Back in the days when April Fools Day was damn near a national holiday I brought both the Milwaukee Road and the Rock Island back to life, did new model press releases for the new Mack B model and U model sidecar outfit, staged a chase and even a dragrace in Minneapolis long forgotten subway system between a new Light Rail Car and a hopped up PPC streetcar piloted by none other than the late owner of the Minnesota Twins. I made folly of government too, with Minneapolis annexing most of the country overnight and the discovery of the city documents of Farmersville, which undid Minneapolis annexation of darn near half the city and returned it to, well, farmland. But unfortunately April Fools hijinks have gone out of style, and all too many of the people running governments and corporations have so little sense of humor left that they’d have a Cease and Desist Order on my way before they even figured out it’s a joke. And given the current boardroom drama at Volvo, I’ll have to save the news of the new Mack Superliner and Valueliner models with the mighty 750 hoursepower Mack/Scania V8 for another year.

Meanwhile, people seem to make the same hilariously bad decisions in both government and mobility. As a reluctant candidate I noted that all too many of the topics of debate were leftovers from the last century if not the one before. For example, welfare and alledged cheating thereof are regular topics of political diatribe, but as unlikely a president as Clinton ended welfare as we know it. That leaves the conservatives to try to relabel “food stamps” as welfare when in most places they don’t even use stamps anymore, and the whole deal is an ag subsidy program that benefits farmers, food processors, and grocers more than the mainly young and elder direct beneficiaries. Dig into the big data that is all around us today, and you’ll find that there’s been more tax dollars stolen by crooked food industry middlemen than receipients, and WalMart’s profits would take a big hit if the conservatives succeeded in killing “food stamps”! The left is just as bad, back when I lived in north Minneapolis I dug up the neighborhood’s crime stats and Detroit’s and found a similar crime rate. But the city fathers and mothers insisted there was no crime problem anywhere in Minneapolis, citing citywide statistics that were much better than Detroit’s while they used north Minneapolis as a convenient dumping ground for newly released criminals. But the data told a far different story- In one neighborhood, over 60% of the adults had felony records. I still have some worthless property there, so I still track stats for the area… For example, the census track I used to live in has a working age adult workforce participation rate of only 44% while neighborhoods in other parts of the city and suburbs have rates in the 60%, 70% and even 80% ranges. In a labor market with less than 4% unemployment where “any warm body” can get hired, clearly a lot of young men and women have instead chosen to hang out on the streets and peddle drugs, stolen goods, and themselves intead of punching the clock. But despite this data, the city insists there is no problem…

Consumers make the same stupid data ignorant decisions when it comes to buying cars, trucks, bikes, etc.. Look at the reverence given the German auto and bike makers, with supposedly well educated consumers paying up to twice the price for a 3 pointed star or some semblance of a propeller on the hood. Fact is, all three german companies are full line manufacturers, Daimler even building an “A”series to compete against VW’s low and mid market offerings, but the keep it on the other side of the big pond so as not to cheapen Mercedes luxury rep here. Daimler is also the world’s largest builder of medium and heavy trucks, and they didn’t get there by charging premium prices- Make the rounds of the truck dealers shopping for a new truck and Daimler’s Mercedes and Freightliner brands will generally match price with anyone. And can these german brands justify their premium prices with higher quality? Again the big data, thanks to Consumer’s Union, says no… The German cars generally do no better than even the Asian economy cars for reliability, despite higher prices. And motorcycles? BMW and Harley had twice as many defects as Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki!

Same with the two contrasting schools of  vehicle design, the “old skool” gearheads and the hybrid and electric car loonies. On one hand we have people speccing and buying vehicles with no attempt at improved efficiency whatsover, escuing aerodynamics and powertrain efficiency for bluff fronted trucks and other motorized antiques that probably have better aerodynamics in reverse than forward directions. They choose the biggest motor available, then spend a fortune “unstrangling” it’ ignoring the fact that big two valve pushrod engines are loosers right from the draftboards they sprung from decades and centuries ago. Just the publicly available big data from road tests, SAE tests, the Energy Department, etc. tells us that the way to effiency is small hard working engines with lots of valves and preferably overhead cams too. Meanwhile, the other camp derides anyone who hasn’t put themselves deep in debt to buy an overprice hybrid or electric car. They brag of cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gases, ignoring the fact that on the highway a hybrid has no advantage and electric cars largely get recharged with coal generated electricity. I have to admit though, most consumers seem to be paying attention to the data on electric cars- the Tesla and Nissan Leaf are fighting it out for the best selling electric car crown at a rate of around 3000 a month, with the Chevy Volt trailing. With a new battery needed after 10 years or so costing more than the electric car will be worth then and limited range even with a new battery, all but the greenest environmental fanatics are steering clear of electrics. Those environmental fanatics are as lockstepped in their ways as the Harley good ‘ol boys, drag out the data and prove them wrong and they throw you off their online forum or worse!

So in a way, every day is April Fool’s day as the Harley faithful keep the showrooms busy and the environmental fanatics keep Tesla’s stock jacked up despite unsustainably low sales. In politics, the presidential primary season(s) are just beginning and the candidates will be tripping over each other across Iowa, hawking “solutions” to all the 20th and even 19th centuries pressing problems. Enjoy all the wealth of data available today in making your gearhead buying decisions… But for the politicians, there’s little hope!

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