Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Comes Out

Former FBI official W. Mark Felt has publicly announced that he is Deep Throat, the source for the Watergate leaks that brought down Richard Nixon.

Ben Bradlee and Carl Bernstein had said that they would not disclose the identity of Deep Throat, but since it came from the source's own mouth, Bradlee has apparently confirmed the story.

F.B.I. Official Revealed He Was Watergate Source in Interview - New York Times
The Dan & Danica Show

Yesterday's Indianapolis 500 was the most exciting in years. Englishman Dan Wheldon won the race, continuing an almost Schumacher-like dominance of the IRL this season (4 wins out of 5 races), but Danica Patrick stole the show.

Patrick killed the engine in the pits, she touched wheels with one racer, and on another case was involved in a three-car accident, and lost part of her front wing. Despite all this, she came within eight laps of winning the race.

She was fast throughout the race, handling slower traffic like a seasoned veteran. Despite all of her mishaps, she stayed on the lead lap, and at about lap 180, she found herself in the lead due to pit timing. As is often the case in Indianapolis, good luck in timing your pitstops plus yellow lights at fortuitous times can often bring victory, or at least the chance at victory.

After taking the lead, Patrick had to battle a hard-charging Wheldon and at the same time, manage her fuel consumption to avoid running out of fuel. As it turned out, that was an impossible task, and Danica ended up a respectable fourth. In the process, she had the crowd on its feet most of the race, and television ratings improved 40 percent.

This was the first time that I listened to the Indianapolis 500 on XM radio. I was expecting something special, like 5.1 surroundsound, or even a commercial free race. The XM feed was the ordinary Indianapolis 500 Radio Network feed, commercials and all. While nothing special, the announcers did a very good job of communicating what was going on in the race, and the commercials were spaced well so you didn't miss any of the important events.

USATODAY.com - Wheldon overtakes Patrick to win Indy 500

Sunday, May 29, 2005

GM Shifts Brand Strategy - Buick, Pontiac & GMC Trucks to be marketed together.

For some time, General Motors has been quietly consolidating Buick, Pontiac and GMC Trucks into dealerships that sell all three brands, still there are quite a few stand alone dealerships with one or two of these brands. GM recently announced that it was going to consolidate these brands and turn each into narrower niches, eliminating duplicate products. The Detroit News article below is interesting because it lists the number of units sold for each brand. I'll revisit this later.

GM shifts strategy for brands - 05/19/05

Friday, May 27, 2005

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Rutter beats Jennings: Rutter is now top Jeopardy money winner.

Yesterday I made a posting about Brad Rutter. Today he's officially the Ultimate Jeoparty Champ. It wasn't even close, friends. Rutter was so fast on the buzzer that Jennings never had a chance.

Newsday.com: Jennings fumbles on 'Jeopardy!'
Visteon & Ford renegotiate deal

Several years ago, Ford split of most of its component operations into a new company called Visteon. To make the deal work, Ford cut a deal with the UAW that UAW workers in the Visteon plants would continue to be Ford employees covered by the Ford collective bargaining agreement. New hires at Visteon, would have a lower wage rate more in line with independent component manufactures.

How did it work? Not that well. At least, not well enough. (Yes, those are sentence fragments, deal with it.) Visteon lost $1.2 Billion in 2003, $1.5 Billion in 2004, and is on track for another whopper loss this year. With the threat of insolvency of a major component maker, Ford has to cut a deal. The deal in process is for Ford to take back a dozen or so plants that it rolled into Visteon. Ford plans to roll the plants into a separate operation and sell them to other companies. To get UAW approval, Ford will offer buyouts and early retirement to a good portion of the UAW workers.

What does that mean for our AFSCME 3357 members? It means that the membership base supporting many of our offices will have a much lower UAW membership base to support. In other words, it is likely that we will lose attorneys either through attrition, layoffs or both. Up to 17,000 UAW members are affected.

The Car Connection - UAW Eyes Visteon Deal - Ford hopes to sell off some plants, radically downsizing its former supplier.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Don't feel sorry for Ken Jennings . . .

He may not win the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, but Ken is doing alright. Besids shilling for Allstate Insurance., (Yeech!) he has a book, a DVD-game, and a board game coming out. He's guaranteed at least $250,000 from the Ultimate Jeopardy Tournament, and last but not least, it was just announced that he will host his own game show on the Comedy Channel.

Who is Brad Rutter?

Last week I posted about Jerome Vered, the first of two challengers to Ken Jennings in the Jeopardy Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Pennsylvanian Brad Rutter won the second slot with a convincing victory last Friday.

Since then Ken, Jerome and Brad have played 2 out of three games. Brad Rutter holds a fairly commanding $12,400 lead over Jennings going into the final game.

A recap can be found on tvgameshows.net


Brad Rutter is the winner of the $1,000,000 Tournament of Champions in 2002. Rutter is host of a high school quiz show in Pennsylvania titled Inquizitive (www.inquizitive.com). Until Jennings came along, Brad was the all time dollar winnings record holder for Jeopardy. Brad does have one claim that Jennings can't match. He's never lost a game of Jeopardy. As it stands now, it looks like his record will continue.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mitsubishi Reports $4.4 Billion annual loss, with more losses to come.

General Motors can take solice in the fact that there is at least one automaker with even worse problems. The $4.4 Billion annual loss at Mitsubishi, is similar to what General Motors would be expected to post if current trends continue. Mitsubishi is a much smaller company, so percentage wise, Mitsubishi's losses are greater than GM.

Actually, you could add Fiat to the list of global car makers who are in worse condition than General Motors. I couldn't find a good Fiat link in the 5 minutes that I had to post, but trust me, things are bad there as well.

Mitsubishi Motors loses $4.39 billion, more losses ahead - 05/23/05

Friday, May 20, 2005

An Onstar(tm) Testimonial that You Won't See.

True story - two-year-old gets locked in parent's Cadillac Escalade. The kid presses the button. Cops come & find almost a ton of pot.

TheIndyChannel.com - Irresistible Headlines - Toddler Leads Deputies To 1,700 Pounds Of Pot
The Whizzinator - He's in, she's in, the whiz is in for urine

Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith was detained at the airport for possessing a suspicious looking white powder. It turns out the powder was dried urine, to be used in conjunction with The Whizzinator. Neither the dried urine or the whizzinator is illegal, but the incident was embarrassing for Mr. Smith who has had past run-ins with the NFL's substance abuse policy.

The link below is to the Whizzinator website. I'm providing it as a public service, because you never need to know when you'll have to rush off to meet a plane carrying a urine-dispensing fake penis.

The Original Whizzinator - HOME - Pass Your Drug Test!

Who is Jerome Vered?

The answer is: He's the first of two players set to meet Ken Jennings in a 3 game play-off in the Jeopardy Ultimate Tournament of Champions.

He's also more. He's not just a John Lovitz look-alike. For 10 years, he held the single game winnings record on Jeopardy. It was only beaten after they doubled the dollar values. Several years after his Jeopardy appearance, he won Ben Stein's money. In fact, he was so good at that, that he was hired to work behind the scenes on Ben Stein's show.

The bottom line: watch out Ken Jennings, you've got your hands full.

Jerome Vered

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Netscape 8.0 includes the Strengths of Firefox and MSIE
Netscape 8.0 uses a very interesting approach designed to maximize security and functionality at the same time. For sites on a "trusted site" list, it opens the page using Microsoft's Internet Explorer. If the site isn't on the trusted list, it uses Mozilla Firefox. This is a systemized approach to a technique already used by millions of web surfers.

Internet News Article | Reuters.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sony - Microsoft: Catfight - Rrrewwww

Sony & Microsoft are in a catfight over their next generation video game machines.

"We want to pack everything in today and future-proof this as much as possible," said Kazuo Hirai, the head of Sony's U.S. game unit, in an interview.

"It's a box made of future technology as opposed to Xbox 1.5, which seems to be a combination of things available today," added Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.

What a nerd cutdown, calling the XBox 360 the Xbox 1.5!

Let's break out the "Yo Mama" jokes and get the entertainment going!

Top Technology News Sponsored by Audi | Reuters.com
Sallie Mae doesn't play well with others

Most folks know Sallie Mae as a government chartered, but publicly held student loan lender. Many people don't know that Sallie Mae also makes mortgage loans, issues credit cards, and has a debt collection subsidiary.

Sallie Mae gets favorable federal tax treatment, but it claims that it is exempt from most state laws protecting consumers. This article in the Portland Phoenix mentions 120,000 complaints about Sallie Mae. Here are a few highlights.

"Interviews with 22 consumer-finance attorneys, plaintiffs in lawsuits against Sallie Mae, consumer advocates, and higher-education experts show that Sallie Mae engages routinely in questionable business practices. Borrowers are charged excessive and undisclosed late fees. Aggressive collection tactics are employed against borrowers who have been unable to resolve billing disputes with Sallie Mae — which is, by industry standards, unresponsive to questions and complaints. And the company prevents many of its borrowers from consolidating loans with anyone else but Sallie Mae — which doesn’t always offer the lowest interest rates."

"The frequent use of such aggressive tactics, combined with the company’s relative unreceptiveness to borrowers’ complaints, has led many experts to wonder whether these methods, taken together, have become policy with the multi-billion-dollar lender. After all, the company stands to profit not only directly from these practices, but also by throwing students into default. That’s because borrowers of federally guaranteed student loans (issued through the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or FFELP) who have fallen on hard times can only under rare circumstances discharge student-loan debt if they file for bankruptcy. Usually, they must default, which not only carries harsher long-term penalties for borrowers than bankruptcy does, but guarantees lenders like Sallie Mae full compensation. Furthermore, Sallie Mae has recently gone into the debt-collection business, which means it can reap even more interest and fees of up to 20 percent of the balance from defaulted borrowers."

"SALLIE MAE may throw its weight around more confidently than most because it has cultivated friends in high places. A subplot in the presidential-election crisis of 2000 that went largely unnoticed, according to Salon’s Joe Conason, involved the use of corporate jets by the Bush-Cheney campaign to fly back and forth from Florida and who knows where else. Among those offering aviation services to the high cause? Enron, Halliburton, and, yes, Sallie Mae — a federally sponsored program. The State PIRGs’ Higher Education Project became so alarmed by the growing presence of student-loan-industry lobbyists in Washington that it issued a report in October 2002 titled "Lending a Hand: A Report on the Lobbying Expenditures and Political Contributions of the Five Largest Student Loan Corporations." The report found that Sallie Mae (which founded its first PAC in 1998), together with its next-largest competitor, Citigroup, spent $42.9 million in lobbying over the last three election cycles, accounting for almost 90 percent of lobbying funds spent by the top five student lenders. In fact, according to the report, Sallie Mae’s lobbying expenses "outpace even notorious special interest corporations"; the company spent more on lobbying in the 1998 and 2000 election cycles than RJ Reynolds Tobacco. Overall, the report concludes, "the student loan industry is making it a priority to increase its involvement in the political process," a trend that is "likely to continue as the ... 108th Congress begins the process of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.""

Features | Sallie Mae not

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Dell computer with monitor & printer $298.00

If your needs are modest - and if you don't mind putting up with standard windows viruses, worms, trojan horses, etc., then this is a very good deal. If you don't want to put up with the viruses etc. Pay a little more & get a mac.

The Dell Online Store: Build Your System
Chicago's U-Boat to go Back on Display

A highlight of any visit to Chicago is a trip to the Museum of Science & Industry. For years one of the prime exhibits was the U-505, a genuine German U-Boat that was captured by a U.S. escort carrier group in 1944. For many months, the U-505 has been off display while it has been refurbished and while a new underground display area was constructed. Work is now almost complete, and the U-505 is set to go back on display June 5, 2005. Below is a link to a preview of the exhibit.

MSI | The U-505 Secret Page

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Oracle says Delphi is on the skids

It doesn't take mythological powers to see that automotive parts supplier Delphi is in trouble financially. Delphi lost $4009 million in the first quarter. That's $.74 per share. With share prices under $4.00 per share, that's a hunk o spare change.

Delphi has other problems too. There's an investigation by the Feds over questionable accounting relating to (subsidy) payments by General Motors. In addition, in the short term, Delplhi is going to have to come up with $700 to pay its current pension obligations.

All of these problems are a shame because I just got a Delphi-manufactured Roady2 XM radio. It's a stylishly small, wel-made and useful piece of equipment.

The Car Connection - Delphi Battered by GM Cuts - Accounting problems, lower payouts all coming down on biggest American supplier.
Eli Lilly wants tax break and an educated workforce.

Indianapolis-based drugmaker Eli Lilly Corp. wants to have its cake & eat it too. The company's public relations staff regularly comments on how an educated workforce is critical to attracting Lilly facilities. (A google.com search of "Eli Lilly" and "educated workforce) yielded 282 hits, with about 1/2 being relevant.) Specifically, both the Eli Lilly corporation and the Lilly Foundation, which is a major shareholder, like to tout charitable contributions that they make. See e.g. the "America's Promise" program, http://www.americaspromise.org/products/rtndetail.cfm?ID=288.)

At the same time, the company has been badgering local government for tax abatements for its facilities. Most recently a $48 million property tax break for its Indianapolis facilities.

TheIndyChannel.com - News - Eli Lilly Seeks Multimillion-Dollar Tax Break

Indiana's schools are chronically short of cash. This is especially true of the Indianapolis Public School System in Lilly's home town. Someone should remind Lilly that until they pay their fair share of property taxes, they really can't say that they are going above & beyond when it comes to promoting an educated workforce.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Base Closings & Reservists

The Base Closure Committee just posted the list of proposed military base closings. It looks like a large number of them are reservist centers in large metro areas. The military is having problems meeting its guard & reservist quotas now. How can making reserve duty more inconvient help things?

TheIndyChannel.com - News - List Of Base Closings In Alphabetical Order
Canadian Autoworkers Legal Services Plan

I always kind of assumed that we had a Canadian counterpart. Thanks to Paul C. I finally have the URL. (Better spice up that website friends. It's dull dull dull.

CAW Legal Services Plan

When I think of the CAW-LSP, I think of an office staffed with Peter Jennings type father figures, giving out sage advice by the handful, with delicious fresh coffee and doughnuts in endless supply.

I think it is interesting that the Canadian Plan has a lot broader participation by automotive suppliers than the US Plan. (See the "sponsors " page on their website.)

Rumor has it that CAW-LSP is facing the GM crisis sooner than UAW-LSP, because the CAW contract c0mes up first. If GM drops legal services benefits from their CAW contract, we need to make contingency planning 0ur top priority.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Is a 19" Notebook computer still a notebook.

I thought it was a bit much to stick a 17 inch display in a notebook computer. Word out of Taiwan now is that several manufacturers, including Dell, will soon announce notebook computers with a 19 inch widescreen display. Whatever.

Dell Inspiron 19-Inch Screen Notebook for 2006?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Conspiracy Theory Rock - The Saturday Night Live bit that G.E. didn't want you to see.

TV Funhouse

Saturday, May 07, 2005

More Spyware Info - Spyware Warrior

If you want a lot of technical details, check out this blog "Spyware Warrior".

Spyware Warrior
More than you ever wanted to know about Spyware: Ben Edelman's site.

The link below is to a homepage of a guy named Ben Edelman. Ben appears to be the goto guy when it comes to identifying the source and affect of spyware/adware. Perusing his site, it appears that he has identified some surprising sources of unwanted spyware including askjeeves.com and Google's Blogspot.

Ben Edelman - Home

Friday, May 06, 2005

What's happening this week in Mongolian Entertainment.

I know what you're thinking, what's happening in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia.

Well, here are the headlines from the Mongolnews - the "Leading Newswire of Mongolia"

"Travel and cash prizes for top Mongolian Models"
"Mongolian Oscars Scheduled"
"The Roaring Hooves festival begins its gallop"

THE UB POST - Leading Newswire of Mongolia
The Politics of Component Plant Spinoffs:

Below is a link to an article from Ward's Auto World that looks at the problems and potential for component plants when they are spun off by an automaker.

Ward's Auto World: Risky Business
A primer on Automobile Transmissions

Automotive Industries | Article Detail

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Secrets of the Car Repair Business: Motor Magazine's "How to sell $100 More Work."

Motor Magazine is a trade journal for auto repair technicians & shops. check out this article from November 2004 "How to Sell $100 More Work." Hmmm.

MOTOR Information Systems

Combined with a Fed prime rate increase, GM & Ford received a double-whammy when their credit ratings were cut to junk status. Higher cost of borrowing reduces the operating margin on sales, and it makes their captive credit arms less competitive.

S&P cuts GM, Ford credit ratings to ?junk? - Stocks & Economy - MSNBC.com
Taurus Replacement - 2006 Ford Fusion - Build & price one

Ford has put official information up on its website, www.fordvehicles.com. From the pictures, you can see a family resemblance to the Mazda6 upon which it is based. The Fusion uses a stretched version of the Mazda6 platform.

I don't know if I like the silver bars across the grill, but I like the overall shape of the car. Ford is joining the 21st century with a 6 speed automatic. (Yeah, I know, you can get a 6-speed on the 500.)

You can build & price the Fusion on the Ford website.

I'm linking an article from the Kansas City Star that gives more detail on the Fusion.

Ford Vehicles: Fordvehicles: 2006 Fusion

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

BAR/BRI, West and Kaplan sued for antitrust violations

"BAR/BRI agreed to close its Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) preparation course from the market in which Kaplan was the dominant competitor. Kaplan, in turn, agreed not to enter the full-service bar review business, in which BAR/BRI was the dominant competitor. The two companies then entered into an agreement to work together "strategically" to enhance Kaplan's share of the LSAT market and to increase BAR/BRI's control of the bar review market.

The complaint further alleges that at the time this agreement was entered into, Kaplan had entered into a letter of intent to acquire bar review materials and begin bar review courses across the country in competition with BAR/BRI. After Kaplan worked out its market division arrangement with BAR/BRI, it unilaterally terminated that agreement and abandoned all plans to compete against BAR/BRI. As a result, competition has been dramatically reduced, and law students and lawyers have overpaid substantially for their bar review courses ever since. "

dBusinessNews :: Daily Business News Delivered to Your Desktop
Bottom Feeders nibbling at GM - Kirk Kerkorian wants 9% of the Company

Kerkorian seeks 9% GM stake - 05/04/05
New York Times: Why can't Walmart Pay More?

Interesting article. A fulltime Walmart worker supporting a family of four would be under the poverty level.
More good stuff. (free registration required)

The New York Times > Business > Can't Wal-Mart, a Retail Behemoth, Pay More?
George Bush takes a lesson from Steve Martin.

This article suggests that the Bush administration's attitude toward studying global warming is the same as Steve Martin's advice on avoiding taxes.

ZabaSearch.com Free People Search

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

26 out of 27 E-mail Hyped Penny Stocks Lose Value

In this 2003 article on the Motley Fool website (www.motleyfool.com), Bill Mann created an imaginary portfolio of 27 stocks that were hyped in e-mail. Of these 27 stocks, only one went up during the time period studied.

Fool.com: Hype, Spam, and Penny Stocks [Commentary] August 6, 2003

Monday, May 02, 2005

Brickyard 400 to become the Allstate 400

The big Indianapolis NASCAR race, the Brickyard 400, changed its name to the Allstate 400. Now when the cars crash, no one will come to the rescue because of "speed competitions" are a policy exclusion.

Allstate to sponsor Brickyard 400