To all the cars I loved before (Part One 1955 – 1972)

Part Three is coming real soon! Stay tuned for further updates.

The Heretic

Let’s start from the beginning. This is my beginning so will start with cars I owned in proxy with my dad. I think this is fair for a variety of reasons. I always had a knack for things mechanical and my father discovered this when I was very young. He was not being altruistic, he was being frugal, if I could fix something he saw no reason to spend money having someone else do it. In exchange I could drive anything that I could fit into even though I was not legally old enough to drive on a public road. So he would often take me somewhere private and we would play. Another reason for proxy ownership is that I eventually grew up to become a professional master mechanic, race car driver and petrol-head. These avocations led me into some long-term relationships with cars that, while I didn’t own them…

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To All the Cars I’ve Loved Before: Part 2

Yes, it has been some little while. Much has been happening in our family life that just left me feeling unable to exercise the muse of writing. I have determined that the best cure for this malaise is to pick up the keyboard and just go for it. Before we get back to the cars I should add a small disclaimer here. I am one of the early Beta testers for the new Windows 10 O/S. So I want to do as much as possible using that system. They tell me it could have bugs and possibly display some “temperament”. So far it hasn’t showed me any problems and actually works better than the Windows 7 that was originally installed on this particular system. I still have the Surface Pro and love it but I promised to give this a thorough wringing out over the next several months.

Okay, so where were we? Let’s see we had just returned to the US, while the rest of the family stayed in family lodging at Travis AFB my father and I had to drive up to Portland, OR to pick up the new car. It was the first new car my father had ever purchased that I could remember. He had ordered it through the special Exchange program and the car could basically be ordered custom. He opted for an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue
1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue

with some odd options: as usual he wanted the biggest engine so he got the 455ci Police interceptor motor with the TH400 automatic, no A/C (more on this further on) and an 8-track player. When we arrived at the dealership and picked up the car the dealer included a sample tape that had an odd mix of music from classical to western. It was a great selection and the sound system, for the time, was excellent. We had a very enjoyable drive back to Travis and picked up the family then drove to our final destination, the place my dad intended to retire to . . . Phoenix, AZ aka the Valley of the Sun. We arrived in early April and the car was great, he even drag raced a Corvette and taught it that there is more to speed than a name! I had to get a learner’s permit and start driving training all over, AZDOT didn’t recognize a DL issued to a 14 year-old! It was my father that put me up to it, but if they could have read Tagalog it was actually for a motorcycle as that is what I drove in the P.I. When summer came we got our eyes opened, it was HOT. I’m talking Satan going back to H3LL to get away from the Arizona heat. People were shocked that my dad owned a car without A/C. Dealers wouldn’t even consider a trade for it. I got my license that summer and my dad was determined to keep the car until paid for. So he decided I would get a car of my own as I was going into my senior year at school and he thought it appropriate.

1967 Buick LeSabre
1967 Buick LeSabre

This was my dad’s idea of a cool set of wheels. It was smooth and reliable, the A/C didn’t work! but it was cheap. He paid the guy $265 dollars and even got a rifle (.30-.30 Winchester) thrown in as the student was returning to the USSR and they didn’t allow private ownership of weapons like that. About the only thing I really remember about the car was that it had this dial that you could turn on the Speedometer and when you approached the speed indicated it would buzz at you, loudly if you went over so I generally kept it set to 120 MPH! That made it more interesting when you heard the buzz. Now I am going to be totally honest, I wasn’t enthralled with this automobile and I had a job working in the school kitchen where my dad was working by this time. My dad told me I could trade the car in on anything I wanted as long as he didn’t need to cosign a loan (in other words I had to pay cash) and so I saved like mad and kept my eyes open. So, toward the end of summer, I am driving home from work and sitting on the corner of 75th Avenue and Camelback Road I saw the following:

1959 Peerless GT
1959 Peerless GT

I called the number on the windshield and the owner arrived to allow me a test drive. He didn’t let me drive it at first, he started the car and proceeded to scare the living shyte out of me by zipping around neighborhood streets in an area under construction. the car was so quick it was getting up to 60 or 70 MPH and then drifting around corners with enough G-force to make your neck hurt. I was unaware that the owner had modified the car and that the 289ci Ford V-8 was not factory. Basically the guy had built a homegrown version of the AC Cobra but since this car was so much lighter it was hugely faster. There were a lot of interesting things about the car: two gas tanks of 8 gallons each right under each door (real safe huh?), the windows didn’t crank up and down – rather there is a lever in each door that would slam the window from fully open to fully shut and the reverse with a simple tug. It had a rear seat so it could be qualified into its class for road races – this rear seat was made out of paper thin fiberglass and you could lift it up and see the welded steel frame the car was constructed of. It also featured knockoff hubs for quick tire changes and a mechanical windshield wiper that you had to step on to activate. He wanted $1200 for it, I offered him the Buick and $650 and ended up driving the car home. It was huge fun to drive for all of a week, then my father “borrowed” it and drove it to work one day. Upon his return I was informed that the “death trap” had to go! NOW!! So I called my friend Kenny and asked him for help. Kenny was a master mechanic and I was apprenticed to him while I was learning how to work on cars, we also had been participating in local racing events as pit crew and/or driving when the opportunity presented.

This was a busy summer but the car Kenny and I chose ended up being one of the best investments I had made to this time and it deserves an entry of its own so allow me to pause here and you can look forward to Part 3 soon.

To all the cars I loved before (Part One 1955 – 1972)

Let’s start from the beginning. This is my beginning so will start with cars I owned in proxy with my dad. I think this is fair for a variety of reasons. I always had a knack for things mechanical and my father discovered this when I was very young. He was not being altruistic, he was being frugal, if I could fix something he saw no reason to spend money having someone else do it. In exchange I could drive anything that I could fit into even though I was not legally old enough to drive on a public road. So he would often take me somewhere private and we would play. Another reason for proxy ownership is that I eventually grew up to become a professional master mechanic, race car driver and petrol-head. These avocations led me into some long-term relationships with cars that, while I didn’t own them, I spent enough time working on them and driving them to develop a relationship and bond that was as strong as being an owner. I want to ensure that some of the more interesting of these cars are included because, while I didn’t own the car, I developed a strong sense of what it meant to drive one on a daily basis and live with it. I will mention if a car I write about was not owned by me and what my relationship with the car was based upon.

My father was not a ‘driver’. For him a car was a means to a destination. Despite this he often had “fun” with a car and frequently chose cars that offered something unique; power, style, collectible. His tastes were eclectic and hard to pin down. With that in mind we will start with the first car he had, I barely remember it, never got to drive it, but remember it was one of his favorites and he would always speak fondly of that particular car.

The Jaguar SS Tourer that he drove while stationed in England, where I was born, was my dad’s favorite car. Obviously he was unmarried and had no children. He dated my mum while driving this car. It broke down frequently and was impractical so he sold it before our family returned to the US. Well technically he was the only one returning since my two sisters, mum and myself were all born in the UK. My father kept a picture of the car in his wallet, apparently lost while serving in Vietnam. It looked a lot like this example although less polished and more driven. I cannot be positive of the year, even my mother is not sure, but the picture I remember him carrying looked exactly like this 1936 model.

Upon our arrival in the United States my father was stationed at Walker AFB near Roswell, NM (yes, THAT Roswell) and of course the first order of business was to put our family on wheels. After all that was, and is, “The American Way”. He found a slightly used 1958 Plymouth Belvedere for sale at a local car dealer and brought this car home. It became the most reviled automobile ever to grace the driveway of any home we were ever to reside in. My mother abhorred the car and my dad quickly determined why the car had been returned when the summer heat hit.

We’ll start with my mother’s complaints. One, the car was enormous despite being a coupe. Two, there were NO seatbelts and she had three children! It was fun listening to my father explain that seatbelts were an option that cost extra and were seldom ordered unless you were a racer. He was convinced they were unneeded. The remainder of the complaints could be said to extend from her more European outlook on cars in general and the Plymouth was just about the exact opposite of what any self-respecting European marquee would produce.

My father quickly decided the car was a mistake in July. It had factory AC, that was a BIG DEAL in the late 50s and early 60s. So one fine hot day he turned the AC on. There were four big round vents that came out of a box on the hump. They started pumping out slightly cooler air but it smelled funny and didn’t do anything for us rear seat riders. As my father is proceeding down the highway the car goes slower and slower. It eventually settled down to 25 MPH. That was the car’s top speed with the AC on. It went back to the dealer. My father paid to have a full set of lap belts installed and they checked the motor and AC system. He got the car back and it would now top 50 with the AC on. But every mile or so the car would feel like the engine shut off. Then it would suddenly surge forward. It did this on a dirt road on the way home while all of us were in the car coming back from the base. The surge caught my dad by surprise and before he could react the car had put itself into a ditch. My father smacked into the steering wheel, the rest of us were safely belted. That was the very last time ANY of us ever rode in a car without seatbelts EVER but for a single exception which will be explained in the next section.

The problems with the Plymouth continued to plague my father and the dealer. So when my father went back the next time the dealer offered to trade the Belvedere in and gave him a good price. I still have the receipt and he paid $2453 plus tax and license…yes there was an $8.60 charge for the optional seatbelts. Researching the actual worth of the Belvedere and the Impala of the time and considering that he bought the car slightly used . . . the dealer didn’t really do him any favors. However, the history of the car’s service more than made up for the dealer piracy. He owned that Impala until 1968, explanation below. My father frequently purchased a second car to get around with at each station of assignment and would leave the ‘other’ car at home for my mother to drive. But at each PCS the ‘other car’ would be sold off and we would pack the whole family including pets into that Impala and just drive. We traveled the length and breadth of Route 66 so often we knew all the landmarks by heart. This was also the one exception to the seat belt rule. Despite only having two doors the rear of the Impala was quite commodious. My father placed two duffels into the little wells formed between the front and rear seats and all three of us kids would be able to sleep in the back while my mother and dad took turns sleeping and driving. They liked covering ground fast and the car was perfect at eating up great swaths of American countryside in hundreds of mile long legs. Each day we would get a turn to choose breakfast, lunch or dinner. That was the rule . . . once each day we would stop at a “sit down restaurant” and have a proper meal; other meals each day would be made from ‘road’ food that my mother would pick up at a grocery store. Bladder and bowel timing was expected to comply strictly to the capacity of the Chevrolet’s fuel tank. The only ‘event’ of any kind involving this vehicle was that, in 1964, someone removed the chrome trim while the car was parked in Rapid City, SD. The chrome trim back then was real, very heavy and actually quite valuable. Dad thought the car looked ‘better’ without the chrome so never had it replaced. He had the mounting holes filled, finished flush and a new coat of white paint. My father never owned another Plymouth and until later in life never wandered beyond the Chevrolet Motor Division of GM. My mother, to this day, dislikes anything non-GM. This odd bias had an amusing twist two cars further down.

Perhaps my father hit his “mid-life crisis”. Perhaps the stress of his 4th combat zone deployment (he had just returned from a third tour in Southeast Asia and this was his 7th combat tour!). To this day we will never know. What I do know is this… We were living in Riverhead, New York and his permanent station at the time was Suffolk County Air Force Base. It was the longest we had ever stayed in one place until that point. It was 1968 and he was “fat” with hazardous duty pay and a credit rating that was in the Platinum range. Additionally he had been being driven crazy by guys wanting to buy his Impala, he didn’t understand the attraction but, when an offer he couldn’t refuse was made, he sold it. I later discovered, upon locating the original invoice, that my father had been driving a “409” version of the SS Impala all these years! My father had suffered a pretty serious injury and had hardware in his shoulder and leg, he never made a big deal of it. But perhaps it was this “brush with the reaper” that modified his outlook on the meaning of life. Many years later I suffered a similar fate and the same mental readjustment. That will be saved for another entry.

He asked me to come with him and our neighbor took us to the Chevy dealer on the north edge of town. It took me a bit of searching but the picture I located is identical in color and pose to what he walked me over to. I was a hair shy of 13 and already 6 feet tall. But I felt really small when I saw the car. I even said to him, “Wow, that’s a real beauty! But what are we here for?” He just smiled, opened the passenger door and said, “Get in.” It was his. The Stingray, despite being all of nearly 5 years old still looked and ran like a new car. There wasn’t a mark on it. We spent an entire day driving this car. We went to the Montauk Lighthouse, out to the base and then did a circuit around the entire perimeter of Wildwood Lake. The drive and the car were magical. It was late afternoon and my father drove us home. My mother came out of the house, took one look at the Corvette and asked my dad if the last few marbles had fallen out of his head. My mother made me go inside. My father drove off in the Corvette Stingray, it was the last time I ever saw it. My father’s revenge did come a few years later when he was able to show her an article about the car that explained that, if he had kept it, he could have traded it for a small house! He did come home that night with a completely ordinary Oldsmobile.

In late 1971 my father was advised that the entire family was being PCS’d to the Republic of the Philippines. The Olds was not considered a good choice of car for the terrible roads over there. Additionally he was told that while serving overseas he could purchase a car brand new direct from the manufacturer for factory cost. This was too tempting a deal to pass on so my father used the Olds as a trade for our next automotive adventure. The other cars on this list all lead to this…the car to the left. A medium gold metallic 1965 Corvair Monza. It was, perhaps, the single oddest automobile ever produced by Chevrolet. Air-cooled pancake six-cylinder, the engine was in the back and it was rear drive. It had a boot in the front, an almost perfectly flat floor and was the first car I can ever remember my father owning that had an automatic transmission. This was the ‘odd twist’ from our friends at Chevy. Simply everybody told my dad that the car he chose was a huge mistake. The book “Unsafe at any Speed” by Ralph Nader had already been published. Everybody knew that our whole entire family was going to be wiped out in a terrible roll-over accident. My father was additionally warned by several local mechanics that the twisted fan belt was ‘stupid’ and would never hold up. Since that belt was responsible for charging AND cooling the car he was informed that the car would most likely leave us stuck to starve to death somewhere in the “middle of nowhere”. I don’t know why my father didn’t listen; perhaps it was because it was the first car he ever brought home that was so like the European cars my mom grew up with that she fell head over heels in love with it. The Corvair was the only car I knew my mother enjoyed driving in. She would find excuses to go somewhere so she could drive it. My father simple bragged that he had purchased a really great looking car with very low miles and was out of pocket a total of, are you ready for this, $365. Yes, you read that correctly. he paid the dealer $365 to take the car off the lot and out of the country. I will include it here but understand that this car is a story in and of itself. Let’s look at its history in our family.

With all those dire warnings in mind my father equipped the car for a cross-country like I had never seen before. He had THREE spare belts, spare plugs, spare wires, vacuum line, an extra spare tire and a complete tool kit with timing light and dwell/tach. Note: he didn’t know what those were or how to use them, he asked me and I told him what would be needed, it was at this tender age I got introduced to the world of the internal combustion engine. As if this wasn’t enough the Corvair is a compact car so my father realized that to get all five of us and our cat into the car the stuff normally placed in the trunk and back seat would need to ride in a roof rack. He went to Sears, Roebuck & Co. and had one installed that, for all the world, looked as big as the car under it. We set off in April. We were not in any huge rush as we wanted to visit several of our family members as we went. Our first leg went quick. We drove from Riverhead to Newark, NJ to visit my uncle; from there we travelled to Pittsburg, PA to visit his brothers in the region: at each stop the dire warnings of impending doom continued although the Corvair itself was actually a very comfortable ride. After spending two weeks visiting East Coast relatives we took off for the long cross-country. Our destination was Manhattan Beach outside Los Angeles to visit my aunt and her family from my mother’s side. This trip was taken on Interstate 80 with a cut south to the I70 and I15 just past Denver. After several days of uneventful driving, somewhere in Colorado, we stopped for lunch. I had a bowl of chili. As it turned out it was a REALLY bad bowl of chili! About half an hour after pulling out of the restaurant I felt terrible pain in my gut. My father pulled over in a rest area. I tried to go but nothing would happen, it didn’t help at all that the rest area in Colorado was horrid. Really, there was no other word for the experience. If you looked between your legs you could see a pool of black water…well here’s the thing, you couldn’t really see it, it was black as pitch, what you could see was the reflection of the adjacent holes that comprised the seats of what had to be the world’s largest mass outhouse. The smell would bring tears to your eyes so you tried to hold your breath until you were ‘finished’. I passed a fart. It sounded like a train horn reverberating in that place. But felt better so let’s get moving. Back in the car and about 30 minutes later I have the same bad feeling, I push a little and realize that it’s just more gas so I let it go. Blissfully feeling better after the release, thankful that there was no audio track to accompany, I relax. Then the smell hit. Everybody in the car turned green! Even I, responsible as I was, was mortified by this stench. Luckily it had been quiet and suspicion was that we had passed a dead skunk or something like. This worked for about another 30 minutes but then another pain passed through me and, my sphincter being used to the job, just let it go and this time it was accompanied! RRRIIIPPP, THPPPPTTT! Then that stench…AGAIN!!! My father turned around and very calmly told me that if I did it again I would be walking the rest of the way. The next wave hit right on time, I tried everything to hold it in as tears ran from my eyes. I begged my dad to stop and let me out (seriously concerned that he could justify my death as self-defense at this point) but he wouldn’t. His suggestion made sense . . . wind the back window down and stick my butt out the window and let it go. In utter agony by this point I did as he asked. We were driving through the mountains and my father was enjoying swinging the car around the curves. It was as he was going around a sharp, decreasing radius turn to the right that I got my buns aimed out the window and let the effusive and noxious cloud go. I think my butt missed hitting the Colorado Highway Patrol officer that had pulled the old 356 Porsche off the road by a mere inch or so. However close it was the look on his face had everyone in the car laughing their butts off, I was suddenly the hero! My father was determined that there would be no more stops until we reached Arizona, firmly convinced that the CHP would be hot on our tails the whole way due to “assault with a deadly weapon”!

But I digress, back to the car. The Corvair, at this point, had earned its way into the family. There wasn’t a single person in that car that wasn’t firmly convinced that it was the best car ever built by Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors. Our next event happened somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. We were driving and my father saw a cloud of dust coming from behind. Many were trying to outrun the cloud and soon we found ourselves flying along at over 90 MPH! We passed many that dropped out due to overheating but the Corvair just went faster. On our left my father saw a hill with a restaurant upon the peak, didn’t care what restaurant, it was “any port in a storm”. All by ourselves, the only car to make the hill, we climbed the hill and pulled in. The storm behind us looked like all the wrath of God was coming down. Coal black clouds, howling wind and what must have been enough dirt to build a small country all bearing down on our band! We went inside and sat. Over hamburgers and fries, for some odd reason my father wouldn’t let me have chili anymore, we watched the world darken. Then began the rain, the hail. It literally felt like the end of the world. After a bit, over our drinks, my father noticed that the long-haul truckers were leaving. “Time to go!” he announced. We drove back down the hill and reentered the highway. There was no more adventure for the duration of our journey. We visited for a few days with my aunt then drove up to Travis AFB for the journey to the far east. The Corvair was loaded onto a car hauler for a rendezvous with the USS Hornet.

It took a few weeks after our arrival before my father was sent to Subic Bay to pick up the car. His first surprise was upon getting insurance. Remember he paid $365 for the car which, as far as he knew, was worth a max of $1500. So imagine his surprise when the car’s insured value was over $3500; understand that at the time you could buy a fully-loaded luxury car for $3500! The agent had to explain that a Corvair was a VERY desirable car outside the US. The features that made it so unique in the US such as an independent suspension, good gas mileage made it very attractive to people used to European type cars. So my father put a little sign in the back saying “Please steal me” and habitually left the keys in the ignition. A little over two years later we still had the car. All the spare parts were still in the boot and my dad had even smuggled a guy through a protest line by putting him in the trunk (nobody EVER thought of checking there after checking the trunk which, while full of engine, still looked like storage area). He sold the Corvair to a fellow serviceman who needed transportation for his pregnant wife to leave at home with her. He was offered $1500 for it. That Corvair was passed from serviceman to serviceman for the next decade, finally disappearing during an eruption of Mount Pinatubo. It was the stuff of legend as they say. He bought the car, drive the living hell out of it for almost three years and sold it for four times what he paid for it.

My father had done as he had promised, there was a brand new car waiting for us at the end of his tour. A perfectly ordinary Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Even more important, to me anyway, I had a driver’s license . . . but NO CAR!!! This story will continue in Part Two.

Should the USA hire Her Majesty?

Unemployment is WAY DOWN, under-employment is WAY UP. The bottom line is that our middle-class has been gutted and the middle-class made up the heart and soul of the American economy. Small mom and pop operations employed over 90% of the US workforce. Centralization of supply and demand, migration of high-paying low/unskilled factory jobs and many other factors of a similar nature have conspired to put us where we are. The problems are too complex and of a global nature; it is not possible that anyone can lay the blame on any president. I am NOT pro-Obama, he is a liar and has never actually worked an honest day in his life, never served in any form of the military (not even the National Guard) so I truly believe he has some of the lowest of moral compass and ethics in the history of his office.

That said I firmly believe that being a ‘saint’ is NOT a trait that we want in a president. The ability to twist fact and play with statistics is a critical skill for the office. Our current political climate at the national level consists of a group of extreme left socialists that are battling a group of extreme right conservatives. Problem is that the vast majority of Americans actually lie somewhere between the two so the vast majority are seeing a government that is subverting the will of the people on every single issue regardless of it being a Democrat or a Republican putting forward the issue. While the climate is like this our government is powerless to move on any significant issue, compromise is no longer possible. It is not a problem triggered by the Tea Party Republicans any more than it is a problem of the Far Left Liberals. They are symptoms of a disease. The disease is intolerance and the inability to accept responsibility.

We are now seeing our society crack around the edges, signs of extreme civil unrest, people taking the law into their own hands due to the inability of the government to govern. If things do not change and change very soon we will have given the Office of the President of the United States that which he most ardently seeks . . . an excuse to impose martial law. When that occurs you can kiss your elections goodbye. You can then say hello to the Emperor of the United States Barrack Hussein Obama. I, for one, wouldn’t blame him. It is that or we all vote to have Queen Elizabeth absorb us back in the British Empire (wouldn’t that be a gas?)!

Actually, the British form of government has a very significant advantage over ours as it is currently structured. The Queen is relatively powerless to rule the people directly, she is allowed to give a speech during which she can bring up issues of importance. But there is one power unique to the Throne. The Queen can dissolve a government when the voice of the people demand it. This has been done only a very few times in the past. Most notably the government of Chamberlain, with his history of appeasement to Hitler at the onset of WW2. We all know the result of that. The government reformed with Winston Churchill at the head and Britain stood, alone, against the Axis onslaught for almost 3 full years until the US entered the conflict.

The Real Unemployment Numbers

The administration was pleased to announce that the unemployment rate is now down to 6.2% from 6.7%. This proves that the economic recovery is well on the way to working . . . or does it? The unemployment rate used by the administration is but one measure of our workforce. Out of all eligible members of the US workforce the actual participation rate is 62%. Literally this means that a little over 6 of every 10 eligible potential workers are actually working or actively seeking work. Almost 4 out of every ten are not If you add the unemployed to the non-participating you come up with a staggering 92 million Americans that are unemployed. The actual unemployment rate currently is closer to 12%! This isn’t even calculating the number of people that are under-employed such as highly degreed professionals in their 50s and 60s that can’t find a job outside of being a burger jockey. Throw these into the figures and we are now looking at over 40% un/under-employed. This should be heartbreaking to anyone reading this.

If you go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics they actually break down all these numbers for you. It paints a pretty dim picture of the actual state of our country. Almost 1 million eligible workers have just plain given up even looking for a job after multiple years of searching have left them devoid of hope. They survive on government handouts and off-the-grid money-making such as garage sales to keep surviving.

The real strength of the United States has been a strong and productive middle-class. But the past decade has seen the power of this middle-class eroded by several things. Overseas production of real goods is, perhaps, number one on the list. You see; it is the factory worker, the construction worker, the plumber, the baker, even the candlestick maker that supported America’s lifestyle. These operations employed the vast majority of Americans. When local production halted then we were left as a nation of rampant consumers whose sole purpose became the acquisition of material things produced elsewhere. But we can not support ourselves if all we do is buy. Eventually the buyers run out of money, then the lower paid sales force loses their jobs. Now we are a nation intent on buying survival items. This is having a profound effect on the sales of durable goods. So now the bigger corporations are beginning to feel the pinch as demand for their products drop. They may pay for an hour’s work in Vietnam with a cup of rice, but they still need to buy the rice. The ability of the USG to support the needy is putting a bigger and bigger demand on the middle- and upper-classes; the middle-class is all but destroyed now and the upper-class cannot bear the weight of taking care of the other 98% of Americans.

Some of these figures can be accounted for by the mass retirement of baby-boomers but the sad fact is that nothing but abrogation of responsibility on the part of our government and big business hold the ‘bag’ for the following factual numbers:

  • 92 million Americans out of work.
  • 10.1 million people the administration admits are officially unemployed.
  • 6 million who want a job but haven’t found one yet.
  • 2.5 million who didn’t bother to search.
  • 1.5 million that didn’t look for work because of this reason or that.
  • 900,000 that gave up entirely.

Obama’s unemployment claims are as empty as his recovery methods.


The Rule of Unexpected Consequence or How Being PC is destroying the World

Many times the desire to do something ‘good’ for the environment, let’s say save water or an endangered species, seem easy to address and so the government passes a law or creates a regulation that addresses the problem in a simple and straightforward way. Everyone is happy . . . right?

WRONG! I am going to take a look at just a few of these special interest inspired travesties and analyze the unexpected consequence of each.

Let’s take a look at mandated restricted flow faucets first. The government wanted to reduce our demand for water. On the surface redesigning faucets such that they would work as effectively while using less water to do so makes perfect sense so back in 1995 the use of flow restrictive faucets and toilets mandated to use only 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF) rather than the more common 3.5 GPF. First thing people noticed was that a toilet now required 2 – 3 flushes in order to flush the remains of last night’s lasagna! So now we use 3.2 to 4.8 GPF! Still the technology has improved since those early years so this is not so much of a problem and 1.6 GPF will get rid of the more common #1 (is that a PUN? Sorry) usage of a toilet. Flow restrictors and aerators on all the other faucets simply don’t make any sense however based on usage. Why would I say that? My bath takes 22 gallons of water and I don’t want it cold. An old faucet could fill the tub from bone dry to overflowing in 3 minutes and change; the new faucet takes over 11 minutes during which the hot water is cooling down so I have to compensate by using more energy to heat the water before it leaves the faucet! I haven’t saved an ounce of water but have added to the CO2 level of the atmosphere because I needed extra energy to heat it. My biggest complaint (I don’t take frequent baths, prefer the shower) is the kitchen faucet. Like most people today I let a dish-washer take care of scrubbing dirty dishes. A dish-washer is effective and makes sense environmentally. It takes 2.5 gallons per fill. So what use is the kitchen sink put to. Presoaking really burned on stuff is one thing, filling a mop bucket to scrub the floors is another and, most commonly, filling a pot so that I can cook some food. In each case cited there is a requirement for a measured quantity of water, usually hot. So rather than quickly fill the object with the water I need I am forced to sit and hold the faucet or tap my fingers impatiently while I wait for the faucet that thinks there can be NO logical reason for me to want more than 1/2 gallon of water per minute mixed with useless air. Six minutes to fill a bucket to wash the floors. 2.5 minutes to fill a pot to cook a family size batch of chili (I use only Hatch chilis from New Mexico). I can easily waste over an hour each day waiting for a faucet to fill up a container because some twit in the government thought you could save water by slowing it down. Guess what? You really can’t save water by filling a 5 gallon bucket slowly.

The lions of the Serengeti are an endangered species. I was watching a video this morning presented by an environmental activist, and a liberal PC gentleman named Mikkel, who has made his life dream to save these animals. He admitted to being one of the first on the bandwagon to outlaw the hunting of lions in the non-National Preserve area of the Serengeti. This area is currently used for cattle ranching. It was, up until 2003, perfectly legal to hunt lions in this area and hunters from around the world would pay up to $750,000 US Dollars for the privilege. The money would go to the government and a lot of it was set aside to compensate the ranchers for the inevitable loss of livestock due to predation by the lions. Succumbing to international outcry from the anti-hunting and ‘green’ liberals the government banned all hunting in the region. Of course the inevitable happened, the lions kept on killing and eating the cattle. The ranchers picked up a rifle and shot the lions. This is legal since they are not hunting but defending their livelihood. As the population of lions decreased in the rural area the National Preserve lions recognized that the old lion population had disappeared and lions, being lions and territorial, moved into the available area and then began to kill and eat the cattle. The ranchers now found themselves killing lions that used to be protected. Eleven years later and the status of the lions of the Serengeti has become precarious indeed.

We do what is right by forcing our views onto others rather than a reliance on natural consequences, we call this being Politically Correct (PC). We institute rules and regulations without regard to the full use or impact of the object or device we are attempting to control, which is ignoring the aforementioned natural consequence. When we do these things we risk alienation of a portion of our population. Sure, it feels good to get a law passed that makes it illegal to bully somebody by calling them a ‘bad’ name. It feels good to be able to shut someone down by saying “You haven’t shared my experience or culture so you don’t have a right to an opinion.” But isn’t this just bullying too? Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? I mean, do we really need rule of law to protect us from jerks? Have our skins become so thin?

Here is a little comparison for arguments sake. When I lived in Europe and the Middle-East I observed that my auto insurance rates were phenomenally low (I am talking about as much as 90% lower for the same vehicle) compared to the rates I paid in the US. I asked why this was. An agent in Turkey explained it very clearly, “Here you take personal responsibility for your decisions. If you have an accident and are injured while NOT wearing seat belts then my company is not required to pay for injuries that would have been prevented had you been wearing them.” He then continued, “If alcohol is involved then you are personally responsible and my company is not required to pay your claim, we only cover the injured party and that only if they also test clean. If they also were not wearing seat belts then neither we, nor you, are liable for injuries that would have been prevented should they have been wearing them.” What an amazingly refreshing idea. If you as an adult, make a stupid decision and it results in personal harm then you are held responsible. Is it any wonder that DUIs are so low in these areas? In the UK they literally laugh at all the silly bells and whistles that remind you to put on a seat belt, that you left your keys in the cars. The American’s penchant for bonging and clanging convinces them that we need to be held by the hand to go to the loo! The sad thing is that it is all too true, we divorce ourselves from personal responsibility in every aspect of our lives wherever possible from child-rearing to how much water we use to wash our hands. This really needs to change.

Okay, five minutes is up, I should be able to flush the remainder of last night’s chili now…

This Picture from Top Gear Reminds Me of a Story

Many years ago I used to manage a professional automotive shop in Phoenix, AZ. At the time my primary transportation car was a 1978 Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback (today we would call it a hot-hatch). I had showered this car with love courtesy of TRD so rather than the stock hemi-head 1600cc engine of 75 BHP is had the 1800cc dual-overhead cam 16-valve with 14:1 pop-up pistons, high-performance intake with 4 SU carbs and a racing inspired free flow header system. When put on our rear-wheel dynamometer it cranked out 305 BHP and 256 ft-lbs of torque. This power was routed to the road through a close-ratio 5-speed and Pirelli P6 tyres that were, let’s say, just a tad over-sized. I used to take the car out on weekends and challenge 911 Turbos (to their infinite embarrassment).

One day I am taking the day’s receipts to the main office on Central Ave in Phoenix, right in the heart of downtown, and it is at the peak of rush hour. My Asst. Manager, Dwayne, is sitting beside me when I pull into the parking lot. He jumps out, drops the receipt bag into the slot and jumps back in. I turn the car around and head for the exit. I notice there is a little gap in what is, literally, wall-to-wall Friday evening traffic. So I floor the car and dive for the exit determined to get the car on the road and across into the left turn lane before we are cut off because our turn is only a few hundred yards north of the office location. I completely forgot how steep the exit ramp is and that there is a slight bump just as you hit it. So when my almost rigid Koni suspension hits the bump we go air born! We are still headed straight but now there is that safety island to worry about. So I calculate the amount to turn the wheel and do so, while still in the air! Needless to say as soon as the car touched the ground my suspension did what it was designed to do and the car instantly turned right. At the same time the g-forces conspired to lift the right side of the car off the ground and we found ourselves on two wheels! To get out of this all you need to do is turn the wheels away from the elevated side of the car. I was right against the island and didn’t have the room to maneuver. In the meantime the gap had closed and the cars beside me are honking and hooting at us, fists are pumping up and down as far as the eye could see. Dwayne, God rest him, is sitting in the passenger’s seat ghost white (he is an African-American so this was a pretty neat trick I thought) and yelling at me, “What the hell are you doing, put this down!!” Dwayne apparently thought I had done this deliberately . . . he did have some prior history to make that claim.

The car felt pretty good riding on two wheels and I quickly realized I had good control as long as traffic kept moving we were good so I determined to ride the foolishness out. Two hundred yards north and the left turn lane opened up so I could give the car that little bit of a left that settled it back onto all four wheels. Adventure over. Drove home and had a beer. The following week Dwayne got his revenge! I’ll tell that story another time.