A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Friday July 31, 2015
AutoSketch: 1954 Buick Wildcat II - Fifties Dream
In the early postwar years, General Motors was an unstoppable force. In those days, GM had over 50% automotive market share in the U.S. Its Electro-Motive Division was the foremost producer of diesel locomotives. Its Frigidare Division was a household name and its washers, dryers and refrigerators could be found in homes across the U.S.
To showcase its automotive might, General Motors presented Transportation Unlimited in 1949. It was the precursor to the famous Motorama extravaganzas and was open to the public.
The Motoramas began in 1950, ending in 1961. They were spectacular product showcases and usually included GM's latest Dream Cars. Typical sites for these public shows were the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York and the Pan Pacific auditorium in Los Angeles. The displays were elaborate, with animated displays and cutaways, elegant female models and, sometimes, song & dance routines.
Public interest in GM's offerings was so great that, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm on January 21, 1953, over 12,000 visitors passed through the Waldorf Motorama exhibit, totally ignoring the televised swearing-in of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike rode in a white '53 Cadillac Eldorado convertible in Washington's post-inaugural parade.
The 1954 General Motors' Motorama exhibit opened in New York City in January and later did a four-city tour (Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago). In addition to GM's production models, ten concept cars were on exhibition. These 'dream cars' included ... (more >>>)
Hot Enough For Ya? My '39 Plymouth coupe was in the shop yesterday for some brake work. When I picked it up at 2:30 pm, the outside temperature was 106 degrees! (High temperature for today is forecast to be 101 degrees and it's going to be a hot weekend, too.)
Even though I ran the A/C all the way home and experienced a lot of start-stop traffic, the temperature gauge never rose above normal, once again proving the value of the new, improved radiator installed a few months ago.
My friend Dennis drove me to the shop in his 2014 Volkswagen Passat. It rode well and he's had no troubles whatsoever with it in over a year of ownership.
A&P Bankrupt - Again: The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Inc., which controls the A&P supermarket chain, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. The filing marked the second Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the 156-year-old A&P chain in the past five years.
A&P was founded in 1859. The company claims credit for introducing the first U.S. supermarket in 1936, a 28,125-square-foot store in Braddock, PA. The chain boasted nearly 16,000 stores by the 1940s.
In 1940s Philadelphia, there was an old Great Atlantic and Pacific grocery store on Frankford Avenue. As supermarkets took over in the postwar era, these smaller stores disappeared.
A&P Supermarkets were the corporate replacements for Atlantic and Pacific. I remember, as a five year-old, going to the A&P on Cottman Avenue in Philadelphia with my mom and strolling down the coffee aisle, inhaling the sweet fumes wafting forth from the big grinder with the chrome-plated knob.
Condemning Capitalism: Pope Francis has been excoriating capitalism lately, blaming it for causing global injustice and climate change, and even comparing the excesses of capitalism to the "dung of the devil."
Previously, Pope Francis has attacked the "dictatorship" of the global financial system and warned that the "cult of money" was making life a misery for millions.
He said free-market capitalism had created a "tyranny" and that human beings were being judged purely by their ability to consume goods. He also said that money should be made only to "serve" people. Presumably other people, as opposed to the ones making the money.
American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks wrote that between 1970 and 2010 the worst poverty in the world people who live on one dollar a day or less that has decreased by 80%. Why? How? "United Nations? US foreign aid? The International Monetary Fund? Central planning? No.
It was globalization, free trade, the boom in international entrepreneurship. In short, it was the free enterprise system, American style, which is our gift to the world.
I will state, assert and defend the statement that if you love the poor, if you are a good Samaritan, you must stand for the free enterprise system, and you must defend it, not just for ourselves but for people around the world. It is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented."
When you sit on a golden throne like the Pope does, I guess it's pretty easy to lecture people that money is the root of all evil. Like many of his predecessors, this Pope is clueless about basic economics. The fact is money is simply a way to convert the fruits of one's labor into a tradable form.
In her book, 'Who Built That', Michelle Malkin quoted venture capital guru, Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins, who noted that the wealthy cause neither poverty nor inequality. "They are the job creators. I think Kleiner Perkins itself over the years has created pretty close to a million jobs and we're still doing it."
I'll choose the dogma of Arthur Brooks and Tom Perkins over Pope Francis. And I'd recommend that the Pope sit down and read a very informative book by one his own priests - 'Defending The Free Market' by Rev. Robert Sirico.
Libertarian Economist Murray Rothbard once said ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day is from baseball legend Dizzy Dean: "How do they know where to put the gas stations? I mean, how do they know which street corners the gas is under?"
Wednesday July 29, 2015
Zapping Your Lungs: A new study reveals that electric cars have an overall impact on pollution that may be worse than gas-guzzling vehicles.
The study looked at U.S. vehicle emissions on a county-level to map where gas cars and electric vehicles cause the most damage to the environment.
It found that, in the eastern U.S., the impact of charging up EVs overnight does more harm to the environment than going to a gas station.
Electric cars were marginal in 1911, when everyone realized their limitations. The technology has not improved much since then and, because they are subject to the laws of materials science, electric cars are inefficient and, essentially, coal fired in most cases. If dirty 'ol anthracite is the primary source fuel for an electric power grid, then - de facto - electric cars are not clean vehicles. Regardless of what self-styled environmentalist friends proclaim.
Electric vehicles don't make much sense in any ... (more >>>)
Is It Too Soon For TTAC To Start The Fiat-Chrysler Death Watch? In an order detailing the largest civil penalty for an automaker so far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that "Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could have to buy back 500,000 defective trucks and accept trade-in above market value for 1 million defective Jeeps.
The automaker's record $105 million fine includes a $70 million penalty, $20 million set aside for meeting safety standards dictated by the federal bureau and an additional $15 million in penalties if an independent monitor discovers further safety violations."
The record ruling comes after the agency said FCA botched recalls of more than 11 million vehicles for wide ranging issues, including Jeep models with rear gas tanks that could catch fire in rear collisions - a problem which has been linked to over 50 deaths. (permalink)
Another Missed Marketing Opportunity: You'd think that the makers of Imodium, the anti-diarrhea pill, would sell a pill for constipation called Modium.
What's Up, Doc? Happy birthday to Bugs Bunny, who is now 75 years old.
The Warner Brothers icon everybody knows and loves first appeared on July 27, 1940 in 'Wild Hare', a cartoon short directed by Tex Avery. The clip featured a wily Bugs Bunny outsmarting Elmer Fudd, who hunts for a "silly wabbit" in vain.
Bugs Bunny was an instant star and became one of the world's best-known cartoon characters, starring in more than 175 films, receiving three Oscar nominations, one Academy Award, and appearing in comic books, TV specials and video games.
Book Review: 'Reagan: The Life' by H.W. Brands
Author Brands, in his detailed, almost 800 page biography, establishes Ronald Reagan as one of the two great presidents of the twentieth century, a true peer to Reagan's idol, Franklin Roosevelt. This is interesting, because, in 1988, 'noted' historian Arthur Schlesinger (who should have known better - it takes 30-50 years to develop perspective on any president), wrote, "A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today." Schlesinger couldn't have been more wrong.
The author followed a young Ronald Reagan as his ambition caused him to leave his small town in Illinois to become a radio announcer and eventually, a movie star. When his acting career plateaued, he became the voice of television's 'General Electric Theater', making him an spokesman for 1950s corporate America. Then Reagan entered politics, becoming governor of California. That started him on a path which led to his election in 1980 as president of the United States.
Brands noted that Reagan accomplished much during his two terms. He ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Nobel Prize winner in Economics Friedrich von Hayek: "If socialists understood economics, they wouldn't be socialists."
Monday July 27, 2015
Chopped & Channeled: If suicide doors were such a good idea, why not guillotine doors?
Nice Weather We're Having: On a busy Friday, I managed to get a drive in my 1939 Plymouth coupe. The weather was July-gorgeous - blue skies with puffy clouds here and there and a comfortable temperature of 66 degrees at 10:00 am. (By 3:00 pm, it was 80 degrees.)
The roads weren't too busy and I enjoyed my little back roads trek. Saturday brought clouds and rain, as did Sunday.
Small Request: If you're so inclined, please direct your prayers and good wishes to my good friend and car buddy, Ray L., whom I've known for over 55 years. Last week, Ray fell in his garage, breaking his right arm and left leg. That leg is attached to an ankle which was scheduled for fusion surgery on August 3rd and has been quite a source of pain for him.
In 2002, Ray and I embarked on an eight-day, all-car/all-rail extravaganza, visiting every car, train, trolley and model train attraction in Southern California. Here's Ray, admiring a 1952 Muntz Jet convertible at the Dear Park Winery during our trip:
I'm keeping Ray in my prayers and I hope you will too.
Death Panels Are Back: Remember when the mainstream media excoriated Sarah Palin for her claims that government death panels are coming? Well, they're almost here.
Betsy McCaughey wrote, "Medicare said on Wednesday it wants to start paying for end-of-life counseling. It's being sold as "death with dignity," but it's more like dying for dollars. Seniors are nudged to forego life-sustaining procedures and hospital care to go into hospice. That enriches the booming hospice industry and also frees up dollars for the left's favored social causes."
Why is the government meddling with how we cope with death? The Institute of Medicine doesn't mince words. Scrimping on seniors will free up money "to fund highly targeted and carefully tailored social services for both children and adults." Just like ObamaCare. Robbing Grandma to spread the wealth.
In 2009, President Obama said seniors are getting too many procedures and maybe they're "better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller." Obama's health guru ... (more >>>)
What Do Auschwitz, Negro Lynchings and Planned Parenthood Have In Common? Committing murder in the name of an abhorrent and evil ideology.
Fox News Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume "laid bare the essentially brutal nature of abortion." His commanding denouncement of the industry followed the July 14 release of "stomach-turning" Planned Parenthood videos, which showed officials coolly discussing the traffic of fetal body parts while eating lunch.
"Those revelations … have parted the veil of antiseptic tidiness behind which the abortion industry has for so long operated," Hume declared. "Let's be blunt," he continued. "Abortion involves the extraction and killing of a human life, which within a couple of weeks of pregnancy has a beating heart. Five weeks in, its hands and legs begin to grow ... It is these tiny creatures and too often ones that are far more developed that are pulled from a mother's womb and crushed with forceps, oh, but oh so carefully, lest body parts which could later be sold are preserved."
"This gruesome procedure shows the extent to which we, as a people, have been anesthetized by the estimated 55 million - 55 million! - abortions performed since the Supreme Court discovered a constitutional right to that procedure 42 years ago."
Hume concluded, "Will we as a nation not someday come to look upon that decision and what it has done to us, not to mention the 55 million, with horror and regret? One can only hope we will."
When Roe-v-Wade became law ... (more >>>)
Make A Wish: Tom McMahon has one. "I'd like to see Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner wear a fake turtleneck just so we could watch him remove his Dickey."
Quote Of The Day is from Charles G. Hill: "I do not, generally, endorse the notion of reincarnation. Nor did I when I was here last time."
Friday July 24, 2015
Happy Birthday to my wife:
Thursday July 23, 2015
Look Out! It's The Cops:
Crime Trolleys: The Portland Tribune reported that "the number of police officers in Portland (Oregon) has declined by 9% since 2001, even as the city's population grew by 13%, resulting in a 20% decline in officers per capita. This decline is typical for a city that is neglecting its streets, its schools, and other essential services all so that it can fund streetcars and transit-oriented developments."
The Other America: The number of beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, has exceeded 45 million for 48 straight months, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). In April 2015, the latest month from which data is available, there were 45,438,832 beneficiaries of the food stamp program. Hardly a sign of economic recovery.
Regular readers of this blog know there are at least eight Americas.
Unproductive Money: Recently, Scott Grannis wrote that "almost three-fourths of all the money spent by the federal government is now in the form of transfer payments - that is, taking money from those who work and giving it to those who don't work. In the year ending last May, the federal government sent out checks totaling over $2.6 trillion to people who were "entitled" to the money for various reasons (e.g., they were retired, they received food stamps, welfare, disability insurance, etc.), meaning they did nothing in exchange. Very little of what the federal government spends goes to productive investments."
In 1970, the figure was around 35%.
I would point out that Social Security payments are payouts of a government forced annuity investment of one's own money, rather than a free entitlement.
Book Review: 'Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You about Economics' by John Tamny
John Tamny serves as a Forbes editor as well as an editor of RealClear Markets. He uses real-world examples from sports, movies and popular culture to demonstrate economic principles. The author writes in an understandable style, making the book an easy read.
I agree with almost everything the author espouses except ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "Everything that's fun in life is dangerous. Horse races, for instance, are very dangerous. But attempt to design a safe horse and the result is a cow (an appalling animal to watch at the trotters.) And everything that isn't fun is dangerous too. It is impossible to be alive and safe."
Tuesday July 21, 2015
Deals To Be Made: I've heard that the record volume of vehicle sales was being helped along by hot finance and lease deals but I didn't realize the big dollar incentives out there.
Aaron Cole of TTAC set me straight: "Buyers could get up to $8,000 knocked of the price of a Kia K900 or up to $7,000 off of Ford hybrids or electric cars - even $8,000 for the 2015 Ford C-Max Energi. ... Two automakers increased spending on their incentives by more than 30 percent over the same time last year Nissan and Hyundai. As a percentage of incentives offered to ATP, Kia (11.7%), Hyundai (10.5%), Nissan (10.3%), GM (10.2%) and FCA (10.2%) were the biggest spenders last month."
This helps explain how FCA, with so many mediocre cars, is keeping sales levels up. Doug DeMoro once wrote, "Chrysler ... would finance a stray dog as long as it doesn't pee in the showroom."
Meanwhile, Ford -in a move reeking of desperation - has put $11,000 on the hood of some of its new, slow-selling aluminum F-150 pickups. "The truck hasn't sold up to expectations for the most part," said Akshay Anand, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "This may be a hint that in certain parts of the country, the issue might just be more than supply."
The Cookie Has Crumbled: The legendary Nabisco plant in Far Northeast Philadelphia has closed for good. The 600,000-square-foot bakery on Roosevelt Boulevard rolled out their last batches of cookies - Cinnamon Teddy Grahams. Among the products made on the Boulevard in recent years were Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, Lorna Doone cookies and Teddy Graham crackers. In the early days, the plant produced the much-loved (by me) Chocolate Circle Cookies, an item which was discontinued in the late 1960s.
The old National Biscuit Company had a bakery at Broad Street and Glenwood Avenue for decades before building the new plant on a 27-acre tract at 12000 Roosevelt Blvd. in the mid-1950s. At one time, the place could produce 10,000 cases of cookies, six boxes to a case, in a single shift. In the 1960s, it ran 24 hours per day.
Just about every NE Philly resident has a story about driving along Roosevelt Boulevard near the Woodhaven Expressway while salivating at the powerful smell of fresh cookies being baked. The pleasant odor wafted across the Boulevard and through nearby neighborhoods regularly. I remember it well; the smell seemed particularly strong after ... (more >>>)
Twenty-One Years After NAFTA: Exactly what do we trade with Mexico? Karl Denninger provided an answer. "We export jobs to them.
We import from them drugs, violent gangs, and people who are alleged to commit kidnapping, sexual assault and murder.
But this is a "good deal" for America - right?"
In the first 3 months of 2015, we had an almost $13 billion trade deficit with our NAFTA 'partner' Mexico - a rate of over $50 billion annually.
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "If 'Fantasy Island' really granted wishes, why wasn't Tattoo 6'6"?"
Friday July 17, 2015
My Cup Runneth Over: On Wednesday, I drove to town to gas up my '39 Plymouth coupe. While I was busy transcribing the start/end mileage on my notebook, I heard splashing. The auto shutoff on the nozzle failed to work and Premium was cascading down the rear fender of my newly-painted car.
I shut off the nozzle manually and then spent several minutes hosing off the offended area. I was pissed off because I've used this Chevron station almost exclusively ever since I purchased the Plymouth over 21 years ago and never had an overflow.
I drove home under partly cloudy skies - Mt. St. Helens was covered with clouds. Temperature was a moderate 68 degrees at 10:30 am. When I got home, I recleaned the fender and applied a coat of protective wax to it. It seems to be OK.
Smart Car Beats Motorcycle: Yeah, I didn't believe it either at first. But Jack Baruth - rhymes with Truth - is a credible writer and includes 'lap' times and other details in his entertaining story.
Name Recycling? For 2016, Mercedes-Benz is offering the GLC, a small crossover. It replaces the compact luxury-crossover, the GLK.
Remember that little hatchback coupe introduced in 1977 - the Mazda GLC? Ads of the period proclaimed that GLC meant Great Little Car, using a jingle set to the tune of 'Spanish Flea'. And I'm told that it really was a great little car for the price. Don't assume that for the Mercedes GLC.
At The Shore - 2015 Edition: My brother recently returned from a Wildwood, NJ vacation. Knowing that my wife and I enjoy all things Jersey shore-related, he sent me a copy of 'The Sun By The Sea' magazine, a pulp newspaper loaded with local ads. Last year, I summarized some of the more interesting items; this year brought a new batch.
I love the tacky ads, the unique offerings and the catchy, memorable and sometimes outrageous business names. The Duke of Fluke in Sommers Point, offers Four Hour Bay Fishing. In my day, Sommers Point used to be a big drinking and party town for college kids - I wonder if it still is?
Wildwood's Crab Island Liquor Store is still around, selling "wines, beers, liquors, cigars, cigarettes and lottery." What else could you possibly need? Munchies in North Wildwood offers The Ultimate Munchie: two extra-large cheese pizzas, 20 Buffalo wings and two-liters of soda for $29.95.
The Star Diner Cafe of N. Wildwood competes with the neighboring Vegas Diner and the Surfside West Diner in Wildwood by-the-Sea. In the same part of town is the Ravoili House, operated by Teresa for "45 Delicious Years!" The Italian-American Festival features over 40 vendors and the Grand Marshal is a fellow named ... (more >>>)
Ancient Medicine Is Sometimes The Best: A thousand year-old Anglo-Saxon remedy for eye infections which originates from a manuscript in the British Library has been found to kill the modern-day superbug MRSA.
Early results on the 'potion', tested in vitro at Nottingham, UK and backed up by mouse model tests at a university in the United States, are, in the words of the US collaborator, "astonishing." The solution has had remarkable effects on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which is one of the most antibiotic-resistant bugs costing modern health services billions.
"The recipe calls for two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine and oxgall (bile from a cow's stomach). It describes a very specific method of making the topical solution including the use of a brass vessel to brew it in, a straining to purify it and an instruction to leave the mixture for nine days before use."
I wonder what would happen if you added a little salt and Eye of Newt?
Quote Of The Day is from David Burge: "Most of the smartest people I know went to college. All of the stupidest people I know went to college."
Wednesday July 15, 2015
Bouncing, Ducking And Weaving: If you're a Philadelphian of a certain age, you may remember the automotive pinball alley known as Delaware Avenue.
Located by the river of the same name, it was the industrial nexus of water, truck and rail shipping. The City of Philadelphia owned the Belt Line Railroad, built in ... (more >>>)
Curing What Ails Ya: It rained a bit on Sunday night and early Monday morning but the sun soon appeared and dried everything up. But I just didn't feel well enough to do anything. I've been feeling out-of-sorts ever since I had a medical procedure last week. On Monday afternoon, I took a little walk in the hope that fresh air and sunshine would perk me up. It was a perkless experience.
On Monday night, as I tossed and turned trying to shut down that freight train running through the middle of my brain and catch some ZZZZs, it occurred to me that one change last was the resumption of a medication I had taken a couple of years ago. The doctor who did the procedure thought it might help.
I didn't take it Tuesday morning and everything started to get better from there.
At 9:00 am on Tuesday, the temperature was a very comfortable 65 degrees and the sun was an angry orange ball, indicating that a hot afternoon would soon be upon us. Temperatures eventually reached 82 degrees here. The sky was a bright summer blue and had only a few wispy clouds.
It had been almost a week since my last old car excursion, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive. Rush hour was over and the roads were almost empty, making for a pleasant trip. At the four-way stop sign in Brush Prairie, I was feeling so well that I gave the old coupe the gas for a little get-up-n-scoot. I actually burned rubber. Geezer delinquent.
I'm convinced that rides in my old Plymouth are both a form of therapy and a folk remedy. I feel good as I write this - almost ready to take another drive.
So Much For 'Rest In Peace': A judge in Argentina has ordered the body of the late, great racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio exhumed in order to carry out a DNA test.
"As part of an ongoing a posthumous paternity suit, the judge ordered that the late champion's body be exhumed on August 7 from its grave in Fangio's home town of Balcare, Argentina, for a DNA test to determine if Fangio was indeed Oscar Espinoza's father." Espinoza is the son of Fangio's mistress, Andrea Berreut.
Fangio died in 1995 at age 84. During his long racing career, he had driven for Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes and Ferrari. Juan Manuel Fangio began his racing career in Argentina in 1934, driving a 1929 Ford Model A which he had rebuilt.
Another Sign Of The Apocalypse: In 2019, there will be a 'Hello Kitty' movie.
"Iconic Japanese brand Hello Kitty, famous globally for the red-bowed cat with six symmetrical whiskers, is getting her own film adaptation. Japanese lifestyle company Sanrio is planning to finance and produce a feature based on the character and release it globally in 2019. The film will go through Sanrio's recently established U.S. subsidiary. The project will have an expected budget of anywhere from $160 million-$240 million."
Marketing 101 - Find A Need/Want & Fill It: Donald Trump pinatas are now for sale in Mexico.
"A pinata maker in Mexico is taking swings at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump following his remarks about Mexican immigrants."
Ya gotta give it to The Donald. He speaks his mind. And he's right about illegal immigration. I've written more about immigrants here.
I wonder if they make Hello Kitty pinatas? Yes they do.
Book Review: 'Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen' by Mary Norris
The author has spent over 35 years in The New Yorker's copy department, maintaining its celebrated, if quirky, grammatical standards. Prior to that, Mary Norris held a variety of jobs - some odd including Foot Checker at a public pool in Cleveland and delivering milk as a 'milk lady'.
The book is a mixture of humorous observations, reminiscences and details of proper grammar and punctuation. The quality of book varies between entertaining and tedious, depending on the subject matter.
Here are some observations ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Moe Szyslak: "Man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?"
Monday July 13, 2015
What New York Really Needs ... is a 'Taxi of Yesterday'. The unattractive Nissan NV 200, once referred to as the Taxi of Tomorrow, has been crowned the new official taxi for NYC by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The Nissan is dull and uninspired and will never become iconic like the late, great Checkers of yore. Where's that New York City style, edginess and audacity?
New York deserves something more fun: cartoon cabs, looking like the Toontown yellow taxicab or Speedy Gonzales' Tijuana Taxi.
Ones that will generate tire-screeching noises with the slightest lateral move, have horns that can go 'Oooooga' and make sounds like a giant whoopee cushion whenever they hit a pothole. And have big eyes for headlights.
And broadcast random, side-of the mouth, wiseguy comments in a '40s Brooklyn accent, like "Hey toots, ya look hot." (permalink)
Another Sign Of End Times? Lotus plans to introduce an SUV model.
What's next? Lightweight bulldozers? Streamlined agricultural equipment? A stylish Ditch Witch?
When the four horsemen of the apocalypse finally show up, I believe they'll be wearing those 'Buy One - Get Three More Free' suits from Joseph A. Bank. (permalink)
Jobless Recovery Explained: Recently, Bill McBride posted a graph showing job losses and recovery times for post-World War II recessions. It deserves some analysis and explanation ... so, here goes:
Connecting The Dots: Stilton Jarisberg of Hope n' Change is on vacation but wrote that if he "weren't enjoying a well deserved day off, we might write an entire editorial about how a lot of seemingly unrelated recent news stories all seem to be pieces of the same big puzzle. One that, when assembled, paints a pretty frightening picture for America's future.
What are those puzzle pieces? Obama's plan to "Affirmatively Further Fair Housing" by making sure that no neighborhood contains only people who can afford to live there. His wide open border policy, his support of sanctuary cities, and his propensity to distribute both criminal and medically dangerous individuals throughout the nation."
President Obama said Saturday he will use the power of the federal government to pressure communities to integrate low-income minorities into affluent areas. Obama said his administration is implementing a new rule that will require communities to frequently review the racial and socio-economic makeup of local neighborhoods and regularly report the results to the federal government.
The Fair Housing Act was passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson to initiate his failed Great Society. Critics charge that its programs, which included housing projects in cities and welfare payments to single mothers, led to the destruction of the black family. And I can state from personal experience that those HUD Section 8 housing programs decimated pleasant, middle-class, racially-mixed communities.
"Other pieces of the puzzle: muzzling free speech with all of the foolishness about the confederate flag, denigrating white people and American history, and not only fining but putting gag orders on bakers who choose to incorporate their religious beliefs in their livelihoods.
But there's more! Consider that the Supreme Court essentially declared that states' rights are meaningless with their ruling on gay marriage (and also eroded the entire legal concept of marriage), and then upped the ante by declaring in their Obamacare ruling that the very concept of "state" is now meaningless. And let's not forget that this same Supreme Court then ruled that federal voter registration forms must be accepted by the states, even though they don't require the applicants to prove - or even declare - citizenship.
We'd also look at the public ending of fixed gender identity ("gender neutral" bathrooms have recently been added to the White House), replacing parents with government on little matters like removing or altering the genitalia of children, and Obamacare not only making healthcare less affordable but encouraging people to consider end of life options which are (less than coincidentally) the cheapest for Washington's bean counters.
When you put all those pieces together, or "connect the dots" as the Democrats used to say when Bush was in office, you see the entire fabric of American society being rapidly and deliberately unraveled by orders and edicts."
Please try to remember all this when you cast your vote in 2016.
Quote Of The Day is from Ronald Reagan: "Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth."
Thursday July 9, 2015
Whither Scion? Whither Scion? Scion VP Doug Murtha recently told WardsAuto that as of the end of this year, the ScionxB will be gone. "It will have lived just one year longer than the Scion xD, which was updated for the 2014 model year and at one point had been expected to live until the end of this year." The odd iQ has also been discontinued.
Rolling boxes seemed to be a short-lived fad whose time in the sun is over. The Honda Element ... (more >>>)
Fan Gifts: Many thanks to Mark E. of Texas who sent me two 1:43 scale diecast model cars in appreciation of my View Through The Windshield blog.
One is a ... (more >>>)
"We Just Need More Volume": There's an old joke about Vinnie and Tony, who decided to become truck farmers. Every morning they drove their little truck down to Vineland, NJ to pick up a load of tomatoes. Then they drove back and sold tomatoes to customers on the streets of South Philadelphia. Because of competition, they had to sell the tomatoes for just a little more than they paid for them. And that didn't include costs - gas for the truck, wages for Vinnie and Tony, etc.
After two months, they were losing $5,000 per month. "We're going broke!" exclaimed Tony. "Nah," said Vinnie. "We just need a bigger truck."
I fear that the joke is becoming real. Uber Technologies Inc. - of Uber car service fame - is telling prospective investors "that it generates $470 million in operating losses on $415 million in revenue, according to a document provided to prospective investors.
The term sheet viewed by Bloomberg News, which is being used to sell $1 billion to $1.2 billion in convertible bonds, doesn't make clear the time period for those results. The document also touts 300% year-over-year growth."
Probably from buying a bigger tomato truck. (permalink)
Book Review: 'The Wright Brothers' by David McCullough
The Wright Brothers are awarded merely a single sentence in most school history textbooks but there's much more to the story and it deserves telling. David McCullough manages to flesh out the story line with a great deal of detail in this 301 page tome, yet the story never bogs down or becomes lost in tedious trivia. I suppose that's why the author won two Pulitzer Prizes (so far).
Wilbur and Orville Wright taught the world how to fly. Consummate tinkerers and mechanics who kept detailed records of their experiments, they learned from their various trials and eventually made in a successful powered flight on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 1903. The Wrights were self-funded; they lived frugally and owned a successful bicycle business in Dayton, Ohio. Compare that to the Smithsonian Institute which spent $70,000 in taxpayer dollars - almost $2 million in today's currency - on an albatross of a plane that crashed into the Potomac River. Another failed government boondoggle.
McCullough wrote ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day is from Dave Burge: "Is it okay to yell "THEATER!" in a crowded firehouse?"
Tuesday July 7, 2015
Hot Fourth: Independence Day temperatures around here eventually reached a sizzling 95 degrees.
Naturally, I took a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. At 8:15 am, the roads were nearly empty, the temperature was a comfortable 64 degrees, the sun was bright and the skies were pale summer blue. The morning fog had not yet burned off, draping the surrounding hills and mountains in a wispy gauze.
I had the windows down and played American rock-n-roll through the old coupe's twin speakers during my travels.
It was a good way to start the day. As usual, we cooked burgers on the grill and enjoyed them along with my wife's Famous Potato Salad. We weren't alone. Americans everywhere barbecued on grills, marched in star-spangled parades, ran relay races, gathered for fireworks shows and crowned a new world hot dog eating champion as they celebrated Independence Day in traditional style on Saturday. What was missing? Terrorist attacks.
Thanks to many nameless lawmen, vigilant analysts and committed faceless bureaucrats, we were spared any terrorist attacks on our soil. You know the terrorists were trying; the symbolism of Independence Day was too tempting for them. But they failed - thanks to all the behind-the-scenes, unsung heroes who worked hard and smart to keep Americans safe.
Not everything went perfectly. Over forty-thousand people at Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, WA) got a shortened fireworks show when the very dry grass at Pearson Field caught fire underneath the flatbed trucks where the fireworks were launched. They used to fire the rockets from barges on the Columbia River - a much smarter idea. I wonder what moron was responsible for moving the show to dry land? (And, this year, the land was very dry.)
We watched the Fort Vancouver spectacle on television and, compared with outstanding and stirring 'A Capital Fourth' on PBS and Macy's New York fireworks, it was pretty lame.
PS: I took another Plymouth drive yesterday and it was awesome. At 8:30 am, the rush-hour traffic had abated, the skies were blue with a few puffy clouds and the temperature was a comfortable 65 degrees. One of my neighbors passed me going the other way; he was out exercising his custom yellow '27 T street rod in the morning sun. By the afternoon, temperatures reached 93 degrees.
Over Twenty Thousand Losers: Tesla Motors Inc. announced preliminary deliveries of 11,507 Model S sedans in the second quarter of 2015, its highest ever total. The company delivered 10,030 units in the first quarter, bringing its total for the year to 21,537.
Tesla is still losing money on every vehicle it sells. (permalink)
Branding - The Battle For The Car Buyer's Mind: In 1980, marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote 'Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind'.
Positioning is also defined as the way by which the marketers attempt to create a distinct impression or perception in the customer's mind; specifically, "the place a product, brand, or group of products occupies in consumers' minds relative to competing offerings."
Perception is reality - you are whatever other people think you are. Branding is part of the positioning/perception process. The principles outlined in Ries & Trout's various books are applicable to all types of products and companies in all industries ... (more >>>)
Happy Birthday to my mom who would have turned 97 years old this week.
The Old Rules No Longer Apply: Financial columnist Malcolm Berko recently wrote, "A portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% bonds when you retire ... is by the book and industrial-strength stupid. If you were retired today and 40% of your portfolio were in bonds, you'd be collecting food stamps, using Medicaid, applying for housing assistance and shopping at Dollar Tree, The Salvation Army and flea markets."
Most good stocks deliver better inflation-adjusted returns than bonds; issues such as Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon Communications, Exxon Mobil, Southern Co. and ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Remember, an unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys."
Friday July 3, 2015
Roll Out Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer: That 1963 Nat King Cole hit ran through my mind as I was driving along country roads in my '39 Plymouth coupe on Wednesday morning.
The sun was bright and, even at 9:00 am, the temperature was already up to 70 degrees (it would reach 96 by afternoon) and, due to a lack of rain, there was a bit of haze in the air.
I could just barely make out Mt. St. Helens through the haze. Traffic was light and I had a good drive.
Happy 4th, everyone!
June Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.1 million SAAR in June - up 1.5% from June 2014, and down 3.5% from the 17.7 million annual sales rate last month. Cheap gas and readily available financing are keeping sales at a high level.
Ford Motor Co. posted a U.S. sales increase of 2% year-over-year in June to 225,647 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with June 2014 sales of 222,064. Truck sales declined 0.7% for the month after falling 5.1% in May.
After repeated assurances that sales of Ford’s flagship F-150 would rise as production of the new generation model came online, the opposite held true in June. Sales of the F-Series collapsed another 9% to 55,171. Truck sales declined 1% for the month after falling 5% in May. Ford is seriously missing its truck targets, apparently due to slow start-up and build-up of the new F-150. Ford has said that F-150 sales will strengthen in the second half of this year, once the second assembly plant in Kansas City is running at full capacity.
On a more positive note, sales of Lincoln vehicles rose 15% year over year. Car sales totaled 3,068 units in June and utility vehicle sales totaled 5,258 units.
Year-over-year, sales rose 8% at Fiat-Chrysler in June to 185,035 units, the company's best June sales level since 2006. The Jeep brand posted its best June sales ever, with Patriot sales up 41%, Wrangler sales up 17% and Cherokee sales up 39%. The company's Jeep brand sold 71,529 units in June. Jeep has now set a sales record for 21 consecutive months.
Ram pickup sales rose only 1% in June to 33,332 units, and Dodge brand sales were down 14% year over year in June and are now down 16% for the year to date. Sales of the venerable Caravan dropped 40% in May and are down 49% for the year. Dropping sales continues to fuel rumors that the Dodge brand may not be long for this world.
Year over year, sales of the Chrysler brand are up 28%, as sales of the new Chrysler 200 jumped 153% to 18,560 units. Year to date, Chrysler 200 sales are up 136% and Chrysler brand sales are up 21%. Fiat sales fell 30% compared with June '14.
General Motors, the largest manufacturer of new vehicles in America, posted a 3% decline but laid the blame all on a sharp decline in fleet volume. GM says their retail market share for the month was at its highest June level since 2011. Buick was down 18%, Cadillac dropped 3% and Chevrolet fell 4%. Sales of GMC vehicles were up 8% in June.
Toyota sold 179,953 vehicles - 90,952 cars and 89,001 trucks/SUVs in June 2015, an increase of 4%. The Toyota Camry was America's best-selling passenger car in June. Lexus sold 26,121 vehicles in June 2015 - 13,083 cars and 13,038 trucks/SUVs. This represented a year-over-year increase of 11%. 629 flagship LS sedans found buyers in June.
Scion sold 3,838 cars in June - a drop of 17%.
Acura sales, led mostly by SUVs, leaped 39% last month, while Honda saw only a 1% increase. Nissan sales were up a respectable 13%; Infiniti sales increased by 16%.
Mercedes sales were up 6%, while BMW had a marginally higher gain and outsold Mercedes 32,176 to 30,486. Volkswagen sales were up 6%, while Volvo sales were unchanged. 774 Smart cars found buyers last month, an increase of 15% over June 2014.
Ancient Zinc: Dinky Toys are die-cast miniature vehicles which were produced by Meccano Ltd. the makers of Hornby Trains. Dinky Toys were made in Liverpool, England from the mid-1930s until late 1979. Originally, Dinky cars and trucks were promoted as accessories for Hornby's O-gauge line of trains and, therefore, were made in 1/48th scale to match the scale of the toy locomotives.
In pre-World War II England, Meccano's Dinky Toys reigned. But ... (more >>>)
A Lot Can Happen In A Year: It's now less than 18 months until the 2016 presidential election. Think you know who's going to run? Or win?
Don't be too sure. Consider how things changed between the summer of 1967 and the presidential election of 1968.
There's already an interesting parallel: The once-obscure Senator Bernie Sanders is now getting the same kind of enthusiasm and support that another obscure senator, Eugene McCarthy, received in 1968 when he helped drive the seemingly-inevitable Democratic nominee, incumbent President Lyndon Johnson, from the Democratic ticket.
Watch for Joe Biden to soon reprise the Happy Warrior role of Hubert Humphrey.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "When the political left wants to help the black community, they usually want to help the worst elements in that community - thugs they portray as martyrs, for example - without the slightest regard for the negative effect this can have on the lives of the majority of decent black people."
Wednesday July 1, 2015
British Flair, Japanese Reliability: Road & Track's Peter Egan reminisced about old British iron while riding in a friend's Mazda Miata. "As we hummed along the four-lane highway at 75 mph or so, I looked around myself at the Miata and said, "This thing is really running nice. Still feels like a new car. How many miles do you have on it?""
"Just turned 140,000," Chris said.
"Any trouble with it?"
"After a while I started chuckling to myself, and Chris asked what was so funny."
"I was thinking about my first TR-3 ..." I told him.
"Then Chris started to grin, and pretty soon we were both chuckling. The concept of 140,000 miles without trouble is always a source of mirth to British car guys."
Did I mention it's sunny, too?
At 10:30 am yesterday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a pleasant drive along Clark County's back roads. There wasn't a cloud in the pale summer sky.
The car ran perfectly; I hope to get some more drives in soon.
I Hope This Won't Be America Twenty Years From Now: Greece is offering free public transit service this week because no one has money. The country's debt to GDP ratio is 170%.
Think of Greece as Atlantic City but with the Parthenon instead of the Boardwalk.
As a result of Greece's banks shutting their doors and ATMs for the entire week in order to prevent potential bank runs at the expense of their customers, transportation minister Christos Spirtzis declared transit service in Athens would be free to all until next week.
What's next - free gyros?
The United States' own debt-to-GDP ratio is now more than 100%. We can maintain (and increase) that ratio only because dollars have become the world currency. But what happens when creditors decide we are no longer good for it?
Book Review: '17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-Up in History' by Andrew Morton
This book is about Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor and once king of Great Britain, until he abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the Nazi plot to make him a puppet king after the invasion of Britain and the attempted cover-up of the duke's pro-German inclinations and possible collaboration with Hitler and his minions.
The claim to 'biggest cover-up'? I think not. Most of the book is a ... (more >>>)
Questions Worth Considering: Recently, Kathy Shaidle asked, "If streets named after Confederate generals inspire violence, what's causing all the crime on MLK Boulevard?"
Comedian Chris Rock once said, "If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they're lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is 'Run'. You know what's so sad? Martin Luther King stood for non-violence. And I don't care where you are in America, if you're on Martin Luther King Boulevard, there's some violence going down."
Let me raise another question: If we're going to ban Confederate flags because they "incite violence," why didn't we ban Korans and prayer mats after 9-11?
And here's another question: If a deeply-religious black Christian couple own a bakery and they refuse to bake a wedding cake with stars and bars icing and a Confederate flag on top for an engaged gay Klu Klux Klan couple, should the bakery be driven out of business?
Finally, Tom McMahon asked, "How about Confederate flags sewn by breast cancer survivors - would those be OK?"
No Longer Funny: Jack Carter, a motor-mouthed comedian who became one of television's first stars in the late 1940s and continued working, as both a comic and an actor, well into the 21st century, has died at age 93.
Carter was a frequent guest on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' during the 1960s and early '70s and was known for his impression of Ed Sullivan. Carter also made guest appearances in many television series and sitcoms. And he did movies.
He's probably the only person who appeared in both 'Viva Las Vegas' and 'History of the World, Part I'. RIP.
Unintended Consequences. From the always-interesting Gerard Van der Leuen: "I can't wait until Granny, on her death bed, marries her favorite granddaughter, and the IRS watches all that Estate Tax money just drifting away into the sunset - instead of into the IRS coffers."
"Two same-sex anyones even when not sexually connected can marry and same thing - there goes all that Estate Tax money. Same with SS spousal benefits, health care insurance, military pension spousal benefits, and I'm sure we can all think of other scams that will now become perfectly legal. Oh, the divorce lawyers and the tax lawyers are going to have a field day!"
Quote Of The Day is from Terry Pratchett: "I once absent-mindedly ordered Three Mile Island dressing in a restaurant and, with great presence of mind, they brought Thousand Island Dressing and a bottle of chili sauce."
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