Tavis Smiley and Social Security hysteria

After work I went to an SMU Tate Lecture Series student forum featuring Catherine Crier, Ward Connerly, and Tavis Smiley.

It was interesting to see the interaction between Ward, an avowed red state guy, and Tavis, an avowed blue state guy. The discussion was mostly about race preferences and affirmative action. The only apparent point of agreement is that affirmative action programs should focus on socioeconomic conditions. The 10 ton gorilla, however, was how to classify deserving socioeconomic conditions.

I was disappointed with Tavis’s frequently populist and illogical arguments. Despite his agreement on the socioeconomic factor, he continued to support race factors, saying that the vast majority of people eligible under socioeconomic factors are minority. Huh? So what are you saying? Poor whites can’t get anything? Rich blacks should still receive benefits? I don’t get it.

Tavis also happens to be the host of the Tavis Smiley Show, a radio program that broadcasts on NPR affiliates. Yesterday he announced that he is not renewing his contract. At today’s lecture he explained that he felt that NPR is resistant to change and would not put forth the effort necessary to make his show a success. That seems fishy. Regardless, I have enjoyed his NPR show, and I hate to see him go.

At one point, Catherine Crier interjected doom and gloom hand-wringing, citing her interpretation of Running on Empty, a scathing criticism of the fiscal state of the US. Sure, the longer certain economic indicators are ignored, the bigger problem we are facing. But a “perfect storm” of colossal proportions? Far from a certainty.

One of the biggest rationales for this “perfect storm” is a theorized generational “war” between retirees and workers. In a few decades there will only be two workers paying Social Security benefits for each retiree.

Big deal.

Reform or not, Social Security is not going to bankrupt the county, because taxpayer will not allow it. This is a country of laws, and the laws can change! (What a surprise!) In this scary future, guess which group has a larger electoral base, the workers or the retirees? Workers, 2 to 1.

The productive classes will not stand for crushing Social Security taxes. Sorry, retirees, but the losers will be those of you who did not save enough for retirement, not the workers. Retirees will absolutely be outvoted. Better start saving now!

The Dutch have lost it

Few things make me sick to my stomach. This article is one of them: Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies.

The Netherlands is exploring killing terminally ill babies. The practice has already begun at one hospital.

This is wretched and horrific.

It’s one thing to deny expensive, futile, non-palliative treatments to terminal patients. It’s entirely different to affirmatively kill patients.

Legalized euthanasia for the willing is bad enough. Killing off babies is despotic.

Regrets and Non-Regrets About My Nova

These are the top mistakes I wish I hadn’t made while restoring and driving my Nova:

  1. Wasting gobs of money. A few years ago, I blew through cubic dollars trying to get rid of a drive train vibration. In the end I got a rebuilt transmission, new engine, different bottom pulley, new water pump, different distributor, different alternator, and a few other miscellaneous parts. All of those parts only lightened my wallet. It turns out it almost all the vibrations were coming from my tires, which leads me to:
  2. Crappy tires. My BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires were complete crap. I will never buy them again. They had poor wet weather traction, were noisy, and poorly balanced. The replacement Michelin Pilot XGT H4s made the car handle far better, like night and day.
  3. Mismatched idler arm/pitman arm. For years my left turns “felt” different than my right turns, and directional stability wasn’t what it should be. It turns out that my Pitman arm and idler arms were off by ½”, thanks to Performance Suspension Components (PSC) where I got all my suspension parts from.
  4. The cheap poly bushings in my rear leaf springs. My front poly bushings, from PSC, never squeaked much, but my rear leaf spring bushings made noise with every suspension travel. I got the black poly bushings from Espo Springs N Things with my springs, and I think they were not graphite impregnated.
  5. Lower assist on the power steering gear. When I had Lee Manufacturing rebuild my P/S gear, I had him lower the assist, thinking that it would give me a better road feel. All it did was make the steering wheel harder to turn while giving no more road feel. The stock P/S assist was higher than modern cars, but it still gave a good amount of road feel.
  6. Analysis without physical diagnosis. I often tried to analyze things without physically tearing stuff apart and looking at it. On occasion I made a correct guess, but too often I ended up wasting time or money.
  7. Not checking the easy stuff first. If I did the easy stuff first, I would have swapped out wheels with someone else in 1999 and cured my drivetrain vibrations a long time ago.
  8. HEI. I don’t regret electronic ignition, but I do regret the HEI. It doesn’t fit right in a ’74 Nova, and I had to bash in the firewall to get it in. Next time I will do a remote coil type unit that can still fit in the stock location.
  9. Only had rear speakers. I had a great radio and 2-way Pioneer 6×9 speakers in the rear package shelf. It was “OK,” but I had to crank up the volume too much to hear stuff in the front seat. I would have rather had a front speaker.
  10. The worst one: Not paying more attention to the brakes. I totaled my Nova because my brakes malfunctioned as I avoided a wandering SUV. I guess that my rear brakes locked up as I jumped on them. There’s no telling what caused this: sticky cylinders, too much line pressure, bad proportioning valve? Who knows? I should have paid better attention to this vital system.

Things I don’t regret:

  1. Running A/C. A/C makes the car tolerable all year round in Dallas .
  2. Keeping the 2.73 rear gears. Those 2.73s may hurt low end torque, but they make the car reasonable at highway speeds. If I had an overdrive transmission I wouldn’t mind doing 3.73s, but that’s the only way I would consider that.
  3. 4 core brass radiator. Much less expensive than aluminum, and it never overheated, even with a 330 HP 350.
  4. Exhaust Manifolds. OK, so they reduced high end horsepower, but they actually fit, they don’t block spark plugs, and they don’t overheat the engine compartment.
  5. Stock hood. Cowl hoods are rice, and I still have yet to see any evidence that they do anything for you besides cause additional aerodynamic drag.
  6. Stock wheels. Aftermarket wheels look weird.
  7. Front bench seat. It is more practical. The only problem is the driver’s side cushions sagged from overuse, so my back would get sore on long trips.
  8. Replacing vinyl matting with carpet. The carpeting made the inside much nicer, although if I do it again I will go with cut pile instead of loop carpeting.
  9. Cheap oil. I still have yet to see any quantitative data showing that expensive oils do anything for you. All fingers point to at least getting API certified oil (even Wal Mart brand oil is API certified) and changing the oil semi-regularly. I yanked the intake at least twice, and I never noticed any sludge or anything else supposedly attributable to cheap oil.
  10. Daily driving a Nova. Yup, I drove my Nova to and from work every day. It was literally my daily driver. I enjoyed keeping a piece of history alive, and I enjoyed not driving the kind of car everyone else has.

We got it anyway

We went ahead and purchased it.

It’s in the garage:

I was infuriated at the dealer at one point. The sales manager pulled out two keys but only one key fob. I felt like that was a last minute surprise. This is a “Certified Pre-Owned” car, and he could only produce one fob? Give me a break.

The nice thing is we got this car for about 10% under what comparable “certified” Maximas are going for.

I hate car shopping

We have pretty much decided on getting a Nissan Maxima. Mmmm, 255 horses. We want a model with cloth seats and without a sun roof.

Yesterday we found a 2002 Maxima with 56K miles (the one pictured to the right). www.autocheck.com showed a clean title history, and a VIN lookup on www.publicdata.com showed that the previous owner lives in Plano and bought the car new. I found this guy’s phone number but am still not able to reach him.

Anyway, we took the car home for the night. After getting an uncle to help us examine everything, we discovered that parts of the front and rear bumpers are resprayed, and the rear bumper even has a slight wrinkle in one spot. Since much of the original paint was still there, whatever happened may not have been too severe. However, the repaint was done at a really crappy shop. They sprayed the paint in a moist and dirty environment: there was a place where the paint “fell” a bit, and the paint was full of trash. Because of the apparent crappiness, I have to wonder what else wasn’t fixed right.

An under-engine rock shield is also missing, exposing the underside–especially the A/C compressor and hoses–to kicked up junk. True, this isn’t a big deal; a new shield can be bolted in. But why was it missing in the first place? What caused it to fall off? The same event that damaged the bumpers? What else has fallen off? What else was not properly repaired?

Overall, these are not deal-ending issues, but they reduce what we’re willing to pay for the car. We got the car inspected at our local AAA-certified shop ($90), and it checked out fine. It may be mechanically sound. But I still can’t reach the original owner, so how do I know how it was treated or what it was used for?

Anyway, after a few minutes of back and forth at the dealer their best offer was 4.4% above our maximum price. 4.4% is a nontrivial amount of cash, so we walked. Of course we got the crap about how they won’t make enough money, here is what Kelly Blue Book says, etc.

We walked.

Back to square 1, less $90 and a half day of vacation. It’s a learning experience. I won’t be so quick to drive the next car home unless we have a good idea of what we would pay for it.