Wednesday November 30, 2011
Small World: In the second installment of my Auto-Biography, 'Learning To Drive', I recounted my vehicular experiences from age 13 to 18 or thereabouts.
This chapter is about VWs. I've had more Volkswagens in my life than any other automobile brand. It began when our family's 1956 Ford fell apart from rust after less than six years of ownership.
My dad gave up on American iron and placed an order for a new 1962 Beetle - officially known as the Volkswagen 1200 sedan because of its 1200 cc. horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, air-cooled engine. One of his work friends, Moon, had a VW and my father was impressed with the build quality, the thick sturdy metal and the gas mileage. Moon loved his Bug and regaled my father with tales of its overall awesomeness.
We had to wait six weeks for our Beetle because ... (more >>>)
Another Institution Disappears: The legendary and classy London Grill at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland is closing down at the end of the year. I'll miss the harpist playing on the landing.
After January 1, 2012, the restaurant, which opened in 1955, will be available "exclusively for private dining and special events." Breakfast and lunch have already been moved to the hotel's Palm Court restaurant.
In related no-longer-available news, I just found out that Old Spice Pre-Electric Shave Lotion has been discontinued. And American Airlines, once the top choice of business travelers, has declared bankruptcy.
New Crook Replacing Old Crook: With Barney Frank retiring, Maxine Waters - loudmouth and violator of Congressional conflict-of-interest rules - is slated to be the ranking Democrat on the House Banking Committee.
Jonah Goldberg's reaction: "Buy gold!"
West Wisdom: Allen West, the black Republican U.S. representative from Florida and a Tea Party supporter, has written, "One of the primary tenets of socialist ideology is the creation of a welfare state, which is precisely what has happened in the black community. It is, in effect, a virtual plantation, where black Americans remain enslaved to damaging economic policies and poisonous attitudes of the rhetorical 'overseers' who continue to reinforce exploitive, negative mindsets.
The only way for black Americans - and all Americans for that matter - to enjoy the full fruits of economic freedom is by once again embracing the spirit of individualism and self-determination laid out in our Constitution and exemplified by true black leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. It is only by abandoning the damaging liberal progressive policies and throwing off the shackles of the victim mentality can black Americans finally be 'free at last.'"
Nearly 100 years later, when the initial Civil Rights Bill came before the full Senate in 1964, it was a group of 18 Southern Democrats who argued most fervently against its passage.
West has noted that ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
Monday November 28, 2011
If A Maybach Falls In The Forest, Does Anyone Give A Rat's Patootie? Mercedes Benz is killing off its Maybach line in 2013.
Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche has said, "Daimler hasn't made a profit on the Maybach since it decided to reintroduce the 1930s-era marque in 2002."
Though the plush ride and its $375,250 starting price turned heads at auto shows - especially ones in the Middle East or at hip-hop conventions, its sales have steadily faltered, shrinking to fewer than 200 Maybachs world-wide last year. In contrast, Daimler currently sells close to 80,000 S-Class models - which start at $91,850 - each year.
Jack Baruth described the Maybach thusly: "It seemed like such a wonderful idea: build a car that combined the styling of the Hyundai XG300, albeit without some of the more tasteful details of that model, and the interior of the thoroughly-reviled W220 S-Class, albeit with carved-wood buttons.
Drop a twin-turbo V-12 and some retractable curtains in it. Paint it in two-tone schemes that wouldn't have passed muster of a '78 d'Elegance, and charge three hundred grand for it.
Oh yeah, name it after a car nobody remembers, just to make absolutely certain there's no brand equity."
I've only seen one Maybach in person - a 12-cylinder Maybach 57 parked in front of the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in January 2007. (permalink)
Auto Sketch Update: I have posted a new, larger and improved scan of my original pen & ink drawing (created in September 1992) of a 1952 Lincoln convertible. See it here.
Exclusive To This Blog - Not Found Elsewhere: Twelve Least Popular Amazon Black Friday Deals (in Toys & Games):
• Occupy Elmo
• Tickle Me Jerry Sandusky
... (more >>>)
Munch On A Pizza Roll In His Honor: Jeno Palucci, a Minnesota food magnate who popularized pizza rolls in 1968, has died at age 93. Jeno's Pizza Rolls were later rebranded as Totino's Pizza Rolls after Pillsbury acquired the company.
Though worth nearly $500 million at the time of his death, Paulucci would still describe himself as a "peddler from the Iron range," a reference to his Minnesota roots.
When Good News Is Really Bad News: Clark County's September 2011 unemployment rate decreased to 11.8%, the lowest since January, 2009.
The lower unemployment rate was more about job seekers dropping out than employers staffing up, according to Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department.
As the economy has remained weak and jobs scarce, some unemployed workers have simply given up looking for work, thus lowering the numerical unemployment rate calculation ... (more >>>)
Only Took 2.5 Years To Grow 160%: My good friend and former coworker, Bill B. from Kansas, pointed out that in an April 2009 posting, I wrote, "If you Google 'Obama fraud' you get almost 22 million results."
Bill reported that, as of Friday evening, "if you Google 'Obama fraud', you get 57,400,000 results."
I just wish the Dow Jones Industrial Average had grown this much over the same period.
Bad Pun Of The Day: When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.
Wednesday November 23, 2011
Interesting Factoid: Over 54% of all new cars sold in California last year were Asian brands.
When Ripple Is Passed Off As Montrachet Grand Cru: Financial advice guru Malcolm Berko isn't a fan of GM ... or its stock. "I've been telling readers to sell their General Motors stock ever since it went public at $33 last November. The new General Motors is basically the same wine in the same bottle - with a new label and a synthetic cork."
Two, Four, Six, Eight. Time To Excommunicate: The Catholic Church should develop some backbone and very publicly kick that ghastly Nancy Pelosi out of its Congregation of the Faithful.
And not just for the sin of Pride - I mean, how many facelifts has she had anyway?
Consider this: "Nancy Pelosi is upset that the U.S. Catholic bishops wouldn't approve if the Obama administration did, in fact, decide to force insurance companies to cover birth control, contraception and drugs that could cause abortions. The bishops say that, under such a decision, some religious groups might have to provide the insurance against their moral and religious views.
She was skeptical earlier this year that Republicans would fight for conscience protections for health care providers out of any noble motive. Republicans must want women to "die on the floor," she said, just because they don't want to compel health care providers to assist with abortions."
Pelosi continued, "I'm a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it ... but they have this conscience thing (that puts women at risk)."
Nuff said. Don't let that heavy carved wooden church door hit your scrawny, liver-spotted ass on the way out, Nancy. (permalink)
AEI/Heritage Republican Debate: I thought Wolf Blitzer did a good job as moderator on Tuesday night's debate. It reminded me of the CNN of 15 years ago before they filled up their programs with lefties.
The quality of the questions from the audience, from leading scholars and policymakers, stands in such contrast to the softball questions planted at Obama events. Or the hostile questions at the CNBC disaster. Audience questioners included such political glitterati as Ed Meese and Paul Wolfowitz.
• Props to Herman Cain for bring up cyber-vulnerability as a threat America should worry about.
• When Jon Huntsman mentioned the Ottomans, I wanted to put my feet up on something. He was full of rambling ambassador-speak in this debate. Mitt should have been the Rambler in the debate. After all, his dad, George Romney, used to make 'em.
• Ron Paul made a good point - that the budget deficit debate is smoke and mirrors. Congress is talking about phantom cuts based on unrealistic economic projections. The budget process doesn't work anymore.
• Mitt Romney said, "If I'm president, my first foreign trip will be to Israel." I dunno. If I were elected president, I think my first trip would be to Bermuda. The climate's nicer and we've been ignoring them lately. Plus, the beaches are better. And you don't have to worry about Palestinian suicide bombers blowing you up.
Sum-up: Perry, Romney and Gingrich did best in this debate. I think there are only about 87 more debates to go between now and Christmas.
In Honor Of Thanksgiving ... here's an Indian joke: An chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the medicine man.
After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk hide and gave it to the chief, instructing him to bite off, chew and swallow one inch of the leather every day.
After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged and said, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."
Tuesday November 22, 2011
Forty-Eight Years Ago ... President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a sunny Fall afternoon in Dallas, Texas. It was a profound event which became a defining moment for people of my age and truly marked the end the 16-year 'decade' known as 'The Fifties'.
As with everyone else of my generation, I remember exactly where I was when the news broke. I was leaving a college classroom after taking a thermodynamics exam. In the hallway, the professor pulled several students aside and whispered, "The president's been shot in Texas." He had no further details, so I hurried to the parking lot, hopped in my red VW Beetle and clicked on the radio, waiting for the tubes to warm up.
I headed for home. Just as I got on the Schuylkill Expressway, JFK's death was announced. Not knowing what to do, I turned on my headlights. As did most of the other cars on the road.
Every November 22nd, the networks feature JFK assassination tidbits, interviewing aging people with failing memories. Some of these specials focus on 'what might have been', dragging out the old stories that Kennedy would have pulled us out of Vietnam, gotten us to put men on the surface of Mars, balanced the budget and invented anti-gravity.
It's all bullshit.
This happens with almost every famous person who dies before his/her time. There is a very thin line between 'keeping the memory alive' and 'flogging the corpse' and the line is too-often crossed. Some people take delight in crafting bogus, optimistic speculations for their own selfish purposes:
• Buddy Holly would have become The Most Important Person In Music.
• Elvis would have lost 90 pounds, gotten off drugs and become More Legendary Than Ever.
• Anna Nicole Smith would have cleaned up her act and become The Next Marilyn Monroe.
Complete bullshit - made up just to peddle a few more books or DVDs.
The reality is that JFK was a charismatic but flawed President. He probably would have been reelected but would continued to be dogged by a recalcitrant Congress - the same thing almost every President experiences. And, even in his first term, Jack was sending more troops to Nam. 'Advisers' he called them. Yeah, right. Advisers with rifles.
Buddy Holly's career had been in decline ever since he abandoned the Crickets and went solo. He went on that ill-fated Winter tour because he desperately needed the cash.
Elvis had a weak, reedy voice in his final years and most of his 'best' songwriters wouldn't provide material for him anymore. He was on his way to bankruptcy because he could no longer draw as many people as he once did. And still lived like a Sultan. Or a King.
Anna Nicole's film appearances were roundly panned, her drug problems were many orders of magnitude worse than Monroe's, she was a far less talented and versatile actress than Marilyn and, at the end of her life, Smith had no career, losing even her train-wreck of a meretricious reality show.
None of this is meant to negate the very-real accomplishments of these individuals but ... stop the fantasies, already.
As for JFK, I think writer/commentator Cal Thomas summed it up best. "For some, all things seemed possible with Kennedy in the White House. When he died, most things seemed impossible. There was a sense we had been robbed of hope and hope denied produces cynicism and despair, two viruses that continue to plague our culture.
Speaking as one who became a conservative and realizes that the 'myth' of Camelot was exactly that, I still miss him. Even more, I miss much that was good in American life that seems to have perished with him."
Yes, Cal, Camelot was an illusion. But JFK the Legend was born on that November afternoon in 1963. Even when we strip away the myths, hyperbole and the what-ifs, John F. Kennedy lives on in our memories as a forever-youthful, optimistic fellow, full of great and daring ideas - pursued with "viggah," passing by in a long, elegant navy-blue Lincoln.
We could use some of JFK's optimism today. Rest In Peace, Jack. (permalink)
Sunday November 20, 2011
Gas History: The engineer part of my brain forces me to record all fuel purchases in spiral notebooks. I keep one in each car.
I've owned my 1939 Plymouth since 1994. Here's a list of Premium gas prices in September of each year.
This year, hi-test fuel hit a 17 year high: $4.10 per gallon.
Stubbornly High Numbers: While Washington state's unemployment rate dropped from 9.2% to 9%, Clark County's unemployment rate remained at over 12%, according to the Employment Security Department.
Goin' Galt: Ann Barnhart has written the following to her investment clients: "It is with regret and unflinching moral certainty that I announce that Barnhardt Capital Management has ceased operations. ...
The reason for my decision to pull the plug was excruciatingly simple: I could no longer tell my clients that their monies and positions were safe in the futures and options markets because they are not. And this goes not just for my clients, but for every futures and options account in the United States.
The entire system has been utterly destroyed by the MF Global collapse. Given this sad reality, I could not in good conscience take one more step as a commodity broker, soliciting trades that I knew were unsafe or holding funds that I knew to be in jeopardy."
Read the rest here. It's very scary.
Rudy For Veep: I realize that The People have spoken and don't want Rudy Giuliani as the Republican presidential nominee. They've said so twice. Nevertheless, the former New York City Mayor is soooo much better than Biden and would make a great Vice President on the 2012 Republican ticket.
Rudy recently said that the First Amendment "does not give Occupy Wall Street protesters the right to take over private property and engage in illegal activities."
President Barack Obama's empathy for the 2-month-old movement and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's lack of action to stop it are an embarrassment to the nation and the city, Giuliani said.
He described the protesters as "disgruntled bums" and "leftover hippies from the '60s and '70s."
"When I see them on television sometimes, particularly the older ones, it looks like I'm seeing the leftover effects of having taken too many drugs when they were 20 years old. They make no sense. They babble."
Denny Wilson (aka - Grouchy Old Cripple) calls them Occutards. He has observed that "many of these occutards are college graduates who cannot find jobs. The level of ignorance in these highly educated people is astounding. This is why we have politicians like Jug Hussein Ears Downgrade getting elected. It's also why the people who created the financial mess are the same people who claim that they're the ones who can fix it."
Hearing Difficulty: Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor to get a physical. A few days later, the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm.
Later, the doctor pulled Morris aside and said, "You're really doing great, aren't you?"
Morris replied, "Just doing what you said, Doc: 'Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.'"
The doctor said, "I didn't say that, Morris. I said, 'You've got a heart murmur; be careful.'"
Thought For Today: If life gives you melons, maybe you're dyslexic.
Thursday November 17, 2011
Market Adjustment: The Treasury Department dramatically boosted its estimate of losses from its $85 billion auto industry bailout by more than $9 billion in the face of General Motors' steep stock decline.
The Department now says it "expects to lose $23.6 billion, up from its previous estimate of $14.33 billion."
It now pegs the cost of the bailout of GM, Chrysler and the auto finance companies at $79.6 billion.
The Treasury Department no longer includes $5 billion it set aside to guarantee payments to auto suppliers in 2009. I'm not sure why. A mere rounding error, I guess.
The big increase is a reflection of the sharp decline in the value of GM's share price.
Modello Eccellente? No. Fiat would have us believe that its 500 minicar is as stylish as Italian supermodel Bianca Balti. U.S. sales of the tiny auto indicate that Americans perceive the little Fiat as more like Ugly Betty.
Automotive News has reported that "Chrysler Group has suspended production of its 1.4-liter engine that powers the Fiat 500 in North America due to slow U.S. sales of the subcompact, according to "a top UAW local official." Internal Chrysler documents show that the Italian-owned automaker has a 184-day supply of Fiat 500 coupes and cabrios available to dealers."
Over at TTAC, Ed Niedermeyer has quipped "in the US market, the 500 will be little more than an overpriced fashion accessory."
I've yet to see a Fiat 500 on the roads around here. Yet, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne stated that ... (more >>>)
If Italy Falls: French banks have the largest exposure to Italy - over $416 billion. The U.S. has less than $47 billion in Italian bank exposure.
Deficit Stats: Scott Grannis has observed, "Federal spending has more than tripled since 1990 (+209%), while nominal GDP rose only 172%."
Scott's single sentence sums up why we're going broke.
Economic Wreckage: Financial columnist Malcolm Berko is critical of the way the Fed has handled the economy, criticizing both Greenspan and Bernanke.
"Among the Federal Reserve's saddest failures are the Three Qs, or the three rounds of quantitative easing: QE-1, QE-2, and QE-3. Someone calculated that if the collective sum of the Three Qs were represented by 100-dollar bills, the volume of that currency would fill Yankee Stadium to the bleachers."
And, "The Fed's second silly failure was diddling with interest rates, keeping them near zero, to stimulate consumer borrowing ... Most retirees depend upon their CD earnings, but that income has vaporized. Some economists believe that reduced retiree spending has lowered our GDP by almost 2%."
I have several friends who have relied on CD payouts and other fixed rate investments for their retirement. They have been badly hurt by the low returns of late and have had do serious belt-tightening.
Berko concluded, "The most evident consequence of the new hundreds of billions of dollars flooding the economy and low interest rates is the rank speculation and systematic pillage of the stock market.
This kind of trading gave the Vampires of Wall Street the tools to drain the blood from the corpus of America's middle class. Stock values collapsed, pension plans became devalued, homes are underwater, incomes declined, jobs disappeared and municipalities struggle to stay solvent."
The present administration thinks it can 'spend' its way out of the doldrums. That's not the solution; excess spending - and the excess borrowing required to pay for such spending - is the problem. You can't fix it by playing around with the money supply and tweaking interest rates. Or with the financial mistake - with an apparent half life of strontium 90 - Quantitative Easing.
Fiscally, the Tea Party has the right idea: get the government to stop throwing money around. We can no longer afford it. Our government must learn to live within its means.
This Democrat Certainly Had No Respect For Life: "A well-backed Democrat candidate who ran for a position on the board of a top beltway-area school system has been found guilty of assault for ramming a pro-lifer with her car during this year's national March for Life."
Charisse Espy Glassman, the niece of former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, withdrew her candidacy for the Fairfax County Public School board after the charges were revealed by the Washington Post.
"Glassman was driving out of an alley near the Supreme Court building on the day of the March for Life when a woman stepped in front of the car, yelling at her to stop because of the crowd. Glassman allegedly laughed and kept moving forward until she hit the woman."
Tell It Like It Is: Rep. Peter King weighed in on the Occupy protesters. "They were absolute lowlifes and they were somehow exalted as being freedom fighters. A public park means it should be open to the public. And except for them nobody else could use that park ... What that does to the neighborhood. The rapes that were going on. These people were on the outs of society and somehow we exalt them to some kind of sainthood."
BigFurHat has added, "Sitting around with their incoherent signs and mantras, pointing at the wrong target, was just a pretense, a prelude to what filthy dirtbags do best, destroy."
Travel Advisory: Comedian and late night television personality Jimmy Fallon has reported, "A new research survey says that LAX will be the busiest airport over the Thanksgiving holiday this year. In fact, they are going to be so busy that TSA is asking airline passengers to grab their own crotches."
Headline Of The Day is from The Onion: 'Elf Finger Found In Box Of Keebler Cookies'.
Bad Pun Of The Day: A boiled egg is hard to beat.
Tuesday November 15, 2011
Model Mania: For my daughter's birthday this month, I gave her a 1:43 scale model of a 1934 Packard Le Baron V12 boat tail roadster. (She's quite a Packard enthusiast.)
The model is manufactured by Ixo but this one was part of a limited edition in red for Edison Giocattoli, a leading Italian toy manufacturer and distributor. I also bought one for myself, along with a 1:43 gas pump, a 1937 Bowser model in Mobilgas livery, produced by Vitesse.
These pumps were a familiar sight ... (more >>>)
Oh, The Humanity! A Chevy Volt burned up at a NHTSA facility after being crash tested. The Volt caught fire while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin, three weeks after a side-impact crash test.
The fire was severe enough to burn other vehicles parked near the Volt. Investigators determined the battery was the source of the fire.
Many auto enthusiasts and industry people are surprised and dismayed by this development.
I dunno ... I've watched a lot of Hollywood movies and have observed that cars always burst into flames after a crash. Or after driving off a cliff. And then, just as the actor crawls to safety, it explodes spectacularly in a Hindenburgesque fashion.
Just because a car catches fire, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy it.
Still Around: My wife recently showed me an article in the 'Temple Review', her alumnae magazine, about some School of Pharmacy graduates who now work at Sun Ray drugstores.
I didn't realize this drug chain still existed. Stores can still be found in the Delaware Valley, New Jersey and New York. I probably haven't set foot in a Sun Ray drugstore in 40 years.
I wonder - does Sun Ray still sell ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: The Coachmen; Battle Ground, WA
Located at the site of the former Chililicious, this eating establishment specializes in 'gourmet' hamburgers made from "1/2 Pound Certified Angus Beef freshly pressed in-house."
My cheeseburger was big, pricey ($9.25) and surprisingly lacking in flavor. I'm not sure why. Coachmen's signature 'cyclone fry' - a spiral-cut potato fried and served on a stick, shish kabob-style was excellent. My cup of tomato basil soup was flavorful but waaay too sour.
I ate here on a calm day but a previous visit ... (more >>>)
Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah: Iowahawk brilliantly channels the late Allan Sherman as he describes those 'Occupy' morons:
"Please don't worry ... about psychosis
'Cause my Guy Fawkes mask repels tuberculosis."
No Soup For You: Michele Bachmann has promised to significantly lower funding to social safety net programs during a speech at the Family Research Council, going so far as to suggest that people who won't work should not eat.
Sounds good to me.
Quote Of The Day is from comedian Gallagher: "I wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence. There's a knob called "brightness," but it doesn't work."
Friday November 11, 2011
Sun Run: The weather on Thursday at 1:15 pm was gorgeous - sunny and 55 degrees, so we took the '39 Plymouth out for a spin.
I wrote 'we' because my wife came with me. It's the first time she's ridden in the ol' coupe in a couple of years.
The drive through the countryside was great. There was still some Fall color remaining and the traffic was relatively light.
Winter is coming though; the tree farm down the road was already cutting and bailing Christmas trees. The forecast for the next five days: rain, rain, rain, etc.
The Name Game: Toyota and Honda are successful brands which were growing in market share until the production troubles caused by the tsunami in Japan and, more recently, the flooding in Thailand.
Hyundai and Kia are fast-growing brands which are rapidly picking up market share. Buick - once a dying brand - is experiencing remarkable sales increases. Nissan has improved its share of market over the past five years. Rolls Royce sales are booming. Bentley is also doing well.
What do these brands have in common? Their models have names: Corolla, Avalon, Civic, Accord, Pilot, Sonata, Elantra, Rio, Optima, Regal, Verano, Altima, Sentra, Ghost, Phantom, Continental and Azure.
Lincoln dropped the Continental and Town Car models, replacing them with meaningless three-letter designations. As did Cadillac - gone is the Seville, DeVille, etc. In the last ten years, sales of Lincoln and Cadillac have dropped by half.
Note to manufacturers: People like to buy cars with names - even mediocre ones. BMW, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes get a pass ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Auto Makers - GM, Ford, and Chrysler' by Bill Vlasic
This is a fast-paced narrative about the trials and tribulations of GM, Ford and Chrysler in the 21st Century. Detroit's business model of the past 60 years was no longer working and the financial crunch of 2008 turned the Big Three's sniffles into pneumonia.
Vlasic, a veteran auto reporter and Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times, tells a riveting story. He takes us into the boardrooms of the Big Three and enumerates the three differing paths taken by each automaker. Especially revealing are GM's board meetings in 2006, when directors ignore ominous trends in favor of incremental (inconsequential) changes.
Although Vlasic tries to avoid the Heros and Villains Syndrome, GM CEO Rick Wagoner comes off as a clueless dolt, while ... (more >>>)
Won't Happen Again Until 2111: It's 11-11-11 today.
Honoring Veterans. This is the day for all of us to be grateful for their sacrifices which have kept and continue to keep us safe.
Freedom is never free. Thanks to all soldiers who serve or have served.
Bank Sale: Spokane-based Sterling Financial Corp., through subsidiary Sterling Savings Bank, is buying the banking operations of 101-year-old First Independent Bank of Vancouver, WA.
"First Independent provides an attractive opportunity to acquire a healthy community bank franchise within our identified strategic growth footprint along the I-5 corridor," Greg Seibly, president and chief executive officer of Sterling Financial, said in a statement. The sale also allows Sterling to offer trust services for the first time.
Sterling ranks seventh in Washington state in terms of deposits, according to the latest data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It had $3.2 billion in deposits on June 30, 2011. The bank raised $730 million in new capital last year, which helped it get out from underneath a regulatory order last year - the then-troubled Spokane bank (NASDAQ: STSA) was under cease-and-desist orders from state and federal regulators to reduce the number of bad loans it held.
Private equity firm Thomas Lee's investment in Spokane, Washington-based Sterling Financial "meant a 75% haircut in the $303 million Treasury TARP investment." The bank regained its health but taxpayers were on the hook.
At its peak in October 2006, Sterling Financial traded for a split-adjusted $2,274.00 per share. It now trades for 15 bucks and some change.
As for me, I won't miss First Indy - a snooty, fuddy-duddy bank that preferred to do business with the old-line local biz clique. The bank blew me off a couple of times and did the same to some of my clients. I used to refer to it as 'First Arrogant Bank'.
In recent years ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge-it.
Thursday November 10, 2011
Tire Display: Recently I obtained a 1:43 scale '1950s Service Station Merchandising Kit' with period automobile tires. The kit is produced by American Heritage Models.
Michigan GOP Debate: This time it was CNBC's turn and the focus was to be on the economy, appropriate since the Dow fell almost 400 points yesterday. Here are some random observations:
• Screamin' Jim Cramer, who did get in a couple of good questions, was a refreshing change - finally there's someone at the debate crazier than Ron Paul.
After the debate, Cramer was spotted on the edge of Oakland University's campus loudly interrogating a telephone pole about recent low returns on utility stocks.
• Mitt Romney got waaay more face time than any other candidate. Why?
• CNBC practically saved Cain's candidacy, single-handedly when that wench Maria Bartiromo asked him about The Women. The audience gave her a loud 'Boo' and cheered Herman when he finished his reply. Vox Populi. (Herman shoulda asked Maria if she wanted a room upgrade.)
Maria's follow-up question, asking Romney to comment on The Women, was a cheap shot but he handled it deftly. But Bartiromo sure got her ass handed to her by Newt Gingrich on her health care question. Newt ended his short soliloquy by dropping some French on Maria: "a very short précis." I hope she didn't think it had something to do with genitallia.
• The answer on the student loan question was vintage Newt at his brilliant best.
• When health care costs were being discussed, only Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney made reference to the negative consequences of the U.S. malpractice system. The phrase "tort reform" was embarrassingly absent at this debate.
• Herman Cain's near-autistic repetition of 9-9-9 is making him seem like a one-trick pony. Not good.
And then there's the hat. I see a lot of footage of Cain wearing a Crocodile Dundee hat. It's almost identical to the one Smokin' Joe Frazier wore late in life. I hope that Herman isn't sick or anything and signaling it by wearing the Hat of Death.
I loved it when Cain referred to Pelosi as "Princess Nancy."
• Sartorial comments: Herman Cain has the best tailor. Second place - Jon Huntsman. Ron Paul always wears ill-fitting suits - looks like something from the extra-large rack at Goodwill. How come Romney's tie was pulled down, exposing his top shirt button? Did someone fail to download the Tie Fix App to Mitt's central processor?
• What was the deal with Mitt's mussed hair? Did it test well in focus-groups or something?
• I bet Rick Perry was hoping for either a do-over or a lifeline call on that 'what three federal agencies would you eliminate' question. He said afterward, "I'm glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it." At least he hasn't lost his sense of humor.
A lot of people think Perry is toast (Texas Toast?) after his memory-failure gaffe. I don't think so. It was a small moment in a large life. (Besides, he named two out of three.)
I'm somehow reminded of The Simpsons' Moe Szyslak, "Man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what? ... They think they're so high and mighty, just because they never got caught driving without pants."
• Since only one of these folks will get the nomination, I couldn't help but wonder which of the others will be in 2013 television ads promoting reverse mortgages for seniors. Probably not Jon Huntsman - he doesn't need the money. But he still seems like a clueless loser to me. Maybe Rick Santorum could get the gig if he can get his hair into distinguished gray mode by early '13. Or, there's always Gary Johnson.
• You probably noticed that even though he's from Pennsylvania, Santorum didn't say, "Hey, how 'bout those Nittany Lions?"
Who won? My take: 1.) Gingrich 2.) Romney.
An Early Christmas Present From Barry O: President Obama's Agriculture Department has announced that it will impose a new 15¢ charge on all fresh Christmas trees - known as the Christmas Tree Tax - to support a new Federal program to "improve the image of Christmas trees."
What?! Do Christmas trees have some kind of self-esteem problem?
Update: Oops. Apparently because of incoming flak from folks, the government will "delay implementation" of the tax.
OMG, it's a Christmas Miracle!
Wile E. Mindset: Basil, a conservative gentleman from Georgia, who occasionally posts and/or cross-posts on Frank J. Fleming's blog, has written about liberals and their strange, twisted logic.
"It still amazes me that people can be so stupid and still manage to walk upright. It's sort of like a Road Runner cartoon. Wile E. Coyote thinks he's a "Super Genius" but comes up with some hair-brained plan that ends with him ordering rocket-powered roller skates and blowing himself up or splattering himself against a canyon wall."
Basil offers nine examples of convoluted liberal logic:
• Liberals think that early snow and cold weather is a sign of Global Warming.
• Liberals believe that conservatives who support Herman Cain do so because conservatives hate blacks.
• Liberals think that Americans shouldn't own guns, but think it's okay to run guns to Mexican drug lords.
• Liberals believe that the Tea Party is bad because they could be violent, even though they're not violent.
• Liberals think that the Occupy groups are good, despite their violence.
• Liberals believe that the solution to problems caused by government is more government.
• Liberals think that killing an unborn baby is fine, but executing a convicted killer is bad.
• Liberals believe in Affirmative Action, in which blacks are treated different than whites, because blacks have suffered in the past by being treated different than whites.
• Liberals think you shouldn't impose your morality on them, while imposing their immorality on you.
Amen. Nuff said.
Billy, Jeffy, Dolly and P.J. Are Sad: Bil Keane, creator of 'The Family Circus' comic, has died at age 89 of congestive heart failure. The single-panel comic debuted in 1960 and is featured in nearly 1,500 newspapers across the country. His son, Jeff, now draws The Family Circus.
Keane taught himself to draw while attending Northeast Catholic High School in his native Philadelphia. Around this time, young Bill dropped the second L off his name "just to be different." Bil once worked as a messenger for the Philadelphia Bulletin. Requiescat In Pace.
Bad Pun of the Day: Old chemists never die ... they just stop reacting.
Tuesday November 8, 2011
Next Year: Edmonds is forecasting auto sales of 13.5 million units in 2012, "building on 2011 momentum and benefiting from a steady release of pent-up demand.
Supply will continue to expand as automakers restock their inventories after this year's shortages. All-new top-selling models will provide extra motivation for buyers to return to market. Loosening credit standards and low interest rates will further facilitate sales.
Other buyers will return due to aging vehicles or recession weariness causing an urge to spend."
Transit Madness: Today, Vancouver Washington (and some of Clark County) voters will be asked to raise sales taxes in order to "preserve existing bus service."
Without the sales tax increase, says C-Tran, the transit agency, "C-Tran would need to implement a system-wide service reduction of about 35% by early to mid 2013."
The Anti-Planner has pointed out, "It turns out that is a lie. An accountant named Tiffany Couch has scrutinized C-Tran's budget and projected costs and revenues and concluded that existing taxes are sufficient to maintain bus service for many years."
Why does C-Tran say that service will decline without the tax increase? The answer, says Couch, is that C-Tran has already decided it wants to build a light-rail line - its first one - connecting with Portland's light rail. Without the tax increase, C-Tran will have to cut bus service in order to pay for the light rail.
C-Tran looks across the river at Portland's Tri-Met with all its insane, underutilized streetcar and light-rail lines and develops a severe case of trolley-envy.
I couldn't ... (more >>>)
Did You Watch The Debate Saturday? It was on C-Span and was between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich ... but it was more of a friendly chat than a debate.
This was an excellent format, giving the candidates lots of time to expand on their views. It made the other debates look like badly-managed Gotcha game shows. Both men came off well but Newt was, I think, the better of the two. During the debate, he said, "This president is about as candid and accurate as Bernie Madoff in what he tells to the American people."
Newt has said if he's the nominee he'll challenge Obama to a series of similar debates. And if Obama says no? Newt will follow him around the country calling him out.
Wow, now that would be fun to watch.
More Appealing Than Mitt: Conan O'Brien said, in a recent monologue: "KFC has just introduced the new Cheesy Bacon Bowl, which is filled with mashed potatoes, cheese, gravy, chicken and bacon." The Cheesy Bacon Bowl is "now the Republican front-runner for President."
Ace has proposed this slogan for the candidate: "No paper trail. No experience. No vegetables."
So, here's my question: If the Cheesy Bacon Bowl gives me the runs, can I sue for Intestinal Harassment? And have Gloria Allred represent me and hold a press conference?
Actually, I don't think Gloria will represent anyone unless a press conference is included.
Tax Facts: The current federal income tax system is too complicated and burdensome. Consider this: In 1913, the tax code was 400 pages. Today, it runs to 72,536 pages. Taxpayers - individuals and businesses - spend 6.1 billion hours per year complying with tax-filing requirements.
And the tax code is growing faster than ever. In 2002, there were 1.4 million words in the code. By 2010, it had grown to 3.8 million.
Herman Cain and others are right - it's time to dump the present tax system and start over.
Technology To The Rescue: 60% of Alzheimer's patients will wander away from home at some point over the course of the disease. Finding them quickly is critical as the risk of death or injury goes up considerably as time passes.
A new device - footwear with an embedded GPS tracking device - provides a possible solution for dementia sufferers and their caregivers.
It has been rumored that Hillary Clinton has fitted Bill with a pair of the $300 shoes in order to track his movements with the ladies.
But Isn't Self-Reliance Is What Made America Great? At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser last week, President Barack Hussein Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.
"The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don't work even harder than we did in 2008, then we're going to have a government that tells the American people, 'you are on your own,'" Obama told a group of 200 donors.
"If you can't afford college, you're on your own. ... That's not the America I believe in."
Excuse me, but my wife worked her way through college, God bless her. My parents paid for my tuition but I worked to get the money for books, commuting expenses, meals and incidentals.
Whatever happened to ... (more >>>)
"Do You Know What Really Annoys Me?" Andy Rooney, whose oft-prickly, sometimes witty commentary on '60 Minutes' - delivered every week from 1978 until a few weeks ago, has died at age 92.
The specific cause of his death has not been given but I'm suspecting suffocation by eyebrows.
Please don't confuse Andy Rooney with fellow nonagenarian Mickey Rooney. Or Carl Fredricksen, the old geezer in the Pixar film, 'Up'. I realize that as people age, they all start to look the same. I suspect that by the time he reaches age 80, Flavor Flav will look just like Mother Theresa. Except that Mother Theresa never wore a large clock around her neck.
The cranky-voiced Rooney once observed that "there are more beauty parlors than there are beauties" and that "if dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one."
Of baseball, he wrote in 2007, "I know all about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but today's baseball stars are all guys named Rodriguez to me."
The self-described liberal and atheist often ranted about everyday items, complaining about doors, hard to open packaging, groceries, annoying relatives, or faulty Christmas gifts and other things that annoyed him. He once ranted, "I don't know anything offhand that mystifies Americans more than the cotton they put in pill bottles. Why do they do it? Are you supposed to put the cotton back in once you've taken a pill out?" Good question.
I'll always remember his funny comparison of how expensive a new Abrams army tank was versus a Chrysler Le Baron. Andy performed calculations on a chalkboard and 'proved' that the enemy would probably be more intimidated by 100,000+ Le Baron sedans than they would by 5,000 tanks. Plus, the government could use the money from Iacocca's 'Buy a Car, Get a Check' Rebate Program to pay off the National Debt.
Rooney always wrote clearly, carefully and without profanity. Rest in peace, Andy.
"My Left Hook Was A Heat-seeking Missile." RIP as well to Smokin' Joe Frazier, who died from liver cancer at age 67. Joe was former Olympic and Undisputed World Heavyweight boxing champion with a professional career lasting from 1965 to 1976. He made a short comeback in 1981.
In 1964, Joe won the USA's only Olympic boxing gold medal for that year. In 1971, he defeated Muhammad Ali on points in the 'Fight of the Century'. Later in life, Smokin' Joe appeared in two episodes of The Simpsons.
Oh Canada, Etc: I've recently added several new photos to the October 2004 report on our vacation trip to Quebec City plus photos of a cool Ferrari, our ride on the Amtrak Acela from Boston to Washington and pix from the Smithsonian in D.C.
Quote Of The Day is from the late NY gossip columnist, Earl Wilson: "If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments."
Friday November 4, 2011
Losing Volume: Based on year-to-date U.S. sales compared with the same period in 2010, the three biggest losers in the world of auto brands are Lexus (-16.2%), Toyota (-8.3%) and Acura (-6.6%).
For the same period, the overall car market is up by 10% over 2010.
Hemmings Always Posts Cool Pix: A recent car show in Lambertville, New Jersey brought out a very nice, stock 1939 Plymouth business coupe in authentic factory green.
The photo shows the split hood in the open position where the big black factory twin horns are visible. Just like my first 1939 Plymouth - pictured at right. I even spray painted my horns gold. (My current '39 has horns mounted near the lower front grilles.)
Classy Sportsmanship: Last Sunday (the day after the big snowstorm), two rowers from Episcopal Academy, James Konopka and Nick Mead, were competing in the Under-17 doubles race when they passed a capsized St. Joseph's Prep boat in Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.
"They had flipped," Konopka, a 16-year-old sophomore, said. Nick and James turned around and assisted. "They were yelling 'help'" said Mead, a 16-year-old junior. "The water was cold and I'm sure their limbs were going numb."
The Prep rowers, Joe Leonard and Andrew Burrichter, were grateful for the assistance.
Konopka and Mead stayed with the Preppers until a launch arrived. Hopelessly behind, the Episcopal rowers nevertheless completed the race.
"When our coaches found out what had happened, they shook our hands and told us we did the right thing," Mead said.
Indeed. Konopka and Mead didn't finish first but, on Sunday, they were the biggest winners on the water.
Tea Party versus 'Occupy' Comparison: Courtesy of the Jawa Report.
It's amazing how the mainstream media has underreported the violence, misbehavior, disruption and general mayhem at the various Occupy locations.
Big Bonuses For Government Losers? Freddie Mac posted a wider loss in the third quarter of $4.4 billion, marking its worst quarterly loss in more than one year.
Freddie Mac recorded a loss of $2.5 billion in the year-ago period. The loss forced Freddie Mac to seek $6 billion in new aid from the Treasury, including $1.6 billion that it borrowed in order to pay required quarterly dividends back to the government. The loss brings Freddie's total cost to taxpayers to $56 billion.
Meanwhile, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the hybrid semi-private mortgage entities overseen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, are issuing seven figure bonuses to some of their executives. $12.79 million in bonuses will be doled out to ten executives. Peter Bella has written, "Fannie and Freddie received bailouts. Their fat cat executives are getting obscene bonuses. Can anyone smell the stench of hypocrisy?"
Freddie Mac has now borrowed $71 billion from the government, and it has paid nearly $15 billion back in dividends. Fannie Mae, which has yet to report its third quarter financials, has taken nearly $104 billion in aid and paid back around $15 billion. The net cost to the taxpayers for bailing out both firms stands at $145 billion.
Here's a little history from Charles Calomiris: "The turning point was the spring and summer of 2004. Fannie and Freddie had kept their exposures low to loans made with little or no documentation (no-doc and low-doc loans), owing to their internal risk-management guidelines that limited such lending. In early 2004, however, senior management realized that the only way to meet the political mandates was to massively cut underwriting standards.
The decision by Fannie and Freddie to embrace no-doc lending in 2004 opened the floodgates of bad credit. In 2003, for example, total subprime and Alt-A mortgage originations were $395 billion. In 2004, they rose to $715 billion. By 2006, they were more than $1 trillion.
... more than half of the mortgage losses that occurred in excess of the rosy forecasts of expected loss at the time of mortgage origination reflected the predictable consequences of low-doc and no-doc lending. In other words, if the mortgage-underwriting standards at Fannie and Freddie circa 2003 had remained in place, nothing like the magnitude of the subprime crisis would have occurred."
We taxpayers are on the hook because our government pushed the concept of lending to deadbeats for social engineering reasons. It's like Section 8 squared.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory."
Thursday November 3, 2011
Spirit Of America: Five-time world land speed record holder Craig Breedlove has announced plans to break the 800 mph barrier.
Now 74 years old, Breedlove said that he hopes to return to Bonneville in 2013, the 50th anniversary of his first record, in an assault on the 800 MPH barrier, though with somebody else driving this time. During the 1960s and beyond, Breedlove was a regular in the Bonneville Battle for Speed.
It's a lesser-known fact, however, that Craig also set 23 FIA speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1965 driving a '64 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, CSX2287, which is now displayed at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. I visited the museum in June.
The Beach Boys' song 'Spirit of America' is about Breedlove and his wickedly-fast vehicles. (permalink)
October Car Sales: U.S. vehicle sales were up a solid 10% in October with a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of 13.26 million units - the highest since August 2009, that infamous Cash-for-Clunkers month.
Analysts said the improved results for October showed some consumers have delayed vehicle purchases for as long as they could during the downturn. Used car prices are higher and the average age of cars and trucks on American roads is now about 11 years, the highest-ever reading for - what many consider - an indicator of pent-up demand.
Chrysler posted its fifth consecutive gain of 20% or more - up 27% last month. The firm claimed that its retail sales were up 40% in October.
FoMoCo sales increased by a modest 6%, while General Motors sales were up a mere 2%. Ford's SUV segment did well, led by the redesigned Explorer with a 225% increase. Ford sold 5,438 Taurus sedans in October. Lincoln has no winners in its line - all models experienced declines - overall sales were off by 11% in October. Cadillac sales dropped 12% during the same period.
Foreign-owned automakers reported mixed results. Volkswagen sales were up 40%. Hyundai and Kia reported sales increases of 23 and 21% respectively. Nissan was up 22% but sales of Subarus dropped by 12%.
Honda was down slightly (-0.5%) while Toyota decreased 8%. Avalon sales were up 11% to 2,502 units, while sales of the flagship Lexus LS sedan were down 1% to 1,186 units.
Only 22 Acura RL sedans were sold in October.
Credit Where Due: The Obama Administration isn't all bad. The U.S. State Department will withhold $60 million in funding to UNESCO that was due in November after a vote to include Palestine in its membership.
Hey, here's an idea: Let's withhold all money from the U.N. and kick them out of the U.S. The only people adversely affected will be pricey NYC restaurants and high-end Manhattan hookers.
Irony Alert: Democratic Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has been charged with felony grand theft after allegedly being caught by security officers stealing nearly $2,500 in clothing from a San Francisco Neiman Marcus store. The 45-year-old wife of a Bay Area judge, pleaded not guilty.
Here's where the irony part comes in: Mary is chair of the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee. "Hayashi, who lived in Korea as a child, has documented her experiences as an immigrant in a book 'Far From Home: Shattering the Myth of the Model Minority'." Model minority, indeed.
In other Democratic Theft News, Jon Corzine, the CEO of bankrupt broker-dealer MF Global, former U.S. Senator from New Jersey and former Democratic Governor of New Jersey, may face criminal charges after investigators discovered as much as $700 million in customer funds missing from his failed firm. The FBI is investigating. (Update: The trustee for the now-bankrupt company says the actual figure might be $1.2 billion.)
Corzine and Hayashi may now be eligible for the annual Maxine Waters 'Gimme Da Cash' award.
Speaking Of Costly Things ... that quickly failed, you have to wonder if the Kardashians are Democrats. Kim Kardashian was married just long enough for all the checks to clear.
Dennis Miller has observed that "these people are charming grifters ... they know that we're an off-the-rack culture that likes to ogle a train wreck.
And, in this case, that train has the biggest caboose of all time." (permalink)