Weekly Roundup: 1994’s Gift That Will Never Stop Giving Edition

In 1985, this country encountered something new: a trade deficit with China. It was just six million dollars. In 1994, President Bill Clinton ignored criticism from his own party to renew China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, citing the eight billion dollars’ worth of export business this country did with China. He tactfully failed to mention the thirty-nine billion dollars’ worth of goods we imported, for a net deficit of thirty billion dollars. And then we were off to the races, as government policies under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations made it a no-brainer for American companies to outsource their manufacturing and technical operations overseas. That deficit doubled, then doubled again, within the first ten years after Clinton’s decision. It peaked in 2018 at a staggering $418 billion before dropping to $345 billion in 2019. We are currently on track for a 2020 trade deficit of $279 billion, the lowest figure since 2009.

Last year, I tried like hell to build a “dirt jumper” bike without Chinese parts. I spent nearly five thousand dollars sourcing a frame from Ann Arbor, rims from Grand Rapids, titanium crank components from Florida, brakes from Japan. In a few cases, notably tires and tubes, I had no choice other than Taiwanese-sourced items. Taiwan is Chinese but it’s not Chinese, I suppose. The front fork, made by Fox, was largely Taiwanese thanks to the company’s recent decision to move all production to that island. Having painstakingly researched my way out of mainland China, I then built the bike… only to see “Made In China” on a wheel bearing.

The American Giant hooded sweatshirt, pictured above in the Black Camo limited edition I was too slow to buy in 2018, is entirely sourced in the United States. Every single part. But it’s a sweatshirt. If you get any more complex than that, you will find that Chinese manufacturing, like the COVID-19 virus, is impossible to completely avoid. Bicycles are not complex machines by any modern standard, but you can’t build one without buying from China. This should have worried all of us, but with the exception of yahoos like your humble author it did not. Our media told us to accept globalization as an inevitable thing, even as they told us we could help the climate of the entire planet by buying “sustainable” clothing that just happened to be made in China.

The cracks in this Tower of Babel are starting to show. Ironically, bicycles are leading the way.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: It’s Child Porn, But It’s Worse Than That Edition

Question for the audience: How many of you can remember any salient plot points of the film Porky’s other than the infamous shower scene? I have to confess that I could not, in much the same way that Fast Times At Ridgemont High exists in my memory as “Jennifer Jason Leigh lying down and Phoebe Cates standing up”. Those movies were fairly simple devices: at a time when female nudity was fairly difficult to come by for teenaged boys, they provided a generous amount of it, wrapped in enough comedy to make the consumption of the film respectable. My high school classmates would have had a very low opinion of anyone who went to a peep show or an adult movie booth, but Porky’s was just on this side of being, as the kids say now, “normalized”. You could go see the movie with friends and not feel like you’d just watched a porno together.

Judging from both the critical and public reception to the African-French child-sex film Cuties, available on Netflix right next to all the new documentaries from groundbreaking producers Barack and Michelle Obama, one might think that it’s “Porky’s for perverts” or something like that: a heartwarming, thoughtful dramedy that just happens to feature extended scenes of children mimicking sexual acts, behaving provocatively, and actively soliciting sexual attention from 18-year-olds. All the usual suspects — the New Yorker, the Washington Post — just adore the movie, and recommend that everyone should see it as soon as possible. Anybody who objects to the sexual portrayal of eleven-year-olds is just a stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy, essentially identical to the old ladies who didn’t want Porky’s shown at your Main Street USA duplex. The rather hilarious phrase “Stream the child porn, bigot!” has appeared all over Twitter this week as a pithy encapsulation of this viewpoint.

Were Cuties nothing but a glossy wrapper for kiddie pornography, it would be utterly repugnant and unworthy of distribution anywhere in the world — but, as we will see in a moment, it is much worse than that.

Continue Reading →

1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car: Triple Aqua Cabin Cruiser For The Win

I’ve always had a thing for 1950s to 1970s domestic land yachts finished in aqua. Whether the bright turquoise of a 1955 Thunderbird or the light-metallic aqua of a 1966 Olds Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan or ’61 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country, I will go out of my way to check it out once spotted at various and sundry cruise nights, car shows, craigslist ads and ebay auctions. And if the car has a white or aqua interior, well fuggetaboutit. So when I saw this lovely boat of a Lincoln on eBay about eight years ago, I was immediately hooked.

According to the long-gone auction listing, this car is all original and only had 67,000 miles on the clock. Being a ’79, it does have the 400CID V8 and not the more desirable 460, but still–what a car.

Continue Reading →

1976 Ford Gran Torino Squire: Seventies Suburbia

I’ve always had a thing for the midsize ’70s Ford wagons: Gran Torino, Montego, LTD II and Cougar. The most likely reason is one of the first Matchbox cars I ever got was a metallic lime green ’77 Mercury Cougar Villager wagon, with opening tailgate.

image: ebay.com

It, along with my Pocket Cars Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and Lincoln Mark IV, were almost always with me – in the car, outside, at the dinner table, etc. They are rough now, but all of them did survive my childhood.

This morning this ’76 Gran Torino Squire popped up on Marketplace, via the Finding Future Classic Cars fb group, and I had to check it out. You just don’t see these. Production was nothing compared to the LTD and LTD Country Squire wagons in the mid-’70s, likely due to the Torinos simply not having the interior room you’d expect for their size.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: The Skater, The Father, And The Hydroxychloroquine Effect Edition

There were five of them. Five children, between the ages of nine and eleven. The court document uses bland phrasing that nonetheless sickens you as you read it. “(REDACTED) was anally penetrated by the Defendant on March 27, 2002, as was his twin.” To prevent the children from telling on him, to increase his power over children he had repeatedly sodomized, “the Defendant” would burn them. The Defendant’s own mother knew the Defendant was broken in some way; she turfed him out as soon as he turned eighteen. The Defendant used the sympathy of others in the community to get access to their children. Five of them, between the ages of nine and eleven. He went to prison for a while. He was released. He met a woman and impregnated her. Something happened — nobody appears to know — and he fled the state away from the woman and child, jumping bail for existing domestic abuse and battery charges on the way out.

The Defendant had an associate. This associate was designated a repeat domestic abuser by his local court. Several times he beat his female partner to the point that the police got involved. He strangled her. He suffocated her. He used weapons against her as well as his fists. At one point, this associate was convicted of false imprisonment, which doesn’t make any sense to the average reader in but in court-speak means, “the victim tried to leave but he kept her in the house so he could keep beating her”. He was given mild conditions of probation — like stay away from that woman — but he couldn’t follow those conditions, so he was locked up several times as a consequence.

I don’t think anyone deserves to be described or defined in terms of the worst thing they ever did. Nor do I think that people are unable to change for the better. That being said, both of these people had long-demonstrated histories of sexual violence towards children and/or women. They weren’t rookies. They weren’t making tragic, but singular, mistakes. They had established patterns of behavior. Calling them “abusers” or “sex criminals” would be like calling your humble author “ugly” — unkind, but adequately supported by the evidence. The media of this country repeatedly referred to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a “rapist” and “predator” based on much less evidence and no admission of guilt. So what could these two people, the man who raped nine-year-olds and the man who trapped a woman in a house so he could suffocate her, do to be described, glowingly, as a father, and a skater?

You already know, of course. It’s The Hydoxychroloquine Effect.

Continue Reading →

Everything That’s Wrong With Automotive Journalism, Summed Up Nicely In One Twitter Thread

There’s a sad, soy-substitute trend of self-loathing of so-called “automotive journalists” on the internet lately. Most of them hate cars and they can’t figure out why people in Winchester, Kentucky can’t just get on board with public transportation already. They are only on the autos beat because there were no job openings for the Social Justice desk at Daily Beast.

But that doesn’t stop them from needlessly inserting tributes to pedophile rapists and violent criminals, errrrr social justice heroes into every review of the 2021 Kia Forte, or from raging against the patriarchal, capitalist machine that is the auto industry.

Case in point: Senior Editor Jared Rosenholtz from Carbuzz.com. One day this week, Jared woke up and decided that he needed to do something about income inequality. Did he run for office? No. Did he volunteer at a soup kitchen? Also no. Did he write a passive aggressive tweet and tag Bernie Sanders in it? YOU’RE GODDAMNED RIGHT HE DID!

Continue Reading →

A New Yorker In Boise…

This morning I was perusing the FB group, Finding Future Classic Cars, and my Brougham Radar immediately locked onto this fine 1966 New Yorker offered on Boise Craigslist, complete with the ‘earmuff’ style vinyl accents on the C-pillars. I’ve always liked the 1965-66 Chryslers. Styled by Elwood Engel, late of Ford Motor Company, his designs were strikingly rectangular, but elegant. And if you think 1961 Continental in profile, that’s not a coincidence, he was involved with that car as well.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Last To First In Thirty Seconds Edition

This was the start of Sunday morning’s race. I went from last place at the start to first by the second corner. First in class, I should mention. This was a multi-class race and I was in Super Touring 6, the slowest of the NASA Touring classes. I didn’t hold the position; after catching the slide at the end of the video I had to settle for 2nd place past the start/finish flag at the end of Lap One. And I ended up getting disqualified because the race officials felt I was too aggressive during a mid-race restart after a double yellow flag. Naturally, I disagree. If you’re not here to race, don’t bring your race car to the race track, where racing is known to happen.

My car, the 1994 Plymouth Neon I built in 2008 with a team of friends, isn’t faster than the other cars. In fact, it’s slower than every car you see in this video. The difference is that I have faith in myself and I never lift off the throttle. I believe I can see things that other racers cannot. It is the gift God gave me in exchange for all my other failings as a human being.

If only I could share with all of you the absolute confidence I have when I see that green flag wave. If only I could give that to every one of my friends and readers, gift-wrapped and wax-sealed against the hard or painful day when such a feeling might make the difference between getting through and giving up. If only I could pass it down to my son, knowing that he will make better and kinder use of it than I ever could. If only I could capture the moment and hold it for myself, for all the times I feel overwhelmed and overmatched by life. The great thing about racing is that it presents simple problems and accepts simple answers. That, in and of itself, is a gift worth experiencing, enjoying, and sharing.

Continue Reading →

1979 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe: Brougham Without The Gilt

So, when’s the last time you saw one of these? Here in the salty Midwest even the once-numerous ’80s Diplomats, Gran Furys and flossy Fifth Avenues are pretty much extinct, so I was happy to see this ’79 LeBaron coupe at the Trains, Planes and Automobiles show in historic Geneseo, IL, back in September of 2012. It looked very nice in black with red interior-a classic combo in your author’s opinion.

Continue Reading →