A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Friday November 30, 2012
Autosketch: 1953 Studebaker - A Taste Of Europe
When the 1953 Studebaker Starliner coupe debuted in late 1952, it stunned the public and the other automakers. It was a complete break in style from every other American auto. The swoopy lines of the coupe model was like nothing else on the road. It made its competition look stodgy. The low-slung coupes were only 56.4 inches high. In comparison, the 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop coupe was 64 inches in height and looked positively stodgy when parked next to a Starliner.
Raymond Loewy's design team (primarily designer Bob Bourke) styled this stunning Studie. In 1953, Studebaker was presented with the Fashion Academy Award. The tasteful Studebaker coupes inspired other American car companies to get lower and sleeker with their future offerings.
Ads of the period touted the '53 Studebaker as ... (more >>>)
Funnel Of Decline: Just when I thought the MotorWeek tech tip portion couldn't get any worse, Pat Goss devoted the entire segment to funnels. He said - as best as I can recall, "If you don't use a funnel, you may end up spilling oil in your engine compartment and make a big mess." Me? No, maybe you Pat.
Where to begin? Let's start by noting that metal oil cans have been replaced by plastic oil bottles which are easier to control and less likely to spill.
Secondly, most contemporary vehicle engines have easy to access oil filler caps/holes/pipes, further reducing spillage potential.
Finally, if the filler pipe location dictates the use of a funnel, the smartest choice is a disposable paper one. Keeping old metal or plastic funnels around makes little sense. They are oily dirt/dust collectors which enable the transfer of dirt to your engine oil. That's a funnel full of Not Good.
The Goss' Garage segment truly has run out of useful things to say.
Economic Wisdom: Scott Grannis has raised the question, "If fiscal stimulus doesn't work (and it most likely hurts rather than helps the economy), and if monetary stimulus doesn't work (since it only adds to the uncertainties), then why does Congress want to keep the pedal to the metal on fiscal policy and why does the Fed want to add even more monetary stimulus?
I'm reminded of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Questions such as these are a big reason why economic growth remains lackluster."
I dunno. Maybe it's not insanity; it's stupidity. As Chief Wiggum said about his son Ralph on The Simpsons: "Ah .... he's a dumb kid, but he's an above average dog. Roll over, son."
On the other hand, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as Wiggum himself demonstrated: "Uh, Mrs. Simpson, I have some bad news. Your husband was found DOA. ... Oh, wait, I mean DWI. Heh. I always get those two mixed up."
Or: "Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a... car of some sort, heading in the direction of, uh, you know, that place that sells chili. Suspect is hatless. Repeat, hatless."
But I digress.
Grannis continued, "A more enlightened fiscal policy would focus on reducing, rather than increasing government spending, and a more enlightened monetary policy would focus on reducing, rather than increasing monetary stimulus."
Just wait - Obama's fiscal intransigence and refusal to make needed budget cuts will soon provide more voter remorse than two museums full of Fernando Botero nudes - or Clancy Wiggam images - provide fat.
On the other hand, I must admit that I'm actually pro-Fiscal Cliff. So is NRO's Jim Geraghty.
Let the stubbornness continue.
"Oooh Baby, My Sweet Baby, You're The One." Guitarist Mickey Baker has died at age 87.
He did a lot of session work with The Drifters, Ray Charles, Ivory Joe Hunter, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Coleman Hawkins, and many other artists.
He was best known to many as half of the duo Mickey and Sylvia, who had the 1956 hit calypso single, 'Love Is Strange'. Sylvia died in 2011. RIP.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
Wednesday November 28, 2012
Cold Travels: The joke among those living west of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest is that it only rains once a year - from November 1st to July 15th. Lately, the weather has been quite wet; I hadn't driven my '39 Plymouth in over a month.
We caught a break in the falling water from Saturday afternoon until late Tuesday with honest-to-God partly-sunny skies. On a chilly Monday morning (44 degrees at 11:30 am), I fired up the old coupe and went for a drive.
The heater in my car is original - a primitive box near the floor that takes its time warming up and then dispenses a feeble stream of warmth at the rate a stingy, bitter old man gives out throat lozenges as Halloween treats.
I did get a wave from a cheerful, hot blooded fellow crossing the street to pick up his mail; he was clothed in a thin T-shirt and shorts. I waved back with a gloved hand.
The skies were an anemic blue with streak of wispy clouds here and there. The view was quite good; in fact, the skies were so clear that for the first time in 23 years, I could spot the peak of Mt. Hood in the far distance. Snowy-white Mt. St. Helens resembled the top half of a giant Hostess Sno Ball. The sun was that pale winter color for which there's no Crayola ... (more >>>)
Safe Driving: We all know someone who's accident-prone and incompetent. Generally those two characteristics are found together, like peanut butter and jelly. Or Kardashians and television cameras.
When Homer Simpson was promoted to safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power plant, he confessed to Mr. Burns: "Safety? But sir! If truth be known, I actually caused more accidents around here than any other employee, including a few doozies no one every found out about."
Waylon Smithers tried to point that out to Mr. Burns as well. "You know, sir, accidents decreased by exactly the number that Simpson himself is known or suspected to have caused last month. And our output level is just as high as during Simpson's last vacation."
Charles G. Hill wrote a piece on a real-life Homer-type, noting that one Sheila Burgess had "32 entries on her driving record since 1984. Those included seven accidents, four speeding violations, two failure-to-stop-for-an-officer citation and one failure-to-wear-a-seat-belt mark."
"She's been on leave from work lately, recovering from a head injury sustained in a one-car accident this past summer. It appears, though, that she's about to lose her job as Massachusetts' Director of Highway Safety."
In case you're wondering how she could have gotten such a job based on her miserable record, Mr. Hill notes that "Burgess is a former fund-raising consultant to high-profile Democratic candidates for public office, including Congressman James McGovern." McGovern asked the newly elected Deval Patrick administration in 2007 to hire Burgess. So, there ya go.
Charles wondered what percentage of her salary goes to pay for auto insurance. It wouldn't surprise me if she doesn't have any.
Book Review: 'Wait: The Art and Science of Delay' by Frank Partnoy
In this work, the author offers scientific studies, interviews with military, sports and romance experts to support his theory that sometimes waiting rather than jumping to conclusions is best. Well, duh.
The book offers some interesting anecdotes but ... (more >>>)
Gives A Whole New Meaning ... to the phrase 'going tits up': A German man barely escaped death after his wife tried to suffocate him with her humongous 38DD breasts.
Maybe The Parks Service Should Take Over EBT Card Distribution: The Food Stamp Program, done with Electronic Benefit Transfer cards and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cheerfully feeds 46 million people.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us 'Please Do Not Feed the Animals'. The stated reason for the policy is because "the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."
"... But My Real Name Is Mr. Earl." Earl 'Speedo' Carroll, lead singer for The Cadillacs, has died at age 75. The group had their biggest hit, 'Speedo' in 1955. The notable doo-wop song, 'Gloria', was also a hit for the group.
When his '50s musical career waned, Carroll worked as a janitor at a New York elementary school where he was a favorite of children. Earl's singing career revived as part of the overall '50s nostalgia fad; he was often seen on PBS doo-wop specials wearing a bright green tux with matching top hat.
"Well, they often call me Speedo 'cause I don't believe in wastin' time ..." RIP.
Quote Of The Day is from George Carlin: "If you're looking for self-help, why would you read a book written by somebody else? That's not self-help. That's help!"
Monday November 26, 2012
Small Future: Designer Richard H. Arbib had a fairly broad automobile design resume, having worked for GM's Harley Earl and, later, creating the 1952 Packard Pan Am show car which was the inspiration for the production Packard Caribbean.
In the mid-1950s, Arbib dusted off his crystal ball and designed the car of 2000: the Astra-Gnome, which made its debut at the New York International Automobile Show in New York in April 1956. That same year, the vehicle made the cover of Newsweek.
The then-futuristic car was based on ... (more >>>)
Return To Sender: The U.S. Postal Service is supposed to be a self-supporting business. If that were true; it would be out of business. For 2012, the Postal Service lost a record $15.9 billion on $65.2 billion operating revenue. Total revenue fell by about 1%.
This means that the postal service would have to implement roughly a 25% across-the-board price increase just to break even. Or sell a helluva lot more commemorative stamps. Maybe it should do another round of Elvis stamps like it did in 1993:
Postal losses are absorbed by us taxpayers.
Interestingly the USPS shipping and package business grew by 8.7% to almost $12 billion on a volume increase of 244 million pieces. Meanwhile FedEx and UPS grew only 3% and 1.7% respectively. Why? Because the U.S. Postal Service is a lot cheaper - another reason that it loses money.
I wrote about how to fix the Postal Service two years ago. Unfortunately, my advice wasn't followed and it losses have been growing ever since.
Jew-Hating: If you've spent much time in Europe, you'll notice that the media love to make the case for the 'poor' Palestinians who are oppressed by those meanies in Israel. And who are still "refugees" after almost 65 years. They must be real jerks if, after all that time, they can't find a country in which to properly assimilate.
There has always been anti-Semitism in Europe but it is - once again - on the increase. Last month, Vincent Browne, a well-known columnist for the Irish Times, called Israel "a cancer." Kevin Myers has written, "Browne's diatribe - if his incoherent drivel merits such a lofty term - included the allegation that Israel "stole the land from the Arabs". Only partly true. Vast tracts of land were bought from Arabs by early Zionist settlers, and funded by the Eretz Yisrael Office.
Much the same is true of settlements in the West Bank. To be sure, some atrocious things happened in 1948, and many Arabs were intimidated into flight. But that is nearly 65 years ago: as much time as elapsed between the Battle of Little Big Horn and Pearl Harbor. Who would have proposed in 1941 that Montana and the Dakotas should be given back to the Cheyenne and Lacota Indians?
The Arabs who fled Israel were not then assimilated into the populations of neighboring Arab states, but were confined in refugee camps, which remain to this day.
Compare roughly contemporaneous events in Pakistan and India, where 14 million people fled in waves of terror and mass-murder that dwarfed events in Israel.
Refugees were then incorporated into the lives of both new states. And in 1945, millions of ethnic Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe and were duly assimilated into the Federal Republic of Germany.
In other words, bad things happened: so get on with it. But the one ethnic group that cherishes a grievance, and picks at the scab until it is an open and weeping abscess and finally, yes, cancerous, are Israel's Arab neighbors, who have ruthlessly used the Palestinian refugees as a propaganda tool in their existential war against the Jewish state.
And very successfully too: it seems scarcely believable, with Syria vanishing into a murderous abyss and Egypt and Libya both about to become Islamist theocracies, but it is true: yet another anti-Israeli boat arrived off Gaza just the other day.
Yes Gaza, where Hamas celebrated its accession to power by massacring its fellow Palestinians of Fatah. Wounded survivors fled to Israel for treatment, and of course, were given it - and no, you couldn't make that up either."
If Israel finally gets fed up with Iran-backed Hamas, I hope whatever bombs they use to wipe-out Hamas and its friends leave the beaches habitable. Gaza could someday return to being a nice Jewish seaside resort.
Nice Shooting, Morons: Sixty out of the 703 rockets Hamas fired at Israel during the four days of 'Operation Pillar of Defense' - a stupid name on many levels, which is why they don't let Arabs name appliances or cars - fell inside the Gaza Strip on Palestinian civilians.
Only 27 of the rockets fell on urban areas in Israel.
Joke Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: The doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, "Mrs. Cohen, your check came back." Mrs. Cohen answered "So did my rash!"
Wednesday November 21, 2012
Gas Pain: On the most recent edition of MotorWeek, Pat Goss warned about the dangers of bad fuel. What danger? The last time I encountered a problem with subpar pump gas was almost fifty years ago.
In his best scary, boogeyman's-gonna-get-ya voice, Goss warned that "problems" can occur when patronizing "low-volume gas stations." Huh? No such animals exist around here. So many stations have closed over the past 20 years that only the volume guys remain. With convenience stores attached instead of repair bays. The old shade tree mechanic who fixed your car in a ramshackle building and pumped a little gas on the side is an apparition of ghostly nostalgia from the past.
When MotorWeek debuted 30-plus years ago on public television, Goss used to talk about work you could do on your own vehicle in your driveway. Or on the road, if you broke down. Life has changed. There are no longer carbs to adjust, points to gap or hand-tweakable distributors. Therefore ... (more >>>)
Remembering Camelot: Forty-nine years ago tomorrow, America was changed forever. Thinking about it makes me feel sad. And old.
Back then, I was a twenty year-old college student. I gave little thought to 49 years into the future. If anyone had asked, I don't think I could have imagined what the world of 2012 would be like, other than some vague Jetsons-inspired flotsam involving flying cars and silver jumpsuits.
I couldn't imagine what my life would be like either. At 20, I couldn't picture myself as an old man. I figured I'd die long before then - quickly and in a tragically-cool way, perhaps sliding off a cliff at high speed in a Bocar. That would impress all my car buddies who would toast me with something expensive and alcoholic at my gravesite.
Some of the friends whom I visualized at that cemetery fantasy are now dead. I have toasted their lives, sent condolences to their families and mourned their passing. I never expected to experience that. O tempora! O mores!
Many friends are still alive and I celebrate that. When we visit these days, we oft speak nostalgically about our pasts, remembering youth, stamina and mobility. And discuss the aches, medications and limitations of our present. Mortality is more apparent to us now.
As an optimistic kid of 20, I thought I was invincible. I even felt some of that in my 40s. I bet Jack Kennedy felt that way, too.
On a sunny Friday afternoon in November 1963 ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot' by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
I was looking forward to this book, having read the authors' previous work, 'Killing Lincoln' and finding it to be a well-written page-turner.
Sadly, 'Killing Kennedy' was a disappointment. It was lacking in the detail and the sheer can't-put-it-down excitement of the earlier book. Some of the phrasing was over the top ... (more >>>)
Oh, The Humanity! The Twinkie Nation has been shaken to its core. Hostess Brands, makers of Twinkies (an American staple since 1930), Ding Dongs, Yodels as well as Drake's Funny Bones, Devil Dogs, Pound Cake (made since 1888) and the abominable Sno Balls has ceased operations and is in Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy. Hostess shut 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers nationwide, as well as 570 outlet stores.
There was a rush by desperate ... (more >>>)
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."
Monday November 19, 2012
Chickmobile: The Volkswagen New Beetle, introduced in the late 1990s, was a cartoon parody of the Real Beetle. I speak from experience, having owned several air-cooled Type 1s.
In the U.S., the New Beetle was soon tagged as a chick car because so many were purchased by females. When the car was revamped for 2012, it was given a butched-up, chopped-top look. Volkswagen wanted ... (more >>>)
Technology Is Wonderful ... except when it's a pain in the ass. In the last century, people used keys to operate their cars - locking and unlocking doors, turning on the ignition, accessing the trunk. Car keys typically lasted 20 years or so, eventually wearing down to the point where they'd break.
In the 21st Century, electronic proximity keys have become fashionable. These smart keys cause the vehicle to 'recognize' you as you approach, turning on interior lights and/or puddle lights in the side mirrors. Touch the door handle and the car opens - a very convenient feature when it's dark and rainy.
Unfortunately, proximity keys are ... (more >>>)
Rail News: I am pleased to report that my O-gauge train layout is now up and running. I took this photo at night:
One of the changes I made this year was the addition of improved lighting and lighted signage at the rear of the layout, especially in the area of the Howell Machine Works and Tasty Baking Co. I've posted a couple of new photos on this page.
I didn't put the train platform up last year because of illness. I really missed it and I'm glad that I'm feeling well these days and can enjoy my little seasonal railroad empire once again.
Something To Avoid: Black Friday is almost upon us and, in the haste to buy something on sale, you may be tempted to grab a particular book because it's Just Released, by a Famous Author and full of Pictures.
I'm referring to 'Custer' by Larry McMurty. Don't waste your money on it. Want to know why? My review is posted here.
I'm presenting this warning as a public service. You're welcome.
Restaurant Review: Red Robin - Vancouver, WA
Before I begin my Old Man Whining, let me say that enjoyed my most recent dining experience at Red Robin. As chains go, you could do a lot worse. I'm talkin' about you Applebee's, Panera Bread, Chevy's, El Torito, and Ruby Tuesday.
That said, Red Robin is noisy. I used to enjoy that in the 1980s when Happy Hours were really happy and there was a certain conviviality between humans - now absent thanks to .08 blood alcohol laws.
Politicians tell us that we are a bitterly divided electorate. People should drink more; alcohol is the social lubricant that brings everyone together. And they should stop talking on cell phones and texting in social situations. Talk to your bar mate instead. When I left Red Robin, I passed a guy hanging half out the front door in an apparent attempt to get good cell reception. If The Robin is blocking cell reception within, I cheer, "Boo-Ya!"
People have three voices: inside voice, outside voice and cell phone voice. Cell phone voices are very close in volume to outside voices. That's why I hate cell phones in restaurants - every user is a loudmouth. At least texters are quiet.
In the good ol' days ... (more >>>)
They Thirst For Death: Despite knowing that most Hispanics vote Democratic, some Republicans are considering still another "Immigration Reform" plan that would let more illegal Hispanics become citizens and vote.
On the subject of Hispanic culture and politics, Mark Steyn has written, "The short history of the Western Hemisphere is as follows: North America was colonized by Anglo-Celts, Central and South America by "Hispanics." Up north, two centuries of constitutional evolution and economic growth; down south, coups, corruption, generalissimos and presidents-for-life."
Hmmmm. Connect the dots.
Steyn noted that, "demographics is destiny and, absent assimilationist incentives this country no longer imposes, a Latin-American population will wind up living in a Latin-American society. Don't take it from ... (more >>>)
Mr. Thin Skin: Greg Gutfeld has pointed out that Barack Obama's "rage over criticism of Benghazi far exceeds his rage over Benghazi."
"So, responding to the Benghazi mess, President Obama said Susan Rice had the best intel available," Gutfeld said.
"Best intel available? The White House caterer knew this was a terror attack before Obama and Rice did."
William Katz has written, "During Watergate, the press assisted because it hated then-President Nixon. But the press today is an Obama admiration society, and is doing little or nothing to get at the truth. Already The New York Times, an Obama groupie, is arguing that the Republicans are just coming up with conspiracy theories, when in fact they've come up with critical details that raise serious questions about the administration's competence and integrity."
Watergate wasn't so much about the crime; it was all about the cover-up. History is repeating itself. Except this time, four fine Americans were murdered. No one died over Watergate.
Quote Of The Day is from Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Thursday November 15, 2012
A Legacy Of Bad Choices: Motor Trend has selected the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year. It is the first all-electric car to ever win the award.
The Chevrolet Volt hybrid was selected as MT Car of the Year for 2011.
This award used to get me somewhat excited until I read a revealing 2003 posting by Peter De Lorenzo, the AutoExtremist, which detailed how this 'award' is "for sale" to the manufacturer that showers Motor Trend with the most ad/promo money.
Industry insider De Lorenzo's comment shed light a lot of previous COTY choices to me. In 2002, the faux, late-to-the-party and trouble-plagued New Ford Thunderbird won top honors. The 2001 award went to the meretricious and underpowered PT Cruiser.
In 1997, the perennial Rental Car Queen Chevy Malibu, a vehicle more boring than either 'Dune' the book or 'Dune' the movie, was presented with MT's top prize. In 1988, another member of GM's Rental Car Royalty ... (more >>>)
A New Slant On Auto Parts: Two non-chain restaurants that seem to never go out of business around here are Chinese and Mexican. Many are family-owned; relatives work there on-the-cheap which keeps costs down.
So, I was surprised when a Chinese family restaurant closed last year. I was even more surprised when the site became an AutoZone. I wouldn't buy any in-car air fresheners there - they'd probably smell like an old to-go container of General Tso.
At The Movies: On Tuesday, I saw the new James Bond flick, 'Skyfall'.
It made for an interesting comparison: last week the BBC-America channel was having a James Bond film-fest; one of them was the 1963 movie 'From Russia With Love' (the second one after 'Dr. No') with Sean Connery playing 007. The story was much slower-paced and, as with the case for many of the early Bond films, it was a both a spy story and travelogue, featuring many picturesque clips of exotic lands.
'Skyfall' seems to be a return to the old format. Yes, it was fast-paced, as action films must be in this age of speed-O-light video games and short attention spans. But there were more appealing location scenes than in the last couple of Bond films. There was far less gadgetry and the only vehicle with special-equipment was the 1964 Aston Martin DB-5 from 'Goldfinger' which made a nostalgic appearance in this latest 007 movie. Overall, it was very enjoyable.
There were no exotic cars to be seen in 'From Russia With Love'; the most prominent vehicle was an ordinary, light blue 1960 Ford Ranch Wagon.
Book Review: 'The Lost Bank' by Kirsten Grind
Robert Frost once wrote, "A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain."
Having owned a few businesses, I have a pretty good understanding how most companies work (know your costs, watch your expenses, hire good people, be nice to customers and prospects) but - in almost 55 years worth of transactional experiences - I've never figured out what makes for a successful bank. Many of financial institutions that have treated me badly seemed to succeed anyway, while many of those banks that were top-notch - in my book - have disappeared.
This book is about the failure of Washington Mutual, a once-sleepy Seattle-based savings-and-loan that wanted to become a giant. The bank bet big and failed - spectacularly. In the late 1980s, I ... (more >>>)
Train Of Thought: Randal O'Toole, is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, has written about getting the U.S. government out of the passenger rail business.
"Before Amtrak took over the nation's passenger trains, average rail fares were a third less than average air fares. Today, thanks to four decades of government management, average rail fares are more than twice average air fares.
Moreover, subsidies to passenger trains are nearly ten times as great, per passenger mile, as subsidies to airlines (and more than twenty times subsidies to highway travel). When fares and subsidies are combined, Amtrak spends nearly four times as much moving one passenger one mile as the airlines."
This is another example of ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: A backward poet writes inverse.
Tuesday November 13, 2012
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda ... Not: Hemmings has listed a 1965 ASA 1000 GT for sale at an asking price of over $100,000.
What? You've never heard of an ASA? I have. In fact, I considered buying one after I graduated from college.
ASA - Autocostruzioni Società per Azioni - was an Italian automobile manufacturer. It's primary product, the 1000 GT, was developed by Giotto Bizzarrini from a Ferrari design and was made between 1964 and '69.
It was a very cool, small sports car powered by ... (more >>>)
Line Extension Gone Mad: Land Rover expects to offer a 16 model lineup by 2020.
Land Rover sells less than 38,000 vehicles in the U.S. annually, although the worldwide figure of 250,000 or so is more impressive. Indian parent company Tata depends on Jaguar Land Rover for 90 percent of the automotive group's profit. In addition to vehicles, Land Rover also sells coffee.
Look Out Below! Headlines everywhere are screaming about driving off the fiscal cliff if there's no budget/debt deal in Washington, DC and sequestration kicks in.
Sequestration means that an amount of money equal to the difference between the cap set in the Congressional Budget Resolution and the amount actually appropriated is "sequestered" by the Treasury and not handed over to the agencies to which it was originally appropriated by Congress.
This is a forced balancing of the federal budget and supposed to inspire Congress and the President to come up with a more-palatable budget and a "solution" to our ever increasing debt.
I call bullshit on it. The Democratic-controlled Senate has not passed any budget in almost four years. How will this inspire them? Sequestration will not reduce our national debt, it will simply prevent it from increasing further. But hey, it's a beginning.
If these bozos fail to agree, we citizens get punished. If they were serious, they should be punishing themselves: fail to agree by the deadline and they get their own "fiscal cliff": no salary, no expense reimbursements and turn down the heat at the Capital and the White House to 45 degrees - just enough to protect the buildings. Not the occupants.
My sequestration plan would have all Congressional offices padlocked ... (more >>>)
Payback's A Bitch: The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Houston saw a sharp decline in participation in the charity's main fundraising event last month, falling 50% short of its $3 million goal.
"Earlier this year, Komen received nationwide criticism after it announced it would stop making grants to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screening. It reversed its decision three days later. As a result of the controversy, many Komen supporters around the country abandoned the Race for the Cure."
People who supported Komen because they thought it was all for breast cancer prevention and research, felt betrayed when they found out that the organization had be come a shill for McAbortions.
This is what happens when you dance with the Devil. We had been supporters of Komen for years and my wife has participated many times in its Race For The Cure. No more. We stopped our support when the sordid story broke in February.
Question Of The Day: What happens if you get scared half to death ... twice?
Friday November 9, 2012
You Light Up My Life: The very earliest vehicle headlamps were acetylene-powered and not very good. Unless the driver kept pressure up with a small handpump located near the steering wheel, the lights would go out.
Electric headlamps debuted in 1898 and, by 1915 or so, most cars had electric lighting systems. Headlights were part of front-end styling and, in the absence of regulations ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy - How to Save Yourself and Your Country' by Peter Schiff
In this book, author Schiff posits that America is currently in a ready-to-explode government-inflated bubble. When it bursts, the consequences for the economy and Americans will be catastrophic. While I agree that our national debt is waaaay too high and Bernacke's ultra low-interest rates are unsustainable, I am unconvinced that ... (more >>>)
Now What? Fewer people voted this year than four years ago, when voters shattered turnout records as they elected Obama to his first term. In most states, the numbers are shaping up to be even lower than in 2004. Despite fewer voters, Barack Obama won the election. Even after Fast and Furious. And Benghazi. And the failed stimuli - QE I, II, et al. And Solyndra. And Obamacare. And, "You didn't build that." And a mostly comatose economy.
Jonah Goldberg wrote, "That Mitt Romney got fewer votes than John McCain is dismaying on any number of levels. We were told, by strategists and by what seemed like common sense, that the McCain coalition was a floor for Romney to build up from. The possibility that it was in fact a ceiling is pretty awful to contemplate."
What happened? People wanted free stuff and that's what they voted for. Obama ran a Oprah-like show for slackers: free obamaphones, extendeed unemployment benefits, more food stamps - just for being in his audience. George Bernard Shaw once wrote, "Those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul." Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh updated Shaw's idea, quipping, "In a nation of children, Santa Claus wins."
Victor David Hanson expressed it thusly, "We have never quite had the present perfect storm of nearly half not paying federal income taxes, nearly 50 million on food stamps, and almost half the population on some sort of federal largess - and a sophistic elite that promotes it and at the same time finds ways to be exempt from its social and cultural consequences."
One out of every five Americans is on Medicaid - the health care program for the destitute.
Hanson continued, "For an Obama, Biden, Kerry, Pelosi, or a Feinstein, the psychological cost for living like 18th-century French royalty is the promotion of the welfare state for millions of others that live, and for now will be kept far away, in places like Bakersfield or Mendota."
Bread and circuses. Or Doritos and Honey Boo Boo.
Powerline's John Hinderaker wrote, "Decades ago my father, the least cynical of men, quoted a political scientist who wrote that democracy will survive until people figure out that they can vote themselves money. That appears to be the point at which we have arrived. Put bluntly, the takers outnumber the makers.
Too few people have skin in the game of capitalism.
"The polls in this election cycle diverged in a number of ways, but in one respect they were remarkably consistent: every poll I saw, including those that forecast an Obama victory, found that most people believed Mitt Romney would do a better job than Barack Obama on the economy. So with the economy the dominant issue in the campaign, why did that consensus not assure a Romney victory? Because a great many people live outside the real, competitive economy.
Over 100 million receive means tested benefits from the federal government, many more from the states. And, of course, a great many more are public employees. To many millions of Americans, the economy is mostly an abstraction." The money shows up every month, no matter what.
What's the answer for the Republican Party? Beats me. But consider these demographic stats:
It seems to me that, well before the next presidential election, Republicans are going to have to find out how to better penetrate more voter segments. Hispanics, young and middle-aged whites, women and casual Catholics are probably their best potential targets.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "Support bacteria - they're the only culture some people have."
Wednesday November 7, 2012
Buh-Bye: Hurt by a strong yen and a limited choice of vehicles that failed to excite consumers, American Suzuki Motor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will no longer sell cars in the U.S. It plans to focus on selling motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and marine outboard engines.
Suzuki was a small brand that U.S. car buyers barely knew, despite selling passenger vehicles in America for 27 years. Suzuki sold just over 21,000 vehicles in the United States through October 2012, a 5% drop from the previous year. The overall market was up by 14% during the same period. The brand was the second worst-selling mainstream brand, behind the unloved Smart car.
No word yet on the fate of Suzuki dealers or the timetable on American Suzuki's departure from the car business.
Suzuki automobiles will soldier on in many other countries and are still sold in Canada. I've never driven a Suzuki in my life and only rode in one once - a late '80s Samauri. I wasn't impressed.
On the other hand, Suzuki probably lost less money than Chevy Volt or Fisker. Or Tesla, which reported revenue for the third quarter at $50 million, equating to a net loss of about $110 million after expenses were tallied. But Suzuki's fate was dictated by unfettered market forces rather than government loading of the dice.
Who's next to go? Smart? Volvo? Mitsubishi? (permalink)
The People Have Spoken: Barack Obama has decisively won the election.
Americans looked at the clear choice between two candidates and chose a path to more entitlements, crushing debt and increasingly socialist-style government. I believe with all my heart that this is the wrong path but the majority think otherwise. They will, I'm afraid, live to regret their votes for the false promise of free stuff over a free country.
Republicans will engage in introspection, Monday-morning quarterbacking and, probably, finger-pointing. The fact is that Mitt Romney was the most-electable candidate in the Republican field and gave it his all. His gracious concession speech will be seen as a model for any future candidate of either party. He's a class act. I admire his fortitude, sound ideas and enthusiasm and wish him well in all future endeavors.
Conservatives will lick their wounds and live for another day.
Locally, there was some good news: county voters resoundingly said 'No' (again) to C-Tran - the regional mass transit entity - for increased taxes to fund more silly transit bus and light rail projects. In the Clark Public Utilities Commissioner race, experienced utilities engineer Jim Malinowski enjoyed a 55-45 margin over former schoolteacher and newspaper editor, Julia Anderson.
Washington State Sentator Don Benton remains in a too-close-to-call race with his Democratic challenger.
Sandy Compared: The suffering caused by Hurricane Sandy, which killed 111 people so far, is saddening. But, to put things in perspective, the 1938 New England Hurricane, which had winds of almost 200 mph, killed up to 800 people. As hurricanes go, it was only outdone by the Great Colonial Hurricane in 1635.
Hmmmm. Must have been caused by global warming; the 17th Century was a big time for carbon emissions, I'm told. All those powerplants and pickup tricks, ya know. Just ask Al Gore; he'll probably tell you that William Penn drove a Dodge Power Wagon.
Leaf Report: Remember that nice photo of trees I posted last Friday? As of yesterday morning, 99% of the tree leaves are now on the ground.
Bad Pun Of The Day: How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
Monday November 5, 2012
Lancia Death Watch: The iconic Lancia automobile brand seems to be headed down the same hole as Mercury. And Pontiac. New, unique models are long gone and the brand is almost nonexistent outside Italy. The plan is for most Lancias to be nothing more than rebadged Chryslers.
Founded in 1906, Lancia has a long tradition of producing fast touring, sports and racing cars. Memorable ones, too - like the Lancia Aurelia luxury touring car of the 1950s and its successor, the Flaminia. Or the Stratos and the ultra-wedgy Stratos HF concept car. And even the ill-fated, mid-engined Scorpion of the 1970s.
But that's the past. Today's European market is ... (more >>>)
In Da House: At 2:00 pm Saturday afternoon, we brought the train platform in from the garage. We moved it in under cloudy but dry skies. By nightfall, the rain had returned.
Everything went smoothly. No animals were harmed; no humans were killed. No screws were stripped. And, if they had been, I don't care; I have enough left until 2037.
The train layout is now sited in the living room. There is much work to be done but I hope to have it operational before Thanksgiving.
The Truth Comes Out: On Friday, Joe Biden told an Obama rally, "There's never been a day in the last four years I've been proud to be his Vice President." Meanwhile, Barack Obama told a crowd of supporters, "Voting's the best revenge." What a pair of bozos.
Don't Forget To Vote: You shouldn't whine about politicians if you refuse to participate in the game. Please remember the new rules implemented to avoid long lines: Romney supporters vote on Tuesday, Obama fans vote on Wednesday.
Question Of The Day: Can an atheist get insurance for Acts of God?
Friday November 2, 2012
Problem Patient: General Motors' third-quarter net profit slid 14%, hurt by wider losses in Europe, higher costs in North America and a less-profitable mix of sales in several markets. In dollars, GM's third quarter net fell just short of the $1.6 billion smaller rival Ford Motor Co. posted.
The General's net income was $1.48 billion for the July-September period, down from $1.73 billion a year earlier.
North America continued to drive GM's results, though profits before interest and taxes there fell 17% - weighed down by a market trend towards smaller, less-profitable vehicles and higher warranty costs. GM's U.S. market share has dropped since last year (from 20% to 18%), primarily because of the post-tsunami resurgence of Japanese automakers.
These are not healthy signs. General Motors, despite a massive bailout, is still once pretty sick puppy despite being the Democrats' favorite rescue dog.
Losses in Europe jumped to $478 million from $292 million a year earlier; GM has a glut of capacity and no one seems to like Opels anymore. The European economy is in the tank and GM Europe is expected to be a money pit until at least 2015.
While General Motors is doing well in Korea, Australia and South America, its sales in car-centric China are flat - the company is facing lower margins because there are too many manufacturers chasing customers in a declining growth environment.
There is one bright spot: the General's PR force is working overtime to crank out the latest batch of hype, talking points and excuses. And the beat goes on.
October Vehicle Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 14.3 million SAAR in October, up 8% from October 2011 but down 4% from month - probably a consequence of Hurricane Sandy.
General Motors sales increased almost 5%, while Ford Motor's sales were flat, although Focus sales jumped 48% to 18,320 units. Mustang sales increased 9% to 5328 units. Ford sold almost 900 Police Interceptor sedans in October. Chrysler Group's sales were up 10%. Over 3,700 little Fiat 500s were sold in October.
Toyota sales rose 17%; Lexus was up 10%. Sales of the LS flagship were 834 units - a drop of 30%. Elsewhere in the luxury segment, Cadillac up 15%, while Lincoln was down 15%. Only 699 flagship MKS sedans were sold in October - a drop of 29%. The MKT remains the worst-selling Lincoln; only 426 were sold last month. Even the lowly, oft-ridiculed Smart car outsold it (998 units).
BMW also had a good month - an increase of 21%. Porsche sales jumped 41%.
American Honda was up 9%, while Nissan declined by 3%. Volkswagen continued to have string sales with an increase of 22%. Kia was up 13%, while Hyundai was off 4%.
Cars That Couldn't Be Charged Due To Blackout Destroy Selves: After the clean-up is complete and the roads are open again, you probably shouldn't take your new Fisker to the Jersey Shore. On anyplace else near salt water.
Sixteen Fisker Karma sedans were damaged by fire at the Port of Newark after being submerged in sea water during Hurricane Sandy.
I wouldn't even park one of these outside a saltwater taffy store. Meanwhile, bankrupt battery supplier A123 wants a judge to void its Fisker contract so that it can raise prices, forcing Fisker to boost prices for its fiery Karmas.
Don't forget, I offered a solution for the electric-hybrid battery cost problem over four years ago.
The View From The Back Deck: The leaves are now past peak color and are beginning to fall. I took this photo yesterday in between rain showers:
Book Review: 'Cowards' by Glenn Beck
Where does one begin? In my mind, Beck began as a quirky CNN program host, moved to Fox where he was unleashed and spouted everything from logic to zany craziness to Ray Bell-like paranoia. Then he bailed on Fox, moved to Texas and started his own subscription TV service. He's definitely an uneven guy, like that half-loony acquaintance that you sometimes agree with and then wonder if you're crazy, too.
This is not a useless ... (more >>>)
"Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi, I'm A Lonely Dope." That's probably what George Lucas said to Disney when he offered Lucasfilm to the Mouse. Mickey took the bait; the Walt Disney Company forked over $4.05 billion for the acquisition.
George Lucas is already richer than God and doesn't really need more money. But the dude who revolutionized sci-fi film making with the 1977 Star Wars, has become a caricature, spending his days "improving" his earlier film releases - kinda like Michelangelo resculpting David riding a Vespa - and ferociously licensing Star Wars Everything in the frenzied manner of an amphetamine-crazed Hello Kitty product manager humping a manic Franklin Mint marketing exec. Talk about squandering the franchise.
Let's face it, with the exception of 'Return of The Jedi', every Star Wars movie after the original stunk worse than a herd of African bush elephants after a rampage in an Ex-Lax warehouse.
So, what will happen next? Well, Disney is probably planning ... (more >>>)
Splitting Hairs: Joe Biden has declared that transgender discrimination is "the civil rights issue of our time." Hmmmm. I wonder how black folks feel about this? I mean the 99.5% of them who haven't had or aren't contemplating a
Remember, this quote came from a man who underwent an operation to go from a bald guy to a half-bald guy. Is there any study linking hair plugs to brain damage?
Racing Legend: John Fitch, the first Sports Car Club of America national champion and a star in European sports-car racing in the '50s and '60s, has died at age 95 in Lime Rock, CT.
A talented racer, he was helped by wealthy racing enthusiast Briggs Cunningham, whose financial clout allowed Fitch to race cars that complemented his substantial skills.
In early 1956, Ed Cole, Chevrolet's Chief Engineer, asked Fitch to develop and manage a team of Corvettes he planned to enter at Sebring, just six weeks hence. Corvette father Zora Arkus Duntov had already turned down Cole's request, claiming that it would be impossible to make the production cars competitive in such a short amount of time. Fitch said he'd give it a go.
Despite the odds, the Fitch's team won. Many years later, Corvette Racing's present-day manager Doug Fehan led his drivers in a standing ovation for Fitch, remarking that he had almost single-handedly achieved in six weeks what today would take an entire dedicated organization years to accomplish.
Fitch also designed and conceived stillborn Corvair-based Fitch Phoenix sports car of 1966. He also built and sold quite a few Corvair Sprints. RIP.
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "Economists say rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy will give the ailing construction industry a huge boost. In fact, the storm has already created more jobs than President Obama has."
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