Category Archives: Transportation

The End of Another Year & What Have We learned?

Head_Platon_Glyptothek_Munich.jpg2018 is almost at an end. Maybe it’s time to review where we are, and what we think we must do.

There are a number of issues routinely discussed in the USA, and not necessarily a lot of agreement.

Lets take a look at a few.

How about one that seems to be ignored, but is indicative of how inept we can be at solving a known problem. No, I’m not talking about the national debt, although that’s certainly a priority issue. Here’s a localized problem that should be an embarrassment considering how much we send to other countries, let alone waste through poor governance.

Flint Michigan Toxic Water:  Flint Michigan lies along the Flint River, 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Detroit. Flint was a busy manufacturing town up until the 1980’s. General Motors was a leading employer in that area. When the fortunes of GM changed, area manufacturing closed down and a lot of ancillary business connected to automotive production also ceased to exist. The financial impact made its way to the city water decisions on saving money. By 2014, Flint wasn’t able to pay the cost of obtaining water from Detroit, a city that also was struggling. They were getting the water from Lake Huron. The city made a decision to route the municipal water from the nearby Flint River. They said it would only be temporary and like dopamine fools, people believed the city officials. (This is how toxic Flint’s Water is) It’s 2018 and the water is still being supplied from the lead and toxins contaminated Flint River. Read this CNN article for a timeline of the crisis.

In March 2016, Flint began to rip out and replace some of the hazardous pipes under a “FAST Start program.” That program continues.
Kristin Moore, a Flint city government spokeswoman, said that 6,264 pipes have been replaced as of April 18, 2018. However, an estimated 12,000 Flint residences still have lead and galvanized service lines that need to be replaced, she said.
“The pipe replacement work is expected to be completed by 2020,” Moore said. “However, the mayor is hopeful that the project can be completed even sooner.”

Climate Change: We might as well go from a local problem to a global one. It lays before us like a rotting pumpkin. Some suggest we should leave it alone, while others say it needs to be cleaned up. There’s probably more discussion on this topic than any of the others I’ll mention. Rightly or wrongly, when it comes to climate change, there’s going to be lively debate on social media any time this topic is discussed.

Some groups claim humanity is plunging headlong towards catastrophe and possibly even a future in which a tiny band of survivors cluster around the last remaining habitable territory near the poles.

Other groups claim that climate change will not be too bad so there is no need to stop using fossil fuels. They point to beneficial effects such as ‘global greening’ in which plant growth is boosted by the extra carbon in the air.

The answers may lay somewhere in between.

The United Nations IPCC publishes a research review in the form of a voluminous,  report on the subject of climate change, which the United Nations asserts is “authored” by approximately 600 scientists. These “authors” are not, however – as is ordinarily the custom in science – permitted power of approval of the published review of which they are supposedly authors. They are permitted to comment on the draft text, but the final text neither conforms to nor includes many of their comments. The final text conforms instead to the United Nations objective of building support for world taxation and rationing of industrially useful energy.

Does this make climate change data or predictions, incorrect or a hoax? That’s not as easy to answer as one can presuppose.

150 years ago Irish physicist John Tyndall discovered ‘carbonic acid’, known today as carbon dioxide. It was one of a number of “perfectly colorless and invisible gases and vapors” to absorb radiant heat. About 40 years later, the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first suggested, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause the global temperature to go up, particularly in the Arctic. Therefore, according to these ideas and the last 150 years of a rise in global temperature measurement, in combination with a rise in CO2, the science of climate change has become the “hot topic” of discussion.

The Climate-gate scandal proved that key data involving man-made climate change was manipulated. In 2009, the public discovered emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit exposing how scientists who have been enormously influential in promoting the concept of man-made climate change actually attempted to cook the books to obtain results that served their narrative that the planet was heating at a dangerous trend due to higher levels of carbon dioxide.

One of these scientists included Dr. James Hansen, a former NASA climatologist who is known by some as the “father” or “grandfather” of the climate change myth, as it was his “Model Zero” that first introduced the concept of global warming. Hansen, Philip Jones, Michael Mann, et al. were all involved in trying “to lower past temperatures and to ‘adjust’ recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming.” The leaked emails bore that out. The emails also revealed how this cabal of scientists would discuss various ways to stonewall the public from seeing the “background data on which their findings and temperature records were based,” even going as far as deleting significant amounts of data. They would engage in efforts to smear “any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics’ work.”

Michael Mann has used Canada’s courts to sue one of his major critics of anthropogenic global warming. Dr. Tim Ball has on several occasions caused people to pause and review the underlying facts and purposes of a government proposition they can tax the environmental reprobates and credit the appropriate parties. It’s a perfect “crisis” for any government to use more authority and gain added revenues. All the while, taking credit when it isn’t due, and shifting blame whenever things aren’t favorable.
The use of ‘science’ as a tool for social manipulation is thoroughly confusing to most people until they understand the motive behind the deception.

It has been 28 years since Channel 4 in the UK produced >The Greenhouse Conspiracy.  It covered all the things that were wrong with the AGW theory. They are still valid, but now time-tested. Unfortunately, most people still don’t understand how it disproves the theory, despite all the efforts to educate people about the misuse of science. The bureaucratic technocrats, including those funded by them, who created and promote the deception, rarely respond to scientific challenges. Why bother when the public doesn’t understand?

Health Care: The debate over U.S. health care reform and the future of the Affordable Care Act dominated headlines in 2017, and has slowly diminished attention. The problems with healthcare in the US has continued. It’s a mixed message to the public by government politicos. On one hand, they say we need universal, “government managed” health care, but this type of care has been available since the inception of medicare.  The evidence for government managed health care has proven to be an empty promise. The Veterans Health (a very small percentage of the US population) has gone through numerous exposes on its mis-management. Medicare is definitely limited coverage, and about the only people who seem to have the right amount of health care coverage are those with a lot of money or high up government officials.

There’s no doubt that health care costs in the U.S. needs to be controlled. It’s not going to be corrected by elimination of private insurance, and corporate medical health organizations. The government has for decades, along with insurance, pharmaceutical lobbyists, and the legal industry, have been manipulating the health care industry. There’s a lot of shifting of responsibility, making it more complex for the care giver as well as the patients.

Government Spending: This is the 800 gorilla in the living room, and he’s growing into a 1 ton monster.

Federal, State, Local, and Total US government spending

Amounts in Trillion$ FY 2018 FY 2019
----------------------------------
Federal Spending     4.11  4.41
Intergov. Transfers  -0.72 -0.7
State Spending       1.81  1.87
Local Spending       1.93  1.99
Total Spending       7.12  7.56

Where’s the money being spent?
2019-budget-spending-chart

“World stock markets staggered Monday towards the end of their worst year since the global financial crisis a decade ago, rocked by rising interest rates, the global trade war and Brexit, dealers said.”

“London and Paris wobbled in holiday-shortened trade on New Year’s Eve — but nursed dizzying double-digit annual falls after an exceptionally volatile 2018.”

All that is what may concern some investors, but what should concern everyone, is the rapid year upon year increase of government debt. This is a crisis that can be averted, but the distress in shrinking the exorbitant spending habit of the federal government is more painful than the withdrawal symptoms of a heroin addict. Massive protests would ensue if someone’s favored group or program either was shrunk or defunded. As evidenced by the growing outspoken demands by a younger generation, they want to see universal health care, free college tuition, and basic income for all. Where this all will be created from, isn’t their problem. They just believe the “wealthy will pay”.

“They’ve got to keep the government-funded,” and where or how we obtain that funding isn’t important. That kind of thinking is a train wreck waiting to happen.

“Every dollar the government spends, even if borrowed, has to come out of some existing person’s pocket and therefore pre-empts the use of that dollar somewhere else in the economy—not in the future, but here and now.”

“The government can obtain its borrowed money by selling Treasury bonds to either American citizens or foreigners. If it borrows from domestic sources, it is getting money that Americans would have either invested somewhere in the economy or spent on goods and services. Government borrowing simply diverts the cash from other uses, just as if its spending were financed by taxation.” Economists call this the “crowding out effect.”

What’s necessary to understand, there will be a point where there’s not enough money to pay the interest and the required expenditures. This usually results in runaway inflation in order to “devalue” the debt.

US_debt_history

Growing Government Encroachment

“As we look into the future, contemplating artificial intelligence, automation, driverless cars and robots in our homes, big data — our data — is providing the foundation for this new world. Smart technology is just another part of the food chain, foraging personal data from our lives, without our permission or full comprehension of the implications.”

“The scale of hacking at numerous corporations around the world and the data exchange between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, gives us an idea of how fierce this battle has become. Big data are today’s gold. Our personal and national sovereignties are at stake.”

Whistle Blowers are most often hailed as heroes, but not when it comes to blowing the whistle on a major government, most particularly, the United States. The U.S. will hunt you down, in almost any country in the world. Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been identified as either traitors, or a high security risk. Most problematic for those advocating their arrest and need for a trial, are the things they’ve revealed. Snowden disclosed the unrestrained eavesdropping by the NSA, and Assange opened the curtain of secrecy on how third-party military contractors conduct themselves in some situations with non-combatants.

Even more problematic for the “pure democracy” the politicos have tried to portray, were the devious conduct of the National Democrat party co-opting their support of  Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. This caused enough backlash from the Clinton campaign, they began a series of intrigue and rumors to the point where we are still investigating the 2016 election results, blaming the Russians and the Trump campaign in concert of subverting the election. All of the facts disclosing this “palace intrigue,” came through Wiki Leaks led by Julian Assange. Mills_Snowden_holidays_2018

This national anxiety over either the Russians, Trump, Assange, or Snowden, are misplaced. It’s one huge disinformation campaign. Private & government ambition and technology have raced ahead of law, policy and norms.

This is not just a national problem. It’s a global problem seeking global solutions. Stricter data protection regulations and the breaking up of monopolies may be excellent starting points. Of course the clever government sponsored ideas on making the Internet Fair, are nothing more than a way of twisting the debate to furthering federal control of a public resource. The Chinese have that control within their borders, the U.S. government will continue to posit arguments through surrogates to wrest this control from private entities. What’s most amazing is the naive public view that government is inherently more trustworthy than a corporate entity.  Amazon and Google have gone to great lengths to be willing to share any data on a proactive basis. Forget privacy, it’s an illusion.

Indeed one of many arguments I’ve seen on the topic of privacy and the need for controls, are similar to asking the wolf to guard the chicken coop.

Privacy commissioners need the tools and the authority and we all need a transparent process focused on marrying moral and ethical considerations with technological progress.” Oh sure, the people who have repeatedly demonstrated their self-serving ineptitude, should be in charge of the technology they’ve already exploited.

There are other concerns and challenges facing us in 2019. The U.S. routine military interventions around the world should be a cause for concern for all of us. If the situation was flipped around, let’s say China or Russia were inside U.S. borders and using military force to impose their will, what would be the reaction? Might we become a terrorist, or support that type of activity in their homeland? I believe we need a clear written public policy statement which identifies the reasons for our military to engage into a foreign country. It needs healthy debate. We’ve skirted this debate, by having a contemporary President make a televised impassioned speech, then impromptu short international meetings and choreographed public pronouncements. USA_military_interventions_map

What are your concerns going forward? What changes, if any do you think need to at least begin in 2019?

 ——

Why I Hate Automotive Tech

There comes a time when the development of cars, computers, and so-called electronic convenience, become anything but that.

Fixing my own cars, and occasionally for others, I’ve witnessed this march to built-in catastrophic entrapment for several decades… and it ain’t pretty.

There was a time when an engine could be removed, valves replaced, seats ground, pistons pulled, cylinders rehoned, rings replaced, transmissions removed and rebuilt, and you could continue to use the same car for many years. If you want to keep them now, it’s going to be an expensive proposition.

Then came the need for pollution control systems. Not satisfied with pumping in more air to burn waste gases, nor using expensive palladium catalytic converters on the exhaust. That wasn’t enough. Let’s put in some sensors, and computerize the whole process of bringing in air, swirling it about with computer timed fuel injection and variable valve timing. Then fart it out the back with sensors that constantly sniff for emissions, only to feedback through the computer, hey – you’re giving me gas!

As if that wasn’t enough, they installed infotainment systems into these supposed smarter cars. Only one problem with that, no make it two. First the drivers need updates, and that wasn’t happening. Knob fiddling was one thing, but glaring at a screen which not only controls the interior temp, your favorite radio stations, the last 500 songs you cleverly downloaded, and also gives you reroute instructions past the 15 car pile up you need to avoid to get to work.

What Are The Usual Causes For Computer Failure in Vehicles

car-computer-insideNot only are computers failing with ever-increasing frequency, due to downsizing all those millions of tiny micro junctures, which makes them more susceptible to cycles of heat and cold. They now control your 9-speed automatic transmission which is arguing with your engine management systems on what the right fuel-air combination, meshing with the right gears for your on and off the acceleration because you couldn’t make up your mind on which of the 6 lanes of traffic to travel.

Mercedes, among several later manufacturers, has built-in systems to detect when you’ve listened to way too many conference calls and are now too drowsy to stay in your lane. They’ve also added another computer to check that your eyes are scrutinizing that fancy whiz-bang infotainment system instead of driving, and are about to plow into the little old person crossing the road in their 4 wheel drive, electronically controlled wheel chair. It has now applied the computer management system for your brakes, and detected the G-force to be sufficient to maim you, has launched 3 out of 7 possible air bags to cushion your low earth orbit.

One last system has been called upon to maintain your ride stability system which manages ride height on all 4 wheels, keeping you level, while bearing down on previously mentioned senior citizen, having a cardiac event in front of your just in time stopped car.

Never mind, the smart 4 wheel drive scooter has called 911 to get her or him the assistance they need.

Meanwhile, you will have gone through a pile of cash or credit to replace the inflated airbags and clean up the interior of your car, contaminated by all the internal special powder they put in those airbags, combined with your sudden urge that has stained the leather in your seat. After you receive the hospital bill for the face and neck burns from the airbags, you will visit your doctor for a prescription of Nitrazepam.

infotainment_cntrThe advance of technology has repealed radio / cassette knobs, in favor of a computerized lit entertainment screen which beckon you to gaze at it, instead of attentive driving.

BTW, you’ll need a new infotainment system after you have smashed your knuckles into it when your computer determined you had to stop extra fast because of the kitty running across the road in front of your collision avoidance equipped, modern car. evil_mask_sml

Another Motorcycle Brand is History

It came as a somewhat unexpected (probably only to me – more informed people knew it was coming), that Polaris manufacturing, makers of Victory & Indian Motorcycles, decided to drop the Victory line and stick only with Indian Motorcycles.

victory-models-end

End of the Line for Victory Motorcycles


Victory Motorcycle Announcement
1/9/2017 12:00:00 AM
Polaris Industries Inc. (NYSE: PII) will immediately begin winding down its Victory Motorcycles brand and related operations. Polaris will assist dealers in liquidating existing inventories while continuing to supply parts for a period of 10 years, along with providing service and warranty coverage to Victory dealers and owners. Today’s announcement does not affect any other Polaris business units.


The history of Victory Motorcycles® doesn’t stretch back over the past hundred years. We are young, full of drive, with our eyes on the horizon. That passion has raged since 1998, when a small group of riders, designers, and gear heads came together in Minnesota, and decided to engineer power and performance back into American V-Twins. Our first bike roared to life on July 4th, 1998. This was more than a patriotic gesture. It was a flag in the ground that marked the rebirth of the American V-Twin, and we’ve been claiming more roads ever since. From numerous awards to leading innovations, we have given new life to American muscle with industry changing cruisers, baggers, and touring bikes.

Well that’s what they said. Now, here’s my two cents.

victory_motorcycle_promo_pix_b

Victory Motorcycles 2015

Eighteen years or so, is a long period of time if you’re talking about digital tech. When it comes to any kind of transportation, motorcycle, cars or trucks, it’s nothing. It’s a blink of an eye, and no one in a few years will likely remember much about the company unless they turned out some very innovative products. I’m not so sure I can recall anything about Victory Motorcycles that was all that remarkable. Believe me, I’m not taking anything away from them. They probably built a few models that will stand the test of time, and I’m sure if I rode one, I would’ve enjoyed it. Here’s the thing, I didn’t, because I saw nothing that really intrigued me over what is already available in the market.

I fully appreciate the problem they had, before they even started. The cost of doing business in this highly competitive and regulated industry is daunting. Before you can even begin to manufacture, there are thousands of federal and state regulations you must meet and that’s not even counting the labor and distribution regs.

The market demand for motorcycles in the U.S. is not anywhere close to the amount of automobiles sold. According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “Motorcycle registrations in the United States have grown each of the past 10 years, from 3,826,373 in 1997 to 6,678,958 in 2006—a 75 percent increase overall.” Sales of new bikes hasn’t achieved huge increases. There are many people, like myself that simply buy a used bike from someone wanting to trade or exiting the market.

Here’s a sampling from Revzilla of motorcycle sales.

motorcycle-sales-ending-in-2014-stats

The problems they faced by entering a market with an increasingly older rider demographic, with a product facing established, successful competitors, Harley Davidson, Honda, Yamaha, Triumph, Suzuki, etc. were huge. They needed something where a segment wasn’t being served. To say, we’re the alternative to Harley-Davidson because we are an American manufacturer that also builds large cruiser & tourer motorcycles, just wasn’t enough.

As a matter of practicality, when you look at two of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers, Honda & Harley, you have to ask yourself, what makes them so successful? I might not be an expert in this area, but I can sure take a good guess. Harley-Davidson in 1980, like the 1950’s and 60’s British bikes was taking a dive. In the late 1970’s and throughout most of the 1980’s, BSA, Triumph & Norton were gone. By the 1980s the Harley-Davidson Motor Company had come within red-ink inches of the edge of the cliff which many other manufacturers had plummeted over. In 1981, they managed to combine a group of investors and through an LBO bought the legendary motorcycle company. Recovery came rather quickly with these committed people at the helm, and through their persuading President Reagan to impose tariffs on larger displacement imports.

Harley-Davidson knew they had a brand that could engender loyalty. In a way they leveraged the 1% biker image as a marketing ploy to those who had large enough disposable income that wanted to be weekend “hell-raisers”. The doctors, dentists, pilots, and many other successful business men wanted to show they were still “rebels without a cause.” They sold on “sex appeal”. Even the historical Triumph Motorcycle brand was resurrected by a successful British real estate mogul.

Meanwhile Honda, the always market savvy and almost always reliable manufacturer of small bikes, continued their onslaught from the 1970’s with ever larger and more sophisticated bikes, but never forgot the younger more economy minded motorcyclist. They understood the ageing demographic too, by developing and continually upgrading the Honda Goldwing. The closest thing to a Bentley or Cadillac on two wheels, but with handling and power of some sport bikes. Honda also found the off-road segment was a market worthy of pursuing. The biggest market for Honda is Asia, with small displacement & Moped size bikes.

Polaris came into the market with the Victory and later, doubled down with the purchase of the Indian brand of motorcycles. Indian was the historical rival of Harley-Davidson and some say, the most beautiful of the earlier 30’s art-deco inspired styling. It didn’t really pay much attention to what was currently trending as it slowly grew from the bigger rivals.

Harley-Davidson has social and consumer branding down to a science. They sell a lot of other merchandise and they get free advertising. Almost everywhere you look you will see a clothing item or sticker with the name of the company. I don’t know if they aren’t a more recognizable brand than Coca-Cola.

Honda sells machines to every conceivable market segment with a reputation of reliability. I’ve been a Honda motorcycle owner and fan of the product since the late 1990’s. I’ve never had a breakdown. If you do the normal maintenance, (which isn’t much), you can expect that when you turn on the key, you’re in for a pleasant experience of getting to your destination.

So who or what is Victory, other than a name? I saw a couple of their models that I liked, but I know the older riders tend to like the Harley. It’s also gotten very reliable and they’ve come out with some new models to address the younger and less willing to spend mega-dollars on two wheels, consumer. The big luxury tourers offered by Victory seemed to use a merger of the Jetsons meet the Croats idea of design.

victory-motorcycle-2017-lineup

Victory went after the same market segment as Harley-Davidson. That’s primarily, the over 50 male crowd. They didn’t offer models that would appeal to a younger segment, like sport bikes or financially frugal riders. For the most part, they ignored marketing to women. How then could they see a path to success? Build a better mouse trap? As I said, Honda is incredibly reliable and Harley isn’t too far behind. Increase displacement? Harley-Davidson has been doing that. In recent years, Harley-Davidson has steadily increased displacement since 1999 – 88 cu in (1,450 cc), 96 cu in (1,584 cc), 103 cu in (1,690 cc), 110 cu. in. (1,801 cc). Honda Motorcycles did produce a larger V-Twin (1800cc) from 2001 thru 2008 in Marysville Ohio. They have backed off the larger displacement bikes, concentrating on a different market segment.

Sales statistics for 2105 (U.S. only)
——————————–
Harley-Davidson  – 1
Honda Motorcycle Group – 2
Victory was 10th in the list. Still, they reported this rosy forecast in 2016

harley-davidson_motorcycle_sales_stats

Where does Polaris Industries fit into the motorcycle industry going forward? They claim they will focus more on their Indian brand. This is supposedly a stronger brand for them. The high-end Victory Motorcycles were in the mid $20K and Indian is right about there as well.

Motorcycle Annual Sales Numbers for 2015

Manufacturer North America sales Worldwide sales
Honda Motors 286,000 10.73 million
Harley-Davidson 189,082* 264,627
Yamaha 89,000 5.22 million
Kawasaki 51,000 524,000**
Suzuki 35,000 est. 1.11 million (est.)
BMW n/a 136,963
Ducati 12,132 54,800

Personally, I think they’re done and will entirely leave the two-wheel market in a few years. I don’t think you have to be a marketing guru to realize the almost insurmountable position they’re in. Another air/oil cooled V-twin motorcycle, no matter how old the original brand is, or how beautiful the bike looks isn’t likely to spur an increasing demand or expanded market share. Triumph Motorcycles offers that rich tradition at generally a lower cost of entry.

indian_motorcycles_lineup_2017

Photo courtesy – American Iron

Younger people are more likely to purchase a car which meets their sport and-or fuel economy requirements in transportation. Polaris has many other recreation oriented products which provide them revenue. I think this announcement has damaged their credibility.