Friday July 30, 2010
1950 Studebaker - Rainbow Connection: Even though the 1950-51 Ford outsold the '50-51 Studebaker by more than fourfold, people of a certain age remember the Studie much better. After all, a rainbow-painted 1951 bullet-nosed Studebaker was one of the stars of 'The Muppet Movie'.
In August 1949, when 'The Next Look' 1950 Studebaker was unveiled, featuring the company's signature "bullet-nose" for the first time, it was a winner - more popular than even the 1947 model. Despite the promotional hype, '50 Studies were identical to the 1947-49 models except for the bullet nose, minor trim, and vertical instead of horizontal taillights. 1950 models also featured ... (more >>>)
Whatever Happened To The 'Art' Part? This week, A&E (it stands for the Arts & Entertainment Network) canceled its regular programming in order to have an all-day 'Billy the Exterminator' marathon.
Who would watch such a thing? Other than Billy, I mean.
The Return Of The Giant: Remember Gino's Hamburgers?
Gino's was known for high quality hamburgers such as the Sirloiner, which was made from sirloin steak, and the Gino Giant, which predated and later competed with the Big Mac.
This East Coast regional fast-food mainstay had over 300 company-owned locations when it was acquired by Marriott Corporation in 1982. Marriott discontinued the brand, converting stores to Roy Rogers Restaurants.
Now it's making a comeback.
Gino's had pioneered indoor seating at its fast food outlets and in the early 1960s and was more popular in Philadelphia area than McDonald's. In those days ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect' by Ronald Kessler
This is an interesting and lively narrative, loaded with details about the inner workings of this federal protective organization. It is full of readable gossip, including tales of an often-drunk, philandering Lyndon Johnson (characterized as a truly "insane" individual), the extra-marital antics of family-values champion ... (more >>>)
Boo Hoo: Greg Gutfeld has noted that a new survey reports that one in five Californians need help for a mental or emotional issue.
"So, did they group all emotional and mental "issues" together - so we get millions of sufferers? Yep. Did they expand the distress to include things like "feeling sad, anxious or nervous?" You bet.
In the old days we called that "life," but now it's an injustice if you aren't snorting rainbows 24/7."
In 'The Road Less Traveled' (first published in 1978), author and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck began with the words "Life is difficult." He noted that personal growth is a "complex, arduous and lifelong task" and insisted that problems must be overcome through suffering, discipline and hard work. Meaning: Don't expect Heaven on Earth.
And, back in those days, people had real stuff to complain about. By comparison, today's problems are a piece of cake.
Greg concluded, "And so, your sadness must be soothed by a burdened state whose financial ruin has already caused enough emotional distress. I think I'm gonna cry. I demand you pay for my Kleenex."
Headline Of The Week is from the North Canton Airline & Storm Door Co.: 'Drones Want to Fly Unmanned Napolitanos Over TexMex Border'.
Quote Of The Day is from Bo Derek: "Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping."
Wednesday July 28, 2010
Summer Fun: On Monday, I took the Plymouth for a spin. At 9:30 am, it was gorgeous out - sunny with blue skies and not too warm (64 degrees). I had a nice drive.
Good thing I didn't wait until Tuesday - at 9:30 am it was cloudy and still chilly, although the sun came out later and it eventually warmed up to a high of 84.
Shocking News: The new Chevy Volt - with prices starting at a Cadillac-like $41,000 - requires Premium gasoline. No word on whether it also requires Premium electricity.
More on the Volt here.
If General Motors had listened to me, they could be selling Chevrolet Volts for $20,000 or so.
And ... in related electrifying news ...
Zap! Enterprise Rent-A-Car plans to buy 500 electric cars from Nissan starting in January 2011. With a retail price of more than $30,000 for each Nissan Leaf, Enterprise plans to spend an estimated $15 million on its new electric vehicle fleet.
"The St. Louis-based car rental giant said it will initially roll out the Nissan Leafs, which use no gasoline and do not produce greenhouse gas emissions, in eight markets: Phoenix and Tucson, AZ; Knoxville and Nashville, TN; San Diego; Los Angeles; Portland, OR and Seattle."
Restaurant Review - Paparazzi; Battle Ground, WA: This new restaurant features Italian and Northwest cuisine and is located at the site of the former Leonardo's.
Owner Lloyd Taylor, who once operated the legendary Bacchus restaurant in Vancouver, says Paparazzi offers "a Tuscan feel."
We were very ... (more >>>)
Underwriting Bad Policy With Our Money: General Motors, which is still partly-owned by us taxpayers, is planning to buy AmeriCredit, a firm specializing in subprime auto loans.
If a privately held automaker wants to get into the bad credit biz, that's their business. But a taxpayer-bailed company returning to the kind of risky lending which contributed to the devastating financial crisis of 2008 is a different matter entirely.
Professor Steven Davidoff of the New York Times has written, "With more than $35.7 billion in cash and marketable securities on its balance sheet as of the end of the first quarter of this year, GM is paying cash for AmeriCredit, something it certainly could not have done without the tens of billions of dollars that it received in government assistance."
Senator Chuck Grassley has requested a review of the deal from the SIGTARP, saying that, if GM has $3.5 billion in cash to buy a financial institution, it seems like the firm should have paid back taxpayers first.
After GM's experience with GMAC, one would think that the company (and the taxpayers) would be better off if GM focused on making cars that people want to buy rather than high-wire financial acrobatics.
The View From The Deck: Summertime ... and the livin' is easy:
America The Exporter: The Port of Vancouver (WA) handles 16% of all American wheat exports. Officials foresee growing demand in Asia for agricultural products such as beef, corn and soybeans.
Many of those products will arrive in Vancouver via Union Pacific and BNSF main rail lines extending across the northern tier of the United States, through the Columbia River Gorge.
Bad Pun of the Day: Successful acupuncture is a jab well done.
Monday July 26, 2010
The Last Days Of RL: Apparently, the flagship Acura RL is to be canceled in the Japanese market, where it is sold as the Honda Legend. Considering that Acura's range-topper sold only 872 units in the U.S. this year so far, speculation is that the RL is history.
The RL has been a slow-seller for quite some time, upstaged in part by the company's less-expensive, higher-volume TL sedan. The TL offers more space, similar tech and even more power (in the Type S model).
Back in early 2005, we looked at the top Acura and we were less than impressed: "I had high hopes for the much-hyped, new Acura RL. But it disappointed in person. I didn't care for the front end. And the interior didn't seem fancy enough for a $50,000 car. It also had an iDrive-like central control 'mouse' which was a turn-off for my wife. The Acura TL was a very nice car and was $17,000 less money than its larger brother ... but it was a bit on the small side."
What Has America Become? Ken Huber from Tawas City, Michigan has penned a common-sense letter to the Editor of the Iosco County News Herald.
I especially liked his observation that "we are unable to close our border with Mexico but have no problem protecting the 38th parallel in Korea."
Political Potpourri: I have refrained from political venting recently because I've not been feeling well. I am now recovering and need to get some pent-up opinions off my chest:
• The JournoList scandal shows what a biased bunch of jerks inhabit the mainstream media, including such press darlings as Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker and Joe Klein of Time and CNN. There is much more evidence of hate and potential for violence in the JournoList postings than there is in the Tea Party, the organization those liberal scribes love to excoriate.
Given the evidence of a coordinated effort to derail McCain-Palin in 2008, how come these media elites aren't under indictment for election tampering?
• Once a principled organization, the NAACP has deteriorated into a racist liberal organization - conservative blacks are unwelcome - that seeks egregious gaming of the system rather than justice and equality for all.
• Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), hypocrite-in-chief and failed Presidential candidate, who has repeatedly voted to raise taxes while in Congress, dodged a whopping $500,000 Mass. state tax bill on his new, New Zealand-made, $7 million yacht by mooring her in Rhode Island. (I bet all those old-line New England boat builders are surprised that Kerry chose a foreign builder over them.)
This guy is screwing his own state - right in front of taxpayer's eyes. When will Massachusetts voters wise up and dump this arrogant scoundrel?
• That other failed Dem Presidential candidate and King of Creepiness, Al Gore, has now been charged with boorish sexual advances by three different masseuses. The latest additions are from tony Beverly Hills and Tokyo hotels. In one case, Gore shrugged off a towel, pointed at Little Al - which was reportedly standing at attention - and ordered the masseuse to "Take care of this."
No wonder Tipper dumped him.
• Rep. Charles Rangel (D) is finally facing multiple ethics charges, including accepting corporate financing of his many Caribbean trips, tax evasion and even storing his Mercedes in the House Garage. Rangel has long believed that the rules that apply to everyone else do not to apply to him.
This has been going on for years and years. Why did it take so long to nail him? Why has he not been tried, convicted and in jail already?
House Republican Leader John Boehner said that the Rangel scandal "is a sad reminder of Speaker Pelosi's most glaring broken promise: to 'drain the swamp' in Washington. Instead of presiding over 'the most honest, most open, and most ethical' Congress in history, Washington Democrats have presided over a string of bailouts, job-killing government takeovers, and other backroom deals."
• Congressman Lamar Smith has sent a letter to President Obama asking him to appoint a special counsel to investigate not just the dismissal of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case but also "whether the Department has adopted a policy of enforcing voting rights laws in a racially discriminatory manner."
Attorney General Eric Holder has essentially ignored Smith's demands for information on the NBPP case for the past year. Too busy attending NAACP conferences, I suppose.
• Rep. Michele Bachmann has stated that the House Republicans should exercise their power to subpoena and hold continuous hearings on the various scandals. "I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another. And expose all the nonsense that is going on."
• Gallup's 2010 Confidence in Institutions poll finds Congress ranking dead last out of the 16 institutions rated this year. Only 11% of Americans say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress, down from 17% in 2009 and a percentage point lower than the previous low recorded in 2008.
Is there any wonder why?
This November, let's vote out as many crooks as we can.
How's That Hope 'n' Change Thing Goin' For Ya? The White House says the government is now borrowing 41 cents of every dollar it spends. New estimates predict the unemployment rate will average 9% next year and the budget deficit will be $1.42 trillion - even bigger than previously expected. That's because tax revenues are still slumping and the economic recovery is going slower than hoped.
Unemployment will not fall below 9% until 2012. The Administration has finally given in to the reality that whatever recovery the U.S. will experience in the next two years will indeed be a 'jobless recovery'. The National Debt "will double between this year and 2020 when it's forecast to hit over $25 trillion. That will make it over 100% of GDP which is forecast to be $24.167 trillion."
Apparently, the Obama Administration's economic plan is taken is taken from South Park's Underpants Gnomes business strategy:
< collect underpants > --- < ?????? > --- < profit! >
In Related News ... 93-year-old actress Zsa Zsa Gabor is in critical condition after surgery to replace her right hip. Her husband, faux Prince Frederic von Anhalt, her ninth husband, said his wife is conscious. "She looks at us but doesn't know what is going on."
Sounds like she's doing a good imitation of Barack Obama. "Acting!" "Genius!" "Thank Yooouuuu!"
The Trouble With Twitter: Joshua Harris presents Jesus Calls Peter:
Quote Of The Day is from Morgan at the House of Eratosthenes: "The mediocre leader promotes the subordinates who do things the way he would do them if he were they. The superior leader promotes the subordinates who produce the results he wants, working the tasks in whatever way they will."
Thursday July 22, 2010
Luxury Apparition: Last week, MotorWeek tested the $250,000 Rolls Royce Ghost. It is better-looking than its big Phantom sibling and the heavy 5500 pound boasts impressive statistics: 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, the quarter mile in 13.0 seconds with a 114 mph trap speed and a 60-0 stopping distance of only 115 feet.
The big suicide-door sedan rides on a 130-inch wheelbase and is and is 213 inches long. The twin-turbo BMW-based 48-valve V12 makes 563 horsepower and delivers it through an 8-speed transmission. While it rides like a cloud, it does respectably in the twisties.
I'd love to have one, just so when asked "What car are we taking?", I can answer, "The Ghost."
The more expensive Bentley Mulsanne sedan is a little longer but has only eight cylinders and is less powerful. 0-60 times are claimed to be just over 5 seconds.
To me, Bentley has a slight edge in styling, although both cars are good-looking in a dignified way, kind of like Diana Muldaur in her prime. But the Rolls will save you $35,000 and is faster, which may be important if your in a big hurry to pick up some imported mustard at the local gourmet shoppe.
A Drop In The Bucket. Or The Ocean: Recoil Magazine has reported, "Area resident Stan Markley admitted Sunday he no longer feels too worried about possibly spilling small amounts of oil into his gravel driveway while changing his car's oil, as his bimonthly lax in environmentally consciousness pales in comparison to BP's massive and ongoing ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico."
"I know that technically I'm not supposed to change the oil in my driveway because I could accidentally spill some of it out into the natural habitat or whatever, further contaminating the earth," said Markley, sipping his fourth Pabst Blue Ribbon of the afternoon while waiting for the remaining drops of oil to drain from his 1996 Oldsmobile Regal. "But I can't help but think that my spilling even a half-a-quart or less of oil at most into the ground every other month is, and please forgive the pun, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to what BP is spilling into the Earth's water every day."
Markley concluded, "I've always prided myself on being as environmentally conscious as the next guy - it just seems like the next guy, in this case, doesn't really seem to give a shit. So why should I?"
Less With More: Randal O'Toole has noted that "since 1970, the number of workers needed to operate America's public transit systems has increased by 180%."
Meanwhile, "ridership on buses, trolley buses, light rail, and heavy rail (again, the only modes shown in 1970), grew by a mere 32%.
That means each transit worker produced 53,115 transit trips in 1970, but only 26,314 trips by all modes in 2008.
In other words, by any measure, transit productivity has declined by more than 50%." ... (more >>>)
Remembering The Somat Machine: Last night I dreamed about the Somat machine, something I hadn't thought about it in quite a while. In the early 1970s, I worked in a big downtown office building for the plastic department of a Fortune 500 company. I frequently received plastic samples from our laboratory. When I had finished evaluating the samples, I usually threw them away.
One morning I got a call from someone who said, "We want you to stop throwing that plastic stuff in your wastebasket. The Somat machine can't digest it and it gets clogged up. So cut it out."
My first question was ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun of the Day: Although she was afraid of mice, it didn't keep her from eeking out a living at a pet store.
Tuesday July 20, 2010
Showtime: On Saturday, I attended the Harvest Days Car Show at the Gardner Center in Battle Ground. While there were many cars on display, the layout of the jumbled show field and poor parking arrangements made it difficult to photograph many of the cars. The planners should have read my tips on running a car show.
Nevertheless, I managed to snap several decent photos.
Buh-Bye: Curt Warner Chevrolet of Vancouver, WA will soon disappear. The apparently-unprofitable dealership has been sold; the buyer is rumored to be Alan Webb, another local car dealer whose franchises include Mitsubishi, Mazda and Nissan.
Warner, a former Seattle Seahawks star running back, recently acknowledged that the past two years have been "extremely challenging for automobile sales as consumers grappled with tightened lending standards and an uncertain job market." Warner has owned the sole Vancouver Chevy store since 1999, when he bought it from Bob Kendall.
In August 2007, I made my one and only visit to Curt Warner Chevrolet and wrote:
Speaking of painful experiences, do you have to be a complete a**hole to be a Corvette salesman? I haven't met many, but every one has fit that mold. As I was sitting in a showroom coupe, adjusting the seat, wheel, etc. and asking my second question (both of which the guy was unable to answer), he asked, "So, are you really interested in BUYING a Corvette?"
Exasperated with his unhelpfulness, failure to listen and admission that he didn't know the location of the dealer book (which would have answered my simple questions), I replied, "No, I just like to waste my valuable time driving around trying to find the half-hidden entrance to this dump where YOU work while looking forward to putting up with the likes of YOU."
Then I left. And bought a new car elsewhere.
I've never done business with Alan Webb; however, Lew Waters - who worked at the dealership for almost 20 years - has provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse. Doesn't sound like a happy place.
Excerpt: "In my estimation, Webb brought on his own problems as from the time he purchased the dealership, adding it to others in his Auto Group, a series of mismanagement and bad calls coupled with poor customer service in the last year doomed the dealership as the long-time customer base present when he purchased it just walked away. The day he took over the dealership the entire sales crew walked out, with only one returning right away and just for a short time."
And: "Adding to the demise of the dealership was to pressure the Service Manager to leave and bring in more of a 'yes-man' who was recently fired from another dealer ... More long-term customers began going elsewhere as they began discovering the trust they were used to enjoying was no longer there, as the new crew began their "shake them down" attitude towards customers." (permalink)
Book Review: 'The Irish Americans' by Jay P. Dolan
Drawing on his research abilities as a professor-emeritus of history at Notre Dame University, Dolan has produced a detailed overview of Irish immigrants and the history of their life in America.
From the early 18th Century, when a decline ... (more >>>)
Vacancy Update: For the three month period ending in June, 18.6% of the almost 4 million square feet of office space in Vancouver, WA was vacant. That's up by more than two percentage points from the same period last year.
"Do The Hokey-Pokey And Turn Yourself Around ..." Or buy a compass. Worshippers in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, have been facing Africa - not Mecca - while praying. The country's highest Islamic authority admitted its earlier directive on the direction of Mecca was incorrect.
Beauty, Eh? In Canada, the city of Toronto "spends sixty thousand dollars a year on buying wine and thirty thousand a year on cigarettes for the homeless."
As Doug McKenzie said in 'Strange Brew', "I'll be in the cafeteria selling smokes."
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J.: "Why do we still have courtroom artists? Is it really so awful to let a guy come in and snap one picture?"
Friday July 16, 2010
Summer Fun: It has been a while since I drove my '39 Plymouth. Work commitments, illness and questionable weather left it sleeping in the garage for almost a month. At 9:15 Thursday morning, the temperature was 61 degrees and the sun was shining. So I fired up the ol' coupe and took a nice drive.
Part of my favorite drive loop was repaved last month and is now glass smooth. Sweet.
RIP, PT: The last-ever PT Cruiser rolled off the line on July 9th. The retro-look, Neon-based compact 4-door was first launched in late 1999 as a 2000 model. In 2005, a 2-door convertible was offered. More than 1.3 million PTs were sold during its lifetime.
Originally conceived as a Plymouth model featuring a Prowler-like front end, the production PT Cruiser was badged as a Chrysler model, anticipating the demise of the Plymouth brand. Like Plymouth, the PT Cruiser died of starvation and neglect.
That's sad because, in 2003, Chrysler showed a fastback variant called the GT Cruiser.
They should have built it, as well as my design for a three-window coupe, which also could have been offered as a retractable hardtop.
The Cruiser had great potential: a strong enough initial demand that dealers could put a $3-5,000 Market Adjustment gouge over sticker price and sufficient enthusiasm to launch multiple car clubs and many custom PT Cruiser accessory kits. (permalink)
Fifty Years Later: Harper Lee's Pulitzer prize-winning book was first published in 1960. I read it when the paperback edition came out in '61 or '62. The first film version of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' was very good but I thought 'TKAM III: Revenge of the Sith' really sucked.
Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus Finch. Who knew that the character's grandson, Darth Finch, would turn out to be so evil.
Like many people, I have a voice in my head. Mine sounds just like ... (more >>>)
Hollywood Update: Basil has listened to the infamous Mel Gibson tape and reported, "You usually have to attend a cabinet meeting featuring both Rahm Emanuel and Joe Biden to get that much crazy and profanity in one place."
Democrats Make Dents: A car carrying state Sen. Eric Schneiderman, a Democratic candidate for New York attorney general, sideswiped a parked minivan and then drove away.
Mr. Schneiderman and his driver, "a campaign aide who is the niece of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, did not notify the police nor the owner of the vehicle."
Get Well Soon: Former Vice President Dick Cheney, 69, underwent surgery last week, getting a pump implanted to assist his heart. Cardiologists say the former vice president now has a left ventricular assist device, which is often used as a permanent device or as a bridge until a transplant heart becomes available.
Like me, Dick's a good-hearted guy with a bum ticker.
"Oh No! If We Crash, I Can't Win!" Peter Fernandez, the voice of Speed Racer in the 1967-68 TV series, has died at age 83. Fernandez had a small part in the 2008 'Speed Racer' movie as a race announcer.
I Bet The Writing Is Clean And Fixed: A business license has recently been issued to 'All for the Better/Writing as a Ghost'; Denise & Gordon Rutledge of 310 W. 39th St., Vancouver, WA are the owners.
The business description is given as "writing services via Internet, janitorial, repair."
Bawdy Adventure: Dave 'Iowahawk' Burge presents an 18th Century tale of two randy vicars, the Reverend John St. Edwards, Lord Plaintiff of Durham, and the Reverend Albert des Gores II, Earl Carbonet of Greenhouse. Read it here.
Quote Of The Day is from the recently-deceased George Steinbrenner: "Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser."
Wednesday July 14, 2010
Extreme DIY: 2011 Corvette owners may soon be revving up an engine they built with their own hands. General Motors said that buyers who order a Z06 or ZR1 'Vette can help make their cars' high-performance LS7 and LS9 engines at GM's Performance Build Center in Wixom, MI.
It will take buyers about six hours to assemble, adjust and clean their engines with the parts provided. A skilled technician will supervise. GM suggests dealers charge $5,800 for the engine-building program.
Ummmm, shouldn't you get a discount if you have to build your own engine?
End Of The Line: Purkey's Toy Trains of Sykesville, MD closed its doors earlier this year. Owner Wiley Purkey cited many reasons including "the worst recession since the Great Depression."
He also pointed out that "train enthusiasts are getting older. The average age is early to mid-fifties, and kids are getting into trains at too slow a pace to replace the number getting out. Wiley thinks that maybe the kids aren't interested because they don't see much of the real thing anymore."
There's also what Purkey considers the general difficulty of running a business ... (more >>>)
Drinkin' Kool-Aid In Margaritaville: Chief Parrothead Jimmy Buffett has stated that he believes the Bush administration was responsible for the BP oil leak crisis, due to its alleged ties to oil companies.
"To me it was more about eight years of bad policy before (Obama) got there that let this happen," said Buffett. "It was Dracula running the blood bank in terms of oil and leases."
This is what kind of drivel you spout when you have a sun-baked brain. I guess Jimmy's mind just "wasted away." Perhaps in Margaritaville. These days he's a big Obama supporter. Connect the dots.
I once read Buffett's 1996 book 'A Pirate Looks At Fifty', a pulp exercise in extreme self-centeredness. I cry when I think of all the trees which gave their lives for that deplorable chunk of literary flotsam. And of the money I wasted buying the otiose book.
Besotted in pot and booze (and those mysterious "vitamin pills" that got him arrested in Saint Tropez), Buffett seems to forget that the Obama Administration has lavished BP with exemptions and exclusions.
According to the Washington Post, "The Interior Department exempted BP's calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.
The decision by the department's Minerals Management Service to give BP's lease at Deepwater Horizon a 'categorical exclusion' from the National Environmental Policy Act on April 6, 2009 - and BP's lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions - show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf."
Your Tax Dollars At Waste: Torii Mor Winery of Dundee, OR has received a $6 million guaranteed loan from the federal government. The loan will help the 17-year-old winery restructure debt and establish a working capital reserve to preserve nine existing jobs. That's over $666,000 per job.
The loan was made by the USDA's Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, which received $1.57 billion in stimulus funding to help rural businesses stimulate their economies and support local communities.
Quote Of The Day is from Peter Ustinov: "The only food for thought is more thought."
Monday July 12, 2010
Elastomeric Thinking: James May makes the case for automobiles made of rubber. "Not only would a rubber car save us a great deal of heartache and inconvenience, it would actually make small accidents quite amusing. Traffic flow would be greatly improved if people stopped jockeying timorously for position and just bounced off each other and kept going. Why become bogged down in convoluted insurance claims? Why not just rebound and move on?"
"How much easier life would be if cars simply sprang back to shape afterwards, preferably with a comic "boing" noise. Who thought cars that deform only once, and permanently, was a good idea? It would be like having buttocks that remain flattened after you've sat on a chair. You know I'm talking sense here."
In the U.S., Rubbermaid already makes car mats, kiddie car seats and rooftop car carriers. Why couldn't they manufacture cars, too?
Wrong Side Of The Tracks: For as long as I can remember, Northwest Portland has been the artsy and gay district. It is a pleasant section of town filled with mature tree cover, trendy restaurants, galleries and small shops. Parking has always been at a premium due to skinny streets and a plethora of visitors.
Several years ago, Portland decided to run a streetcar line through the narrow NW streets. The streetcar swings west from the Pearl District on NW Northrup St., then south on NW 23rd, passing Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital. Then it turns east on NW Lovejoy, heading back to the Pearl and, eventually, Portland State University.
During a recent hospital visit, I had a chance to see the chaos wrought by Portland's mass transit obsession. The track makes very wide swings, knocking out a bunch of parking at every quarter turn. Every trolley stop has a shelter and landing, eliminating even more parking spaces. The streets are narrow and the trolley takes up more than half the street. Why the track radius is so large is difficult to understand; while the Skoda streetcars are quite long - 66 feet, they are double articulated and should be able to navigate extremely tight-radius curves.
During our entire time in the area, including exposure at peak commuting hours, I never saw an actual streetcar. I had the same experience when we last visited the Pearl District. It makes me wonder if TriMet actually runs any of the damn things or if they laid track just to screw up parking in an attempt to further the agency's anti-car agenda.
The old ... (more >>>)
Quote of the Day is from Pericles: "Time is the wisest counselor of all."
Thursday July 8, 2010
World Class: After 15 years of building cars and SUVs in Spartanburg, South Carolina, BMW has shipped over a million vehicles to overseas markets. That's nearly two-thirds of all of the production from the plant.
It's amazing that BMW can build cars in America and sell them to the world, while Cadillac and Lincoln sell almost nothing outside of North America these days because their offerings are so lame.
In the old days, Cadillac really lived up to its slogan, 'Standard of the World'. Examining period newsreel footage, you'd see potentates, dictators, popes, celebrities and gangsters being ferried about in long, shiny black Caddys. Or Lincolns. Or Packards.
Pope Pius XII had several Cadillacs (prewar and postwar), including a Derham-bodied model with a throne in the back seat that could be elevated. Then there were King Ibn Saud's fleet of twenty Caddy "harem cars" in Saudi Arabia. Created by coachbuilder Hess and Eisenhardt, they were 1953 fastback long-wheelbase Cadillacs with six doors and mirrored one-way glass in the passenger sections and divider glass between the chauffeur and the ladies.
Fifty years ago, Lincoln and Cadillac defined luxury automobiles in America. And the world. Competition from foreign luxury cars was almost nonexistent. No more, sadly.
Optimist Alert: James Altucher of the Wall Street Journal thinks the S&P 500, which is just over 1000 right now, may be headed toward 1500.
"The S&P 500 may be headed downward right now, but here are seven reasons to believe it will go up. Way up."
Obama's Oil Mess: Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. "To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks."
In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company's expense. "If there's a country that's experienced with building dikes and managing water, it's the Netherlands," said Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.
The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer - the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. The U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment - unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.
The Wall Street Journal has opined that as the oil spill continues and the cleanup lags, "we must begin to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions. ... The press and internet are full of straightforward suggestions for easy ways of improving the cleanup but the federal government is resisting these remedies."
"Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations."
The article concludes, "Finally there is the most pessimistic explanation - that the oil spill may be viewed as an opportunity, the way White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said back in February 2009, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.""
A real leader would have put together a task force of experts to come up with solutions within days and keep coming up with throughout the process. Decisions to waive regulations impeding the effort would have been made with an all hands on deck plea as well.
William Katz has written, "We've speculated here, and I believe the facts support the speculation, that the radicals behind Obama rather like the oil spill. The more damage, the better. More damage, more support for environmental extremism. Some will call that a conspiracy theory, but how else do we explain the utter sluggishness and marked indifference of the federal response?"
Quote of the Day is from Victor David Hanson: "Like most of America I do not read the New York Times maybe once at an airport this year, but not more. (The only Times headlines I see are in history books, and pre-1970 they were quite good.) It's not that just I get most of my news on the Internet, but rather there is no there at the Times. A void.
The front-page stories are thinly disguised op-eds and poorly written and sourced, and the op-eds are not disguised first-person rants by Dowd, Krugman, Herbert, Rich, etc. largely embarrassing confessions from a group of well-off, well-connected, status-obsessed elites lecturing the nation outside New York and Los Angeles on its various sorts of illiberality.
Life is too short for ground-hog day reads, the same angst over and over."
Tuesday July 6, 2010
I Don't Get It: The Honda CR-Z makes no sense to me. The so-called "compact sport hybrid coupe" is a slug - taking over 10 seconds to do 0-60, according to the MotorWeek drive report which I watched last week. And that's with a manual transmission. Expect the CVT automatic tranny to be slushier and even more poky.
For a little two-seater hybrid, the mileage isn't anything to crow about - 33 mpg combined cycle. The car looks good from about two angles. From the other 107 angles it looks either awkward, ugly or just weird, depending.
Decently equipped, the CR-Z costs $23,000 or so and will go on sale in August. I wonder if many will buy it. It seems to be another Honda answer to a question no one asked.
All Whine; No Action: House Minority Leader John Boehner nailed it when he said called out Obama as Whiner-in-Chief. "For someone who asked to be held to the highest standard, President Obama spends an awful lot of time making excuses and whining about others. The American people want leadership from the White House, not childish partisanship."
Boehner said the jobs report is "a disappointment for every family and every small business who heard President Obama declare just weeks ago that our economy is 'getting stronger by the day.' The writing is on the wall for President Obama's 'stimulus' policies and everyone taxpayers, economists, and the rest of the world sees it but him.
How much longer are we going to continue with this disastrous spending spree that is scaring the hell out of the American people and piling debt on our kids and grandkids?"
Lotsa Room Here: Real estate firm Norris, Beggs & Simpson released its first quarter reports for office, industrial, retail and multifamily commercial real estate, showing Vancouver's office vacancy rate at 18%, compared to 12% for Portland.
The industrial vacancy rate was in Vancouver was 15% and 17% for flex space. The retail vacancy rate was 17% for the period. (permalink)
Conservative Underground: Dave at Iowahawk has posted 'Sabotage Tips for Destroying America'. I'd have titled it 'How To Make Liberals' Heads Explode'.
These are my personal favorites:
• Before the big mandatory school Obama tribute concert, encourage kids to sing off-key.
• At school self-esteem awards, replace trophy plates to say 'Last Place'.
• Double park in Critical Studies faculty permit zone, causing professor to miss grant proposal deadline.
• Buy Obama t-shirt in Dollar Store cutout bin, use to wax Bentley.
• Buy casual dining restaurant in Florida, repeal earlybird senior discount for union/government pensioners.
• Spread vicious rumor that there are, in fact, some children who really aren't all that special.
What's In A Name? Tom McMahon has asked, "AciPhex: What sort of marketing genius brings out a heartburn medication pronounced "Ass Effects"?"
It would be a good name for an anti-flatulence drug, though.
Quote Of The Day is from Winston Churchill: "I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."
Friday July 2, 2010
June Auto Sales: Most automakers saw their U.S. sales drop from May to June. Americans are delaying big-ticket purchases because they're worried about their jobs in an environment of high unemployment.
Autodata reported that light vehicle sales were at a 11.1 million SAAR in June. That's up 14% from June 2009 (when sales were truly dismal), but down 5% from May 2010. While auto sales have recovered from the low levels of early 2009, they are below the lowest point of the 1990-91 recession - even with a larger number of registered drivers.
General Motors reported a June sales increase of 11% over last year. GM sold 25,000 fewer vehicles to fleets in June, as heavier than usual fleet demand in the first half of the year subsided. Cadillac sales were up 39%, Buick 53% and Chevy 32%.
Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers delivered 170,900 new vehicles in June a 15% increase versus a year ago. The Ford brand was up 16%; Lincoln was down 11% and, ironically, the soon-to-be discontinued Mercury brand witnessed a sales jump of 26%. Sales of Ford's F-series trucks leaped 30% to 46,502, making it the best-selling U.S. vehicle in June.
Chrysler Group posted a 35% sales increase compared with June 2009 - when it was reeling from its bankruptcy and Fiat-UAW-government merger. American Honda was up 6% and Hyundai reported another strong sales month with a 28% bounce. Mazda zoomed 33% ahead of last year.
Toyota was up 7%; sales of the big Avalon increased 33% to 2,833 units. Overall Lexus sales were up only 3%; Lexus LS sales were down 8% to 739 sedans.
Half-Time Report: We are now six months into the 2010 economy. The patient may no longer be at death's door but is still pretty damn sick. The housing collapse is continuing; in some areas, prices have still not hit bottom. Interest rates on 30-year, 15-year and 5-year mortgages have hit all-time lows but that has failed to simulate the real estate market. Pending sales of existing homes fell 30% in May. It is hard to have a robust economic recovery without a residential real estate recovery; that won't happen until the excess housing supply is reduced substantially.
Commercial real estate remains a mess. Banks are heavily exposed to the commercial property sector and face a heavy load of loan restructurings that may require sizable write-downs. New commercial projects can't get funding and there is a massive oversupply of empty and near-empty business parks, office buildings and industrial space.
Seasonally-adjusted initial unemployment claims for June increased 13,000. Many U.S. companies have indicated that business is getting better but few are doing substantial hiring.
Investors have been so burned by the financial crisis of 2008-09 that they fear any hint of a slowdown means the economy and markets will start tanking again. The S&P 500 is down almost 7% so far in 2010.
This anemic recovery is going to take considerably longer than normal - if 'normal' even exists anymore. Usually, the deeper the recession, the more robust the recovery. That hasn't yet happened (no "V-shaped" recovery). The big drop in consumer confidence and signs of a bigger slowdown in the global economy are still scary.
Instead of a V-shaped graph, expect one in the shape of a check mark.
Book Review: 'Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster' by Jonathan Eig
This book appears to be well-researched and written in painstaking detail - sometimes too much so for the casual reader. It pretty much destroys the legend of Elliot Ness and all the fictional hype surrounding Ness and 'The Untouchables' - both the movie and the television series.
'Get Capone' is even-handed; it doesn't ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from George Carlin: "Think of how stupid the average person is and realize that 50% of them are stupider than that."