A Blog About Cars ... And More
Wednesday March 30, 2016
Autosketch: 1939 Plymouth - Pilgrim Pride
Walter P. Chrysler, a Horatio Algier-like character, once was a mere Union Pacific roadhouse sweeper. A combination of hard work, smooth moves and a drive for success, caused Walter's career to rise until he eventually became an automotive magnate. The Chrysler automobile was introduced in 1924 and was successful. It was an expensive well made automobile and quickly earned a good reputation with the buying public. Walter P. wanted to enter the low-priced car field, not because he didn't believe in the prosperity-for-all of the Roaring '20s, but because he felt that an automobile manufacturer should offer a full line of cars.
In 1928, he introduced Plymouth, a more-modestly priced model than his handsome, expensive Chrysler. He soon bought the Dodge Brothers in order to have a volume manufacturing plant to assemble his new Plymouth. Plymouth soon became the low-priced, foundational rock which kept Chrysler Corporation in business during the Depression. And, the stolid little Plymouth helped Chrysler weather the financial problems caused by ... (more >>>)
RIP: Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke has died at age 69 of sepsis from a ruptured intestine. She was best known for her roles as Helen Keller in 'The Miracle Worker' and Neely O'Hara in 'Valley of the Dolls'. She also starred in the television sitcom, 'The Patty Duke Show'.
Book Review: 'The Art Of The Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World' by Anthony M. Amore
I always thought that the world of fine collectible art was a little sketchy but I never realized the extent of various scams until I read this book. I was especially disturbed by the brazen scams especially those conducted on eBay and other e-commerce sites.
The various stories would have been far more interesting ... (more >>>)
BFD - Derek Flint Did This Fifty Years Ago: A South Carolina man and his three female lovers have opened up about what life is like living in a four-way relationship.
In the 1966 movie 'Our Man Flint', a parody of the James Bond spy films, star James Coburn - playing the lead role of Derek Flint - had four live-in female playmates: Leslie, Anna, Gina and Sakito. They helped him save the world from the evil Galaxy empire.
This fun spoof was popular enough that it merited a 1967 movie sequel: 'In Like Flint'.
"I'm Saving My Money ... to buy you a rainbow." The Liverpool-based British Invasion of the U.S. wasn't started by The Beatles in 1964.
In 1957, Liverpoolian Russ Hamilton's gentle rendition of 'Rainbow' reached number 4 on Billboard's Hot 100 list.
Other top 1957 record hits included 'All Shook Up', 'Teddy Bear', 'Too Much' and 'Jailhouse Rock' by Elvis Presley, 'You Send Me' by Sam Cooke, 'Chances Are' by Johnny Mathis, 'Whole Lotta Shakin' by Jerry Lee Lewis, 'Bye-Bye Love', 'Wake Up, Little Suzie' by the Everly Brothers and 'Honeycomb' by Jimmie Rodgers. 'Wake Up, Little Suzie' was banned in Boston as too suggestive. In '57, many radio stations throughout the U.S. switched to a Top 40 format.
Hamilton was pretty much a one-hit wonder in the U.S. Russ Hamilton died in 2008 at age 76.
"And after I've gone and bought you the rainbow, I'll go out and I'll buy you the moon." Read more about 1957 here.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "When your world view is made up entirely of round holes, your mind is a lathe that can turn everything into a cylinder."
Monday March 28, 2016
Here are some of the vehicles that caught my attention:
Fifty years ago, I attended the 1966 New York Auto Show. It was quite an experience.
The Return Of The Luxo Coupe: The American personal luxury coupe is an automotive market segment that began with the introduction of the 1958 four-passenger Thunderbird. Luxo-coupes like the T'Bird had bodies which were different and distinctive from those of the sedans and hardtops of the same brand.
Personal luxury coupes were usually offered with the top-of-the-line engines and higher-quality and more opulent trim. These luxo-coupes added a bit of class to the car line and were priced at the top of the brand's product offerings - the '58 Bird cost almost twice as much as the base-level 1958 Ford.
In the personal coupe biz, the Thunderbird was followed in 1963 by the Buick Riviera, in 1966 - the Oldsmobile Toronado, in 1967 - the front-wheel-drive Cadillac Eldorado and, in April of 1968, by the 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III. By the end of the 20th Century, the personal luxury coupe market had become mostly extinct.
In a recent Road & Track article, Jack Baruth suggested that Lincoln make a Mark IX luxury coupe ... (more >>>)
Hope The Easter Bunny Brought You A Big, Juicy One Yesterday: March 27th was National Cheesesteak Day:
I Can Answer That: An article in American Thinker (by Christopher Chantrill) asked, "What do the Trump voters want?"
The attraction of The Donald is no mystery. People want their country back. If you happen to be a white male, you'd like to stop being called a racist, knuckle-dragging, bible toting, stupid, bitter clinger. And you'd like to have a job offered to you before it gets offered to an illegal, a low-paid H-1B visa worker or an affirmative action moron.
What we want is to neuter the GOP establishment that is more interested in preserving their power than in doing what was promised to the voters. I'm disgusted with "mainstream" Republicans - those mealy-mouthed, white-shoe, middle-of-the-road, do-nothing glad-handers. GOP stands for Gang Of Pansies. I'm as fed up as Lena Dunham at an all-you-can-eat buffet about what's happening to the Republican party.
Another Reason To Avoid That Obnoxious Griffin Chick: Comedian Garry Shandling died suddenly last week at age 66 from a massive heart attack.
TMZ reported that "last weekend, Shandling was hanging with ... Kathy Griffin."
Coincidence? Or what?!
In Other Death News .. Called Home On Easter: Mother Angelica, an extraordinary nun - the foundress of the Catholic TV channel Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), died on Easter Sunday at age 92. Mother Angelica launched EWTN in 1981, but largely retired from TV in the early 2000s. She had been in ill health since 2001, when she suffered a series of strokes.
In 1944, Rita Antoinette Rizzo entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan religious order for women, as a postulant, and a year later she was admitted to the order as a novice. She went on to find a new house for the order in 1962 in Irondale, Alabama, where EWTN is headquartered, and in 1996 she initiated the building of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Hanceville, Alabama.
Mother Angelica also reported experiencing an apparition of the Child Jesus. She claimed to have met the Child Jesus several times in 1995 during her missionary travel in Bogota, Colombia, where a life-sized statue of the Infant of Prague dressed in a pink robe came alive, smiled and spoke to her. The Child introduced himself as Divino Niño Jesus.
"In passing to eternal life, Mother Angelica leaves behind a legacy of holiness and commitment to the New Evangelization that should inspire us all," said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. "I was honored to know and be able to assist Mother Angelica during the early days of EWTN. Over the years, that relationship grew, and today the Knights of Columbus and EWTN partner regularly on important projects."
"Mother Angelica was fearless because she had God on her side," Anderson added. "She saw what he needed her to do, and she did it! She transformed the world of Catholic broadcasting and brought the Gospel to far corners of our world. That witness of faith was unmistakable to anyone who met and worked with her, and generations of Catholics have and will continue to be formed by her vision and her 'Yes' to God's will."
Requiescat in pace, Mother Angelica.
Je Suis ... tired of the inaction, the political correctness and the fear of 'offending' Muslims. After 9/11, outraged Americans donned 'Never forget' magnets and ribbons on our cars and lapels after 9/11. I must admit that I wore an American flag on my lapel, even though I felt that true patriotism was merited by actions rather than tchotchkes ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Dave Barry: "The only kind of seafood I trust is the fish stick, a totally featureless fish that doesn't have eyeballs or fins."
Thursday March 24, 2016
A New Way To Say 'Loud': Evaluating the Hyundai Sonata SE mid-size sedan, Jack Baruth wrote, "Much of Oregon uses a remarkably noisy aggregate motorway surface, which turns the Sonata's admittedly capacious interior into a cacophonous bell jar in which one must scream to be heard.
Even on quieter roads, however, there is still too much ambient junk bouncing around the cockpit to hold any kind of conversation with rear seat passengers."
Another Reason Why Trump Is Popular: The prospects of America's middle class have dimmed noticeably since the 2008 financial crisis. For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans are losing ground that they cannot seem to regain. Median household income fell by nearly 10% from 1999 through 2011 and remains far below previous peaks. Home ownership is down from 69% in 2008 to just 64%.
The rate of participation in the labor force has fallen from 66% before the crisis to just 62%, the lowest since the 1970s. A generation of young people has graduated from college with mediocre earnings prospects and mountains of student debt.
The last two generations of American entrepreneurs the dot.com bubblers of the 1990s and the mortgage manipulators of the 2000s got carried out in body bags. The great mortgage scam sucked tens of millions of Americans into the bubble. Late entrants lost their homes, with 4 million homes under foreclosure by 2012 and another 6 million at risk. It's not just that Americans are earning less ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Triumph Of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters' by Karl Rove
This dull-as-dishwater tome is 496 wasted pages. Its political lessons could have been thoroughly presented in a 1,500-word magazine article ... (more >>>)
RIP: Baseball legend Joe Garagiola, who was a 20-year-old catcher on the 1946 Cardinals World Series championship team and went on to a long broadcasting career, has died in Phoenix at age 90.
Needing More Space: The Battle Ground Public Library (where I get most of the books I review) is buying two acres of property adjacent to the present library to deal with future expansion. The Battle Ground branch, which opened in mid-2009, is one of the county's busiest libraries.
The current single-story building is 14,000 square feet. The BG library circulates 600,000 items each year in a city of 18,000 people. That's about 33 books per resident - a remarkable number. I borrow about 70 books per year. Most of the nonfiction ones get a published book review from yours truly.
Quote Of The Day is from movie exec Sam Goldwyn: "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper its printed on."
Tuesday March 22, 2016
Burn Out: At 11:30 am Friday, the temperature had warmed up to 55 degrees, so I fired up my old Plymouth coupe and went for a back roads drive. There were lots of clouds and, as I drove along, I found myself experiencing everything from no sun to full sunshine to in-between. Nevertheless, I had a good drive.
I did give the car a little too much gas coming off a stop sign and was "rewarded" with the screech of burning rubber. I sometimes forget that I've got a modern V8 motor under the hood. I guess other drivers thought I was a geezer delinquent. Maybe I am.
Big Money: New York City has 8,655 people with more than $30 million in net assets. That's 12% of America's Super Rich, meaning that there's over 72,000 people in the U.S. with a net worth of $30 million or more.
This information makes me feel like a pauper. Oh, well. If I had $30 million, I'd probably spend most of it on cars.
First Dog: He never told me his exact birth date but Winky was born 68 years ago this month. Yes, he did wink at people. I hope his little dog-soul is romping around happily somewhere.
I'll never forget you, old friend.
Makes You Want To Whistle The Tune 'Aquarius ... or maybe Credence's 'Bad Moon Rising': A Palm Springs house - built in 1969 and kept up but never remodeled - is a 3,350 square feet temple of late '60s kitsch, including Moire wallpaper and draperies, gold crystal chandeliers and hideous bright green dining room.
James Lileks wrote, "There are some eras whose design strikes modern eyes as ugly, garish, a crime against good taste. Usually the current generation judges the previous one harshly while romanticizing an era a few decades back, and then comes to appreciate what was once derided. The cycle repeats over and over.
But sometimes you come across an era whose ugliness is not debatable. It's not a matter of subjective analysis. It's truth. That era would be the end of the Sixties through the mid 70s, when American design went barking mad - either from drugs, or more likely, to assure actual drug users that you, too were cool."
As I looked at the photos, I was trying to find a first edition of the best-selling book, 'The Godfather'. Or 'I'm OK - You're OK' on one of the tables. Or see an Tahiti Turquoise AMC Javelin parked in the driveway.
Thanks, Obama: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has revealed that 124 illegal immigrant criminals released from jail by the Obama administration since 2010 have been subsequently charged with a total 138 murders.
"A Center for Immigration Studies report on the data from ICE to the Senate Judiciary Committee added that the committee is not releasing the names of the murder suspects." Just call them Mystery Killers, I guess.
Give The Voters What They Want: Ann Coulter has nailed it. "The combined vote for Trump and Cruz is a ringing chorus of what this party wants: a wall, deportation, less immigration and no job-killing trade deals."
Mainstream Republican politicians, consultants and power brokers don't seem to get this simple truth.
Obamacare Summarized: Tom McMahon tweeted, "Allowing the grandson of an African Witch Doctor to overhaul the best healthcare system in the world was rather shortsighted, eh?"
Quote Of The Day is from legendary football coach Lou Holtz: "Never tell your problems to anyone. Twenty percent don't care, and the other 80 percent are glad you have them."
Friday March 18, 2016
Sunshine Tasks: We're having nice weather and are blessed with the presence of the rarely-seen ball of orange in the sky. On Wednesday, we took the Toyota and Lexus to the car wash for much-needed cleanings. They hadn't been washed in almost three months because it's been raining so much. My wife's Avalon turned 11 years-old earlier this month, so I guess the wash was a birthday present for her reliable machine. It now has slightly over 62,200 miles on the odometer and looks just-like-new new inside and out.
Yesterday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe, drove into town and gassed it up. There's only one station in the area that doesn't sell the dreaded winter-mix ethanol-laden gas and that's where I went. I hate to go to that particular place because the fuel-stop doesn't work, so the gas overflows and there's never any windshield water or squeegee to clean it off.
This time, I wised up and brought a partially-full bucket of water and a wash mitt to do my own clean up. And, yes, the fuel overflowed this time. Plus the pump display kept showing 'faulty pump' and I had to go find someone inside the owner's nearby tire shop to help me get things started, since the pumps are unattended ... and neglected. That's OK ... by the time I need another fill-up, winter-mix gas will have vanished and I can fuel the old coupe with Premium at the place of my choosing.
Thursday was sunny but chilly at 46 degrees at 11:00 am. Later in the day, the temperature eventually reached the upper-50s. I had a nice drive; the sky was light blue and cloudless, except for some wispy white contrails. The view of Mount St. Helens was clear as a bell; the snow-capped peak looked like a slightly-squashed bell, perhaps one that had been run over by a dump truck - like the one that was competing with me for pump space at the despicable gas station earlier.
According to the weather forecast, the rain won't be back until Sunday. When I returned home, I gave the rear fender a thorough cleaning with car soap-infused water, followed by a rinse and dry. Gotta protect that new paint job, ya know.
Another Crack In Sergio's Crumbling Empire: In an article at TTAC, Timothy Cain wrote, "Chrysler had a 217-day supply of 47,000 200s at the beginning of February - isn't having any measurable impact on 200 sales. In fact, while FCA wants to see 200s leaving showrooms in order for space to be created for new 200s once production is reignited, demand for the 200 is drying up."
Chrysler 200 sales plunged 58% in February 2016, a 9,208-unit year-over-year decrease. Other brands of midsize cars saw a sales increase last month. Chevrolet Malibu sales jumped 53%, Ford Fusion sales rose 12%, Honda Accord increased 19% and Hyundai Sonata was up 25%.
In 2013, there was much speculation that FCA was trying to kill off the Dodge brand in favor of the more prestigious Chrysler nameplate. Despite Sergio Marchionne's best efforts, the Dodge brand won't die.
In 2016 so far, Dodge has sold 89,360 compared with Chrysler's 39,270. Dodge sales are up over 15% this year while Chrysler sales are down over 24%. The death of Dodge may not happen since the Chrysler brand seems to be committing suicide.
Consumer Reports didn't think much of the Chrysler 200, giving it the solid black 'much-worse-than-average' circle for reliability. In its 2016 Annual Auto Issue, CR noted: "The 200 scores poorly because of its mediocre ride and handling, bumpy transmission and claustrophobic rear seat." Specifically, the ride is "rough and unsettled" and handling is "clumsy." It had the lowest road test score of all the mid-sized cars tested by CR.
Interestingly, not a single Chrysler-badged vehicle was recommended by Consumer Reports.
The Future As Seen In 1952: A retro-futuristic '52 Pegaso Z-102 Cupola, with a swoopy and futuristic Kammback-type aero design, took Best in Show at the Amelia Island Concours. It was restored to its original color scheme - taxicab yellow with wide red-walled tires. Yecchh! I liked it a lot better when it was repainted silver and sported conventional blackwall tires:
"In 2015, the car emerged from a six-year restoration and made its public debut at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, where it was awarded the BMW Group Trophy."
Irish Food Fest: Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. For dinner, I had homemade soda bread and homemade shepherd's pie. It was awesome. Thanks to my wife.
Why I Don't Bank Online: Jack Baruth spelled it all out in a lengthy but informative article about transaction security.
"A sufficiently complex quantum computer could instantly break anything short of a truly random one-time pad. True security, therefore, only comes from human interaction. From what they call "sanity checks." Did Bob really just reach out from Russia and empty out his savings to a numbered account in the Cayman Islands? Probably not.
What I want you to understand, therefore, is that everything you see on the Internet related to security is merely security theater. It's about as effective as the TSA. Which is to say that your idiot neighbor probably won't be able to figure out how to login to your bank account, the same way you can't run through the airport security line waving an AK-47 and expect to be permitted to board. It primarily protects you from the random malice of extremely stupid people."
Yes, I buy stuff online using a credit card but that's about it. If I want to do financial transactions, I telephone the appropriate institution and speak with a real person, despite the annoying hold music/message suggesting that I could accomplish the same thing using the firm's allegedly secure website.
RIP: Frank Sinatra Jr. died suddenly at age 72 of a heart attack. He carried on his famous father's legacy with his own music career, focusing primarily on the Great American Songbook.
He lives on in reruns of two 'Family Guy' episodes. On one of them, he sang the Family Guy theme song at the end of the show. And did a good job of it.
Lee Andrews, lead singer of the doo-wop quintet, Lee Andrews & the Hearts, has died at age 79. The Philadelphia-based group had three significant hits in the 1957-58 period: 'Teardrops', 'Long Lonely Nights' and 'Try the Impossible'. After the group broke up, Lee opened a dress shop in Philadelphia; I'm pretty sure it wasn't this one. Andrews is father to Roots drummer Questlove.
'Long Lonely Nights' is one of the songs on the album 'Cruisin' 1957' hosted by disc jockey Joe Niagara. That album is what's usually playing when I'm going for drives in my 1939 Plymouth.
Actor Larry Drake, who portrayed the developmentally-disabled character, Benny Stulwicz, on the television series, 'L.A. Law', has died at age 66.
Happy Tune: Whenever I get the blues, I just play 'Flatfoot Floogie' by Slim and Slam, a 1938 cheery little ditty with a vibraphone solo. You can't be sad when someone's playing the happiest musical instrument ever made.
That's why they never have vibraphones or xylophones at funerals. (Well, maybe they had one at Lionel Hampton's service in 2002. His funeral procession began at The Cotton Club in Harlem.) Organ: yes, cello: certainly, harp: ok for the right somber musical selection. But, you just can't mourn when someone's bangin' merrily on a row 'o bones.
Which is ironic because, whenever there's a cartoon featuring dancing skeletons, there's always vibraphone music in the audio track.
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "With my old man, I got no respect. I asked him, "How can I get my kite in the air?" He told me to run off a cliff."
Thursday March 17, 2016: Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Discretion: Six retired Irishmen were playing poker in O'Leary's apartment when Paddy Murphy loses $500 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the other five continue playing standing up.
Michael O'Conner looks around and asks, "Oh, me boys, someone got's to tell Paddy's wife. Who will it be?"
They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don't make a bad situation any worse.
"Discreet?! I'm the most discreet Irishmen you'll ever meet. Discretion is me middle name. Leave it to me."
Gallagher goes over to Murphy's house and knocks on the door. Mrs. Murphy answers and asks what he wants. Gallagher declares, "Your husband just lost $500 and is afraid to come home."
"Tell him to drop dead!" says Murphy's wife.
"I'll go tell him," says Gallagher.
Irish Nun Story: The 98 year-old Mother Superior lay dying in an Ireland convent. The nuns gathered around her bed trying to make her last hours comfortable. They gave her some warm milk to drink but she refused.
Then one of the nuns took the glass back to the kitchen. Remembering a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey received as a gift the previous Christmas, she opened it and poured a generous amount into the warm milk. Back at Mother Superior's bed, she held the glass to her lips. Mother drank a little, then a little more and before they knew it, she had consumed the whole glass.
"Mother," one nun asked earnestly, "Please give us some wisdom before you leave us."
The old nun raised herself up in bed and said, "Don't sell that cow."
Irish Business Lesson: You'll find it here.
The Cookie Trick: A black guy and Murphy go into a pastry shop. The black guy whisks three cookies into his pocket with lightning speed. The baker doesn't even notice.
The black guy says to Murphy, "You see how clever I am? You Paddies can never beat that!"
Murphy says to the black guy, "Watch dis, any Paddy is smarter din you and I'll prove it to ye."
He says to the baker, "Give me a cookie, I'll show you a magic trick!" The baker gives him the cookie, which he promptly eats.
Then he says to the baker, "Give me another cookie for me magic trick." The baker is getting suspicious, but he gives it to him. He eats this one too.
Then he says again, "Give me one more cookie, please." The baker is getting angry now but gives him one anyway. He eats this one too.
Now the baker is really mad, and he yells, "OK. And now where is your famous magic trick?"
Murphy says, "Now look in the black guy's pocket."
Irish Luggage: An Irishman arrived at JFK Airport and wandered around the terminal with tears streaming down his cheeks. An Aer Lingus employee asked him if he was already homesick.
"No," replied the Irishman "I've lost all me luggage!"
"How'd that happen?"
"The cork fell out!"
'Danny Boy' ... as sung by The Muppets, here.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Wednesday March 16, 2016
Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue: I always enjoy reading it. CR's database comes from 740,000 vehicles owned by subscribers who fill out Consumer Reports annual survey and is, in my opinion, the most comprehensive and believable of various reliability surveys. Owner satisfaction ratings come from 230,000 surveyed vehicles which are less than 3 years old.
Here are some interesting tidbits from the magazine ... (more >>>)
Pricey Old Iron: A rare, red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider was the top lot at Gooding & Company's Amelia Island Florida auction this year, selling for a record $17.2 million. Looking like a twin to the iconic Ferrari in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', it is one of just 56 produced.
During the same weekend, RM Sotheby's sold a blue 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica LWB Coupe Aerodinamico for $4.4 million. Bonhams sold a light blue 1937 Bugatti 57SC Sports Tourer with coachwork by Vanden Plas for just over $9.7 million, making it one of the most valuable Bugattis ever sold at auction.
My Grandparents And Other Relatives ... once lived in the very nice working-class neighborhood of West Philadelphia. My grandparents moved from South Philly to West Philly in the 1920s and remained in their Catherine Street home until their deaths in the early '40s. My uncle took over the house; other relatives lived nearby.
What I remember as a well-kept neighborhood in the 1950s began to deteriorate in the 1960s. By the late '60s ... (more >>>)
Super Tuesday 2.0 Primaries (aka - The Ides Of Marco): Aaaannnnnd ... Marco Rubio is out. He has - as they all say - "suspended his campaign" after losing his home state of Florida to Donald Trump: 46% to Marco's 27%.
Donald Trump also won Illinois Missouri and North Carolina. John Kasich decisively won his home state of Ohio. Trump now has 646 electoral votes to Cruz's 396. John Kasich has 142 electoral votes. 1,237 votes are needed to secure the Republican nomination.
Hillary Clinton won Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. Clinton now has 1,132 electoral votes; Sanders has 818. 2,383 votes are needed to secure the Democratic nomination.
Book Review: 'I Never Knew That About Ireland' by Christopher Winn
Author Winn writes about interesting places and people in Ireland. He covers the Republic as well as the North. He provides insight about heritage, memories, and monuments that have shaped each county in Ireland.
Although I've read several books about the Emerald Isle and visited Ireland twice, Winn's book is full of interesting tidbits that I never knew ... (more >>>)
If You Don't Have A Job ... you don't need a suit. So, I guess you can thank Obama for the closing of 250 Jos. A. Bank stores.
There has been "a deep sales bleed at Jos. A Bank - the result of an abrupt rollback of steep discounts, such as offering four suits for the price of one, as the company tried to elevate the chain's image. Customers balked and stayed away in droves."
Jos. A. Banks' sales fell 32% in the last quarter, as prospective customers waited to the Buy One, Get Four Free deal. Maybe the firm will soon be renamed Jos. A. Bankrupt.
Quote Of The Day is from John Kenneth Galbraith: "Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
Monday March 14, 2016
Why Are Today's Hearses So Ugly? The Cadillac CTS-based hearse used for Nancy Reagan's funeral was particularly ungainly:
I've smoothed out some of the lines to give it a bit more style, although it's hard to merge a boxy rear with a sloping front. Although ... (more >>>)
Unloved SUVs: Jack Baruth doesn't like crossovers and makes no bones about it. He wrote: "Nobody can make you drive a crossover, either. They're compromised vehicles, and you don't need to compromise. Go get the car you want. Even if you can easily imagine a scenario that could possibly take place where you might theoretically use a crossover one day a year. It's okay. It will work out. You'll find a way to not need a gutless 4000-pound wimp-wagon that gets 20 mpg despite being unable to make it up a hill in fourth gear.
In fact, humanity got all the way to the moon without having so much as a single front-wheel drive, car-based crossover. The Berlin Wall fell without a Hyundai Santa Fe tugging fecklessly at the thing with a Class II dealer-installed tow hitch. Steve McQueen is on record as having never even seen a crossover. Jimmy Page wears sunglasses all the time now because he doesn't want to look at your Kia Sorento."
Even for car guys, vehicles must fit into a Hierarchy of Needs. If you live is snow country, an AWD crossover may be your only alternative. If only someone made an AWD sedan or coupe - or sports car - with a Citroën-inspired hydraulic suspension which could change the ground clearance from, say, four to twelve inches at the twist of a knob.
Happy Birthday, Dad: My father would have turned 97 today.
RIP: Singer Gogi Grant has died at age 91. While she was best known for the 1956 million-seller, 'The Wayward Wind', I always liked her rendition of 'Suddenly There's A Valley.'
Funeral Trivia: If you watched the Nancy Reagan funeral last week, you couldn't help but notice her imposing wood casket.
It was the exact same one in which her husband was laid to rest - a Marsellus M700 Masterpiece Mahogany model with tan velvet interior and hand-rubbed traditional mahogany finish. It lists for $18,000. The lumber comes from strictly-managed tree farms in the Ivory Coast.
Marsellus Casket, once an independent manufacturer of wood caskets, is now a division of coffin giant Batesville Casket. Baseball legend Mickey Mantle and rapper Biggie Smalls were also buried in M700 Masterpiece caskets. JFK and Richard Nixon were laid to rest in Marsellus caskets.
By the way, do you know what one casket said to the other? "Hey, is that you coffin?"
Reconsider Baby: Social critic Camile Paglia, who once dismissed Donald Trump as not presidential and a "carnival barker", has changed her tune. Recently, she wrote: "Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude. He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal. He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra. But Trump is a workaholic who doesn't drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women. As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump's slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices."
She doesn't like Ted Cruz, though. "From my perspective as a fervent supporter of the ruggedly honest and principled Bernie Sanders, Trump with his pragmatic real-life record is a far more palatable national figure than Ted Cruz, whose unctuous, vainglorious professions of Christian piety don't pass the smell test. Trump is a blunt, no-crap mensch, while Cruz is a ham actor, doling out fake compassion like chopped liver. Cruz's lugubrious, weirdly womanish face, with its prim, tight smile and mawkishly appealing puppy-dog eyebrows, is like a waxen mask, always on the verge of melting. This guy doesn't know who the hell he is - and the White House is no place for him and us to find out."
What The Hell Is A Brannock Device? Well, you've had one used on you many times during your life. Answer here.
Quote Of The Day is from Jacques Barzun: "Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred."
Friday March 11, 2016
Pricey Toy: Hammacher Schlemmer is offering a 1/5th scale Jaguar XK 120 for $20,000.
The eight-foot long Jag is made with an aerodynamic aluminum hull supported by a powder-coated steel box chassis and is powered by a 110 cc four-stroke, air-cooled gas engine that propels the car to a top speed of 38 miles per hour via a three-speed automatic transmission. It rides on front and rear double wishbone suspension, gas shocks, 10-inch aluminum wheels, and genuine rubber tires - including a spare in the trunk.
Other luxurious appointments include leather and wood trim in the cockpit, hydraulic disc brakes for smooth stops, and an exterior that can be finished in any color you like, including ... (more >>>)
There's At Least 100 Suckers Out There: The base Porsche Panamera sedan stickers at $78,000. It has a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine with 310 horsepower. (Even a $32,000 Ford Mustang Fastback GT is faster with its eight-cylinder engine. But alas, it doesn't wear the prestigious Porsche crest.) Custom seats cost $3,100. Special headlights and a system that helps drivers park adds $6,800.
"Porsche makes 13 versions of the Panamera. Up the ladder, the models add four-wheel drive, a larger engine and features packages that Porsche charges for in cheaper models." The Panamera 4S has a six-cylinder turbo engine that puts out 420 horses. Porsche still charges $3,100 extra for special seats and $6,800 for the special headlights and parking assist. The model sells for $98,300.
Porsche sells the top-end Panamera Exclusive Series for $263,900. The car is exclusive because Porsche will only build and sell 100 of them worldwide. The special light package is added for free. It has special tail lights as well. The interior leather seats come with two contrasting colors. The model has personalized floor mats. It also has a 4.8-liter V8 turbo engine that puts out 570 hp."
Florida Republican Debate: CNN hosted last night's debate where only four candidates were on stage. It was the 12th Republican debate of the primary season and felt more like the 32nd debate to me, since I'm suffering from debate exhaustion.
The only debate I've really enjoyed in recent years was the Duff Beer version of the Kennedy-Nixon debate shown on a 1993 episode of 'The Simpsons'. JFK and Nixon extol the virtues of sponsor Duff Beer during a commercial break. Kennedy's grinning endorsement is rapturously received, while Tricky Dick's creepily fawning praise for the brew is met with disdain and boos. Watching the televised rerun of Nixon's endorsement, Homer Simpson indignantly scoffed, "That man never drank a Duff in his life!"
This debate was a calm, policy-wonk style encounter. In other words, it was boring. "So far I cannot believe how civil it's been up here," said The Donald at one point. There were no surprises and I doubt that any minds were changed.
Who won? In my opinion, it was the people who declined to watch this two-hour snoozer. They didn't miss a thing. The Drudge Poll - with about 400,000 votes tallied - awarded Trump the number one spot with 64% of the vote; Cruz came in second at 25%. Rubio (6%) and Kasich (5%) were both in single digits.
Great Satire: The Donald converts to Catholicism and runs for Pope:
"I don't have to do this, when you think about it. I really don't. I'm rich. I'm really, really, rich. I built a great company; a tremendous company. I employ thousands and thousands of people. So my friends, they ask me, they say Donald, you have everything you can dream of. You're rich, you have an amazing wife, an amazing family, you're very successful, why run for Pope? And I say, you know what? I have to run. My Church needs me. The Catholics need me. I have to make the Catholic Church great again. I have to. (Cheers, applause)
You know, it's a sad thing to say, but the Church is in such bad shape; terrible shape under Francis. The Catholic Church doesn't win anymore. We just don't. When is the last time Catholics won anything? Lepanto? When was that, the 1500’s? We don't win anymore. But, let me just say, Under a Trump papacy, we are going to win again. We are going to win so much. We are going to win so much you are all going to be sick of winning, OK? But right now, it's terrible. Just the other day, I see the Pope is praising Martin Luther. Martin Luther! Can you believe it? (Boos)
Our Pope is over there praising Martin Luther; meanwhile millions of Hispanics are converting to Protestantism in Latin America. It's true. We are losing millions and millions of people to the Protestants and our Pope does nothing. He does nothing. And I have nothing against the Protestants. Many of them are good people. I employ thousands of Protestants. I used to be a Protestant. But their leaders are just too smart for our leaders. We have people in power in the Church today who have no idea what they are doing. They are incompetent."
Quote Of The Day is from Martin Mull: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
Wednesday March 9, 2016
Fleeting Fame: Well, I'm semi-famous again - in some specialized circles. I received an acknowledgement credit in a new book, 'Cord Corporation' by Rod Ward, published in the UK. My contributions were images of a Graham Hollywood and a 1937 Cord 812 as well as background information on ... (more >>>)
Automotive Payola: Jack Baruth revealed that there is a "secret" Facebook group of auto journalists. At least one of them, Wayne Gerdes, is on the take, having been paid - reportedly $18,000 - by Volkswagen for using the Passat TDI to set a Guinness World Record for hypermiling using a TDI "clean" diesel.
Gerdes was outed by Mark Stevenson at TTAC: "Gerdes' income from Volkswagen, and possibly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to do a similar project with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, casts doubt over all involved in automotive journalism - not just Gerdes. To make a claim that you can wear two hats - journalist and marketer goes against everything it means to be a journalist."
In his quest for maximum gas mileage, Gerdes has put his and other lives at risk on several occasions.
I guess I'm just jealous that nobody's paying me for writing about automobiles. And I once got 156 mpg in a V8 Lincoln.
Motown Mess: Michael Barone referred to the recent GOP debate in Detroit and noted that Ted Cruz cited Detroit as an example of the tragedy of Democratic rule "and how, in his view, 50 years of liberal governance destroyed so much of a once-thriving city."
Barone wrote, "I saw that destruction as an intern in the Detroit mayor's office during the 1967 riot and in repeated visits over the years afterward, destruction wreaked in large part because of policies now advocated by the Black Lives Matter movement and Hillary Clinton."
I've written about Detroit's decline before. As well as the sad fates of other cities which have gone Democratic for decades including Philadelphia, Camden and Atlantic City.
All of these cities have substantial black populations. And, should he become the Republican candidate, Donald Trump may do well with African-Americans in these urban areas. Karl Denninger wrote, "There's a nasty little statistic that Trump predicted, the pundits said were wrong, yet has been true thus far. He wins in places with high unemployment and minority (black, in particular) representation.
Think about that for a minute in the context of the General election. These are people who almost-always vote Democrat, but in the contests that are open-primary (or nearly-so, where you can switch on election day) and have these two characteristics. Trump has won all of them.
Black people won't vote for Trump, eh? They have been, and are, doing exactly that. This bodes very poorly for the Democrats come November should Trump be the nominee, and, if the Republicans have any lick of sense, they'd make damn sure he is."
Trump is first Republican in 30 years with material black support. Yet the GOP Establishment is doing everything in their power to kill off The Donald. The Stupid Party - they devour their own.
Election Results: Tuesday was primary day in Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan and Mississippi. Donald Trump decisively won Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi. Ted Cruz handily won Idaho.
Hillary Clinton trounced Sanders by more than fivefold in Mississippi but Bernie defeated Hillary in Michigan: 50% to 48%.
Headline Of The Week ... so far is from Andrew Malcolm at Investor's Business Daily: 'Hillary says she speaks to God daily, but won't reveal her fee'.
Seth Meyers quipped, "Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in a PBS debate. Or as PBS calls it, 'Antiques Roadshow'." And: "Hillary says this email problem is just an honest mistake. Ever notice the only time people in Washington are honest is when they make a mistake?"
Still Good For Wrapping Fish, Though: In a two-and-one-half year period, newspaper circulation has declined by 22-40%, depending on the newspaper. Gerard Van der Leun noted, "There remain only two print newspapers in the entire country (the Wall Street Journal and New York Times) that sell more than a half million copies per average weekday, only six that sell a quarter of a million copies and probably [correction: not many more than] 22 that sell more than 100,000."
The Columbian is the only paid newspaper serving Clark County Washington. The Columbian's paid subscribers total 27,601 - less than 6% of 450,000 Clark County's residents. We canceled our subscription in early 2008. As a comparison, back in 1950 ... (more >>>)
Buffet Of Bankruptcy: HomeTown Buffet and affiliated dining chains owned by Ovation Brands has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Ovation operates 328 restaurants in 35 states, employing 17,000.
It's hard to make money in the eating business. Apparently, it's even harder in the overeating business.
Book Review: 'Cheney One On One: A Candid Conversation with America's Most Controversial Statesman' by James Rosen
In late 2014, Fox News reporter James Rosen sat down with former vice-president Cheney for 10 hours of interviews, conducted over a three days.
While I found parts of the book interesting and informative, the book was in a Q&A transcript format which was difficult to read and sometimes boring. Too often, Rosen would ask a well-crafted three or four sentence question, only to receive a taciturn answer from Mr. Cheney, such as "Mm-hmm", "Yeah." Or, "Right." Or, "No."
Nevertheless the book offered some fascinating insights ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
Monday March 7, 2016
Bearish On Auto Sales: Malcolm Berko wrote recently, "Today, there are millions of unsold and never-to-be-sold new and used cars squatting on dealer lots and packed tighter than pickles in a Mason jar. And if their prices are determined by supply and demand, Americans are grossly overpaying for their cars. The industry expects a record number of cars, probably 18 million, to be sold this year. Dealerships across the country are deluged with excess inventory. And to prevent this flood from sinking prices, the industry has "encouraged" lenders to lower their standards. According to the New York FED, over $126 billion of auto loans between June and December of 2015 were made to borrowers with credit scores below 660.
That's called subprime because acceptable credit scores are 720 or higher. Some $81 billion of those were auto loans made to borrowers with credit scores below 620, and many of them were made for 8 years. Heck my two dogs, Abbott and Costello, have earned better credit scores.
It seems that subprime auto lending is shifting into high gear and raising concerns in Washington. A growing number of savvy analysts are alarmed that consumer borrowing has reached an all-time high of $3.8 trillion (doesn't include mortgages) last November. This suggests that the GDP has been goosed higher by consumer debt and these consumers make less today than they did before the recession. Washington isn't concerned about the health of the nation's auto lending portfolio.
Washington wants the consumer to spend and is making it easier for the consumer to increase his debt. Many home mortgages are being made without a down payment and without documentation or personal earnings statements. And those mortgages are as easy to get today as they were 10 years ago. According to the New York FED, the national mortgage delinquency rate is 3.2 percent and in some states (Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, New Mexico) it exceeds 6.3 percent. Some of the FED's top data analysts are shouting that the national default rate could double by early 2017. No one is listening."
"I doubt the consumer has enough "borrow juice" left to afford a new car this year."
A Brief History Of Unpopular Presidential Candidates: There is a great deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the clubby, tassel-loafered GOP Establishment over the seeming unstoppable juggernaut known as Donald Trump. There are now numerous apoplectic pundits who are openly dissing The Donald. For example, "In order to defeat Donald Trump, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol admits he is prepared to hand Hillary Clinton the Oval Office."
This is a despicable and stupid position for a conservative to take. There are many kinds of conservatives; Kristol is obviously a Kamikaze Conservative. As is Ben Stein, who has stated that he would vote for Clinton over Trump.
Then there's Mitt Romney who delivered a passionate anti-Trump rant last week. Seeing a photo of them together in 2012, when Romney not only accepted Donald Trump's endorsement but he happily took The Donald's campaign donations as well, made me think of the phrase 'daydream believer and a homecoming queen'. No more - now Trump is "a phony and a fraud," according to Romney. If only the Mittster had ... (more >>>)
Saturday's Primaries: Donald Trump won Louisiana and Kentucky. Ted Cruz won Kentucky and Maine. (Cruz also won the CPAC straw poll, which doesn't mean much as the conservative organization doesn't have a very good track record of forecasting winning candidates.) Marco Rubio won no states. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders won Kansas and Nebraska; Hillary Clinton won Louisiana.
Cruz scooped up 64 delegates last night. Trump took 49. Trump now has 378 delegates, while Cruz has 295 delegates. Marco Rubio is a distant third in delegate count with only 123. John Kashich has 34 delegates.
Hillary Clinton has 1,121 delegates, while Bernie Sanders has 479.
And the beat goes on.
Belonging To The Ages: Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, one of the most high-profile and influential first ladies of the 20th century, has died at age 94 of congestive heart failure.
She served as first lady for her husband's two presidential terms. With Nancy at his side, Ronald Reagan became the most consequential president of our times.
While husband Ronald Reagan was governor of California from 1967 to 1975, Nancy Reagan worked with numerous charitable groups, and spent hours visiting veterans, the elderly, and the emotionally and physically handicapped.
"The movies were custard compared to politics," Mrs. Reagan once said. As part of the MGM stable, Nancy Davis made 11 films from 1949 until 1956. She married fellow actor Ronald Reagan in 1952.
When her husband became president of the United States, Nancy Reagan continued her interest in these groups and arguably became best known for her 'Just Say No' program fighting against drug abuse among youth.
Requiescat In Pace.
Father Of Iconic Robot: Tony Dyson, British film prop designer, creator of Star Wars' R2-D2 has died at age 68.
Concept artist Ralph McQuarrie designed the robot, Kenny Baker helped bring him to life - but it was Tony Dyson who had the daunting task of building Artoo as a real-life droid.
"In the 1970s, Dyson owned the White Horse Toy Company in the UK, and had worked uncredited on films like 'Moonraker', 'Superman II', and 'Dragon Slayer' as an effects supervisor. When George Lucas began production of 'Star Wars' in the country, he tapped Dyson to bring McQuarrie's artwork to life." RIP
Another Retail Fail: Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy and said it will close 140 stores, nearly a third of its total. Over 3,000 of its 14,500 employees are being axed and the everything could be shut down if they don't find a buyer.
Pricing Made-in-China $12 sweatshirts at $79 is not ... (more >>>)
A Simple Plan: In three steps:
In three generations, there will be no more Democrats.
Quote Of The Day is from poet William Blake: "A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."
Friday March 4, 2016
Forgotten Fiberglass: Even though I was an obsessive reader of car magazines in the 1950s, I didn't know of about half the fiberglass-bodied sportsters pictured on this website.
I do remember admiring the Devin, Kellison, Woodill Wildfire and Glasspar back in the day. Most look quaint now, but by stodgy mid-20th Century standards - picture one of them parked next to a '53 Chevy, '54 Dodge or Willys Aero - they were knockouts.
Sales Slump? Independent stock analyst, Argus, has downgraded GM stock to Hold from Buy, based on reduced slower sales expectations.
"Argus did note that GM recently has shown very strong performance. And the company tried to refute slowing concerns in recent weeks with a larger dividend and a large stock buyback. That being said, Argus is worried that 2016 will be the peak of the current cycle for U.S. auto sales."
Argus expects U.S. light vehicle sales to rise by only 1.1% in 2016. Why this matters is that it follows sales growth of 6.0% in 2015 and that followed sales growth of 7.7% in 2014. The analysis projects slower growth in international sales, with those sales declining in some emerging markets.
Bring A Big Check: The Bugatti Chiron, which will be priced at $2.6 million or so, is powered by a 1,478 horsepower, quad-turbo W16 engine hooked to a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.
Lion or Lyin'? Last week, I heard some television pundit refer to the late Ted Kennedy as the Lion of the Senate.
I've often wondered why no one referred to him as King of the Senate because, just like King Arthur, Teddy had a lady in the lake.
Immigration Scam: Jack Baruth has written an interesting article which covers two different but somewhat-related themes - the duplicity and soft racism of Facebook's Mark Zukerberg (despite all his Black Lives Matter rhetoric, only 1% of Facebook's employees are black) and the H-1B Visa scam.
As so many bloggers often write: Read the whole thing.
I would like to add that I have seen the H-1B visa scam in practice. In 90% of cases, it is simply away to get ... (more >>>)
Mayhem In Motown: There was much insult trading between Trump, Rubio and, to a lesser extent, Cruz at Thursday's Republican debate in Detroit. It was held in the beautiful, restored Fox Theater, possibly the only decent building remaining in the run-down Motor City. On the stage, frontrunner Trump was wedged between Rubio and Cruz like a Cuban sandwich.
Things got off to a hot start as the audience booed when Fox News moderator Chris Wallace mentioned Mitt Romney. Romney had dissed Trump in a lengthy screed earlier in the day. When interviewed immediately after the debate by Bill O'Reilly, The Donald said Romney is a "failed candidate" who "made a fool out of himself."
As I watched the debate, I kept reminding myself that, of 450 seats, 400 were given to party bigwigs and 50 were "available" to the public at large. This is apparently a common practice and lends credence to what Donald Trump has been complaining about in recent debates. It also explains why he gets booed so frequently by the debate audience.
I was saddened by the absence of Dr. Ben Carson from the stage. He is a decent fellow but couldn't maintain voter interest, probably because of his non-combative demeanor.
Kasich stayed above the fray and sounded more presidential than anyone else on stage; therefore, I awarded him debate winner. Cruz was second, Trump a close third and Rubio a distant fourth. The Drudge Poll declared Donald Trump the winner with 61% of the vote. Ted Cruz was second at 22%; John Kasich came in third at 12%. Marco Rubio got only 5%. Poll results were as of 11:30 pm PST with over 202,000 votes cast.
These debates are getting tiresome; this one sounded like a brawl in a moderately upscale bar. Were any minds changed? I doubt it.
Quote Of The Day is from Adolf Hitler in 1933: "To conquer a nation, you must first disarm its citizens."
Wednesday March 2, 2016
February Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.43 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in February, up about 7% from February 2015, and mostly unchanged from the 17.45 million annual sales rate last month. Trucks and crossovers continue to be hot sellers.
General Motors, the highest-volume seller of automobiles in America, posted total February U.S. sales of 227,825 vehicles, a decrease of 1.5% compared with February 2015. Retail deliveries rose 6.6%, fleet deliveries slipped six points and commercial sales rose 7% in February. The best-selling vehicle in the month was the Chevy Silverado pickup, which saw a year-over-year sales decline of 5% to 43,136 units. Cadillac retail sales rose 4.2% to 11,840 units, led by Escalade's 22% boost. Total Chevrolet deliveries fell 0.7% to 158,644 units, although retail sales rose 13% to 121,747 units. Chevy Cruze sales dropped 29%. Sales of the Buick brand rose 2.3% (helped by a 19% bump in Encore sales) despite a decrease of 1.9% in retail sales.
Ford Motor Co. experienced a 20% increase in sales. Ford sold 60,697 F-Series pickups in February, an increase of 10% year over year. Compared with January 2016 sales, that's a jump of 20%, quite a turnaround from the 40% month over month decline in January. Ford said it was the company's best February ever for crossover and SUV sales, which rose 29% to 70,328. Lincoln brand sales were up over 30% (8,039 units), with sales of the MKX crossover more than doubling from a year ago.
Strong Ram and Jeep sales powered Fiat Chrysler up 12% last month to its best February sales since 2006. FCA sold 38,555 Ram pickups in February, an increase of 27% year over year. Jeep sales increased by 23%. Sales of the Dodge brand rose 12%. Not all the news was good: Chrysler brand sales dropped 26%, Fiat was off by 8% and only 49 Alfa Romeos found buyers in February.
Toyota Motor sales rose 5%. Camry was the top-selling car while the RAV4 was the best-selling crossover. Toyota's luxury brand Lexus said sales inched up 1% to 23,234 units.
American Honda sales rose 13%, although Acura sales dropped 2%. Nissan Division sales increased 13% (but Infiniti sales fell 11%). Mitsubishi's sales rose 5%, while sales of Mazda vehicles fell 16%. Subaru sales increased 2%, while sales of the Volkswagen brand dropped 13%, in the wake of the company's emissions cheating scandal that emerged last September. VW's Audi luxury brand remained largely isolated from the scandal, posting a 2% gain to 11,718 vehicles - the brand's 62nd consecutive month of record U.S. sales. Hyundai sales were up slightly in February: Kia sales rose 13%. Volvo sales increased by 31% to 5,260 vehicles.
Only 62 Bentleys found U.S. buyers in February - a drop of 68% from last February. Maserati sales were up 51% to 728 cars.
Fiat: It's The New Kaiser. Or Edsel. Peter De Lorenzo reported that "Sergio Marchionne's grand promise of the rejuvenation of the Fiat brand in the U.S. is dangling by a thread. Why? The original five-year agreements that dealer principals signed based on the promises put forth by Marchionne back in 2011 are coming up for renewal, and needless to say, there's big trouble out in Auburn Hills, because a majority of dealers are having none of it."
Marchionne promised that "these dealers would be getting in on the ground floor of the next great automotive brand in America, an Italian-American juggernaut that would have dealers start out by selling successful, fuel-efficient Fiat models 'built for the times' in the short term, with the promise that they'd be swimming in a seductive array of Alfa Romeo products in the long term. Marchionne in fact repeatedly told the dealers that Alfa would be "the next Audi" by 2018, which turned out to be a flat-out lie.
And, as if that weren't enough, Marchionne insisted that these dealers commit to brick and mortar for new Fiat-exclusive stores to underscore his "vision," even though his "vision" would cost the dealers at least $1-$2 million (and for some, much more)."
All is not well at the Chrysler end of Fiat-Chrysler: "FCA is bleeding cash despite selling Jeeps and pickups hand-over-fist, and the margins are so razor thin that the whole thing is teetering on the edge of oblivion. And FCA is doing this while writing a large percentage of subprime loans, which means they will leave a devastating financial legacy with consumers for years to come."
People in Europe know the truth: Most Alfas are simply upmarket Fiats. Real Alfas died sometime in the awful '80s.
Super Tuesday Results: On the Republican side, Donald Trump won seven states: Alabama, Arkansas Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia and Vermont. Cruz won his home state of Texas, nearby Oklahoma as well as Alaska. Rubio only won the Minnesota caucus - his first win of the primary season.
So far, The Donald has about 316 delegates, Cruz 226 and Rubio 110. Kasich has 25 and Carson has eight. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the GOP nomination.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won seven states: Alabama, Arkansas Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Bernie won four states: Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and, of course, Vermont. Clinton now has 1,034 delegates and Sanders has 408. The Democratic nominee must win 2,383 delegates.
At this point, it's looking more and more like it's going to be Trump versus Hillary for president.
Book Review: 'The Devil's In The Cows' by Gregory Sullivan
This 150 page (more or less) book contains 37 quirky short stories, written by Gregory Sullivan, proprietor of the Sippican Cottage blog. The stories range from humorous, to ironic, to depressing, to startling - each one packs a literary wallop. Words are carefully ... (more >>>)
RIP: George Kennedy, the tough guy actor, best known for his roles in 'Cool Hand Luke', the various 'Airport' films, and 'The Naked Gun' series of comedy films as well as numerous appearances in various television series, has died at age 91.
Bum Rap: Kathy Shaidle recently wrote that her online columns "have now officially killed twice as many people as Ted Kennedy's car. Last April, it was Günter Grass, then last week, Harper Lee. I didn't ask for this extraordinary gift, nor do I control it, otherwise I'd happily expand my deadly powers to reach beyond the confines of "elderly novelists."
For one thing, if everyone I wrote about promptly dropped dead, the "homeless problem" would've been solved ages ago."
"I was still naive and impressionable enough to be saddened and angered by "homelessness" when it was invented. I say "invented" today, of course, but at the time I mostly swallowed received wisdom that stingy, heartless Ronald Reagan (and Canada's Brian Mulroney) was somehow personally responsible for the outbreak of shabby, smelly gentlemen sleeping on the streets.
While reporters railed in the realm of purported nonfiction, their showbiz counterparts undertook the Disneyfication of the homeless 'The Fisher King', 'Stone Pillow', 'Samaritan', those Comic Relief specials - to sway any remaining citizens who might be blessedly oblivious to daily papers and the evening news.
Politicians and assorted do-gooders demanded more money to "do something" about this allegedly metastasizing human mess."
Read the whole thing. And don't forget that conservative icon Thomas Sowell once wrote, "When I think of the people with serious physical or mental handicaps who nevertheless work, I find it hard to sympathize with able-bodied men who stand on the streets and beg. Nor can I sympathize with those who give them money that subsidizes a parasitic lifestyle which allows such men to be a constant nuisance, or even a danger, to others."
A nearby parish has a Cookies For The Homeless program. As if bums don't already get enough sugar from drinking Night Train Express.
Exchange Of The Day ... is from the old 'Hollywood Squares' television game show. Peter Marshall: "Paul, is there such a thing as a female rooster?" Paul Lynde: "Yeah, they're the ones who just go "a doodle doo!""
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