Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Google & Blogger Blogs

Surprisingly, though Google purchased Blogger, it does not appear that this blog is being picked up on the Google search engine. I searched on "Hofer" and "blog" and it didnt' come up. Perhaps I need to add the terms "Paris Hilton" and "video". Naw, that would be cheap. I'd never do that.
And the Oscar goes to . . .
Teacher's Pet, The Movie

Ok, you probably will never hear these words again, but the Disney Saturday morning cartoon show Teacher's Pet has been a guilty pleasure of mine.

The plot, a dog named Spot learns to read and decides to dress up in his master's clothes and go to school. Through a mix-up he becomes known as a boy named "Scott". The television show was well-written and directed, and Nathan Lane as Spot/Scott does great voice work.

Now I hear a movie version will be released.

Yahoo! Movies: Teacher's Pet - Greg's Preview
Jimmy Carter and The Hornets Nest

The more I reflect on Jimmy Carter and his days as President and as ex-President, the more I think that he was a President that we didn't deserve. We weren't worthy. I think we knew it in the time. After all, here was a President who had an energy policy which told us that we need to conserve, turn down our thermostats, drive slower and drive more fuel efficient cars. We didn't want to hear that. We wanted an ex-actor who told us that all of our problems were caused by some bullies in commieland.

I'd give my eyeteeth to have an afternoon to just sit down with President Carter and talk (and perhaps fish). He's written a couple dozen books since he left office. This is in addition to his peacemaking, house-building and Sunday school teaching.

At age 79, President Carter has just published his first novel. I haven't read it yet, it's on the top of my Christmas reading list. It's called The Hornets Nest and it is a historical novel that takes place in rural Georgia during the American Revolution. Read the New York Times review linked below (free registration required), and ask yourself if the current Tenant in Chief would be capable of writing a book this detailed and nuanced.

One more thing: he painted the cover picture, and it's pretty good.

’The Hornet’s Nest’: Founding Bubbas

Monday, November 24, 2003

Chrysler Prepares to Roll out 9 New Models - Most of them Gas Hogs

Daimler Chrysler had very little in the way of new product to roll out at the beginning of the 2004 model year. To help appease dealers, they are showing off the cars (actually mostly trucks) that they intend to roll out over the next 12 months.

Chrysler plans crucial rollout of 9 new models

The one thing that most of these things have in common is that they are predominantly gas hogs. Chrysler was among the most fervently lobbying companies against raising federal fuel economy standards. It's clear from this product lineup that they don't care a bit about fuel economy. The entire marketing push is on the "hemi" V-8 engine. This coming year, the Hemi will spread from the heavy-duty pick-up to the Durango, the 300M luxury car, and the Grand Cherokee.

A current commercial for the Durango shows a husband, wife and baby child riding in a new Durango. The mom tells the baby about the video screen and other interior amenities. The Dad tells the child that there's only one word the child has to know: "Hemi".

Apparently Daimler Chrysler thinks the ideal family car is a 5,000 lb. Durango with a 330 horsepower engine.

It bugs me that the car companies justify SUV's by saying that's what the public wants, but yet they are active participants in shaping expectations and aspirations in their marketing campaigns.

The 300 series and Dodge Magnum replace the Chrysler Concord and Dodge Intrepid. When the latter two cars were introduced in 1998, Chrysler touted the cab forward design and aerodynamic profile, as well as front-wheel drive as adding to the cars' efficiency. All three of these attributes will be gone with the new models. I would be surprised if the new models weren't 20% less efficient than the ones they replace.

The Dodge Magnum will only be available as a station wagon. Apparently Chrysler intends to call the vehicle a truck for federal fuel economy purposes. The manufacturer is catching flak from dealers for doing this, but there may not be a choice. The new cars might be such fuel hogs that the only way they will be allowed to sell them in quantity is to get them out of the CAFE car category and into the truck category.
Higher Speed Limites lead to more Deaths
But . . .

A study just released concluded that raising speedlimits caused 1,900 more highway deaths over a three year period.

Study Links Higher Speed Limits to Deaths

Here's the problem. You can say that any speed will cause more deaths than a slower speed. If everyone stood still, there would be no highway deaths. Of course, nobody would get anywhere. You have to do a cost/benefit comparison.

A quick few minutes with a calculator suggested that, assuming that the 1900 fatalities gave up 50 years of life each, the 260 million americans who didn't die and gained the benefit of the higher speed limit would have to save the equivalent of .00036 years worth of utility (spread over a three year period.) How much is this? 3.2 hours, or a little over an hour a year.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Is OnStar a Snooping tool for Big Brother?

Here's a link to a discussionon regarding whether government agencies can use OnStar to snoop on what's going on in your car. I don't see ho this could be true. After all, Batman uses OnStar, and he has to protect his secret identity.

See, whenever you confront a conspiracy theory, you have to attack it with logic. Once you do that, it falls apart.

Slashdot | Roadside Assistance System Used for Eavesdropping

Thursday, November 20, 2003

FTC Sues Ameridebt

The FTC has finally started taking action against credit counselors. I've talked before about the problems with the credit counseling industry. Misrepresentations and conflicts of interest abound. Most of the customers don't know that the counselors take back-end "fair share" (their words) payments from the creditors. These "fair share" fees are a percentage of the debt paid. In other words, the counselors get more money the more debt is paid. Imagine if an attorney was hired to negotiate the best terms to get out of debt and the attorney took a back-end payment from the other party that increased as more debt was paid, the attorney's license would be gone in a heartbeat. And what are non-lawyers doing negotiating contracts on behalf of consumers in the first-place?

Secondly, when the counselor gets fees from the consumers and from the creditors, what are the odds that the consumer will get unbiased advice regarding bankruptcy as an option.

The biggest problem that I have seen as a consumer lawyer is that the counselor takes the first month's payment as a "voluntary" contribution. This means that an account that is two months late becomes three months late before the money even hits the counselor's office. By the time it is disbursed, the account might be four months late or more. Instead of improving the consumers credit, the counselor actually hurts the credit. The consumers also aren't told that when accounts are settled short, that is a negative mark on the credit report even if the account is eventually paid.

The AP Miami Herald article includes the quote below regarding increasing complaints against credit counselors:

Complaints against such companies are increasing, according to Edward Johnson, president and chief executive of the Better Business Bureau-Washington D.C. In 1998, 237 complaints were filed nationwide. Last year, complaints grew to 1,480, with the largest percentage naming AmeriDebt.

This coincides with my experience. Although I have been practicing consumer law since 1991, I didn't get my first complaint about a credit counseling service until about 1997. After that, the complaints started piling in.

Words to the wise if you are a consumer lawyer trying to pursue a case against a credit counseling company: These suits are very difficult. You have to dig into the relationship between the credit counselor and the related for-profit entities. In the long run, you have to prove your client's damages, when your client may have been a lost cause to begin with. The clients who come to you with these kinds of cases tend to be unreliable and not always honest. Finally, there is always the possibility or probability that the client will end up in bankruptcy, and the case against the credit counselor will become the property of the trustee.

Before you take on a case, Google the company, check the consumer complaint site message boards. Check your local court records to see if anyone has filed suit against the company before. Try to line up more than one client with the same problem. If you practice bankruptcy, consider filing the bankruptcy then working the credit counseling offensive case as an adversary action in the bankruptcy court. Don't take on one of these cases without plenty of time to spend on it. Consider networking with another attorney. Check with the National Association of Consumer Advocates for an attorney who practices consumer law in your area.

AP Wire | 11/19/2003 | AmeriDebt Accused of Misleading Consumers

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Daimler Chrysler to sell diesel hybrid delivery trucks to Fed Ex

According to, DC may sell up to 30,000 hybrid delivery trucks to Fex Ex, with deliveries starting next year.

Ironically, although Toyota's hybrid efforts have been getting most of the press, and have been the most visible, both GM and DC may be on the right track for more net fuel savings. General Motors has had demonstrator transit buses and airport shuttles on the road for a couple years now. Because of the size of these vehicles, and the fact that each is on the road almost all day, hybridizing one commercial vehicle can save as much fuel as hybridizing 20 passenger cars.

Diesel Electric vehicles aren't new to General Motors. General Motors has been producing Diesel Electric locomotives for at least 60 years.

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]

Friday, November 14, 2003

Production of General Motors Pick-up Hybrids starts in Fort Wayne Indiana

GM Hybrid Being Built at Indiana Plant - Motor Trend

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Toyota to up production of Hybrid vehicles to 300,000 by 2005

According to Battery and EV technology News, a newsletter dedicated to hybrid and electric vehicles. Toyota announced that it would produce 300,000 hybrid vehicles by 2005. It's not clear from the context of the article whether this is cumulative production or a yearly production volume. Even if it is cumulative production, when coupled with recent announcements by Ford and General Motors that hybrid plans have been downscaled, it means that in the efficiencies that come with the experience curve, Toyota is way ahead. I haven't had much time to work on my mini-review of the 2004 Prius, put I can tell you that what makes that car so impressive is the progress over the 2001 Prius that I looked at earlier. The "brake-by-wire" electronic regenerative braking is much better than before, so smooth you can't tell anything fancy is going on. The electronic steering is faultless (unlike that of the Saturns.) The car is quiet, solid and responsive. There is nothing that keeps this vehicle from being considered as a legitimate mainstream family car except for uncertainty about long-term liability.

Fast forward to 2006, when the domestic makers have their first generation hybrids out, even if the Domestic models are good, their reliability will be untested. Toyota will have a track record of reliability and will have learned lots of lessons from making a half million or more hybrids already.

: "Toyota"

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

2002 Graduate Salary Survey Results from Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington

What it is is what it is. The ultimate test of whether a salary is at the market rate is whether you can recruit enough qualified people to do the job.

The AOL Cancellation Problem

AOL is like a roach motel, you can get in but you can't get out. I've spent a couple hours over the past week trying to cancel aol via the fax number that they (supposedly) provide for cancellation. Busy, busy, busy. The FTC has been after AOL for making it unnecessarily difficult to cancel since at least 1996. Nevertheless, aol still makes it difficult to cancel. Just try, just try getting an AOL sanctioned address for canceling by mail. The FTC needs to go back to the drawing board on this one.

Ford and Rosie the Riveter National Park

I've picked on Ford a lot (and I'll probably pick on them again), but I need to give credit where credit is due. Ford is leading the way for the creation of Rosie the Riveter National Park in California. This park is in an old industrial area that was built up in World War II including an old tank factory and a factory that built liberty ships. It is meant to commemorate the production war on the homefront, and especially the contributions made by women.

Since it was overwhelming American production that overwhelmed the axis powers and insured their defeat, this park is overdue.

Today's News
What's this case worth?

How well can you value a case?

Test your metal with "what's this case worth?" from

(Actually, you don't have enough information to really make this as useful as it could be. I was disappointed when I clicked on the link for more information and it didn't send me to either a citation or a link to the real case.) It's worth a few minutes anyway.

Recoveries and Large Settlements.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Now you can write for Saturday Night Live
Well, kind of. Saturday Night You keeps track of theupcoming hosts and allows you to write and post sketches tailored for the upcoming hosts. You also get to write scripts for your dream hosts. Some of these are as funny as the real thing. Just like the real thing, some stink.

Saturday Night You - where fans write Saturday Night Live sketches

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Walmart in trouble for hiring illegal cleaning crews

It seems like Walmart is always finding another fast lane in the race to the bottom when it comes to labor practices. This time, they hired contractors employing hundreds of illegal aliens.

Walmart claims it didn't know the aliens were illegal. Come on. They paid $10.00 per hour gross according to the New York Times article below. This included two layers of contractor overhead, cleaning supplies, and in theory would have included payroll taxes etc. - except at least one contractor admits that those taxes were never paid.

Illegally in U.S., and Never a Day Off at Wal-Mart
Ford's Statement on Breaking its 25% SUV Fuel Economy Increase Promise

Our Actions - Our SUV Fuel Economy Commitment

Here's what it amounts to in summary: To save money, we cancelled or delayed all projects to increase fuel economy, but we decided to sell more big SUVs, make existing models heavier and give them bigger engines. Eat exhaust greenies.
Linda Tripp gets $595,000 settlement from the U.S. Government

Say it isn't so! Linda Tripp settled a privacy case against the Defense Department for almost 600k. Taxpayer funds ladies & gentlemen. She was probably entitled to something, but $600k? Linda Tripp Gets Big Cash Settlement

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The Most Reliable Family Sedan is . . .

The Camry? Nope
Accord? Sorry - not it

It's the Buick Regal

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]

Monday, November 03, 2003

Coming Soon - the report of my testdrive of the 2004 Toyota Prius

Grammatical Anarchy! - What do you use for gender-neutral possessive pronouns?

Way back in the early part of the last quarter of the twentieth century, I was taught to use his or hers as a possessive personal pronoun when the gender of the person is not known. Within the past 10 years, the plural, but neutral pronoun "their" was adopted. That always bothered me, because it was drilled into me that pronouns should always agree in subject and number. Now, it appears that the pendulum is swinging back the other way. The Chicago Manual of Style has backed off its advocacy of "their". What does U-Chi propose instead? Er, Um, well. . . Find out with the link below.

Chicago Manual of Style - Q & A - Pronouns