Monday Musings: America as Idiocracy?

In this post I wrote about how most Americans cannot correctly answer a question having to do with an interest-bearing bank account. Reader David Banner sent this link to a zerohedge.com article with even more frightening information, such as:

 

-One recent survey found that 74 percent of Americans don’t even know how many amendments are in the Bill of Rights.

-During the 2016 election, more than 40 percent of Americans did not know who was running for vice-president from either of the major parties.

Less than half of all Americans know which country used atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

 

The article concludes with this assessment: “…our system of education today is a total joke.  Most of our students have never learned how to communicate effectively, they are fed an endless stream of “tests” that consist of multiple choice, true/false and fill-in-the-blank questions, and when they get out of school most of them have absolutely no idea how to succeed in the real world.

Perhaps that helps to explain why our kids are in the bottom half of all industrialized nations when it comes to math and science literacy.

If we do not educate our children well, we will continue to fall behind the rest of the world, and it will be just a matter of time before we lose our status as a global power.

Of course that assumes that we actually have enough time left to turn things around.  At the rate that we are currently degenerating, we might not.”

 

Ignorance is not bliss and the real world is not in your phone. As I have written before I believe bad parenting is a major cause of the dumbing-down of America. I am totally serious.

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From Steve Magnante’s 1001 Corvette Facts (fact #889, if you must know):

“Ah, the Internet. The C4 was the last Corvette developed before the intrusion of the World Wide Web into everyday life. In those days, Chevrolet held regular consumer focus groups that exposed members of the public to pre-production Corvettes and their features. During development of the C5 and C6, however, the rapid growth of the Internet triggered security leak issues. Despite signing confidentiality agreements, focus-group attendees revealed new features online, long before their official announcements, due to the anonymous nature of the Internet. As Corvette (and Camaro) exterior design manager Kirk Bennion said in a 2017 Motor Trend interview, ‘The Internet has become too powerful.’ The C7 was the first Corvette designed without the input of external focus groups.”

Yes, if you are reading this you are doing so on the Internet. [Irony Acknowledged] Also, I am reminded of Mark Twain’s famous remark, “The only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead.” I think part of what Magnante complains about is more about the ease of disseminating information via the Internet with impunity than about any real change in human nature. Still, I must once again write that NOTHING is all good or all bad. People who blindly worship “progress” seem to forget that human beings are not perfect so none of their endeavors or creations are perfect.

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This picture from a Bring A Trailer listing caught my eye:

 

1973 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000

 

This is a 1973 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000. I think that is just a beautiful car. Today I will refrain from “breaking the butterfly upon a wheel” and not write about the specs of the car.

This type of design is, of course, far more common from Italian automakers than from those anywhere else in the world. What a gorgeous car!

 

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Connections

Connections is a fascinating (IMO) TV series created, written and narrated by James Burke, a science historian. Each episode would link people or inventions that didn’t seem to be related at all. From the Wikipedia article about the series here is the synopsis for a typical episode:

“‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry…’ begins with plastic, the plastic credit card, and the concept of credit, then leaps back to the time of the dukes of Burgundy, the first state to use credit. The dukes used credit for many luxuries, and to buy more armor for a stronger army. The Swiss opposed the army of Burgundy and invented a new military formation (with soldiers using pikes) called the pike square. The pike square, along with events following the French Revolution, set in motion the growth in the size of armies and in the use of ill-trained peasant soldiers. Feeding these large armies became a problem for Napoleon, which caused the innovation of bottled food. The bottled food was first put in champagne bottles then in tin cans. Canned food was used for armies and for navies. In one of the bottles, the canned food went bad, and people blamed the spoiled food on ‘bad air’, also known as swamp air. Investigations around ‘bad air’ and malaria led to the innovation of air conditioning and refrigeration. In 1892, Sir James Dewar invented a container that could keep liquids hot or cold (the thermos) which led three men – Konstanin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Hermann Oberth – to construct a large thermal flask for either liquid hydrogen and oxygen or for solid fuel combustion for use in rocket propulsion, applying the thermal flask principle to keep rocket fuel cold and successfully using it for the V-2 rocket and the Saturn V rocket that put man on the moon.”

Each episode in the original series (1978) was fascinating to me. I didn’t enjoy the book anywhere near as much nor did I enjoy the “sequels,” Connections2 or Connections3 as much as the original.

In his book Steve Magnante’s 1001 Corvette Facts, Magnante writes about a “Connections” event. Fact #518 links the Chevrolet Corvair, the Porsche 928 and the C4 Corvette. Magnante writes that Porsche developed the front-engined 924 and 928 as a response to the reaction to the rear-engined Corvair. Porsche worried that the US, its largest export market, might ban rear-engined cars. The introduction of the 924 and particularly the 928 led General Motors/Chevrolet to abandon any mid-engined Corvette and re-commit to a front-engine layout in the C4. (In my opinion much of the excessive and vitriolic criticism of corporate America has its roots in the Corvair and the controversy it created. In his book Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars, Paul Ingrassia connects the Corvair to the election of George Bush in 2000. Ralph Nader became so famous that he ran for President and received enough votes in Florida so that the state and its electoral votes would be awarded to Bush instead of Al Gore. That’s a real Connections story!)

 

See the source image

From journal.classiccars.com a picture of a first-generation Corvair.

 

See the source image

From momentcar.com a picture of a Porsche 928.

 

https://www.corvsport.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/VHaFnI.jpg

From corvsport.com a picture of a C4 Corvette. This happens to be a 1990 model.

 

People who think they can predict the future are either delusional or lying. Nature is extremely complex and the only prediction that can be made is that nature is unpredictable. Human behavior, while not as complex as nature, can be inscrutable as well.

 

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Throwback Thursday, Mecum Edition

When the 2009 baseball season started I had four teams as clients. Less than two weeks after the 2010 season ended I had one. My business was essentially dead so I had to find a job. This excerpt from Steve Magnante’s 1001 Corvette Facts could have been written by me: “My life as a Chevrolet salesman was brief. After six months, I learned there was a big difference between liking cars and selling them.” By the way, Corvette fans should buy the book.

My first job after baseball was training to be a salesman at a local Nissan dealer. I didn’t last six months, though; I lasted four days before I quit. I received a job offer from a (very) large financial services company, the same company where my wonderful wife was working so I accepted. I lasted nine months at that job before I resigned. I am NOT cut out to sit at a desk in front of a computer screen 40-45 hours a week doing someone else’s bidding. The longest I’ve ever stayed in a non-baseball office job is one year.

Maybe I’m just fooling myself, but I would love to work for an automobile auction company, like Mecum. Don’t these companies have a need for someone who can analyze data?

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See the source image

From playtoysclassiccars.com a picture of a 1975 Bricklin SV-1 like the one that will be offered for sale today at the giant Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida. Once again, Mecum does not allow online pictures of its lots to be captured. I used to have a couple of photos of a Bricklin, but they were lost when I couldn’t access the backup of my old iPhone after I bought my new one.

Malcolm Bricklin, who started the General Vehicle company that manufactured the SV-1, seems like quite a character. A Rolling Stone article from 2013 described him as, “brash, bombastic, and pathologically prone to betting the farm on pie-in-the-sky automotive endeavors.” Bricklin founded Subaru of America in 1968 and was the importer of the Yugo, considered by many to be the worst car ever made. In fact, I just ordered a book titled The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic.

From Hagerty a concise history of the car: “The Bricklin SV-1 was conceived in 1973, when the U.S. auto industry was in a slump due to fuel shortages, emissions regulations, and increased safety requirements. Subaru importer Malcolm Bricklin believed there was a seam in the market for a ‘safe’ and individual sports car, so he persuaded the Canadian government to invest money for construction of such a car in depressed New Brunswick. [My note: the unemployment rate in New Brunswick at that time approached 25%.] Cost overruns and quality control problems with the inexperienced workforce led to eventual bankruptcy. The first Bricklins were built in 1974, and the factory shut down in late 1975, with a few 1976 models built from leftover parts.”

I believe the Canadian and/or New Brunswick government pulled the plug on the project so even though Bricklin was providing jobs something must have made the government(s) think the investment was no longer worthwhile.

The “SV” in SV-1 stood for Safety Vehicle. Bricklin wanted to build a car that exceeded US government safety regulations. Initially the SV-1 was powered by a 360 cubic-inch American Motors V-8 and later by a Ford 351. The SV-1 was a front-engine car, looks notwithstanding. The car was fraught with quality issues like overheating and gull-wing doors that wouldn’t open. About 3,000 cars were produced in total.

In person the Bricklin is quite a handsome car, in my opinion. It’s not a contender for Ultimate Garage 2.0, but very few cars are. What do you think of the Bricklin?

 

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