A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Friday October 24, 2014
Bovine Hybrid: Dan Neil weighed in on the $60,000 Infiniti QX60 hybrid SUV, which he described as "a handsomely appointed, fully accessorized version of the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, with the same mechanical and electrical underpinnings and some of the same cabin amenities and displays."
This is the mid-priced Infiniti SUV; the QX80 is the top-of-the-line model and costs about $10-12,000 more.
"Under the QX60's hood is a light hybrid-assisted (20 hp, or 15 kW), supercharged 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder gas engine with total system output of 250 hp and 243 pound-feet of torque, backed up by a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The power delivery is front-biased with an on-demand AWD system able to shuffle as much as 50% of system torque to the rear wheels.
The addition of the hybrid hardware adds about 200 pounds to the QX60's weight and $3,000 to the sticker price, as compared with the 3.5-liter V6 version. In return the big crossover delivers quite respectable nominal fuel economy of 25/28 mpg, city/highway. At that rate, buyers would recoup the hybrid premium in six years. They are going to seem like long years, I'm afraid.
Thanks to some artful powertrain-control logic, the slightly heavier, slightly less torquey QX60 Hybrid manages to reach 60 mph as quickly as the V6 version, roundabout 8 seconds or less. I'm not saying the Hybrid enjoys being treated so roughly - the CVT kind of moos sadly - but it matches the pace."
Handling? "If I'm painting a picture of a big, fat, electronically sedated cow, then I've succeeded. Nimble she ain't. The steering is as numb as a well digger's bottom, the suspension extra plush, and body motions are sometimes hilariously undamped. The ride is pretty comfortable, but the whole affair feels a bit unstuck." Moo.
Been There; Done That: The most powerful supercomputer on the planet, the Tianhe-2, developed by China's National University of Defense Technology, is capable of running at 33.86 petaflops. (A petaflop is a quadrillion calculations per second.)
BFD - my old Amiga ran that fast (for a couple of nanoseconds, anyway) when it was struck by lightning back in 1991.
We Belong To The Nanny State Now: Professor R Vaidyanathan, of the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, wrote, "It's the defining fact about the decline of the West: Once upon a time, in Canada, Britain, Europe and beyond, ambitious leftists nationalized industries - steel, coal, planes, cars, banks - but it was such a self-evident disaster that it's been more or less abandoned, at least by those who wish to remain electorally viable."
On the other hand, the nationalization of the family proceeds apace, and America is as well advanced on that path as anywhere else. Vaidyanathan continued, "The West has nationalized families over the last 60 years. Old age, ill health, single motherhood - everything is the responsibility of the state."
Remember Obama's 'Julia' from a couple of years ago?
Truth In Packaging Needed: If hobo stew were made with real hoboes, surely we'd have far fewer homeless people. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Jack Baruth: "Having trees cut down is more expensive than having them planted, by the way, the same way a divorce attorney is more expensive than a justice of the peace."
Wednesday October 22, 2014
Historic Site: The General Motors Technical Center has been chosen by the US Department of the Interior and National Park Service to be a National Historic Landmark. The Warren, Michigan complex was completed in 1955 and ceremonially on May 16, 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. Those were the days when General Motors had over 50% of the U.S. car market and was the world's largest auto manufacturer by a wide margin.
According to the National Park Service, the campus is receiving the honor because it "is one of the most significant works of architect Eero Saarinen, who was among the most important modernist designers of the post-World War II period in the United States."
The facility cost GM approximately $100 million at the time. The American Institute of Architects honored it in 1986 as the most outstanding architectural project of its era. The Tech Center includes 330 acres with 11 miles of roads and 1.1 miles of tunnels. It includes 25 main buildings and numerous additional structures including a water tower and 22-acre lake.
During my business career, I visited the Tech Center on multiple occasions and got to see preproduction models of cars two years before they hit the market. There were always exotic cars from foreign makers scattered around - GM would bring them in "for evaluation."
In the early '70s, I saw my first and only NSU Ro 80, the Wankel-engined, technologically-advanced German sedan parked in front of the Tech Center. It looked quite cleanly-styled and slightly futuristic in a world of period Ford Pintos, Buick Centurions and Dodge Monacos. Its 1967 sleek wedge-profile was emulated by many auto firms in subsequent decades.
Despite several trips to Europe, I never saw another Ro 80. In ten years of production, less than 38,000 were made. (permalink)
Holiday Hassles: It's always been tough for me to keep track of Jewish holidays. Or Canadian ones.
Many years ago, I was on a committee to pick future show/meet dates for a national car club. We began by crossing off all national, Christian and Jewish holidays. Then we eliminated the 'bad weather months' - when snow or rain might be a consideration. Then we eliminated those dates which conflicted with other important, car-related events (Pebble Beach, etc.). We ended up with a narrow window of time between mid-May and early-October.
I later received an angry letter from a Muslim fellow who complained that we had scheduled a major event during a Muslim holy day. I replied, asking him to help by providing us with dates of Muslim significance for the next four years so we could avoid future conflicts. (Muslim holidays are not listed in those 'Future Planner' sections of DayRunners, etc. At the time this incident happened, the internet was in its toddler stage and Google was not yet born.) I also invited him to join our planning committee. He never responded - just liked to write angry letters, I guess.
I think of him every time I read about CAIR - the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). That organization also seems to revel in whining rather than accomplishing anything.
What Did You Expect From A Guy Who's Never Even Run A Lemonade Stand?
Africa Is Unfixable: Sorry to be such a pessimist but history shows that it's true.
The Z-Man, of The Z Blog, wrote, "Ebola was discovered in 1976, and it was once thought to originate in gorillas, because human outbreaks began after people ate gorilla meat. But scientists have since ruled out that theory, partly because apes that become infected are even more likely to die than humans.
Scientists now believe that bats are the natural reservoir for the virus, and that apes and humans catch it from eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on, or by coming in contact with surfaces covered in infected bat droppings and then touching their eyes or mouths.
The current outbreak seems to have started in a village near Guéckédou, Guinea, where bat hunting is common, according to Doctors Without Borders.
There's an expression old Africa hands used to use. It is "AWA" or Africa Wins Again. The Europeans tried everything they could to turn their colonies into outposts of civilization, but they all failed. No matter what you do, the Africa can't stop being Africa. You're not allowed to think that so we think other things."
Africa is backward in so many ways because ... (more >>>)
The Necessity Of Belief: Matthew Parrish has written an article titled 'As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God'.
"Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."
"Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders."
"Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the know-how that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete." Amen.
Book Review: 'One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future' by Ben Carson, MD
Dr. Carson is a highly-respected surgeon; he was Chief of Neurological Surgery at Johns Hopkins. I have seen him interviewed on television; he offers plain-spoken, logical solutions to problems. His concise 256-page book is written in that same common-sense style and offers a compelling, Reaganesque message: American can return to greatness.
At the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, he said that "our nation's decline has continued. Today the danger is greater than ever before, and I have never shared a more urgent message than I do now.
Our growing debt and deteriorating morals have driven us far from the founders' intent. We've made very little progress in basic education. Obamacare threatens our health, liberty, and financial future. Media elitism and political correctness are out of control.
Worst of all, we seem ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: We are advised to not judge all Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics but we are encouraged to judge all gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics. Funny how Liberal Logic works.
Monday October 20, 2014
Time Warp Headline: 'GM delivers best Q3 sales since 1980'.
Even after registering over 70 recalls through the first three-quarters of 2014, General Motors saw its best Q3 results since Jimmy Carter was in the White House, registering over 2.4 million global sales between June and September on the back of strong results in the U.S. and China.
"U.S. sales were marshaled by good results for GM's pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which bumped the manufacturer's truck market share to 35.6%, up nearly three points from Q1 2014. Buick has seen healthy growth as well, with the Encore dominating its segment for the sixth month running."
Hmmmm. I'm one of the people who purchased a General Motors' vehicle in 1980 and quickly regretted it. The car was more trouble-prone than a nymphomaniac at a Shriners' convention.
Fall Foliage ... from our back deck:
Bad Old Prediction: In 1939, the New York Times quipped, "Television will fail. People don't have time to stop what they're doing and stare at a screen." More bad predictions are posted here.
A Whale Of An Economic Change: Many high-wage American jobs have disappeared and are not coming back. I have outlined some of the reasons here.
America has been undergoing a revolution. The corporate womb-to-tomb culture is dead. Job skills no longer last a lifetime because new technology makes old skills obsolete - quickly. In order to move up the ladder, one must constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities created by change.
The widespread use of computers and the increased use of online sales and service functions means that clerical and support positions are going away. Such jobs used to provide a very decent living for earnest, smart .... (more >>>)
This Was Also True 49 years Ago ... when I graduated from college: The median pay of people with degrees in chemical engineering is higher than any other major. The average starting salary for a newly-minted ChemE grad is $66,400. Newly-graduated Mechanical Engineering grads get $62,900 per annum.
Restaurant Review: Julie's Cottage Kitchen; Dollars Corner, WA
This little dining spot establishment has been around for over 20 years, serving fine homemade, comfort-style entrees.
The staff is friendly, fast and attentive; the portions are plentiful and flavorful. I usually order the patty melt which is one of the best in the U.S. Julie's onion rings are far above par, as well. The breakfast items are outstanding as well. The restaurant is small and the atmosphere is cozy.
But be warned ... (more >>>)
Passings: Tim Hauser, singer and founder of the vocal group Manhattan Transfer, has died at age 72. The group has won 10 Grammy Awards, and numerous Gold and Platinum records. During the summer of 1975, the group was showcased in their own hour-long television variety series on CBS. I have always liked the group's renditions of 'Java Jive', 'Tuxedo Junction', 'Baby, Come Back To Me' and 'Gloria'.
Mike Duetting, an old friend of mine and a very good one, too, died of pulmonary fibrosis at age 73. I knew Mike well during my 1970s corporate days and, despite living on opposite sides of the country, we kept in touch by e-mail. I'll miss Mike and his thoughtful correspondence.
Rest in Peace.
Shedding Some Light On The Subject: There was no Ebola Crisis until we started banning incandescent light bulbs.
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken: "A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground."
Thursday October 16, 2014
Suddenly It's 1960: In recent years, I have bemoaned the lack of exciting new cars. This got me thinking back to many years ago - the 1960 model year.
While there was no GM Motorama that year and not many concept or dream cars from other makers (the Valiant-based Plymouth XNR asymmetrical roadster was the only one I remember), there were some completely new models to inspect and examine at dealerships and auto shows. As high school Juniors, my car buddies and I toured the 1960 Philly Auto Show in November 1959.
The big news was the introduction of compact models by the Big Three. The Chevy Corvair was a radical departure for Detroit - a rear-engined, air-cooled compact car with a host of aluminum components to save weight. It was full of technical novelties.
The Ford Falcon was a pleasantly-styled - if a bland-looking - downsized Ford, in every way. Its entire powertrain was simply a smaller version of its larger brother's. But it offered proven technology for the less adventurous small car buyer. Period ads claimed the car had "three years and three million miles" behind it and that it was "the world's most experienced new car." Ford also reminded prospects that the Falcon provided "nearly four times more luggage space than the most popular imported new car."
Introduced a bit later than its competition, the Plymouth Valiant offered a unique ... (more >>>)
Long-Term Winner: The Vanguard Health Care Fund's latest semiannual report noted that the fund, which began in 1984, has returned over 17% annually. This is quite impressive, considering that Health Care Fund had to endure the crashes of 1987, 2000 and 2008.
In the past year, the fund is up 28%; in the past five years, it has produced an annual return of over 19%. The future looks good as well. Jean Hynes, Vanguard Health Care Fund's portfolio manager, wrote, "We are optimistic about the long-term outlook for the sector. We have exposure to a number of positive forces, such as new biological approaches to disease and delivery changes in the U.S. health care system. One exciting area is immuno-oncology, which may have broad applicability to cancer treatment and research. Leaders in this field include our holdings Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Roche, AstraZeneca, and Incyte."
Investment guru Malcolm Berko recently wrote, "Over the coming decades, Congress will be spending an increasingly larger amount of our tax dollars on health care. The health care lobby has borrowed the mantra of the defense lobby: "A vote to reduce defense spending is a vote against patriotism!" So any vote that reduces health care spending is considered a vote against the American family."
He recommends "medical supply stocks, medical appliance stocks, medical service issues, medical data issues, hospital equities and drug company stocks. Corporations such as UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, HCA Holdings, Merck & Co., Johnson & Johnson, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Celgene, Amgen, Stryker, Cigna and Tennant will roll in newfound riches. There are many things I'm not sure about, but as sure as God made little green apples and the worms therein, health care spending will zoom. That's the nature of all government-fed beasts, and after defense and Social Security, health care has become the untouchable third rail of politics."
Berko also recommended Vanguard Health Care Fund.
Book Review: 'Blood Feud: The Clintons Vs. The Obamas' by Edward Klein
I thoroughly enjoyed the author's 2012 book, 'The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House', and have been looking forward to reading his latest.
I wasn't disappointed. In 'Blood Feud', the former New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Edward Klein delves into the rocky and often hostile relationship between the Obamas and the Clintons. I enjoyed the machinations on both sides in attempts to win the approval of Oprah and the Kennedy clan.
In this entertaining, gossipy book, the ... (more >>>)
Short Days Ahead: Recently, I took a photo from the back deck. It was only 6:10 pm but the sun was already below the horizon and the moon was well on the rise.
There was a chill in the air and I was wearing a sweatshirt. By 7:00 pm, it was completely dark. Summer's gone.
Down The Hatch: Alcohol consumption in the United States varies greatly. Among adults aged 18 and older, 30% don't drink any alcohol at all. Another 30% consumes less than one drink per week. But the top 10%, which represents about 24 million Americans, consumes nearly 74 drinks per week - more than 10 per day. That would equal 17 bottles of wine per week.
Someone is having 10 drinks per day is either an alcoholic or a "heavy drinker." But they keep the Beverage Economy going. If it weren't for the heaviest drinkers the alcoholic beverage industry's total sales would decimated.
"One consequence is that the heaviest drinkers are of greatly disproportionate importance to the sales and profitability of the alcoholic-beverage industry. If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60%."
Another drinking story is posted here.
Headline Of The Week: 'Hillary Clinton Charges University $225,000 for Speech on High Cost of Tuition'.
Thought For Today: You can't take it with you; that's why hearses don't have luggage racks.
Tuesday October 14, 2014
Plymouth Plus Pump: I had my chemotherapy treatment on Monday (good news - my platelet levels and white cell counts are improving) and, as usual, was sent home with a wearable pump for a further 46 hours of treatment. The weather was really nice and I felt good, so I decided to take a ride in my '39 Plymouth coupe before the forecasted rain arrived. It started to rain Monday evening.
Colors are turning; leaves are falling - a big change from a week ago. During my 1:30 pm back roads drive, the temperature was in the mid-60s. Temperatures are dropping to the upper 40s at night. The sky was gorgeous Autumn blue with high clouds.
When I returned home, I had my wife take a photo of me and the '39. The small black box on my left hip is a portable chemotherapy pump.
I savored this enjoyable ride, knowing that it will be one of the last of this 2014 season.
New Cars With Oldest Buyers: The top Geezermobile spot goes to Lincoln (average age: 61 years), followed by Buick (60.3), Bugatti (59.5 - one buyer only), Cadillac (59.5), Lexus (56.9), Jaguar (56.6), Bentley (56.2), Smart (55.3), Chrysler (54.7) and Mercedes-Benz (54.6). Last year, the average new car buyer was almost 52 years old.
While old, the average Bugatti owner has a fleet of 84 cars, three jets and a yacht.
New Car Feature: Dan Neil wrote that the new 2015 Mustang GT offers a computer-aided feature called "Line Lock, which allows drivers to easily lock the front wheels and spin up the rear tires to generate clouds of tire smoke.
It also works in church parking lots."
Driving With Mickey: I have a model of Mickey Mouse driving a colorful, stylized Manoil Graham roadster with white tires and a side-mount spare. This non-scale model, made by of Pride Lines Ltd., is ... (more >>>)
I Couldn't Agree More: Jack Baruth wrote a blog post titled 'If We Really Want People On Welfare To Have Dignity, We'll Test Them For Drug Use'.
"As someone who worked in the check-cashing industry for a while, albeit more or less involuntarily, it makes sense to me that welfare recipients use drugs more often than "regular" people. (Big, heavy, monstrous quotes on "regular," by the way. Plenty of welfare recipients are what we think of as regular people, particularly in the current economy.) I cashed thousands of welfare checks a month and I cashed thousands of employment/contracting checks a month. Nine times out of ten I could guess the check based on the person who presented it - and if they were obviously high or drunk, it was almost always welfare."
"When I was cashing checks for a living, I watched my customers who were on public assistance deteriorate over time. The person who cashes his fifteenth welfare check is not the person he was when he cashed his first one. The fact is that being on welfare sucks. You can't add "dignity" to it because even the least intelligent among us knows it's humiliating to live on charity." Amen.
Seeking Nostalgia: It's is a generally-harmless, sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations or the evocation of these feelings or tendencies, especially in commercialized form.
Greeting card companies have made a fortune peddling cards depicting happy-time scenes from a pleasantly hazy, generic past. And Hallmark Stores seem to have more nostalgic 'collectible' crap in them than actual cards.
One such miniature nostalgic totem is the little Hopalong Cassidy lunchbox ornament which we place on our Christmas tree each year. In my real childhood, I never owned a Hoppy lunchbox, although I once possessed a Hopalong Cassidy Roto-Vue motion lamp.
Nevertheless, it is quite amazing what the seemingly simple stimuli of a nostalgia-evoking touchstone will accomplish - causing an ancient cortex to hum, buzz, grind gears like an antique Comptometer and dislodge, with a silent, cerebral 'ding', a long-lost memory. Triggered by something as simple as a smell, color or a passing reference to a long-forgotten name or event. The human filing system is remarkable. Unique. And very disorganized. Old memories reappear randomly and unexpectedly - like discovering an old brass jacket button at the back of a sock drawer. Reproductions - authentic or not - become nostalgic totems, helping to bring back happy memories.
The manufacture of 'replicas' - many inaccurately rendered and/or done cheaply in Asia and/or exorbitantly overpriced - has become a major industry. Pepsi and Coke, appear to be masters at tapping into our quest for nostalgia with many of their commercials vividly extolling the Good Old Days. Then there are those faux old-timey gas pump gumball machines. Who would eat food out of a miniature gasoline dispensing device, anyway?
Nostalgic emotions might be evoked by ... (more >>>)
Dark Tower: Main Place, in downtown Vancouver, Washington - a building where I once had my consulting business office, was recently sold for $12.15 million. The seven-story black glass box is one of downtown Vancouver's most recognizable buildings.
Constructed in 1991, the building at 1111 Main St. contains nearly 88,000 square feet of leasable space. The purchase deal includes the 230-space attached parking structure north of the building. The building's Class A office space is 80% occupied.
City tax records show a recent assessment of over $16 million. The relatively low selling price reflects the recent departure of a major tenant. I think it also reflects the limited future of downtown and big, fancy buildings.
My office used to be in this marble-foyered, Class A office tower but, after five years, I bailed in 1999. Technology allowed me to home-base my business and visit clients at their offices. Or do business by phone or online. Many other small business owners have since gone mobile as well - or moved to suburban business parks where parking is plentiful - and never looked back.
Downtown Vancouver is dying because ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from H.L Mencken: "If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner."
Friday October 10, 2014
Vintage Gathering: A 1939 photo of Carl's Drive-In (not to be confused with Carl's Jr. which actually began as a hot dog cart in 1941) is chock full of interesting old cars, including at the lower right, a new 1939 Plymouth coupe.
Sadly, Carl's Drive-In (established in 1931 in Los Angeles) is long gone as are most of the vehicles in the parking lot.
More '39 Plymouth sightings can be seen here.
Bunch Of Italian Haters: The Seattle School Board voted unanimously for schools to observe 'Indigenous Peoples' Day' on the same day as the Columbus Day federal holiday.
So, instead of Italian water ice, they'll have ... (more >>>)
Yet They Never Smile And Say Thank You: Jim Goad wrote, "Life has been unfair and oppressive for black people ever since being kidnapped from their homeland, despite the fact that by most measures of living standards such as longevity and yearly income and access to medical care, it is far better in America for them than it is back in their homeland."
Talk To Me: Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin wrote, "Two politicians in Maryland are now in trouble for stating the obvious: People who work in customer service should speak English."
My take - isn't it ironic that, in the most ethnic of business establishments - small businesses - Chinese restaurants, Mexican cantinas and shoe repair shops (in our neighborhood, usually operated by Russian or Cambodian immigrants), every person who has contact with the public speaks understandable, if accented, English? And they are usually polite and friendly, too.
Don't Forget - Flu Season Is Coming:
I'm hoping to get my flu shot next week.
Riding The Magic Bus: Travel guru Rick Steves, host of best known for the PBS program 'Rick Steves Europe', was touring Oregon this week, urging voters to legalize marijuana in the November election.
"Steves said his stance on marijuana laws has been inspired by his travels in Europe, where marijuana use is tolerated."
This is why he's always taking public transit on his European trips - too stoned to drive.
A Great Comedic Talent Lost: Jan Hooks has died at age 57, after battling a serious illness. Apart from her many movie and television roles, I remember Jan best from Saturday Night Live, especially her character Candy Sweeney of 'The Sweeney Sisters' and her wickedly-good impressions of Betty Davis and Tammy Faye Baker.
She also did the voice of Apu's wife, Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon, on 'The Simpsons' and, on SNL, did a bubble bath commercial parody playing Corazon Aquino, President of the Phillipines: "Calgon, take me away!"
Rest In Peace.
Restaurant Review: Olive Garden, East Vancouver, WA
It's easy to mock the Olive Garden chain. Just as Domino's and Pizza Hut blanderized the pizza pie in an effort to offend no one in Iowa or South Dakota, Olive Garden once specialized in inoffensive and forgettable dishes approved by focus-groups somewhere in the U.S. where the Italian demographic was low.
In the 1950s and '60s, there were thousands of wonderful mom-and-pop Italian eateries (mostly in the Northeast, West Coast and Chicago), ranging from plain-Jane places with linoleum-topped tables to fancier establishments with indirect lighting and wall murals showing Venetian gondolas and Tuscan hill towns. All offered wonderful Italian food. But the owners got old and wanted to retire.
Unfortunately, their children - having gone to college and now working in high-paying, dress-up jobs - had no interest in slaving over a hot kitchen stove. Most of these neighborhood establishments closed. And Olive Garden moved in.
The Vancouver Mall Olive Garden once provided us with one of the worst dining experiences ever. Bland food, terrible teenybopper service in an atmosphere reminiscent of a low-end retirement home dining hall.
Several years ago, the Darden Restaurants empire, owner of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and other chains, wised up and ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: It seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money. How come we never hear about welfare or food stamps running out of money? What's interesting is the first group "worked for" their money, but the second didn't.
Wednesday October 8, 2014
What's In A Name? Cadillac is changing its naming structure for its new big sedan. The luxury brand in the General Motors portfolio "is preparing to roll out its new LTS. Only now, the latest thinking is that the upcoming flagship model may not be called LTS at all."
It has been given the unimaginative ... (more >>>)
50 Years Ago ... it seemed like everyone was going to the New York World's Fair. At times, the crowds were as dense as a pack of hungry looters at a Church's Fried Chicken.
I visited it too - along with 51 million other people - and posted photos here.
Where Are All The Entrepreneurs? The rate at which new companies are being formed has fallen steadily for over three decades - almost 30%.
By other measures - as a share of all businesses or relative to the size of the working-age population - it has fallen in half. This is a major problem, since the vast majority of new U.S. private-sector jobs (75%-90%, depending upon which data source you choose) are created by small businesses.
This decline has occurred nationwide - even in tech-heavy, entrepreneurial Silicon Valley. Business creation there is still higher than the rest of the country, but it's down markedly from the past, according to the Brookings Institution.
"The first reaction of everyone who sees this is they can't believe it, especially anyone from California," said Bob Litan, a senior fellow at the Brookings. "It's down everywhere. In every locale. In every industry."
The article suggests some generalized reasons for the decline: "Increased risk aversion among workers, shifts in government regulation and a consolidation in corporate America that has left many industries dominated by a handful of behemoths."
Also noted: "The drop has been sharpest among the millennial generation, which is grappling with heavy student debt and a frustrating job market, according to research by Robert Fairlie, an economist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. People ages 20 to 34 created 22.7% of all new companies last year, down from 34.8% in 1996."
I would posit four additional reasons for the decline in small business formation ... (more >>>)
Joan Rivers Of 'Fashion Police' Is Spinning In Her Grave: Fashion designer Junya Watanabe was in conceptual mode for spring.
The designer's vision is "seeing women not as fashion consumers, but as walking canvases for a jolly geometry exercise. His series of collages of flat, circular pleather cutouts placed on gauze, shown on models with plastic cloche-like headdresses, triggered vague reminiscences of 1920s experimental art."
Click here for bizarre runway photos.
Book Review: 'How The Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class' by John Hope Bryant
This thin (176 page) book is not what it seems. It is not a how-to book. Ideas are presented to solve ghetto poverty: caring bank branches which teach customers about finance (I'm not sure how that can be done, given that banks today don't want to interact with customers - they want you to stand outside in the rain and use an ATM card rather than getting their lobby carpet dirty and 'bothering' the tellers.), resurrection of home economics (or as Chuck Berry called it, Practical Math), teaching minorities how to improve personal credit scores, instructing students how to be entrepreneurs, etc. But, sadly, specifics are lacking.
The idea of prospective shop owners writing a business plan is mentioned but the how-to-do-it is nowhere to be found. And there is no 'Sources of More Information' listed at the end of the book to tell readers the best resources for things like writing a business plan. Or the key things you must do to be successful in starting a business. The overall tone of the book frequently crosses the line from optimistic to Panglossian, which - in my view - lessens its credibility.
John Hope Bryant is a successful self-made businessman and founder of the nonprofit Operation HOPE. Despite those credentials, Bryant makes many references to government/private partnerships - a recipe for disaster if I ever read one. The government has fostered poverty/dependency for the last 50 years. Two examples: 1) The Great Society, which institutionalized and celebrated the Welfare State, and 2) The government-run, moribund educational system. Republican black conservative Allen West noted, "For the left, "spending on education" generally means job protection and preserving benefits for teachers, rather than actually improving education for students in public schools, where black students can build a foundation for economic advancement."
It is interesting that, as I was reading this book, the riots in Ferguson, MO were front-page news. Looters destroyed many small business along the strip malls of this St. Louis suburb and probably bankrupted the owners, many of whom are minorities. Many of these business will never reopen, a pattern seen before in riot-torn cities across the U.S. over the last 50 years. The sad lesson: never be an entrepreneur in a black neighborhood. It's too risky.
In 1964 ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from John Holland, scientist, Santa Fe Institute: "From the point of view of physics, it is a miracle that 7 million New Yorkers are fed each day without any control mechanism other than sheer capitalism."
Tuesday October 7, 2014
Fall Outing: Let there be no doubt - Fall is here. The leaves are beginning to turn, although spectacular colors have yet to appear - except for a few red maples which are turning distinctly maroon.
While Monday's weather was very pleasant - 59 degrees and sunny at 9:15 am, the forecast calls for rain later this week. Therefore, I decided to get in an old car drive while I could. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and headed out, just as the morning commuters had left the roads.
The absence of cars on my rural loop made it hard to tell whether the year was 2012, 1959 or 1939, as you can see from the view through the windshield (a phrase befitting this blog):
I had a very enjoyable tour on the back roads of Clark County.
The sun continued to shine throughout the day; the temperature eventually reached 80 degrees. Just before sundown, I cooked steaks on our outdoor grill. We drank 2006 Hood River Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, which we had purchased at the winery during our 2012 trip. Unfortunately the wine was not impressive, even though we followed the vintner's instructions and let it breathe for 50 minutes before drinking. But the steaks were just fine.
Paris Auto Show: Locals know it as Mondial de l'Automobile, but what I noticed most was that, at last week's event, all the concept cars had headlights derived from those 12-way flashlights of the future that The Sharper Image used to hawk in 1986.
Dave Leggett of Just-Auto actually attended the show and had an interesting experience: "I was walking in the middle of a service road between halls and suddenly realized I was blocking the way for a large car coming through. It was a big Jeep. Sergio Marchionne was at the wheel. And wearing his usual blue jersey. Hands on management."
The Trolley Monster That Ate A City: Randal O'Toole - the Antiplanner - wrote, "Despite all the money spent on Portland transit, transit is so unpopular that, of 50,000 new workers gained between 2005 and 2012, fewer than 100 take transit to work. For the Portland urban area as a whole, there were 124,000 new jobs between 2005 and 2012, of which about 700 took transit to work.
Thanks partly to money stolen from schools by TIF-addicted planners intent on subsidizing TODs, Portland, Oregon high schools have some of the largest classroom sizes and lowest graduation rates in the nation.
The 'creative class' of young people who have been attracted to Portland (most likely by the city's 50 brew pubs) do so little work that they have reduced Portland's per capita incomes, relative to the rest of the country, by 10%."
These are the soul-patched, fedora-wearing hipster doofuses one sees lounging around Pioneer Square or descending on coffee stands faster than Lena Dunham on a fresh pie.
"Portland has funded only half of its pension obligations and just 4 percent of its health-care obligations, giving it one of the worst records of any city in the nation."
Portland's TriMet transit agency is a monster. It's important to remember that ... (more >>>)
Summary Of Recent Obama Administration 'Accomplishments': In an LA Times column titled 'We're Not Getting The Government We Deserve', Doyle McManus asked, "Whatever happened to good old American know-how? The nation that invented modern management seems to be suffering a crisis of competence." Or incompetence.
He noted, "The Secret Service can't protect the White House. Public health authorities can't get their arms around a one-man Ebola outbreak. The army we trained in Iraq collapsed as soon as it was attacked by Islamic extremists, and our own veterans can't get the care they need at VA hospitals. And, lest we forget, it was only a year ago that the White House rolled out its national health insurance program, only to see its website grind to a halt."
Elaine Kamarck, a Clinton administration veteran now at the Brookings Institution, scolded President Obama, "They keep getting surprised by stuff. And the surprise is almost worse than anything else. It conveys the sense that the White House doesn't know what its own government is doing. … Today, presidents travel nonstop and talk nonstop. That wasn't always true. This addiction to PR has been terrible for the presidency. Every hour (Obama is) on the campaign trail is an hour he could be talking with members of Congress. My advice to any president would be: Stop talking. Start working." Amen, sister.
McManus concluded, "So here's a memo to the next president, whoever he or she turns out to be: Spend more time on the gritty stuff of management, even if that means less time to spend on salesmanship. It will save you - and the rest of us - a lot of grief."
Oh-Be-Guy-Nee ... A Word Pulled Out Of His Heinie: Thomas Lifson pointed out that Obama has mouthed another "weird Obamaspeak pronunciation" this time "of OB/GYN (pronounced oh-bee-gee-why-en). For the president's benefit, let me specify that means a doctor who delivers babies and takes care of the lady parts. When President Obama announced the departure of Eric Holder from his position as attorney general, he also mentioned his “good friend,” the AG's wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, and he called her an 'ohbee-guynee'."
This joins 'corpse-man' and the language 'Austrian' among the malapropisms of the holder of two Ivy League degrees.
Lifson wondered "what kind of conversations they had in the Obama household when Michelle had her two pregnancies and deliveries. Did they never use the familiar acronym for an obstetrician/gynecologist? Or did they both think it was pronounced ohbeeguynee? If the latter, did Michelle never discuss her OB/GYN with female friends? I have been married to an OB/GYN for decades, and have never heard it pronounced the Obama way. Always oh-bee-gee-why-en."
"This is such a downright strange phenomenon, it almost seems as though someone raised in a fantasized USSR training camp for deep cover agents was inserted into the identity of Barack Obama and loosed upon America, a highly trained faux American. But they forgot to teach him the pronunciation of OB/GYN. Like those WW II movies where the German spy is caught because he doesn't know who Babe Ruth is."
Were Mr. Rogers still alive, he might ask, "Can you say 'sleeper agent'?"
Just Wondering: Is Stewie Griffin related to the Travelocity gnome? They sound the same.
And is Uder - the little butterball German exchange student from 'The Simpsons' - related to pleasantly-plump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel?
Rent A Room For A Quick Anbang: The Waldorf Astoria in New York is being sold to Anbang, a Chinese insurance company, for $1.95 billion. Conrad N. Hilton acquired the iconic luxury hotel 65 years ago. Hilton will continue to operate the Waldorf for the next 100 years under a "strategic partnership" with the Beijing-based company.
The Waldorf Astoria is the flagship of Hilton's 27 luxury hotels around the world.
Larger Than Life: You may not remember his name, but you'll remember his laugh at the end of the James Bond movie, 'Live and Let Die'. He played top-hatted Baron Samedi, the guardian of the cemetery and the spirit of death, sex and resurrection in Haitian Voodoo culture, in the 1973 flick. And his outsized personality in those 7-Up's Un-cola television commercials in the 1970s. He referred to the soft drink as "absolutely maaarvelous!"
Geoffrey Holder, the dancer, choreographer, actor, composer and designer has died at age 84 from complications of pneumonia. Born in Trinidad, the 6-foot-6 actor also played Punjab in the 1982 movie 'Annie'.
In an 2010 interview, Holder said his artistic life was governed by a simple credo, shaped by his own experience as a West Indian child who had yet to see the world. "I create for that innocent little boy in the balcony who has come to the theater for the first time. He wants to see magic, so I want to give him magic." RIP.
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "I worry that Barack Obama has made it almost impossible for the next Un-American Marxist Mulatto Muslim Narcissist to be elected President."
Monday October 6, 2014
Little Utilities: Edmunds.com has provided a plethora of facts demonstrating why the compact SUV (aka - CUV) market is hotter than an Ebola patient's forehead. The segment includes such models as the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV-4.
Compact SUVs are the hottest-selling vehicles in the auto market right now, making up twice the market share they claimed a decade ago. The segment is the fourth highest-selling vehicle segment behind midsize cars, compact cars, and large trucks.
"Ads suggest that compact SUVs are popular among 30-somethings who are about to or have just started a family. In reality, nearly 50% of compact SUV buyers are over the age of 55. In three short years, nearly half of the U.S. adult population will be 50+ and will control 70% of the nation's disposable income. With life expectancy now at 78.7 years-old, this group will continue to be important (and returning) customers in the near and longer term."
CUVs have the highest conquest rate of any vehicular segment. Only 21% of new compact SUV transactions involve a trade-in from the same segment. So with the other 79% of trade-ins coming from other segments, compact SUVs are appealing to a wide range of shoppers. This translates into new opportunities for automakers and dealers to win the business of new customers.
Seasons: There's a Fall chill in the air. The days are still warm but temperatures are dipping well into the 40s at night. I have to turn on lights in the morning when I get up. Darkness falls a little earlier each day.
Last Thursday morning, it was sunny and 52 degrees at 9:15 am - a respite from recent overcast, rainy weather. I donned a heavy sweater and took a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. The sky was a nice, summery shade of blue; it was not the anxious pale blue-gray color often seen in late Fall.
As I drove on my favorite rural route, I noticed that the leaves are starting to turn. I suspect within the next two weeks, the change in color will become much more dramatic.
Fall is my favorite season, though. It is nature contemplating the richness of its yearly accomplishments, following a blooming but messy Spring and a glorious Summer that it - and we - hoped would never end.
If nature were human, it would now be sitting on the back deck, swirling a balloon glass of Pinot Noir in late afternoon. It would be wearing a cable-knit sweater and appear deep in thought.
Fall mixes comforting nostalgia with trepidation, knowing that winter - the season of death - is not far away. The Plymouth seems to know this too. It is running especially well, somehow realizing that the last ride of the year will soon arrive.
Perpetual Victimhood = Perpetual Outrage: At American Thinker, G. Murphy Donovan wrote, "The progressive worldview is informed by a theory of Orientalism, the shop-worn notion that race and exploitation are the unitary explanations for First World (pale) success and Third World (brown) failure.
A good part of the black American minority in America and the Sunni global Islamic majority share a victim's outlook: false pride, dependency, an inferiority complex, and generational rage. The hostility isn't justified so much as perpetuated at the expense of social reform. A key narrative of both cultures is 'victim', a meme where persistent social pathology is blamed on racism and a host of undifferentiated dead white guys."
Exhibit A: Ferguson, Missouri.
This is a familiar theme; the poor are quite skilled at playing Professional Victims. In The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof has written, "There's an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It's a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous.
It's that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children's prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households."
Kathy Shaidle once wrote, "I've always wondered ... if those Sponsor a Child things are so great, why aren't they out of business. The first batches of kids must be well educated, and pulling up the rest of the bunch. No such luck, though."
Professional victims also excuse themselves for bad behavior and intolerance. Self-criticism is seen less often than a Higgs boson particle. Among the various Muslim sects, "none hold a candle to the Sunni majority, an intolerant global franchise best known for bigotry, beheading, imperialism, political fascism, terrorism, misogyny, slavery, child trafficking, hijabs, and burkhas. Did we forget consanguinity? A Shia autocrat will marry outside of the family, a Sunni Arab sheik usually draws on a harem pool of first cousins.
In the past half-century of Muslim wars, the overwhelming majority of atrocities originate in Arab and/or Sunni communities. Nearly every terror shooter/bomber and their state sponsors - from Fatah, to the Muslim Brotherhood, to al Qaeda, to Boko Haram, to ISIS is Sunni. In contrast, Shia Persia, Hezb'allah notwithstanding, is a comparatively civilized culture.
If you annoy a Shite or a Persian, he might behave like a figurative cut-throat, let's say sell you an overpriced rug or lukewarm uranium. Better still, when you dream of Jeannie, you are fantasizing about a Persian genie.
An angry Arab or Sunni on the other hand will literally cut your throat for harboring a BLT, a bikini, a bible, a jigger of gin or rosary beads. And the Arabs now have enough money to hire an Englishman or German to do any incidental wet work like summary executions. If you are an infidel or apostate, you do not want to be caught in a Sunni neighborhood after dark - or after Friday prayers."
No Ally Of Mine: Tempted by its relatively high-money market rates (which are still very low but five times better than the best rates locally - these days most local banks offer about the same compound interest as a sperm bank), I tried to do business with Ally Bank. I filled in all the paperwork and mailed a check, since I do not do banking or investment transactions online.
The check was mailed August 15th. Then the 'fun' began. First, Ally claimed that I failed to send page two of my application. Not true, Ally lost it. They sent another one. I filled out the second page and mailed it.
Then I received a phone call telling me that I must ... (more >>>)
RIP: Paul Revere, founder of '60s garage band of Paul Revere & The Raiders, has died at age 76 of cancer.
Between 1965 and 1971, with Revere on keyboard, Lindsay on lead vocals, Drake Levin on lead guitar and Phil Volk on bass, Paul Revere and The Raiders had nearly a dozen Top 20 hits. The group was notable for wearing uniforms from the Revolutionary War.
Revere continued performing until July of this year when declining health forced him to retire.
Headline Of The Week ... so far, is from The Rumford Meteor: 'First Lady Urges Everyone That Hasn't Died Of Ebola Or Been Beheaded Yet To Vote Democrat'.
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Vegans and Wiccans, I get them mixed up all the time. Which one does the goat sacrifices?"
Thursday October 2, 2014
September Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.3 million SAAR in September - up 7% from September 2013, but down 6% from the 17.4 million annual sales rate in August.
Almost all automakers continued to benefit from rising demand for new cars and trucks driven by a stable economy, falling gas prices, low interest rates and a favorable loan environment for consumers. Big discounts on pickup trucks helped keep sales strong last month, along with hot lease deals and steep discounts on some 2014 models.
General Motors reported that September sales of their cars and trucks jumped by 19%. GM's fleet sales soared by 30%. GMC truck sales were up 28%, while Chevy sales increased 20%. Buick sales were up 12%, with the Enclave SUV up 36% and Encore SUV up 20% - but Cadillac sales stalled with zero growth. So far this year, Caddy sales are down 4%.
Toyota reported that sales for its Toyota, Scion and Lexus brands increased 2% from a year ago to 167,279, helped mostly by sales of pickup trucks and utility vehicles. Honda sales were up 11%, while sales of the Acura brand increased 19%. Two Honda models, the Fit (up 67%) and CR-V (up 11%), set September sales records.
Ford Motor Co. posted a U.S. sales decline of 3% year-over-year in September, to 180,175 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with last September's sales of 185,146. Sales of the company's best-selling Fusion rose 9% and sales of the Lincoln brand rose 13%, mostly because of SUVs - car sales (MKS & MKZ sedans) dropped 28%. Fleet shipments at FoMoCo were down but Ford Motor Credit has joined the trend toward longer loans, rolling out 75-month terms nationwide.
Chrysler Group's year-over-year sales rose 19% to 169,890 units, the company's best September sales level since 2005. The Chrysler, Jeep and Ram Truck brands all posted year-over-year gains for the month, with the Jeep brand posting a sales gain of 47% and its best September sales ever with 55,231 units sold. Ram pickup trucks posted a gain of 30% year-over-year with 36,612 units sold - the best September sales ever. Adding in the cargo vans, Ram brand sales were up 35% year-over-year. The Chrysler brand was helped by increased sales of its redesigned 200 midsize sedan and the Town & Country minivan. Dodge sales fell 9% for the month and, ominously, 4% for the nine-month period. Are the rumors about the brand's demise coming true?
TrueCar.com estimates the Chrysler Group's incentives averaged $3,644 in September, up 16% from a year earlier. Edmunds.com pegged Chrysler's average spiff per vehicle sold at $3,281, an increase of 22% from September 2013. Across the industry, discounts on new cars and light trucks averaged $2,801 in September, according to TrueCar. Edmunds estimated industrywide deals last month averaged $2,423.
Nissan Group beat the industry expectations as sales rose 19% from a year ago to 102,955. Infiniti sales fell 13% to 7,827 units.
Mazda sales increased 7%, while Volkswagen sales fell 19%. Subaru sales soared by 31% to 41,517 units; the company is on track to post its sixth annual sales record. Maserati sales increased by 379% to 1,318 units, outselling Tesla (1,300) and Jaguar (1,142). Jaguar sales dropped by 13%. Mini sales fell by 20%, despite an increasing expansion of the model line.
Seventy-five people felt wealthy enough to acquire new Rolls-Royces in September, while 236 folks purchased new Bentleys.
Churchill On Islam: 'The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan' is an 1899 book by Winston Churchill, concerning his experiences as a British Army officer, during the Mahdist War in Sudan.
"Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.
The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity.
The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men."
It still rings true after 115 years.
Book Review: 'Never Trust A Liberal Over Three - Especially a Republican' by Ann Coulter
This book contains little original material; it is mostly a collection of her past columns, some dating back over ten years. The material is not timeless but rather ordinary, time-sensitive, now-outdated columns. It came off to me as a lazy, cut-n-paste job.
If you want to read ... (more >>>)
The Clintons - Merchants Of Death: Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton's international foundation, in the spotlight this month for hosting the annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York, back two groups that operate a massive international abortion business, including one that heralded its 4,000 abortions in a 2013 annual report. Clinton Foundation documents show that it supports two groups that provide abortion services and supplies in Africa, India and Asia - Pathfinder International and Population Services International.
The Land Of Odd: Gerard Van der Leun wrote about today's San Francisco. "Consider this: Chief Heather Fong is the first SFPD female lesbian Chief of Police. Theresa Sparks, a former male, is president of the San Francisco Police Commission, and CEO of a multimillion-dollar sex toy retailer and a transgender woman. Sgt. Stephan Thorne , a former female, is the first transgender male SFPD police officer. Their Representative in Congress is the alien lizard Nancy Pelosi."
But he hasn't missed any second-term fundraisers, has he? Or golf dates? Or extravagant vacations?
Actually, Barry O. has spent more time golfing than he has spent listening to daily intelligence briefings. The Daily Caller has calculated that "he's spent almost 700 hours in 875 "Presidential Daily Briefings" since 2009. But he's also spent roughly 800 hours on almost 200 golf trips since his first inauguration."
President Fake: Andy McCarthy of NRO posited that the Khorosan Group is a fictitious name that the Obama administration invented to deceive us.
He wrote, "The 'Khorosan Group' is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network's Syrian franchise, "Jabhat al-Nusra." Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week's U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he's something the administration is at pains to call 'core al-Qaeda.'"
When I first heard the name on television, I thought they were talking about the Cortisone Group. I thought they might be a soothing unguent to be applied to itchy areas like Iraq and Syria. As John Belushi used to say, "But noooooooo!"
It's all fakery. Nothing is what it seems. We are stuck with a criminal as president, enabled by his sorority-chick sycophants in the State Department. Everything he says is a lie. He has created an administration of fellow criminals. Jihadist attacks - shootings and beheadings within our border - are redesignated as Workplace Violence, as if the event was merely some forklift driver punching an inventory clerk in the nose.
Obama alone is responsible for what happened to Iraq. If he had keep a few thousand military personnel there Iraq would be a relatively peaceful place today. The Iraqi bloodshed is on his hands.
Headlines Of The Week ... both of them - are from The People's Cube: 'Obama to fight ISIS with new federal Terrorist Regulatory Agency' and 'Obama vows ISIS will never raise their flag over the eighteenth hole'.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees."
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