Happy New Year to our entire readership. May 2011 be glorious for you and the United States of America.
JANUARY 1, 2011
SPEAKING OF AULD LANG SYNE – AT 10:19 P.M. ET: We noted the death of Kodachrome a few days ago. We note now another passing. RIP. From The Detroit News:
As of today, the Mercury name disappears from dealerships, marking the end of a once-heralded brand that was a step up from Ford, the everyday people's car.
Today, few recall that Mercury once was beloved as a stylish and powerful ride. It had roles in movies ranging from "Rebel Without a Cause" (James Dean was behind the wheel of a customized 1949 Mercury) to "On His Majesty's Secret Service," in which James Bond's love interest drove a souped-up red 1969 Cougar XR-7 known as the Eliminator.
Their fans aside, recent Mercurys weren't different enough from Ford to attract auto buyers in sufficient numbers, experts say.
"Mercury has been a redundant brand for Ford for at least the last five years, if not longer," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insight for the auto research website TrueCar.com. "For the most part, they were just cosmetically enhanced Fords."
That is the fault of bad, uninspired management. Ford, however, in the last few years, seems to have snapped back, but too late to save Mercury.
Mercury was designed to be an automobile "for the aspirational class," Toprak said, "for those who couldn't quite afford a Lincoln but wanted something more distinctive than a Ford. But that strategy didn't stick."
Through November, 84,802 Mercurys were sold, a 57 percent decline from the 195,949 sold just five years before, according to TrueCar.com figures. And 2010 Mercury sales represented less than 5 percent of Ford's total sales of 1.7 million, TrueCar.com said.
Ford was candid about Mercury's declining appeal in June, when it said it would eliminate the line. "Mercury's customer profile, pricing and margins are almost identical to Ford," the company said in a statement.
COMMENT: Same old Detroit story. Had they worked on producing a superb product, this wouldn't have happened.
Back in the 1970s, a polling firm asked American and German car executives what they did. The American executives would generally answer, "We sell cars." The German executives would answer, "We make cars." That's the difference.
There are some fine American cars coming off the assembly lines today. But I wonder if our industry can ever regain the lustre it worked so hard to lose.
January 1, 2011 Permalink
A WOMAN TO WATCH – AT 11:52 A.M. ET: Her name is Susana Martinez, and she's the new governor of New Mexico...and she's a Republican. From The Los Angeles Times:
When she takes the oath of office Saturday morning in Santa Fe's historic plaza, Susana Martinez will become New Mexico's — and the nation's — first elected Latina governor.
The 51-year-old, four-term Doña Ana County district attorney is also a rising star in national Republican circles, already being mentioned in the blogosphere as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2012.
But as she takes over from Bill Richardson — a termed-out Democrat whose final two years in office were clouded by federal investigations into pay-for-play allegations — Martinez faces stiff challenges as New Mexico deals with a high unemployment rate and a hefty budget deficit.
"We have to start cutting back on the wasteful spending," Martinez said in a telephone interview last week as she drove to her hometown of Las Cruces. She wants to sell the state's $5.5-million jet, pare administrative costs in the education budget and put the state's generous film industry incentives under the microscope.
Martinez is also considering scaling back the Rail Runner Express commuter train service and is looking to privatize operations at Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic soon hopes to launch suborbital space flights. She has also promised to reverse a policy of issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants and to fight for reinstatement of the death penalty.
Each of these proposals could be seen as a repudiation of Richardson and his expansive approach to state government. "We're asking people to cut back and not spend as much, but government has not been able to do that," Martinez said.
COMMENT: Watch her, and also watch Marco Rubio, the new, dynamic Republican senator from Florida, and a Cuban-American. There is absolutely no reason why the Republican Party should concede the Hispanic vote to Democrats, who've never delivered much of anything to the Hispanic community anyway.
If Republicans can make inroads into the Hispanic community, it could change the face of American politics. Both Martinez and Rubio are representative of a new Republican effort to show minority voters that the GOP can deliver. Now deliver.
January 1, 2011 Permalink
QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 11:25 A.M. ET: From Albert Einstein:
"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education."
Something to think about. How many of us have seen the truth of Einstein's observation?
January 1, 2011 Permalink
ALREADY – AT 11:06 A.M. ET: We got through the holiday in America without an attempted terrorist attack, and again we're reminded of those who stand guard. Sadly, Egypt wasn't that lucky. The new year was welcomed in a most unfriendly way. From AP:
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — A powerful bomb exploded in front of a crowded Coptic Christian church a half hour into the New Year early Saturday, hitting worshipers emerging from a holiday Mass in the Egyptian city of Alexandria and killing at least 21 people in an attack that raised suspicions of an al-Qaida role.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak vowed to track down those behind the attack, saying "we will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."
"This terrorist act has shaken the conscience of the nation," he said in a statement, adding that "all Egypt was targeted, and terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim."
Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed car parked outside the Saints Church. But the Interior Ministry later said it was more likely from a suicide bomber on foot.
Both tactics are hallmarks of al-Qaida militants, and the blast came as the terror network's branch in Iraq has waged a campaign of violence against that country's Christian community and raised the threat of similar attacks in Egypt.
COMMENT: When will we ever learn? When will the "intellectuals," "scholars" and "journalists" learn that al-Qaida represents an ideology, a world view. Its actions are not simply a reaction to "American policies" or "the plight of the Palestinians."
Muslim extremists want to wipe out Christianity and Judaism. They make that clear, but too many won't listen. The assault on Christianity in progress in Iraq is deeply disturbing, and makes a mockery of our sacrifice there. Now, apparently, the campaign has spread to Egypt.
January 1, 2011 Permalink
THE NEW YEAR – AT 10:36 A.M. ET: Do I assume correctly that the new year is already here?
Many people who are not writers don't realize that, in the writing business, we often lose complete track of time. There are no real weekends and no real holidays. However, I am convinced by objective and subjective evidence that this really is January 1, 2011. If I'm wrong, e-mail me. I've been wrong before. Happy Valentine's Day.
And how does the year begin? Well, for us it will really begin on Monday when the new Congress is sworn in. President Obama said yesterday that he's willing to take any idea from any source, as long as it's good. He also said that Democrats and Republicans need to work together.
What a concept!
Maybe, as the White House reviews the numbers in the new Congress, the reality is setting in: The president did take a shellacking on election day, and the lame-duck session of Congress didn't change that.
A few statistics:
The old Congress, now history:
House of Representatives: Democrats, 255; Republicans, 179; vacant, 1; non-voting members, 6.
Senate: Democrats, 56; Republicans, 42; Independents, 2.
The new Congress, about to be sworn in:
House of Representatives: Democrats, 193; Republicans, 242; non-voting members, 6.
Senate: Democrats, 51; Republicans, 47, Independents, 2.
Ah, yes, happy new year.
January 1, 2011 Permalink
DECEMBER 31, 2010
TAKE THAT, FCC – AT 9:36 A.M. ET: Oh boy, Obama's guys at the FCC are going to love this – wall to wall TV coverage of the Rose Parade tomorow...featuring a float honoring Ronald Reagan. There will be chest clutching in the Obama bureaucracy. From The Politico:
At the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., you can always expect marching bands and flower-bedazzled floats ... but presidents?
Former President Ronald Reagan — a two-term governor of the Golden State — will be featured in a special float at the New Year's Day event.
CNN says that this is "the first time that the Rose Parade has ever included a presidential-themed float."
"The Rose Parade feature is designed to kick off a celebration events to commemorate the centennial of Reagan's birth," reports CNN. Reagan would have turned 100 in February 2011, and there are numerous events planned to mark the occasion.
Reagan's float will be 55 feet long and 26 feet high, featuring photos from throughout Reagan's life. The float will be sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and made possible by Jelly Belly, maker of Reagan's favorite candy.
COMMENT: Reagan's 100th birthday year will provide a chance for Republicans to celebrate greatness. They might use the time to find out why Reagan became iconic – he celebrated American values, he understood the lessons of the 20th century, and he was an eternal optimist. He also knew how to communicate his ideas, and never spoke down to the American people.
One of Reagan's greatest skills was his ability to speak above the media and directly to citizens. It is a rare talent, but one needed by the next Republican candidate for president, who will face a media crowd even more hostile than the one Reagan faced in 1980, when he defeated Jimmah ("I'm the best ex-president evah") Carter.
Many today don't realize how controversial Reagan was when he ran for president. He was regularly ridiculed by pundits as a warmed-over movie actor with no qualifications to be president...pretty much the same thing that some said about Lincoln and FDR. And he was hardly the favorite of much of the Republican establishment, which usually leaned toward sturdy old reliables who went on to lose.
So, 2011 will be the year of Reagan. I'm surprised the FCC is letting that float be shown on TV. Isn't there a regulation against conservatives, or is that just in the pipeline?
December 31, 2010 Permalink
OBAMA II – AT 8:34 A.M. ET: We've said here many times that the British writers are often sharper observers of American politics than are their American counterparts. Nile Gardiner, a British conservative, has an especially perceptive, and decidedly negative, piece on Obama and his prospects. From London's Telegraph:
Ignore the revisionist hype in sections of the liberal media about President Obama staging a (mythical) political comeback – this is a presidency with an approval rating of 45 percent (according to the RealClear Politics poll of polls), that presides over a nation where just 27 percent of voters think the country is moving in the right direction, and which just 29 percent of Americans think will be returned to power in 2012.
No tingle up his leg.
The political landscape still looks strikingly bleak for the “transformational president” as he goes into 2011. 2010 was a stunningly bad year for Barack Obama, no matter how much the likes of The New York Times or The Washington Post might try to sugar coat it.
You mean, they're not entirely accurate?
Gardiner gives four reasons why Obama is in hot water:
1. The midterm elections were a defeat of epic proportions for the Obama Presidency.
When Barack Obama spoke of a “shellacking” at the midterms, it was a huge understatement. The Republicans scored a significantly bigger win than they did in 1994, with their biggest gain in the House of Representatives in 62 years – since 1948.
2. Conservatism grew increasingly dominant in America.
As a recent Gallup survey showed, 48 percent of Americans now describe themselves as “conservative”, compared to 32 percent who call themselves “moderate”, and just 20 percent who call themselves “liberal”...
...Barack Obama, the most liberal US president of the modern era, has a natural liberal constituency comprised of just one in five Americans, which certainly does not bode well for 2012.
3. The Left lost ground and engaged in a brutal civil war.
2010 was a monumentally bad year for the liberal establishment in the United States, not only in electoral terms but in terms of increasing divisions within its ranks, as well as the continuing decline of the “mainstream” liberal media. Conservative media, from Fox News to The Wall Street Journal, have had a tremendous year, increasing market share while establishment giants from CNN to network news outlets continue to decline.
4. The Tea Party became more powerful than the president at the ballot box.
A small grassroots movement with barely any resources evolved into the most successful US political movement of this generation, sparking a national protest against the Big Government policies of the Obama administration, and a powerful call for a return to America’s founding principles. The Tea Party was initially mocked and jeered by its political opponents, including the president, but later came to be feared by the Left as it flexed tremendous political muscle.
COMMENT: My, my, I hope they don't show Gardiner's article to the president. Maybe Mr. Obama should consider another line of work.
At the same time, any president has substantial political resources, and this one is a great campaigner. As we've said here, don't count him out. If the Republicans work as hard to lose the 2012 election as they've worked to lose other elections, they may actually lose it.
December 31, 2010 Permalink
OBAMA, 2010 – AT 8:16 A.M. ET: There are a number of year-end reviews on the news network. You don't need another one here. But I did want to comment on this second year of the Obama administration.
The president has fallen from grace, but remains politically potent. He is being treated more as a human being, less as a demi-god, come down to save us. Even some of his backers are starting to demand that he adhere to the standards expected of a man who holds the highest office. This week, no less a worshipper than Chris Matthews, who, you'll recall, felt a tingle up his leg every time Obama spoke, suggested that the president finally release his long-form birth certificate to prove he was born when and where he claimed. And the new governor of Hawaii, the extreme left-wing Neil Abercrombie, pledged that he would "prove" Obama was born in Hawaii.
Incredible that this "birther" issue has resurfaced. I'm not a birther. I believe the president was born in Hawaii on the day he says he was, but his failure to release his long-form birth certificate violates fundamental political standards, and he should do it. Clearly, there is something embarrassing on the paper. I suspect that his father listed Barack as a Kenyan citizen, something irrelevant under American law, if he was born on our soil. The American people will understand, as long as Obama has told the truth about when and where.
At the same time, get ready for the love affair between press and president to be rekindled in 2011. It is clear that some journalists are petrified that their 1960s moment will disappear with the 2012 election, and that they'll be required to graduate to the emotional age of 21. This could be a disaster, and a deep disappointment to many.
December 31, 2010 Permalink