UPDATED: May 15, 2022
Ukrainian forces continue to repel Russian military, surprising the world, as war nears third full month
May 14: Pro-choice supporters rally in string of cities to oppose overturning of Roe v. Wade
News & Opinion
Early in May, U.S. death toll from Covid-19 reached one million
Also in early May, case counts have been rising in most states, though hospitalizations have not increased ... Several cities are considering restoring mask mandates.
After 23 years covering auto industry, Tirekicking Today shifted gears to focus on social/political issues - led by unprecedented ramifications of the Trump presidency.
Please see Used Car section (bottom of page), including articles on used car trends and growing electric-car market.
New Covid-19 cases began to decline early in January 2021, reaching a low point in June before rising again during summer. Total number of cases neared 45 million in mid-October. (U.S. population exceeds 331 million.)
By September 2021, more than 168 million vaccinations had been administered in the U.S., and 63.6 percent of the population had received at least one dose. Only 54.2 percent were fully vaccinated. Yet, millions especially Republicans continued to refuse the jab. Early in summer, medical experts began to warn of surges in Covid cases, especially among the unvaccinated. Those warnings proved correct. By December, new Omicron variant was found to be considerably more contagious than previous Covid versions.
Post-Inauguration News Briefs
Selected news items from the Biden administration and the pandemic will be added periodically. So will short essays on the bitterly partisan U.S. political scene.
May 13: Republican Congressional delegation, including Mitch McConnell, meets President Zelensky in Ukraine.
May 9: Russian president Vladimir Putin celebrates Victory Day with huge military parade, recalling World War II, but does not quite claim victory in current battle with Ukraine.
May 2: Leaked document obtained byPolitico, allegedly in form of a "first draft," purportedly suggests that U.S. Supreme Court is prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, half a century after that ruling went into effect. Final Court decision on abortion rights is expected to be issued in late June. News of draft's wording, written by Justice Samuel Alito, quickly draws angry responses from pro-choice Americans, as large protests take place in several major cities.
April 28: President Biden seeks $33 billion in additional aid for Ukraine, mostly (but not entirely) for weaponry. Bipartisan support from Congress is anticipated.
April 25: Emanuel Macron wins second term as France's president, beating strong challenge from far-right candidate Marine LePen.
April 19: Federal judge in Florida strikes down mask mandate for travelers on planes, trains and buses, ruling that Centers for Disease Control lacked the authority to initiate such mandates.
April 19: Former presidential lawyer John Eastman blocks 3,200 Trump-related documents from scrutiny by commission investigating January 6, 2021 assault on Capitol. (CNN)
April 18: Florida's Department of Education rejects 54 (41 percent) of math textbooks submitted for approval, citing references to "critical race theory" and Common Core, as well as inclusion of material regarding social issues. (CNN)
April 18: Charity kitchen in Ukraine, operated by world-renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés, is destroyed by Russian missile.
April 7: Following contentious questioning in Congress, Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed by Senate as first black female Justice of the Supreme Court. Three Republican Senators (Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Lisa Murkowski) joined all 50 Democrats to say "aye."
April 6: United Nations suspends Russia from Human Rights Council, citing reports of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
April 2: Videos and firsthand reports reveal murders of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians by Russian military. Cities like Mariupol and Bucha are virtually decimated, with dead bodies in streets or dropped into mass graves, some victims with hands tied behind backs. Evidently, Russians have given up on Kyiv, the capital, turning attention to control of eastern region instead.
March 28: At campaign rally in Georgia, former president Trump continues to praise Russian president Putin, declaring that "the smartest one gets to the top." (CNN)
March 26: "For God's sake," President Biden says during speech in Warsaw, "this man cannot remain in power." According to CNN, the White House advises that the U.S. is not calling directly for regime change.
March 25: Text message reveals that far-right activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice, texted Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows to push for overturning of 2020 election.
March 24: Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden's nominee for Supreme Court, is grilled intensively by far-right Republicans in Senate. Critics allege that those Senators are using the hearing to highlight familiar grievances, rather than inquiring about the nominee's judicial philosophy and qualifications.
March 16: Ukrainian President Zelensky likens Russian attack to Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
March 16: Some observers of Russian attacks have been asserting that World War III isn't a possibility, but that it's already begun. In an NBC interview, Ukrainian president Zelensky says it "may have already started."
March 13: American photojournalist Brent Renaud shot and killed by Russians in Ukraine.
March 13: Russia attacks military base in western Ukraine, not far from Polish border, killing dozens.
March 6: At least 1.5 million Ukrainians have already fled the country, seeking refuge in Poland and other countries to the west, traveling long distances by train, car, or on foot. U.S. is granting "temporary protected status" to arriving Ukrainians. The European Union is offering temporary residence status to refugees.
March 5: Russian president Putin warns that enacting a no-fly zone over Ukraine would constitute an "act of war." Despite pleas for that action from Ukrainian president Zelensky, the Biden administration, along with allies, have firmly opposed a no-fly zone, fearing that it would indeed lead to all-out war.
March 5: Prominent poll finds that Biden's approval rating has risen from 39 percent in February to 47 percent in March.
March 5: Of the 1.5 million families fleeing Ukraine in the early days of Putin's "special military operation," 52 percent went to Poland, and 12 percent on Hungary. Other countries bordering Ukraine toward the west accounted for the rest, apart from those who were able to travel onward into western Europe, or get to North America.
March 5: U.S. State Department warns all Americans to leave Russia immediately, due to "increased risk of harassment by Russian officials," according to ABC News.
March 4: Reacting to coverage of the invasion of Ukraine from journalists, Russia makes spreading "fake" news on Russia's armed forces a crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A day earlier, one of Russia's last independent news outlets yielded to pressure and halted its broadcasting. Several global news services soon suspended their onsite reporting. "Every deviation from the official narrative about this was is now punishable with jail," independent journalist/commentator Mikhail Fishman told the BBC. Meanwhile, numerous protesters in Russia are being beaten and detained.
March 4: According to NPR/PBS/Marist poll, 83 percent of Americans support sanctions against Russia; and 69 percent favor sanctions even if gasoline price rises (which it is).
March 2: Russian forces capture first major Ukrainian city: Kherson, a vital port on Black Sea. Long convoy of military vehicles, headed for Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, is slowed by resistance from Ukrainian fighters as well as supply shortages.
March 2: Growing number of critics accuse Russia of committing war crimes, for bombing and shelling civilian targets.
March 1: State of the Union address by President Biden starts with 12-minute segment on Ukrainian crisis that draws bipartisan acclaim, before enumerating long list of distinct goals. Some critics praise Biden's ambitious plans; others consider the speech to be an oversize "laundry list" of desired actions, insufficiently prioritized.
February 26: At annual gathering of Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), such dire subjects as Russia's assault on Ukraine are largely ignored, as most speakers focus on cultural grievances and the "stolen" election. Charlie Kirk, founder of pro-Trump Turning Point USA, denounced "the Republic Party of Old," according to The New York Times, leaning instead toward "our wonderful 45th president." Senator Rick Scott (D-Fla.) warned of "woke, government-run everything."
February 24: Secretary of State Tony Blinken asserts that all evidence suggests that Russia intends to encircle and threaten Kyiv," Ukraine's capital city. Furthermore, U.S. believes "Moscow has developed plans to inflict widespread human rights abuses and potentially worse on the Ukrainian people. (The New York Times)
February 23: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of National Republican Senatorial Committee, issues 11-point plan for future of GOP. Scott's plan would have every American pay some amount of income tax; finish the border wall and name it for former president Trump; end questions about race, ethnicity or skin color on government forms; sell numerous government buildings and other assets; cut government workforce by 25 percent (50 percent for IRS); and have socialism "treated as a foreign combatant."
February 19: In coming weeks, every state except Hawaii will have halted mask mandates, reflecting drop in number of new Covid cases. Critics cite still-troubling figures for hospitalization and death, insisting that ending mandates is premature.
February 4: Addressing conservative gathering, former vice-president Mike Pence states emphatically that Trump was "wrong" in insisting that Pence had the right to overturn the 2020 election.
January 27: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces intent to retire at end of current term, giving President Biden an opportunity to nominate a new Justice. During campaign, Biden had promised that his first Court pick would be a Black woman.
January 13: Supreme Court blocks Donald Trump's attempt to keep White House documents pertaining to January 6 Insurrection secret.
January 13: Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Minority Leader, refuses to comply with request for voluntary appearance before committee investigating January 6 insurrection.
January 11: During appearance in Congress, Doctor Anthony Fauci jousts with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and reports on death threats against himself, as well as harassment of his family. At conclusion of his comments, Dr. Fauci is heard to mutter "What a moron" under his breath, after an altercation with Sen. Robert Marshall (R-Kansas).
December 19: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) says unequivocal "no" to Build Back Better bill.
December 14: Infectious-disease experts warn that Omnicron variant of Covid is spreading much faster than Delta version, noting that total number of cases is doubling every two or three days.
December 14: Senate votes to extend federal debt limit by $2.3 trillion.
December 13: Texts sent to former president's chief of staff Mark Meadows reveal that during January 6 insurrection, Donald Trump Jr. and others pleaded with the former president to condemn the violence immediately. (CNN)
November 9: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) tweets modified animated video that depicts him killing fellow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and attacking President Biden. Gosar tries to defend his action, but blowback is swift.
November 6: House passes $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill, despite several defections from both parties, including Democratic progressives. Build Back Better Act for "social safety net" infrastructure development is delayed.
November 5: More than 100,000 protesters march in Glasgow, Scotland, demanding climate "action," as COP26 meeting continues.
November 1: West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announces that he might not vote for $1.85 trillion "social" infrastructure bill, dampening Biden Administration's hope for a legislative victory by enacting Build Back Better program.
October 20: Once again, Senate Republicans block Democrats' voting-rights bill. Among other issues, Freedom To Vote Act would expand early voting, modify methods of mapping Congressional districts, and declare Election Day a public holiday.
October 18: Trump sues committee investigating January 6 assault upon the Capitol, to prevent release of related documents by National Archive.
October 17: Covid-19 cases have been declining, but data still affirm that pandemic is far from over.
October 8: In recent Pew Research poll, almost two-thirds of Republicans said the GOP should not readily accept elected officials who criticize Donald Trump in public.
October 7: Senate Judiciary Committee issues 400-page report titled "Subverting Justice." Based upon eight-month, still-ongoing investigation, the report indicates that on nine occasions, Trump asked the Department of Justice for help in overturning the 2020 election, with the assistance of a top DOJ attorney. (CNN)
October 6: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell proposes temporary extension on debt ceiling, expiring in December. Democrats agree to the short-term measure.
October 2: In wake of new abortion restrictions in Texas, reproduction rights supporters march at some 600 rallies around the U.S.
October 1: Substantial numbers of unvaccinated workers decide to accept the jab when threatened with job loss, as variety of employers adopt vaccine mandates. Still, many continue to resist, including thousands of teachers in New York and other cities.
October 1: President Biden meets with House members to urge passage of bipartisan "hard" infrastructure bill. Progressive House members have been opposing its passage, unless the more costly "soft" infrastructure bill is introduced at same time.
September 26: Prospects for passage of either "hard" or "soft" infrastructure bill look bleak, due to intense disagreements between and within Democratic and Republican parties. Two moderate Democrats continue to reject the $3.5 trillion "soft" bill, as do all Senate Republicans.
September 24: Migrant encampment at Del Rio, Texas is cleared of asylum seekers ... at least 2,000 are deported to Haiti, others head for Mexico, while thousands are sent to U.S. destinations.
September 24: Arizona Senate issues report on highly-criticized, partisan "audit" conducted by CyberNinjas group ... report declares that Biden won 2020 election in Maricopa County and the state, by even greater margin than previously stated.
September 21: Biden administration deplores behavior of U.S. Border Patrol agents, on horseback, aggressively "chasing down and blocking" Haitian migrants at border town of Del Rio, Texas. Vice-president Kamala Harris calls video images of the scene along Rio Grande "horrible." (The New York Times)
September 21: Texas governor approves barrier made up of police vehicles, stretching for miles, to deter migrants from crossing border. Most of thousands of asylum-seekers are Haitian, but 97 percent have been living in Central or South America since leaving the troubled Caribbean island. (CNN)
September 21: Memo shows Trump campaign knew claims of election fraud related to Dominion voting machines were baseless.
September 9: President Biden announces national vaccine mandate, which may affect 100 million Americans, including health-care and federal workers. "We've been patient," he said, regarding the unvaccinated. "But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us."
September 1: Afghan war is officially over after 20 years, as Taliban prepare to establish their own version of government.
Please Click Here for Post-Inauguration News Briefs, starting in February 2021.
News Briefs from the Trump Years Are Available
Please Click Here for News Briefs from mid-March through December 2020 plus the final days of the Trump presidency (January 1-20, 2021). Two years of Trump News Briefs (January 2017 to December 2018) may be downloaded as a PDF file. News Briefs from the period prior to Trump's 2017 inauguration also are downloadable in PDF form..
2022 Book Publication Schedule (tentative)
TK Press (a division of Tirekicking Today)
Tirekicking Today editor James M. Flammang, the author of more than thirty books (including six for children), has been working for some time on additional titles. Some are nearing final stages of pre-production. Each views its subject from an oblique and often lighthearted yet serious perspective.
Note: Preliminary outlines and/or unedited excerpts may be accessed by clicking on each link below. Additional excerpts will be available soon.
Inquiries from book publishers or agents are welcome. Please send e-mail to JF@tirekick.com.
Surviving a lifetime of unwarranted fear and fright
A personal look backward, focusing on lessons learned about living with debilitating fear, anxiety, and panic, including ways to cope and survive. Unlike some self-help books on the subject, Fraidy Cat isn't just about fear in general, recounted and analyzed by an impartial observer. No, this is personal, agonizing, overpowering fear the sort that constricted and devastated a decades-long chunk of the author's own life and continues to do so, if to a less ferocious degree. This personal memoir covers more than half of a lifetime, starting in adolescence. It concludes with warnings and pleas for fearful young folks to get help now, or be doomed to look back upon a lifetime of regret.
Fraidy Cat: Contents ... Outline ... Excerpts: Chapter 1 (Childhood) ... Chapter 3 (Sex) ... Chapter 5 (Addiction)
Fiction by Flammang
Two groups of short stories, each with a tangy twist, make up Untied Knots. Those in "On the Go" are travel-based, taking place largely in Mexico. Much of the inspiration stems from real-life journeys and random residence within that country, undertaken as far back as the mid-1970s.
"Here At Home" tales focus on folks whose escapades are more localized. Though fictitional, most are based at least in part upon real people and places. The collection also includes several early stories, previously unpublished, from the author's archive.
Untied Knots: Contents ... Introduction ... Excerpts: Night Train Out of Queretaro ... Scandal in the Dayroom ... Bad Sports ... Desk Duty ... Ready? Go!
Logical Lapses in everyday life and thought
Comprehensive collection of stinging essays gazes with disbelief at dozens of aspects of modern life. Chapters are arranged in sections, including Work, Money, Identity, Communication, Technology, Consumption, Politics and Law, Pastimes, Sex, and Transportation. Work on this book began well before the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump. Therefore, the final chapter focuses on his bizarre, unprecedented presidency and its aftermath.
Absurdities: Contents ... Overview .. Chapter Outline ... Excerpt from Section III - Work (Our Biggest Myth)
Reflections on a wasted life
Aptly titled, Work Hurts questions the conventional wisdom on work and careers. For untold millions, including many with "good" jobs, each day's toil delivers no joy and little reward. In addition to scrutinizing workplace issues in the past, Work Hurts considers viable alternatives to conventional employment led by the fast-growing "gig" and "temp" economy, and its impact on less-than-happy toilers. Along the way, we illuminate the prospects for not working at all, potentially made possible by establishing a guaranteed income.
Work Hurts: Contents ... Chapter Outline ... Chapter 1 (Without a Paddle)
Living small in an age of large
Assesses the satisfactions of simpler living and minimal consumption, while chronicling the joys (and drawbacks) of residing in low-end accommodations. Hotel Life considers such relevant topics as the guaranteed income, shrinkage and change in the labor movement, older suburbanites moving back into the city (or pondering the RV life), and the recent small-house movement.
Hotel Life: Chapter Outline ... Overview ... Contents
Steering Toward Oblivion
A caustic look at the history and future of the Car Culture
A vividly critical but frequently humorous observation of the car culture and auto business, including the automotive media. Steering examines automotive history as well as today's (and tomorrow's) cars, emphasizing their impact on daily life, the transportation network, the economy, popular culture, and the environment. Author James Flammang has covered the auto business as a journalist and historian since the 1980s.
Steering: Chapter Outline ... Overview ... Excerpts: Chapter 1 (Media) ... Chapter 13 (Motoring Manners)
For further information, please contact us at JF@tirekick.com.
Books by Flammang ... already on sale
TK Press, the book-publishing division of Tirekicking Today, has issued three titles since 2014. Each was written by James M. Flammang, author of more than two dozen previous books. Click Here for a list of his books and other publications.
Incompetent: Coming up short in a world of achievement
Whether it's sports, business, personal relationships, the arts, or any other area of life, some of us score a flat zero in the skills and talents department. Blending serious concerns with a humorous tone, each chapter covers a specific area of incompetence with which the author, amazingly, is all too personally familiar.
Incompetent is available at: Amazon ... and Barnes and Noble
ISBN (print): 978-0-9911263-2-3 ($10.50)
Mr. Maurice Knows It All ... and tells you so
In 78 concise chapters, the debonair yet down-to-earth stuffed pig known as Mr. Maurice who just happens to know everything unleashes a torrent of acerbic, humorous, delightfully wise words on subjects ranging from work to movies, money to citizenship, status to guilt. An emigrant from Britain, with obviously French heritage, Mr. M. manages to combine strictly contemporary attitudes and piercing opinions with a gallantry and sophistication reminiscent of the era of Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce.
Mr. Maurice ... is available at: Barnes & Noble ... and Amazon.
ISBN (print): 978-0-9911263-3-0 ($8.50)
Both titles may be purchased directly from TK Press. PDF review copies are available FREE. Just send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask about printed copies, signed by the author.
Excerpts from Incompetent and Mr. Maurice ... may be seen at Bublish.com.
Articles and essays related to current affairs, including relevant automotive subjects, will appear periodically.
Tirekicking Today editor James M. Flammang, a veteran independent auto journalist, has contributed countless product reviews and feature articles to such publications as autoMedia.com, New Car Test Drive, CarsDirect, and Kelley Blue Book. He has written extensively for a variety of major outlets, including J.D. Power, cars.com, and the Chicago Tribune. Flammang is a member of the Freelancers Union and the International Motor Press Association, and is a past president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. The author of more than thirty books, mostly on auto history, also has contributed extensively to Consumer Guide publications and to such trade publications as Ward's Dealer Business.
TK Press, established in 2014 as a division of Tirekicking Today, has already published three books by Flammang. Several more titles (described above) are well underway, scheduled for publication during 2022.
Clunkers & Creampuffs
A casual history of the used car
Chapter 1, Early Days:
Rich Men's Playthings, Poor Men's Dreams
Chapter 2: Ford's Model T
Chapter 3: Production and Prosperity
Chapter 4: "Easy" Payments
Chapter 5: Family Cars and Family Life
Chapter 6: Five-Dollar Flivvers
Chapter 7: Rise and Fall of the Used Car
Chapter 8: Saturation and Salesmanship
Next: Chapter 9 - A Global Blowout ... Chapter 10 - Wheels for the Workingman
Ever since the first automobiles began to age, early in the 20th century, the used car has been a notable yet seldom-heralded element of American life.
Following a several-year hiatus, Tirekicking Today has been reviving coverage of the used car market again adopting a consumer focus. Relevant reports on new vehicles and other aspects of the automobile business and car culture also will appear in this space.
Editor James M. Flammang has been reporting on used cars since the 1980s, not only for this website but for Consumer Guide's used car buying guide, along with a variety of other consumer publications.
This section began with a report on the gradually growing market for electric cars, including a brief history of EVs and a rundown of some new entrants. Next came a detailed look at the volatile used car marketplace, Used Car Trends, featuring comments from experts attending the annual pre-owned car conference dubbed Used Car Week as well as an Auto Intel Summit. (Both events presented by Auto Remarketing magazine.)
Subjects covered in this section include:
Are EVs finally ready for prime time?
Used Car Trends
Cars vs. Trucks in the sales race (Hint: Trucks have a strong lead.)
What's happened to used car prices?
Whatever happened to the Repo Man?
State of and expectations for auto financing
Which vehicle makes more sense, economically speaking: New or Used?
A comprehensive article providing latest news and opinion on electric cars and autonomous vehicles is in progress.
Note: In addition to news items, occasional articles on automotive history and the car culture will be featured in this section, starting with Easy Shifting, a history of the automatic transmission:
Click here for Easy Shifting
Next will be a detailed, two-part history of gasoline rationing during World War II, along with the threat of rationing during the 1970s oil crisis.
May 9: Edmund's reports that in January, 82 percent of new-car buyers paid more than Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Some dealers are charging thousands extra. Price hikes, attributed to shortage of computer chips, among other causes, are expected to continue through 2022.
in the Auto World
April 15: New York Auto Show opens to public at Javits Center.
March 5: Average gasoline price reaches $3.92 per gallon, nearing the record of $4.11 established in 2008.
March 2: Ford Motor Company splits automotive operations into two separate divisions, gasoline-powered and electric-powered, hoping to speed up the transition into EVs.
March 1: Toyota halts vehicle production in Japan, due to suspected cyberattack at a prominent component supplier.
February 23: Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive, advises that "surge in new-car prices appears to have peaked."
February 9: Although used car prices have been easing a bit, 82 percent of new models sold in January went for more than the "sticker" price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price). (ABC News)
February 8: Hyundai and Kia warn owners of nearly half a million vehicles to park them outdoors, away from buildings, because of possible risk of engine-compartment fire. All are SUVs, except for 2016-18 Kia K900 sedan.
February 1: Tesla recalls 53,822 vehicles with Full Self-Driving capability, due to reports of cars going through stop signs with "rolling stop," rather than halting completely.
January 13: Selling prices for used cars jumped 37 percent over the past year.
October 8: Wholesale used car prices increased by 5.3 percent in September, according to the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index. Compared to 2019, the figure has risen by 27.1 percent. Retail (dealer) prices tend to reflect such changes after two months or so.
September 1: Historic British automaker revives iconic AC Ace sports car, now running on electricity. Meanwhile, Morgan another legendary marque confirms a redesign of its 3-wheeled model.
August 31: IDTechEx, a British research firm, predicts that driving will be outlawed by 2050, as autonomous (self-driving) cars become capable of operating with near-zero collisions.