Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Upcoming movies - Greg's Previews

This is a comprehensive site collecting news of movies in development.

Yahoo! Movies - Greg's Previews: Browse By Date
Upcoming movies - Greg's Previews

This is a comprehensive site collecting news of movies in development.

Yahoo! Movies - Greg's Previews: Browse By Date
2005 Mercedes E320CDI - Diesel without the Downsides

Quick name a 3800 lb. luxury sedan with a 320 hp. engine that goes 0-60 in 6.8 seconds and gets 27/37 MPG EPA fuel economy. Hint: see boldface caption above.

Perhaps the SLK/Crossfire evolution portends that the diesel technology of the E320CDI will make its way into Chrysler brand products in the latter part of this decade. A 30% increase in fuel efficiency with a net gain in performance - that's not bad at all.

Of course the burning question on the minds of all you motorheads is: Does the 2005 E320CDI have the "pee in the can" urea-injection system. Not yet. It's coming in 2007. Of course, that doesn't mean that you can't rig your own . . .

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]
2005 Mercedes E320CDI - Diesel without the Downsides

Quick name a 3800 lb. luxury sedan with a 320 hp. engine that goes 0-60 in 6.8 seconds and gets 27/37 MPG EPA fuel economy. Hint: see boldface caption above.

Perhaps the SLK/Crossfire evolution portends that the diesel technology of the E320CDI will make its way into Chrysler brand products in the latter part of this decade. A 30% increase in fuel efficiency with a net gain in performance - that's not bad at all.

Of course the burning question on the minds of all you motorheads is: Does the 2005 E320CDI have the "pee in the can" urea-injection system. Not yet. It's coming in 2007. Of course, that doesn't mean that you can't rig your own . . .

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]
Government Lawyer Overtime Pay Class Action Denied

Government attorneys attempted to file class action to get overtime pay from 1992 to 1999. I didn't know they were entitled to overtime pay to begin with. Apparently in 1999 the law was changed to prohibit overtime for government lawyers.

Lawyers Denied Back Pay

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Move over Ben & Jen: all the nerds are buzzing about Ken Jen

Ken Jennings will go for his 20th consecutive Jeopardy win tonight. His current money winnings amount to $622,720. I can't remember the last show that any other contestant was even mathematically in the running against Ken going into Final Jeopardy. It's fun to watch now because during the introductions, the other contestants have these looks on their faces like cows who know they're headed for the slaughterhouse.

Sony Pictures Television - JEOPARDY!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Cheney drops the f-bomb on the Senate floor

Cheney Dismisses Critic With Obscenity (
An advanced interface to do Google date delimited searches & more

Google Ultimate Interface - Fagan Finder
Questions from Jeopardy Star Ken Jennings

As of this writing, Ken is now 17 days into his reign as Jeopardy king of the hill, and he's well over $500,000 in earnings. According to news reports, he was a member of a College Bowl team in the 1990s at Brigham Young University, and his team came in 7th place. (Having participated in intramural College Bowl at Purdue, I knew it was tough, but now I feel better.) Anyway, here are some questions that I found by Ken and some Collaborators. See how well you do.

MLK questions from Came East (Ken Jennings, Jeremy Horwitz, Earl Cahill and maybe one more)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

NYT - Price of Homes Skyrocketing in some areas

I was stunned to read in today's New York Times (link below, free online registration required) that the median home price in Orange County California is now $572,000 and has risen 28% in the past year alone. The article attributes a large portion of the increase to more lenient lending criteria and greater availability of "no doc" and 100% financing loans. There's no way that the US can compete with China if we have to pay workers enough to afford a $572,000 house. The article rightly points out that these boom markets can easily go bust if interest rates rise. If the market will only support $572,000 now because of low interest rates, if rates go up, sales prices are likely to come down. This means many consumers will be "upside down" on the loans, and in an economic downterm the borrowers will file bankruptcy and walk away from the loans in droves When this happens, there will be pressure on our loan guarantee system. A string of foreclosures in a neighborhood will depress home prices further.

Not all areas are equally affected. Where I live in Indianapolis, the median home price is about 1/3 what it is in Orange County. The $572,000 figure would put you in the top 1-2 percentile. You can, quite literally, get a mansion for that price.

The New York Times > Business > The Ever More Graspable, and Risky, American Dream

Our Contract - My Opinion

Fellow 3357 Members, you should have received the packet for ratification of the contract. I'll give you my take on it - and I'm speaking for me and not the union. The contract has some good stuff in it: same sex domestic partner benefits, election day off and a raise. The raise varies depending upon your seniority level and the year of the contract, but it looks to me that at about $1500 per year, or a little under 3%, it is close to what the UAW members got, and it's better than we got last time. No give backs on health benefits, and a few increases, especially to the dental, that's good. I'm a little concerned over lack of a COLA (cost of living adjustment) especially in light of potential inflation (see note above regarding home prices). I don't think we have a history of receiving COLAs, so I can understand why the bargaining team didn't dwell on the subject.

Overall, I think it is a good contract, and I voted for it. I want to thank the entire bargaining team, and those who helped out on a supporting basis (including covering for the bargaining members while they were away). I (we) appreciate your efforts.

Ford to Close its Lorain Ohio Plant - 1200 jobs lost

Last year Ford announced that it would close the Lorain Ohio plant that currently assembles the Ford Escape and the Ford Econoline. They finally gave a timeline for the closure, with the plant to close at the end of this year. Production of the vehicles will be shifted to other plants. - News - 1,200 Jobs Will Be Lost As Ford Plant Closes
Today's Update from
Rats leaving the sinking ship at Mitsubishi and the first car imported from China

A couple interesting news items from's Daily Edition:

Mitsubishi's sales were off 40% in the past year, and the top executives are starting to leave. Credit rating for the company has slipped to CCC.

The Chinese maker of an ultra-compact car called the Uliou has applied for U.S. Certification of the car. They are currently putting together their U.S. Distribution network. The car is based upon the Daihatsu Charade and will be priced around $7,000.

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]
Test-don't read
Unauthorized Charges by Echostar (Dish Network)
Have you or a client had unauthorized charges placed on your credit card, debit card or credit card. I've run into these complaints, and searched Google and came up with some interesting results, 395 hits. In 2003 the Attorneys General in 13 states settled claims against Echostar. The settlement, among other things, was to result in early termination charges being cancelled or refunded to a large group of consumers and Echostar was supposed to establish procedures to avoid unauthorized charges.

One of the things I've noticed is that Echostar (and for that matter Directv rely on third party companies to sell and install their systems. These companies often are pretty seedy. They regularly violate the Home Solicitation Sales Act and the FTC door to door rule. The contracts frequently do not have proper FTC Holder language, and Echostar claims third party beneficiary or holder status on these contracts. The bottom line is that there are usually good defenses to claims by Echostar. If you are a UAW-LSP attorney, e-mail our consumer group for additional information. If you are a private consumer or a private attorney, contact a member of the national Association of Consumer Advocates ( for help.

Google Search: ("dish network" OR echostar) unauthorized (draft OR eft OR DEBIT)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Early Reviews are Positive for Fahrenheit 9/11

Michael Moore's controversial film has opened in selective cities already. Early reviewers call it propagandistic, but well-made. It opens nationally on Friday. I can't wait to see it. It seems like Michael Moore is playing the role that Ralph Nader should be playing but isn't. Ralph Nader has the same command of history and of the issues that Michael Moore does, but by positioning himself as a participant rather than an observer, he runs the risk of helping to elect George Bush rather than to unseat him. - the Edge: Fahrenheit 9/11 > R
Ken Jennings: The next William Hung?

Ken Jennings, a mild-mannered Utah resident software enginener who makes up quiz show questions on the side, has been quietly making history and is poised for 15 minutes of fame the likes of which hasn't been seen since William Hung first "banged" at the American Idol tryouts.

Ken has been raking in the dough as a record-setting contestant on Jeopardy. Until last fall, the show automatically retired its champions after the fifth win. They changed the rule, and now Ken Jennings is on a roll. I think he's up to 16 wins and counting as we speak, and if he wins on today's show, he's likely to cross the $500,000 mark in winnings.

Is he that good? He's good alright. Now, with so much experience playing the game, anyone who beats him will have to be not only smarter, but also an expert at the nuances of the game. I have nothing against him, but I want Ken to lose, so I can see him going head-to-head in the Tournament of Champions against the other master players, such as my all-time favorite: Chuck Forrest (Forest?). Chuck was amazing to watch. He'd cut in and out of the middle of catagories, controlling the board. By the time the other contestants realized the category, Chuck had already answered the question.

The Salt Lake Tribune -- Q: 'Jeopardy' Champ; A: Who is Utahn Ken Jennings?
Who Let the Dogs Out? It turns out it was Don Rumsfeld.

WASHINGTON -- In an extraordinary disclosure of classified material, the Bush administration released 258 pages of internal documents Tuesday that portray harsh interrogation techniques -- including stripping terror suspects and threatening them with dogs -- as a necessary response to threats from al-Qaida terrorists.
. . . | Rumsfeld OK?d harsh treatment of suspects in U.S. war on terror

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Towards Paperless Hospitals
What's this? A Kennedy and Newt Gingrich agreeing on something? In a joint press conference, Re. Patrick Kennedy and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced a program to create a paperless hospital system.

Gingrich said 98,000 people die in hospitals every year due to medical errors. (Yet per Republican doctrine, malpractice attorneys are somehow evil for trying to hold bad doctors acountable.)

The bill introduced seeks $5 Billion to get the hospitals wired up. It's a great idea. We might actually have the money for such things if SOMEBODY hadn't started an optional war that has cost $130 Billion and counting.

The Demos need to collect $130 Billion worth of the most worthy, bipartisan-backed projects that have died on the vine for lack of funding and put out Huge advertisements to the American public saying "If you think the war in Iraq is a good idea, THIS is what we could have had instead. . ." - Newt Gingrich pushes 'wired' hospitals
2005 Chrysler Crossfire Convertible

Speaking of Chrysler, I've picked on them a bit in my blog. For a long time DC seemed like the gang that couldn't shoot straight, coming out with more and bigger Trucks & SUVs, and abandoning segment after segment of the car market. Last year when the Crossfire sport coupe came out, I was luke warm on it. At the end of this summer, Chrysler will release the Convertible version. It is much more attractive to my eye, and a better deal, comparatively. For $35,000 or less, the Crossfire Roadster is a good deal if you are looking for a luxury-sport image 2 seat convertible. It's a lot cheaper than the Mercedes SLK upon which it is based.

R&T First Drives: 2005 Chrysler Crossfire Convertible (7/2004)
From the HUH? file
USA - Today: Vinyl Roofs Making a Comeback

USA Today reports a growing trend in consumers installing 1970s-style vinyl roofs on their automobiles -- including -- get this -- the new (Bling Bling) Chrysler 300. Quoting:

Chrysler officials are quietly asking dealers to stop having the faux-convertible tops installed, but dealers say the response from customers has been too strong to quit now.

"No kidding, the first time we did one, the thing lasted about three hours and it was sold," said Joe Vogel, a salesman at Roseville Chrysler Jeep, who has installed vinyl roofs on about 10 300s and plans to do more. - Vinyl roofs staging a comeback with Chrysler 300s

Monday, June 21, 2004

MSNBC - Immigrants wash up on Nude Beach

African immigrants arrive on a nude beach in Spain. You just know the first thoughts they had: 'Is this a great country or what?"

MSNBC - Immigrants wash up on nudist beach
Tentative Contract for Local 3357

This just in . . . after a marathon negotiating session last week, the Union has a tentative pact with management that is now being sent to us (the members) via U.S. Mail. I don't know any more about it except that our votes are due to be postmarked by July 1, 2004.

Avila decided: No right to sue HMOs in State Court
The Supreme Court has put the nail in the coffin of state court negligence cases for care decisions made by ERISA HMOs. I actually expected this. I don't blame the Supremes. I blame Congress for passing an flawed law, and then not fixing it for 20+ years.

MSNBC - Court limits HMO suits over care denial
Moorewatch - Keeping an Eye on Michael Moore

Boy the conservatives are boiling over Farenheit 911, the new movie that chronicles how George Bush's response to terror is a killer golf swing. Here's a Michael Moore hate site as a counterpoint to Michael's own site that I linked to a month or two ago.

Hate Mail - MOOREWATCH - Watching Michael Moore's every move
Gitmo Detainees Don't have Much to Say
A lengthy article published today in the New York Times refutes the Bush Administration's assertion that the Guantanamo Bay prisoners are all (or mostly) hardcore terrorists. It also refutes the assertions that torture and near torture is the best method of interrogation.

The article confirms my fears that many of those who are sent to GITMO may have started out as harmless, but after they are hardened by the system, they become driven towards terrorist activity.

I can't believe the ignorant voters who believe that George Bush has some kind of moral high ground over Kerry. George apparently believes the golden rule means "He who has the gold makes the rules." He believes "Due Process" is how the water collects on the grass in the morning.

The New York Times > Washington > U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guant?namo Detainees
Spyshots - Mercedes M Class - or Buick Rendezvous?

Ck out these spyshots from of the next generation Mercedes M Class SUV. I think it looks a lot like the Buick Rendezvous. (Incidently, Buick now has big rebates on even the new Rendezvous Ultra model with its high-horsepower 3.6 liter 6. Buy one and you can dust the Acura MDX in your rearview mirror.)

Buick doesn't have the Mercedes 7-speed (7-speed!) transmission though. What is this, an SUV or an 18-wheeler?

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]

Friday, June 18, 2004

Honda Elysion: More Spaceship than Minivan

Take a look at the dashboard of the new Japanese Market Honda Elysion minivan. It would look at home in a video arcade. (I happen to like such things.)


Contrary to rumors to the contrary, the Elysion is NOT the 2005 North American Odyssey. In fact, Honda is replacing the made-in-Canada and reverse-imported Honda Odyssey with the Elysion.

Just because the Elysion isn't the new Odyssey doesn't mean that it's not an interesting vehicle in its own right.
Instead of focusing on hideable seats, Honda touts the Elysion's low floor. This is an 8 seat minivan. The second seat can pivot and face the rear seat (just like in some limousines).

The engines are interesting. They appear to be variants of the 2.4 liter and 3.0 VTEC engines found in the U.S. Market Accord. The 3.0 liter V-6 uses a cylinder deactivation system for improved fuel economy, switching from 6 to 3 cylinders based on the requirements of the time. I can recall reading a couple years ago in an article about General Motors' engine plans that the General was going to stick with 2-valve "stockblock" architecture for many of its upcoming lines, and one of the reasons for doing so was that it was impractical to apply cylinder deactivation to Overhead Cam engines. Well, guess what, Honda did it. The 3.0 liter engine in the Honda Accord already returns fuel economy at or near the head of the pack for 6 cylinder cars. If cylinder deactivation yields and other 2 or 3 MPG it will be ahead of most 4 cylinder cars.

Speaking of cylinder deactivation, you would expect that going down to 3 cylinders would cause a lot of noise and vibration problems. Here's what the Honda website says about this:

Models equipped with the 3.0-liter engine are outfitted with active control engine mounts1.
Designed to operate with the variable cylinder management system1, the active control engine mounts use fluctuations in the engine?s crankshaft speed to estimate and cancel out engine vibrations generated when cylinders are idled. Active noise control1 is used to generate sound opposite in phase with the engine drone produced when cylinders are idled to cancel this drone and ensure a quiet environment under all conditions.

Active Noise Reduction under the hood?

The Elysion has an 4WD (AWD?) system. This makes it likely that the new US Odyssey (and possibly even the Accord) will have an 4WD option as well.

The Elysion's Real Time 4WD system combines a quiet, fuel-efficient, dual-pump system with a one-way cam unit to significantly enhance sensing of front-wheel slippage?all in a lightweight, compact design. The system transfers power to the rear wheels promptly, and significantly improves stability during startup and cornering on snow-covered roads and other slippery surfaces.

2005 Honda Odyssey

The Department of Defense could learn something from Honda when it comes to keeping things secret. Even though the 2005 Honda Odyssey is due to be introduced in the States in just a few months. Virtually nothing reliable has leaked out about its features. Honda has gone as far as contacting message board operators and "asking" them to remove posts about the upcoming Odyssey. has posted these pictures of what is allegedly the 2005 Odyssey, although they look like a concept car to me.

The 2005 Odyssey is greatly anticipated. When the current version debuted in 1999, it shook up the industry. There were weighting lists and market prices over sticker for the majority of the production run. Expectations are high for the new model. It is expected to meet all the fancy-pants seating options of the Toyota Sienna and Dodge Grand Caravan. There are rumors of a hybrid and a variable displacement (via cylinder deactivation) engine. If Honda announces a hybrid Odyssey to be available in the near future, then all of Honda's high volume vehicles would have a hybrid option. (Honda has already announced a Hybrid Accord for 2006.) Honda's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) figures will match figures that the Big-3 claim are impossible to meet.

The introduction of the Odyssey is important to those dependent upon the Big-3 automakers because GM, Ford and DC have either recently facelifted (DC and Ford) or will soon face lift (GM) their minivans to meet the challenges of the now 5-year-old Honda Odyssey. Chrysler's "Stow & Go" seats, new for 2005 are really nifty, but there's not much else new on their vans. Ford's Freestar is simply a Windstar with a facelift and an optional bored-out engine. GM opted not do do a ground up revision for 2005 and instead will dress up the old minivans in pseudo-SUV clothes. The Odyssey platform is the basis for the hot-selling and lucrative Honda Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs, so it will likely shape the next generation of Family SUVs as well. The 2005 Odyssey may or may not be on a new platform. The Alabama plant will supposedly work from July through August in a 50-50 mix of 2004 and 2005 models. This suggests that the platform is not completely different, though with Honda's flexible manufacturing, it's hard to say.

My predictions:

Size will stay within an inch of the current model in most dimensions. It might be a little lower. I'm betting that the new Odyssey will be one of the few cars that is actually lighter than its predecessor. A hybrid will be available in a couple years, but will not be available at introduction. I think it is 50-50 whether the Odyssey will have a fold-in-the-floor second row seat, but the third row will get a split-folding seat. If there is no folding 2nd row seat, four wheel drive will be available, if there is a folding second seat, then Honda may choose to leave off the 4wd. I suspect the Odyssey will come standard with cylinder deactivation. I think the odds are 50-50 that a low-end model might have a 3.0 liter rather than a 3.5 liter engine. The hybrid version will likely have a 3.0 liter engine, perhaps running the atkinson cycle. A hybrid will be available by fall 1997.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Irrefutable Proof of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq

Even though the 9-11 Commission has stated that it saw no evidence of any collaberative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, the strong wartime leader on Pennsylvania Avenue continues to assert to this day that there are "numerous contacts" between Iraq and al Qaeda. He just wouldn't say what they were.

Bush Reasserts Hussein-Al Qaeda Link (

Since GWB won't tell us what those contacts are, I decided to do some digging and find them for myself. Here's what I came up with.

Iraq was led by Saddam Hussein.
In Hot Shots, Charlie Sheen fought Saddam Hussein.
Charlie Sheen was in the movie Cadence (1990) with Lawrence Fishburne.
Lawrene Fishburne was in Mystic River (2003) with Kevin Bacon
Also in Mystic River was Wil Lyman.
Wil Lyman was in School Ties with Ben Affleck.
The "Ben" in Ben Affleck sounds a lot like "Bin" in Bin Laden.
Osama Bin Laden is the leader of al Qaeda.

There it is, I laid it out on the table, the case for war in Iraq. Aren't you sorry you lined up behind that Howard Dean guy now?

Hollywood link information courtesy of the Oracle of Bacon at the University of Virginia.

Here's George W. Bush's Internet Movie Database page (
For your homework, see if you can link George W. to Osama bin Laden.
The Googleteer(tm) weighs in on Rumsfeld as a War Criminal

20,800 hits - I bet by this time next month the count is double that.

Google Search: rumsfeld "war criminal": "rumsfeld 'war criminal'"
Rumsfeld a War Criminal?

The New York Times reports that Donald Rumsfeld issued an order to hide at least one detainee in Iraq. Ordinarily, the military is required to keep a registry of soldiers held as prisoners of war. The International Red Cross uses this registry to check to make sure that the prisoners are treated humanely. Once again, the Bush Administration has a "unique" view of international law, claiming that the Geneva Conventions allow a delay in identification of prisoners to "avoid disclosing their whereabouts to an enemy."

The prisoner in question is allegedly a "senior Iraqi terrorist". And though is knowledge is supposed to be so important that his whereabouts must be hidden, he allegedly wasn't interrogated since right after his capture in November 2003. The NYT article explains that nobody in authority knew where he was.

Here's a brief quote from the NYT article

Rumsfeld Issued an Order to Hide Detainee in Iraq

Published: June 17, 2004

WASHINGTON, June 16 - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday.

This prisoner and other "ghost detainees" were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."

The New York Times > Washington > Prison Abuse: Rumsfeld Issued an Order to Hide Detainee in Iraq

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Conspiracy to violate the Geneva Convention at Abu Grhaib

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that despite the Bush administration's statements to the contrary, there was a conspiracy to violate the Geneva Convention at the prison at Abu Grhaib. The Bush administration has had contempt for the Geneva Convention from the start. As reflected in this BBC article from 2002, the administration formed a policy that the Geneva Convention applied to the Taliban in Afghanistan, but not to the alleged Al-Qaeda terrorists. (Of course, to the administration, anyone who they decide to treat as a terrorist IS a terrorist, and that is incontrovertible, even if you are an American citizen.)

BBC News | AMERICAS | Geneva Convention to cover Taleban

A special lawless zone was set up in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, "Gitmo" where the alleged terrorists could be held indefinitely without any due process and without the Geneva Convention.

Iraq is a signatory to the Geneva Convention. When the U.S. invaded and took thousands of prisons, many were taken to Sadam's chamber of horrors at Abu-Grhaib. The Commander of the facility, General Janice Karpinski, stated that the military police under her command had no interrogation training, but they were specifically instructed to treat the Iraqi prisoners "like dogs." Interrogation was assigned to a military intelligence unit. Now supposedly these specialists would have had training in following the Geneva Convention, right? Those soldiers that have talked so far that have been implicated in the abuse of prisoners essentially say that the military intelligence people were out-of-the-picture for the majority of the photo-worthy abuse. The supervisors were civilian "contractors".

I find it interesting that none of these civilian "contractors" have been identified as of yet. For that matter, not even the firms that they work for. It seems to me that if these contractors did anything wrong, and they did, the Administration would be rushing to name names and place blame on these contractors and the companies that they work for. The simple fact that the Administration is keeping quiet leads me to believe that these civilians were in fact CIA operatives. They haven't been identified because they can't legally be identified. (Of course, we all know that the Bush administration is not above rating out an agent whose husband is a Bush critic.)
The CIA has a policy and practice of lying to the American people whenever there is "plausible deniability."

George W. Bush committed an immoral act and violated international law when he decided to allow torture of Al-Qaeda and Iraqi soldiers. He committed an equally immoral act by lying about his policy and allowing 19 year old soldiers to take the blame and face court martial for carrying out his orders.

George Bush's supporters say he is a strong leader in time of war. So were Hitler and Mussolini, but that doesn't make them good role models for America or the World.
New Google Features
Google has improved its ability to search for numbers, including Fedex UPS and USPS packages. Define: feature is documented. More.

Google Web Search Features
Google Zeitgeist
Want to know what people are googling?

Look at the Google Zeitgeist

Google Press Center: Zeitgeist
Alyon Technologies Update

I've written before about Alyon Technologies. Last year I handled many complaints against this company which claims to provide telephone billing services for (mostly adult-oriented) websites. For the UAW Legal Services Member complaints that I handled, Alyon gave up after I intervened as the attorney for the consumers. I honestly think that anybody who pays them or their collection agency a single dime is crazy.

As of this writing, according to the link below(which may not be a valid link by the time you see it) to the Better Business Bureau report on the New Jersey office of Alyon reports 881 BBB complaints against the company.

The various state attorneys general are starting to take action. I suspect that the proprietor's exit strategy will kick in any time now. One thing that you can count on in sophisticated fraud scams is that the smart operator has planned a graceful way out when the law starts to get close.

The Better Business Bureau National Information System
On Molly Ivins: 10 Mistakes responsible for getting us into Iraq.

Columnist Molly Ivans wrote on May 27, 2004 giving 10 mistakes responsible for getting us into Iraq. Her 10 reasons are well worth reading. I got a kick out of the anecdote that she threw in parenthetically:

Another citizen with some valuable suggestions is New York lawyer Neal Johnston, who was moved to write Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld concerning "proper controls upon the interrogation techniques of detainees held by our military forces abroad." Since we are extremely interested in getting the truth out of reluctant witnesses who may be covering up something, and since the Pentagon apparently feels it knows how to do this, Johnston wonders what would happen if the methods were more broadly applied. For example, he writes Rumsfeld, "When next you testify before a congressional committee, would your testimony be any more credible were you required to deliver it stripped naked? I think not.

"When our plans for Iraq are next explored at a Cabinet meeting, would your observations be any more insightful if delivered while strapped to a board and irregularly submerged in a vat of water? Doubtful at best."

Even, Johnston suggests, shoving a rolled copy of the Bill of Rights up a delicate place on the secretary's person would not necessarily improve Rumsfeld's truthfulness at his next press conference. "My solution is really quite simple: The Iraqi scum should be handled with much the same restraint we would all want to be applied to you, should the present criminal investigations wind up reaching even deeper into your office than is already the case

Naples Daily News: Columnists

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Too much Clinton? Try some Clinton

With Bill Clinton's autobiography next week, we can expect some major overexposure. To clear the palate of all the Clinton news, try a website devoted to Clinton news - George Clinton that is.

New Funk Times :: George Clinton | Parliament | Funkadelic | P.Funk All-Stars | Bootsy Portal

Monday, June 14, 2004

XM Radio is now available for businesses

$27.95/month - taking on Muzak etc. - Go get em!

XM Radio - Get XM For Your Business
How to save 25% on tires - stop putting air in them!

The NBT (Next Big Thing) in car service will be nitrogen generators at every tire store and truck stop. Military aircraft and large jets have used nitrogen in their tires for decades, and so have race cars. Nitrogen is more heat-stable than regular air which carries about a quarter oxygen plus water vapor, carbon dioxide and more yucky stuff. Nitrogen does not migrate through the tire as much as oxygen. Consequently, your tires are more likely to hold their pressure with nitrogen, and pressure will be less dependent on the temperature.

Ok, but where do you get nitrogen. Well that's the think, until recently the only way to get nitrogen was to buy it in bulk cylinders from industrial gas suppliers. Now there is a new generation of portable Nitrogen Generators. These generators work by passing compressed air through a membrane that separates out the oxygen and the nitrogen components. The portable nitrogen generators are gaining acceptance in tire stores as we speak. The tire store buys the nitrogen generator for $8000 and sells the nitrogen for $10 or so for the inflation of 4 tires.

Is it worth it? Nitrogen advocates claim that tire wear is cut about 25% through using Nitrogen. They also claim fuel economy gains of 4-5%. In addition, you don't have to check or fill up your tires as often. SO if $10 will save me $100 off of a $400 tire purchase, I'd go for it.

Truck operators have much more to gain. Trucks have a lot of tires that need frequent inspection. When they need air, it is a significant project. Also, blowouts are common in trucks. Trucks drive a lot of miles, often on retread tires. It seems like a no-brainer for any significant truck operator to add nitrogen equipment.

Bridgestone/Firestone Commercial Truck Tires
Which Twin has the Toni? The Spark and the QQ in pictures

Free Trade before Fair Trade - the Story of the Chevrolet Spark

Recent news from the China auto show included announcements that several automakers, including GM would invest billions in increasing production capacity in China. So much capacity is being added that it is projected that China will become a net exporter of cars within 3 years.

Automakers are doing this even though there is ample evidence that the Chinese government is condoning the outright theft of the foreign companies' designs. Honda motorcycles were copied down to the logo.

Earlier this year (see link below from China made a complaint to Chinese trade officials that its Chevrolet Spark was copied by a Chinese firm as the Chery QQ even before the Chevrolet car hit the streets.

Instead of joining a race to the bottom in China, automakers could invest in U.S. plants. Stolen Cars

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Ford & GM to invest $4 BILLION in China

On consecutive days, General Motors, then Ford announced that they would be making major investments to increase their capacity in China. GM $3 Billion and Ford $1 Billion.

To put this in context. The industry is struggling right now with global overcapacity. Demand is surging in China right now, but it is still quite small on international terms. In the meantime, all the world's automakers are surging into the country to serve the demand. Supposedly all of this capacity will be used to serve the Chinese domestic market, but who's kidding who (whom?). Already GM is importing engines from China. What's to stop them from importing cars as well? The race to the bottom continues. In the meantime, US factories are struggling with not enough capital spending.

The UAW has a right to be pissed.

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]

Friday, June 04, 2004

Walmart shifting the cost of healthcare to taxpayers

Walmart is one of the most profitable companies in the United States. A Georgia study found that approximately 1 out of 4 Walmart employees has a child enrolled in Peachcare, Georgia's subsidized health insurance program for children from low-income families.

From the Atlanta Constitution reprinted at the link below:

"A snapshot of Georgia's program for uninsured children shows that it's packed with kids of Wal-Mart employees. A state survey found 10,261 of the 166,000 children covered by Georgia's PeachCare for Kids health insurance in September 2002 had a parent working for Wal-Mart Stores. That's about 14 times the number for next highest employer: Publix, with 734."

According to the article, Walmart offers family coverage at $66.25 every two weeks. This is 80-20 major medical insurance with a $1000 yearly deductible. (I'm not sure whether the deductible is per person or per family.)

So a Walmart employee deciding whether to insure the family has to figure that the insurance premium will cost $1,689 per year plus the $1000 deductible, plus non-covered expenses such as vaccinations, eye exams, dental. . . plus the 20% of covered expenses. For most, it makes sense to gamble and go bare to save the cash to pay for expenses that you know you are going to have.

At a pay rate of $8.00 per hour and a full time schedule of 2000 hours per year, that's $16,000 gross income. Walmart calls their insurance plan low cost. how is a MINIMUM of 16.8% of gross income ($2679/16000) low cost?

WalMart profits while we pay the bill
The 900 Club - People weighing over 900 lbs.

I recently encountered a person who weighed over 800 lbs. I wondered what the record was. Over 1600 lbs. (but not verified).

What astonishes me upon reading this article is how many of these people either did not have access to, or were refused, medical treatment for their obesity.
The 900 Club
From the "Fame Comes in All Kinds Department . . . reports that Radhakant Bajpai has the world's longest ear hair, over 5 inches long.

"Making it to Guinness World Records is indeed a special occasion for me and my family," said Radhakant. "God has been very kind to me."

Guinness World Records

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

What is a big car?
It's funny what traits define our perception as to what a "big" car is. Most people would agree that a Buick LeSabre is a big car. Most people would not say that a Chevrolet Malibu Maxx is. The Maxx is more than a foot shorter. On the other hand, the vehicles weigh within 100 lbs of each other. Most people would not say that a Honda CRV "cute ute" is a big car, but it is only 250 lbs lighter than the Buick. The Buick gets better highway fuel economy. The "compact" Jeep Liberty is over 500 lbs heavier than the Buick even though it is 2 feet shorter. The Liberty has EPA highway rating of only 21 mpg, 8 mpg less thant the LeSabre. At 17 MPG city, the Jeep is 15% less fuel efficient.

It's funny that the Buick and the Chevy are very different on the outside, but their specs are usually within 5% of each other. The biggest difference is the Chevy is tall where the Buick is wide and long.

Comparator - Specifications
Car Review from the Great White North
Take 1 Mazda Tribute GX FWD 4 Cylinder

Canadians are used to high gas prices, so they tend to buy smaller cars, and when they buy the same cars, they buy the smaller engined versions.

You can look hard and not find any reviews of base engine models in US car publications. If you are looking for a base engine review, try

In the link below, CanadianDriver reviews the 2.3 liter 4 cylinder version of the Mazda Tribute (essentially the same as the Ford Escape). As the review points out, the new 2.3 liter engine can adequately power the 2 wheel drive version with an automatic transmission. The previous 2.0 liter 4 cylinder wasn't even offered with an automatic transmission.

CanadianDriver: Test Drive - 2005 Mazda Tribute GX FWD 4 cylinder
Las Vegas Schools - Kids suffering for Adult-oriented lifestyle

The New York Times is doing a series of profiles of Las Vegas residents and some of the social issues that relate to the city's unique character. I never cared for the place myself. From the article below, it seems like the kids are the losers.

(free registration required for New York Times articles)
The New York Times > National > American Dreamers: A Besieged School District and Its Nomadic Students Struggle to Keep Up

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Disney's Jungle Cruise ride to be made into a movie?

Reason number 37600 that M. Eisner has got to go. Jungle Cruise isn't even a good ride. I suffered through about 15 minutes of The Country Bears movie, and it was stunningly bad. Whoever greenlighted that project should have a rug made out of him. Learn about the upcoming release of The Jungle Cruise and view movie trailers and details
A Captain Underpants Movie?

I'm seeing conflicting information on whether there will be a Captain Underpants movie. Author Dav Pilkey has publicly said there will not be one. Time will tell. Certainly only my destiny is at stake, for it is a role that I was born to play. I would gladly submit to the required dietary prerequisites, and I would shave my head.

Here's a link to the Captain Underpants page. Check out the Captain Underpants name generator. My C.U. name is "Snotty Wafflebuns."

The Captain Underpants Page!

Tornado at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

The most tension coming out of this past Sunday's running of the Indianapolis 500 came when tornados past just a few miles from the track within a few minutes of when the race was halted due to rain. It takes about 2-3 hours to empty the place and get the traffic clear when it's not thundering and pouring down rain. There's not enough shelter to go around when the stands are full. (Usually on rainy days, the crowds are down.) What shelter that there is would be more of a danger than a refuge in the case of a tornado.

This got me thinking that if a tornado hit any full race track, whether it was the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, or even the Kentucky Derby, you could have a disaster on the level of 9-11.