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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Farewell, Pontiac

1966 Pontiac GTO

Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine

Three deuces and a four speed, and a 389

Listen to her tachin’ up now, listen to her why-ee-eye-ine

C’mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO.

Little G. T. O. Ronnie and the Daytonas, 1964 (2:39)

Enjoy the memories of that fabulous little car from the muscle car era of the 1960s as General Motors has announced that after 83 years they will stop the production of Pontiacs. The Bonnevilles, Catalinas, Firebirds, and Trans Ams will be memories of an era when General Motors ruled the car business in the U. S. A popular saying many years ago was "If it’s good enough for General Motors, it’s good enough for me." That is an echo of the past now.

They pretty much have themselves to blame as they were the fat cats of the U.S. car business and allowed complacency to kick in as the Japanese and others were making serious inroads into their business. Now, they are broke and begging for government money to survive. It’s a sad state of affairs.

"Little GTO" made it to number 4 on Billboard’s top 40 hit list in August, 1964. It was summer and Pontiac had taken their little Tempest model (originally LeMans) and put a 389 inch V8 under the hood to produce the G.T.O., the first of the real "muscle cars." Fully loaded it sold for $4,500, pretty steep in those days but who cared? That baby would really go!

In 1969, the Pontiac GTO "Judge" was introduced. At that time "Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In" was a big hit on ABC television and one of the catch phrases of that show was "Here Comes the Judge." The Pontiac Judge was a take-off of that line and was the ultimate in the GTO Series with wider tires, decals, rear spoiler, and a fancier engine.

Although Pontiacs will no longer be produced, we can still enjoy their performance on reruns of shows like "The Rockford Files" as James Garner outruns many a lumbering, ugly, mid 70s car in his sleek Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

First it was the Oldsmobile, now the Pontiac. Buick will probably be next to join the extinct list along with DeSoto, Plymouth, Hudson, Nash, and others that used to be common on the roads of America.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

"Hey, kids! What time is it?"

The year is 1949. It is a cold, dark, December afternoon and it is almost 5:30. I’m running full speed on my eight year old legs to Carol Whetsel’s house a block up the street from my home in Cincinnati. Carol’s house was the place to be on Monday through Friday afternoons in those salad days of youth because 5:30 pm meant only one thing: Buffalo Bob asking the kids in the peanut gallery: "Hey, kids! What time is it?" Their reply? "It’s Howdy Doody Time!"

Carol Whetsel sure had nice parents. Since they had the only TV in the area, they had to tolerate having every kid in the neighborhood pack their living room with its own peanut gallery to sit in front of their 12 inch, black and white, table model Admiral television to watch Howdy Doody. I’m sure that scene was repeated in Phoenix and about every city in the country on a daily basis. I wonder who sold the most TV sets in those days: Howdy or Milton Berle. Both were extremely popular in 1949.

It was an exciting era for kids who were old enough to have listened to kid’s programming on the radio following the exploits of Superman, Red Ryder, Tarzan, and Terry and the Pirates. When TV came along in the late ‘40s, it was magical to think of seeing those characters on TV. Howdy Doody was an example of that magic as it lasted on TV from 1947 until 1960.

Children loved the Doodyville marionettes which included Howdy, the mayor Phineas T. Bluster, the naive Dilly Dally, and Flub-a dub, a mixture of eight animals. Live characters included Clarabelle the Clown, played by future Captain Kangaroo, Bob Keeshan, Chief Thunderthud, and Princess Summerfall Winterspring played by cute Judy Tyler, who went on to star with Elvis in Jailhouse Rock in 1957. Sadly, on July 4 of that year she was killed in an auto accident in Wyoming. She was 24.

The Howdy Doody Show was great for kids and was not only funny but educational as when they got a lesson in government when Howdy ran for President of the kids of America in 1948. Unfortunately, by 1960 Howdy’s early evening time slot was being coveted for older viewers and the show was moved to Saturday mornings. After a short run, it was canceled after 2,543 episodes.

If you are of a certain age, you probably remember Howdy Doody and other good kid’s shows of the time like Smilin’ Ed, Fury, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, and any of the many local kid’s shows around the country like Wallace and Ladmo. It was a nice era for kids and TV, today’s kids missed some good shows.

"Buffalo Bob" Smith and Howdy Doody
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"NO" TO DREAM ACT

I have a few comments about the April 9 editorial in the Republic supporting the DREAM Act which would allow illegal alien children the opportunity to stay in the US under certain conditions. The editorial is supporting special privileges for illegal kids because they were unknowingly brought into the US as babies by their illegal parents. Whoever wrote the editorial (sounds like Linda V.) gives the impression that we owe these kids something simply because they happen to be here illegally and have gotten away with it.

The DREAM Act would give permanent legal residency to these kids if they completed two years of college or two years in our military within six years. After that, they would be on a pathway to citizenship. The Republic is supporting letting these kids jump in line ahead of people who have been waiting years to become citizens, simply because their parents broke the law when they were babies. That is a ridiculous proposition plus what about the kids who have no interest in the DREAM Act? Are they allowed to stay here and continue leading their illegal lives or are they rounded up and deported? From the tone of the editorial, I think the Republic would support the former. Why not give all of them the key to the city of Washington while we are at it?

This is another example of slapping the faces of Americans and legal immigrants who became citizens by going through normal channels. It’s like letting a murderer off the hook because he said he was sorry he did his crime. What about the parents of these kids who have enjoyed leading their illegal lives all these years while their kids were growing up? Will they be deported since we will know of their location? If so, why can’t their kids follow them home and live their lives in Mexico? Either that or they can get in line like everyone else who wants to come here.

In 2006, there was a bill voted on (Prop 300) to give the illegal kids in-state tuition for college. In other words, if you were from any other state but AZ and a US citizen, you would have paid out of state tuition but if you lived in AZ and were an illegal alien, you could have paid in-state tuition. Luckily, the citizens of AZ voted that down in large numbers.

I’m sorry but I can’t agree with the provisions of the DREAM Act. Illegal immigration is costing this country billions each year so I don’t care how exemplary the lives of these kids have been. They are illegal, their parents are illegal, and they should both be dealt with accordingly. We brag about being a nation of laws and we have a border patrol for a reason. Unfortunately, there are ulterior motives for wanting the DREAM Act and it will probably pass. If it does, we may as well tear down any obstructions at the border and forget about immigration laws.

As for the aliens who worked hard and patiently waited to become citizens, you can put away your little American flags that you tearfully waved with pride when you raised your hands to take the oath of citizenship. Their will be no more pride in this country and the certificate you received will be worth nothing.

TO READ RESPONSES GO TO http://www.azcentral.com/members/Blog/Jim8413/50538

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Credit cards or cash?

Remember when you carried a lot of cash? Remember the old saying, "Cash on the barrel head."? That’s the way business used to be done but today we live in a credit and debit card society.

If you are a victim of the economy, you may or may not use cash or you may prefer to charge everything on your MasterCard or Visa. I do the latter because credit cards offer incentives in the form of cash or other items. I pay my card off every month and collect the points toward cash. It’s logical for me since I get an occasional check for $500 from them.

I know people who still insist on paying cash for everything. That’s very noble but these days it doesn’t make much sense. By paying cash you are technically paying more for certain products because the retailer has to build into his cost the processing charges made by the credit card companies and banks. For example, in the grocery business, credit and debit card sales now account for an average of about 53% of sales. In higher end areas of town, it can reach as high as 65%. Processing charges in a typical store doing about $380,000 in business per week can reach the $130,000 per year range. The store has to get that back somehow and it is usually done by raising retail prices.

Although using your credit card and paying it off monthly makes sense, many find it impossible to use that system because with the extra cash lying around they would spend it too and not be able to pay off their bills. If that is you, forget about using credit cards unless you want to become a victim of making partial payments on the cards thus putting you on a monthly merry-go-round of high interest rate costs.

I’m not saying that card processing fees are the sole reason grocery prices are high but they are one reason. The biggest reason, according to the Food Marketing Institute, is employee theft which last year increased for the third straight year and accounted for 40% of shrink . With the bad economy, that figure along with shoplifting is expected to go even higher.

You may as well take advantage of credit card rebates to help offset the costs that are passed on to the customer. Just be sure to pay your bill in full each month to avoid interest charges.

Remember when you carried a lot of cash? Remember the old saying, "Cash on the barrel head."? That’s the way business used to be done but today we live in a credit and debit card society.

If you are a victim of the economy, you may or may not use cash or you may prefer to charge everything on your MasterCard or Visa. I do the latter because credit cards offer incentives in the form of cash or other items. I pay my card off every month and collect the points toward cash. It’s logical for me since I get an occasional check for $500 from them.

I know people who still insist on paying cash for everything. That’s very noble but these days it doesn’t make much sense. By paying cash you are technically paying more for certain products because the retailer has to build into his cost the processing charges made by the credit card companies and banks. For example, in the grocery business, credit and debit card sales now account for an average of about 53% of sales. In higher end areas of town, it can reach as high as 65%. Processing charges in a typical store doing about $380,000 in business per week can reach the $130,000 per year range. The store has to get that back somehow and it is usually done by raising retail prices.

Although using your credit card and paying it off monthly makes sense, many find it impossible to use that system because with the extra cash lying around they would spend it too and not be able to pay off their bills. If that is you, forget about using credit cards unless you want to become a victim of making partial payments on the cards thus putting you on a monthly merry-go-round of high interest rate costs.

I’m not saying that card processing fees are the sole reason grocery prices are high but they are one reason. The biggest reason, according to the Food Marketing Institute, is employee theft which last year increased for the third straight year and accounted for 40% of shrink . With the bad economy, that figure along with shoplifting is expected to go even higher.

You may as well take advantage of credit card rebates to help offset the costs that are passed on to the customer. Just be sure to pay your bill in full each month to avoid interest charges.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Political correctness is absurd

Janitors are now "maintenance engineers." Tramps or bums are "homeless persons." Someone told me recently that a shelf stocker at Wal-Mart is now referred to as an "inventory management specialist." Some people are no longer considered retarded, they are "mentally challenged." People of short stature are "vertically challenged" and bald people are "follicle challenged." I think it is a challenge to keep up with these silly politically correct terms.

It is another example of the further weakening of this country that our biggest fear is that somewhere, somehow, someone may be offended. Hence, we change decades long definitions to accommodate the minority of those who may be affected. Kids get trophies even though they are terrible athletes and their teams are losers. Why? Because it may hurt their self esteem to have it otherwise. Let’s don’t encourage them to improve, let’s pat them on the heads and hand them their ultimate goals without expecting them to accomplish anything.

Philip Atkinson, author of A Study of Our Decline, says it best: "Political Correctness is merely the resentment of spoiled children directed against their parent’s values." For example, one student has complained that he did a paper where he mentioned that in a certain city the majority of crimes were performed by "black against black." When his paper was returned his professor gave him "that look" and said "black against black" was offensive and couldn’t be used even though it was fact.

We all love Charles Barkley for his sense of humor, if not for his driving skills while drunk. A few years ago, Charles was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Jokingly, he said that since all his relatives from Alabama were in Massachusetts to see him get inducted, he asked his family’s neighbors to please not break into their homes and "steal our stuff." From Charles, that is considered funny but what would be the reaction if Larry Bird said the same thing? That’s another thing irritating about PC: it is selective. Can you imagine the great black singing group from the 1940s still being called "The Ink Spots."

Consequently, we no longer have "illegal immigrants," they are now "undocumented workers" as though that justifies their breaking the law by being in the US illegally. That is the same as saying a thief is an "unsolicited remover of retail products." And, in December, be careful when you say "Merry Christmas" to someone. You may be offending them.

In the 1950s, the city of Cincinnati sold their old streetcars to Hong Kong. A local guy in Cincy wrote a popular song called "Cincinnati Ding Dong." Some of the lyrics were "Chew Chow, Ching Chong, Cincinnati Ding Dong. It’s just a trolley streetcar, way down in Hong Kong China, way, way, away." It was corny stuff and was innocent enough but it wouldn’t be played now. However, rap songs with destructive tactics against women and police are common. Figure that one out.