A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday June 23, 2016
Speedy Arrow: Now almost forgotten, Pierce-Arrow was a well-engineered, luxury marque. It was the first vehicle to offer servo-assisted brakes.
In 1932, Pierce-Arrow introduced a 60-degree V12 engine of its own design. The engine offered some unique and interesting features, including the water pump which was "driven from the rear of the generator and position toward the middle of the engine so that the cool water could be evenly distributed throughout the engine. An oil cooler was mounted on the other side of the block to help heat the water when the Pierce was first started and to also balance oil and water temperatures," according to John C. Meyer III, writing in Automobile Quarterly (volume 24, number 4 - 1990).
Under Ab Jenkins guidance in 1934, a V12 Pierce Arrow ran on the Bonneville Salt Flats and ... (more >>>)
Plymouth Outing: On Tuesday, it was very cloudy in the morning but by the 2:30 pm, the clouds had moved north and it was 70 degrees and sunny with summer azure skies interrupted by just a few puffy clouds overhead. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive along some lightly-traveled back roads.
I spotted an early '70s Triumph Spitfire Mark IV in a green-gray color (with its top down, of course) headed westbound on 199th Street. I had a very enjoyable afternoon ride.
Ironic, Ain't It? Last week, when Obama and Biden comforted the families of the recently-murdered terrorist victims in Orlando, they chose the Amway Center - a sports and entertainment venue a, located in the downtown area. Naming rights for the arena were secured by the Michigan-based firm, originally called The American Way, now shortened to Amway.
Amway owes its success to multi-level marketing - the social media of the day. The firm was founded in 1959 and peddles a variety of products, primarily in the health, beauty, and home care areas. Once signed up as a 'distributor', you would connect with as many acquaintances as you could (using the social media of the period - telephone and face-to-face meetings), not unlike today's Facebook, and sign 'em up.
It occurs to me that this is exactly what ISIS does, using online media to recruit and train (via How-To You-Tube videos).
Like Amway, ISIS provides motivational tools, planning help, encouraging its 'distributors' to execute a terrorist act as a ritual of initiation. And, perhaps, move to the next level if you survive.
Initiates are expected to undertake this effort on their own, without direct, in-person support from the home office.
The American Way, indeed.
The State Of Retail - 2016: Wal-Mart is the most popular brick-n-mortar store chain in America, while Amazon is the king of online retailers, and has been so for at least five years.
"More than half of all shoppers in the country visit a Wal-Mart location in a given month. No other U.S. store can claim a majority of Americans as customers."
"Nearly half of American consumers visit McDonald's in a given month, making the fast food chain the most visited restaurant in the United States and the second most popular store in the country."
Subway has 43,945 restaurants worldwide, and 26,960 in the United States, more than any other restaurant. "Approximately 34% of Americans visit a Subway in a given month.
Just over 30% of all American consumers Walgreens drug store in a given month. Only 23.4% of American consumers visited CVS, the second most popular drug store."
Traditional merchandise retailers aren't doing nearly as well ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Blood, Sweat And My Rock 'n' Roll Years: Is Steve Katz a Rock Star?' by Steve Katz
Katz was a founding member of the legendary Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears. I saw BS&T at the Latin Casino once; they put on a pretty good show, although my musical interests are generally pre-Beatles era.
The book was a ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The ancestor to every action is a thought."
Tuesday June 21, 2016
"What a swell party this is!" On Saturday, June 18, 2016, we celebrated 50 years of marriage.
It's been a great half-century and deserved a great celebration including a grand party. We began our Golden Anniversary with ... (more >>>)
Do You Know ... where you dined every year on your anniversary? My wife and I do. We've posted the complete list here.
Brexit: I don't understand the specifics of the Brits' desire to exit the European Union but here's an excerpt from London's The Spectator:
"Since 1975 the EU has mutated in exactly the way we then feared and now resembles nothing so much as the Habsburg Empire in its dying days. A bloated bureaucracy that has outgrown all usefulness. A parliament that represents many nations, but with no democratic legitimacy. Countries on its periphery pitched into poverty, or agitating for secession. The EU's hunger for power has been matched only by its incompetence. The European Union is making the people of our continent poorer, and less free."
So that's one side of the argument - seemingly a pretty cogent one. Britain goes to the polls to vote this week.
Quote Of The Day is from Irish comedian Spike Milligan: "All I ask is the chance to prove that money cannot make me happy."
Friday June 17, 2016
Happy Father's Day To All Dads. This will be the first time in 34 consecutive years that I won't be getting any model cars for Father's Day. I looked and looked but just couldn't find anything of interest that wasn't overpriced (IMHO). China-made diecasts as well as resin models are becoming surprisingly expensive.
The first time I received a scale model for Father's Day was in 1974, when I acquired a green diecast 1963 Corvette Sting Ray split-window coupe. I still have it; I enjoy looking at it from time to time because I used to own a '63 Corvette.
This little diecast was manufactured by ... (more >>>)
Blocky Life: James Lileks recently wrote about work life versus The Rest Of Things: "It's not unusual to see your life in blocks defined by where you worked, is it? Everything else is a smear, one emotional aria blending into the next, but jobs are different countries, each with their own customs and tribes and languages. What varies the most is your allegiance. Everyone has a procession." Mine consisted of Uniroyal, Rohm & Haas Co., Discovery Plastics Inc., and Sherlock Strategies.
In the same article, James talked about the drinking at lunch custom of the Good Old Days: "But in DC I knew people who drank a lot during the day. Lunch, in those fat days when the Washington Post was as thick as a catcher's mitt, could be an hour and a half of imbibing and schmoozing. Lubricating sources. Getting things off the record. It was the culture, and I'm glad I got in on the end of it. Didn't participate, because I hate being tipsy during the daylight hours, let alone at work, but I'd see guys knock back three glasses of scotch, each three fingers deep. And then they'd go on working as if nothing had happened! Because they were high-functioning alcoholics, I guess."
Three-drink lunches were a rarity in my business career, even in the 1960s and '70s. I guess I was in the wrong business, although I did enjoy 'em when they happened - often at the late, great Gaetano's.
The modern, beveled, bronze tinted glass and brass light fixtures - we have two of them - have been disassembled and thoroughly cleaned with every glass panel receiving proper attention.
All windows have been washed - inside and out. Ditto for the five rectangular skylights. Four double-glazed tinted windows which were fogged up due to broken seals have been replaced.
Our cedar shake roof has been repaired (three bundles of shingles worth), cleaned and treated.
The interior has been thoroughly cleaned by professionals. Our cedar deck has been stripped and retreated - it now looks like new.
All of the white resin furniture on the deck has been thoroughly scrubbed and brought back to like-new condition. I personally did the 16 or so pieces, using lots of elbow grease, Simple Green, Formula 409 and, occasionally, steel wool. I was so sore afterwards that I was taking back-pain pills for the following three days.
The deck's outdoor grill has been repainted and some interior parts replaced.
All exterior house lights and all driveway light now work. Our large driveway has been pressure-washed back to its original almost-white appearance.
We have purchased a great deal of crystal glassware, have restocked the wine cellar and put up lots of decorations.
What's going on? Stay tuned. You'll find out next week.
A Bitter, Petulant Loser: William Katz wrote, "President Obama, in full "me" mode, went on the offensive against Donald Trump (on Tuesday). What we saw wasn't pretty. It was a failed president." It sure was.
From Michael Goodwin at the New York Post: "Obama's demeanor and tone were far from presidential - tantrums rarely are. Nor was he effective in rallying the nation to his cause. No surprise there. His cause is himself, always and only, and his greatly diminished historic presidency looks especially insignificant next to the bloodshed in Orlando. The iconic redeemer who promised hope and change never seemed so small and hopeless.
America saw Barack Obama at low tide yesterday, revealed as brimming with fury and bankrupt of ideas and even sympathy for the dead. The man who had an answer for everything and a solution to nothing is now also out of excuses."
"Forty-nine innocent people were gunned down in a gay nightclub by an Islamic terrorist, another 53 lie wounded, yet Obama feels only his own pain. Public confidence in his effort to combat terrorism on his own peculiar terms while soft-pedaling the links to Islam were among the casualties in the Pulse nightclub. The world knows he's a failure and he can't stand the embarrassment."
In times of trouble, a president's job is to offer a shocked/angry/fearful nation assurances, express sorrow and prayers for the victims and propose actions which will ensure that such a thing will not happen again. Barack Hussein Obama failed epically on every count. (permalink)
RIP: Doug Schmick, co-founder of McCormick & Schmicks, has died at age 68 of cancer. In 1972, Schmick and William McCormick joined forces the Portland, Oregon restaurant business. The restaurant chain was sold about 12 years ago, is now owned by Landry's Inc. and has 70 locations nationwide. Landry's also owns a mishmash of other restaurants, including Morton's, The Chart House, Rainforest Cafe, Claim Jumper as well as the Golden Nugget casino chain.
We've never, never had a bad meal at any M&S during 30-plus years of patronage. That includes Jake's Grill - the excellent steak joint - at the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland. At most locations, seafood takes center stage but you can always find filet mignon and other land-based niceties on the menu. Every McCormick & Schmicks offers powerful, old-school cocktails and prompt, professional staff. And decent wine offerings.
In 2009, M&S closed its iconic downtown Portland location thanks to the insane, anti-business policies of the People's Republic of Portland.
On a related note, Randal O'Toole recently wrote, "The young people who have moved to Portlandia like to eat out a lot, and as a result the Portland has more restaurants per capita than all but five other metropolitan areas in the country. However, the cost of eating out is rising because inexpensive restaurants are getting pushed out by more expensive ones that can afford to pay the rising rents required to stay in Portland."
Quip Of The Day is from Benny Hill: "Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect."
Wednesday June 15, 2016
A Fool And His Money Are Soon Parted: The silliest product I've seen this year is a super lightweight $120 carbon fiber license plate frame. If saving vehicle weight is that critical, don't put any frame around your plate.
The same company offers carbon fiber valve stem caps for $25 per set. Or a key ring for $40. Ridiculous. (permalink)
Them Versus Us: Do you get the feeling that, more than ever, we're in a them vs. us nation?
Recently, the Zman wrote, "Thirty years ago, most Americans felt they could, to some degree, relate to the people who ruled over them. The politicians did not tool around in armored vehicles or have armed men in mirrored sunglasses guarding them. The so-called “public servants” were not highly compensated, even if they did not work very hard. The members of the commentariat were few in number and they worked hard to present themselves as normal people. There was a gap, for sure, but it did not feel like a huge gap."
Then the Clintons showed up and, as Donald Trump said, they "turned the politics of personal enrichment into an art form for themselves. They've made hundreds of millions of dollars selling access, selling favors, selling government contracts, and I mean hundreds of millions of dollars."
The Clinton Foundation is a money exchange where wealthy foreigners can use their currency to buy influence. Now you know why Hillary has giant, Captain Kangaroo-like pockets sewed on the jackets of her pantsuits. They're full of five-hundred euro notes ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Industries Of The Future' by Alec Ross
Predicting the future is fraught with peril. History has proven many experts to be very wrong.
There is a tendency among all of us to be pessimists. We worry about the future because it is an unknown. We are concerned for our children's and grandchildren's future. We have seen entropy first hand and know that downward trajectories are natural phenomena. People get old, frail and sickly. Wood rots. Plastic embrittles, crazes and discolors. Steel rusts. Buildings and bridges crumble. The Roman Empire fell. We eventually return to dust.
Those of us of a certain age were once told of a wonderful future that never came about - a nation of monorails and flying cars, smoking Lucky Strikes outside a cafe on Mars, elevators to the moon, a pill which fixed all ailments and underwater cities enclosed in giant Plexiglas domes.
Nevertheless, the 21st Century has turned out to be pretty good in general - so far.
Alec Ross gazes into his own crystal ball and ... (more >>>)
Baseball Legend: Frank Fitzpatrick wrote, "Nostalgia is history's makeup. Apply it liberally to the old and unsightly, and, from a distance at least, you can't spot the warts. What it also does, of course, is obscure the truth. "Nostalgia," said the late diplomat George Ball, "is a seductive liar."
Fans of sports, and in particular baseball, seem more susceptible to this wistful whitewashing than most. For so many, the ballparks, players, and artifacts of the past, no matter their flaws, have acquired a permanent, sepia-toned perfection. Old-timers will speak poetically about Connie Mack Stadium's emerald field, but neglect to mention its uncomfortable seats, its inedible concessions, and all those crowds of 3,267."
I remember Connie Mack Stadium as a rickety, run-down place, which - indeed - had uncomfortable seats.
Back in 1912, baseball legend Ty Cobb earned an indefinite suspension when he'd charged into a New York crowd to pummel a noisy fan. If that behavior weren't inglorious enough, the fan was handicapped, having lost one hand and three fingers on another in an industrial accident. When concerned spectators yelled to Cobb that his victim "has no hands," the pugnacious Tiger reportedly replied, "I don't care if he's got no legs," and continued the beating." Nice, eh?
But, noted Mr. Fitzpatrick, "Sometimes the past does yield sweet and simple stories. Take Aloysius Stanislaus Travers, boy pitcher ... (more >>>)
The 'Refugee' Problem: Terror cells containing so-called refugees from Syria's civil war have been discovered in Angela Merkel's Germany. Additional 'refugees' from the Syrian war have been found abetting Islamist atrocities in Paris.
Donald Trump is right on this matter: If we can't 'vet' immigrants and refugees, we can't risk letting them into our country, even though many are innocent.
Quote Of The Day is from Abraham Lincoln: "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four sharpening the axe."
Monday June 13, 2016
Another Reason Auto Manufacturers Hate Car Buffs: General Motors has offered the Chevy SS, a proper four-door saloon, described as a four-door Camaro. It is not selling well. Neither did the revived Pontiac GTO of 2004-06. Nor do diesel station wagons, stick-shift models, Citroens nor any of the other automotive reveries that enthusiasts wish for but never buy when offered.
Dan Neil tested the SS sedan, "with a 415-hp pushrod V8, six-speed manual transmission, limited-slip rear diff, and a provocative proclivity for acceleration that will certainly jerk a knot in it. All for $48,570." 0-60 in 4.7 seconds.
Dan remarked, "In a previous era, such a car would have been a cult object, a sleeper sedan that didn't look fast until it opened up a can of whipass on the street. There was a time when such a car would help buyers finagle a better insurance rate. On paper, it’s a four-door, five-seat sedan. In person, it's a window-rattling hooligan. I like it.
But I don't love it. The styling is pretty stolid, reflecting the car's mass-market roots and its cop-car lineage. The company has put gaudy chrome paint wherever it would stick, inside and out. That’s just my personal taste. In fairness, Australians may have different preferences.
They won't make them like this anymore, for long. I can’t guess what the collectible potential might be, but I have to believe in 20 years, there will be people clamoring for this distinctive example of late V8 power and theatrics."
The junkyard of broken dreams is filled with automotive delusions that everyone wanted but were unwilling to put up money to fulfill their fantasies.
Sunny Sunday: On the way to early Sunday Mass, it was socked in with fog halfway to Vancouver. By the time I returned home, the fog had dissapated and it was a sunny day with blue skies sprinkled here and there with white puffy clouds.
After breakfast, I fired up the Plymouth and took a ride on lightly traveled roads. It was still a little cool (57 degrees) but I had a good view of Mt. St. Helens, which is now developing ribs - indicating that the snow is melting. No wonder - it was 101 degrees last Saturday.
I had a very enjoyable ride and it stayed sunny all day - unlike Saturday when there was heavy rain in the afternoon.
Backward Thinking: According to Randall O'Toole, if you're looking for "a magic formula for fixing congestion and other transportation problems, then Portland is the wrong place to look. The Portland area has already spent well over $4 billion on a light-rail system, yet as of 2014 light rail carried only 1% of the region's motorized passenger travel and no freight. Despite this, the region's leaders now want to spend $2 billion more on another 11-mile line."
Light rail, which when it was cheaper and privately owned, used to be called trolley cars or interurbans. But light rail represents the past ... (more >>>)
RIP: Stuart Anderson, founder of the Black Angus Steakhouse chain, has died at age 93 of lung cancer. The first Black Angus opened in 1964 in Seattle.
I have memories of great, wine-fueled lunches and dinners at Black Angus in the 1970s and '80s. The steaks were reasonably priced and there was always the famous Ranch Bread on the side. House burgundy was served by the half-liter or full-liter. In the chain's heyday, the decor used to be a mix of Old West and Plexiglas. There were many dark bronze 3/4-inch thick acrylic divider panels to give diners some sense of privacy. Mens and Ladies rooms were identified by large routed letters done in mirrored Plexiglas. Walls were rugged wood paneling.
At its peak, the chain had more than 120 outlets around the country. There currently are about 45 Black Angus Steakhouses, most are located in California. The Eugene, Oregon location is long gone but there is still one in Vancouver, WA.ISIS Terror Comes To Florida: Armed shooter Omar Mir Seddique Mateen called the cops to pledge his fealty to ISIS as he was carrying out his mass murderer at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. Sadly, at least 50 people are dead so far and more than 50 others injured.
Mateen worked for a Department of Homeland Security contractor, a company that moves illegal aliens around the country. The FBI acknowledged that Mateen was on their Watch List. Or is it now called the Watch Until They Do Something List?
The FBI waited three hours before entering Pulse, the club, after they knew a lone gunman was involved. I wonder how many of those 50 bled to death while they waited? Will their death certificates list the cause of death as Political Correctness? We refuse to profile and deport dissidents, because those in power continue to curry favor of the Muslim Brotherhood and those who are drawn in. Mateen's parents are from Afghanistan and his wife from Uzbekistan.
On the political side of things ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "My uncle's dying wish was to have me sitting in his lap; he was in the electric chair."
Thursday June 9, 2016
Car Sightings: As I was out and about on a sunny Tuesday, I spotted an intense blue '34 Plymouth 5-window coupe rolling southbound on Interstate 5 in Vancouver. I tried to catch up for a closer look but it exited on Main Street before I got close enough. It was gorgeous with chrome wheels and the side panels removed from the hood - underneath lurked a V8 of some kind. Sweet ride.
Later, at a traffic light in Battle Ground, I saw a well-preserved, first-gen, red PT Cruiser behind a red Kia Soul in the turning lane. Even though they are completely different cars, there is a certain kinship between them. Both are/were relative low cost, unique looking, cool cars in their time.
It is a real shame that Chrysler never took advantage of the PT's early popularity, offering other versions, including serious performance editions. One wonders what might have been. In its early days, The Cruiser had great potential: a strong enough initial demand that dealers could put a $3-5,000 Market Adjustment gouge over sticker price and sufficient enthusiasm to launch multiple car clubs and many custom PT Cruiser accessory kits.
In 2003, Chrysler showed a fastback variant called the GT Cruiser.
They should have built it, as well as my design for a three-window coupe, which also could have been offered as a retractable hardtop as well.
Later, I was driving behind a relatively new BMW Z4 roadster in silver on my way home. I don't see many BMW Zs around here. Even though temperatures were in the mid-70s, the driver had the top up. Go figure.
Luxury By The Numbers: For the first five months of 2016, the best selling luxury brands are:
It should be noted that top-of-the-line flagship sedans account for only about 4% of total sales at Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. The vast majority of luxury-brand vehicle sales are of lesser, more budget-priced models.
To read about the history of luxury brands, go here.
Weather Fake-Out: I thought for sure that it was going to rain soon, so at 9:15 am on Wednesday, with the temperature at an even 60 degrees, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive.
I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to drive the old beast in over a week, so I headed out under questionable skies. To the south, there was some sun but looking eastward it seemed like it was already raining in the hills. To the north, Mt. St. Helens was invisible, wrapped in a puffy duvet of white clouds. Other clouds weren't so white; there were lots of dark gray ones visible as I drove along.
Nevertheless, I had an enjoyable ride, with 'Crusin' 1957' playing through the speakers accompanied by the ever-present rumble from the dual Glasspacks.
Later in the day, it got sunnier but the roads were more crowded. Then the rains came.
What Washington Needs Is Bernie Goetz, Not Bernie Sanders: There are roving gangs of rapists and other bad guys taking over the Washington Metro Subway System in Washington DC. Almost all are black. Cue up the Obama 'If I had a Son' meme.
Jack Baruth wrote that "this series of unfortunate events adroitly demonstrates the primary issues with mass transit.
Issue the First: Once you agree to get rid of your car or motorcycle and become part of the "mass transit solution," you have all the rights and clout of a sheep in the abattoir. By its very definition and nature, government-controlled mass transit is a monopoly. You have two choices: like it, or lump it. That's how you get things like a "maintenance surge" in place of an intelligently conceived longevity plan. By all accounts, WMATA is half make-work project for otherwise unemployable idiots and half utter catastrophe - and that was before SafeTrack.
By all accounts ... (more >>>)
Hershey, With Or Without Nuts: Hersheypark, the candy-themed Pennsylvania amusement park that is a popular attraction for families with children, has announced that its internal policies allow visitors and employees to use the restroom that correlates with their "gender identity."
We spent part of our family vacation there in 1975, when restrooms were clearly marked.
Book Review: 'Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941' by Lynne Olson
This is a comprehensive account of the contentious debate over American intervention in World War II. On opposite sides were two famous personalities, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a sometimes half-hearted interventionist, and heroic aviator Charles Lindbergh, a committed isolationist who believed that German air superiority would conquer Europe and, possibly, America.
Spanning the years 1939 to 1941, the book vividly portrays the rancorous debate within the U.S. in the days before Pearl Harbor.
This is a book which is easy to read, as the narrative flows generally well, although ... (more >>>)
I Miss DDT: James Lileks recently wrote, "There are mosquitos out, because the local mosquito control agency uses friendly, sustainable methods that possibly consist of birth-control filmstrips played near stagnant shallow ponds. I remember when the planes came overhead in Fargo and sprayed chemicals on everyone and everything. Everything had a high bright tang for a while and food tasted funny and you got dizzy for a day or so but we were all right in the end. Had to reshingle the roof three times a summer, though."
Our summer home in Brigantine, NJ got sprayed almost every day, either by a pickup truck with a fogger mounted in the bed or by aerial spraying using a bi-plane. I don't remember funny-tasting food or deteriorating shingles, though. Of course, those sturdy shingles were made with an another banned product - asbestos.
Back in those days, we never had to worry about the Zika virus.
Quip Of The Day is from comedian Bob Monkhouse: "When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car."
Tuesday June 7, 2016
Miniature Cars ... and more: There is an interesting blog article by Joschik, one of the owners of the Hobby Database website.
He reported that over 5 million Batmobile models from the 1960s were sold by Corgi. Hot Wheels is now a $1.1 billion brand. While parent company Mattel does not publish segment information of how much of that is spend by collectors (versus parents) many "conversations with Mattel executives and others in the industry make me believe that measured by value it is around 20% (collectors pay significantly more per average model as they buy many Collector's Editions). That would represent $200 million in annual collectible sales."
"The NPD Group is a market research company which monitors consumer purchase data from over 165,000 stores worldwide. In 2012 they reported that Collectors bought around 15% of the total toys and models sold in monitored retail outlets in the U.S. and that the total sales for these retailers was $23 billion."
In 2000 ... (more >>>)
Supermarket Arch: The distinctive arched-roof supermarket, which opened at Frankford Avenue and Pratt Street in the Frankford neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, has been nominated for Historic Status and has been added to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia's Places to Save list.
Nestled in the shadow of the Bridge Street Terminus of the Frankford Elevated line, the Frankford Penn Fruit store opened in the mid 1950s, replacing an older one two blocks north. The new one had a large parking lot - a rarity at the time in the congested areas of NE Philadelphia.
As a child ... (more >>>)
RIP: Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer Muhammad Ali has died at age 74 of sepsis, probably caused by pneumonia, probably caused by his 32-year battle with Parkinson's disease.
Originally known as Cassius Clay, he famously proclaimed himself "The Greatest" and then spent a lifetime living up to that billing.
In the early '70s, Ali lived not too far from me - in Cherry Hill, NJ. I never saw him in there but, in the mid-1970s, I was staying at the Sheraton in Universal City, CA. One evening, I stepped into the elevator along with two large black guys. I paid no attention to them until I heard a voice I recognized. "Who is that?" I asked myself. As I stepped out of the elevator at my floor, I turned around and recognized the guy immediately. It was Ali himself. He was huge - something photographs don't capture. At 6' 4" or so, he was not skinny as a weed, as many tall men are, but perfectly-proportioned - big and muscular.
The Great Knot Of Government Bureaucracy: The tide of red tape that threatens to drown U.S. consumers and businesses surged yet again in 2015, according to a recent Heritage Foundation study. More than $22 billion per year in new regulatory costs were imposed on Americans last year, pushing the total burden for the Obama years to exceed $100 billion annually. 20,642 new regulations have been added during the Obama presidency so far.
Fact Of The Day: Snowmen fall from Heaven un-assembled. Does that make you feel cooler in this hot weather? It was 101 degrees here on Saturday.
Thursday June 2, 2016
May Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were estimated at a 17.4 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in May, down about 2% from May 2015, and up slightly from the 17.3 million annual sales rate last month.
Industrywide, trucks and SUVs remained the U.S. industry's best sellers, to the detriment of traditional sedans. Some analysts pointed out that May 2016 had two fewer selling days than 2015 but, in this age of dealers open seven days a week and 24/7 internet comparison shopping, well as Queen Hillary would say, "What difference does it make?!"
At General Motors, sales plunged 18% for the month, year over year. Sales fell 13% for its Chevrolet Silverado pickup and decreased 7% for its GMC Sierra truck. A year ago, the Cruze compact sedan was GM's top-selling car but its sales fell 30% in May. The Malibu midsize sedan gained 13% to become the company's best-selling car.
Buick brand sales were off 22%, Cadillac fell 16% to 12,099 vehicles and Chevrolet sales declined 19%.
FoMoCo sales fell 6%, even as sales for the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. market, the F-Series pickup, rose 9%. But Ford's car sales declined 25%; Fusion sales fell 22% and the Focus dropped 27%. Sales were essentially flat for Ford-branded SUVs. Lincoln sales were up 7% to 9,807 units, mostly due to SUV sales.
Sales at Fiat-Chrysler rose 1% overall; saved, as usual by its Jeep brand which gained 14%. Ram pickup truck sales fell 3% last month. Dodge was down 5% and the Chrysler brand dropped 19% - the same as Fiat's monthly sales decline.
Toyota Motor Co. reported that its sales fell 10% in May; Lexus sales dropped 10% as well. American Honda declined 5%, while its Acura luxury brand fell a whopping 20%.
Hyundai-Kia experienced a 6.3% increase while Volkswagen sales continued to slide - down 17% in May. Mazda sales were off 4% in May, while Nissan sales declined 1%. Subaru sales were up 1%.
Luxury nameplate Mercedes-Benz sales were flat, while BMW experienced a 6% decline. Audi sales were up 2%, while Infiniti sales increased by 3%.
The rich weren't buying Bentleys last month - sales dropped a whopping 54% to 112 vehicles but Bentley still outsold Alfa-Romeo by 2.5 to 1.
Errands: I didn't get any old car rides in last week because either it was raining or I was just too busy on the better days. At 9:30 am on Tuesday, temperatures were already in the upper 60s, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and drove to town for a fill up. On the way, I stopped at the Battle Ground Library to drop off 40 pounds of almost-overdue books. I got compliments from one of the library helpers on my old car, as well as nice words from an older guy at the Chevron station who was gassing up his smart car at the pump opposite me.
Afterwards, I took a nice ride along Clark County's back roads under gorgeous blue skies. Good thing I went out when I did. By 2:30 pm, temperatures had reached 91 degrees. I drove to Vancouver for a leisurely lunch with a friend and, by the time, I got back in my Lexus, it was like an oven inside. The car has a great A/C unit but my LS 460 was so heat soaked that it took a while to get comfortable.
Despite the heat, Mt. St. Helens was still a slightly flattened half-ball of snow.
Drugs Here Versus Drugs Abroad: On the few occasions when I needed to buy prescriptions outside the U.S., I was surprised at how cheap they seemed.
Karl Denninger related an anecdotal tale from one of his readers. "My parents were just vacationing in Europe (they go often so they're aware of how stuff works). My mom is diabetic and had a shortage of insulin while in France, they went to the drugstore and she showed the bottle of Humalog which is what she uses in the United States and the price in the United States is around $240 a bottle which is charged to her Medicare and insurance and can only be prescribed by her doctor.
The pharmacist recognized the bottle and without having to go to a doctor sold her a bottle of insulin for US $25.00. This is the same brand made by Eli Lilly that she gets in the United States and why in the in the world that should be 1/10 of the price without having to go to the doctor for a prescription."
However, if you go overseas and fill your suitcase with cheap, U.S.-legal prescription drugs from another country, you will probably find yourself in jail after you encounter U.S. Customs. Sounds like government-sponsored price-fixing to me.
Karl added, "Put a stop to the racket and the cost of obtaining medical care, whether it be drug, device, service or procedure will drop like a stone. Further, no new laws are actually necessary since between 15 USC and state consumer protection laws are plenty-sufficient on their own. The entire rubric of "must buy insurance or be bankrupted by any material medical emergency" certainly fits the definition of a force-tied sale that also facially appears to be unlawful under that very same body of law.
You have been and are today being robbed with the explicit cooperation and assistance of the Federal and State governments folks." Amen.
Perhaps Donald Trump will 'fix' Medicare and Medicaid by putting an end to government and drug company collusion.
When Nobody Wins, Everybody Loses: Students at a Texas high school who earned the right to wear National Honor Society stoles at graduation were reportedly informed by the school that they will not be allowed to wear them because it is not inclusive of all students.
A National Honor Society sponsor told a parent that administrators from Plano Senior High School do not want to single any students out. In other words, let's punish the hard-working winners.
Book Review: 'The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero' by Timothy Egan
Born into a well-connected Irish Catholic family in 1823 and provided with a good university education, Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced 'Mahr') could easily have prospered by accepting British rule. But, appalled and angered by the attitude and policy of the British which exacerbated starvation and misery during the Irish potato famine, Meagher became a leader during the Irish Rebellion of 1848. Convicted of sedition, he was initially sentenced to death but was instead transported to the British penal colony of Tasmania. He escaped to America, where he was hailed as an Irish here by his fellow countrymen who had emigrated from Ireland.
Opposed to slavery, Meagher joined the Union Army during the Civil War and, after leading the famous Irish Brigade in numerous bloody battlers (including Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg), rose to the rank of General. After the war ... (more >>>)
I Thought She Was A Lot Older ... Like 90 Or Something: Jan Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, has died at age 78 of a stroke.
She was usually seen perched on gaudy, gold and white faux-Louis XVI furniture, begging for more money to "help with God's work." Wearing a big platinum wig with cascading-ringlets, Jan Crouch could have passed for Dyan Cannon's mother, although Jan was actually a year younger than Dyan. Jan wore so much black eye-shadow, she often looked like a badger. Or the Hamburgler.
In 2012, Mrs. Crouch was accused by her granddaughter, a former employee and chief finance director of the network (a registered charity), of misappropriating network funds to spend on a lavish lifestyle. Expenditures included expensive homes, private jets, massive custom wigs, and a $100,000 air conditioned mobile home solely for her dogs. The New York Times wrote that Crouch, for nearly two years, rented adjoining rooms for herself and her two Maltese dogs, at the deluxe Loews Portofino Bay Hotel while she was building the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Florida. Meanwhile, children in the Third World were starving.
I've posted more about Jan and her late husband, Paul, here.
Quote Of The Day is from Ross Perot: "Success depends on how you react to unexpected opportunities."
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