays. After looking over the menu he says, "I'll just have the eggs Benedict."
His order arrives, served on a big, shiny hubcap. He asks the waiter, "What's with the hubcap?"
The waiter sings, "There's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise!"
Friday December 11, 2009
Seems I've Heard This Before: In a New York Times article, the new head of General Motors says the company is now going to make the bestest cars ever.
"Our mission is to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles," said "temporary" CEO Ed Whitacre to 800 employees last Friday at GM's Technical Center in Warren, MI. He looked out to the assembled audience and asked sternly, "Will you all repeat that for me?" Various designers, engineers and project managers stared forlornly at their shoes, shuffled their feet and mumbled, "Yes, Mr. Whitacre."
Ed and other new board members are eager to accelerate a number of product programs. One person "close to the deliberations" said directors had felt that the timetable of vehicles in development was too slow, with many models slated for 2013 and 2014 rather than sooner. Faster-tracked projects now include the Chevy Volt hybrid and a new Cadillac described as "a BMW 3-Series fighter." Apparently, it is felt that rushing things will somehow help produce the "world's best vehicles."
In various pronouncements, 68 year-old Whitacre employed tired, prior-century management clichés like "accountability", "responsibility", "taking risks," "in yer hat, bub," "sez you" and "twenty-three skidoo."
General Motors: overpromising and underdelivering for almost 40 years. Oh sure, they make some awful crapmobiles but they give really great pep talks.
Jobless Recovery? According to the most recent Business Roundtable survey, 68% Of the CEO respondents expected their companies' sales to increase over the next 6 months, but only 19% thought their U.S. employment would increase. 31% thought their employment would decrease.
A poll by the Institute for Supply Management found service companies, which now account for almost 90% of the economy, forecast additional job cuts in 2010.
Over the past 22 months, almost 7.2 million net U.S. jobs have been lost, including more than 2.1 million manufacturing jobs and almost 1.6 million construction jobs.
Buyers' Remorse: Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling has noted, "Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama's declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they'd rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that's somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country's difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited."
Jensen also reported, "Support for Obama on health care has hit another new low with just 39% of voters now expressing approval of his health care plans and 52% opposed. 90% of respondents who said they were opposed to Obama's plan said it was because it involved the government too much in health care with just 6% saying their opposition was because it didn't create enough government involvement."
Do The Opposite: Nine days ago, I sent a letter to Senator Patty Murray, asking, "Please stop spending so much money, Senator", noting that the federal government "is spending an astonishing 2.3 times what it earns."
In response, Senator Murray announced that "$113,444,557 has been released in grants by the U.S. Department of Transportation for mass transit projects in Washington state. The grants were funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and will be put to use improving transportation and creating jobs in Washington state." This funding comes from the nearly $700 million for Washington state transportation infrastructure that Senator Murray fought to include in the recovery package.
In the same letter, I also raised my concerns about the misguided health care bill being constructed in the Senate. On Wednesday, I saw Senator Murray on television speaking in support of the free abortion portion of the proposed Senate health care
Speaking of health care, yesterday's Fox News poll shows that 57% oppose the health-care reform legislation.
Early Christmas Present: U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) has announced he will not seek a seventh term in Congress next year. Michael Barone has described the 3rd District which my congressman represents: "His district has few of the urbanite left-wingers who dominate politics in Seattle or of the culturally liberal techies thick on the ground in the eastern and northern Seattle suburbs."
"Its biggest county is Clark County, across the Columbia River from Portland, the second fastest-growing county in Washington state this decade. One of the attractions of Clark County is that you can live there in Washington state which has no income tax and then cross over the bridge and shop in Oregon which has no sales tax: historically blue collar country that is now taxophobic. Over half the 3rd district's residents live in Clark County, and this seems likely to be tea party country - and Baird denounced the tea parties in vitriolic terms ('brownshirt tactics', reminiscent of the anger that led to Timothy McVeigh) earlier this year."
Interesting conservative contenders for Baird's seat include former Marine David Hedrick of Camas, who won national notoriety after he challenged Baird at an August town hall meeting on health care reform and Jaime Herrera, a Hispanic state legislator and hottie.
The War On Fox: National Public Radio gets its name because it is mostly publicly funded ... via your taxes. Typically, NPR member stations raise funds through on-air pledge drives, corporate underwriting, and grants from state governments, universities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting itself. NPR's Arbitron audience reach is less than 3% of the nation.
Mara Liasson is National Public Radio's top political correspondent. She also helps hold down the left flank on panels where she appears as a Fox News contributor such as 'Special Report with Bret Baier'. While I don't always agree with her, she presents her views cogently and with an insider's perspective. Josh Gerstein of Politico has reported that NPR management has asked Liasson to reconsider her appearances on Fox News because of what they perceive - in accord with the teaching of the Obama administration - as the network's political bias.
Powerline has more details: "According to a source, Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR's executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the network's supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. The NPR executives said they had concerns that Fox's programming had grown more partisan, and they asked Liasson to spend 30 days watching the network."
At the end of the 30 days, Liasson was undoubtedly expected to engage in rigorous self-criticism, but so far it hasn't worked out that way: "At a follow-up meeting last month, Liasson reported that she'd seen no significant change in Fox's programming and planned to continue appearing on the network, the source said."
Good for her. And shame on NPR, which ought to be disbanded as a liberally-biased waste of taxpayer money. If it disappeared, no-talent Garrison Keillor would vanish into the obscurity of the prairie.
PS: My car buddy Kris S. has written about Keillor: "I saw him give a live performance once and it was like watching paint dry."
Joke Of The Week comes courtesy of my car buddy, Ed G. Q: What does Tiger Woods have in common with baby seals? A: They're both clubbed by Scandinavians.
Holiday Fact: The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
Wednesday December 9, 2009
Black Bess Redux: Every time I read something about the oft-promised, over-hyped, yet-to-be-delivered Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, I am reminded of Packard's Black Bess - there are just soooo many parallels ... (more >>>)
Who Knew? The gayest 30-second car commercial I've ever seen is for Buick. I need to go wash out my eyes now.
Silver Lining: 24/7 Wall Street has listed 10 brands that will disappear in 2010. One of them is Newsweek; its advertising fell 29.9% through the first three quarters of 2009. The magazine has lost almost $30 million so far this year.
The audience of Newsweek.com has dropped 15% in the last year to 1.3 million unique visitors a month in October, compared with Slate's more than 3.8 million visitors during the same period.
On the other hand, if Newsweek folds, Eleanor Clift may be unemployed. See ... there's always good news if you look hard enough.
Why Are So Many Atheists Jerks? In Ashland, OR, an elementary school has removed a holiday giving tree - set up to help needy students - after one family was apparently offended and complained that the tree was "a religious symbol." By the way, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that holiday trees are not religious symbols and that they can legally be displayed in schools.
Not Surprising: According to a report in The Onion, a study published "in The Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry has concluded that an estimated 98 percent of children under the age of 10 are remorseless sociopaths with little regard for anything other than their own egocentric interests and pleasures."
Quote Of The Day is from Frank Zappa: "Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."
Monday December 7, 2009
Bad Cars Cause Global Warming: I offer the following as evidence:
• In 1934, Chrysler offered the iconically ugly, unsuccessful Airflow. In 1934, the New York Times reported, "New Evidence Supports Geology's View That the Arctic Is Growing Warmer."
• Studebaker sullied the reputation of its 'European-look' line by introducing the tall, ungainly and poorly-built '54 Studebaker Conestoga station wagon. A 1954 NYT article carried this ungainly sentence: "The particular point of inquiry concerns whether the ice is melting at such a rate as to imperil low-lying coastal areas through raising the level of the sea in the near future."
• The Edsel was introduced as a 1958 model. New York Times headline from the same year: "At present, the Arctic ice pack is melting away fast. Some estimates say that it is 40 per cent thinner and 12 per cent smaller than it was fifteen years [ago]."
• The Ford Pinto made its debut in the 1971 model year. In 1971, the Times noted, "Study Says Man Alters Climate; U.N. Report Links Melting of Polar Ice to His Activities."
• The 1982 model year saw the appearance of the awkwardly-styled Ford EXP two-seater coupe. The New York Times wrote awkwardly, "Because of global heating attributed to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from fuel burning, about 20,000 cubic miles of polar ice has melted in the past 40 years, apparently contributing to a rise in sea levels."
• In 2004, the Times opined, "There is an awful lot of Arctic and glacial ice melting." General Motors opined, "America will love our new small car - the (awful) Chevrolet Aveo."
I rest my case.
Headline Of The Week - so far - is from Justin Berkowitz at MetaCars; 'Lincoln Changes Company Name to MKL, VP Mark Fields Now Called MKF'.
Excerpts: "The Mark series cars were always the most successful, interesting Lincolns. As a contrast, Lincolns with real names have negative customer associations: Towncars are just big taxis. The Navigator hasn't been cool since the Escalade came out. The Continental was once popular, but then Kennedy got shot in one," MKF explained.
"Most recently, Lincoln has renamed virtually all of its models MK-something. The Zephyr became the MKZ, the Aviator became the MKX, the Blackwood became the Mark LT, and the Ford Taurus became the MKS." (permalink)
Limousine Liberals: During the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, attendees seem to be doing their best to change the climate ... for the worse.
During the "summit to save the world," the total number of limos in Copenhagen has already broken the 1,200 barrier. The French alone rang up last Thursday and ordered another 42. "We haven't got enough limos in the country to fulfil the demand," says Majken Friss Jorgensen, managing director of Copenhagen's biggest limousine company. "We're having to drive them in hundreds of miles from Germany and Sweden."
The total number of electric cars or hybrids among that number? "Five," says Ms. Jorgensen.
The airport says it is expecting up to 140 extra private jets during the peak period alone, so far over its parking capacity that the planes will have to fly off to regional airports or to Sweden to park, returning to Copenhagen to pick up their VIP passengers.
The late, great Mr. Rogers would surely have asked, "Can you say 'carbon footprint'?"
All Aboard: At Christmas time, stories about trains (toy trains, model railroading, The Polar Express and Thomas the Tank Engine) move to the forefront in the minds of many wanna-be railroad engineers - young and old.
Thomas the Tank Engine is the most widely-known fictional locomotive in the world. Thomas is based on the books written by an English cleric, Reverend Wilbert Awdry. He wrote the first one in 1945, basing it on stories he made up to entertain his children.
Most people know Thomas and his friends from the television series produced using handmade O-gauge model trains filmed on 70+ detailed sets in ... (more >>>)
Behind The Red Door: Over the last several years, there has been much turmoil in the Episcopal Church, involving gay marriage, ordained women, doctrinal issues, etc. Adding to the disruption are the various pronouncements by Dr. Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury - the head of the Anglican/Episcopalian fellowship. Just after 9/11, he wrote that terrorists "can have serious moral goals."
The archbishop is ... (more >>>)
Who's In Charge Of Your Health? I've made fun of Carly Fiorina in the past over her tenure at Hewlett Packard but, after a life-threatening bout with breast cancer, she is eminently qualified to speak out on the travesty that is government-run health care. Video here. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Sarah Palin: "If the election had turned out differently, I could be the one overseeing the signing of bailout checks and Vice President Biden could be on the road selling his book, 'Going Rogaine'."
Friday December 4, 2009
License To Print Money: If you're a car guy, you've been exposed a seemingly endless supply of auto-branded merchandise. Some of it is clever and tasteful; other offerings are pure dreck. Why, you might ask, are manufacturers so prolific in licensing their good name? The answer is simple - money.
Consider General Motors, a company which struggles - with little success these days - to make a profit. In 2008, GM was the 11th largest licensor in the U.S., pulling in $3.4 billion in fees. Those ahead of GM included Disney (number one at $26 billion annually), Calvin Klein, Izod, Warner Brothers (which makes money every time some jerk buys a pair of those Yosemite Sam 'Back Off' mudflaps for his truck), Marvel Comics, Nickelodeon (hello, Sponge Bob) and Major League Baseball.
For GM, most of that $3.4 billion revenue is pure profit because the main expenses are a small legal staff, a clerical compliance group and a few engineers and archivists to supply photos and/or blueprints. The merchandise suppliers do all the rest - design, manufacturing, distribution and financing.
Want to put a '38 Buick image on a hooded sweatshirt? You have to pay GM a piece of your action. But you might not have to pay if you use a '38 LaSalle. GM was deemed to have abandoned the LaSalle automobile mark according to one court finding.
Pontiac may be dead but every time anyone buys a Trans Am T-shirt or a scale model of a '64 GTO, GM still gets a profitable cut.
Strong brands make money even after they're gone. Just ask the Presley family. (permalink)
Black Market Jag: Jaguar has announced that the new XJ sedan will be making its 'entertainment debut' with a 'high profile role' in the new Jay-Z video for his new single: On to the next one. The video will be released in January.
Flatlining: Former Wall Streeter and financial analyst Bruce Krasting has written, "I was talking to a friend who is a contractor. He's been in business for a long time and has a good reputation. Renovations, additions, a custom built house now and then were his specialty. In the good times he had three crews working full time and a payroll of $20 grand a week. The good times are over. I asked him how is business was going. His response, 'It stinks.'"
There's a lot more to Bruce's article as he goes from a micro to a macro look at the U.S. economy. He forecasts that "the economic recovery for the next few years will be anemic at best."
His story hit home with me. Literally. In the past seven years, we've spent almost ... (more >>>)
Grim Outlook: A Goldman Sachs report predicts that unemployment won't peak until mid-2011 at 10.75% or so.
Convene A Tumor Board But Don't Invite Any Doctors: Yesterday, the White House held a Jobs Summit. In attendance were a large number of union executives and academics who gave heavily to President Obama's 2008 campaign. Also attending was Anna Burger, secretary treasurer of Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education or SEIU COPE, a political action committee that gave over $29 million to Obama between February 2008 and September 2009.
Neither the U.S. Chamber of Commerce nor the National Federation of Independent Business were invited.
Evan Newmark of the Wall Street Journal has written, "And so the jobs summit will fail for the same reason Obamanomics is failing: The White House mistakenly believes economic growth and new jobs are created by society's stakeholders - business, labor and government - cooperatively working together.
But that's not the way capitalism works. It doesn't take a village to create a new job. It takes a businessman trying to make another buck." Amen, brother.
"A 'real' jobs summit would focus on how American businesses can win globally. A 'real' jobs summit would consider why Texas can compete for jobs and California can't. A 'real' jobs summit would look at permanent corporate and payroll tax cuts. And a 'real' jobs summit would actually embrace debate, not stifle it."
But that didn't happen. Because yesterday's circle jerk was all about style, not substance. And, perhaps, something more sinister.
PS: If you want to know why Texas works and California doesn't, go here.
And Furthermore ... John Stossel has written, "The Constitution announced that American would be a country of limited government. That provided the simple and understandable rules that allowed America to grow into the richest country ever.
Today's political class thinks that they can improve on that, but they can't. Their micromanagement kills jobs. When Washington threatens to drastically change the rules of the game with health care mandates, cap and trade, financial regulation, a second stimulus, and (of course) a "jobs bill", the private sector can't make investments with any confidence."
Ironic Quip Of The Week is from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show: "Poor Al Gore. Global warming completely debunked via the very Internet you invented."
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand."
Thursday December 3, 2009
It's A Winner: I predict that the new, stylish and impressive 2011 Hyundai Sonata, will - within two years after introduction - outsell either the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry in the family sedan market. Or maybe both of them. Wow. Just wow. Cool car.
Update (12/9/09): AutoExtremist Peter DeLorenzo has written, "The most talked about car at the L.A. Auto Show, hands down? No it wasn't the minimalist Porsche Boxster Spyder, or the Buick Regal, or Chevy Cruze or Cadillac CTS Coupe, or even the new Ford Fiesta. It was the fourth-generation 2011 Hyundai Sonata. It's that good. Scary good, in fact."
Dear Patty: On Wednesday, I received an automated phone call from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), inviting me to "a telephone town hall meeting that's going on right now."
Since, I didn't want to spend my life in 'telephone hold hell', I hung up and wrote the senator a letter instead.
Out Late: Meredith Baxter, who once played the hot mom on the 1980's sitcom 'Family Ties', has announced she's a lesbian. She told NBC's 'The Today Show' that she discovered she was gay seven years ago, several years after her divorce from her third husband. Ah, that gives some degree of comfort, I'm certain, to those three confused ex-hubbies.
Meredith, Mistress of the Understatement, noted, "I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships." Well, duh - that explains it all then. "I am a lesbian, and it was a later-in-life recognition. I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening."
She was once so paranoid over possible media exposure of her secret, that she asked her girlfriend of four years, building contractor Nancy Locke - who was openly gay, to park her truck farther away. (And stop wearing flannel shirts, Timberline lace-up boots and that leather tool belt.)
Baxter, 62, recently did geezer insurance commercials for the Garden State Life Insurance Company. Not that there's anything wrong with that. (permalink)
The revelation comes just as National Enquirer released a story saying Meredith went on a cruise with 1,200 other lesbians. Or maybe it was only Rosie O'Donnell "looking large."
Quote Of The Day is from Henry Youngman: "I've got all the money I'll ever need if I die by four o'clock this afternoon."
Wednesday December 2, 2009
Getting Smarter: The overpriced microcar with the pretentious lower-case name was originally conceived in a Mercedes-Benz and Swatch watch joint venture. In the ten-plus years that it's been available for sale, about 800,000 models have been sold. But the little car has apparently never made money for M-B. (Swatch pulled out of the venture years ago.)
In the U.S., the car is perceived as a novelty toy - a golf cart with doors. Consumer Reports has blasted it, giving the Smart an overall test score even lower than the much maligned Chevy Aveo. And, for a vehicle with such limited seating and storage space, its gas mileage is unexceptional. There have been complaints about the jerky automatic transmission and the Smart is no bargain, priced thousands higher than the far more functional Hyundai Accent.
What's in Smart's future? "Autocar reports that the next-generation of Smart city car is being co-developed by Daimler and Renault. The rear-engined platform is being described as 'modular', with variable wheelbase and track, and will underpin the next Smart ForTwo and ForFour as well as several Renaults."
To survive, Smart needs three things. First, an expansion of offerings - the planned reintroduction of the four-passenger ForFour is a good move. Second, the vehicle needs a novel, low operating-cost powerplant, perhaps an all electric or plug-in hybrid design. Finally, it needs to be manufactured in a lower-cost environment so that the car can be sold profitably at a U.S. price of $10,000 or so. This would mean moving the assembly plant to Eastern Europe, Mexico or a non-union facility in the southern U.S. Or China.
Without a serious business makeover, Smart will cruise dumbly along until the M-B bean counters finally kill it off. (permalink)
November Car Sales: The month's seasonally adjusted annual rate is expected to come in at 10.9 million or so light vehicles overall, according to AutoData.
Ford's November U.S. vehicle sales were essentially the same as a year ago. All-new Ford Taurus sales totaled 4,669, up 54% versus a year ago. Dealers reported retail sales were nearly double year-ago levels, meaning that the new Taurus is less of a Fleet Queen than the old one. Lincoln sales were down 20%, with the new MKT handily outsold by the old Navigator (648 units versus 784). Mercury brand sales were off 10%.
Chrysler said its U.S. sales fell 25% last month from a year earlier (to 63,560 vehicles); Chrysler-branded vehicles fell 37% last month.
General Motors sales were down by 2%. Buick sales increased 15%; Cadillac was up 10%. Most of that growth came from crossovers; Cadillac's passenger car sales were actually down by 9%. For the first time in history, the company posted monthly sales in a foreign country that were higher than in the U.S. GM's November sales in China were up 110% last month to 177,339, compared with U.S. sales of only 151,427 vehicles.
American Honda sales were off by 3% overall. Most of the Honda drop came from the small cars - Fit and Civic. Sales gains came from the CR-V and Pilot. Acura sales were up 11% to 8,769 vehicles.
Toyota's sales were up 3%, while Lexus sales jumped 14%. 1,944 Avalons were sold - a decline of 22% from last November. Lexus moved 1,057 LS sedans, better than in recent months but a drop of 17% from a year ago. Prius sales were up 20%; the Prius outsells its Lexus hybrid cousin by almost seven to one (9,617 versus 1,407 units).
Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor America said that last month's sales jumped 46%. Porsche's November sales increased 18% compared to the same month last year on stronger sales of its Cayman model. Nissan sales increased 30%; Subaru was up 24%.
Mercedes was up 19%; by contrast, BMW's sales increased a mere 3%. Infiniti sales dropped 26%; Mitsubishi fell almost 43% to less than 3,000 vehicles. You have to wonder how long they can continue to operate in the U.S.
How bad are things for Saab? Only 371 were sold in November; it was outsold by dead-brand Saturn tenfold. Even Smart outsold the boys from Trollhättan, moving 661 of the colorful, tippy-looking micromachines.
Buh Bye: General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson has resigned. A Bloomberg report claims that "directors concluded he hadn't done enough to fix the finances and culture of the biggest U.S. automaker."
Yeah, well ... they gave 'ol Fritzy just 100 days. How do you turn around a sinking, overloaded megafreighter in such a short period? Not that I've been particularly impressed with what I've seen. But just what the hell did they expect in such a short time? The 'new' GM still looks a lot like the 'old' GM. Same old; same old.
Four and a half years ago, I had some specific ideas about how to fix General Motors. But today, it's a company with neither money nor resources nor time and the gummint is right in the middle of everything.
Right now, GM is busy looking for a new CEO. My question is: who - at this point - would be crazy enough to take the #$@*! job, especially with the government-imposed salary cap?
What's New: I've added another animated neon sign to my train layout this season; it's a Pennsylvania Railroad sign.
You can seen a demonstration of the animation here.
Danger! Danger! The commercial real estate market is continuing to tank; this has very serious implications for the U.S. economy.
John Carney has written, "In a pattern familiar from the housing crisis, the value of commercial real estate has been plunging while the volume of distressed commercial real-estate loans is rapidly rising. The problems in commercial real estate could slam financial institutions, especially smaller regional and community banks, with billions of dollars in new losses. That, in turn, could snuff out whatever chances we have of a sustained economic recovery."
Commercial real estate prices have fallen 33% this year and 45% from their peak. Depending on whom you ask, 55-66% of commercial mortgages are underwater. About half of all commercial mortgages sit on the balance sheets of smaller banks; the massive number of bank failures this year is significantly attributable to losses from commercial real estate.
How did this happen? ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Calvin Coolidge: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, 'Press on,' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."