A Blog About Cars ... And More
Friday June 29, 2018
AutoSketch: 1955 Lincoln Capri - A Nice, But Not Too Successful Lincoln
If you look at a '55 Capri today, you'll see a pleasant-looking car that looks, well, very mid-1950s. But that's not how it looked to prospective buyers back then. 1955 was the year of all new bodies for most other cars. Chevy, Pontiac, Packard, Ford, Mercury and the entire Chrysler line all had a brand new look compared with their 1954 counterparts. Lincoln didn't.
Everybody but Lincoln had three-tone color combinations and wraparound windshields. Chrysler first introduced "The Forward Look" in 1955. Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile got new bodies in 1954; Lincoln had the same old body introduced in '52 and it was considered stale and stodgy by 1955. Most embarrassing of all ... (more >>>)
Perfect Day For A Drive: By 11:00 am Wednesday, it was almost 70 degrees outside and the sky was a slightly pale summer azure with puffy clouds scattered here and there.
There was only one thing to do: fire up my '39 Plymouth coupe and take it for a spin along the back roads of unincorporated Battle Ground. And that's exactly what I did. Traffic was fairly light and the old car got a couple of waves from others on the road. I did see one vehicular oddity - a little Smart car painted in an unattractive two-tone combo of dark brown and silver-gray. Yuck.
I had a most enjoyable excursion.
Bring This To America ... and call it 'Town Car by Lexus': The all-new 2019 Toyota Century already has the Lexus V8 in it and has a stately Town Car look about it. The Century rides on a comfortably long 121.6 inch wheelbase and is 210 inches long - almost the same length as a 2010 Lincoln Town Car.
Apparently, Toyota sells only 50 units per month of the Century at $178,000 each. If it decontented the Century to Lexus ES levels, ramped up production to 2010 Lincoln Town Car levels and priced the car at $50-70K (made possible by substantially greater production which allows tooling to be amortized over a larger run of vehicles), Toyota would probably sell a ton of them in the U.S. to geezers like me, livery and black car services, and anyone who pines for a classic old-school luxo-barge.
It could open a whole new market for Lexus.
Hot Stock: Financial columnist Malcolm Berko thinks Tesla CEO Elon Musk is "so smooth that he could persuade a shark to become a vegetarian. But in my opinion, Tesla is not an investment; it's a bleeding speculation with zero earnings. The company burns through money with the efficiency of a crematorium."
RIP: Sci-fi writer and outspoken personality, Harlan Ellison, has died at age 84. When in my 20s, I read some of his more influential books, including ''Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman' in 1965 and 'I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream' in 1967. Harlan was once described as "possibly the most contentious person on Earth."
He regularly sued people or insulted them, once accusing the head of production at Warner Brothers studios, of having the "intellectual and cranial capacity of an artichoke."
Past Due Bill: Government is beginning to dip into the Social Security Reserve; Social Security and Medicaid are becoming broke more quickly than expected. Medicare's finances were downgraded in a new report from the program's trustees, while the projection for the Ponzi schme known as Social Security stayed the same as last year - dismal.
Medicare's hospital insurance fund will be depleted in 2026, said the trustees who oversee the benefit program in an annual report. That is three years earlier than projected last year. This year, like last year, Social Security's trustees said the program's two trust funds would be depleted in 2034. For the first time since 1982, Social Security has to dip into the trust fund to pay for the program this year.
In 2012, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did in fact take that risk and put forth a realistic plan for reforming the system. The plan was based primarily on Ryan's 'Path To Prosperity' debt-reduction program of 2011.
The Romney/Ryan plan had two related problems: First, the serious, courageous politicians putting forth this plan happened to be from the Wrong Party, the party which can never be right, and therefore the media attacked their plan rather than praise the plan as mostly what they themselves had been demanding for 30 years.
Second, the media's political party, the Democrat Party, indulged its fundamental recklessness and unseriousness and demagogued the plan. The media completely reversed its 30 years of calling for reform to the system to diss the plan right alongside its Democrat Party allies.
Several years ago, I offered a modest proposal to save Social Security. My plan would still work today.
Quote Of The Day is from Rodin: "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely."
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Two Kinds Of '40 Fords: When car guys think of a 1940 Ford, they're usually picturing a fancy, prow-nosed DeLuxe model with its distinctive front end, such as the 1:24 scale model of a red 1940 DeLuxe coupe made by Danbury Mint, pictured here.
That's the one most '40 Ford street rods are based on. Ford's chief designer E.T. 'Bob' Gregorie oversaw the styling of the DeLuxe. It remains ... (more >>>)
'Murican: Cars.com has announced that, in 2018, the most American car is the Jeep Cherokee, with 72% domestic parts.
The American-Made Index measures how American a car is using these variables: where it is built; domestic-parts content as determined by the American Automobile Labeling Act; engine sourcing, transmission sourcing and factory jobs provided by each automaker's U.S. plants.
Second place went to the Honda Odyssey minivan, followed by the Honda Ridgeline pickup truck (both assembled in Lincoln, Alabama). The Ford Taurus came in fourth, followed by the Chevrolet Volt.
Of course, not all models of American brands are really 'Murican. Ford builds Fusion mid-size sedans in Hermosillo, Mexico; GM assembles Chevrolet Equinox SUVs in Canada and Mexico. The Buick Envision is assembled in China and has a domestic-parts content rating of 2% for some versions. The Dodge Challenger comes from Canada. Jeep Renegades are assembled in Italy. In fact, Fiat-Chrysler imported 136,827 vehicles from EU nations last year. Most were Jeep Renegades - the company's Fiat-based small crossover.
Concepts In Plexiglas: Mort Blumenfeld was manager of industrial design at Rohm and Haas' plastics marketing development group from 1952-69. Mort was a renowned industrial designer.
Diamond Plus Two = 77: My parents were married seventy-seven years ago:
Book Review: 'The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation' by Rod Dreher
In today's increasingly vulgar, secular world, how should Christians respond to a faith that is becoming increasingly marginalized? In this book, author and conservative columnist Rod Dreher proposes an answer: a return to the example of St. Benedict of Nursia, a sixth-century monk who created a monastic, simple way of life in response to the Dark Ages initiated by the collapse of the Roman empire.
Dreher encourages readers to ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from George Bernard Shaw: "A government that robs from Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul."
Monday June 25, 2018
Bullitt - 50 Years Later: Howard Koby recently wrote that Steve "McQueen, the movie and the Bullitt Mustang were celebrated recently at the 11th annual Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show which raises funds for Boys Republic of Chino Hills, California, a private, non-profit, non-sectarian community for at-risk boys and girls ages 13-17. Before his film career, McQueen was one of those youngsters."
Earlier this year, Jack Baruth at The Truth About Cars favorably reviewed the classic 1968 movie, 'Bullitt' - the one with the spectacular CGI-free, 10-minute car chase, done at actual speeds, in a closed-off 60-block section of San Francisco. The Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback with American Racing mag wheels instantly became an automotive icon. As did its nemesis: the black 1968 Dodge Charger.
In addition to the awesome chase sequence ... (more >>>)
First Ride Of Summer: The weather last week was generally full of clouds, sometimes dark threatening ones. But the weather was so nice returning from Sunday early Mass that I decided to fire up my '39 Plymouth coupe and take a drive at 8:30 am, before the weather got hot.
The temperature was in the low 60s but, by afternoon, it reached the upper 80s. There were acres of blue sky, laced with puffy clouds here and there.
The traffic was very light and I drove with the windows down so I could here this mix of exhaust burble combined with songs of 1957-59 playing through the Plymouth's speakers: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Ward and the Dominoes, The Five Satins, Lee Andrews and the Hearts, The Platters and more. I felt like I was 16 again.
Mt. St. Helens is showing some bare spots at lower elevations. Summer has definitely arrived. Maybe. Today was overcast and rainy.
Sleek and Pricey: The 2019 BMW 8-Series coupe will reemerge after the original '8' ceased production in 1999.
The new 8-Series four-seater will hit 60 in 3.6 seconds and tops out, BMW claims, at 155 mph. It has all-wheel-drive. A 4.4-liter V8 engine pushes out 520 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, with an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission directing power to all four wheels.
Prices have not been announced but expect them to begin in the low six-figure range.
More Tesla Bashing, Please: Joe Bob Briggs at Taki's Magazine recently wrote, "So who is the Tesla designed for? Apparently it's designed for wealthy sociology professors who like to hit the indie theaters on the weekend and binge-watch seasons of 'Doctor Who' with their vegetarian wives."
Joe Bob pointed out that Tesla markets their vehicles "like an iPhone, complete with showrooms that are not located in massive concrete plazas out on the interstate, like God intended, but are actually placed in shopping malls, right between Cartier and the wood-paneled shop that sells ugly $200 neckties from London. That way you can window-shop while you're going in to get this season's silk cravat."
Briggs concluded, "All of this hilarity makes the Tesla experience similar to driving an iPhone."
Peter De Lorenzo added, "Tesla is the car built for politicians in Washington and Northern California, and EcoSwells needing even more validation for who they think they are. … To the green intelligentsia, Tesla is still The White-Hot Future. For the rest of us, well, it's a great deal less."
Then there's this ... (more >>>)
Signing Off: Koko, the popular gorilla, known for her extraordinary mastery of sign language, died last week at the age of 46.
Years ago, Koko made headlines when female employes at the nonprofit, where the sign-language-speaking gorilla resided, complained that the beast wanted them to expose their breasts.
As the legendary Chuck Berry once sang, "Too much monkey business."
Formerly A Giant Money Machine: General Electric, once a household name and a venerable maker of almost everything - turbines, jet engines, appliances - small and large, plastics, light bulbs, locomotives and so much more - is being removed as a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It will be replaced in the Dow 30 by Walgreens. GE was an original member of the Dow in 1896 and has been in it continuously since 1907.
During its heyday, General Electric's slogan was 'Progress is our most important product'. Ronald Reagan was once GE's spokesman.
Years of bad management and bad dealmaking took a serious toll on the company's health. After too many acquisitions and divestitures to easily count, and selling divisions for low prices while paying high prices to acquire other companies, General Electric has truly lost its way. In 2017, GE had over 300,000 employees.
John A. Byrne wrote that former GE CEO Jack Welch developed a healthy company. His only mistake was choosing the weakest of possible successors. When Welch turned the keys over to Jeff Immelt in 2001, General Electric was a well-run and greatly admired profit machine, stocked with exceptional management talent and innovative practices. And great products such as its high-margin Lexan polycarbonate plastic. Immelt sold off the entire Lexan operation to a Saudi Arabian company in 2007. (I should probably add Lexan to my list of Great Discoveries in Plastics.)
"Within Welch's GE, there was an accepted belief that GE Capital, the company's highly successful financial arm, should never exceed 40 percent of GE's profits or revenues. This was thought to be a delicate balance, the ideal level to enhance the industrial businesses and to retain the company's once pristine Triple-A credit rating. Undaunted, Immelt grew it to 55 percent of the company's portfolio, just at the onset of the Great Recession, ignoring this long-held belief. It didn't work all that well.
Immelt was more of an outside CEO, eager to play public statesman in Washington, advising President Barack Obama, giving speeches and collecting awards, and not enough like Jack Welch, who was a roll-up-your-sleeves CEO who reveled in operational details, asked the hard questions, cultivated deep engagement with his leadership team, and never suffered fools gladly."
In short, the company engaged in risky speculation in the finance field far away from its traditional core competencies, while embracing progressive values in its fabled industrial divisions. Get woke … go broke.
A Great Mind Stilled: Charles Krauthammer, conservative commentator and Pulitzer Prize winner, died last week at age 68 after a battle with cancer of the small intestine. His weekly column was syndicated to more than 400 publications worldwide. He led an inspiring life, graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1975 despite a first-year diving accident that left him a quadriplegic.
Dr. Krauthammer was considered one of the most influential - and brilliant - commentators in America. His intelligence, erudition and dry wit made his opinions worth considering - even if you disagreed with him. I read, enjoyed and reviewed his book, 'Things That Matter' in 2013.
A few weeks ago - knowing the end was near, Charles wrote, "I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended." Rest in peace, Charles.
Thought For Today: In the '60s, people took LSD to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.
Thursday June 21, 2018
Deeeeeeluxe: This nicely-restored 1939 Plymouth P8 Deluxe coupe looks great in blue ... (more >>>)
It's An SUV World: General Motors will invest $175 million in a Lansing, Michigan assembly plant to support production of two new Cadillac sedans, but in the process, Caddy is expected to dump the slow-selling ATS compact coupe and XTS full-size sedan.
Early in the next decade, those two models, as well as the midsize Cadillac CTS, will be replaced by just two all-new sedans. Caddy's new emphasis - driven by the market - will be on luxury utility vehicles and crossovers.
Book Review: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life' by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The premise of this book is fairly straightforward: If you expect a desired outcome in any venture - business, war, money-lending - you must share in the risks/rewards of said venture. Hence the book's title.
Do you really need ... (more >>>)
Cancer Update: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for a blood test, which measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen. Mine is now 1.2, which remains well within normal range (0-5.0 µg/L according to my oncologist). I also had a chest-to-pelvis CT scan, which showed ... (more >>>)
Actions Have Consequences: Starbuck's plans to close 150 stores over the next fiscal year.
The closing stores are often in "major metro areas where increases in wage and occupancy and other regulatory requirements" are making them unprofitable, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson said. "Now, in a lot of ways, it's middle America and the South that presents an opportunity." Good luck with that, Kevin.
Gee, I was told that the high mandated minimum wages in large, liberal cities and the repurposing of urban Starbuck's stores into homeless shelters and makeshift shooting galleries for druggies wouldn't affect Starbuck's business one bit. Ha!
Selective Compassion; Selective Outrage: Over 20,000 children a year are put into foster care because their American parents are taken to jail, 10 times the number of those separated when illegal immigrant parents try to sneak into the U.S. but are caught, according to a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
However, unlike the congressional outcry over President Trump's zero-tolerance policy targeting illegal immigration, there has been no mass protest of or investigation into the separation of children from those U.S. citizens in jail. And remember, many of those are awaiting trial and are still considered innocent.
Lacking any other message, liberals are ginning up their Ain't-It-Awful outrage over the separation of illegal immigrant children from their alleged parents.
Jack Baruth wrote about these fake 'children-in-cages' stories and I hurt my neck reading it because I was nodding in agreement so much. Read the whole thing.
Geezer Stats: 68.6% of all Americans born in 1943 are still alive. I was born in 1943. 78.7% of my high school graduating class is still living.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."
Tuesday June 19, 2018
Dad's Weekend: On Saturday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and took my son-in-law for a ride along the back roads of North Clark County. At 11:00 am, the temperature was in the low 60s and the sky was blue with lots of puffy, cartoon-like clouds. (It clouded up and rained later in the day.)
Traffic was light and we had an enjoyable drive. As usual, the old coupe ran great.
My daughter pasted a short video of the car's return here.
Father's Day Gifts: I hope you had an enjoyable Father's Day 2018. My two grown children were here for the weekend and I was presented with several gifts, including seven bottles of Merlot (that should hold me for a while), as well as a book and other gifts - including three model cars ... (more >>>)
More From The Orient: The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in is imported from China, as are all versions of the Buick Envision crossover. All Volvo S90s sold in the U.S. are assembled in China.
In 2019, the subcompact Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore crossovers will come from China as well.
One memorable restaurant filed in a dusty corner of my brain was Sunken Gardens, located at ... (more >>>)
Milestone: My wife and I celebrated 52 years of marriage on Monday. Cocktails were imbibed.
Fugetaboutit: At the Port of New York Harbor, there's a longshoreman on the books who washes trucks. "He gets paid $465,981 a year. To wash trucks."
Fired when his bosses discovered he wasn't actually showing up when he claimed to be working, he nevertheless regained his job - after an arbitrator concluded it was not unusual in the industry for employees to be paid "without being expected to work all the hours for which they are being paid."
Quote Of The Day is from George Burns, pointing out his advanced age as he neared 100: "When I was a kid, the Dead Sea was only sick."
Friday June 15, 2018
China Hot, U.S. Not: Chinese automobile sales in May rose 10% from a year earlier to 2.29 million vehicles, with sales continuing to gain momentum. In comparison, U.S. auto sales increased 1% year-over-year in May.
Money Train: Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog noted that privately-owned "American railroads are a model of capitalism, one of the least-subsidized forms of transportation in the world. They are profitable and do far more for the national economy than Europe's socialized railroads, which mainly serve narrow elites."
Warren is referring to America's freight railroads (Norfolk Southern, Chessie, Union Pacific, BNSF, et al). Passenger railroads are either quasi-governmental (Amtrak) or small, privately-run tourist lines. In the U.S., except for WWII, per capita rail passenger miles peaked in ... (more >>>)
Sad But True: Recently, Stephen Green wrote, "Afghanistan might not actually be the graveyard of empires, but it's certainly a black hole for good intentions."
Kathy Shaidle has often said that "we should have nuked Afghanistan no later than 2:00 pm EST on September 11, 2001." 17 years … and counting.
Happy Father's Day To All Dads! Sunday June 17th is Father's Day, which was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th Century to complement Mother's Day. It is now celebrated throughout most of the world.
On a personal level, it begins when your child-to-be is still a lightly-formed, growing piece of protoplasm. It's a feeling of anxiousness, protectiveness and fondness, which quickly grows into love. Until they become parents, your children - regardless of their age - cannot understand the phrase "I loved you before you were born."
But it is as true as it is mysterious ... (more >>>)
A Legendary Stickman: D.J. Fontana, Elvis Presley's first and long-time drummer has died at age 87. Once the house drummer for the 'Louisiana Hayride' country radio show, in October 1954, Fontana joined the Blue Moon Boys, Elvis' first band which included Scotty Moore on electric guitar and Bill Black on upright bass. The band toured extensively and performed on several television appearances including 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in 1956-57. Black died in 1965; Moore in 2016.
Louisiana-born Fontana backed Presley on more than 450 recordings, including hits like 'Hound Dog', 'All Shook Up', 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'It's Now or Never', and was seen playing with him in the movies 'Loving You', 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'G.I. Blues'. D.J. was later an in-demand studio musician in Nashville.
'My Baby Left Me', the B-side of 'I Want You I Need You, I Love You' opens with DJ's drum solo which sets the jump-blues pace for the song. The record was released in May 1956 and was recorded at RCA Victor Studios in Nashville. Pre-orders of over 300,000 were the biggest ever in the history of the company. At the time of its release, Presley had three songs in the Top 20: 'Heartbreak Hotel'/'I Was the One', 'My Baby Left Me' and 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You'.
D.J. performed on the NBC's Elvis-centric '1968 Comeback Special'. He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2009. I have a framed photo of the trio with Elvis, signed by Moore and Fontana. I keep it next to my computer. Rock In Peace, D.J.
Quote Of The Day is from Emily K. Graham, "Your most ferocious competition is yourself. You always lose by comparing yourself with others and chasing their version of success."
Wednesday June 13, 2018
Infrequently Seen: Jeff Koch wrote about the unfamiliar-to-many Edsel station wagon lineup in a recent Hemmings article.
Edsel offered three wagon models in 1958. All were ... (more >>>)
Tuesday Travels: Yesterday, I went for a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. At 10:00 am, the temperature was in upper 50s; skies were bright blue with wisps of clouds here and there.
Mt. St. Helens' crevices are now well-defined as its winter layer of snow is melting. I had a good drive in light traffic and, when I went out later in my daily driver for a luncheon engagement, I saw several old cars on the roads enjoying the midday sunshine. Temperatures eventually reached the upper 70s but, later in the day, clouds rolled in.
Good Looks, Bad Name: Porsche's all-electric sports car now has a name - Taycan. Porsche says it translates to "lively young horse" but, when I read the name in print, all I could think was "Trashcan."
A poster on Autoextremist quipped, "I guess all the good names were Taycan!"
Book Review: '12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos' by Jordan Peterson
Jordan B. Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He has become a You-Tube sensation based on videos of his self-help lectures.
In this rambling but insightful book of almost 400 pages, Peterson expounds upon his twelve rules using stories about his patients, lobster behavior, Egyptians and the Bible. He implores readers to ... (more >>>)
America's Comeback: The Great Recession is fading to nothing in America's rear-view mirror.
In the first quarter of 2018, households' leverage (liabilities as a % of total assets) fell to a 30-year low, and households' net worth hit a new all-time high in nominal, real, and per capita terms.
"Total household net worth now exceeds $100 trillion, up almost 50% from pre-2008 highs, whereas liabilities are up only 6% from their Great Recession highs. Housing values have increased by about 13% since their 2006 bubble high, but are still about 7% lower in real terms. Households have been busy deleveraging, saving, and investing, and the housing market is back on its feet and healthy. Major trends are all virtuous and consistent with past experience. Real net worth has risen on average by about 3.5% per year over the past 66 years."
Scott Grannis observed, "A person making an average income in the U.S. enjoys all the advantages that our nation's net worth has created. Regardless of who owns the country's wealth, everyone benefits from the infrastructure, the equipment, the computers, the offices, the homes, the factories, the research facilities, the workers, the teachers, the families, the software, and the brains that sit in homes and offices all over the country and arrange the affairs of the nation so as to produce $20 trillion of income per year. Ask yourself: Would the average wage-earner in the U.S. enjoy the same quality of life if he or she earned the same amount while living in a poor country? I seriously doubt it." Life is good.
Joke Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn't pay his bill, so the doctor gave him another six months."
Monday June 11, 2018
Cubist Wisdom: Recently, Peter De Lorenzo of AutoExtremist wrote about Ford Motor Company's decision to cut most of its passenger car lineup, deleting the Fiesta, Fusion, and Taurus in favor of building more crossovers and SUVs. He remarked, "Why this news seemed to capture the media's fancy seemed a little odd to me, considering the fact that this was an American automobile company being proactive while anticipating and positioning itself to take advantage of market conditions that were destined not to change anytime soon. And I am quite sure if this was an imported car company declaring this step, the hand-wringing would be negligible to nonexistent. But then again this is Ford, and the mainstream media feels it is eminently qualified to weigh in on the matter, even if too many of its members are not."
It is difficult to argue with Ford's reasoning. Over 40 years ago, Henry Ford II grumbled, "Small cars mean small profits." Ford has never made much money on its small sedans because the market segment is so competitive. Given the proliferation of mid-size sedan offerings over the last 30 years, the mid-size market segment has also become ultra-competitive, resulting in minimal profits. Now that the market for sedans of all sizes is shrinking ... (more >>>)
Precious Metal: At $1.45 million, an American-delivered British racing green 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible by Touring was the top seller at the Bonhams Greenwich 2018 Auction. The sale was held during the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance in Greenwich, Connecticut. A 1959 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster fetched $895,000.
The auction generated $10.5 million in total sales on 125 vehicles and a 92% sell-through rate.
To Certain Nosy Websites I Have Visited ... and you know who you are:
The Donald Explained: Author Saleno Zito perfectly described why the mainstream media have no clue about candidate and, later, President Trump: "The press takes him literally, but not seriously. His supporters take him seriously but not literally."
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Do Lithium miners ever get depressed?"
Thursday June 7, 2018
The Case Against Robot Cars: Howard Rourk of the Return of Kings blog wrote about automated, self-driving vehicles. "Remember, when you were a child and experienced the joy of playing with your RC car until an old brother of yours took the remote control from your hands? Well the same will occur with your automated automobile, but this time it will be Big Brother in the literal meaning of the word!"
"The real reason behind all those corporations investing in self-driving automobiles isn't because they care about your well-being nor your family's and want to give you more comfort in the future. The reality is that it's all a plan for them to cut more jobs, increase their profits, and make people more dependent on the elites, since no one might be able to drive vehicles on their own in a not so far future."
In a not so far future, multinational corporations "will probably bribe politicians to accelerate their agenda of standardizing self-driving cars and make human-driven automobiles obsolete, until it's possible to completely cease the production of human-driven cars."
Read the whole article. It will make you think.
I Guess There's Good Money To Be Made In Floor Mats: WeatherTech CEO David MacNeil has reportedly purchased a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO for somewhere between $70 and $80 million (depending on which news article you read), the highest price ever paid for a collector car.
"Leading Ferrari historian, Marcel Massini, confirmed the sale, claiming he expects a model to sell for $100 million within five years. Finished in silver with French tricolor stripes adorning the front, this particular Ferrari 250 GTO has an incredible racing heritage. It first raced at Le Mans in 1963 by its owner Pierre Dumay, where it finished second in class and fourth overall. It was subsequently sold to the Ecurie Francorchamps and the French livery was replaced by a Belgian racing yellow stripe before being brought back in 2015. The car's crowning achievement came in 1964 when it won the grueling 10-day Tour de France race at the hands of Lucien Bianchi and Georges Berger."
55-year-old David MacNeil owns WeatherTech, maker of upscale car mats. He founded the company in 1988, when he was working as the vice president of U.S. sales for the automotive company AMG and noticed how poor the quality of the mats were, even though they were serving luxury vehicles. WeatherTech's sales now exceed $500 million per year and the mats are manufactured in Bolingbrook, Illinois, near Chicago. The company is very profitable. It has recently expanded by working with German and Korean carmakers for their private-label business, which now accounts for 30% of the company's overall sales.
'Places To Love' … is a new PBS travel show hosted by Samantha Brown, a well-known television host, who was on several Travel Channel shows. On last week’s show, she and her family visited Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon. I visited the museum several years ago and posted pages of old car and plane photos, starting here.
During the segment, Samantha actually drove a Model T Ford, something I've never done. That's something travel guru Rick Steves hasn't done either. The European Continent is chock full of impressive motoring museums but, in all the shows I've watched, Rick has never visited a single one. He doesn't seem to like cars much, preferring bicycles and walking. And public transit, on which he heaps much praise.
Apparently, Rick has never used transit systems during peak periods or when the weather is nasty. Try getting sardine-packed into a dank subway car with 273 sweaty humans at rush hour in August. Especially in Europe, where hygiene habits are a bit more casual than in the U.S.
If 'Places To Love' is carried by your local PBS affiliate, give it a try. I think you'll like it.
Hunka Hunka Burnin' Watch: Elvis Presley's watch was retailed by Tiffany & Co. in 1961, and its face bears both the Omega and Tiffany & Co. logos. The watch was gifted to Presley in 1961 by RCA Records to commemorate sales of 75 million records worldwide. Elvis reportedly wore the watch briefly before trading it away.
The 18k white goldanddiamond fetched $1.4 million at auction recently.
Book Review: 'To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism' by Ross Douthat
Conservative columnist (and Catholic convert) Ross Douthat relates the turmoil in the Church caused by Pope Francis' actions, writings and interviews. Douthat explains how this Pope has turned the papacy of John-Paul II and Benedict upside down and the danger he has created over giving sacraments to divorced & remarried Catholics and his prevarication over seemingly-settled issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Francis and his supporters seem to think, as the ... (more >>>)
Black Privilege: Two employees of a bakery in Northeast Portland were fired earlier this month for denying a black woman service because the business had closed for the night. Back To Eden Bakery released several public apologies and statements following the incident, before letting the employees go. In one Facebook post, John Blomgren, the bakery's spineless co-owner wrote, "We are doing business in a gentrified neighborhood in a racist city within a racist state of a racist country."
Lemme tell ya, Northeast Portland is hardly ... (more >>>)
Nothing To See Here: The Miss America pageant has announced that it is doing away with its swimsuit competition. Further, the Miss America contest "will no longer judge contestants based on their looks." Contestants will now be judged on intelligence, empowerment, leadership skills and general soulfulness.
M-kay. This year, I'll just listen to the radio to find out which one-legged, eye-patch-wearing, heavily-tatted, soulful 300-pounder captures the crown.
Quote Of The Day is from Rev. Donald Sensing: "We do not die period. We die comma." Or in a coma.
Tuesday June 5, 2018
May Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.9 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in May, up 1% year-over-year and down 1% from last month.
Ford Motor Co. sales rose just under 1% year-over-year to 242,824 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Truck sales rose 9% for the month, and sales of F-Series pickups increased by 11% to 84,639 units. Sales of the Lincoln brand slipped by 5% year over year to 9,755 vehicles, as sales of Lincoln cars plummeted 37%. Lincoln car sales totaled 2,460 units, while utility vehicle sales totaled 7,295 units. SUV sales rose 14% in May. Only 660 examples of the Continental sedan found buyers last month but Navigator sales were up 122% to 1,837 SUVs.
Fiat-Chrysler sales rose 11% year-over-year to 214,294 vehicles. The Jeep brand posted a year-over-year sales increase of 29%. Ram pickup sales increased by 2% in May to 46,781 units. Chrysler brand sales fell 18% to 14,724 vehicles, while Dodge sales rose 4% to 46,581 vehicles. Fiat sold just 1,441 units in May, a 46% year-over-year decline.
Toyota sales were down 1% last month to 189,930 vehicles. The Toyota brand fell 2% and its Lexus luxury brand was down very slightly. The company's passenger cars slumped 11%, while sales of SUVs, crossovers and pickups increased 6%. The RAV4 was Toyota's best-selling model in May. 908 Lexus LS sedans found buyers in May (almost triple last year's number), while 154 people purchased the LC coupe, a drop of 64%.
Honda sales increased 4% to 140,240 vehicles, helped by a 12% gain in trucks/SUVs which now outsell cars. Honda Pilot sales jumped 5% to 13,573 SUVs. The top selling Honda model was the CR-V with 35,905 of the SUV finding buyers in May, a gain of 12%. Acura sales declined 8% to 12,819 units.
Nissan Group sales for May were 131,832 units, a decrease of 4%. Nissan brand were down 4%, while Infiniti fell 7%. Nissan electric vehicle sales increased by 11%. Hyundai was up 12% to 64,980 units last month, while Kia sales rose up 2% to 59,462 vehicles. Genesis sales were down 37% to 1,076 cars. Mitsubishi sold 12,416 vehicles, an increase of 32%. Subaru sales increased 7% to 60,146 units. Mazda sales were up 15% to 29,980 vehicles.
Volkswagen sales rose 4%. The redesigned Tiguan SUV led the way with sales of 8,579, accounting for more than 27% of VW total U.S. sales .Mitsubishi sold 12,416 vehicles, an increase of 32%, Subaru sales rose 7% to 60,146 units. Mazda sales were up 15% to 29,980 vehicles.
Audi sales increased fractionally, but the Q7 and A4 posted the biggest gains last months at 6% and 4% respectively. Volvo sales jumped 51% to 9,338 units. Tesla sales up 36%; sold 6,000 vehicles in May. Mercedes sales increased 1% to 30,077 Benzes. Sales of Jaguar and Maserati were down substantially in May. Bentley sales fell 21% to 165 cars. Smart sales were down 57% to 110 minicars, up from 93 last month.
Uh-Oh: The delinquency rate of subprime auto loans hit 5.8% in March, a figure not seen since 1996. Even during the recession, the number of buyers with payments more than 60 days past due just barely nudged over 5%. "For automakers, the explosion of auto loans, including subprime ones, during the economic recovery helped push the industry to record sales volumes. We've since hit a plateau."
More than 85% of all new car buyers and 54% of used car buyers financed vehicle purchases in the first quarter of this 2018. The average loan amount to purchase a new vehicle reached $31,455, up $921 (3%) compared to the same period of last year. Loans to purchase a used car averaged $19,536, up $410 (2%) year over year. These are record highs for both new and used car averages, according to Experian Automotive.
The total U.S. open car loan balance for the first quarter of 2018 was $1.11 trillion, up from $1.08 trillion in the first quarter of 2017 (2%) and up from $1.01 trillion in the first quarter of 2016 (10%). Banks hold 33% of the outstanding balance, while dealer captive finance holds 23%, credit unions hold 29% and finance companies hold 15%.
Before The Parade: The weather for much of last week featured heavy morning clouds, sometimes with light rain. Typically, the sun would appear around the afternoon rush hour.
Saturday dawned with bright sunshine, so I decided to take an early morning old car drive. I set out in my '39 Plymouth coupe just before 9:00 am because the Hockinson Fun Days Parade was set to begin in late morning at Hockinson High School, which I pass along my back roads route.
Sure enough, they were setting up and people were already staking out their parade sets with rows of folding chairs and even a couple of four-pole tents for shade.
It was good parade weather - lots of sun, clear blue skies and afternoon temperatures in the upper 70s, although when I was driving around the temperature was in the low 50s. Traffic was light and I had a good drive.
Fifty Years Ago Today: Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968. I watched it happen live on television in the early morning hours.
In his book, Now, 'Let Me Tell You What I Really Think', Chris Matthews - who gets more liberal/crazy with each passing year - wrote that Jack Kennedy's death "had a certain terrible beauty but Bobby's was a tragedy without grace." Huh? Jack Kennedy's head getting blown off in Dallas - and the scene getting replayed over-and-over-and-over thanks to Mr. Zapruder and his little film - was a shocking, brutal moment in American history. It was completely unexpected - and took all of us aback. Assassinations were a thing of 19th Century American history - or the stuff of unstable foreign governments. At the time, we thought we (and our leaders) were invincible. JFK's death was a horrible wake-up call.
Bobby Kennedy's death, while tragic, paled by comparison. First ... (more >>>)
Outside The Beltway In Flyover Country: Orange City, the county seat of Sioux County, Iowa, "is a square mile and a half of town, more or less, population six thousand, surrounded by fields in every direction."
"There are sixteen churches in town. The high-school graduation rate is 98%, the unemployment rate is 2%. There is little crime. The median home price is around a $160,000, which buys a three- or four-bedroom house with a yard, in a town where the median income is close to sixty thousand. For the twenty per cent of residents who make more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, it can be difficult to find ways to spend it, at least locally."
Interesting facts from the same article: "Since the 2016 election, staying has taken on a political cast as well. Because suspicion of those who move around - immigrants, refugees, globalized élites - is associated with voting for Trump, attachment to home has come to look like a Trumpian value. And, indeed, of white people who still lived in their childhood home town, nearly 60% supported Trump; of those who lived within a two-hour drive of their home town, 50% supported him; of those who had moved more than two hours from where they grew up, forty per cent. A survey, conducted in 2014, found that more conservatives than liberals valued living near to extended family. The decision to stay home or leave is a powerful political predictor."
People in smaller communities don't like better-than-you phonies - a phrase that describes Hillary Clinton. She committed political suicide when she used the word "deplorables." In 2016, she was seen as a crooked Beltway insider by people in mid-America.
On the other hand, Donald Trump came off as more authentic, despite his multiple marriages, ostentatious lifestyle and New York upbringing. He was an outsider, preaching about the sins of the swamp-dwelling insiders.
Candy Wisdom Plagiarized: When Hillary advisor Ben Rhodes couldn't process Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama comforted him with this line: "There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth." I saw that same insipid sentence four years ago on the inside wrapper of a Dove Dark.
Question Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?"
Friday June 1, 2018
Finally, My Idea Becomes Reality: BMW will soon offer a wireless inductive charging mat for its 530e iPerformance car.
"The floor mat must be plugged into a 220-volt outlet, and can transmit 3.2 kilowatts of power to the secondary coil. That will charge the 530e's 9.2-kW battery in 3.5 hours, compared to a charge time of three hours for the hard-wired 3.7-kW BMW i Wallbox."
Back in 2009, I wrote, "I don't want a plug-in hybrid ... that has a cord and requires a wall socket. I want one with a charging dock that you drive up to. A dock that will also act as a bump-stop so that I don't hit the garage wall. One with a blue charging light so I can impress my friends.
And a little depression in the center where I can place cheese and electrocute garage rodents. Dance, Mickey, dance."
3.2 kilowatts oughta take care of Mickey and his rodent friends.
Chrysler Death Watch? Sergio Marchionne will hold an investor meeting in Balocco, Italy today. It is rumored that the CEO of Fiat-Chrysler will kill off or diminish one the corporation's most historic brands, Chrysler. Walter P. Chrysler's namesake has been around since 1924.
FCA specialist Larry P. Vellequette of Automotive News reports that "a source told a European colleague" that Marchionne would declare the end of the Chrysler brand in the speech to investors.
In addition, Marchionne could detail plans to pull Fiat out of the United States and China, according to Automotive News. Fiat would re-focus on building vehicles for Europe, Brazil, and emerging markets. Only 1,404 Fiats were sold in the U.S. in April 2018. For the year ending December 2017, Chrysler brand sales were down 19% to 188,545 vehicles, while Dodge sold 446,996 units.
Not surprisingly, the bulk of FCA's five-year strategy allegedly involves boosting the automaker's strengths - Jeep and Ram in North America. Last year, those two brands represented 67% of Fiat-Chrysler's total U.S. sales.
Globally, Jeep is FCA's big breadwinner as well.
More Closures: Sears will be closing more than 70 additional stores in 2018 as its sales continue to erode, dropping more than 30% in the latest quarter from a year ago. The retailer has identified ... (more >>>)
Don't Forget: Today is National Donut Day:
I celebrated with a big Entenmann's chocolate-covered donut. When I lived in the East Coast, they were my favorite donuts. About 20 years ago, Entenmann's made it to the Pacific Northwest and, unlike many other foodstuffs, Entenmann's haven't reduced the size of the donut. And, to me, they taste the same as they did 50 years ago.
When All Else Fails: President Trump signed 'Right to Try' law this week, giving federal approval to let terminally ill-patients try experimental therapies that have completed Phase I testing but have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 40 states have already enacted such laws. This federal law gives hope to all those with life-ending diseases. This was a joint effort by the President and the Republican Congress. This compassionate law has been talked about for years and finally got done under President Trump, who continues to Make America Great Again in sooo many ways.
More Good News: President Trump pardoned conservative writer and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, who was convicted of a minor campaign finance violation in a blatant case of selective prosecution by a partisan U.S. attorney. D'Souza was not only convicted, he actually went to jail. Meanwhile, no effort has been made to investigate or prosecute, the massive campaign violations by the Obama presidential campaign. Then there are the many abuses by the Clinton Foundation. "Lock her up!"
Revisiting Watergate: Recently, Paul Mirengoff wrote, "Why was the Watergate break-in more than just the "second rate" burglary Richard Nixon tried to pass it off as? Because it was directed by the president's team at the Democratic National Committee. Thus, it was an offense against our two-party system and our democracy. One political party is not supposed to steal information from the other party, and certainly not in the midst of a presidential campaign.
It now appears that the FBI had an informant inside the Trump campaign. That informant was doing essentially the same thing the Watergate burglars were trying to accomplish - obtain by stealth information about what one of the two major party candidates for president was doing. The informant probably did not engage in illegal conduct like the Watergate burglars did, but the affront to the two party system is similar."
As President Trump tweeted, "If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal. Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!"
The real question is: Why were bad actors in intel community so desperate to not let Donald Trump be elected? All thinking points to his threat to Drain the Swamp. And why did Obama want to spy on Trump? Why are these people not in jail yet?
Quote Of The Day is from Dave Ramsey: "We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like."
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