Less tone-deaf, maybe?

Can we take credit for this?


That’s GM CEO Rick Wagoner (in the passenger seat, or “at left,” as they teach us on the copy desk), en route to Washington in a Chevy Malibu hybrid. Original story here. Original suggestion, by our own J.C. Burns, here, although the idea makes so much sense it may well be one of those cases of simultaneous light bulbs. As I reread J.C.’s comment, though, his is much better than a simple driving stunt:

Yeah, if I were doing PR for GM/Ford/Chrysler, I’d turn it into an event…put all three of them in a hybrid SUV and let them roll down the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes to DC, doing press avails by cell phone, stopping for mini news conferences at truckstops, and rolling triumphantly (with live shots) into the Capitol area. In the back seat: a UAW employee from each.

“These are the people you’re affecting. We’re just their drivers.”

I still think that’s a great idea. Put Wagoner behind the wheel, and hell yes, live shots. That’s what they do at the auto show every year. Have the Chrysler guy drive his Jeep up the Capitol steps, like they did at the Pontchartrain Hotel a few years back. Do something dramatic, anyway. It wasn’t so long ago that Detroit designs had mojo — do you see rappers customizing Hondas with hydraulics and rims? Do 45-year-old men wake up one day with an all-consuming lust for a vintage Datsun 210? Confidence, gents — get a little of it back. Honk the horn when you roll into D.C.! Turn on the four-ways! Have some fun! Stand up and tell ’em you’re from Detroit!

Fat chance. But here’s hopin’.

While we’re on the subject of J.C. luv, I found this in the comments of his wife Sammy’s blog — you following? It’s a recollection by the former editor of The Country Journal, a small weekly J.C. worked for in the 1970s, way up in Plainfield, Vermont:

My favorite J.C. memory involves sending him to Cabot to get a story — any story, so long as Cabot people were in the paper, because if they weren’t, no one in Cabot would buy a copy. All J.C. could find was adult night at the school gym, where basketball was in progress. He wrote a story that consisted almost entirely of the sounds of the game (THA-DUMP,THA-DUMP, THUNK! CLUNK-CLUNK … “Hey!” “Here!” “One More!” “All right, Harv!” “Hwup!” “Oh!” “Ow!” “I’m sorry!”). Classic.

David Mamet lives there now. I hear he was attracted by the quality of the local media.

OK, then. Thursday is the end of my week, more or less. Lately I have a standing Friday work-related thing, but mostly Thursday feels like Friday, and since the sun’s out today — for the first time in days — it feels a little special. No bad news allowed, today. Thanks to Brian for pointing out the overlooked story of the week, about a soured co-operative effort between the Cincinnati Zoo and the nearby Creation Museum:

The Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum launched a joint promotional deal last week to draw attention to their holiday attractions.

It worked, but not the way zoo and museum officials had hoped.

The zoo pulled out of the deal Monday after receiving dozens of angry calls and e-mails about the partnership, which offered reduced prices to anyone who bought tickets to the zoo’s Festival of Lights and the museum’s Christmas celebration, Bethlehem’s Blessing.

I mean, speaking of tone-deaf. How could an institution with at least one or two actual scientists reporting for work on a daily basis dream up something this dumb?

Others said a scientific institution shouldn’t link itself to a place that argues man once lived side by side with dinosaurs. “They seem like diametrically opposed institutions,” said Dr. James Leach, a Cincinnati radiologist who e-mailed zoo officials about his concerns. “The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city’s treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock.”

Yeah, that’s one way to describe it. John Scalzi’s account of his 2007 visit remains the foundational text, however. The LOL Creashun thread is just for grins.

Someone asked me last night, “What’s the difference between the stuff you write and then this thing you call ‘bloggage’?” I said, well, I tend to write a little column-y piece with few or no links, followed by a few linky/comment sorts of things, but he didn’t see it that way, and maybe I’m just fooling myself, maybe that’s not the structure these daily entries take anymore. Maybe we’ve become an all-bloggage blog without even noticing. Whatever. It’s time to go to the gym. My thighs are a much bigger problem.

UPDATE: Nearly forgot: Happy birthday, Kirk!

Posted at 9:47 am in Current events, Detroit life |

64 responses to “Less tone-deaf, maybe?”

  1. Julie Robinson said on December 4, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Your picture confirmed that they still don’t get it. Drive yourself, Mr. CEO, like the rest of us peons. You have to deal with crazy drivers and traffic tie-ups and streets that are icy or have potholes. That’s the real worlId we live in.

    BTW, has anyone seen details of their proposed compensation packages? When I saw that all three had agreed to work for $1/year I smelled a rat. What about their bonuses and stock options and golden parachutes?

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  2. Catherine said on December 4, 2008 at 10:15 am

    That last line made me laugh out loud, and then I realized: That’s it! I’ve found my epitaph (thanks for asking, Moe): Her thighs were a much bigger problem.

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  3. LA Mary said on December 4, 2008 at 11:32 am

    My son pointed out that all three of the execs should have ridden together so they could use the carpool lane. I bet the conversations in that car would be interesting.

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  4. brian stouder said on December 4, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I tend to write a little column-y piece with few or no links, followed by a few linky/comment sorts of things, but he didn’t see it that way, and maybe I’m just fooling myself, maybe that’s not the structure these daily entries take anymore.

    Well, I read somewhere that this website is intended as a one-sided few minutes over coffee (or icy cold Diet Coke) that we can have every morning, and that is precisely how it always strikes me.

    This place has an almost inexpressibly pleasant (and irresistably attractive) ambiance, and the bloggage and linkage fits right into the conversation.

    The other day, it sounded (to me) like the we were about to be politely asked to go away (or at least, to be prepared to spend some of our mornings somewhere else!); and indeed, there would be no harm in that.

    NN.c should always be precisely what the Property Mistress wants it to be, and nothing else (never a “hafta” but instead a “wanna”)

    PS – happy birthday Kirk!

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  5. moe99 said on December 4, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Happy Feast of St. Barbara! Making Light has a wonderful disquisition on the origins of the saint and her followers. Which is my mother’s and sister’s name and so fitting.

    And good ol’ clarence thomas has revived a lawsuit filed against Obama’s election on the basis he’s not a US citizen.
    Nice work mr. oreo:

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  6. Danny said on December 4, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Moe, is the AG office of Washington going to have to get involved in controversy surrounding the atheististic display in the Capitol building?

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  7. beb said on December 4, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Speaking of zoos, since when has an actual scientist been in charge of zoo policy as opposed to keeping the beasties healthy? The people who think up promotions and recipercal membership deals can’t see any farther than the edge of their desks. A zoo is a zoo is a zoo. They would happily make arrangements with a KKK pettng zoo as with a Creationism zoo, or the National Zoo. It’s all the same from where they sit. What is heartening is that some many ordinary people rose up to protest this thoughtless alliance. Gives me hope for humanity.

    Bloggage should be whatever you want it do be. Nor should be there be minimum or maximum requirements. Some days there aren’t a lot of interesting stories.

    As for the Car CEOs riding to DC in their hybrids, the idea of all three piling into one vehicle raises the question — who sits in the back? And have you ever tried to seat a full-size middle aged man in the back seat of any car? Back seats are of for midgets and flunkies.

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  8. Kirk said on December 4, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks for remembering, Nancy. You too, Brian.

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  9. beb said on December 4, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Danny says: Moe, is the AG office of Washington going to have to get involved in controversy surrounding the atheististic display in the Capitol building?

    Since atheists don’t believe in Christmas they don’t have Christmas displays. As for the rest, Christmas trees are wiccan (the original religion, not today’s posures.) Madona and child — isn’t that worshiping false idols? Santa Claus — an urban legend. The Grinch? — that would be Bill O’Reilly.

    Any other controversies you have in mind?

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  10. moe99 said on December 4, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I sure as hell hope not. The State Capitol, as far as I know, is the province of the state legislature and they will probably deal with it in whatever cowardly craven way they choose to do so.

    Oops. Spoke too soon. Here is what the Seattle PI had to say:

    [Governor Christine] Gregoire, a Democrat, and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna put out a joint statement Wednesday noting that the federal case led the state to create an inclusive policy:

    “The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution’s First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of nonbelievers.”

    What a great guy, that Rob McKenna! I would note for the record, he and his family are Catholic.

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  11. Catherine said on December 4, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    It was interesting to see that a Malibu hybrid even exists. Between the pollution and the carpool lane stickers for hybrids, LA is a prime market for hybrids, and I’ve never ever seen one here. In addition to the ubiquitous Prii, I see plenty of Ford Escapes, Toyota Highlanders, Hondas, Nissan Altimas, all yes. But a Malibu anywhere near Malibu? Not so much.

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  12. Danny said on December 4, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Moe, no doubt.

    beb, not sure what you are trying to imply. It was a simple question I was asking because I know Moe has her ear to the ground up there and could give us what might turn out to be some interesting inside-baseball perspectives.

    But for those of you not familiar with my reference, some atheists in Washington have put up a display placard next to the tradional holiday display that reads:

    “At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

    It’s not a big deal for me. I think it reflects poorly on the atheist group, but it was their choice.

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  13. Danny said on December 4, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Kirk, happy birthday, my man! Listen to some good music today and have some fun.

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  14. Scout said on December 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    @ Brian – I agree with you; NN.c is whatever Nancy says it is!

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  15. moe99 said on December 4, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    This is for Jeff tmmo, as it seems that Bill Donohue, one of my least favorite Catholics is getting involved here with your favorite Catalan Christmas tradition.


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  16. alex said on December 4, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Catherine, the Malibu hybrid does exist, but barely. If you read up on it in the automotive press, the Malibu is not at all in the same league as the Prius technologically and hardly uses any less gasoline. It’s as if Hostess were marketing a line of “organic” Ho-Hos and Twinkies. The Volt, scheduled for release in 2010, will approximate the Prius’ technology.

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  17. Catherine said on December 4, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    So, why do you suppose they chose the Malibu?

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  18. nancy said on December 4, 2008 at 3:00 pm


    The Malibu was recently redesigned for the 2008 model year, and is one GM has high hopes for — it goes head-to-head with the Camry and Accord, gets decent mileage, doesn’t cost too much and was well-reviewed. It’s also one of the models that was redesigned to accommodate a hybrid option, so that’s my guess.

    The Volt is still very much a fingers-crossed deal, but if it debuts on time and as advertised — a very big if — it won’t approximate the Prius, it will leave it looking like a Hummer. Or so we’re told. The idea is to give you a car you can drive 40 miles on a single charge before the gas engine even comes on, with the goal of going 200 miles on a single gallon. GM is sweating to get it done, and a lot depends on the battery industry making some real quantum leaps. But fingers crossed — I could see it becoming a family’s “second car,” the one that stays closer to home and is used for short hops, etc. Again, huge ifs all around.

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  19. whitebeard said on December 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    The Malibu hybrid indeed exists and the back seat has room enough for one large-size individual with size 13 shoes, 250 pounds, 3x shirts and a 50-inch waist, namely myself. I found the Malibu peppy to drive when I sat behind the wheel for an afternoon set of test drives and cathedral quiet, although I will admit that Chevrolet was a little light in its marketing and distribution.

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  20. Catherine said on December 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Volt sounds interesting. I’d say there’s defintely room for improvement in that category. A friend has one of those neighborhood electric vehicles that’s a step up from a golf cart? Sadly it’s kind of a joke among his so-called friends (me included).

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  21. nancy said on December 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    If the Volt comes off as advertised — if, if, if — it will be no joke. It’s actually a pretty cool car, in concept form.

    New technologies are always buggy, however, and a lot relies on marketing and luck. The Prius is a great car. J.C. and Sam have one, I’ve driven it, and I love it. It gets excellent mileage, but from the way some people talk, it’s powered by fairies wearing tutus made of spun sustainable hemp and issues nothing more lethal from its exhaust than the smell of fresh-baked blueberry muffins. This image I can only chalk up to good timing and excellent PR.

    Remember when diesel was going to save us from ourselves? Alan’s dad almost lost his toes when his VW Rabbit gelled up on a apocalyptically cold day, and way the hell out in the country, to boot.

    Bottom line: It’s hard to build cars, or any machine. Lots of moving parts, lots of stuff that isn’t good for the planet.

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  22. brian stouder said on December 4, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    If, if, if – if the Volt comes out and carries a competitive price (and/or, good tax advantages or other incentives) – I will officially transfer my lust for Mini Coopers over to good ol’ Chevy Volts.

    Such a car would fit our family like a glove; the young folks and I drive 11/2 miles to the bus stop each morning, and then I proceed another 3 miles to work from there. Even if I go home for lunch, my total miles per day = ~15.

    I think Nance is right; if this car becomes a “go” in anything like the configuration described, it will be a huge hit

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  23. jcburns said on December 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    The blueberry muffin package was too expensive. Ours smells like White Castles out the tailpipe.

    Actually, it smells like nothing. I’m not sure it’s really even a car.

    I’m amazed the execs couldn’t bring themselves to get behind the wheel their own damn selves.. I really think they’d have an epiphany (or a cow) around mile 240 when their back begins to hurt or they reach for the windshield wipers and the bright lights come on or when they try to tune the radio and the trip odometer resets. They need to live in the damn things.

    You suppose they can drive?

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  24. Catherine said on December 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Here’s what bugs me about EVs: Yes, they are zero-emission but that doesn’t mean they don’t pollute. When we Anglenos go all-electric, all that means is we get to EXPORT our pollution to where the electricity is made: On the Navajo res, from coal-fired plants, among other places. Just because a car runs clean at this end, doesn’t mean it is powered by, as Nancy so perfectly puts it, fairies clad in sustainably farmed hemp.

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  25. Danny said on December 4, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    You suppose they can drive?

    They’re captains of (a dying) industry. They’re more used to ineptly steering rudderless ships into icebergs of bankruptcy.

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  26. Danny said on December 4, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Catherine, it is better to have the fossil fuel burned at a central location where pollution controls can be stringently monitored than at the individual node level of the driving public. Many drivers do not keep their cars in conditions of optimum upkeep to minimize emmissions and even for those who do, the technology is not as good as at the power plants.

    Sure, you lose some efficiency in conversion of heat energy (from burning), to mechanical shaft power (to drive a generator), to electrical energy (losses in heat along transmission lines), back to mechanical shaft power (at your car’s drive shaft), but the big trump card is centralized pollution control technologies. At power plants there are so many existing, improving and emerging technologies for controlling parts per million (ppm) of NOx, CO2, etc., that it is a much better environmental bet.

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  27. brian stouder said on December 4, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    A month ago I caught a talk given by Mark Helmke, Senior Professional Staff Member for Senator Richard Lugar (over at St Francis University) about green initiatives and energy policy, and he made a point that I hadn’t heard before.

    He laughed about so-called “clean coal” technology, and explained why some are so unalterably opposed to it. Simply – they can sequester the CO2 from coal burning power plants like champs….but then no one knows what to do with all the CO2 that ammasses!

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  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 4, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    I will happily defend Rick Warren from time to time, but Bill Donahue is someone else’s task. But a Bill D. caganer strikes me as an ideal holiday gift!

    The statement “when traditions like this are exported they can be misunderstood” certainly applies to things like bringing a young non-deciduous tree into your living room, or saying you consume the body and blood of God when the jug of Welch’s is clearly poking out of the top of the trash bin. But i deeply enjoyed and highly commend the Marilynne Robinson interview in the The Paris Review where she talks about her bafflement at folks like Richard Dawkins speaking as if “science has clearly revealed the world as a closed system” — http://www.theparisreview.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5863

    And why wouldn’t the grain from the soil and juice squeezed from the son constitute the body and blood of Divine Providence, anyhow? And if that August Personage once took human form and walked among us, the occasional steaming dump would have been a rich and vital part of the experience.

    Hola, Catalonians, i say! Feliz Navidad (except in Catalan it’s surely something a bit different, since that’s Spanish).

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  29. nancy said on December 4, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    You suppose they can drive?

    Oh, now, stop it. While I can’t vouch for driving habits at the CEO level, my friendship with JohnC and his wife, who works for a GM supplier, gives me a little knowledge of the way that perk is distributed. He can stop in and correct my mistakes, but as I remember his explanation, the free-car perk for upper management isn’t what you’d expect.

    First of all, you have to own or lease at least one GM vehicle beforehand, which isn’t surprising — I can scarcely imagine anyone at that level doesn’t have at least one, and probably several, already in the driveway. If you qualify for the free-car perk, you do indeed get new wheels every six weeks. But. The pool includes the entire product line, from Chevy to Cadillac, high to low, and you cannot pick and choose. You take whatever’s next in the rotation. So you will get to drive at least eight new cars in a year, but they could be anything from a Cobalt to an Escalade.

    Wagoner, et al, may well have a driver. High-ranking corporate executives are valuable commodities (hold your snickering), and the board may insist on minimal security. Commute times are also work times for guys like that, and he may use the drive in to the office to make and return calls.

    I seem to remember being told that Les Wexner’s family — he’s the CEO of the Limited, Columbus’ version of GM — has security everywhere they go, on a level with a head of state.

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  30. Kirk said on December 4, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I’ve seen Les’s bodyguards around here, for certain. And there is that bridge on his property that be blown up by remote control.

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  31. John c said on December 4, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Nancy is right about the car perk. It’s for execs at a certain level. Last I checked they get a car every six weeks, but they have to lease another car. And it absolutely includes the whole fleet. The only exception I know of is if you have a family, they won’t give you a sub-compact.
    As for the execs driving themselves, I’m with Nancy. Give it a rest. Rick Wagoner is the CEO of the largest automaker in the world, and it’s about to collapse. He’s busy.
    And let’s remember, he’s asking for a loan to get through a crisis that was created by the financial collapse. No one ragged on the bankers and the brokers for flying private jets to pick up their bags of money. The just gave – not loaned – them far more than $34 billion. And they aren’t even loaning money with it!
    And Catherine, the reason you see Prii and not Malibus in Cali is that most of those people wouldn’t be caught dead in a Chevy. They are too cool and, after all, much smarter than us rubes here in the Midwest. Never mind that JD Power rated Malibu number one in overall quality – ahead of Camry and Accord – and the reviews are glowing. But a Chevy? Dude. Puh-lease!

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  32. Jolene said on December 4, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    My own present-buying is going to be sadly diminished, but I thought you all might want to take a look at these gift guides. Here’s a guide from the Post that has relatively low-cost gifts in multiple categories. And Megan McArdle, one of the half dozen or so bloggers at The Atlantic, has put together a guide focused on kitchen gear, organized in four price categories. It’s kind of fun to see what’s on these lists, even if they don’t turn out to be directly useful to you.

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  33. coozledad said on December 4, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    If the government gives rebates for GM cars, we’ll buy a Saturn Astra. We drove our ’93 SL1 350,000 miles, then the odometer broke.
    I just wish they made a pickup truck.

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  34. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 4, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    2 Chevy Impalas, ’00 & ’03, 120K and 70K to present
    nothing major other than intake manifold replacement

    2 Dodge Neons, ’94 & ’95, 140K and 60K to sale
    did need head gasket replacement at 50K, otherwise great cars (roomier than you’d think for a 6’5″ guy)

    Ford Tempo and Plymouth Acclaim, ’88 & ’92, 160K and 80K to sale
    other than tires and gen’l maint, no problems (ok, a timing belt on the Acclaim, that was expensive, ended up putting a head gasket on to repair along with new timing belt)

    Chevy Impala & Citation, ’73 & ’82, 220K and 86K to sale
    nothing other than gen’l

    That takes this family back to 1985 and marriage, and let’s not talk about what i drove single, but my last was sold the day of the rehersal, a ’72 Ford wagon (no wood) which rotted away on the body and undercarriage from lake effect salt over 13 years, but ran like a dream to 140K (the leaky gas tank that couldn’t be filled above half seemed to bother the Lovely Wife-to-be more than the endemic rust).

    So the problem with American cars is what, again? We really don’t get what the beef is.

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  35. brian stouder said on December 4, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Here is an honest question – is this article about the mayor of Kansas City and his wife sexist?


    At first, as a henpecked husband myself, it made me laugh; and then I DID think it was sexist, and then…I dunno

    An excerpt from the opening, which is both funny and sexist(imo):

    The people of Kansas City thought they were getting a straight-shooter with financial smarts as their new mayor. What they got, critics say, is a henpecked husband who needs his wife to tell him what to do. In an era when politicians get in trouble for infidelity, Mayor Mark Funkhouser finds himself under fire for his devotion to his wife, a sharp-elbowed New Yorker whose role as his closest adviser has locals wondering who’s really running this city of 450,000.

    Sharp elbowed New Yorker? Like Maude?

    and then there’s this:

    But Squitiro [the mayor’s wife] quickly gained a reputation as a controlling influence on the mayor and a divisive and meddlesome figure at City Hall. Funkhouser’s chief of staff, Ed Wolf, resigned earlier this fall, complaining, “It was kind of like having your mother-in-law go along on your honeymoon.”

    Gotta love that “divisive and meddlesome” bit.

    I dunno; sounds like she’s getting things done!

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  36. coozledad said on December 4, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    This guy has developed some useful stuff from readily available materials.
    But I’d watch this video just to look at his kickass Connecticut house. No wonder they mopped our asses up in the war.

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  37. Danny said on December 4, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Brain, you still have CO2 with cars and CO too. Soo…

    Anyway, I mainly thinking of natural gas burning in gas turbine engines. But it too still has CO2 associated. That’s just the stoichiometry of the combustion process with carbon based fuels.

    But as far as NOx, SOx and other associated pollutants, it’s still better to have centralized processes than depending on everyones’ little catalytic converters and spark plugs and tuneups.

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  38. alex said on December 4, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    My longest stint with a car happened with a pretty ’89 Prelude I bought used in ’91. I’m the one who really broke it in. Had it nine years. Ditched it at 210,000 miles fearful that it couldn’t possibly last any longer despite the fact that everything still functioned properly and it still looked pretty damned good. And felt like a fave pair of jeans.

    I received news from its new owners that it had croaked within days of their taking title. The Prelude’s timing belt went bad, I was told, and the engine kaput. This was despite the fact that I’d paid some huge bucks to have it changed at the proper interval by a garage no longer in business.

    It was like a friend, and I can’t say that about any other vehicle I’ve owned. It died a broken car, and sometimes I harbor tremendous guilt because I abandoned it. All for a regrettable and brief fling with a high-maintenance Jetta.

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  39. basset said on December 4, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Subaru wagon here, made in Indiana, 30K. Runs like a Swiss watch.
    Mrs. Basset has a Camry, made in Kentucky. 65K, no problems.

    Before that, I had a Dodge Dakota, made in Warren, Michigan. New torque converter at about 5K, other than that no trouble before I sold it at 140K. Preceded by a Ford F150, dunno where they assembled this worthless device but it was a total POS from the day I took it home, dealer replaced the whole engine at 16K under warranty, or at least said they did.

    Don’t get me started on how Mrs. Basset is the only person I know who’s totaled two Volvos.

    Meanwhile… looks like the Malibu didn’t make the whole trip:


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  40. coozledad said on December 4, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Basset: Subaru postal, run over a few hundred stumps for 10,000miles. Indiana manufacture. Sedan, catttle supplement hauler, luxury car.

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  41. Dexter said on December 4, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    My buddy pulled over to the curb earlier today when he saw me leaving a party store …he was driving his company’s 2008 Malibu. It’s a nice car, but I knew that as I have observed them for a long time as I walk my dog past a Chevy-Cadillac-Pontiac dealership.
    It’s not as eye-catching as the Chrysler 300 was a few years ago, but the reviews are rave.
    Chances are I may have watched more of the proceedings in D.C. than most of you…I watched for hours…all afternoon.
    Old Shelby (R-AL) was seething…see, he wants Detroit to vanish so Alabama, with all the foreign car makers there, can become New Detroit. Not that wages are much of an issue, with starting wages at GM at $16 and most of those non-union USA southern foreign plants paying $14…but he’s from Alabama and he’s a-lookin’ out for his own kin(d).
    I could not help from hoping that Ron Gettlefinger was blowing smoke when he said “…without immediate help, GM will go bankrupt by the end of this month.”
    Last month Gettlefinger said the whole UAW pension structure would collapse if the Big 3 went bankrupt. I always heard pensions are federally protected. Now, nobody knows anything.

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  42. alex said on December 4, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Die Skankz!

    The local news is padding its half hour with news that Bratz are being discontinued secondary to some patent infringement suit. My sister-in-law will be delighted. And perhaps Nance, if Kate hasn’t outgrown them already.

    Dealt with a bank teller recently who could’ve been the model for those ghastly things, although she did appear to have at least half a brain and there was no infantilized simpering.

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  43. Dexter said on December 4, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    break: my favorite Van Gogh—(usually called) Wheat Fields


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  44. Dexter said on December 4, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    alex…that was not filler…it was a full-seg on Nightly News with Brian Williams, hosted tonight by Lester Holt.


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  45. Dexter said on December 4, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    alex…allow me to share my Jetta story. On the lawn of a home in my ‘hood stood an ’85 Jetta, cheap. I needed another car to drive to work, so I bought it. This was at the end of the second week of September, 2001. The man’s father-in-law was battling last-stage cancer in Baltimore, and my neighborhood man flew down there on September 10 to say goodbye. He made it just before his relative passed away. He had to be home to go to work in a couple of days , but of course the nation was on hold by noon of September 11.
    Ready to leave for home, and not wanting to ride a train or bus, he searched The Sun for used autos and bought the cheapest one in the paper…$100, ’85 Jetta. He then bought a few tools and tuned the car up , stuck a new battery in, got it running, and made it home in time for work.
    Well, it seemed like a wild story until I found a few receipts from B’more stores and gas stations…it was all true.
    The man told me exactly what he had done to the car…he had spent $200 for parts , paid the C-note for the title, and charged me another $200 because he knew the car was worth $500. I drove it for two trouble-free years and when it needed a master-cylinder I drove it to the auto recyclers and sold it for $150.

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  46. Catherine said on December 5, 2008 at 12:09 am

    The funnest car I’ve ever had was my ’87 VW Golf. Now, that is perhaps not saying much, and I hope it’s not the funnest car I ever have. But it is probably the closest I’ll ever get to the Kharman Ghia I truly covet.

    John C, I think the coolness is definitely a factor in the lack of Malibus, but one that I submit could be fixable. The idea that “most of those people wouldn’t be caught dead in a Chevy” isn’t really constructive thinking from a marketing standpoint. I see lots of Tahoes and Suburbans. Chrysler has managed to make certain of its line cool. Ford Escapes sell decently here. If the product is as great as the reviews, then there’s a few but not all of the marketing bases covered. How about some product placement? I know for a fact that most of the studios will do just about anything if there are enough zeroes attached. My introduction to the Chrysler 300 was in a clearly product-placed ER segment — and it really seared the car onto my brain.

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  47. Denice said on December 5, 2008 at 12:17 am

    When someone says there is no such thing as evolution, I reply that “Evolution is just a theory, Just like Gravity is just a Theory”. I also say “OK. I evolved and you didn’t. You win!”

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  48. Dexter said on December 5, 2008 at 1:03 am

    The Hudson Hornet is revered as one of the coolest cars of all time…even Kerouac mentioned catching a ride in one on his first trip out west, heading for Denver and Larimer Street.
    Neil Young even inserted Hudson and Studebaker tops into the roof line of his tour bus. Check this out: http://forums.klipsch.com/forums/storage/9/927962/82476230-L.jpg

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  49. Dexter said on December 5, 2008 at 1:32 am

    OJ to be sentenced today:
    “He’s a very resilient guy,” (defense attorney) Galanter said Thursday. “He’s handling this fairly well. He’s hopeful. He believes in the criminal justice system. He believes he’ll be exonerated.”

    And who knows what the hell will happen…


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  50. Gasman said on December 5, 2008 at 2:01 am

    I may win the high mileage award: 1987 Honda Civic wagon with 423,223 miles when it was rear ended. It actually wasn’t damaged too badly, but the insurance company only gave us $400 for it. I think if I’d kicked it they would have totaled it. Even toward the end it ran great. Compression was getting weak, but the damn thing had over 400K miles on it!

    Best car story? While in high school in Fort Wayne back in 1978, I had a friend that bought a nasty-ass $40 Plymouth. He spent more than that on oil in the first month he had it. Despite that, it ran surprisingly well. There have been many occasions that I wished I had that car. Someone driving a Mercedes while yakikng on a cell pone? Kiss ’em with the $40 Plymouth. People with nice shiny cars tended to give him a very wide berth. It commanded a certain respect on the road. He sure as hell never worried about getting it scratched in the mall parking lot.

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  51. ROgirl said on December 5, 2008 at 6:28 am

    If they don’t get the loan guarantees from this Congress, can they hold out until next month? The immediate problem seems to be that nobody is buying cars (or much of anything else, for that matter), and that’s affecting ALL the car companies. BTW, I heard on the radio yesterday that Prius sales are way down since the gas prices plunged.

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  52. Connie said on December 5, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Best car ever: the 1964 Chevy Belair bought for $200, just needed a quart of oil every Friday. Great college car.

    Current? My 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan just passed 100,000. My kid’s (second) 97 Chevy Lumina this one with under 50,000 miles. The first, which I put over 100,000 miles on was rear ended last year. And a 93 Ford F 150 with 80,000 miles which has just been declared to be too rusty to safely drive. Seems to be some question about the box falling off the frame?

    So anyone got a really really really cheap truck I can buy? Did I mention that my kid goes to a really expensive college? Can I find a way to put another really in this para?

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  53. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 5, 2008 at 7:56 am

    All of which keeps me asking, how did American cars and the auto biz get into such a spot? Their product is pretty good, their trucks are excellent (and this is a continent that warrants a whole lotta trucks, if not Escalades), their brand durable — wha’ happened?

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  54. brian stouder said on December 5, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Connie – our ’03 Dodge Grand Caravan (light silvery blue) has about 65k miles (I think) – and we love it! – but it had a gremlin (pardon the AMC anomaly) in the turn signals, where sometimes you would want to signal left, and it would activate the right-turn blinker; or you would want to signal right, and it would activate the left-turn blinker; or (rarely) it would simply do nothing at all.

    When it finally annoyed us enough to take it in, the service guy rolled his eyes and indicated that this happens all the time, for no reason he could put his finger on – but it is repaired and working correctly (for now)

    Jeff – I’m not THAT old, and it seems that just a decade ago, the American auto-makers were absolutely ROLLING in dough; record profits and sales.

    I think there is nothing “wrong” with their stuff. The business model is boom-bust, though, and we cannot spare them.

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  55. basset said on December 5, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Cooz, we had Saturns too… a 91 SL1 that Mrs. Basset wrecked, not totaled but the whole front clip was torn off and it never was quite right after that, and a 93 SW1 that I should have kept. have been through the plant several times, back when it was a new kind of car company, so on and so forth.

    first new car either of us ever had was an 83 Honda Civic, totaled two weeks after we got it. that wasn’t her fault, she was stopped at a light and got hit from behind.

    y’know what, now that I write all this down I am starting to see a pattern.

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  56. brian stouder said on December 5, 2008 at 8:35 am

    ….be careful, my man!

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  57. Connie said on December 5, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Brian, mine is that same silvery blue. I was just noticing this morning how invisible the road spray debris looked on it.

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  58. brian stouder said on December 5, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Connie, Shelby and I were just discussing the same thing the other day! A red Grand Cravan was beside us in a parking lot, and it looked terrible – road salt and dirt from front to back; and ours was no cleaner, but looked better.

    An idiosyncracy of mine is – I HATE brakedust accumulated on the front wheel covers. If we’re free of that, I’m happy! But I’ve seen cars that have apparently never, ever been washed, and the grey-black material is flocked from wheel covers to front fenders to doors.

    Folks who drive cars that look like that may as well have “Born To Lose” tattooed on their foreheads, if you ask me

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  59. mark said on December 5, 2008 at 9:23 am


    what happened? the industry was built on a product that had a life expectancy of about 5 years, and would show it’s age well prior to that. Also no foreign competition.

    Today, as a lot of the posts here demonstrate, the product life expectancy is closer to 15 years and things like rust and paint fade are almost non-existent.

    The product- a “new car”- has become a luxury, not a necessity, and sales are driven by marketing and conspicuous consumption.

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  60. Connie said on December 5, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Brian, I took mine back to the dealer about the brake dust, and was horrified when they told me that was normal. Now I judge carwashes on how well they clean it off my front wheels, though changing to ceramic brake pads made a huge difference.

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  61. mark said on December 5, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I suspect that today’s dismal economic news- 533K jobs lost last month and mortgage delinquencies increasing at record rates- will give the final push for a Big 3 bailout. All that stands in the way, so far as I can see, is disagreement over the strings to be attached to the package.

    Sadly, the same news that may propel passage make the auto industry’s projections for recovery all that more unrealistic. If you have the money for a new car, now is a good time not to spend it.

    Many, many volumes will be written about the historic damage to the economy and free markets accomplished in the waning months of the Bush Administration by a clueless president, a complicit Treasury Secretary and a compliant congress. Trillions of dollars spent to sustain an economy built upon an unsustainable model: people without money buying things they don’t need using loans they can’t repay.

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  62. Danny said on December 5, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Preach it, brother.

    Slight quibble. If you have the money for a new car and you need a new car, now is a great time to get one.

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  63. Dorothy said on December 5, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Kirk – happy birthday ( a day late, sorry) to you and my brother Greg, who turned 60 the same day as your birthday!

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  64. beb said on December 5, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    The Bratz dolls story is kind of interesting. Apparently they were designed by a guy working for the company that makes Barbi (Matel?) He took his designs to his bosses, who passed on them, so he took them to another company who bought them. But since he was still working for the Barbie company they claimed ownership of all his ideas. And won in court.

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