In Or Out? 11

First…the site of yesterday’s major explosion in Baltimore is a five-minute walk from the house in which I lived from the ages of 2 to 25. As the actual cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, and may not be determined for years, I will refrain from editorializing…well, at least too much.

In my opinion, this country has allowed its infrastructure to decay. In my opinion, the federal government’s obligation under the first clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution to “provide…for the general Welfare of the United States” does not mean that it spend the excessively large (again, IMO) amount of $1.9 billion A DAY on defense and spend little on infrastructure. Remember that the federal government paid 90% of the cost of building the Interstate Highway System.

I think the “Left” is misguided and naive in calling for a massive reduction in defense spending–it’s a dangerous world–but even a 10% reduction would free up significant funds to be used for other worthy purposes and without raising taxes. I think the “Right” is hypocritical in calling for small government, but for huge defense expenditures. The United States spends more on defense than the amount spent by the next 7-9 countries COMBINED. The actual number of countries depends on the exact definition one uses for defense spending.

Even if the Baltimore explosion was caused by negligence of the property owner and/or the residents (I think the property was a rental), about one-third of the gas distribution mains for Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) and half of its transmission mains are more than 50 years old. You can’t just build it and forget about it.

Well, I guess I editorialized too much…if you can’t tell by now, I am not a political ideologue. I think both political parties in the US have lost the plot and that both of their policy platforms are rife with dangerous inconsistencies. I will once again offer the opinion that the US is headed for dissolution and maybe that won’t be a bad thing.

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Talk about switching gears…of the first ten In Or Out? cars, six were manufactured by non-US companies. I have to admit that I struggled to find a US car about which a consensus doesn’t already exist. From an MSN article about the most surprising cars ever sold in the US, a picture of today’s In Or Out? car, the Pontiac Fiero:

 

Slide 9 of 21: Pontiac developed the first mass-produced mid-engined car ever made by an American company. Called Fiero, it was envisioned as a smaller, cheaper and more efficient alternative to the Chevrolet Corvette and launched in 1983 as a 1984 model. Early examples weren’t as quick or as fun as they looked, and various problems made them prone to overheating and catching fire, but Pontiac fixed most of the Fiero’s issues for the 1988 model year.Sales unfortunately ended after 1988 and GM didn’t dare venture into mid-engined territory until Chevrolet unveiled the eighth-generation Corvette in 2019.

 

For many, the Fiero is a prime example of where General Motors lost its way in the 1970s and 1980s; some say it has never recovered. The Fiero, introduced for model year 1984, was the first US mid-engine production car and the first new US-built two-seater since the original Ford Thunderbird of 1955-57.

The car was actually conceived in 1978 in large part as a way to help GM meet CAFE standards, but without making something boring. The car was popular at first with sales of about 137,000 units in its first model year. From one of my favorite and most valuable books, Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®:

 

“…But Fiero was flawed–heavy and sluggish with the standard 92 HP, 151 cubic-inch Iron Duke four, little faster with the optional 173 cubic-inch V-6; low, cramped, noisy and hard to see out of; hard to shift, stiff-riding, indifferently put together. As it had with the X-cars, GM shot itself in the foot by selling a car before it was fully developed.”

Those facts, combined with a recall having to do with engine fires and insurance companies greatly increasing premiums on two-seaters (that difference still exists today), meant that the Fiero was doomed and ultimately discontinued after the 1988 model year in which only about 26,000 Fieros were built. Of course, Pontiac had just spent a fortune for an all-new suspension that significantly improved handling on the ’88 Fieros. Exciting plans for a new engine and new lighter frame were left unused.

I fully understand why many GM bashers exist among car enthusiasts and the Fiero is one of the cars why the bashing exists. For an “agnostic” car person like me, the Fiero is a very frustrating car. I think it looks fantastic and with a mid-engine setup it could have been successful like the Toyota MR-2, which sold more than 300,000 units in 20+ years of production with the largest market being North America.

OK, kind folks…the Pontiac Fiero, In Or Out?

 

#InOrOut?

#SayNoToBlindAdherenceToIdeology

#PontiacFiero

#somanycarsjustonelife

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Sunday Sayings

I meant no disrespect by omitting any mention of the anniversary of D-Day yesterday. It can be argued that the ultimately successful invasion was the most important military operation in history. The thought of the Nazis holding on to power, even for just part of Europe, is terrifying. Of course, some would argue that the Soviets would have eventually defeated the Nazis, anyway. Having the Soviets control all or most of Europe would not have been a good outcome, either.

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In my opinion, maintaining a healthy skepticism about belief systems is a good thing. Blindly adhering to any ideology is not.

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I finally saw my first C8 Corvette in the wild yesterday. During the truncated gathering hosted by the local Corvette club one member brought his 2020 model. The “show” was shortened because the ownership of the shopping center where the group has been gathering every first Saturday from April through October for years decided they didn’t want us there yesterday, or ever again.

I don’t know if we were in violation of state guidelines, and not everyone was wearing a mask (which was disappointing to me), but to tell us we were never welcome back was rather harsh. Without further ado:

 

 

Of course, my wonderful wife and I saw multiple examples of the 2020 Corvette while at Bowling Green for the Corvette Caravan last August. Still, to see one in use, with plates, and not on the Corvette grounds was exciting. The car drew quite a crowd before we were ushered away. Oh, the building in the background is a now empty K-Mart. It’s not as if we were using parking spaces that might have been used by customers.

I still think my wonderful wife will buy a C8 convertible in the not too distant future. She didn’t argue very much with me yesterday when I told her my thoughts.

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From Mac’s Motor City Garage comes an interesting piece about the 1965-66 Studebakers. Here are the first two paragraphs, although I recommend you read the entire article if you’re interested:

 

“By all rights, the end of the line for Studebaker as an automobile manufacturer should have arrived on December 20, 1963, when the sprawling plant in South Bend, Indiana was closed down for the final time. But through a curious twist in corporate decision making, Studebaker’s Canadian chief Gordon Grundy somehow persuaded the corporation to continue production at the company’s small but efficient Hamilton, Ontario plant, not far from Buffalo.”

“And so it came to pass that for Studebaker’s last two years in the business, it was a Canadian car maker. In the USA, these final Studebakers were sold under the slogan ‘The Common Sense Car.’ But north of the border, the tagline was ‘Canada’s Own Car.'”

 

I don’t really know how much Grundy had to do with the decision. By this time, the writing was on the wall and Studebaker’s place in the automobile business was going to disappear, much sooner rather than later. In order to avoid potential lawsuits from disgruntled Studebaker dealers and suppliers, producing in Canada was a convenient option. Still, the Canadian perspective is interesting.

It is known that Studebaker passed on multiple opportunities to be the US distributor for Volkswagen. What is probably not as well known is that they also tried to become North American (or perhaps just Canadian) distributors for Nissan/Datsun or Toyota. Grundy was convinced that the failure of the negotiations with Toyota was due to meddling by one of the partners in the main law firm involved, Richard Nixon. My understanding is that when Nissan/Datsun negotiations were being used as a backup, Toyota found out, became insulted and dropped out. Then Nissan/Datsun found out, became insulted and dropped out. (Maybe it’s the other way around. In any event, a deal with a Japanese automaker didn’t happen.)

From Bring A Trailer a picture of a 1966 Studebaker Daytona Sports Sedan:

 

No Reserve: 1966 Studebaker Daytona Sports Sedan

 

Maybe not the most flattering color for the exterior, but that is not a bad-looking car, in my opinion. FYI, the car hammered sold for $10,750 ($11,287.50 all in) in June, 2018.

At just six letters the question “What If?” is one of the most powerful in the English language.

 

#D-Day

#SayNoToBlindAdherenceToIdeology

#C8Corvette

#CanadianStudebakers

#somanycarsjustonelife

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Monday Musings

I had an odd and uncomfortable dream last night/this morning. (I guess I could write, “Consider the source,” but I would never do that.) I was extremely anxious and upset that I had a paper due in three weeks and, I think, I had not begun working on it. This anxiety consumed my life until I realized that I am no longer in school and, therefore, had no paper due. I then woke up.

I have read/heard that dreams are not really connected to our conscious brain, but this is not the first time I’ve had a dream short-circuited by reality. I once dreamt that I was in a sixth-grade classroom and was extremely upset by that fact. After sitting in the classroom for some time I said to myself in the dream, “I have a graduate degree; I don’t have to be here.” That was the end of the dream.

Of course, one dream I had many years ago was short-circuited by something that was not true at the time, but which gave me great comfort, anyway. I dreamt I was struggling to pay my bills. I was worried that I would have to sell my house and my car. All of a sudden I had a revelation, “Why are you worrying about money? You have four million dollars in the bank.” I didn’t then and I don’t really now, but that “revelation” was extremely comforting and ended the dream. As for the exact number “four million” I must have just watched the movie Twins because that amount of money has significance near the end of the film.

What can I say? It can be hell to live with my brain.

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At the risk of alienating some of my readers, I will state my opinion that an amendment that begins with “A well-regulated militia” should not mean that guns can be owned by anyone and everyone. If one looks at the 20 countries with the highest rates of firearm-related deaths, the list shows 19 countries that are not wealthy and the US. (According to IMF data, the 19 countries on that list excluding the US have an average rank of 90th in the world in per capita GDP; the US ranks 8th.) One would also see disproportionate representation by Central American and South American countries. Sixteen of the 20 countries are in the Western Hemisphere. What that means, if anything, is beyond my scope of knowledge.

If you are not a regular reader you should know that I do not consider myself to be a blind adherent of any ideology. I believe in capitalism and not socialism, I think the phrase “affirmative action” is a euphemism for discrimination and I think that the estate tax and other forms of confiscatory and punitive taxation are theft by the government. However, I believe in common sense and empiricism above all else and no one in the US should be proud of the fact that its rate of gun homicide is 8 or 10 times higher than Canada’s and 55 or 60 times higher than that of the UK. Guns make it way too easy for people to kill people.

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Many of us who are or have been NFL fans are mourning the loss of long-time writer Don Banks. From Peter King’s FMIA column today:

 

“Don Banks, one of the leading NFL reporters in the country, died suddenly on Sunday in Canton, Ohio. He was in Canton to cover the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies over the weekend, and his first story in his new job, as NFL columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was published in Sunday’s editions.”

“Banks, 56, had a 36-year career in sportswriting, beginning when he covered prep sports as an intern in the Tampa Bay area for the St. Petersburg Times. He moved on to cover the Buccaneers for the Timesbefore moving to Minnesota to cover pro football for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and later the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It was there that Banks caught the eye of editors at Sports Illustrated. In 2000, he was hired as NFL columnist for the Sports Illustrated website, SI.com.”

“Banks was an NFL lifer. At SI, his Snap Judgments column on Sunday evenings became appointment reading for NFL fans. After an illustrious career at SI ended in 2016Banks moved on to write about the league for NFL.com, Bleacher Report, Patriots.com and The Athletic. That led to the editors at the Review-Journal, needing a respected national presence to cover the NFL with the Raiders moving to Nevada in 2020, conducting a one-candidate job search. They hired Banks as their NFL correspondent. He started last Thursday, and his first story appeared on the paper’s website just hours before he died.”

“He was known for his absolute impartiality, covering the league at a time when he both lampooned and praised Roger Goodell, the commissioner who has been under fire for much of the last decade.”

 

I used to enjoy Banks’ columns when I followed the NFL more than I do now and was disappointed when he was let go by Sports Illustrated. I think it is a most cruel irony that Banks died just as his first column in his new job was published. My condolences to the Banks family.

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Time for something lighter:

 

See the source image

From en.wheelsage.org a picture of a Daihatsu Copen Cero, one of Japan’s Kei Cars. This is the Japanese classification for the smallest highway-legal cars. (“Lighter”—see what I did there.)

The Copen is currently in its second generation (as of 2014) and has been produced since 2002 with the exclusion of a short pause from 2012 to 2014 caused primarily by the increasing strength of the Japanese yen versus the Euro currency. The current Japanese version of the Copen is powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder engine of 658cc/40 cubic-inch displacement that produces 63 HP/68 LB-FT of torque. If I understand correctly, the Copen used to be available with either a manual or automatic transmission, but is now only available with a CVT automatic. The car only weighs about 2,000 pounds and probably wouldn’t be too safe in the US among all the SUVs and pickup trucks. I think they are quite fetching and could have a use, I suppose, in uncongested areas, if such places still exist in the US.

 

#Bad/GoodDreams

#SayNoToBlindAdherenceToIdeology

#DonBanks

#DaihatsuCopenCero

#KeiCars

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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