(Last) Weekly Roundup: My Sunglasses Magazine And The Redistribution Of Romance Edition

Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a nearly absolute conviction regarding the avoidance of Chinese products and the desirability of supporting “Made In USA”. Where possible, I buy American, then I follow a preference ladder based on my own personal genetics and/or belief in our country’s interests: German, then English, then Russian, then Japanese, then other European countries, then Canada/Mexico, then the so-called Asian Tigers, then Taiwan, then China.

Usually this is easy but expensive, as with clothes, tools, and stereo equipment. Sometimes it is absolutely impossible, as with laptop computers or random fasteners. In between you have a grey area where it takes nontrivial research and effort to make a choice.

Then we have “Roka”.

I own a half-dozen pair of prescription glasses, all made in the USA, Italy, Japan, or Denmark — but on most days I wear photochromic “Rory” glasses from Roka. They are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best glasses I have ever owned, for my purposes at least. I ride a bicycle or motorcycle most days of the week, every day of the week more often than not. The Roka glasses are flexible, thanks to an exceptionally high grade of transparent plastic reinforced by titanium plates. They are optically good, although not as good as Dillons, and the “transition” from light to dark is nearly unnoticeable. Right now this is important to me because we have a new downhill trail in Ohio that runs between open and forested sections. They have a “Gecko” temple pad material that prevents the glasses from slipping under impact or pressure; sure enough, three weeks ago I bailed at a skatepark hard enough to put a noise in my head and the glasses stayed put.

The only time I don’t wear the Rokas is when I’m certain I won’t be anywhere near a bike or a motorcycle, at which point I wear a nice set of Silhouettes made in Austria. When Roka burst on the scene a while back with the endorsement of multiple half-decent cyclists, I searched their marketing materials, couldn’t find anything about country of origin, and I ordered them with fingers crossed.

Since then, the Roka website has been updated to note that the frames are made in China and the lenses are made “throughout Asia”. Of course, you wouldn’t know that to look at my glasses, which have “DESIGNED IN USA” on the temples, or the marketing materials, which mention Austin, TX more times than a 30-year-old female bartender in Ohio discussing her life plans.

This is made more frustrating by the fact that the Rokas weren’t cheap: $325.62 with all discounts and shipping charges rolled in. Less than a set of Dillons, to be sure, but not the price point you’d associate with Chinese products. Speaking frankly, I’d pay a flat grand for a set of glasses just like this that were actually made in Austin, and I’d buy three pairs. As it is, I’m nursing these Rokas along in the hope than an alternative arrives before it’s time for my next set.

There’s certainly a lot of profit in that $325.62. Where does it all go? Part of it goes to a partnership with the wokeist ding-dongs at Strava (reminder to myself: cancel Strava membership before it renews) and obviously part of it goes to whatever food-truck-and-$15k-carbon-road-bike lifestyle the “founders” of Roka are leading — but part of it also goes to the production of a glossy catalogue delivered to my house four times a year.

I’m kinda-sorta in the magazine business, at least by proxy, so believe me when I tell you that this little book almost certainly costs more to produce than an issue of Road&Track. The paper is miles better, the photography clearly costs more, and it has nearly as many pages. Tremendous effort is make in every issue to ensure that the percentage of white men pictured does not exceed 25%; I never knew there were so many people of color in the long-distance cycling and running disciplines, having spent 35 years as a long-distance cyclist and a decade as a casual event runner, and meeting about three of them. I kid, of course; it was more like ten, and we all know it’s basically corporate suicide now to admit that you have white men as a customer at all. Truth be told, I pity today’s marketers. Everybody knows that the vast majority of junk-you-don’t-need-for-noncompetitive-sports is bought by white men between the ages of 35 and 65, so you have to build a campaign that sucks the cash out of those marks while simultaneously ignoring their existence the way Peter denied Christ.

We live in an era where virtually nobody sends out this kind of glossy (well, for Roka there’s an expensive-looking matte finish to the paper) marketing material anymore. I mean, my tailor does, but he charges nine grand for a suit. How do you do it with $325 glasses that most people won’t buy more than once or twice?

This is what I suspect: that Roka could, in fact, make their glasses in the USA for the same price, but in so doing they would have to cut out the Strava partnership and the catalogues and some of the other marketing dreck. My reason for thinking this is that YouZee makes a clip-in goggle prescription insert in Sweden for half the price of Rokas. I use the YouZees for airsoft and would use them for mountain biking if I liked wearing goggles, which I do not.

YouZee doesn’t do much marketing; they occasionally run an Instagram ad, but they don’t sponsor anyone, they don’t have partnerships, they don’t send a magazine. They just make these inserts in Sweden, pretty much instantly; I got mine via international UPS three days after I ordered, and they match my prescription perfectly.

Therefore, the choice to make Rokas in China is exactly that — a choice. It enables Roka to take money they would normally spend on the grubby, eyeglass-manufacturing Morlocks and spend it on the shiny, happy marketing Eloi instead. Who can blame them? Making things is hard and boring and you have to deal with engineers. Marketing things is fun and social and woke and you get to hang out at the food trucks with pretty people.

The Chinese have no problem with the way the baizuo class in America views them, as disposable subhumans who will do the dirty work while the American intelligentsia does “all the thinking”. They have the intelligence and discipline to know that the real power always lies with the factories. Wars are won by factories; ask the Germans, who sent terrified 14-year-old boys into the clouds to shoot down three P-51 Mustangs for every Fw190 they lost and were rewarded for this with enough Mustangs to darken the sky. Did you know that every one-piece disk brake rotor in the world is cast in China? All of them. Every single one. If you see a disk rotor that is marked as “Made in Germany” or “Made in Canada” it means they took a blank disc from China and machined it to fit.

That’s how you win wars, because in Month Six of the conflict someone will need a disk brake and only China has them. And for “disk brake” you can read everything from “most grades of industrial fasteners” to “motherboard production”. If the shipping containers stopped coming tomorrow, the nice people at Shuron would find that their share of the eyeglasses market just jumped to 100%… but where do they get their acetate? There are just two American acetate producers left, and one of them is busy with vaccines.

We’re not worried about that in the States, of course; we are fighting our own Kulturkampf, one in which we are using any means necessary to redistribute cash and resources from the productive class to the chattering class. Sending production to China is a double good when viewed in that light: not only does it let you pay a bunch of people with blue hair to sit in an office and use Photoshop, it also shuts down a factory in Ohio or Texas that employs all those deplorables. It puts them on welfare and Medicaid, at which point they have to vote the same way you do — and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you forced them to do it, which is the very definition of power.

Some wag on Twitter recently opined that the “defund the police” movement is actually a long con to take jobs from blue-collar white (and black, and Hispanic) men and give them to the white-collar white women with liberal-arts degrees who tend to proliferate in social work. Is that deliberate? I can’t say, but it would certainly have that effect. Like the Roka business model, in which you exchange two blue-collar American production jobs for a Chinese contract and a desk gig in Austin, it amounts to a subtle and powerful economic warfare. Oh, and you can use the excess profits to advocate for your political stances as well. This waltz can continue until the dollar loses steam, at which point these same people will express complete bewilderment as to how we became a vassal state of China.

All of this ends up mattering more than you think it does. Which is why I resent my Rokas so much. They are good, but they are not good. If any of you can find an alternative, I’ll owe you a favor.

* * *

For Hagerty, I wrote a short What If?, a long What If?, an announcement of a new editorial direction, and a review of a fancy station wagon.

77 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: My Sunglasses Magazine And The Redistribution Of Romance Edition”

    • Nick D

      Have a few pairs myself and fully concur. Never going back to luxxotica crap – a Land Cruiser is to AO frames as a Dong Feng Motors EQ2050 is to Raybans.

  1. Tomko

    Have you ever tried DriveWear lenses? Mature technology, yes. But the best optical performance this high-myope has ever experienced in a lifetime of wearing Essilor, Hoya, Nikon, Rodenstock, and Zeiss lenses.

  2. tristan

    “You know what the trouble is, Brucey? We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy’s pocket.”

    —Frank Sobotka, The Wire, “Bad Dreams” (EP11SE02)

  3. John C.

    What was the source of that FW-190-P-51 kill ratio? Impressive if true, especially with the young pilots near the end. The Mustangs were however near their range limits.

    • Don Curton

      I wondered that too. What I suspect is that if you look at the total number of P-51’s shot down, by whatever enemy aircraft (or even flak), and then take the total number of FW-190’s shot down, again by whatever enemy aircraft, you’d probably get that 3-1 ratio. Not really a direct team-up of FW to P-51 dogfight capabilities though.

      And the 14 year old pilots were just at the end of the war. The beginning of the war saw the older, most experienced pilots on the German side flying against rookies on the American side.

      A better comparison would be the WW-II tank war, where the German tanks were clearly superior but frequently outnumbered by the Allied tanks.

  4. sightline

    For those interested in Jack’s point about WWII manufacturing, I highly recommend Victor Davis Hanson’s The Second World Wars, which goes over all the ways the war was basically over before it started due to manufacturing, organization, and supply chains. It’s fascinating reading and a good counterweight to all the military histories I have read.

    I’ve seen a few DBX’s on the road and they’re deeply unimpressive. Aston is kind of turning into the new Maserati; decent cars that are trading on name recognition. Say what you will about the Cayenne and Macan; Porsche took them seriously.

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      Construction of the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, that Chrysler operated in Warren, Michigan, started in 1940 and the first tank rolled off the assembly line in 1941 (actually before the facility’s construction was completed), some time before Pearl Harbor.

      It should be pointed out that by the spring of 1941, again, months before the U.S. entered the war, the American car companies announced that there would be no new 1943 models as they were so busy doing engineering and other work for the U.S. and UK militaries that they simply didn’t have the manpower to design new cars.

      • Jeff Weimer

        Reserves were called up to active duty in early 1941. My Great Uncle was one, and was claiming hardship in order to go back to his regular job as a truck mechanic. His last day was supposed to be…December 7, 1941. He ended up being promoted to Chief Petty Officer, worked at NAS Ottumwa and later Pearl Harbor, and was one of the first mustered out at the end of the war, since he had been “in” since 1933.

        That we weren’t expecting anything is wrong; we just weren’t expecting what we got and when we got it.

      • JMcG

        Thanks Ronnie, people really seem to have a hard time realizing just how involved we were in the Second World War prior to Pearl Harbor. The US occupied (invaded) Iceland in June of ‘41.
        A US Naval Aviator was flying the PBY Catalina that located the Bismarck in time for the Royal Navy to catch and sink it. That was in May of 1941.

      • stingray65

        Today, it would take 5 years just to do the environmental impact studies and hire the consultants to make sure the building contractors and labor force was properly diverse before the first shovel of dirt could be dug at a new manufacturing plant. If things had been like they are now in 1941 we would be speaking Japanese or German now – although the schools would probably be better.

        • John C.

          It should be remembered that one of the things that make defense plants and naval shipyards so expensive is that they are built to have a great surge capacity. Remember during Vietnam when the Saint Louis McDonnell plant was making 72 Phantoms a month. The Phantom was as complicated a fighter as it got in it;s time. Notice that the armed forces never shorted of bombs during operation neocon despite the smart bombs not being cold war leftovers,

    • lh

      Strategy For Defeat: The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945 by Williamson Murray covers the same from the Luftwaffe perspective.

    • John C.

      It should be remembered that the FW-190 was built in larger numbers than the Mustang and that the numbers still pale next to the better high altitude interceptor the ME-109. Even the smaller UK managed to pump out 20,000 + Spitfires

      The great clashes of Mustangs and Fw-190 over Germany around bombers that we should all remember only began in the second half of 1944 when both airplanes had been upgraded to get them to higher altitudes. On the Mustang those were the D ones with the RR Merlin engine and the bubble canopy.

      Interestingly, our then Soviet friends had a good deal of success with our older P-39 Aircobra against the FW-190. The German pilots like to take on their foes head on due to the strong cannons and the pilot protection provided by the big engine and armoring. The P39 could overcome all that with a 37 milimeter cannon.

      • stingray65

        The Americans spread the wealth around a lot more than the Germans or British or anyone else in the WWII with 10K+ production of the P-38, P-39/63, P-40, P-47, P-51, Hellcat, and Corsair, plus 8K Wildcats. The Germans made only 2 fighters in very significant numbers – the 109 and 190, but fighter production or quality was never the problem for them, it was producing enough well trained pilots and having sufficient fuel for the planes they had (especially the high octane stuff).

  5. gtem

    Just experienced similar price shock this weekend shopping for a twin size bed frame and bedding for my son. Went to a boutique place hoping to find something nice and high quality (and American made). The prices were certainly up there: $500-700+ for decent looking, configurable beds. Asked the lady where they made all this: Vietnam and China. Then we went to Ikea, they have a nice cheap utilitarian wood frame for $59, okay at least the price is in line with the product here. Also out of stock. Look up some local classifieds, find a nice old Kling bedframe from the 40s-50s(?) in great shape, owned in the same family from new, 5 generations have used it. Solid maple, in great shape. I asked for change for a 20 to pay their full asking price of $50 and they just waved me off and gave it to me for $40. Read up on the Kling factory in Frewsburg NY (small town near Jamestown), closed in 2001, you can still see the old factory on satellite maps.

    The Chinese stuff being priced into the luxury-goods realm really bothers me, most people just never give it a second thought. My wife has a habit of buying “nice” bedding at Pottery Barn, all of it asian imports. I’m increasingly taking an active role in this and directing her to US made cotton products, which are comparable in price to Pottery Barn but support local manufacturing and I suspect are of superior quality.

  6. nobody

    I’ve always gone with Shuron and Randolph.

    Other American frame makers I’m aware of, but haven’t tried, are American Optical, in Chicago, American Eyewear MFG, in Nashville, and ArtCraft Optical, in Rochester, NY (supposedly the official supplier of frames to the military).

    Last I checked, I thought some Oakleys were still made in California, but they may have shifted all production to China by now. ESS EyePro is an Oakley subsidiary making ballistics sunglasses (and goggles) in the US.
    They look like they could handle anything, but are ugly (to my eyes). Not clear if they can be made prescription.

    • JMcG

      I started wearing Randolph when my buddy in USAF flight training wanted to trade me his issue pair for my Oakleys. Done. Then I went on to get my certificate from the FAA.
      Randolph aviators used to be available at USAF base exchanges for 12.00 a pair until around the turn of the century, then went up to 40.00 or so. I think American Optical has the current military contract.
      I believe the guy in that show, Mad Men, wore Randolphs and the price went into the stratosphere as a result. Just like the Colt Python in The Walking Dead.
      One issue with the issue aviators is that they are made of glass, and aren’t especially impact resistant. Nor are they polarized.

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          It’s been in and out of production for a long time, and there have been a few years where you could only get it in stainless.

          Not buying a new Royal Blue 6″ for $799 in the Nineties was a big mistake.

        • JMcG

          Yes, Pythons went from a 1200.00 pistol on the used market to a 3000.00 item almost overnight. Colt decided to get back in the game shortly after. The new one has different lock work, but seems to be a great pistol nonetheless.

          • NoID

            I just want a decent hammerless snubbie from Colt or S&W that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, so I no longer have to carry my grandfather’s Model 36 “Chief’s Special” when I need deep concealment. Even used their prices seem ridiculous, but maybe with them you really do get what you pay for.

  7. Ronnie Schreiber

    RX Optical is a regional chain here in Michigan. Their headquarters and lab where they make all of their lenses is in Kalamazoo. I found out about them after being unsatisfied with an online purchase.

    I recently needed a new prescription and since my cousin the ophthalmologist has sold his practice and is now an employee, he couldn’t give me the family discount on glasses. I decided to try out an online company, GlassesUSA with just some single prescription driving glasses as they carried Ottoto frames, which are supposedly Italian, not Chinese. Then I got a notice from about the shipment from DHL, which likely means the lenses and assembly was done in China. Very simple rimless frames, and yet they managed to bend them in four different places. My guess is that they ship the glasses in bulk from China.

    I think I’m going to take my late father’s half-wire frames, you know the kind adult men wore in the 1950s and 1960s, and have RX Optical make the progressive trifocals I need when I’m not driving.

  8. gtem

    Excited for the bike reviews, especially if you feature some classic bikes. Once you get into the swing of things with bikes I’ve got some vintage Jap stuff for you to test if interested (like that GS1100E I sent you pics of)

  9. Ronnie Schreiber

    I’m looking into incorporating some onboard electronics in the Harmonicaster. Warehouse Guitar Speakers has a subsidiary called All-Pedal that does contract manufacturing of guitar pedals. While they stuff and solder circuit boards in their Kentucky facility, those boards typically come from Korea and most of the electronic components come from Asia as well.

    Bruce Egnater told me that he can get five PCBs prototyped in China for what it costs to have one made here.

    Still, considering that making and stuffing PCBs is a highly automated, capital intensive, process, with labor being a relatively small part of the process, I don’t understand why more electronics aren’t made domestically.

    • gtem

      Yes rapid PCB prototyping is an all-Chinese thing. Lots of handy websites that will take your design and get you PCBs in hand in less than a week including shipping, for some laughably low price. The Chinese govt. is subsidizing the international shipping, that much is obvious.

    • Daniel J

      I remember about 20 years ago a small two or three layer PCB could be made by ExpressPCB for about 20 bucks. Just visiting their site, that no longer appears to be the case.

      Many PCBs are still made here, but its very difficult to get prototype quantity, and even then, it’s usually a minimum of 50. And that less than 50 was with a company doing millions of dollars with said PCB company.

  10. Daniel J

    I was extremely disappointed when Smith Optics moved to Italy from Idaho.

    Taiwan and the Chinese can consistently make good optics. From camera lenses, telescopes to optical filters…..

    And its not like we can’t do it here. They can just do it cheaper.

    • JMcG

      Magpul now has a line of sunglasses. They are made in Taiwan, which at least isn’t commie. They are also not part of the Luxottica monolith, if you are trying to avoid that outfit.
      The safety glasses I get at work, not prescription, but flash protective, aren’t meaningfully different than most high end sunglasses I see. Excellent Z87 impact resistance, superbly clear polarized lenses, comfortable frames- I think the company pays 6 or 7 dollars a pair. They are made in Taiwan as well.

  11. Rick T.

    “As it is, I’m nursing these Rokas along in the hope than an alternative arrives before it’s time for my next set.”


    “…sure enough, three weeks ago I bailed at a skatepark hard enough to put a noise in my head and the glasses stayed put.”

    Further proof – if any is needed – that you live a far different life than most of your readers.

  12. stingray65

    All this talk about foreign sourced goods, but don’t worry the Biden administration has a 5 point plan to fix everything:
    1. Raise corporate tax rates and capital gains taxes = manufacturing and new manufacturing investment moves out of the USA.
    2. Increase energy costs and decrease energy reliability with renewable mandates, carbon taxes, and fracking/pipeline bans = manufacturing and new manufacturing investment moves out of the USA.
    3. Force the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-PhD and drop grading/teaching of racist/sexist math, science, English = manufacturing and new manufacturing investment moves out of the USA.
    4. Increase minimum wage to $15+ per hour, diversity hiring mandates, “free” pregnancy/maternity leaves, and “free” health-insurance mandates for all employees = manufacturing and new manufacturing investment moves out of the USA.
    5. Defund the police and let all the criminals out of jail, encourage violent protests by BLM/antifa = manufacturing and new manufacturing investment moves out of the USA.

    The future looks bright for made in the USA.

    • Daniel J

      Interesting that CEO of Chipotle said they’d have to go up on price if they are forced 15 dollar an hour minimum wage.

      All goods and services will.

      • stingray65

        I higher minimum wage doesn’t just impact minimum wage earners, but also those higher up the chain in skilled/unionized manufacturing jobs. If someone can make $15 hour flipping burgers, then someone who is skilled welder or toolmaker, or working in a unionized job also gets a raise to maintain the hierarchy, which will raise the labor costs for US manufacturing and lead to more offshoring to cheaper countries.

        • Dirty Dingus McGee

          “a unionized job also gets a raise”

          I don’t know about the present, but 20 years ago when I was often dealing with unions, it was in the contract that any increase in the minimum wage was was immediately also given to the union members.

          • Dirty Dingus McGee

            John C

            I’m curious how in my comment you think that I feel it’s wrong for a working man to get a raise?

            Please show your method of determining this.

            For the record; In my working life I have been a union organizer at a facility I worked at, a union member at a different workplace, and a member of a team negotiating on behalf of my employer with a union.

            In this case your assumption has made an ass of only you.

          • Dirty Dingus McGee

            “What you wrote. Enjoy Costa Rica, greedy boomer.”

            LOL. So wanting to hang on to assets I have WORKED for makes me greedy? You have a unique definition of greed.

            And now I’ll take grand daddy’s advice: Don’t argue with idiots. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.

          • John C.

            You can keep your money, greedy boomer. No need to bury it in mason jars in the whooly swamp where you better not go at night. You should have been listening to your Grandad in 1970, it is too late now.

          • Daniel J

            @John C

            Really? Really? I don’t think most people who post here disagree with anyone getting raises.

            I’m not always for unions, as a general rule. It is at least unions who are collectively negotiating a wage, not a government.

            The fundamental problem with a minimum wage hike is that no one is getting a raise based on merit. No value add. By forcibly and artificially applying a higher wage floor, the prices of goods and services will simply go up or unemployment rises, or both.

            And of course, the next attack is that I’m some corporate shill. Does anyone believe corporations will be impacted significantly? High paid execs? No. It’s going to impact the small to medium sized businesses the most. My BIL will end up having to lay off at least one of his employees.

            The next attack is that then these business owners shouldn’t be in business if they can’t pay a “living wage”. So then who’s the corporate shill? The only businesses who can fill the gap are going to be large businesses. Just look at the pandemic. Amazon, Walmart, and Target are doing better than they have in years as small businesses were forced to shut down.

            If Americans were really concerned with CEO pay and Corporate revenues, they’d be more in favor for deregulation and the elimination of lobbies so that we could have a true competitive market, instead of the crony capitalism we currently have.

          • Dirty Dingus McGee

            @Daniel J

            You’re trying to use logical thinking to make the point with John C. That is like trying to use logic with the monkey that’s throwing turds at you. He talks a lot, from both sides of his mouth, but he doesn’t “walk the walk”. Tells others how they should live, what they should buy, etc., but doesn’t live by the same words. Example; rails against anyone who doesn’t support domestic auto manufacturers yet drives a Chinese made Volvo. And I doubt in his stamp business he sells stamps for their face value. Would that not be a definition of “greedy”?

            By his posting, he comes off as someone who is educated, but doesn’t have the common sense God gave a fence post.

          • John C.

            Daniel, I am not calling you any names and you are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. Something I would request that you consider is that the negotiation between a potential minimum wage citizen worker and the employer is not a fair negotiation as the person doing the hiring simply has no authority to pay more for a better applicant. They are that far down the chain themselves. Given this, it seems very sensible that the minimum wage rise with food and rent inflation to make sure that Americans doing the right thing are not left behind. We owe our fellow citizens.

            Yes the minimum wage job has high turnover, that is in many cases people capable of earning more moving on at the first higher paying opportunity. This could be prevented if shift assistant managers had more authority, but that won’t happen.

            So if you have to pay more for your burrito at Chipolte, don’t blame the young worker, or even sadder middle age worker serving you, even if he makes $15 an hour.. He is not rich and I think you can count on the fact that there are many diligent people here and abroad figuring out how to make your Chipolte burrito cheaper. A much more pressing problem. Sure hope you can keep it down.

          • Daniel J


            I’m not blaming the worker, I’m blaming the government. The Chipotle worker won’t be any better off, as all goods and services go up. More people will be unemployed. The only one’s who will be mostly un-affected is larger corporations and high paid execs. Life for them won’t change much.

            “it seems very sensible that the minimum wage rise with food and rent inflation to make sure that Americans doing the right thing are not left behind”

            A complete fallacy. They will be just as far behind as they were before.

            Of course, no one cares about what happens to the employees who already are making 15 an hour who have more experience and have more responsibility than the one’s who get bumped up. It’s not like corporations are going to automatically going to give them a raise, either.

          • John C.

            Daniel, have you ever got your nose out of “The Road to Serfdom” long enough to put yourself in the position of that serf and think what his hiring interview is like. I see you haven’t because you didn’t address my central point. You must have noticed that those workers are getting older. What you may have not is how far he is driving and paying to park his tired old car to serve you. A raise won’t help him, so says Daniel.

            Austrians from 100 years ago don’t have all the answers. To prevent you from going down the road you will want to travel, let me acknowledge that Austria is a beautiful country filled with charming people, where I have enjoyed many visits over the years. It had a difficult time coping after WWi and some freaks got undeserved notoriety.

    • John C.

      That would be a scary list if what the country has done over the last 50 years hadn’t already stomped out manufacturing, including by leaders I bet we both voted for. I.E. GW Bush working with Koch to grant a new Biden amnesty.

      • stingray65

        John – a lot of mistakes have been made over the past 50 years by members of both parties, but anything that increases costs (i.e. minimum wage increases, higher energy costs, diversity hiring, regulations) or decreases profits and returns (i.e. higher taxes) will reduce investments in the US and shift existing manufacturing to cheaper/more profitable locations. Trump was the first president in a very long time with a real business background, and it is not surprising that under his watch even though he was fighting the swamp the whole time that it became more attractive to invest and manufacture in the USA, but that is all out the window now with the swamp back in full charge.

        • hank chinaski

          The Uniparty, ever disloyal to its citizens, failed to safeguard the inevitable flight of industry and capital by equally disloyal GloboCorpo with equal measures of protectionism. Make no mistake that industry would race to the bottom back home if they could (and eventually will, once the world sufficiently ‘flattens’) with pollution, child labor, and Foxconn building nets. The bugaboo of course is to find a balance where we all don’t end up driving Trabants and standing in bread lines. Eliminating marketing fluff and wokeness is the tip of the iceberg.

          Trump’s being a business man was his biggest weakness….never burning bridges, always seeking to negotiate and cut a deal, always marketing, assuming everyone is playing by the same rules. That approach might have been worked in Clinton or W’s time, but we are long past that.

          • John C.

            The flight of industry was not inevitable. If the Trump proposed policies of excluding imports from low wage countries even if they are so called allies and the parent companies are domestic and tariffs priced to make upscale import prices higher had been enacted in say 1965, it could have been prevented. The two party swamp prevented it.

            You still here the silly reminders of that disaster policy in people who should know better decrying living wage jobs above. It should be obvious by now that the problems came when those jobs went away to enrich our so called allies on Wall Street. Not when a hard working man got paid four thousand a month 40 years ago.

          • stingray65

            John – wages can only be determined by markets and productivity. If I advertise a job for $5 per hour and get 1,000 applicants it is safe to say that $5 is above market rates, but if I get zero qualified applicants it means $5 is below market rates and needs to be raised if I wish to hire a worker. If because of low skills/productivity my $5 worker only produces $2 of value to my bottom-line I am paying him more than the job is worth, which means one of the following things must happen: raising prices to customers assuming they are not very price sensitive, cutting pay to the worker to equal or less of his value, eliminate his job, or go broke and eliminate his job and my business.

            Governments or unions telling a business owner to pay above market rates (i.e. high minimum wages) means that only people with sufficient skills and productivity will be hired, and jobs will move to locations where the productivity to wage gap allows a reasonable return on investor capital (i.e. pension funds, individual retirement funds, college savings funds, bank accounts, etc.). In a free market, workers generally get paid what they are worth, but unfortunately government policies such a poor schools, open borders, diversity and inclusion mandates, and high taxes mean that labor supply is often higher than demand, labor quality and productivity is often low and hence not worth much, and investment in productivity enhancing technology is not profitable, which means low wages because workers are not worth much, or if low wages are not allowed the movement of jobs to places where wages are lower and/or labor productivity is higher. Note that when Trump closed the border wages for the working class went up because the supply of cheap labor dried up, and when he lowered corporate taxes rates and eliminated non-cost effective regulations investment in US jobs and productivity went up, which also increased wages. In the end, a job at any pay is better for the human soul and the economy than no job at all.

          • John C.

            There is no reason that your market can’t remain domestic in a big country like this. Believing in some global capitalist utopia is just not compatible with Patriotism or Christianity.

  13. KoR

    By any chance do you or Bark still do some sort of “What Car Should I Buy?” column. A new job has me pondering selling my Golf R for something a little better at driving endlessly up and down I95.

    • John C.

      S60 T5 inscription with the cooled Scandinavian seats and the Pro Pilot Assist that takes over steering when the cruise is on. 34MPG highway and South Carolina assembly bonuses. Biggest flaw for this work, a smallish gas tank, and avoid optional sport tires. It lists in the low 40s but you can often get 4-5k off.

        • John C.

          What no advise for KoR. Surely everyone’s favorite proud Costa Rican would have great advise. Perhaps you faced a similar highway issue when you lived in a country with highways and drove, and no doubt lived the life of, a Lil Hustler. I won’t even ask what dances they were having you do.

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            Gentlemen. Let’s give each other a break. You have more in common than otherwise.

          • KoR

            I’ve definitely been considering S60s or even S90s, as they are absolutely dirt cheap used. I know, I know — Chinese built crap. BUT they do have an insane CPO warranty, and my money would be going to the hard working folks of [neighborhood] Volvo dealer and not so much the CCP.

            Other thoughts I’ve had are: Chrysler 300, Acura RLX/TLX, Genesis G80, Lincoln MKZ, or the left-field option of a Grand Cherokee (~25mpg highway and a 23 gallon tank is pretty damn solid to me).

            I like the idea of a Lexus, but I cannot get over how bad their MMI is. It’s shockingly, unfathomably atrocious. And also I love Apple CarPlay with all of my heart, and am hard pressed to give it up just for a Lexus.

            No real time table for this yet. Just trying to get my ducks in a row.

          • John C.

            Lot of good choices there. Let us know how it comes out. The pre 19 S60 gets you Chinese assembly and looses the pilot assist, but nets a way bigger 18.5 gas tank. Lots of new designs went to smaller gas tanks to take advantage of the improved economy but the old S60 and S80 had gotten the economy bump back in 15 when the turbo 4 replaced the turbo five or six.

  14. sgeffe

    That story with the Durango almost smacks of the guy named “CrabSpirits” who used to do write-ups in the Comments of Murilee Martin’s Junkyard Finds at TTAC! All you would have had to do was have the woman ram the thing head-on into a tree, then flee the scene and have her mother pick her up!

    I wonder if Lido ever thought about doing something like that “Imperial” minivan?! That platform printed money for Chrysler back in the day! They probably could have pulled something like that off, though the frameless inside mirror might have been an impossibility back then!

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I didn’t have Crabspirits in mind at the exact moment I wrote it, but I was a big fan of his work and I did everything I could to get more of his writing on TTAC while I was there. I was sorry to see him hang it up five years ago.

  15. Eric L.

    Are you looking for guest contributors at Hagerty? My favorite motorcycle former coworker (but I still shamelessly love the man)’s daily driver is a Honda RC51. He quit a law practice and rode a dirt bike(?)* from San Diego to Argentina, before running out of time and money and having to ship the bike back to the ‘states while he caught a plane.

    He even looks just like the guy holding the camera in your title shot.

    *I really know nothing about motorcyles.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      This looks like the right stuff. Didn’t even know about them.

      I have a local optician who appears to be a dealer. They’re a thousand bucks with decent lenses in them, but that’s not a total obstacle.

      • Edp

        They had a sample sale 6 months ago and I got a full 50% off mine. Incredible attention to detail with options for both subtle or flashy depending on taste. They have a store in downtown La if you want to try them on…

  16. One Leg at a Time

    Love the Douglas Adams tribute – in my mind, you are now “Jack Baruth the Nothingth”

    As proof that my soul is slowly being worn away by the 2020s, my first thought when I looked at the Durango ‘Coupe’ was “Hey – that doesn’t look half bad.”

  17. NoID

    That last line of the short “What If?” hit hard. Since Stellantis killed the SRT engineering teams and distributed the team members throughout the mainline organizations, I’m very anxious to see what becomes of the SRT brand…IE, how they’ll replace what was lost.

    By the way…don’t be too quick to chalk that action up to the Stellantis merger. The entire engineering organization at FCA went through a significant restructuring back in Q1 of 2020 and apparently the deal was struck back then to maintain the SRT engineering teams as they were until they launched the 2021 products. Then, with launch in the rearview mirror, they would revisit how SRT fit into that restructuring. It would appear that they made good on their promise, irrespective of the merger. Time will tell what fruit these seeds will bear, hopefully they’ve retained enough people in the right places to maintain the mission of SRT. I’d hate to see it diluted like Cadillac’s V or Mercedes’ AMG performance brands.

  18. Power6

    Hey Jack! I believe rotor casting has come back to the US a bit. It’s all very opaque though, as you allude to there are a million rotor brands finishing rotors “in the US” but only so many foundries casting them. I can’t be sure but I believe there are in fact one piece rotors being cast, mostly for OEM supply to automakers, probably shortens the supply chain to the factories.


    I believe circa 2014 there were 0 rotors being cast in the USA. So it’s something…


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