A Blog About Cars ... And More
Tuesday April 30, 2019
AutoSketch: 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III - A Car For Vinnie
The Mark III was a car made up of parts and ideas taken from somewhere else. The engine, chassis and front cowl came from the Ford Thunderbird, the massive upright grille was "inspired" by Rolls Royce, the Continental "hump" on the trunk lid was from the 1956-57 Mark II and the long nose/short deck styling was derived from a '61 Plymouth. The name was stolen from the 1958 Continental Mark III, which Ford Motor Company had conveniently forgotten.
When you read the previous paragraph you realize what a cobbled-up car this is. But when it was all put together, it worked. It should. It was the brainchild of Lee Iacocca, the same guy who took a bunch of Ford Falcon parts, assembled them, put a pseudo-Ferrari grille on the front, added fake airscoops on each side and created the Mustang, one of the hottest selling cars of all time.
The 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III was introduced in ... (more >>>)
April Love: At 11:00 am Friday, it was 55 degrees and sunny, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive. The sky was a hazy-blue with puffy, cartoon-like clouds. I had the windows down and played '50s rock-n-roll through the old coupe's twin speakers which mixed well with the burble of the Glasspacks during my travels.
Although I didn't play 'April Love', the syrupy '57 Pat Boone ballad. In fact, I did play several songs from 1957 (including 'Whole Lotta Shakin'', 'At The Hop', Little Darlin'' and others), but I can assure you, I had a Pat-Boone-free driving experience.
Traffic was light and I had an enjoyable drive And felt briefly like a teenager again.
Anticipation: Expecting a strong initial demand for the new mid-engined Corvette, General Motors has added a second shift to the Bowling Green, KY assembly plant.
"The addition of the second shift will increase the plant's workforce to more than 1,300 people." That's 400 new hires. "Since 2011, GM has invested more than $900 million into Bowling Green. This includes investments towards a new body shop, increased engine capacity, new paint shop, a new Performance Build Center, and additional plant upgrades."
I'm Surprised It Was Around This Long: Mercedes-Benz will discontinue sales of its Smart brand in the U.S. and Canada this year. The luxury automaker blamed a "declining micro-car market." U.S. Smart sales in 2018 plunged 58% from a year earlier to 1,276 cars. Smart went to all-electric power, starting with the 2018 model year.
The Smart was a peculiar little two-seater car - overpriced for what it offered - and, considering its small size, didn't get very good mileage. It was expensive, too - priced far above a Nissan Versa and other larger, entry-level five-passenger cars.
Madman Musk: Recently, Elon said that, in three years, owning any car other than a Tesla "would be like owning a horse. I mean, fine if you want to own a horse. But you should go into it with that expectation." "It's financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla," said the CEO of the electric auto maker, as he slipped on his Napoleon hat.
Given Tesla's disappointing sales and rising inventory, his words seem to have a whiff of desperation to me.
The Cost Of Entertainment: The McCallum Theatre of Palm Desert, CA just released its events of the 2019-20 season. Here are some observations ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counters?
Friday April 26, 2019
Easter Gifts: My daughter and I each received a blue 1938 Packard Victoria convertible model - a 1:43 scale Ixo diecast made in Bangladesh.
It is difficult to tell whether ... (more >>>)
Ahead Of Its Time: Constructed just after World War II, the 1946 Beechcraft Plainsman was a gas-electric hybrid four-door fastback sedan, with seating for six, all-wheel drive, individual one-per-wheel electric motors, air suspension, monocoque construction, motor-assist braking, advanced cruise control and advanced ... (more >>>)
Bigger Volume, Bigger Losses, Rotten Tomatoes: Tesla has long maintained that it would become profitable as soon as it ramped up its volume, as soon as the Model 3 came out and/or as soon as the moon turns purple. Tesla reported a loss of $702 million on an adjusted basis for the first three months of 2019 and the company also burned through $1.5 billion in cash. Revenues were $4.54 billion - lower than expected. The company delivered 63,000 cars in the first quarter; I calculate the average transaction price to be over $72,000.
Tesla "blamed the dip on struggles to deliver its key Model 3 car to Europe and China, while demand slipped following the end of a tax credit for buyers in January. Tesla warned it will not return to profitability before the second half of this year."
Head of Global Automotive Research, Arndt Ellinghorst pointed out that the Model S, first introduced in 2012, and the Model X SUV which debuted in 2015, were now starting to look "quite old," adding that "the brand will be less exclusive than it has been in the past." And … I believe that everyone who wanted a Tesla has already bought one.
Tesla CFO Zach Kirkhorn warned shareholders that ... (more >>>)
Bureaucratic Disgrace: In 1958, the Washington Park and Zoo Railway was born in Oregon and a regional treasure opened to the public. Now the Zoo, a division of Portland's bureaucratic octopus, Metro, and the City of Portland have decided to destroy this child-delighting rail line. They plan to destroy Washington Park and Zoo Railway by turning it into a café and 12-foot paved "multi-use" path. If you think this is wrong, sign the petition here.
The famous Zoo liner is one of the trains which operates on the Zoo Railway along with the oil-burning Centennial 4-4-0 steam loco - a scaled-down replica of an 1872 Virginia & Truckee Railroad's steamer.
Wishing You A Soft And Salty Day: National Philly Soft Pretzel Day is celebrated on April 26th of each year.
Soft pretzels are a Philadelphia institution and pretzel carts were a familiar sight when I was growing up. In Philly, an estimated 300,000 soft pretzels are consumed daily ... (more >>>)
Churches Should Look Like Churches: The tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris reminds us that beautiful churches are getting to be a rare sight these days. Matt Walsh wrote, "It is not that we nowadays try to make beautiful churches and fail. Rather, we try very hard to make unbeautiful, bland, ugly, profane churches and we succeed. Our houses of worship look like shopping malls or prisons or basketball stadiums on purpose. Whereas Notre Dame stands out gloriously amid the Paris skyline, modern churches shrink away from your gaze and blend in with their surrounding environs like the shy kid at the homecoming dance."
Most of the Catholic churches in the Northeastern U.S. are stately edifices. Many were built in the first half of the 20th Century when congregations were large and donations were generous. Most were constructed of stone with enchanting saint-filled stained glass windows and acres of marble inside.
In the Pacific Northwest, there are not many old churches. A lot of were built in the 1960-70s and were done on a budget, just like school gymnasiums and mid-priced restaurant chains. As you might expect in the Land of Trees, there is often an abundance of wood inside and out. Many of the churches out here have a 'modern, simple and modest' architecture - congregations are smaller and money is therefore tighter. They look like either a basketball gym or an Outback Steakhouse.
So ... if you're visiting the Northwest, how do you tell if you're in a church or something else? Here's a tip: If the wall sign inside the door reads 'Pax Vobiscum', it's a Catholic church. If it says 'Fair Dinkum', you're at an Outback and may want to order a Bloomin' Onion appetizer.
Matt concluded, "We do not idolize the structures themselves, but we revere what they represent and what their presence and their history bring to mind. That is why the beauty of a church is so important, and why its ugliness is such a tragedy, and why I pray to God that the events of this week might inspire us to once again reach for the artistic heights our ancestors sought, and attained."
Let's make churches look beautiful again.
37 Years Ago … and much better than now. Ace is right when he wrote that more good movies came out "in 1982 than in the last fifteen years."
Consider some of the masterpieces released in 1982: 'Annie', 'Blade Runner', 'Deathtrap', 'Diner', 'E.T. - the Extra-Terrestrial', '48 Hours', 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High', 'Firefox', 'Gandhi', 'Honkytonk Man', 'My Favorite Year', 'An Officer and a Gentleman', 'Porky's', 'Rocky III', 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan', 'Tootsie', 'Tron', 'The Verdict', 'The King of Comedy', 'The Road Warrior', 'Victor, Victoria' and many more.
Quote Of The Day is from Johnny Carson: "If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead."
Wednesday April 24, 2019
Earth Day Run: Easter weekend was mostly overcast with occasional sun breaks. But the sun returned full-force on Monday and, by 11:00 am, the temperature was already 57 degrees and the sky was clear blue with a few wispy clouds here and there, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took it for a spin along the back roads of unincorporated Battle Ground. I had a good view of the white half-pimple-ball known as Mt. St. Helens.
The roads were almost empty and I had a great drive. I've got enough gas for a couple of rides before May 1st - the day when the execrable winter-mix gas disappears and is replaced by summer-blend.
Meanwhile it was great to add some gratuitous carbon footprint and suck up some of that ozone layer on Earth Day. Take that, Gaia!
2019 New York Auto Show: America's largest city is the center of the automotive universe this week as the New York International Auto Show is underway. The event features four floors of displays from the world's automakers with dozens of world and North American premieres. I have fond memories of attending NYIAS 54 years ago and posted a page of photos here.
Exhibitions ranged from the new entry-level Nissan Versa all the way up to the special edition Bugatti Chiron Sport '110 ans Bugatti', a special-edition hypercar expected to go for somewhere around $4 million. Acura announced plans to hand-build a limited-edition model, the TLX PMC, at the same craft-build center currently assembling the NSX supercar. Priced around $50,000, it will feature a high-performance version of the marque's VTEC V-6 and the Acura Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. Audi introduced a revised Q3 compact crossover as well as the pricey, mid-engined Audi R8 Decennium sports car, of which only 50 copies will come to the U.S. market. With unique details, like brass wheels and intake manifold, it will be the first Audi to cost more than $200,000.
Genesis showed an updated version of its flagship G90 sedan as well as an all-electric concept vehicle that will hint at the production model to come for 2021. Hyundai introduced its smallest-ever crossover, the Venue. Subaru unveiled its all-new 2020 Outback. Toyota debuted the 2020 Highlander SUV. Porsche introduced a 911 Speedster, priced at $275,000. Less than 2,000 examples will be produced. Kia unveiled the HabaNiro AWD electric crossover.
Cadillac introduced its DT5 sedan which replaces the CTS. A new, sleeker Ford Escape crossover made its debut. It's classier stablemate, the Lincoln Corsair was unveiled - it replaces the MKC model and is much better looking. Lincoln now has a coherent look and a much-improved model naming system.
Ever Wonder What Happened to the Oldsmobile Alero Tooling? Presenting the latest Chinese brand from Geely Motors: the Geometry sedan. It's all-electric, so it's not your father's Oldsmobile.
Pay No Attention To Pessimists: Scott Grannis seems to be a level-headed fellow. I've been reading his commentary for over 10 years and he applies common sense to any prognostication he makes. Recently, Scott wrote, "I can't say the economy is booming, but I do think the economy's fundamentals remain healthy. The Fed is not making any obvious mistakes, the dollar is reasonably strong and relatively stable, overseas equity markets are rallying along with ours, regulatory burdens are declining, consumer confidence is high, tax burdens have been cut, especially for businesses (the ones who are the job creators and the drivers of rising prosperity), gold prices are relatively flat and trendless, industrial commodity prices are rising, and it appears that we are gradually coming to an agreement with China on trade and intellectual property rights (i.e., the risk of a trade war is definitely declining). Thus, it pays to remain optimistic."
Stewardship: Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institute, weighs in on rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral: "After 800 years, we were the steward of this iconic representation of western civilization, Catholicism, Christendom. And of all the years, 2019, at the height of our sophistication and technology, I'm not blaming the French or anybody, but we were found wanting and we didn't protect this icon. And we don't build them anymore.
There's great churches and cathedrals that go up all over the world, but ... they are in Poland. They are in Cairo. They are in the Ivory Coast, they're in Brazil, they're in India. It's almost as if the places that are less affluent without the technology of western Europe and the United States are like we used to be. They still believe in transcendence. They still believe in something other than this world.
And so it's going to be very hard in our society to ever build a cathedral again, much less to repair them, because we don't believe in what they represented. And it's ironic, because we don't like the past. We are at war with the past. We tear down monuments. We don't build cathedrals. We erase names. We say to Father Serra or Christopher Columbus, you don't live up to our standards of race, class, and gender, moral superiority. Shame on you."
I'm waiting for some jerk to suggest that Notre Dame's spire be replaced by one made of clear Plexiglas so it can be rainbow-lit for Gay Pride Week.
Headline Of The Week … so far, is from The Vatican Post Office: 'France announces International Lego Master Builder Competition to redesign the Cathedral in a way in which everybody hates it.'
Get Out: Representative Ilhan Omar is a perpetually angry Muslim woman. She was saved from Somalia when she came to America as a refugee. Yet, she hates America, Jews and non-Muslims, not necessarily in that order.
She recently spoke with disdain about the events of 9/11. Chris Christie has no time for her: "As somebody who had my wife two blocks away from the World Trade Center that day, my brother on the floor of the New York Stock exchange, and a number of people in our local parish here who passed away, a murder occurred. Multiple murders occurred, 2,900 murders occurred on that day by radical Islamic terrorists and that's the way it should always be spoken about to honor those victims and this woman is completely let's put aside her religion for the moment as a public servant, she's off her rocker to be describing it that way and it's a disgrace, it's a disgrace to anyone in her congressional district who voted for her."
Hate us that much, Ilhan? Then show us the courage of your convictions - get the hell out of America and return to that shithole known as Somalia.
Book Review: The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created' by Jane Leavy
The phrase Bigger Than Life is overused and much abused but it certainly applies to Babe Ruth. Six-foot two inches tall, in an era when the average fellow was about eight inches shorter, with giant, meaty hands, powerful arms, a large head and facial features so big, they seemed cartoonish, The Babe stood out in a crowd. In baseball, he ... (more >>>)
Sad But True: This is how things work in today's America, according to this insightful tweet from Michael Doran, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute: "They were eager to destroy Kavanaugh for getting angry at being falsely accused of rape, and they're eager to destroy Trump for getting angry at being falsely accused of collusion. They sic the FBI on you for spurious reasons and then call you guilty if it bothers you."
But … if you don't fight back, then - like Romney and McCain - you'll lose. Donald Trump fights back and it drives the Left crazy.
Quote Of The Day is from David Letterman: "America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real, but the moon landing was faked."
Monday April 22, 2019
1960s Explorer Concept Cars: In the 1960s, Rohm and Haas Co., a Philadelphia-based chemical and plastics firm - best known for its acrylic thermoplastic, Plexiglas, developed a series of five 'Explorer' concept cars to showcase the use of Plexiglas as well as other R&H products in automobiles.
Most Explorer cars had four things in common … (more >>>)
Rituals: Easter weekend has long had secular, car-related rituals for me. In the old days, when we lived in New Jersey, I would turn on the outside faucets at our house, drag out the rubber garden hoses and hook them up. Then I'd jack up our two Volkswagen Beetles (our 1967 and Underdog) and swap the studded snow tires for regular ones. Finally, I'd wash both cars which - typically - hadn't been cleaned since Thanksgiving. I continued the auto laundering tradition this year - since there was no rain - by taking the Lexus and Avalon to a nearby car wash and running them through. Then I cleaned the metal door edges and wheel arches and dressed the tires. I also cleaned and applied protectant to the leather driver's seat on the Toyota.
Last Thursday at 1:30 pm, it was partly cloudy with a temperature of 64 degrees - good enough for an old car drive, especially after all the rain we've experienced over the last couple of weeks. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a tour of the back roads of North Clark County. There were plenty of blue skies, traffic was light and the scenery was spring green.
I couldn't see Mt. St. Helens because it was enveloped in clouds. But I enjoyed the view along the prow-nosed hood while I drove with the windows down and played ‘50s music through the speakers while listening to the V8 burble through the twin Glasspacks. By late afternoon, temperatures reached 75, although I never had the Plymouth over 60 or so. The old car ran perfectly; I hope to get some more drives in soon, but Friday was overcast and it rained in the afternoon.
Brick & Mortar Death Watch: According to investment firm UBS, an estimated 75,000 stores that sell clothing, electronics and furniture will close by 2026, when online shopping is expected to make up 25% of retail sales. Roughly 16% of overall sales are now made online.
Analysts said the closures would affect a broad variety of retailers, affecting an estimated 21,000 apparel stores, 10,000 consumer electronics stores and 8,000 home furnishing stores. I wouldn't want to be in the mall real estate business these days.
Sri Lanka Massacre: On Easter Sunday, Islamic terrorists detonated bombs in churches and hotels, 450 are wounded and over 300 are dead. Three popular tourist hotels in Columbo and elsewhere and three Roman Catholic churches (St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, the capital; St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo; and Zion Church in Batticaloa) were attacked during Easter services. Cardinal Ranjit of Sri Lanka urged ministers to launch "very impartial strong inquiry" & to punish those found responsible "mercilessly because only animals can behave like that." Cardinal R. Sarah wrote, "As we celebrate the resurrection of the son of God, the terrible attacks in Sri Lanka once again show how the followers of Christ all over the world are the victims of wild and foolish deeds. I condemn this barbaric Islamist violence."
News of the bombings, the largest attack on South Asian Christians in recent memory, rippled out all Easter morning, interrupting celebrations across the world. Pope Francis, after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square, said the attacks had "brought mourning and sorrow" on the most important of Christian holidays. Suicide bombers were behind the explosions.
The Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka traces its roots to the arrival of the Portuguese in the early 1500s and the subsequent influence of Portuguese, Dutch and Irish missionaries. Sri Lankan Catholics make up a significant minority (6%) of the country's population, centered largely in the Colombo-Negombo area. The indifference in the West - especially Europe - toward persecution of Christians elsewhere is one of the scandals of our time.
Back in 1995, Pope John Paul II traveled to Sri Lanka to canonize Joseph Vaz, an Indian-born priest and missionary. Thousands of people greeted the pope's motorcade as it traveled from the airport in Negombo to Colombo.
Vatican spokesman Monsieur Silvano Maria Tomassi said, "Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year."
You Try It: See if you can spray for only 1/3rd of a second.
1,057 servings per container, my ass. (permalink)
This Is The 21st Century We All Want: An experimental, wearable device scrubs cancer from blood.
A University of Michigan team has "built a wearable micro fluidic machine capable of identifying cancer cells and nabbing them. When blood drawn from a vein is pumped through the device, it captures tumor cells and then pumps the blood back into the body." The device is the size of a cigarette pack.
Cancer Update: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for the usual blood test, which measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen. It has been five years this month since I had my cancer surgery. My blood CEA is ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Benchley: "I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it."
Thursday April 18, 2019
Sixty Years Ago: The April, 1959 issue of Rod & Custom (the "twelfth issue of our sixth year") - from my stash of old car mags - offers a nostalgic look at ... (more >>>)
It's Been Rumored/Hyped For 40+ Years ... but the production-ready, mid-engined Corvette will be unveiled on July 18, 2019 as a 2020 model. I hope the car lives up to all the hype. Supposedly, the starting price is about $5,000 more than the 2019 front-engined version.
Seattle Is Dying: Gerard Van der Leun lived in Seattle for 10 years and has witnessed the decline of the city. He noted that "the Utopian compulsions of progressives to pose as 'compassionate and caring' has transformed Seattle into its own 3rd-world 'shithole country' of homeless drug addicts and criminals polluting what was once a fine city. Reason? This fine city keeps electing socialists and demented Democrats. Me? I'm out of there after ten years and I hope my friends there make their escape soon. After that the only thing that solves a descent this deep is fire."
Apparently, South Seattle - south of the old King Dome is now a city of homeless living in campers and tents. Twenty-five years ago, this was a respectable working-class community with lots of small manufacturers and wholesalers. There were some solid and decent restaurants in the area as well. Apparently, the whole thing has turned into a dump.
Believing In Nothing Has Consequences: For the first time in history, atheists constitute the largest religious group in America. According to a recent survey, the number of Americans who have no religion has increased 266% over the past three decades and now account for 23% of the population, just barely edging out Catholics and Evangelicals as the nation's dominant faith. Mainline Protestant churches have suffered the greatest collapse, declining 63% since 1982 and now comprising just 11% of the U.S. population.
As religiosity has declined, social ills have abounded. Nearly one in five American adults suffers from anxiety disorders. One in six Americans takes antidepressant drugs, a 65% surge over just 15 years. The problem is particularly acute among younger Americans. While depression diagnoses have increased 33% since 2013, that number is up 47% among Millennials and 63% among teenagers. Coincidentally, suicide rates among American teenagers have increased by 70% since 2006.
I'm Now An Expert, I Guess: Brian O'Neil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently wrote about the Aerotrain that used to run between New York City and Pittsburgh, PA in 1956. He cited my webpage on the subject and quoted from it.
It is always nice to be recognized. The New York Times cited my Aerotrain webpage several years ago.
Book Review: 'Militant Normals: How Regular Americans Are Rebelling Against the Elite to Reclaim Our Democracy' by Kurt Schlichter
The author divides America into two types: Normals - people who live in places like Fontana, CA, fought for their country and now have trouble finding work because illegal immigrants will work for peanuts - and Elites - well-connected, properly-educated liberals who eat vegan, drive Priuses and are ashamed of their white privilege. It is a political variant of the ... (more >>>)
Something To Remember On Good Friday: From the late, great Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in a piece titled: 'The Seven Last Words.' "My favorite is the Second, 'This day you will be with Me in Paradise.' Archbishop Sheen relates a legend surrounding Joseph fleeing with the Holy Family into Egypt. Along the way they stop at an inn and Mary asks for a basin of water to bathe the Baby Jesus. The innkeeper's wife senses the identity of the Holy Infant and asks that her baby afflicted with leprosy could be bathed in the same water. Mary consents and the baby is healed.
He is Dismas, the thief hanging on the right side of Christ. [For an unknown reason], he sees a cross and adores a Throne, he sees a condemned man and invokes a King: 'Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.' In all that delirium of man's revolt against God, no voice was lifted in praise and recognition except the voice of a man condemned. It was a cry of faith in Him whom every one else had forsaken, and it was only the testimony of a thief. Christ turns to him and speaks, 'This day you will be with Me in Paradise.' No one before was ever given such a promise, not Moses or John not even Magdalen or Mary! (That is why Christ's head leans towards His right on crucifixes.)
It was the thief's last prayer, perhaps also his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything and found everything. Christ unlocked the keys of Paradise and won a soul. His escort into Heaven was a thief. May we not say that the thief died a thief, for he stole Paradise?"
Quote Of The Day is from Jonathan Winters: "If God had intended us to fly he would have made it easier to get to the airport."
Tuesday April 16, 2019
How Much?! Recently, Peter De Lorenzo was given a 2019 Cadillac CT6 Sport AWD as a press fleet car. He wrote, "So I was looking forward to the CT6 Sport, especially since it was designed and engineered back in the days when Cadillac had its sights on the luxury-performance German machines from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz." Peter seemed to like it and had nice things to say about the styling.
As for me, I looked at the pictures and asked, "Where's the chrome?" The grille is blacked out as part of the Sport Package and that cheapens the car substantially, in my estimation. The rear end looked like an alien spacecraft and not in a good Citroën-like way. But what got me was the price as tested - $83,215 And it is powered by six-cylinders, not eight.
I am probably the target market for this car. But, for that kind of dough, I can buy a very nice Mercedes-Benz with chrome and the coveted three-pointed star. Peter admitted "I think this loaded tester should sticker for just under $70,000, all-in."
Cadillacs lost their premium cachet decades ago. The Caddy crest - which no longer contains a chrome wreath - can no longer command such a price.
Diversity Drama: Villanova University professors Colleen Sheehan (professor of political science and a co-director of its Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good) and James Matthew Wilson (professor of religion and literature) decry a new set of "diversity and inclusion" questions to the course and teaching evaluations that Villanova students fill out each semester. "In addition to the standard questions about the intellectual worth of the course and the quality of instruction," they write, "students are now being asked heavily politicized questions such as whether the instructor has demonstrated 'cultural awareness' or created an 'environment free of bias based on individual differences or social identities'."
The professors note the implications and ill effects of these questions on the quality of teaching and discussion. They warn against “an atmosphere of fear-imposed silence."
Scott Johnson of Powerline observed ... (more >>>)
Notre Dame Fire: The huge blaze that decimated the iconic Notre Dame de Paris is under investigation. The roof has been destroyed and the center spire has collapsed but the main structure, as well as its two towers, has been saved, according to the Paris fire brigade chief. There are also reports that the North Rose stained glass window - La Rosace Nord - has survived. The cathedral dates back to 1163 AD.
As of this writing, the cause of the fire is unknown but there has been a recent spate of church attacks and arson across France. "Reports indicate that 80% of the desecration of places of worship in France concerns Christian churches and in the year 2018 this meant the profanation of an average of two Christian churches per day in France, even though these actions rarely make the headlines."
Here is a photo of my wife and the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, taken in June 2001 during our trip to France:
James Lileks wrote, "No one who ever stood before it or within its walls thought he would outlive it." Indeed.
Lighten Up: St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "Unmitigated seriousness betokens a lack of virtue because it wholly despises play, which is as necessary for a good human life as rest is."
Creepy Joe: Paul Mirengoff of Powerline doesn't think much of Joe Biden, writing that he's "a low-grade hack whose rise to within, um, sniffing distance of the presidency is due in part to dumb luck and in part to the screwed up politics of our era. If our screwed up politics stop him from making it all the way to the top, he should not be heard to complain."
Keep in mind that Biden is also a plagiarist with hair plugs.
Closing Time: A third of Canada's 9,000 Christian churches will close in the next 10 years, according to the National Trust for Canada. Dozens of Catholic and Protestant churches in small towns across Western Canada and in southwestern Ontario also have been closing for years. It is not just the declining number of parishioners or their ability to pay for the repairs and maintenance an old church requires. There's also a dwindling number of priests.
Quote Of The Day is from George Bernard Shaw: "Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability."
Friday April 12, 2019
Somebody's Got Money: Koenigsegg sold 125 copies of its $3 million Jesko 'megacar' within 5 days of its debut.
"In fact, 83 of the company's "megacars" were sold before the vehicle was shown publicly for the first time at Geneva, according to a press release. The other 42 sold within 5 days of its debut, Koenigsegg said." The 1,600-horsepower supercar is named after von Koenigsegg's father. The carbon fiber, mid-engine coupe comes in two configurations, track and top speed.
New York Times Praises Trump: Bret L. Stephens wrote, "The Trump administration has succeeded in dramatically raising the costs to Iran for its sinister behavior, at no cost to the United States or our allies. That's the definition of a foreign-policy achievement. It's time to move the needle up again. The longer Hezbollah fighters go unpaid, or the Assad regime unaided, the better off the people of the Middle East will be."
"The U.S. is no longer looking the other way at Hezbollah's criminal enterprises, including drug smuggling and money laundering, the way it did during the Obama administration in order to engage Iran diplomatically."
"Iran's GDP is roughly equivalent to that of the greater Boston area, with 17 times the population. The regime may be a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East. But it is hardly a giant on the world stage, immune to any form of economic pressure." Sounds like good news.
Misguided Principles: In the April 2019 issue of Northwest Catholic magazine, an article listed the Catholic Principles of Migration, claimed to be the "church's position on migration is rooted in the Gospel and the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching. Five principles to help formulate migration-related policy were outlined in 'Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope', a joint pastoral letter of the Catholic bishops of the United States and Mexico."
It was interesting to me that Mexico (which has quite harsh policies for illegal immigrants) and America (which struggles with an invasion of illegal immigrants) could agree on a joint statement. It is puzzling that Canada's bishops didn't participate, even though the country has its own immigration problems.
Here are the five principles ... (more >>>)
The 21st Century Is Not Turning Out How I Expected: Doctors are now giving 8 year-old girls testosterone, claiming they're 'Transgender'. And, 61 year-old Nebraska woman gave birth to her own grandchild for gay son and his husband.
Quote Of The Day is from Jerome K. Jerome: "It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar."
Wednesday April 10, 2019
Pay For Performance: Porsche will award an $11,000 bonus to each of its 25,000 hourly and salaried employees following a 10% increase in revenue and a 4% increase in sales. The bonus isn't just for high-performing engineers and executives with fancy titles, but every qualifying employee ranging from cleaning staff and receptionists all the way to the top brass.
Financial Prediction: From First Trust Advisors: "With so many obsessed with the narrative that government saved the economy and created growth, it's no wonder more people are interested in socialism. It's time to pull back the curtain on the Wizard and reveal it to be far less powerful than so many believe. The true (and underappreciated) wizards of growth, entrepreneurs, continue to drive us forward. Technology is making things better and more efficient every day. It's when government gets out of the way that growth can flourish. Taxes have been cut, regulations reduced, and corporations are more profitable than ever before.
After some weird data covering the end of 2018 (which will lower Q1 GDP), the data are set to improve. Employment, wages, housing, and inflation will all head higher in the weeks and months ahead. There is no recession in sight. The markets, and the narrative, are in for a surprise, which will push both bond yields and stocks higher."
"Dorothy will be clicking her ruby slippers together soon to bring us all back to reality."
Shaken Not Stirred: James Bond has a "severe chronic alcohol problem," according to health experts. Iowahawk tweeted, "Breaking: Eight Health Experts Found Dead of Gunshots, Strangling Wire; Suspect Seen Fleeing In Aston Martin."
Book Review: 'Jesus Is Risen: Paul and the Holy Church' by David Limbaugh
This book is an account of Christianity's early years, covering the period before 70 AD. In 320 pages (plus extensive notes and index), Limbaugh focuses on the ravels and travails of the Apostle Paul.
Saint Paul was a key figure who ... (more >>>)
Dressing Down: The U.S. men's suit market has shrunk 8% to $1.98 billion since 2015. Over the same period, sports apparel, which includes a variety of clothing from performance gear to fashion, has grown 17% to $44.8 billion.
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "How come no business analyst ever wrote 'Gillette operates on razor-thin margins?'"
Monday April 8, 2019
Quarterly Vehicle Sales: U.S. light-vehicle sales fell just over 2% in the first quarter (compared with the same period last year), partly due to bad weather, mixed economic data and lower tax refunds, according to industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) is forecast at 16.9 million units. Overall, U.S. new-vehicle sales are expected to decline in 2019 after a long bull run since the end of the Great Recession, led by falling passenger car sales. Competition in the high-margin SUV market is intensifying.
Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive, said, "The pool of people who can afford to buy a new vehicle is being reduced by higher prices and affordability concerns, and we're likely seeing signs of that in the sales numbers. So far this year, average new vehicle loan payments are up 3.5% compared to last year, to $567, and average lease payments are up 2.8% to $500. As a result of multiple years of rate and price inflation, new vehicles payments have become a big hurdle, driving people into used cars, where the average loan payment is $414, up less than 1% from a year ago."
An article in TTAC noted, "Pundits speculate that 2019 will see the industry drop below 17 million units for the first time since 2014. They're probably not wrong. Average transaction price in March hovered around $36,700, which is a number driven by high-zoot pickups, unsurprisingly. The average rate on a new vehicle note was (gulp) 6.36 percent because, according to Edmunds, only four percent of deals last month had zero percent interest rates. Yikes."
General Motors posted U.S. first-quarter sales of 665,840 vehicles, a decrease of 7% compared with the first quarter of 2018. The Chevy Silverado pickup and Equinox SUV are the company's two best-selling vehicles, with first-quarter totals of 114,313 units and 88,500 units, respectively. However, Silverado sales declined 16% for the first quarter. FCA's Ram pickups outsold the Silverado for the period. GMC brand sales declined 4% to 125,579 trucks.
Total Chevrolet deliveries in the quarter dropped by 8% year-over-year to 452,401 units. The Chevy Equinox sport utility vehicle posted a sales increase of 7% in the quarter, and the Impala full-size sedan saw a sales decline of 6%. Sales of the all-electric Chevy Bolt dropped 1% in the quarter. So much for all that Everything's Going Electric hype.
Cadillac brand retail sales were flat in the first quarter with 35,996 units finding buyers. In 1989, quarterly Cadillac sales were almost double 2019 quarterly sales.
Buick brand saw a year-over-year sales decrease of 9% in the first quarter to 51,865 units, including a 59% plunge in LaCrosse sedan sales. The Buick Encore subcompact crossover posted a year-over-year sales drop of 3% in the quarter. Sales of the Enclave mid-sized crossover rose by 28% to 12,580 units in the quarter. Thirty years ago, Buick typically sold 127,000 cars per quarter. In fact, GM's mid-priced three (Buick, Olds and Pontiac) accounted for almost half-million cars in a quarter back in 1989. How the mighty GM has fallen.
Ford Motor Company's sales dropped 2% in the first quarter to 590,249 vehicles. Ford-brand passenger car sales tumbled 24% in the first quarter. More than nine of 10 first-quarter sales came from SUVs, vans and trucks. Average transaction pricing for the F-Series rose to a whopping $47,454; Ford sold 214,611 F-Series trucks in the first quarter, up fractionally from the first quarter of 2018. The all-new Ranger accounted for 9,421 units in the quarter, lifting the company's total pickup sales to the highest level in 15 years. Sales of the Lincoln brand rose by 11% year-over-year in the first quarter to 24,975 vehicles. SUVs now account for 77% of Lincoln brand sales.
Toyota Motor Co. sales declined 5% for the quarter to 543,716 vehicles. Corolla sales were down fractionally, while all other sedans nosedived. Avalon sales fell 37% to 6,619 sedans. Truck and SUV sales were down for the quarter as well. Hybrid sales declined 37%, with the Prius brand falling 46%.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported that first-quarter sales decreased by 3% year-over-year to 498,425 vehicles. The Jeep brand posted a quarterly sales decline of 7% year -over-year as sales of the new Grand Cherokee rose just 8% to 57,749 units and Compass sales dropped 14% to 37,306 units. Wagoneer sales declined 10% for the quarter. The Ram brand of pickups and other light trucks saw a first-quarter sales jump of 21% to 137,013 units.
Chrysler brand sales fell 32% year over year to 31,591 units in the first quarter, with Pacifica van sales off 29%. Fiat sales tumbled 45% to just 2,214. Alfa Romeo sales dropped 26% in the quarter to 4,286 vehicles The bump from the new Stelvio SUV is now well and truly in the rear-view mirror. Dodge brand sales fell 6% for first quarter to 110,517 units. Sales of the Journey rose 30% and Caravan sales fell 18%.
American Honda's sales were up just over 1% for the first quarter, while Acura sales increased 8% to 9,764 vehicles. Nissan sales dropped 12%; during the same period, its Infiniti luxury band saw a 16% drop to 10,302 vehicles. Hyundai sales increased 2% for the quarter, while Kia sales increased 8%. Subaru sales increased 5% to 156,754 units. Volkswagen sales rose 2% to 85,872 for the first quarter. Mazda sales dropped 15% to 70,831 zoomers. Volvo sales increased 8% to 22,058 vehicles. Mitsubishi sales rose 17% for the quarter to 42,070. Mini sales slipped 15% to 8.905 units.
Mercedes-Benz sales fell 13% to 78,667. BMW sales were flat at 73,999 vehicles for the quarter. Lexus sales increased 4% for the first quarter to 66,791 vehicles. Audi sales dipped 3% to 48,115 vehicles. Tesla output for the first quarter fell 31% to 63,000 electric cars - 81% of production were Model 3s. (It should be noted that Tesla's figures are always rounded to the nearest thousand, a suspicious practice to me. And Tesla continues to proclaim that sales demand exceeds production capacity, yet there are lots of images posted on the internet of parking lots filled with dusty unsold Model 3s.) Porsche sales were up 8% to 15,024 vehicles for the quarter. Jaguar sales leaped 31% for the first quarter to 10,222 vehicles, while Land Rover sales increased 3% to 25,028 vehicles. Genesis sold 4,203 cars during the quarter - a drop of 4%.
Only 231 electric Smart cars found buyers in the first quarter.
Creepy Joe Biden: The Old Man Who Would Be President certainly acts inappropriately among women of all ages. Just take a look at these pictures. Any one of them could be captioned, "Hey, sweetie. I've got a puppy outside in my van. Come with me and I'll show it to you."
Matchbook Ads: Many of the advertising methods popular 60 years ago have become obsolete and are rarely seen today: promotional post cards, print catalogs, imprinted pencils and pens, Yellow Page advertising and, of course, matchbooks. There was a time when many people smoked and matchbook advertising was used by all kinds of businesses to promote themselves. In the 1960s, every restaurant offered imprinted matchbooks. The fancier the joint, the fancier the matchbooks.
It was not uncommon to ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both."
Thursday April 4, 2019
Giant Car Lighter: Once upon a time, when most people smoked, Zippo was a popular and durable cigarette lighter. Since its introduction in 1933, Zippos have been sold around the world and have been described "a legendary and distinct symbol of Americana."
In 1947, Zippo lighter founder George G. Blaisdell commissioned a Zippomobile, a conversion of a 1947 Chrysler Saratoga to a product-mobile, with ... (more >>>)
Big Bucks - Just To Sit High In The Saddle: Mercedes is preparing to build a super-luxury Mercedes-Maybach GLS sport utility vehicle at its plant in Vance, Alabama. The ultra-luxury SUV will be powered by a V8 engine making in excess of 560 horsepower and will have a starting price of around $200,000.
The GLS may be unveiled as soon at the upcoming Shanghai Auto Show. Chinese buyers bought more than two-thirds of all Maybachs sold last year, so it makes sense to reveal the GLS in China.
According to analysts at AutoForecast Solutions, the global market for ultra-luxury SUVs is on track to rise from around 7,500 last year to more than 20,000 by 2023, with 75% of the market shared between the United States and China. The Mercedes-Maybach will be competing with ultra-high-end SUVs from Aston Martin, Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini, all of which are already available and all but the Ferrari Purosangue will be by the end of this year. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan sells for a tidy $325,000.
Electric Bets: General Motors is making a $300 million investment in its Orion, Michigan assembly plant to produce electric and autonomous vehicles on the Chevy Bolt platform. Ford plans to invest $900 million by 2023 in an expansion of its Flat Rock Mustang assembly plant and a second facility in Southeast Michigan for electric vehicles.
I wonder where all the customers will come from? Sales of the all-electric Chevy Bolt dropped 1% in the first quarter of 2019 - an ominous sign.
I Thought This Was A Costco Story: A giant mixing truck is serving cocktails in Florida.
"The makers of Monkey Shoulder whiskey said the "Monkey Shoulder Mixer," a 27-foot-long truck with a 2,400-gallon drink mixer on the back, will be serving cocktails at various locations in the Orlando area." Well, it is about bulk consumables, so you can understand my confusion.
Book Review: 'The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life' by David Quammen
This is a book about recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life's history. Unfortunately ... (more >>>)
In Praise Of Index Mutual Funds: Last week, Dan Weiner's Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors, a paid financial advisory service, wrote, "Our Model Portfolios are showing good returns for the year … the Growth Model is up 11.4%."
I'm not impressed. For the same period ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: As a senior, always remember that once you're over the hill you begin to pick up speed.
Tuesday April 2, 2019
Delaware Avenue Dance: If you're a Philadelphian of a certain age, you may remember the automotive pinball alley known as Delaware Avenue. Driving along this wide thoroughfare, you'd spend much of your time swerving, weaving and dancing around a montage of tractor-trailers, trains and potholes.
Located by the river of the same name, Delaware Avenue was the industrial nexus of water, truck and rail shipping. The City of Philadelphia owned the Belt Line Railroad, built in ... (more >>>)
Smart Move? Smart parent company Daimler and Chinese auto manufacturer Geely (and owner of Volvo and Lotus) have announced a 50:50 joint venture to develop and build a new generation of global-market, electric Smart models in China.
Good luck with that.
Weekend Travel: It is raining as I write this, but last Saturday was a really nice and sunny Spring day, so at noon, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive. The temperature was in the upper 50s and I had clear views of a snow-covered Mt. St. Helens as well as the eastern Cascades. There were lots of pink magnolia and flowering plum trees in bloom along my backroads route, so between them, the green foliage and the very blue sky there's was lots of color.
The Plymouth ran great and I drove with the window down so I could hear the V8 rumble through the Glasspacks. I had a great time.
Get Outta My Way: A new study has identified cities with the most aggressive drivers. The top four are Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Atlanta. Amazingly, New York City came in 23rd. Portland ranked 27th.
Socialism Is Coming Here: Saga Zhou moved to the United States from China in 2009. Recently, she began to see the American Left embracing policies that reminded her of those she'd fled in China. "One such policy was the Left's support for late-term abortion. When she lived in China, Zhou, like many young Chinese, didn't consider abortion to be a big deal. But her view changed after moving to America, getting married, and bearing two children."
Many Chinese-Americans are repelled by the Democrats' more recent embrace of policies they consider socialist. Socialism "is a great, great concern to (Chinese-Americans), which is why I'm really motivated to stop that," George Li said. "It's our duty." Li, a Chinese immigrant, finds the Left's obsession with political correctness maddening because it intimidates people into silence. "This intimidation is so bad for freedom of speech - a lot of things I see in this country are very similar to what I saw in the Cultural Revolution era in China," he said. He calls political correctness a "form of cultural Marxism."
Li continued, "I just want America to be America - not another Soviet Union, Cuba, or China."
What Music? Recently, James Lileks asked, "What's playing on the stereo in the picture above?" He was referring to the banner pix on The Bleat, apparently taken from a vintage advertisement.
"As for the banner image above, I wonder what most people under 40 think is playing in the background. It's not rock and roll. That would be ridiculous. Perhaps the Doodletown Fifers. Perhaps some Gleason make-out music. Perhaps Neil Hefti's latest, the one with that clever harpsichord. Looks a bit late for folk music."
Late? I don't think so. I'd peg the banner photo as mid-1960s era - before long hair and sideburns, wild ties and double-knit polyester suits. The clothes are definitely early 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' era - 1964 or thereabouts. The woman seated at right has a kind of Claudine Longet vibe going on - pre Spider Sabich that is. I wonder if she spoke French?
While folk music peaked in the early 1960s, it was still around in the mid-'60s. The Kingston Trio had temporarily broken-up and Bob Dylan had gone amped-up electric but Peter Paul and Mary were still playing to large crowds and Joan Baez's singles were still charting as were Joni Mitchell's.
So, what might these thirty-somethings pick for background music in the mid-'60s? I'm guessing mellow jazz - Brubeck, Shearing, the Modern Jazz Quartet. Or something bland and innocuous - 101 Strings, The Kirby Stone Four, the Ray Coniff Orchestra and Singers or Montovani. By the mid-'60s, no one - I mean no one, James, not even some poor soul in a nursing home - was listening to Sauter-Finegan Orchestra's 'Doodletown Fifers'. Except as some kind of punishment.
As for me, in 1964, I was 21 years old and didn't have a stereo. So I had no collection of conversation-inducing background music albums. Most of the music I hear came from the small, tinny speaker of my '63 Volkswagen Beetle.
Four Stages Of Democratic Thought … from Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA:
Get Woke; Go Broke: Dick's Sporting Goods' bottom line took a very big hit after halting the sale of assault-style weapons in response to the Parkland school massacre. The policy change cost the nation's largest sporting goods retailer about $150 million in annual lost sales.
Quote Of The Day is from Jacques Barzun: "Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred."
Monday April 1, 2019
The Sad Tale Of The Chuffley-Waite: I wrote the fictitious Chuffley-Waite story as an April Fool's contribution to a local car club's newsletter in 1989. I just wanted to tweak the noses of a couple of British car buffs who were members of the club.
They enjoyed it and we all had a good laugh. And several pints of Mackeson stout.
It begins thusly:
Since its founding in 1903, the Chuffley-Waite Motorcar Company, Ltd. of Bumpford-on-Thames, England had been known for the very powerful motorcars which it produced. The sheer might of these cars was symbolised in the radiator ornament used - a nickel-plated locomotive.
For many decades, these automobiles were purchased by men of power who could be seen roaring up and down the motorways forcing lesser cars off to the roadside, much like medieval times, when indentured serfs would throw themselves off the footpath, anxiously tugging their forelocks as royalty approached and passed.
The Chuffley-Waite was so famous that it was celebrated in many plays and songs, including the British version of Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline':
"As I was motorin' to Harrod's Gate
Now, as you all know from your history books, the Queen's Horsepower and Torque Act of 1957 placed prohibitive taxation on large, powerful road machines and it was precisely this Act which caused sales of Chuffley-Waite to plummet from 7,958 units in 1956 to less than 200 units in 1957. The company suffered great financial reverses, greater even than those during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Fearing the wrath of shareholders, Geoffrey St. James, the managing director, took bold steps to stem the tide of financial distress. Noticing that the sales of powerful American imports seemed unaffected by the Act, St. James decided to Americanise the Chuffley-Waite for 1958.
Summoning his chief designer, Nigel Humphreys, to his office, St. James ordered Humphreys ... (more >>>)
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