Wednesday March 31, 2010
Don't Get Around Much Anymore: Last week, the Lexus' odometer hit the 10,000 mark. At the rate I'm going, my LS 460 won't make 100,000 miles until June 2030, shortly before my 87th birthday.
I guess this really is My Last Car.
Where Have All The Chryslers Gone? Of the 84,449 vehicles sold by Chrysler-Fiat in February, 58% went to fleets. A confidential industry report shows retail sales fell 44%, while fleet deliveries increased by a whopping 170%.
Gotta wonder - how can they survive (without more taxpayer dollars, that is)? Meanwhile, Sergio Marchionne has confidently predicted that Chrysler will sell the 1.1 million vehicles it needs to break even this year. And, if that doesn't happen, will he be indicted for fraud?
Juke - It's The New Fugly: The bizarre Nissan Juke, a sort-of Pontiac Aztek in miniature, is making its debut at this year's New York Auto Show.
The cars from the 1966 NY Auto Show were much prettier.
Mall De La Mort: I hadn't visited the Westfield Vancouver Mall in over a year. Apparently neither had anyone else. More stores than ever are gone; it seemed like almost ... (more >>>)
Scary Precedent: Representative Michael Burgess (R-Texas) has said that if the mandate in the health care law requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or be penalized is upheld by the courts, the federal government could mandate anything, such as requiring all Americans to ... (more >>>)
Connect The Dots: Liberals love tossing around the 'V' word, often declaring that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck incite right wing factions to "violence."
• Last year, my congressional representative, Brain Baird canceled a scheduled town hall meeting with constituents because he feared his political opponents might be planning "an ambush" to disrupt his meetings, using methods Baird compared to Nazism. "What we're seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics," Baird (D-Vancouver WA) said in a phone interview. "I mean that very seriously."
Yet, during the same week, six people were arrested in connection with the beating of a conservative activist outside of a town hall forum held by Democrat Congressman Russ Carnah.
I guess that would make liberals the Brown Shirts, Mr. Baird.
• In Portland, screaming demonstrators marched Monday night, protesting the police shooting of a 58-year-old transient. This particular bum had threatened passerby, including a child; police say he came at the officer with a knife and ignored repeated warnings.
Liberal demonstrators yelled at police: "Stop killing people."
• Recently, Leftie radio host Brian Maloney called for the death of Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, adding a demand that Glenn Beck, whom he calls an "insane Nazi", commit suicide on television.
So much for that whole "Stop killing people" thing.
• Then there's the lying Democratic Congressional Black Caucus members who falsely claimed that Tea Party protestors in Washington, D.C. screamed the N-word at Congressman John Lewis.
• Meanwhile, over the weekend, Democrat Harry Reid supporters egged the Tea Party Express tour in Nevada and threatened violence.
• At a book signing Monday, lefty anti-war protesters rushed the stage, to call Bush advisor Karl Rove a "war criminal" and worse. Jodie Evans, cofounder of the anti-war group Code Pink, approached Rove with handcuffs and said she was there to "make a citizen's arrest." Another female moonbat yelled at Rove, "The only comfort I take is that ... you're going to rot in Hell."
• Death threats against Jewish U.S. Congressman Eric Cantor turned out to have been made by an Obama donor and Muslim convert, who was just arrested by the FBI.
• Let's not even begin to enumerate the many past Lefty calls for the death of President Bush; photos don't lie.
Do not be deceived. Read news from multiple sources; learn the facts. Jonah Goldberg was right; the Left is full of Liberal Fascists. The Party of Violence is the Democratic Party which has been hijacked by hate-filled left-wingers.
Quote Of The Day is from Jack Kemp: "There is a kind of victory in good work, no matter how humble."
Monday March 29, 2010
Blown Caddy: Automobiles De Luxe was testing a 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo when the engine exploded during a freeway drive. General Motors engineers tore down the 2.8 liter, 300 hp V6 motor, analyzed the vehicle's black box data, and sent a fuel sample to a third-party lab for analysis. "Additional tests on a dyno replicated the failure, but they've yet to duplicate the incident in real life testing."
The Caddy's V6 was supposed to be fed a minimum 91 Octane gas. Apparently, the car was fueled with 88 Octane stuff.
At some point during travel, between 2000-2500 rpm - normal highway cruising speed - "the engine's management system had adjusted the air fuel mixture to work too lean causing a retarded spark - but crucially - it allowed for a simultaneous turbo boost which led to a catastrophic pressure build up in the cylinder chambers." The result was described as "Mega knock event."
This is very strange. For at least 15 years, auto engines have had knock sensors which adjust the spark, fuel mix and other combustion system elements to compensate for fuel variations. This sounds like a software or electronic failure to me.
Musical Chairs: Ford has reached a "final deal" to sell Volvo to Chinese automaker Geely. The sale is expected to close in the third quarter of this year, pending regulatory approvals.
It's hard for me to keep track of all the ownership changes. Saab is now owned by Holland's Spyker with perhaps some rumored Russian mob money secretly tossed in the mix. Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by India's Tata. Aston Martin is owned by two Kuwait investment firms. And General Motors is now owned by the government and the UAW.
My head is spinning.
Sick Hog: Harley-Davidson announced higher-than-expected losses of $218.7 million for the final quarter of 2009. The motorcycle legend also announced that it "anticipated sales of between 201,000 and 212,000 units in 2010. Compare that with sales of 349,000 units in 2006, and you get an idea of the ills that have beset the company."
Richard D'Aveni has written about Harley's woes in Forbes.
"Younger Americans had come to see Harley as their father's motorcycle, sort of a two-wheeled Oldsmobile. The average Harley rider is a married man in his forties with an income of $84,300. The new rivals capitalized on the desire for a new image, a "new American bike" in contrast with Harley's traditional Hells Angels open-highway leather-jacket-and-shades Easy Rider image. Victory and Big Dog's highly customized products were trumping Harley-Davidson's rebel image by changing motorcycle riding from an act of machismo into one of individualism and self-expression."
D'Aveni concludes, "The fact, as Harley discovered, is that a product-based advantage can be fleeting, making it harder for companies to extract a price premium in most markets. What made Harley-Davidson great in the 1990s and early 2000s is now killing it." He noted that management guru Peter Drucker once said, "If the gods wish to curse you, they grant you 20 years of success."
Harley's losses are reduced by its extensive licensing program, which moves about $850 million per year of branded merchandise, including such oddities as Harley-Davidson train sets for model railroad enthusiasts.
Total H-D sales, including motorcycles, are just under $5 billion annually.
I don't see a lot of 30-somethings riding Harleys these days. But what do I know? I've never been on a Hog and I'm not much of a motorcycle guy anyway. The last time I rode one - many years ago, I was as a twenty-something taking a spin on my friend Ray's wickedly fast and scary Royal Enfield Interceptor, a tall, 736 cc monster. I was storing the big bike in my garage while he was serving in Vietnam.
Hungry Mutt: A Tennessee dog tried to eat a Chattanooga police car in what might have been a confused attempt to take a bite out of crime. The persistent pit bull mix managed to tear off a section of the front bumper and damage the tires. Video here.
Gee, I thought Fords were made of sturdier, less edible materials. So much for 'Ford: Built Tough'.
Taking Out The Trash: A wise observation was offered by Ol' Remus and posted at Eternity Road.
"You gotta love the news articles where school people say property and sales taxes must be increased to avoid painful cuts in education. Education is an abstraction, pretty much immune to pain. In real life the cuts would pain staff and supervisors and hangers-on like Second Assistants For Multicultural Services ... The cuts aren't painful enough until we see management carrying out the trash. Personally. Now that would be an education."
Unhealthy Mess: If you've been reading the financial news, you already know that Caterpillar and John Deere have announced non-cash charges of $100 and $150 million, respectively, for this year based upon the impact of Obamacare on forward retiree health care costs. AT&T has announced that Obamacare will force it to take a $1 billion dollar charge. 3M is taking a noncash charge of $85 million to $90 million due to the change in the tax treatment of future Medicare Part D reimbursements. Prudential is taking a $100 million charge against earnings; for Boeing, the number is $150 million in the wake of new health care rules.
The impact of Obamacare will get worse as current employee costs ratchet upward - the aforementioned charges are only against existing retiree obligations.
As companies adjust to ... (more >>>)
Your Tax Dollars Create New Euphemistic Style Book: At National Public Radio, "top editors got together to review the 2005 policy and decided to no longer use 'pro-choice' or 'pro-life'." Here's the memo that was distributed to its staff:
NPR News is revising the terms we use to describe people and groups involved in the abortion debate.
This updated policy is aimed at ensuring the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible. This is important given that written text is such an integral part of our work.
On the air, we should use "abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)" and "abortion rights opponent(s)" or derivations thereof (for example: "advocates of abortion rights"). It is acceptable to use the phrase "anti-abortion", but do not use the term "pro-abortion rights".
Democrat Does Not Mean Democracy: Barack Obama named 15 recess appointments Saturday, circumventing the usual Senate approval process. Obama attributed the need for recess appointments on the "unprecedented level of obstruction" in the U.S. Senate, led primarily by the chamber's Republicans.
Huh? The Senate is presently Democrat-controlled. Has been since '06.
"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis," Obama said.
What a crock. Enough! It's time to impeach this lying pantload. Where do I sign the petition?
No More Money - Let The Ingrates Fend For Themselves: A well-dressed Haitian local (expensive shades, pricey jacket and doesn't look like he's missed any meals lately) tried to burn a U.S. flag during a protest near the destroyed national palace as former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti last week. Photo here.
No Slacker Left Behind: The latest Obama proposal aids the unemployed, requiring that mortgage lenders temporarily slash required payments for job-seeking, unemployed homeowners.
Lenders would have to temporarily cap payments at no more than 31% of the borrower's income.
The plan also alleviates payments on "underwater" mortgages, where homeowners owe more on a house than it is worth.
If you are someone who has lived prudently and ... (more >>>)
The Art Of Sturm Und Drang: Rachel Peepers has an interesting article posted at Eternity Road. Headline: 'The Democrats remind me of 1944 SS camp guards accusing Jewish inmates of making death threats.'
She noted that Democrats have "taken violence to an art form. Burning down cities. Blowing up police buildings. Killing pig police officers. Beating up non believers from Reginald Denny to Kenneth Gladney without the least condemnation from a Democratic leader. Now, after murdering our healthcare system and gravely wounding our nation, when some patriots decide they're rather fight than switch, the Democratic leadership lodges complaints to the water carrying Mainstream Media. It's like the Nazis shooting up Malmedy, and then during the Nuremberg trials, preaching non violence." Read the whole thing.
Out Of The Darkness ... Interesting News has reported, "Anxious to show Earth Hour solidarity with other nations, an embarrassed North Korea was forced to borrow a table lamp from South Korea in order to have electricity to turn off."
"The whole country is darker than the eyes of an ox," said Dak-ho Kim, a South Korean soldier. "They have nothing, except a large nuclear bomb."
Quote of the Day is from George Orwell: "Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful."
Thursday March 25, 2010
Swooping Hawks: Most car people would agree that the Raymond Loewy-designed 1953 Studebaker Starlight coupe was a stunning car in its day and, fifty-seven years later, still looks sweet. The 1954 models added needless style clutter and the 1955 Speedster coupes had too much front-end chrome. Studebaker's attempt to create other models (sedans, Conestoga wagons) using the same style were less successful, producing ungainly cars which lost all the swoopiness of the original.
In 1956, the aging Starlight coupe was given its first substantial restyle and rechristened 'Hawk'. Studebaker promoted the '56 Hawks as "family sports cars" with seating for five adults. The top-of-the line model was the Golden Hawk, a two-door pillarless hardtop coupe fitted with a big 275 horsepower Packard engine up front.
Hawks featured a large, distinctive eggcrate grille and raised hoodline replacing ... (more >>>)
Blue Skies ... for several March days in a row are a rarity around here, so I fired up the '39 Plymouth Wednesday morning and took it for a spin. Good timing - the rains returned that night.
Stop The Monster: Scott Grannis has written that "just over 100 years ago, government represented only 8% of the economy, and now it has reached just over 40%. I think this is an alarming number. When I and other fans of limited government urge a reduction in the size and scope of government, we are not talking about going back to 8% that prevailed in 1900. Most of us would be happy with getting government to shrink back to the level of 30% or so that prevailed in the 1950 and 60s. Even that implies that almost one-third of all the money spent in the economy would pass through the hands of government, or that one-third of all the money that is earned is taken (by taxes) by the government.
Surely one-third of GDP is not too small a role for government, and many would argue that it is still way too much. Our Founding Fathers, of course, would have been apoplectic at the mere thought that government could one day consume or command one-third of the economy's resources.
There is a maxim worthy of repeating here. For every increment in the size and scope of government, there is a corresponding decrease in the liberty of the individual. Government cannot expand without encroaching on individual freedom. With Obamacare we are seeing close up the extent to which the government seeks to control our lives."
Barry The Bigot: The Obama administration announced that it had reserved 3,000 free tickets to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll for students in D.C. area public and charter schools, but "not for children who attend private or parochial schools."
Why exclude children in private and Catholic schools, asked ... (more >>>)
LaHood Does Johnny Sack Imitation: "Let me give you a little political advice," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told airline officials, "Do not be against high-speed rail."
I wonder if he puffed on a cigarette for dramatic effect the way John Sacramoni used to do in The Sopranos.
Man, that Obama Administration is just full of wannabe thugs.
The Truth About Bed & Breakfast Establishments: Some of my worst lodging experiences have been with B&Bs. I'm sure there are some good ones but too many are operated by amateur ''hobbyists" who are doing it for "fun."
I won't stay at such places for the same reason that I wouldn't choose a hobbyist brain surgeon having "fun" with his with a homemade MRI made from parts scrounged from a '47 Chevy Fleetline sedan and a '52 Muntz Radiation King television with the big 11-inch screen. And offering ... (more >>>)
More Retail Woes: Saks will close its two stores in Portland's Pioneer Place Mall. The company currently operates a 60,000 square-foot store and a 23,000 square-foot men's store. Saks first arrived in Portland in 1990. Last year, Saks reported sales declines of 13.5% to $2.6 billion.
Williams-Sonoma Inc. and Pottery Barn plan to ... (more >>>)
... And Job Woes: Naturally, all these closings mean vacant space and less demand for new retail construction. Trade group Associated General Contractors reported that Portland lost 9,100 construction worker jobs in 2009. "The Portland area - which includes Vancouver WA - saw an 18% decline from January 2009 to January 2010."
In Related Retail Space News ... Battle Ground City Grill has closed.
Need An Office? In Vancouver WA, the office vacancy rate is now 23.3%.
RIP: Robert Culp, the versatile actor who teamed with Bill Cosby in the 1960s comedy-adventure TV series 'I Spy', has died. He was 79.
Culp was a television staple, making appearances on numerous television shows ranging from 'Columbo' to 'Everybody Loves Raymond' to 'The Golden Girls' to 'Robot Chicken'. He also played FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in the '80s series 'The Greatest American Hero'.
Bad Pun of the Day: Buffalo, New York became a city in 1832. In 2032, when the city is 200 years old, Buffalo will celebrate its Bison-tennial.
Tuesday March 23, 2010
New Kid In Town: British Formula One automaker McLaren has launched a supercar. The awkwardly named MP4-12C will go into production next year with 1,000 cars expected to roll off the production line in 2011.
It is priced at $230,000; McLaren expects to ship 40% of its production to North America. Weighing 2,870 pounds and with a 600 hp 3.8 liter V8 mid-engine powerplant, the car will do 0-60 in under three seconds and 0-120 in under 10 seconds.
If I ever built a car this hot, I'd give it a memorable name ... like Panther Thunderass 9000.
Just Be Glad They Don't Supply Toyota's Seats: Baby furniture maker Graco is recalling 1.2 million Harmony high chairs. The screws in the front legs can become loose which can cause the chair to collapse. There have already been reports of 24 injuries because of the defect.
Book Review: 'Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One' by Thomas Sowell.
The heavily-reworked 2009 update of Sowell's 2004 classic book is nearly 50% larger than the first edition. It now includes a chapter on the economics of immigration and new topics such as the 'creative' home financing that led to the subprime mortgage crisis.
Sowell's tome is ... (more >>>)
Saints Above! Last week, Nancy Pelosi invoked St. Joseph in a pathetic attempt to link this holy man to her prolix and execrable health care bill. The Anchoress was not amused. She wrote, "Almost nothing that has come from this woman's mouth has infuriated me like this. This woman is a profound grotesque who gets virtually everything wrong here, from what feastday it is, to the kinds of Catholic religious sisters supporting her monster's bastard of a bill.
Note, because it is important in the face of her stupidity, her mendacity, her slander and her willingness to use any-and-all means to achieve her ends, the Catholic sisters who vehemently oppose this health care bill, and are not considered news-worthy by the media, or relevant by this glammed-up guttersnipe, Pelosi."
She continued, "It is highly doubtful that St. Joseph, who was faced with an unimaginable event, one fraught with challenges, things unknown, social questions, difficulties and sacrifice, would be a happy endorser of a "life-affirming health care" bill that includes the federal-funding of abortions, sterilizations, contraception undoubtedly, down the road - euthanasia."
Last Friday was ... (more >>>)
What's Good For The Goose ... Senator Chuck Grassley (R - Iowa) will offer an amendment during Senate debate on the health care reconciliation bill this week to apply the reform legislation "to the President, Vice President, cabinet members and top White House staff."
Grassley said ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon on the deplorable thing known as Obamacare: "In retrospect, it may not have been a wise move to elect the quasi-alcoholic illegitimate Indonesian grandson of an African witch doctor as President of the USA."
Which brings up an interesting question. I've never made a secret of my fondness for alcohol, whether Chivas Regal and a good cigar in the 1970s, a post-dinner Di Saronno Amaretto in the '80s, a good Canadian Manhattan or a fine wine. In all my years on earth, I've never had a doctor tell me to "cut back on my drinking."
So, just how much does Obama drink ... (more >>>)
Friday March 19, 2010
Cruisin': The sun came out this week, so I took a couple of rides in the Plymouth. The Cascades are still white with snow but everything is in bloom - a nice scenic mix.
Maybe, We Hardly Knew Ye: Maybach, the überluxo car brand resurrected by Mercedes-Benz with much fanfare in 2002, will soon die a quiet death. No wonder. I've only seen one in my entire life (at the tony Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in the Palm Springs area) and it looked to me like a tarted-up S-Class.
In a seven-year period, only about 1,000 Maybachs were sold in the U.S. Rolls Royce was to be Maybach's target competitor but the super-affluent never considered it to be in the same league.
In somewhat related luxury car news, Investment Dar, the troubled Kuwaiti firm that owns half of luxury British carmaker Aston Martin, has filed for legal protection under Kuwait's financial stability law - a sort of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Book Review: 'Liberty and Tyranny' by Mark R. Levin.
Proclaimed as a "conservative manifesto," this book was penned by nationally-syndicated conservative talk radio host Levin. Having read some of his postings at National Review Online, I anticipated ... (more >>>)
Comeuppance: First Independent Bank of Vancouver, WA, founded in 1910 and owned by the Firstenberg family since the '30s, is suing one of its largest depositors, who has also sued the bank after defaulting on $13.8 million in commercial development loans ... (more >>>)
Deadbeat Update: Bank of America said its credit card default rate rose in February, up from 13.25% in January to 13.51%.
Fruity Arts: When white people harvest a crop, it's known as "berry picking" or "pick your own."
"Under these conditions, white people are expected to work leisurely with no real expectations and then they pay for the privilege to do so. In other words, berry picking is the agricultural equivalent to a private liberal arts college. It's no surprise white people like it, because much like a liberal arts degree it feels like you've done real work when you really haven't."
Why So High? The February unemployment rate in Clark County WA was an astounding 14.8%. There are three basic reasons ... (more >>>)
Outsourcing: Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department is spending $5.4 million to buy fine crystal stemware for American embassies.
The crystal work is being done by Swedish glassmaker Orrefors - snubbing such U.S. companies as the famous manufacturer in Clinton's own back yard, Steuben Crystal of Corning, NY. Steuben wasn't even given a chance to bid on the contract, which will outfit embassies and ambassadors' residences with fancy crystal for ritzy functions.
Ironically, under the no-bid contract, some of the crystal is to be custom-crafted to include the Seal of the United States, although Swedes will do all of the engraving.
Bret Rising: When Emmy award-winning Brit Hume retired as anchor of FoxNews 'Special Report', I was skeptical that Bret Baier could fill his shoes. Initially, young Bret was not particularly impressive to me. But, over the past several months, he has grown into the job.
On Wednesday, Baier interviewed President Obama about health care. His polite but persistent questions made Obama whiny, petulant and un-Presidential.
If this were a Sopranos episode, Uncle Junior would have equated Barack Obama with Richie Aprile: "He couldn't sell it. He just couldn't carry it off."
Kudos to Mr. Baier for an excellent and professional interview. Watching it simply reinforced my belief that Obamacare is an unprecedented government fiasco.
I don't know if the bill will pass but, if it does, it will fix nothing and will ruin the U.S. healthcare system.
"Born On A Mountaintop ..." Fess Parker, who starred as frontiersman Davy Crockett on 1950s television and helped sell over 10 million coonskin caps, has died at 85. RIP, King of the Wild Frontier.
"Gimme A Ticket For An Aeroplane ... " Alex Chilton, lead singer of The Box Tops, whose big hit was 'The Letter' (1966), has died of a heart attack at 59. RIP.
Headlines Of The Week: 'Cops accuse woman of attacking sister with toilet tank lid' and 'Man arrested in meat thermometer attack at movie theater'.
Quote Of The Day is from Larry the Cable Guy: "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap."
Wednesday March 17, 2010: Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Nun Story: The 98 year-old Mother Superior lay dying in an Ireland convent. The nuns gathered around her bed trying to make her last hours comfortable. They gave her some warm milk to drink but she refused.
Then one of the nuns took the glass back to the kitchen. Remembering a bottle of Jameson's Irish whiskey received as a gift the previous Christmas, she opened it and poured a generous amount into the warm milk. Back at Mother Superior's bed, she held the glass to her lips. Mother drank a little, then a little more and before they knew it, she had consumed the whole glass.
"Mother," one nun asked earnestly, "Please give us some wisdom before you leave us."
The old nun raised herself up in bed and said, "Don't sell that cow."
Irish Business Lesson: You'll find it here.
Police Bias: Kevin from Galway was visiting New York, patiently waiting and watching the traffic cop at a busy street crossing. The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, "Okay, pedestrians." A bit later, he'd allow the traffic to pass.
He'd done this several times, and Kevin still stood on the sidewalk.
After the cop had shouted, "Pedestrians!" for the tenth time, Kevin went over to him and said, "Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?"
Doctor Visit: The Dublin physician told his patient, "I'm very sorry Mr. O'Flaherty, but I can't diagnose your trouble. I think it must be drink." Said O'Flaherty, "Begorrah, don't worry about it, Doc. I'll come back when yer sober."
Help Request: Paddy was driving down the street in a panic; he had an important meeting and couldn't find a place to park. Looking up to heaven he prayed, "Lord take pity on me. If ye find me a parking space, I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey!"
Miraculously, a parking spot appeared.
Paddy looked up again and said, "Never mind, I found one."
Bad Pun of the Day: A Dublin band leader was standing on aluminum platform when it was struck by lightning. He was completely unharmed but the music sounded awful. Said McGrath, who was sitting in the third row, "Sure and it confirms what I've always suspected - the lad's just not a good conductor."
Monday March 15, 2010
Auto History Tidbit: FDR's fifth child, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. once sold imported cars. In 1957, Mr. Roosevelt founded the Roosevelt Automobile Company, later Fiat Motors, Inc. From 1960 to 1970, Roosevelt was the importer/distributor of Jaguar automobiles in the southeastern United States, until British Leyland bought him out.
He sold his distributorship, the Roosevelt Automobile Company, in 1970.
I learned this while reading '1960 - LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies' by David Pietrusza.
Get The Lead Out: Using the subversive mantra of 'But think of the children', misguided do-gooders are trying to ban lead in all forms. Funny, none of my childhood friends ever died of lead poisoning, despite the fact that all of us did our teething on cribs and playpens painted in bright, lead-laden colors. And chewed on slush-cast toys that were either made of lead or painted with it.
Ignorant bureaucrats have forced solder producers to go lead-free, even though more problems are being caused than solved. For instance ... (more >>>)
Another Unintended Consequences Example: Ann Coulter has written about Lyndon Johnson's ill-fated 'War on Poverty'. "Instead of poor people with hope and possibility, we now have a permanent underclass of aspiring criminals knifing one another between having illegitimate children and collecting welfare checks. It is an ironclad law of economics that if you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it. But liberals were shocked and bewildered to discover that when they subsidized illegitimacy, they got more of it."
Great Society, my ass.
Good Night, Mr. Phelps: Peter Graves of 'Mission Impossible' and 'Airplane!' fame has died at age 83.
I'll always remember, "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" Rest In Peace, Captain Oveur.
All Of Us Aspire To Be Like This: Dave Barry described Alec Baldwin thusly, "He's a big, physical guy, charming and charismatic; wherever he goes, the men want him to like them, the women want him to make love to them, and the cattle want to provide him with steaks."
Thought For Today: Limit all U.S. politicians to two terms - One in office, One in prison. (I think Illinois already does this. Maybe Detroit, too.)
Thursday March 11, 2010
Putting Things In Perspective: Michael Fumento has written about the press "hysteria" over Toyota safety. Excerpt: "Although Toyota had almost 17% of total U.S. car sales in 2008, it accounted for merely 8% of total claims for deaths and injuries in the first quarter of that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Edmunds.com found that while Toyota was third in U.S. car sales from 2001 through 2010, it was 17th in NHTSA complaints. Thus, even if every sudden-acceleration complaint proved valid, Toyotas are among the safest cars made."
Miniature Market: Eric Waiter Associates (also known as EWA Miniature Cars USA Inc.), a mail order and (later) internet retailer with a large offering of scale model vehicles, has closed. The Green Brook NJ firm has been around since 1982 and, at its peak, reportedly moved $3 million worth of little cars and other auto-related merchandise per year.
In recent years ... (more >>>)
Book Review: '1960 - LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies' by David Pietrusza.
The 1960 presidential campaign season was dominated by three men, each of whom became president. One was assassinated, one was shamed out of office and one resigned in disgrace - just ahead of impeachment.
David Pietrusza chronicles the tales of each, the interactions, the flaws and the election itself where race and religious bigotry played major roles. 1960 was also the first presidential race of the modern era of campaigning, using media and branding. The author relates the events seemingly without bias; even after completing the book, I couldn't guess the author's political leanings.
The supporting cast is amazing: meddlesome old ... (more >>>)
Now I'll Have More Time To Work On My Book Of Kells Facsimile: Rumor has it that this is the last season for 'Numb3rs' and '24'.
Good Question: The Onion has asked, "How Will The End Of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?"
Bad Pun of the Day: The grave of Karl Marx is just another Communist plot.
Tuesday March 9, 2010
Happy Birthday, Av: On Saturday, our Toyota Avalon turned five years old.
At just over 35,000 miles, we have not encountered a single problem with this car. It has been given ordinary scheduled maintenance at the local Toyota dealer. It is garaged and, because of where we live, the Avalon doesn't see much in the way of temperature extremes or road salt. It is washed, cleaned and waxed fairly regularly.
We shopped carefully before choosing the Avalon. Time has validated our decision.
We generally keep vehicles a long time - 8 to 12 years and/or 80-100,000 miles, typically. (Our record is 28 years and 156,000 miles on our '67 Volkswagen Beetle.) Based on the good behavior of this car combined with the low miles we're putting on it, I wouldn't be surprised to find it in our garage in 2020. On the other hand, I don't know if I'll be around in 2020.
First Ride: On Friday, I awoke the '39 Plymouth from its long winter nap and went for a cruise. It was cold - 45 degrees - but there was some sun and I had an enjoyable ride.
Positively Scary Idea: Jerry Flint has written, "If that fellow at Fiat, Sergio Marchionne, were smart, he'd offer Bob Lutz the presidency of Chrysler."
The Dangers Of Deforestation: A two-vehicle crash in the Florida Keys was caused by a 37-year-old woman driver who was shaving her v-jay-jay while her ex-husband steered the car from the passenger seat. "She said she was meeting her boyfriend in Key West and wanted to be ready for the visit," Trooper Gary Dunick said.
Furthermore, Megan Mariah Barnes was not supposed to be driving and her 1995 Ford Thunderbird was not supposed to be on the road. The day before the wreck, Barnes had been convicted of DUI with a prior and driving with a suspended license.
On a positive note, at least she wasn't texting. Or steering with her feet.
As to the accident itself, the media and most liberals concluded that it was all bush's fault.
Crossing The Aisle: About 100 traditionalist Anglican parishes across the United States have decided to convert en masse to the Roman Catholic Church. "They have voted to take up the offer made by Pope Benedict XVI in November that permits vicars and their entire congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many of their Anglican traditions, including married priests."
Quote Of The Day is from Morgan at the House of Eratosthenes: "He who does a noble, brave, heroic thing, tends to draw a seething hatred from he who could have done the noble, brave, heroic thing - but chose not to."
Friday March 5, 2010
And The Oscar Goes To: The Consumer Reports Annual Auto issue is out. For 'Best Car Overall', CR chose the Lexus LS 460L, noting that the LS "scored an outstanding 99 out of 100 in our road test, making it our highest-rated vehicle. This large cruiser pampers its passengers with a comfortable ride and luxurious driving environment, including a roomy, well-crafted, and exceptionally quiet interior. It offers a plethora of electronic amenities, including an optional self-parking system. Yet, its controls are easy to use. Although the LS isn't exactly fun to drive, its efficient 380-hp V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission deliver smooth, brisk acceleration and a relatively good 21 mpg overall, the same as a Honda Accord V6."
That's a reassuring pick for me and mirrors my experience so far. In perusing the magazine, I learned some other interesting tidbits:
• You might think that every Lexus model is the paragon of quality, but the AWD version of the Lexus GS is 'much worse than average'.
• Studying the reliability data at the back of the magazine, I was shocked to see all of Cadillac's listings awash in a sea of black dots. Every model was rated either 'worse than average' or 'much worse than average'. This is a disgrace for the brand that was once 'Standard of the World'. Maybe GM should have spent some of that CTS-V hype money on building better Caddys.
• The Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited is the king of crapmobiles. With a road test score of 17, it is the lowest-rated vehicle tested. Consumers also awards it 'Worst Value'. And its reliability is 'much worse than average'.
• Of the five Least Satisfying Cars (lowest 'would you buy it again' scores from readers), three are from Chrysler and two are from General Motors. It makes me wonder if their owners ever swear like Principal Seymour Skinner on The Simpsons: "GM Chrysler!"
• The two lowest rated auto companies were GM and Chrysler. Honda and Subaru tied for the best.
• The least reliable car in 2009 was the Jaguar XF sedan with 30 problems per 100 vehicles. The best, the Toyota Yaris hatchback, had 2/100. The most troublesome car in CR's survey was the 2002 Kia Sedona with 207 problems per 100. The 2001 Chevy Monte Carlo was close behind at 202/100.
• When I look at 60mph-0 stopping distances, I figure that anything that stops in 120 feet or less has great brakes. (When CR tested a VW Beetle like mine in 1967, they didn't think much of the car but it stopped in 120 feet. The Volkswagen might have only had drum brakes, but it was a heck of a lot lighter than today's cars.) This year, the Porsche Boxster was best at 112 feet. The worst was the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD; it took a looooong 171 feet to come to a stop.
• CR's April issue was on newsstands by late February, indicating that Consumers Union has succumbed to the dark side in terms of calendar inflation. But that's not as bad as others: my doctor's office already had the April issue of Car & Driver last month.
I put a lot of stock in Consumer Reports' car opinions because I believe it presents pretty unbiased information and has the largest experiential database. I recommend that you pick up a copy of the April issue for reference while it's still available.
It's A Big World ... and somebody, somewhere will find this car attractive, even if you and I think it's hideous.
The Australian-made Bufori Geneva, debuted - appropriately - at the Geneva Auto Show. It is rumored that the grille flips up to make a barbie and you can cook shrimp on it.
End Of An Era: General Motors Co. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz will soon have left the building (as Elvis' announcer, the late Al Dvorin, would have said). Maximum Bob will officially retire on May 1, ending a career in the auto industry that spanned four decades and included executive posts at each of Detroit's Big Three auto makers. And BMW.
Larger than life, Lutz was always good for a quote - and often quoted by me. But being larger than life isn't always good. Just ask Andre The Giant. Lutz record was, at best, mixed and his appointment as GM's car guru was, in retrospect, not a great decision. (On the other hand, that buffoon Rick Wagoner made many other decisions which were much worse.)
Lutz's departure probably ends the era of colorful characters in the auto industry. The business has grown-up, peaked, achieved commodity-appliance status and is becoming dominated by Japanese and Koreans, who are colorful-character adverse.
Infrastructure And Building Codes Make The Difference: Last Saturday's earthquake in Chile measured 8.8. "That's nearly 500 times more powerful than Haiti's, or about one million Hiroshimas. Yet Chile's reported death toll - 711 as of this writing - was a tiny fraction of the 230,000 believed to have perished in Haiti."
Your Tax Dollars At Waste ... Again: The extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit will probably cost taxpayers over $100,000 for each additional home sold. "Just about every economist opposed the tax credit as expensive and ineffective." Details here.
Extreme Dating: Police officers responded to a 911 report of a naked woman tied to a tree in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. Officers determined that it was a "consensual rendezvous."
No one was arrested. I don't know why.
Apologies Should Always Be Both General And Specific: Data and search giant Google has apologized to everyone for its recent security issues. "We would like to extend our deepest apologies to each and every one of you," announced CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking from the company's Googleplex headquarters.
"Whether you're Michael Paulson who lives at 3425 Longview Terrace and makes $86,400 a year, or Jessica Goldblatt from Lynnwood, WA, who already has well-established trust issues, we at Google would just like to say how very, truly sorry we are."
The company apologized to all its users "particularly the 1,237,948 who take daily medication to combat anxiety - for causing any unnecessary distress, and he expressed regret - especially to Patricia Fort, a single mother taking care of Jordan, Sam, and Rebecca, ages 3, 7, and 9 - for not doing more to ensure that private information remains private."
Schmidt sought to reassure Americans that the company "would take all necessary steps to keep confidential information, from Social Security numbers to Gonorrhea test results, absolutely safe."
It's all from The Onion of course.
Quote of the Day is from Bill Vaughan: "It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing with the same set of facts."
Wednesday March 3, 2010
Unexpected Concours: On Sunday afternoon, we stopped at the Laurelwood Brew & Public House in Battle Ground and were treated to a little car show. Parked at the restaurant were several vintage vehicles:
• A 1936 Ford convertible coupe with rumbleseat. It had red wheels, chrome trim rings and wide whitewalls.
• A 1938 Chevrolet business coupe street rod - mostly stock-looking outside except for big dual exhausts and modern wheels/tires.
• A 1950 Merc lead sled coupe with chopped top, custom grille, flared-in headlights and taillights. It had been lowered and was equipped with 1950s Oldsmobile spinner hubcaps and full rear skirts. A work in process, it was still partly in primer. The Mercury had a nice white tuck and rolled interior with a chrome-laden, stock-looking Mercury dash.
• A 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop coupe, white over brown. Looked original and stock.
• A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air all-black hardtop coupe with stock black and gray interior. It looked correct except for larger tires and 1970s-era mag wheels.
• Two 1932 Ford five-window coupes: one black, one orange.
My grandson and I spent some time looking at the nicely-finished orange '32. This rod was full of interesting little details. We noted the orange pinstriping on the white firewall, the triple carburetors on the flathead V8, the rare Offenhauser heads and the special gearshift knob.
The knob appeared to be a one-off design made by gluing a stack of 1/4-inch thick orange and white translucent Plexiglas plates together, then chucking the sandwich in a lathe and turning it to get the correct knob profile followed by a thorough surface polish, resulting in a glossy striped-candy shift knob. Cool.
My grandson got a big kick out of examining these ancient (to him) machines - made 50-65 years before he was born.
Where's The Congressional Witch Hunt? General Motors has recalled 1.3 million Chevrolet and Pontiac models in North America for power steering failures that are tied to 14 crashes and one injury in the United States.
The NHTSA opened a separate investigation on 905,000 U.S. Cobalt models in January 2010 after receiving more than 1,100 complaints on power steering failures.
February New Vehicle Sales: Between
global warming snow, a hungry fleet market and the negative Toyota publicity, it was a weird month. Overall auto sales for February were up 14% over a year ago but still a dismal 10.4 million units in seasonally-adjusted annual terms and a 3.5% decline from last month.
Toyota reported an 8.7% drop in February U.S. sales. Camry sales fell by 20%. Only 732 Avalons were sold - a decline of 65% from last year. Sales at the luxury Lexus division rose 5.2% but only 254 LS models were moved - a 10% drop.
Ford Motor Co. posted a remarkable 43% jump in February auto sales and outsold General Motors for the first time since August 1998, when GM was short of cars to sell because of a recent Flint plant strike. Ford undoubtedly grabbed sales from Toyota - the Camry-fighter Fusion model was up 116% - but a significant portion of Ford's increase came from low-margin fleet sales which increased 74%. Among brands, Ford was up 46%, Lincoln increased 19% and Mercury moved 24% more metal.
Chrysler sold 0.5% more vehicles (a mere 399 units) in February than a year ago, the first increase since December 2007. But much of Chrysler's volume (58%) came from fleet deals. "A good number of government and rental car companies held off on ordering vehicles last year and those orders are coming through now," according to Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham.
GM posted a sales gain of 12%, helped substantially by fleet orders. Chevrolet reported total sales up by 32% but a mere 1% increase in retail Chevy sales. Buick reported an overall sales bump of 47%; its retail sales were up 18%. The restyled Buick LaCrosse got a retail sales boost of 100%, which may indicate where those former Toyota Avalon buyers have gone.
American Honda posted February sales of 80,671, an increase of 12.7% when compared to February 2009 results of 71,575. Honda Division was up 12.2% - mainly from strong sales of the Accord (up 41%, stolen Camry sales?). The Acura Division was up 16.7% but only 131 top-of-the-line Acura RLs were sold.
Nissan was up 29%, Subaru gained 38% and Volkswagen increased 33%. Hyundai's sales improved 11%; Kia up 2%. Sonata sales were up a whopping 58%, perhaps in part because of the Camry's woes.
Nelson Muntz Moment: Over at Ace, Purple Avenger has written, "Just got back from Big Lots while making my weekly Arugula and Wagu Beef run and they had a big stack of handsomely boxed limited run Obama commemorative plates for $2. They used to sell for $20+S&H on TV. Oh how the mighty have fallen."
Unemployment Blues: Preliminary estimates place the January unemployment rate in Clark County WA at 14.1%, up from the revised December rate of 13.7% and a year-ago rate of 11.6%, according to the Washington state Employment Security Department.
In related news, for the first time since the Great Depression, Americans took more aid from the government than they paid in taxes.
Quote of the Day is from W. Somerset Maugham: "Only a mediocre writer is always at his best."
Monday March 1, 2010
Wouldn't You Really Rather Have A Buick? Last week, I spotted a geezer-piloted white Chrysler 300 sedan with aftermarket Buick-style portholes installed.
Steam Workhorse: In its day, one of the most popular steam locomotives for freight trains was the Consolidation class, which featured a 2-8-0 wheel arrangement.
The first locomotive of this type was most likely built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the mid-1860s; it had a leading axle that was rigidly attached to the frame. Later locos had a swiveling front pilot truck. The 2-8-0 design was given a major boost in 1875 when the PRR made it the railroad's standard freight locomotive. The same year, the Erie Railroad began replacing its 4-4-0s in freight service with Consolidations. Railroads found that the 2-8-0 could move trains twice as heavy for half the cost of earlier locos.
Total U.S. production of the Consolidation class has been estimated at more than 33,000 locomotives. About a third were built for export to other countries.
In 2000, I bought an O-gauge Pennsylvania Express starter set made by MTH Electric Trains, which included a PRR Consolidation steam locomotive. While such a loco normally hauls a freight consist, it looked so good that last year I purchased some old-style passenger cars for it. In early 2010, I produced a video short (running time - 1:51 min.) of my Consolidation loco and passenger consist in action:
In Other Train News ... I'm pleased to report that we successfully moved the train layout from the living room to its secure storage spot in the garage without incident (unlike last year). After ten years, I think we've developed a system. I had spent the earlier part of the week putting away the trains, vehicles, buildings, mountain and tunnel portals.
Another Pro-Manufacturing Voice: Having spent most of my working life in manufacturing, I am keenly aware of the importance of manufacturing to the health and well-being of the U.S. And have penned several editorials about it.
Last year, I wrote, "Manufacturing is vital to the economy of the United States because it is a generator of wealth. By taking low cost raw materials (wood, baking flour, steel) and processing it to produce much more expensive items (furniture, cakes, automobiles) creates profit. This in turn creates wealth - for individuals and for a nation.
Furthermore, if the nation's products are unique and interesting enough that people in other countries want to buy them, fresh capital is brought into the United States. Such capital can used to expand capacity, improve products offerings and increase efficiency - these things make our offerings even more competitive and attractive in the world market."
Alan Mulally, President & CEO of Ford Motor Company, has taken up the cause. He has said, "We are fighting for the soul of America right now, because we have not held manufacturing as a high priority in the United States. And I think sometimes it's maybe because we define manufacturing with a small 'm'. But when you look at the R&D that we invest in the United States, 70% of all the R&D investment in the United States comes from manufacturing. It's all the science, it's the enabling technology, it's the engineering, it's the manufacturing. So, when we think of manufacturing ... this is manufacturing with a big 'M'. And this is about whether the United States, whether the United States can compete with the best in the world where everybody else around the world will do whatever it takes to get into manufacturing. Because it is the answer and part of the solution for energy independence, energy security, national defense sustainability … it's so important."
In an earlier article, I proposed four changes which needed to be implemented to revitalize manufacturing in the U.S. Sadly, nothing has yet been done.
Five Steps To Return U.S. Prosperity: Describing himself as a conservative Republican from the hills of upstate New York, Tim Knight at Jumping In Pools has written, "The Obama administration is leading our economic future into a brick wall.
With their economic stimulus that has sent us deeper into debt, government budgets growing an alarming pace and socialistic proposals being accepted on a regular basis, all economic hope of recovering before Republicans retake Washington is out of the question. However ...." (more >>>)
Rest In Peace: Tom 'T-Bone' Wolk, the very talented bass guitarist, producer and musical director has died of a heart attack at age 58.
From 1986 to 1992, he was the on-camera bassist with the Saturday Night Live house band, often jamming with G.E. Smith during musical bridges.
T-Bone had been playing bass guitar with Daryl Hall and John Oates since 1981.
He also worked with Carly Simon, co-producing 'Tired of Being Blonde', as well as being music director/co-music producer of her acclaimed HBO Special 'Live from Martha's Vineyard'.
Reality Imitates The Simpsons: The UK's Daily Mail has reported, "A monitor that deciphers babies' cries, distinguishing a sleepy whimper from a hungry wail, is being developed. The cry translator could also alert parents to hunger, the need for a nappy change or desire for a cuddle."
In a 1992 episode of The Simpsons, Homer's half-brother Herb Powell develops the first baby translator, a device that will interpret babies' cries and mumbles into plain speech. Homer agrees to fund the project and when Herb's business takes off, he buys Homer and his whole family appropriate gifts to thank them.
Catfight! A Delta Connection flight from Rochester, NY to Atlanta was canceled after two female flight attendants "got into a fist fight." According to a passenger, "The pilot decided to kick everyone off the plane."
"They told us we had to get off the plane because stewardesses were fighting," said another passenger.
Quote Of The Day is from John McCain: "It seems to me that President Carter has earned his place as if not the worst president in history, the worst president of the 20th Century."
Footnote: Sean Hannity has written, "Former President Jimmy Carter is fuming. Given his disastrous record in office you would think that he would be happy to be compared to the Anointed One, but apparently President Obama has made such a mess that even Carter is now distancing himself.
When foreign policy analyst Walter Russell Meade compared the two in the journal 'Foreign Policy', Carter submitted a letter to the editor noting this displeasure, stating, "I resent Meade's use of such phrases as, 'In the worst scenario turn him (Obama) into a new Jimmy Carter' to describe my service.""