A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Thursday July 31, 2014
AutoSketch: 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special
In the early 20th Century, Cadillac began using the advertising slogan 'Standard of the World'. If you look at period newsreel footage, you'll see potentates, dictators, popes, celebrities and gangsters being ferried about in shiny black Caddys. Pope Pius XII had several Cadillacs (prewar and postwar), including a Derham-bodied model with a throne in the back seat that could be elevated. In those days, Cadillac was indeed the Standard of the World.
Cadillac was such a prestige brand that, starting in the 1920s (according to author Bill Bryson in his book, 'One Summer - America 1927'), "Cadillac maintained a showroom in Manhattan where, as its ads boasted, "Sales are neither made nor discussed." Visitors could admiringly inspect the latest models but had to go elsewhere for the sordid business of making a purchase."
Caddys of the 1948-1956 era were easily recognized because ... (more >>>)
All Shook Up: In my quest to increase my platelet count, online sites advised that I consume more fruits and vegetables. So, Wednesday morning I had a big glass of V8 juice and an apple danish. And a banana. So there. That should help, if you believe what you read on the internet. (What?! People lie on the internet?! You mean I can't get a real Rolex at fake Rolex prices?! And beautiful Asian women aren't "seeking me out"?! And there's no money for me in a secret account in Nigeria?!)
Well, I decided that maybe I needed to give my body a jolt to jump start the little platelet factory within me. So I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a back roads cruise. The roads are a bit bumpy in spots and the Plymouth does not give the glass-smooth ride that our Avalon and Lexus provide, although the Plymouth has a better ride than my cousin's Kia Soul Hertz rental in which I rode last week. That thing bounced around more than a Japanese schoolgirl having an epileptic fit in a Hello Kitty store.
I had a fun ride; at 8:45 am, the temperature was already 69 degrees and it was sunny with blue skies and puffy summery clouds. But I don't know if I made any platelets during my somewhat rugged journey.
The View From The Post: Washington Post interviewer Chris Cillizza offered Hillary absolution over her great wealth, pointing out that she's not that awful Mitt Romney. True dat. He earned his money by building legitimate businesses; she earned hers by selling access.
Inside the Beltway, hawking access is considered morally superior to real work.
Book Review: 'Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love' by Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker
Allow me to begin by confessing that I finished this book in a single day. It was that engaging and interesting. 'Busted' is a true story of two Daily News reporters in Philadelphia uncovering and writing about police corruption in its elite narcotics unit. Cops on the take in Philadelphia is nothing new; my grandfather was shaken down by the Philly police back in the 1920s. This time, in addition to fabricating drug busts, the narcotics squad systematically looted independent mom-and-pop stores and bodegas, terrorizing hardworking immigrant owners. One cop also sexually assaulted large-breasted women during raids.
The authors offer a fascinating and detailed look about street level ... (more >>>)
Rohm & Haas: Six years ago, I started a web page about this once-mighty chemical company where I once worked. Over the years, I've added to the page. Last month I added several photos of the firm's grand corporate headquarters next to the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Completed, in 1964, the building has many unique architectural features and showcases the company's products of the era.
R&H no longer exists; the company was absorbed into the Dow Chemical empire in 2009.
More Black Outrage: A new scientific theory suggests that black holes might die by transforming into a 'white hole', which theoretically behave in the exact opposite manner as a black hole rather than sucking all matter in, a 'white hole' spews it out.
I'm confident that Barack Obama thinks this is racist.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths."
Wednesday July 30, 2014
A Million Subarus: Subaru of America and the Port of Vancouver (Washington) recently celebrated a milestone as a red 2015 Forester became the one-millionth Subaru vehicle to cross the port's docks. Automobile imports generate the most revenue of all commodities handled at the port, which officials said represents jobs and spending in the local economy. Approximately 200 jobs at the port are supported by automobile delivery and processing.
Subaru of America signed its first lease with the Port of Vancouver in December 1992. Earlier this summer, the port and Subaru reached an agreement to continue their partnership through 2035. (permalink)
The chemo cancellation was an opportunity to gas up my '39 Plymouth coupe and take a longish ride. At 11:30 am, temperatures were already 79 degrees but the sun was out and the skies were blue and cloudless.
I had a nice drive and then headed inside and let the home air conditioning take over since outside temperatures climbed to 90 degrees by 5:00 pm. Summer's here ... even if my platelets aren't.
Lost In The Amazon: The online retailer released its quarterly earnings last week. Revenues are rising but expenses are going up even faster. Shipping expenses are up 30%. Marketing is up 40%. International is slowing - it's up 18% on sales while domestic is up 26%. Operating margin is negative.
Amazon makes almost nothing on sales other than media. Basically, they sell things like electronics at break-even. Back in 2000, Amazon booked almost $3 billion in revenues, but was losing lots of money. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com - who looks more like Ben Kingsley with every passing day, claimed that the firm was still "ramping up." How can you be still in ramp-up mode as a multi-billion dollar entity?
After seven years of straight losses, Amazon finally posted a very small profit in 2003 - about 0.02% before taxes on over $5 billion in sales. Like the discount stores of the 1950s and '60s, (E.J. Corvette, Two Guys, S. Klein, etc.), margins and profits were always low. And you know what happened to those guys.
Amazon's shares fell ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Pasta Gigi's; Battle Ground, WA
Recently, this establishment moved to larger quarters and now serves lunch and dinner. We tried it for lunch recently and found the food and service pretty good - important to us because it's the only Italian restaurant worth its salt in Battle Ground.
My complaints are few ... (more >>>)
Another Fine Mess: The United States shut down its embassy in Libya last Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias.
The Mideast is in flames Syria, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Gaza. And then there's Iran. It has never been as tumultuous, and threatening, as it is today. One reason for the trauma is declining American influence, and Obama's obvious sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood, an anti-American and fascistic group.
Mark Steyn recently... (more >>>)
It's Not Putin Who Keeps Me Awake At Night; It's His Lizard Army: The Russian Foton-M4 research satellite was launched on July 19 with five geckos on board.
The plan was to observe their mating activities in the zero-gravity conditions of Earth orbit. Several other earthly creatures, including plants and insects, were also placed on board for experiments. But shortly after the satellite made its first few orbits, it stopped responding to commands from mission control.
Meanwhile, the lizard sex satellite goes round and round. And the reptile army grows and stares down menacingly at Planet Earth.
Quote Of The Day is from Nathan Fillion, the Canadian actor who stars in the TV series 'Castle': "It costs nothing to say something kind. Even less to shut up altogether."
Monday July 28, 2014
Shocking Price Reductions: The Cadillac ELR electric hybrid - a Volt in a Cadillac coupe wrap - is a sales dog. In June, Caddy moved just 97 units, or about as many as Tesla sells of its Model S in a day. In order to move the metal, Cadillac is discounting the ELR by up to $14,000, exclusive of federal and state rebates.
The Cadillac Converj show car of 2009 previewed the production 2014 Cadillac ELR, which is basically a Chevrolet Volt with a swoopy Caddy coupe body. This cheap and cheerful 1:43 scale model by Luxury Diecast is surprisingly well-made.
Wet Ride: My cousin Tommy Lyons visited last week and wanted a ride in my '39 Plymouth coupe. Unfortunately, it was drizzling rain. The old Plymouth has good tires but neither traction control nor a limited-slip differential, so I had to be careful taking off as the rear end wanted to slither around on the wet roads. Light car plus big V8 engine equals trouble in the wet.
Nevertheless, Tommy thoroughly enjoyed the experience as well as the old rock-n-roll songs pouring from the Plymouth's speakers.
By the way, Tommy's fine book, 'You Can't Get to Heaven on the Frankford El', about growing up in postwar Philadelphia is still available for purchase.
The Truth About Gun Control: Chicago has been an outta-control, bloody city lately. Over the Fourth of July weekend, there were 82 shootings, 16 of which were lethal.
In Chicago, a city of 2.7 million people, fewer than 8,000 people are licensed to own a gun less than 0.3%.
"The city's gun-homicide rate is about 18 per 100,000. In Vermont, by contrast, where 42% of the population are gun owners, the rate of gun murders in 2010 was 0.3 per 100,000. So Chicago has a gun-homicide rate about 60 times Vermont's, despite Vermonters being 150 times as likely to own a gun. To put that another way, in Chicago the ratio of the gun-homicide rate to the percentage of citizens who legally own guns is nine thousand times higher than it is in Vermont."
Consumer Alert: Don't buy Cushion Solution, a ring resizer.
As a result of weight loss, my rings no longer fit my fingers - they are too loose and tend to fall off. I purchased Cushion Solution, a liquid ring resizer that comes in a tube. This liquid silicon has such poor bonding power that it falls off after a couple of days. Yes, I religiously followed the prep instructions, thoroughly cleaning the ring surface and allowing more than 24 hours for the silicone to set up. And I tried it on three rings - twice.
Cushion Solution doesn't work; it's a rip-off.
I've now lined the bottom of my rings with the soft side of Velcro and that's working just fine. (permalink)
Mighty White Of Him To Say It, Doncha Think? Last week, President Obama suggested that too many African Americans are using their culture to separate themselves from mainstream society, that this should come to an end and that Acting White is an OK thing for blacks to do.
He said, "Sometimes African Americans, in communities where I've worked, there's been the notion of “acting white” - which sometimes is overstated, but there's an element of truth to it, where, okay, if boys are reading too much, then, well, why are you doing that? Or why are you speaking so properly?
And the notion that there's some authentic way of being black, that if you're going to be black you have to act a certain way and wear a certain kind of clothes, that has to go."
Yawn. Which is more boring ... Dune the book? Dune the movie? Or Barack Obama?
Under-Served: This term, used mostly by left-leaning politicians, government functionaries and NGO bureaucrats, is usually a synonym for any group of poor people but unlike "the poor," it implies that something is lacking in how they are treated and, by inference, this "something" can, and should, be provided by the government. In fact, most of the "under-served" already enjoy copious government benefits everything from free food to free cell phones and a more accurate expression, at least in many instances, might be "lavishly over-served".
Joseph Kay pointed out that the "term is sometimes used to justify education-based racial preferences, as in admitting more minority students into medical school since these future doctors will presumably practice in areas that are medically “under-served.” The concept also helps eliminate any implication that poverty is substantially self-inflicted; the poor are poor because they are denied their fair share when dividing up the grand pie."
I've written more about 'the poor' here. Most programs for the poor contain more pork than a Botero nude.
Adam Carolla Was Right: In the state of California, heterosexual married couples can no longer be referred to as husbands and wives. Democrat Governor Jerry Brown, playing his familiar role of skunk at the Sunday school picnic, has signed a bill into law that not only redefines marriage, but eliminates any reference to husband and wife, replacing each with the generic term of spouse.
This is just another gnat bite on the elephant hide of lunacy. In fifty years, we'll all be chicks.
Bad Pun Of The Day: A midget fortune-teller who escapes from prison is a small medium at large.
Thursday July 24, 2014
Ten Cars That Changed Everything: I wrote this piece several years ago and have updated it recently, although my top ten list has not changed.
Pulling The Plug: Opel's version of the Chevy Volt, the Ampera, is to be discontinued. While the Volt still sells in modest quantities (1,500-1,800 per month), only 332 Amperas were sold in the first five months of 2014.
The electric car thing makes less and less sense to me every month, although I see a surprising number of Nissan Leaf models on the road around these parts. I see few Volts and even fewer Teslas.
Prius is the dominant hybrid car in the Northwest and I see lots of them on the road.
Happy Birthday ... to my wife, who turns 70 today. She looks almost the same as she did at age five, except for the banana curls:
Over the weekend, we had a swell family party for her with decorations, a special cake and dining out.
Posing with a vintage Rolls Royce at the 'Cars of the Stars' museum in Buena Park, CA. - 1972
My Grandmother Had A Phone Just Like That: James Lileks always gives me a good laugh.
By the way, my grandmother's number used to be JEfferson 8111. And she had one of those big, heavy 1924 Western Electric handsets.
Book Review: 'One Summer: America 1927' by Bill Bryson
Here's a fine book about one amazing time in America - 1927, when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, legendary fighter Jack Dempsey lost to Gene Tunney, Calvin Coolidge announced he wouldn't run for another term, work started on Mount Rushmore, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, Henry Ford stopped making Model Ts and talkies came to the movies. And ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from entrepreneur Bo Peabody: "The vast majority of the press is not concerned in covering what is actually happening. They are interested in covering what they think people want to think is actually happening."
Tuesday July 22, 2014
Dog Days At Fiat: Measuring dealer inventory in days is one of the best ways to determine whether a car brand or model is a winner or a dog.
"Among all major car makes sold in America, Fiat had the highest number of days to turn at 122 in June, according to research operation Edmunds. The figure was up 40% from June 2013." The industry average was 68 days, up 10% over the same period. Subaru was at the other end of the spectrum at 32 days to turn, followed Lexus at 35 days.
"Fiat can boast its sales through the first half of 2014 were up 16% to 24,972. However, sales of its flagship 500 fell 14% over the same period to 18,179."
On gigantic hurdle for Fiat is its bad reputation. "In the recent J.D. Power 2014 Initial Quality Study, Fiat finished last with 206 problems per 100 vehicles sold. The industry average was 116."
Things Ain't So Good In Redmond, WA: Microsoft announced the biggest layoffs in its history Thursday, saying it will cut up to 18,000 jobs or 14% of its staff as it works to cut down on management layers and integrate the Nokia cellphone business it bought in April. With its $7.3 billion acquisition of Nokia's cellphone business, Microsoft has been is seeking to meld its software and hardware business into a cohesive package, similar to rival Apple.
About 12,500 professional and factory jobs will be cut.
The War On Catholics: While politicians, especially President Obama, bend over backwards to appease Muslims, the war on Christianity continues, especially for Catholics and Southern Baptists.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) criticized Senate Democrats and their legislation to circumvent the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision by explaining that their bill would impose "faith fines" on groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who refuse to subsidize abortion-inducing drugs, and asked, "Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church? ... The bill that is being voted on this floor, if it were adopted, would fine the Little Sisters of the Poor millions of dollars unless these Catholic nuns are willing to pay for abortion-producing drugs for others."
"Let me make a basic suggestion," Cruz continued. "If you're litigating against nuns, you have probably done something wrong, and the Obama Administration is doing so right now. Mr. President, drop your faith fines. Mr. Majority Leader, drop your faith fines. To all of my Democratic colleagues, drop your faith fines. Get back to the shared values that stitch all of us together as Americans."
The Catholic Church should show its displeasure by excommunicating ... (more >>>)
And We're Paying To Belong To The United Nations Because ...? The United Nations agency that last week found rockets in a Gaza school operating under its auspices has "handed that weaponry over to Hamas, Israeli officials said, accusing the organization of actively helping the terrorist organization potentially attack Israeli civilians."
The Truth About Cats ... And Other Things: Kindred spirit Gerard Van Der Leun wrote, "I don't understand why women and certain men don't get the simple axiom: "Dogs? Cool. Cats? Not." It is one of the universal truths that no sane man can deny. And yet the chicks and chestless men persist in promoting this most useless of animals which steadfastly resists domestication, becoming an agreeable amusement, and is next to useless if not downright nauseating when sauteed or roasted, grilled or boiled, or even deep-fried."
And in other news about things I don't like, Ann Coulter wrote, "I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's 'Girls', light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is "catching on" is exceeded only by the ones pretending women's basketball is fascinating. I note that we don't have to be endlessly told how exciting football is."
She forgot to mention that those "same people" also want us to like kale and ride-sharing.
Quote Of The Day is from an old Letterman joke: "If Che Guevara were still alive, he'd be pounding frantically on the lid of his coffin."
Monday July 21, 2014
Robot Chauffeurs: The Antiplanner, Randal O'Toole, has been musing about the impact of self-driving cars on society and culture. He posits that self-driving vehicles will "obsolete technologies such as streetcars, light rail, and subways. These technologies made sense when they were invented a hundred or so years ago, but today they are just a waste of money. One reason why planners look to the past for solutions is that they can't accurately foresee the future. So they pretend that, by building ancient modes of transportation, they will have the same effects on cities that they had when they were first introduced."
That's urban planning for ya. Still building trolley systems that go nowhere anyone wants to travel and that no one - except the homeless - wants to ride.
Personally, I don't mind the idea of a self-driving car and wrote favorably about the idea eight years ago.
I certainly enjoy driving on near-empty back roads but take no pleasure in navigating city traffic. Nor do I look forward to rush-hour driving. I'd rather read a book. Or watch television. Or talk on the phone. With a self-driving car, I can do any - or all - of these things. Just tell the car your destination and it will get you there, using sensors, navigation software and a GPS.
Of course, a self-driving car would change everything.
Remember the old days when dinner with friends at a restaurant began with cocktails? Included a couple of bottles of wine with the meal and ended with after-dinner drinks? Those days will probably return and that will be a great boost for restaurateurs. Who cares if you get a little tipsy while dining out? How can the police arrest one for being drunk if the car is doing the driving? MADD will probably go out of business. (I would hope they'd be happy to do so ... but like all organizations they probably will fight tooth and nail about some new 'cause'.) The taxi business would probably suffer - who needs a cab when your car is your own chauffeur? You could even sit in the back seat. Or take a nap.
Ever have one of those medical or dental procedures where you're told that you must bring someone along to drive you home? "Not necessary, doc. My car will get me there. Just guide me to the parking lot and help me find it, will ya?"
Intelligent cars can drive closer together than humans. Road traffic could be denser without the need for more roads. (Lower taxes?! Dare we hope?!) Self-driving cars would bring to an end to pokey drivers and road hogs, too.
Maybe we'll have robots as drivers. That would be cool in a kinda Fifties battery-powered tin toy way. I want mine to look like John Gielgud (who played Hobson, the stuffy, sarcastic English butler in 'Arthur') and wear tails and a top hat.
Worst Ever: Bank of America leads the nation in bad customer service. The massive U.S. financial institution has made the Customer Service Hall of Shame every year since 2009.
We dumped BofA two years ago ... and have never regretted it. The fewer assholes you have to deal with, the better life gets.
Does This Blog Seem Shinier To You? The cleaning people are here today. They'll be returning every two weeks.
RIP: James Garner, star of such Hollywood television and film classics as 'Maverick' and 'The Rockford Files', has died at age 86.
Garner was also a car guy. After starring in the movie 'Grand Prix' in 1966, he developed a taste for racing, "later being part owner of the American International Racers team, which took part in Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring endurance racing events. Garner's outfit also took part in the Baja 500, finishing 7 out of 10 AMC SC/Ramblers and taking three out of the top five positions.
Garner himself drove an Oldsmobile 442 in off-road competition in 1969 and 1970. Garner's love of racing extended to the Indy 500, where he drove the pace car in 1975, 1977 and 1985."
President Jibber-Jabber: FoxNews Digital Editor Chris Stirewalt - a very smart, very well-spoken guy by the way, who doesn't get nearly enough airtime on Fox - provided a pithy assessment of Barack Obama's sorry presidency, "His endless talking, his endless fundraising, his endless effort to control every 15 minutes of every news cycle saps him of the ability to speak with authority and resolution when he needs to."
Quote Of The Day is from Ed Jordan: "If starship full of aliens lands on the earth tomorrow, and they are totally peaceful and want to be our friends, I hope they don't taste like chicken because we already know what that tastes like."
Friday July 18, 2014
In Defense Of Cars: P.J. O'Rourke has written, "Pointy-headed busybodies of the environmentalist, new urbanist, utopian communitarian ilk blamed the victim. They claimed the car had forced us to live in widely scattered settlements in the great wasteland of big-box stores and the Olive Garden. If we would all just get on our Schwinns or hop a trolley, they said, America could become an archipelago of cozy gulags on the Portland, Oregon, model with everyone nestled together in the most sustainably carbon-neutral, diverse and ecologically unimpactful way."
"Cars didn't shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We're way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy's lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren't forced to surrender, we were able to retreat."
All hail the automobile. Long may it reign.
Cleaning Panic: At last, my wife agreed to employing a cleaning service. They're coming Monday. So, what are we doing to prepare? Frantically cleaning of course. Especially about the things we're finding to be shamefully dusty.
In my oft-neglected office, it meant individually cleaning all of my Franklin Mint 1:43 scale models, which are displayed on authorized Franklin Mint open shelves and collect dust as fast as celebrities on Facebook collect 'friends'.
I'm proud of how the little cars turned out but the models are delicate and I'm going to declare them off limits to our new housecleaners.
I also cleaned the display case containing my 1:18 scale model of a '37 Lincoln Zephyr.
It's a car I've always admired and, in the Depression of the 1930s, the Zephyr saved the Lincoln marque from extinction.
And I gave a good cleaning to my rotary-dial Mickey Mouse phone.
I bought it 36 years ago as my business phone at Discovery Plastics. In 1978, that part of town was not set up for push button phones, so every phone in our downtown building was a rotary dial model. A primitive sparking phone for primitive times. But Mickey was always smiling and cheered me up on days when business wasn't so good.
I did a bunch of other clean-up stuff - car trophies, other car display cases, my kitchen office desk and all the items on it - all of which I was too lazy to photo-document, so you'll just have to take my word for it. (permalink)
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Is the break-up of Iraq good for America?
David P. Goldman wrote, "America should be the winner when our prospective enemies fight each other ... (but )... neither the Obama administration nor the Republican mainstream can admit that Iraq and Syria are not to be stabilized, and are stuck with the onus of apparent policy failure."
"All of this makes our leadership in both parties look like idiots, and that is bad for America. Even those of us who think that our leadership are idiots cringe when it becomes obvious to the rest of the world. The American public by a margin of 71:22 thinks that the Iraq War wasn't worth it. They are against any sort of intervention because there is no-one they trust to conduct intervention sensibly."
"We are fettered by Obama's affirmative-action approach to the Muslim world as articulated in his July 2009 Cairo address and numerous subsequent statements, and the Republicans’ ideological belief that the mere form of parliamentary democracy fixes all problems."
Read the whole piece.
I'd summarize it this way: The best thing the U.S. could do is bomb the hell out of Iran and take out its nukes.
Goldman channels the ghost of the Machavellian Cardinal Richlieu: "If Iran's capacity to build nuclear weapons is removed by force, upon whom shall it avenge itself? No doubt its irregulars in Lebanon will shoot some missiles at Israel, but not so many as to provoke the Israelis to destroy Hezbollah. Iran might undertake acts of terrorism, but at the risk of fierce reprisals. Without nuclear weapons, Iran becomes a declining power with obsolete weapons and an indifferent conscript army."
Thanks, Obama: Former national deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Ronald Colburn has said that the Obama administration has undone all of the progress made at America's southern border since 9/11. "We're back to a pre-9/11 situation basically, and this administration did that in the past five years. All of the good that was done after 9/11 up to now has been reversed singlehandedly."
And, in related news ...
Catch & Release Only Works With Fish: In Texas, An illegal immigrant who was released by U.S. authorities with a Notice to Appear has been arrested for the alleged murder of a woman and kidnapping of children on U.S. soil. The alleged crimes occurred after the man was released.
The man, Pedro Alberto Monterroso-Navas, entered the U.S. illegally with children and turned himself in to U.S. Border Patrol agents. He was processed and released, as are all illegal immigrants who come as unaccompanied minors or incomplete family units from Central America. The alien is from Honduras.
Time to seal our border. And get a new U.S. president.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
Wednesday July 16, 2014
Book Review: 'The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car' by Steven Parissien
Many of my regular readers are car guys. Some are voracious readers and buy lots of auto books. I must issue a warning: do not waste your time and money on this dead-tree piece of dreck. It is a junkyard of wrecked and twisted facts.
Allow me to offer some specifics. I had high hopes for this book. The author is British and, in general, the Brits are very good at drilling down for accurate, detailed information, especially about machine-age subjects such as planes, trains, automobiles and the car industry.
I should have been tipped off by the cover photo, a stock Getty image of a 1938 Buick front side. The color photo was given a green tint which gave the discolored whitewall tire an eerie yellow-green color. How difficult would it have been to clean up the whitewall and make it white again? About two minutes in Photoshop, I'd reckon.
Sadly, the book told many interesting stories but was so riddled with errors that I didn't know what to believe, especially Parissien's tales about the European auto industry, about which I have little expertise. So, I don't know if the British Citroën factory was really used to make Milky Way and Twix candy bars after Citroën closed it. But I found a plethora of errors and misinformation about subjects I know. Here's a sampling ... (more >>>)
Our 'Duty' To Illegals: Pretty much nothing. The late Richard John Neuhaus, a prominent Catholic priest, philosopher and author wrote, "Our God-given duties begin with those to whom we are most proximate and have the greatest influence: our family, friends, neighbors, church and the wider community that is our nation. American Christians in 2014 are specially called to serve our nation, to seek its material and spiritual health, to help it fulfill its global duties, and to strive to align it with God's purposes of holiness, justice and peace whenever possible."
In other words, charity begins at home.
And furthermore, from the Ellis Island website: "If immigrants had any of the diseases proscribed by the immigration laws, or were too ill or feeble-minded to earn a living, they would be deported. Sick children age 12 or older were sent back to Europe alone and were released in the port from which they had come. Children younger than 12 had to be accompanied by a parent. There were many tearful scenes as families with a sick child decided who would go and who would stay."
Note that the U.S. did not accept unaccompanied children under 12. They were quickly sent back to the port from which they had come. (permalink)
A Picture ... or a chart ... is worth a thousand words.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks, who points out that Crate and Barrel sells neither: "Where the devil is a man expected to buy crates and barrels these days? And if you did want to set up a store that sold crates and barrels, what would you call it? Placemats and Vases?"
Monday July 14, 2014
Geezermobile: IHS Automotive reported that in 2013 Lincoln buyers had an average age of 61, the oldest of any brand in the industry. That was unchanged from 2011. While the Town Car, with an average customer age of 67, has been discontinued, the typical MKS buyer is now 63, up from 61 three years ago.
The average luxury car buyer in 2013 was just under 52 years old. Lincoln is not replacing older buyers with younger ones, which has been among its stated goals.
Then there's this via Autoblog: "Lincoln fans might want to give incoming Ford CEO Mark Fields a pat on the back for having a hand in saving the brand from the chopping block last year. He's among the people spearheading the rejuvenation of the division away from its stodgy image to appeal to younger customers."
According to two unnamed sources speaking to Bloomberg, CEO Alan Mulally was ready to kill Lincoln last year. Following the slow ... (more >>>)
Special Day: As I found out from Hemmings, last Friday was National Car Collector Appreciation Day, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took it for a spin along the back roads of unincorporated Battle Ground.
At 10:30 am, the temperature was already in the low 70s (high for the day was 91 degrees). The sky above was virtually cloudless and slightly pale summer azure in color. Near the horizon was a circle of wispy white clouds, looking like the fringe on a white-haired bald man.
I only saw one other old car on my travels a light purple early-'50s GMC pickup with lots of chrome on the front. We waved at one another - kindred spirits.
Global Warming Alert: The levels of Antarctic sea-ice last week hit an all-time high confounding climate change computer models which say it should be in decline. America's National Snow And Ice Data Center, which is funded by NASA, revealed that ice around the southern continent covers about 16 million sq. km., more than 2.1 million more than is usual for the time of year.
It is by far the highest level since satellite observations on which the figures depend began in 1979. Global warming evangelizers are experiencing EHS - Exploding Head Syndrome.
"The relentless focus by activist scientists on the Arctic decline suggests a political imperative rather than a scientific one and when put together with U.S. temperature record data, it's hard to avoid the impression that what the public is being told is far less than the unvarnished truth.
As their credulity is stretched more and more, the public will quite rightly treat demands for action with increasing caution."
And furthermore, not since July 28, 1911 has Brisbane, Australia felt this cold, getting down to a brisk 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
RIP: Tommy Ramone, last surviving original member of the punk-rock band Ramones, has died at age 65.
Punk rock was never my thing but I did enjoy it when the Ramones sang a rock version 'Happy Birthday' to Mr. Burns in a 1993 'Simpsons' episode announcing, "This gig sucks!" and concluding with the line, "Go to hell, you old bastard!"
Deeply offended, Montgomery Burns orders his toady Smithers to "have the Rolling Stones killed."
This Isn't Good: Militants in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university, the United Nations has been warned. Iraq warned of the seizure in a letter to the U.N. in which it appealed for help to 'stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad.'
And: Iraq has said that the Islamic State extremist group has taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad, where 2,500 chemical rockets filled with the deadly nerve agent sarin or their remnants were stored along with other chemical warfare agents.
Wait a minute ... didn't all those anti-Bush people keep telling us that there were no WMDs in Iraq? Now look at the mess we're in. Thanks, Obama.
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Benchley: "I know I'm drinking myself to a slow death, but then I'm in no hurry."
Thursday July 10, 2014
"Look Away, I'm Hideous." Thus spake Seinfeld's Kramer when his face became ravaged by excessive smoking. The RAV4-sized 2015 Lexus NX compact crossover is one of the ugliest cars on the planet. If it could talk, it would channel nicotine-addicted Cosmo K. The front end is awful as are the overly-sculpted sides. I remember when Lexus cars were gorgeous. The NX is the opposite.
The company says that its "edgy and striking design was developed to appeal to new customers seeking urban and active lifestyles. Developed at all stages from the perspective of young, urban, luxury drivers, the NX sets new standards for future Lexus models."
M-kay. Guess I'm not the target market for this little beastie.
Sleeper Buses: I've written about these lower-cost alternatives to overnight train travel before - road vehicles with Pullman-style accommodations which were cruising the nation's highways and byways in the 1930s.
But I was never satisfied with the photos I had posted, so I have now provided bigger, better, clearer ones. Enjoy.
It's Melting: Once looking like a giant Hostess Sno Ball, Mt. St. Helens is shedding its snowy frosting and crevices are beginning to appear on the sides. Nevertheless, it is still a pleasant sight and I got a good glimpse of it during Tuesday's ride in my '39 Plymouth coupe. At 11:30 am, it was sunny and 75 degrees.
Highs that afternoon reached 90. The Plymouth didn't go over 55, however.
R U Kidding? "Grammar teachers may need to amend their lesson plans after the Vancouver (Canada) school board approved Monday a policy change that welcomes a brand-new string of pronouns into Vancouver public schools: "xe, xem, and xyr."
The pronouns are touted as alternatives to he/she, him/her, and his/hers, and come as last-minute amendments to the board’s new policy aimed at better accommodating transgender students in schools.
The vote came after a brief debate that sparked unrest among opponents of the policy who shouted "dictator" and "liar" at trustees, as security guards and police officers watched from their posts at council doors. But supporters waved pink and blue-colored flags and drowned out the detractors with their cheers once the policy passed. Three previous public meetings were similarly rowdy."
Rivers Of Truth: 81-year-old Joan Rivers and her famous mouth are back at it again. Asked by a reporter whether a gay president or a female president will take office first, Joan Rivers replied, "We already have it with Obama." The gay one, that is. "You know Michelle is a tranny," she went on. "A transgender. We all know."
Gotta love Joan. Too bad they didn't ask her about Hillary.
Book Review: 'President Me: The America That's In My Head' by Adam Carolla
I've read all three of Carolla's books and this one is much better than 'Not Taco Bell Material' and almost as good as 'In Fifty Years, We'll All Be Chicks'.
In this tome, Carolla - once the host of the politically-incorrect 'The Man Show' - outlines the changes he will make were We the People elect him as U.S. President. He tackles problems great and small, from the bloated and misguided Department of Transportation to the placement of alarm clocks in hotel rooms.
On education: "Until you get the family unit back together, we have no hope and we'll never dig ourselves out of this hole. No matter how great the school is, how excellent the teachers are, how many computers, field trips, or other window dressing there is, until you have intact families that give a s***, we're doomed. If you have chalk, pencils, and a roof that doesn't leak, you've got a school. Back in the day people would do stuff by candlelight on the prairie and are a f***load smarter than kids now despite all the iPads and online homework. Why? Because if they didn't read their assignment, their parents would take the ruler they were supposed to be using for that assignment and smack them with it. We don't need to keep throwing money at the problem, we need to throw parents at the problem."
He is a fan of limited government ... (more >>>)
Geater Watch: Jerry Blavat - aka 'The Geator With The Heater' is appearing at the South Jersey Shore for weekend summer gigs. On Fridays and Saturdays he's at Memories in Margate and, on Sundays, at La Costa in Sea Isle City. I've posted more about The Geater here.
Quote Of The Day is from H.L Mencken: "Hanging one scoundrel, it appears, does not deter the next. Well, what of it? The first one is at least disposed of."
Tuesday July 8, 2014
Mucho Gusto! A new BMW factory is being built near the city of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, with plans to employ about 1,500 people. Unfortunately, BMW is still mum about which models it will producing south of the border.
Earlier rumors indicated the possibility of the 3 Series, 1 Series and maybe even Mini models there.
Hell Freezes Over: Harley-Davidson has unveiled an electric motorcycle.
Big Money: A 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus sold for a record $18 million at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Great Britain.
Warm Future: The forecast is for a gorgeous week, with high temperatures ranging from the upper 80s to the upper 90s.
By 9:00 am on Monday it was already 71 degrees, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive. The skies were summer blue, the few clouds looked like puffy Johnson & Johnson cotton balls and the ride was great.
I only got one drive in last week because, by Wednesday, the chemo side effects hit me like a sledgehammer. Luckily, they have gradually lessened and I'm feeling much better this week.
Mission Creep: There are now almost 900 U.S. troops in the fragmented wasteland once know as Iraq.
And ... in related news, The People's Cube reported, "Obama draws "blue line" in Iraq after Putin took away his red crayon."
How We Read: E-reading is on the rise - big time. The Pew Research Center reported that, "as recently as 2010, hardly anyone in the US had an e-reader or tablet. Now half do. The proportion of the population who have read an ebook in the past year rose from 17% in 2011 to 28% just three years later. In the UK, figures from Nielsen, which monitors book sales, showed that one in four consumer titles bought in 2013 was an ebook, up from one in five a year earlier."
I haven't made the leap; I'm still a paper-only reader. But the tide is changing. Costco's selection of paperback books is about half what it was two years ago.
One Of The Greatest Of The Greatest Generation: Louis Zamperini, Olympic track star and World War II hero has died at age 97.
Zamperini's remarkable life story is the subject of 'Unbroken', soon to be a film based on Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book of the same name. I reviewed her excellent book here.
"When President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent his parents a formal condolence note in 1944, he had no idea that Zamperini was still alive and living a nightmare in a Japanese prison camp. For 47 days, Zamperini had drifted on a life raft, fighting off sharks and starvation with two other crew members, one of whom died. Picked up by a Japanese patrol boat, the two survivors were beaten, tortured and humiliated for more than two years.
After the war, Zamperini was told by an Army superior that his raft trip qualified him for $7.60 a day in reimbursement. But someone higher up in the command nixed it: "Request denied," the letter said. "Travel unauthorized.""
Requiescat In Pace.
Three Step Program: David Burge has proposed a program to restore public trust in the IRS:
Thought For Today: Congressmen should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers so we could identify their corporate sponsors.
Thursday July 3, 2014
Changing Cadillac: Sales of Cadillac's lineup have fallen as of late in comparison with last year, prompting Caddy's U.S. vice president of sales and service, Bill Peffer, to resign. He was the third sales VP in two years.
It's not all bad; Cadillac is still outselling Lincoln and Hillary Clinton's book. Speaking of which, Hillary sometimes looks like an old Cadillac.
In 2013, Cadillac sold 182,543 vehicles. Sales in 2014 to date are off by about 10%, while other luxury nameplates are reporting healthy increases. Sales of the entry-level Cadillac ATS are down 20% and its much-ballyhooed ... (more >>>)
Chemo Ride: On Monday, I began my third round of chemotherapy and, after four hours of infusions I left with a portable pump which continues the chemotherapy for another 46 hours. Because the port is on the left side of my chest, I can't wear a driver's side shoulder belt while I'm wearing the pump. However, my '39 Plymouth coupe is equipped with lap-style seat belts, I - along with my chemo pump - jumped in and took a pleasant afternoon drive.
The temperature was in the low 70s and it was sunny and clear enough to see both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood.
And, in car sighting news, on the way to the oncology clinic, I spotted a white Tesla Model S - a rare sighting around these parts.
On Monday evening, I turned on our sprinkler system for the first time this year. Temperatures reached 100 on Tuesday. Summer's here - with a vengeance.
June Auto Sales: U.S. light vehicle sales were at a 17 million SAAR in June, up 7% from last June and up 1% from the annual sales rate last month.
Continued strong demand for Jeeps (+28%) and Ram trucks (+14%) pushed Chrysler Group sales up 9% in June. The company said it sold 171,086 vehicles in the United States last month, for its 51st consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains and its best June sales since 2007. But sales of the Chrysler brand fell 12%.
General Motors seems to be relatively unscathed in the showroom from its unprecedented recall crisis; sales rose 1% last month to the company's strongest June in seven years. GM dealers delivered 267,461 vehicles in the US in June. Buick had its best June since 2006. Deliveries were up 18%, driven by an 82% increase in Encore deliveries, a 33% increase for LaCrosse and a 26% increase for Regal. Cadillac sales were basically flat. Interestingly, 57% of new Caddy customers did not trade in a Cadillac.
Ford Motor sales declined 6% in June from the year-ago month to 222,064 units as the company geared up for a changeover of several key models, including the F-150 pickup, Mustang pony car and Edge crossover. Fusion sales totaled 27,064 vehicles last month a best-ever June performance. Fusion retail sales were up 22% and 14% overall. Lincoln sales were down 3%.
Sales of the Toyota brand were up 3%, while Lexus sales increased 10%. 582 Lexus LS found buyers in June. For the third time in four months Toyota has sold more than 40,000 Camrys in a single month in the US. June 2014 Camry volume was up 13%. The Camry outsold its nearest rival, the Honda Accord, by 8,335 units.
Honda brand sales dropped 4%; Acura sales decreased by 19% - as did Mini sales. Volkswagen brand sales fell by 22%. Jaguar sales dropped 23%. BMW sales were up 12%, while Mercedes rose 9%.
In a somewhat related story, new-car sales in Spain rose 24% in June, the tenth straight month of increases, as a government subsidy scheme continued to stimulate demand. How do you say Cash for Clunkers in Spanish?
Thanks, Obama! Headline of the week: 'Vet Finally Gets VA Appointment Two Years After He Died'.
Another Perspective: Over the years, I've posted links to Spengler (David P. Goldman) numerous times. He offers an experienced and unique view on the Middle East.
"The United States has misunderstood everyone in the world outside its borders and mismanaged everything. It has done so with a bipartisan consensus so broad and deep that it has no opposition except simple-minded isolationism. America gets unwanted results - most recently in Iraq - because it wants the wrong things in the first place. ... America cannot ignore the Middle East because it has critical interests in the region, including the free flow of hydrocarbons, but it cannot fix it."
"From the Pillars of Hercules to the Hindu Kush, America confronts a belt of countries unable to feed themselves, let alone to invest their capital in profitable businesses or educate their young people. Without hydrocarbons their economies would resemble the worst of sub-Saharan Africa. The only four that have conquered illiteracy Iran, Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria have suffered a sudden collapse in fertility, from pre-modern to post-modern levels, in a single generation."
Read the whole thing.
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Sonny Corleone Would Still Be Alive Today If He Had E-ZPass'.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Nothing is called "secondhand" any more, except "secondhand smoke." Why is it not called "pre-owned" smoke?"
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