The View Through The Windshield - Car Blog

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Tuesday December 31, 2013

Year End Summary: 2013 is done. Let's hope that 2014 is even better.

Personal: For us, 2013 was a good year. In February, we flew to Scottsdale, Arizona for a two-week stay. In September, we traveled to the North Oregon Coast and had a most pleasant time. In 2014, our flying trips will be few. Security hassles and the overall decline in airline service makes air travel an unpleasant experience. It's not the Sinatra 'Come Fly With Me' fun it used to be.

As retirees, we have no plans for large purchases in 2014; we plan to buy what we need. We're perfectly satisfied with our automobiles; they have plenty of life left in them. Earlier this year, our Toyota Avalon hit the 50,000 mile mark.

the view through the windshield

During its almost nine years with us, the Avalon has remained trouble-free.

In 2013, I posted my reviews of 49 books - a new record. Most came from the local library.

Car Stuff: In 2013, I managed to get some good drives in my '39 Plymouth coupe. My wife and I visited several transportation-related museums and shows, including Motoring Thru Time, the Martin Auto Museum and the Hall Of Flame - all in Arizona.

I posted seven new AutoSketches on my website this year, including the 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan, 1953 Cadillac Le Mans, 1954 Ford F/X Atmos, 1956-7 Continental Mark II, 1957 Mercury, 1957 Plymouth and 1964 Lincoln Continental.

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There are now a total of forty-seven car drawings now online. I also posted a hopefully-insightful 4,000 word essay/analysis of the American luxury car market.

My eight-part AutoBiography series about cars in my life was completed in 2013.

U.S. car sales were up substantially this year. Meanwhile, both GM and Ford Motor Co. announced that they will stop manufacturing cars in Australia within the next few years.

The Economy: The U.S. continues to improve, albeit slowly. Unemployment is gradually decreasing but remains stubbornly high with sluggish job growth. What's scary is that a recent weekly claims report showed a massive 600,000+ increase in people on unemployment in just one week, indicating that the reductions in unemployment may not last. Time will tell.

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the U.S. economy will never achieve full employment during the eight years Barack Obama serves as president, making Obama the only American president during the post-World War II era who never presided over a year in which the U.S. economy offered full employment to the American people.

As The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy would say, "Worst president ever!"

It is difficult to be overly optimistic, since it's likely that taxes, regulatory burdens and healthcare costs will rise for the foreseeable future. Entitlement programs (food stamps, disability programs, Medicaid, etc.) will soon consume an impossible share of our national income unless drastic changes are implemented. Yet I keep hearing from politicians that these programs are "off the table." No one seems to want to do anything about our biggest national problem.

Nevertheless, the stock market was up sharply this year. The Dow rose over 26%, while the S&P 500 increased almost 30%. In 2014, I expect the overall U.S. stock market to end in positive territory but with modest gains.

joe sherlock auto blogMilestones: 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. I posted my thoughts and recollections about it here.

The Volkswagen Beetle turned 75 this year. Henry Ford's assembly line turned 100 in 2013.

My cousin, Tommy Lyons, received the 2013 Golden Hawk Award from St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia.

As for me, I turned 70 in August and had a great birthday party - thanks to my wife and kids who planned it all.

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Passings: 2013 deaths included author Tom Clancy, actor Dennis Farina of 'Crime Story' fame, America's sweetheart Annette Funicello, actor James Gandolfini (mob boss Tony Soprano), versatile songstress Eydie Gormé, STP additive mogul and auto racing legend Andy Granatelli, good friend, car guy and raconteur Ed Gray, actor Peter O'Toole, actress Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker), Sally Starr, the iconic and vivacious blonde TV cowgirl who hosted a children's program in Philadelphia station from 1955 to 1971, Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister and one of the world's great Cold War leaders, and comedic genius Jonathan Winters.

Business demises included Aristo-Craft Trains, in business since 1935, the print version of Model Auto Review magazine, video rental chain Blockbuster, the printed mock-newspaper The Onion and the SPEED Channel television network. Defunct restaurants in 2013 include Tiger Lily Restaurant & Bar, Smokey's Pizza and Tommy O's Pacific Rim Grill - all in Vancouver, WA.

Everything Else: It is estimated that there have been over 4 million canceled health insurance policies due to the Affordable (sic) Care Act as well as a substantial increase in premiums for many. When Bill Clinton urged the president to restore the millions of individual insurance plans canceled because of Obamacare, Jay Leno commented, "That's when you know you're in trouble - when Bill Clinton is lecturing you about commitment."

joe sherlock blogger

The Obamacare website has experienced numerous crashes since it opened for business; it seems incapable of handling even moderate amounts of traffic. In comparison, Amazon successfully and securely processed 426 transactions every second on cyber-Monday without breaking a sweat.

It is very likely that the November 2014 elections will be a referendum not only on the disastrous mess known as Obamacare but also on the role of government in general. The NSA spying, the politicization of a runaway IRS, the Justice Department investigating respected journalists, the slights and insults directed at our long-time allies and the multitude of failed foreign policies - represent a bag full of incompetence overflowing with the missteps of the current administration.

In the upcoming mid-term elections, supporters of more limited government are likely to win the day. That, in my opinion, would give a substantial boost to the economic outlook.

One of the most underreported foreign news stories of the year is the pogrom against Christians in Islamic countries. The mainstream press keeps silent because such acts reveal the underlying philosophy of Islam. President Obama has established a foreign policy of 'retreat'. Charles Krauthammer has said, "Everybody in the Middle East is asking where is the United States and all of this is the result of a policy, a deliberate policy of retreat. When America retreats, the bad guys fill the vacuum. That's exactly what's happened."

the view through the windshieldKrauthammer noted that in Egypt, "We have managed to make everybody hate us, the (Muslim) Brotherhood, the religious, the secular army and the secularist opposition. That's quite a feat." Then, he added, "You've got Iraq, which is now a client state of Iran." Yet clueless Obama recently boasted about our success in Iraq, ending the war in Iraq.

"He abandoned Iraq. It was a won war, the level of violence was historically low, the civil war was over and Al Qaeda wasn't only defeated, it was humiliated. The Muslim, the Sunni Muslims of Anbar joined with the infidels in defeating Al Qaeda, and now it's revived, it controls large swaths of Iraq, and Syria, and for the first time it is active and dominant in the heart of the Middle East." Then look at what happened in Benghazi - a terrorist attack on our embassy - poorly guarded thanks to Obama's minions.

Add in the joke-agreement with Iran which has them enriching nuclear materials at a faster rate than ever and you have the makings of a very dangerous time for Western nations. Many Islamists are intolerant to the point where they hate everyone who isn't Muslim, kind of like the Klu Klux Klanner who hates anyone who isn't a Klansman. Al Qaeda is once again flourishing. Islamist violence is now directed at Christians because there are no more Jews left to persecute in Muslim countries. This does not bode well for Western civilization and points to the inevitability of a religious megawar between Islamists and Christians.

When it comes to dealing with Muslims, let's hope that we are cured of our political correctness before it gets all of us killed.

The Good News: Many people, including myself, like to gripe and whine about this-and-that. But the fact is, that - for all its shortcomings - 2013 has been a very good year to be alive, compared with, say, 1913. Or 1813. Or 1413. Or 1349, when the Black Death killed between 75 million and 200 million people.

Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. Worldwide, people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. In that regard, we are living in a Golden Age, thanks to advances in technology.

Wellington Management, managers of the Capital Opportunity Fund, wrote that, regarding information technology, "the adoption of low-cost smartphones in developing countries will give billions of people access to the internet for the first time. The internet more recently has emerged as a platform for delivering software applications and cloud computing services. ... It enables productivity growth through better use of technology assets and allows users to obtain and pay for software and computing resources as needed."

Regarding the health field, Wellington believes that "innovation in this area will continue, as well as our expectation that consumption of health care services will grow more rapidly than the overall economy for the foreseeable future. Global demographic trends support increased demand as populations age in most developed countries. ... We are also optimistic that the expected rise in living standards in many developing countries will open up new markets. As incomes grow and affordability improves, we anticipate that consumption will rise."

The future looks good - not just for investors in these segments but for all people who benefit from these technological miracles.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday December 25, 2013

I'll Be Home for Christmas: As I grow older, I find that various ornaments on our Christmas tree bring back pleasant memories. Each one has a story to tell.

The oldest decoration is an injection molded, ivory-colored, translucent polystyrene cathedral. Mass-produced shortly after World War II, it was probably a dime-store purchase by my mom. The little cathedral has a large rounded slot on the bottom so that it can fit over a tree light and be backlit.

The church itself is a generic design, adapting elements of the great cathedrals of Cologne, Notre Dame, Truro and Washington's National Cathedral. At age 65, it remains in fine shape - aging gracefully - and has been accorded a place of honor on our tree.

Just looking at the little plastic church evokes pleasant memories of my long-gone childhood. Which brings me to that old song ... (more >>>)

Monday December 23, 2013

Chilly Surprise: When you think of a Audi sedan with four-wheel drive, you would assume that it is a capable Alpine tourer, carefully crafted by Germans for those cold European winters. Not so, wrote Dan Neil and it's because of the sport tires - 21-inch Pirelli P-Zeros 275/30. Dan called them the Rings of Doom.

"Ohmygod, on dry pavement the RS7 rips into corners with an almost aerobatic moment of lateral g-loading followed by perfectly balanced, confident supercar cornering. This thing is ferocious.

Except when the tires are cold. Then you drive like a little baby reindeer taking its first unsteady steps onto a frozen lake."

Want something that's good in snow? My ancient air-cooled 1963 Beetle (aka - Underdog), which was fitted with studded snow tires in winter. It did a great job and could plow through any kind of snow as long as it wasn't higher than the car's undercarriage.

joe sherlock car blog

My brother drove it during several college winters in snowy Niagara Falls and Underdog never let him down.

Perhaps Santa Will Bring You One Now: Remember when there was an actual waiting list for Pontiac Solstices back in 2005? Heh. As mathematician and science fiction author Eric Temple Bell once said, "Time has a way of making fools of us all."

Maybe They Just Wanted To Make A Really Comfortable Sofa: Armed bandits in Brazil robbed a vehicle carrying more than 400 breast implants.

Defunct Shopping Meccas: James Lileks wrote a little remembrance of old department stores, something appropriate for this Shopping Season.

"Listen to the old radio shows from the late 30s and 40s, and the madhouse department store is a constant in the comedies. The crowds; the officious clerks; the imperious Store Manager, a figure of strange authority and divided loyalties. It was a middle-sized town fixture for middle-aged people, and the store always had a name like Burton's or Tudwell's or something with two solid syllables that suggested a wealthy family, perhaps on its second generation, a fixture that would forever anchor the downtown of Midville."

I have fond memories of Wanamaker's downtown store in Philadelphia which offered a kiddie monorail for tots during the Christmas season. It was called the Rocket Express and ran on ceiling-mounted track system, giving children a bird's eye view of the 8th floor toy department. The monorail was in operation from 1946 to 1984.

Lileks noted that most of the old department stores have closed or merged into oblivion. "Most are gone. If you check this list of defunct department stores, you get a sense of the carnage. It's inevitable, but it's also foolish. When you're in a different town and you visit the local department store, you know you're someplace else. When you're in a mall on the other side of the country walking through Macy's, you're nowhere." Indeed.

Bad Pun Of The Day: Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

Thursday December 19, 2013

"Use The Force, Luke." McLaren, maker of exotic supercars, has hinted that it is looking to "replace the venerable rubber windshield wiper with an invisible ultrasonic force field that will deflect rain, snow and insects away from the glass."

Will it also repel squeegee bums?

Because Screwing Up This Large Nation Is Just Exhausting: President Obama and his family will leave Washington on December 20th for a 17-day holiday vacation in Hawaii.

car blogReal Hope And Change: Wal-Mart gets 38 applications for every opening. Why? Because it offers economic opportunity - a step up for job seekers. In contrast, Harvard only gets about 17 applications for every available opening in its freshman class.

Wal-Mart says that "entry-level jobs often lead to bigger jobs. At Wal-Mart, you can climb the ladder from a stocker or a cashier to a department manager, a store manager, and beyond. About 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year – similar to what firefighters, accountants, and even doctors make. Every year, we promote about 160,000 people globally to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay."

That's hope and change, folks.

James Brown Was Right: Social critic and self-described "dissident feminist" Camille Paglia has written that it really is a man's world "and it always will be. The modern economy is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role - but women were not its author."

Of course, the Godfather of Soul put it to music and rhymed it.

Transformation To Old Lesbian Almost Complete: It began when Bruce Jenner was gradually emasculated by the Kardashian clan of grifters. Having stretched his bony face to the limit with plastic surgery, Bruce is now having his Adam's Apple shaved off surgically. Jenner told TMZ that his decision "has less to do with how he feels in his own skin than with how he feels in a turtleneck."

All that's required to finish off Bruce is .... (more >>>)

Book Review: 'Johnny Carson' by Henry Bushkin

In 1896, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote, "We wear the mask that grins and lies." Johnny Carson wore his mask well.

This book is not a biography but a memoir of the 18 or so years the author served as Carson's attorney, highly-rewarded gofer and confidante. In the '70s and '80s ... (more >>>)

Four Stages of a Man's Life: 1. You believe in Santa Claus. 2. You don't believe in Santa Claus. 3. You are Santa Claus. 4. You look like Santa Claus.

Tuesday December 17, 2013

car blogThere's Something About Mary: The new CEO at General Motors is 51 year-old Mary Barra. Detroit insider Peter De Lorenzo doesn't feel good about her selection and doesn't mind letting you know so.

"Barra, if you must know, was given the chief of Product Development title by (outgoing CEO) Akerson even though that's not the job she performed. The ex-HR Queen was plucked from near obscurity by Akerson and thrust into the role and given the title because Akerson openly said to anyone who would listen, anyone could run product."

In my mind, the biggest issue with Barra's hiring is that she's never ran a real line unit with P&L responsibility within GM. The whole HR thing is mystifying to me. When I began my business career, it was known as the Personnel Department. If you mentioned 'Corporate Human Resources' to someone, they'd think it was some kind of cloning lab from a sci-fi movie.

General Motors is still in frail health. One bad CEO could destroy the entire company in short order. Anyone remember Roger Smith?

Go Prep! Quarterback Chris Martin threw three touchdowns Sunday night to lead Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep to a 35-10 win over Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Hersheypark Stadium. It is SJP's first Class AAAA title state championship.

joe sherlock blog"Dying Is Easy. Comedy Is Hard." So said Alan Swann, Peter O'Toole's swashbuckling character in the 1982 movie, 'My Favorite Year'.

Veteran actor Peter O'Toole, star of the much-better-known movie, 'Lawrence of Arabia', has died at age 81. During his lifetime, O'Toole received eight Oscar nominations for Best Actor and holds the record for most Oscar nominations without ever winning. He was given an honorary Academy Award in 2003 to make up for it.

'My Favorite Year' is one of my favorite movies. It is a light romantic comedy about the behind-the-scenes at a 1950s TV variety-comedy show (think Sid Ceasar's 'Your Show Of Shows'), in which O'Toole plays an aging film star reminiscent of Errol Flynn. His character was believable, funny and poignant. Rest in peace.

Headline Of The Week ... so far, is from The People's Cube: 'White House hires part-time schizophrenic Mandela sign interpreter to help sell Obamacare'.

Holiday Fact: The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

Friday December 13, 2013

Making Fumes: Volkswagen holds a 72% share of light-duty diesel sales in the U.S. market; 22% of VW's sales as of October 2013 have been with diesel power.

Diesel is the Esperanto of fuels. U.S. consumers may get seriously interested in diesel vehicles when fuel prices hit the $7-8 per gallon range. Until then, diesel-powered passenger vehicles will probably be niche players in the U.S.

the view through the windshield

In countries where fuel is much more expensive than it is in the U.S., diesel has made inroads. Austria and France already have diesel penetration rates of around 50%. Diesel pump prices in Europe are - on average - 16% cheaper than gasoline. And did you ever ... ummm ... smell Europe? The B.O. masks that diesel aroma pretty well.

Ayn Rand Was Right: As you read this passage from the 1957 novel, 'Atlas Shrugged', you can't help but think of Detroit 2013: "A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men: boards torn out at random, missing patches of roofs, holes left in gutted cellars."

Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."

There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.

Wednesday December 11, 2013

car blogLooks Good On Paper: Make your own V-8 engine. From 5,756 pieces of paper.

Iron Giants: Ol' Remus recently wrote about long-gone huffing, puffing steam locomotives. "A baleful headlamp glowered out from tons of hunkered-down malevolence, a cyclops with a steady stare that suggested retreat as the prudent option. They came in black with numbers on their flanks announcing there are more where it came from. No fancy paint jobs with swoopy logos proclaiming 'Quality' or 'Safety'. Black, like the livery of a Victorian hearse. Moriarty would drive one."

They were inefficient, cantankerous and high maintenance. That's why they were replaced with modern, efficient diesels or electrics. But, when I run steam locomotives on my model railroad layout, little boys' eyes come alive. They enjoy seeing the drivers go around on the wheels and they want to hear the whistle. And see the smoke. It's amazing to me that all children love dinosaurs and steam engines. Both are long extinct, so kids can't relate to the real thing. But ... (more >>>)

joesherlock blogAnswering The Age-Old Question: Is Santa Claus a liberal or a conservative?

On the other hand, he is probably a fan of NSA; after all: "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good." Scary.

Book Review: 'The Brotherhood: America's Next Great Enemy' by Eric Stakelbeck

This is a powerful and frightening indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood and their jihadist allies and offshoot groups. Who knew there was an enclave of anti-American Muslims planning the ultimate caliphate in the scenic Poconos of Pennsylvania?

Author Stakelbeck presents a well-documented read on one of the world's greatest threats to our God-given freedoms. Hiding behind a cloak of respectability and expensive Western suits, the Muslim Brotherhood keeps busy ... (more >>>)

Bad Pun Of The Day: One of Santa's helpers was sent to a therapist because he seemed depressed. Diagnosis: Low Elf Esteem.

Monday December 9, 2013

car blogRemember When Quality Used To Be Job One? Ford Motor Co. seems to be beset with quality problems. "Ford recently placed poorly in three quality surveys. In the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, the brand rated well below average. In the 2013 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, it rated below average. And in the new Consumer Reports reliability study, Ford ranked 26th on a list of 28 brands."

Douglas McIntyre commented, "Ford cannot expect to keep the sales momentum it had as it emerged from the car industry downturn, which was particularly strong during the recession, if its reputation continues to erode rapidly. And the mounting evidence of this erosion is surprisingly powerful. Ford's quality control process has broken down, and it will pay for that in the next several model years, even if it can reverse the problem swiftly. American consumers have long memories."

True dat. People make vehicle purchases based on past experiences. Much has been written about the quality improvements of Detroit's recent offerings. But Detroit is still plagued by the sins of its past.

Target buyers - in the 25-45 age group - may be the children of former dissatisfied customers and may well have memories of a Ford, Dodge or Buick - which was always in the shop - and later memories of a family Honda or Toyota - which was a reliable workhorse. Therefore, these target buyers have an ingrained reluctance to visit a showroom full of Detroit iron; they tend to take their business elsewhere.

Decades of pissing-off customers has finally come home to roost. In the 1980s, disgruntled buyers of GM, Ford or Chrysler products could only broadcast their displeasure at work or in bars. Today, the web has changed all that. Angry buyers put up websites. Or vent their spleens online in various forums. Bad news now spreads like wildfire.

In today's world, information technology provides potential buyers with a cornucopia of information about the vehicles they're considering. People buy cars based on facts and impressions. And we live in an age where a plethora of both is just a few mouse clicks away.

Detroit's business model of the past is no longer working. Hype and bullshit cannot compete with competence, product quality, manufacturing flexibility and the forward march of technology.

Just Wondering: Do you still have to worry about Trans Fat if you drive a Trans Am?

joe sherlock blogThe Trouble With AARP: Karl Denninger is on AARP's case and rightly so.

"Now, the disaster tsunami is engulfing Medicare-covered individuals as Obamacare's latest scam - long concealed - begins to reveal itself as evidenced by a shocking announcement from health giant UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth, AARP's pet private health insurance carrier, has been busy cutting thousands of doctors from certain of its networks according to a Wall Street Journal report published on November 15."

"Note that AARP was one of the charge-leading groups behind Obamacare's passage and Obama's election, playing the shopworn "scare the senior" card over and over again."

I, for one, am sick and tired of ... (more >>>)

New Word: Treeware (noun) The new derogatory term for a printed book, used mostly by ebook enthusiasts. Derived from the phrase "a dead-tree book."

Starting To Feel A Little Queer Around Here: Gay weddings made up 17% of marriages in Washington this past year, the first year gay marriages were legal in the state.

So far, most of Washington state's same-sex marriages - 62% - were between two women. From the news photos I've seen, mostly ugly ones. Maybe this is a good thing; the pretty girls become breeders and the future human race gets better-looking.

In Clark County, where I live, there were 785 same-sex weddings accounted for 30%of all weddings performed here. There were 1,828 opposite-sex weddings, for a county total of 2,613. These data are a bit misleading since ... (more >>>)

auto blogAn Inspiration To All: Bill Porter has died at age 81.

Bill suffered from cerebral palsy; he spoke and walked with great difficulty. When he was a young man, the state considered him unemployable and suggested he collect disability payments. He refused.

For more than 45 years he earned a living selling Watkins products door-to-door in Portland, Oregon. At night, he would hunch over an old typewriter and with a twisted hand, he slowly banged out orders for everything he'd sold that day.

In 1995, reporter Tom Hallman Jr. wrote, "Bill reminds us of what we were when we set out in life. He fights the war we call life every day, without complaining. Whatever the internal truth of Bill Porter, we perceive him, in his perseverance, as pure, untouched by the ills of society. He isn't greedy. He doesn't take handouts. He - of all of us - could produce a hundred excuses. But he never makes excuses."

Bill Porter inspired everyone who has ever sold for a living. And everyone else who knew his story. Rest in peace.

Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Due to rising energy costs, Santa will no longer leave a lump of coal in your stocking if you're naughty and instead just punch you while you sleep."

Friday December 6, 2013

Fiftieth Anniversary Ponycar: I am impressed the looks of the just-revealed 2015 Mustang. It finally gets independent rear suspension.

There was a segment on Fox Business' 'The Closing Bell' where Liz Claman interviewed Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company, on the street outside the network's Manhattan studio - next to a new red 2015 Mustang coupe parked at the curb. There were a lot of close-up camera shots showing details of the exterior and interior. I liked what I saw very much.

car blogAnother One Bites The Dust: Anti-apartheid 'hero' Nelson Mandela has died at 95. Regular network programming was interrupted so that pundits across the airwaves could sing his praises. Count me out.

Until 2008, Mandela was on the U.S. terrorism watch list. Britain’s late 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher described his African National Congress as a "typical terrorist organization." Mandela wasn't merely a terrorist; he was a terrorist leader.

He and his ANC's close associations with Yasir Arafat and the PLO have been well documented. Mandela has also consistently voiced his support for regimes like Libya, Iran and Cuba. Mandela traveled to Libya and personally presented Muammar Gaddafi with South Africa's highest military medal.

Yes, yes, apartheid was awful but so were the later black-on-white atrocities. Before Mandela, South Africa was a safe, sane economic powerhouse. Now it's a crime-ridden basket case - worse than Detroit, another geographic spot which has crumbled under black rule.

Don't bother to mourn ol' Nelson. He's just a slimmer version of Idi Amin - with better PR.

joe sherlock blogDeath Penalty For Hijackers: A truck in Mexico, carrying highly-radioactive material used for cancer treatment, was hijacked earlier this week. The empty container of cobalt-60 was discovered the following day. A day later, the cobalt-60 itself was recovered about 25 miles away from where the truck was stolen.

Experts say that the thieves gave themselves a lethal dose of radiation when they released the radiation from its container and "do not expect them to live very long." So, they'll soon be taking a dirt siesta.

What did you expect - it's Mexico. The robbers should have stuck to stealing colorful pottery and/or velvet paintings.

Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I didn't get a toy train for Christmas like the other kids, I got a toy subway instead; you couldn't see anything but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by."

Thursday December 5, 2013

car blogNovember Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.7 million SAAR in October - an increase of 7.6% from November 2012 and the highest level since February 2007. Sales were up 8.3% from last month. Analysts said the industry's overall numbers were helped by five weekends in the sales period along with early holiday promotions, attractive financing and pent-up demand. Sales went up at the end of the month as automakers and dealers held Black Friday sales events.

Ford Motor Co. sales were up 7%, GM reported a year-over-year increase of 14%, while Chrysler Group's vehicle sales rose 16% - the best November in six years.

GM's sales increase was lead by GMC which saw an increase of 20%. Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet sales were all up in the low double digits. General Motors non-fleet sales rose by 19%.

Ford brand sales increased by 7%, while Lincoln experienced a 15% sales rise to 6,727 units. Ford had its best November since 2004; F-Series topped 60,000 sales for the seventh straight month. Ford Fusion sales leaped 50% to 22,839 cars. Lincoln MKZ sales increased 114% to 2,854 sedans. Sales of the MKS flagship fell to 734 vehicles sold - a drop of 31%.

Chrysler sales gains were led by the Jeep and Ram truck brands; Fiat sales were down by 15%. Sales of the Fiat 500 fell 41% to 2,138 two-door sedans. Over 11,000 Chrysler Town and Country vans were sold in November - an increase of 70%.

Subaru sales soared 30% to 36,621 vehicles. Mitsubishi sales jumped 45% to 6,071 units. Audi sales increased 13% while Volkswagen sales declined 16%. Volvo sales dropped 31% to 4,233 units in November. Toyota experienced a 19% increase, while Honda sales dropped 2%. Hyundai sales increased 5%; Kia went up 11%.Hyundai, Kia and the Volkswagen Group also raised discounts sharply last month compared with November 2012.

Lexus sales were up 13%, while Mercedes-Benz rose 14%. BMW sales were up a mere 2%. Acura sales rose 19%. Jaguar sales leaped 103% to 1,446 units. 84 Rolls Royces were sold in December as well as 887 Maseratis.

A Mind Of Its Own: 7,300 gas-electric Lincoln MKZ Hybrids are being recalled by Ford. There is a problem with the powertrain control module that could cause the vehicles to roll even after being put into park, because the software can sometimes allow the shift to happen even if the brake pedal isn't pushed down.

Print Woes: Model Auto Review, a British model and toy car magazine, has ceased print publication. Starting soon, it will become an online-only publication.

Founder Rod Ward provided details: "Back in 1982, when MAR started "10% of our sales went to subscribers, the other 90% to stockists (retailers/newsstands). Now, although the number of MAR subscribers has fallen by about half in three decades, the quantity of magazines bought by stockists has dropped by more than 99%. ... You won't be surprised to learn that it is not now commercially viable to print less than 6% of the quantity of copies we used to sell."

A 94% drop in print sales, most of it in the last decade, is alarmingly large. But this is one example of the revolution going on in the magazine world. Newsweek ended its print edition in 2012 and is now strictly found online. In 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition. Bloomberg bought BusinessWeek at a fire-sale price in 2009. Forbes magazine is now up for sale. Road & Track is rumored to be on the ropes.

The Model Auto Review story represents a microcosm of the ... (more >>>)

Global Warming Alert: The BBC warned in 2007 that by summer 2013, the Arctic would be ice-free. Not so. The Arctic ice cap has grown by 29% this year. A chilly Arctic summer has left 533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year. The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year.

Nevertheless, the global warming morons continue to promote policies and regulations designed to "save the planet," whilst killing the economy.

Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube. 'Obama to Iran: "If you like your nuclear program, you can keep your nuclear program."'

Runner-up: 'The President's latest talking point on Obamacare: "I didn't build that"'.

Book Review: 'Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics' by Charles Krauthammer

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and considered one of the most influential - and brilliant - commentators in America, Charles Krauthammer has produced an insightful and educational book. Composed mostly of opinion columns written over the past 30 years, chapters are mercifully short - a good thing, because readers will often want to put the book aside and ruminate on the ideas conveyed in Charles' deep, thought-provoking musings.

His views on feminism, embryonic research, evolution and the death penalty defy ideological slotting. Yes, there are opinions about political matters but it was wonderful to also find essays ... (more >>>)

Quote Of The Day: Politicians are like Christmas lights. They all hang together, half of the suckers don't work and the ones that do aren't that bright.

Tuesday December 3, 2013

car blogJust Spear 'Em: I'm sick of hearing about 'pedestrian safety'. I think I'll buy an old bullet-nosed Studebaker and mount a big chrome-plated javelin on the front end. (permalink)

Mad About MADD: They may have begun with the best of intentions but I'm no longer tying ribbons on my side mirror to support these bullies.

Radley Balko wrote, "MADD's biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10. But when two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17, this move doesn't make much sense. It's like lowering the speed limit from 65 to 60 to catch people who drive 100 miles per hour.

In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed all the statistical data and concluded "the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol.""

Grim Reality: HO model railroad runs through realistic 1:87 scale slums.

Must Have Been Export-Bier: An unopened bottle of beer recovered from the wreckage of the Hindenburg is up for auction. The 1937 bottle of Lowenbrau sold for over $18,000 in 2009. The bottle does have some heat damage and, perhaps, a fiery taste. Prost!

sherlock blogHoly Perv: Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Paul Crouch has died at age 79.

With his silver hair, mustache and bifocals, Paul Crouch looked grandfatherly. But he was a decidedly odd grandfather - he allegedly paid a former employee $425,000 to keep quiet about an alleged homosexual tryst.

Paul and his wife Jan were usually seen perched on gaudy, gold and white faux-Louis XVI furniture, begging for more money to "help with God's work." Wearing a big platinum wig with cascading-ringlets, Jan Crouch could pass as Dyann Cannon's mother. But she wears so much black eye-shadow, she often looks like a badger. Or the Hamburgler.

Last year, the New York Times article noted the lavish personal spending of Paul and Janice Crouch, including "his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community" in Newport Beach, California.

OMG - I Think Obama's A Feline: George Carlin described cats thusly, "When a cat makes a mistake, he doesn't accept responsibility or show embarrassment. If he does something really stupid, like jumping onto a table and landing in four separate coffee cups, somehow he passes the whole thing off as a routine. ... When a cat breaks something, he simply moves along to the next activity."

The Christmas Season Officially Began Sunday ... because that's when I put the Christmas CD in my car. That afternoon, we attended 'Holiday Pops', performed by the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. It was outstanding. The first half was instrumental only; the second half was the full orchestra plus the Pacific Youth Choir of 60 or so. Also far-above par, and properly Christmas-y, too.

Afterwards, we had dinner at Pastini Pastaria, which serves exceptionally good Italian food.

Quote of the Day is from Victor Borge: "Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year."


This blog is about cars, automobiles, vehicles of various sorts and more.

The facts presented in this car blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people, politicians, celebrities or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal), while patiently attempting to prove that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.

copyright 2013 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved