Thursday, June 30, 2005


She solves crossword puzzles.

For this and other weird words and their origins, check out

Weird Words: Cruciverbalist: "CRUCIVERBALIST"
New Car Preview #2: 2006 Toyota Camry

You can't tell much from this photo of the redesigned 2006 Toyota Camry published in's Inside Line section. Anytime the Camry gets a redesign though, it's big news because the Camry in recent years has either been the number one or number two best selling sedan model.

Inside Line: Spy Shots: 2007 Toyota Camry - Next-Generation Camry Set for Debut Next Year
Preview #1: 2006 Honda Civic

These spy photos from show a squinty redesign that certainly looks -uh- aerodynamic. The front end looks like a jump-ramp for an AV8B Harrier.

The Car Connection - Spy Shots: ?06 Honda Civics - The cover comes off Honda's bread and butter.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gates Foundation commits $450 million to 3rd World Health

It seems that the Gates foundation is doing more with its hundreds of millions of dollars than the United States Government is doing with hundreds of billions. Bill and Melinda Gates carefully identified areas of critical needs and points where a relatively small amount of funding could produce the best results. They decided that medical researchers were avoiding diseases that primarily affect the poorest countries. These diseases can make it impossible to pull the populace out of the cycle of poverty. The research sponsored by the Gates Foundation has the realistic potential to save millions of lives.

If I were President, I'd strip NASA of half it's funding and make its scientists work on a cycle, 2 years on space projects, 2 years on projects to develop environmental technologies and health technologies. I'd use the money saved to fund a National Science Administration, and I'd recruit Bill or Melinda Gates to head it, with the goal of using the same strategy for resource allocation that they use for the Gates Foundation.

Gates Funds $436 Million Worth of Radical Health Projects

Gates Foundation
Another Bad Energy Bill

The Senate just passed its version of the Energy bill. From news sources, I gather that it is better than the House bill in that it contains more provisions (and funding) for renewable energy sources and for pollution prevention, but it provides just as much, if not more corporate welfare for big oil companies.

Gates Funds $436 Million Worth of Radical Health Projects

Monday, June 27, 2005

What is Universal Default, and Why Should You Care?

If you're like me, you've seen Universal Default provisions pop up in credit cards, you just didn't know what they were called.

A universal default clause in a credit card agreement is a clause that allows the credit card company to jack up the rates to an absurd level even if you are current on their particular card if you are in default on any other account, even with another creditor. Creditors with these provisions routinely scan your credit reports to see if you have any adverse items. If you do - WHACK - your rates go up to at least 26.9%. Since about 25% of all credit reports have a significant error, even folks who pay all their bills on time can run afoul of these clauses.

Not only that, but some of these clauses are written such that if the creditor feels insecure about the debt for any reason (not just late payments) the creditor can jack up the rates. In practice, this means a drop in your credit scores. Credit scores can drop for reasons such as high debt level compared to total credit line, large numbers of inquiries, and participation in a credit management program.

For folks who are trying their best to keep things together, these clauses are often the straw that breaks the camel's back, and make it impossible to pay their debts.

Finally there is some congressional action to stop these clauses. Congressman Dave Obey (Dem. Wisconsin) has sponsored an amendment to the treasury appropriations bill that would ban universal default clauses.

In theory, this type of provision would be a non-partisan way for representatives from both parties to score points with the folks back home. In practice, the lobbyists will be aiming to knock this provision out before it generates much public attention.

The next time you have a client come to you who has been victimized by a universal default clause. Let them know about the Rep. Obey's provision, and let them know that it's going to boil down to a fight between victimized constituents & lobbyists. If your rep. doesn't hear from the constituents, the lobbyists will win.

The press release below is from Congressman Obey's office:


CONTACT: Ellis Brachman

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

(202) 225-3365

Committee approves Obey amendment to protect

consumers from abuse by credit card companies

Measure Prevents Companies From Using Non-Related Negative Credit Reports To Raise Interest Rates

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Seventh District Congressman Dave Obey won approval of an amendment in the Appropriations Committee that will prevent credit card issuers from using any unrelated negative information contained in an individual's "credit report" to raise interest rates, unless that negative information was directly related to the individual's account with that issuer.

"Credit card companies are now claiming the right, even if you have never missed a payment to them or been a day late in payment to them, to jack-up your interest rate and charge you a default rate if you have missed a payment or been late in a payment to a party totally unrelated to that credit card company," said Obey, the senior Democrat on the House
Appropriations Committee. "You can have a perfect payment record with all
of your credit cards, and simply forget to pay your phone bill before going on vacation, or run a little late on your utility bill and all those credit card companies can start charging you outrageous 'penalty' rates."

"They shouldn't be able to profit because you were late one-time with your utility bill or your phone bill," added Obey. "My amendment will stop that practice. It simply says that credit issuers can't use any other information other than their history with you to determine what rate you pay."

The amount of credit card debt juggled by a majority of American households has exploded in the past decade. Much of that debt is caused not by consumers borrowing irresponsibly, but by the harsh - and exorbitantly expensive - tactics of the credit card industry.

Once credit card companies have consumers in their grasp, they set up an intricate trap of terms, fees, and penalties to keep consumers in as much debt as possible. One of the most destructive practices credit card issuers employ is the universal default scheme, in which they impose sky-high APRs for late payments to other creditors or a simple drop in credit score.

If retained in the final version of the 2006 treasury appropriations bill, Obey's amendment will prevent companies from using that universal default scheme, and require credit card issuers to clearly and conspicuously describe to consumers the limited use they may make of credit reports.

The bill, which passed committee today, must still be considered by the full House and Senate before it can be signed into law by the President.

Congressman Dave Obey - Home
Troubling Trends: Lear to close 5 US Plants - Outsource Production, Toyota goes to Canada

Troubling trends in the auto industry continue. Component supplier, Lear Corp. announced plans to close up to five U.S. factories and move the production to cheaper countries.

In separate news, Toyota has indicated that it may open a new assembly plant in Ontario. Once again, the USA misses out because of a disfunctional health-care financing system.

Lear to move 5 plants to cheaper countries - 06/27/05

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Where is the Worst Part of Ethiopia to be a Woman?

First of all, women in Ethiopia really have it rough across the board. The UNICEF report on "Harmful Traditional Practices" linked below really lays out some mindblowing statistics.

For the Country as a Whole:

78% of women are victims of Female Genital Mutilation.

57% of Women are forced in to "early marriage". Marriage is usually consummated when the girl is 12.

72% of women are victims of marriage by abduction.

The numbers above are awful, but some areas of the country are much worse. In Afar, 96% of the women are mutilated, 66% are abducted, but "only" 46% are sentenced to early marriage. Benishangul is the model for consistency with 63% mutilated, 62% married early, and 69% abducted for marriage. In Somali, 100% of women are mutilated, but only 26% are forced to marry "early" and 33% are abducted.

It's a close race, but my vote for the worst area of Ethiopia to be a woman would be the Oromia with 99% mutilated, 49% forced into early marriage, and 80% of the women abducted for marriage.

Worked for 32 years, retired for 47 & counting . . . says that Ernest Pusey is emblematic of why General Motors is flirting with Chapter 11 bankruptcy. From . . .

But now that generosity is coming home to roost. GM's oldest retiree, Ernest Pusey, who lives in Florida, punched his last time card in 1958. He now is 109 years old. He worked for GM for 32 years and has been retired for 47 years. Who ever thought people were going to live this long?

Chapter 11?
The Certegy Gold Program: What is it? Privacy Threat? Extortion? You Make the Call.
I've been forwarded complaints about check approval company Certegy. One consumer was not allowed to write a retailer a check due to a Certegy report. This consumer had not bounced any
checks, but the check was "outside our guidelines." Then the consumer was told how she could get in their guidlines by applying for a "Certegy Gold" membership. Here's the link to the Certegy Gold application.

Certegy Gold App.

Vash The Stampede Says:

October 27th, 2004 at 7:43 pm
We got Netflix for a long time and things were going great. But then we got a hold notice on our account. When we asked Certegy, they said they didn’t have enough information on us and that they were sending us an application for a Certegy Gold bank card that we *had* to fill in in order for our Netflix account to continue. We waited just long enough to get the movies that were already headed our way and send them back, then we cancelled our Netflix account.


It doesn't seem that Certegy Gold is a bank card. It's a way for Certegy, a credit reporting agency specializing in screening checks, to get lots of private data that the company can turn around and sell to its customers.

I'm concerned that Certegy's practice of conditioning approval on the excessive disclosure of private information will spread to thetraditional credit reporting agencies. Certegy is a publicly-traded company, symbol CEY, that is a spin-off from Equifax. Certegy's previous name was Telecredit. As a whole, I haven't seen as many problems with Certegy as Chexsystems. If Chexsystems gets a hold of data like this - look out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

You Mean Lindsay Lohan Actually Eats?

Here's a link to a site with nothing but pictures of celebrities eating. Lindsay's page:

celebrities eating dot com

For those of you who want to make it a cause: A petition urging Lindsay to pack back on those pounds:

If you're looking for a reason not to commit suicide today . . .

. . . The official Tito Jackson website is "coming soon". You wouldn't want to miss it, would you?

Tito Jackson . com
Pick Your Headline:
I Was a Teenaged Pod Slurper
Attack of the Killer Pod Slurpers
Revenge of the Pod Slurpers
Stop Me Before I Slurp Again
Ride the Wild Slurp
No Time for Slurpers

Pod slurping endangers enterprises - Research -

Monday, June 20, 2005

True or False #1: Daimler Chrysler created a bionic car?

Answer: True.

True or False #2: The car is modeled on the boxfish?

Answer: True.

More info is available at

Tom Cruise Loves KB Homes!

National Homebuilder KB Homes builds a lot of houses here in central Indiana. I didn't thinkthe company was any big deal though, UNTIL I saw Tom Cruise on Oprah jumping up & down shouting "I LOVE KB HOMES!" I've seen him on Extra, Entertainment Tonight, you name it, always touting his love for KB Homes. So then I started talking to myself and thinking: 'You know, if Tom thinks KB Homes is so great, it MUST be great.'

Bottom line: Here Tom, I'm doing you a favor, here's a link to KB Homes.

KBHome - KB Homes History and Company Information

On the other hand, not everybody thinks that KB Homes warrants jumping for joy. That's especially true for the people whose homes were built on a bombing range. I guess the three-pound practice bombs were a "free upgrade". Here's a link to
And Now Another word from Our Sponsor, Michelin Tires:

Ralf Shumacher For Michelin Tires

"No tire lets me hit the wall as hard as Michelins."
"Whenever my team wants to skip a race, and all the hard work that goes a long with it, we always choose Michelin."

Michelin, You've got a lot riding on your tires - assuming you actually go Somewhere.

USA: Ralf walks away from huge crash at Turn 13 - Unofficial Toyota F1 News and Views
GM & Honda: Room for a New NUMMI?

The article below from suggests that Honda may soon have an undercapacity problem - exactly the opposite of GM. Does this create the opportunity for a win-win deal? GM has a plant in Doraville Georgia that it doesn't know what to do with. Honda has a new plant, and growing supplier network, in Alabama, not far away. For a couple decades, GM has been in a joint venture operation with Toyota called NUMMI. The Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe are the most visible product of that pairing. NUMMI is a UAW shop. Perhaps GM can cut a similar deal to the GM+Toyota=NUMMI deal with Honda.

It's not an absurd proposition. Honda and GM Have engaged in cooperative deals before. Izuzu is a GM brand. Honda rebadged Izuzu SUVs in the 90s and sold them as Hondas. Honda and GM have worked together to establish XM radio. GM worked out a purchase exchange agreement regarding engines that resulted in the Honda 3.5 liter V-6 being installed as the optional engine on Saturn Vue SUVs. Honda and General Motors are actively trying to move ahead in fuel cell technology, not just for automotive use but for stationary power generation as well. Pooled efforts might result in new markets for each. The turbine technology that Honda has been working on for its business jet might work well in a hybrid layout for commercial busses etc. GM has vast experience with large hybrids.

Politically, GM really can't afford to lose its presence in Georgia. GM is weak in the south overall, NASCAR not withstanding, and shutting down another southern plant while the "transplants" are increasing production in the south would weaken any sympathy that is left with representatives below the Mason-Dixon line. The UAW has a lot of incentive to be VERY flexible when it comes to a restructured contract. Not only does the UAW want to preserve its current jobs, but it would much like to get a foot in the door at Honda.

AutoWeek - The Auto Enthusiast's Online Resource
Today's Sponsor: Michelin Tires -- Michelin, the tire to use when you never really wanted to go anywhere in the first place.

AutoWeek - The Auto Enthusiast's Online Resource:
Volvo Announces new Engine: The Super 6.

I'll take the Soup. (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.)

AutoWeek - The Auto Enthusiast's Online Resource
So how are dealers doing with GM's Employee Discounts for Everybody Program?

With the customers getting the car for 3-4% below invoice, how do dealers make money? GM is paying the dealers 5% of the MSRP. On a $20,000 Malibu, that would be $1000. That's enough to take the car out of the "Fleet sales" department that employee purchasers usually must go through.

GM deal nets sales, but draws criticism - 06/09/05
GM Market Share Increased Thanks to "Employee" Discounts.

GM retail market share inched above 30% for the month just reported thanks to the "GM Employee Discount for Everyone" plan. We'll see when the General posts its next quarter results whether the discount plan helped or hurt the bottom line. Given the imperative of clearing 2005 models, it was the right thing to do.

The Car Connection - GM Discounts Boost Market Share - J.D. Power says, after two weeks, employee discounts are pushing sales up.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

One of my Relatives (?) makes good: the Jan Hofer Riverboat Talkshow

The title's in English, but the text is in German. I have no idea what they're saying. "I would like to massage your grandmother?" "My hovercraft is full of eels?" Who knows?

Jan Hofer

Friday, June 17, 2005

Will the New Dodge Aspen match the Old Dodge Aspen?

Daimler Chrysler announced that it's new SUV will be named the Dodge Aspen. Do they really want customers to remember the car that was the most recalled (and I don't mean remembered) vehicle of all times?

I remember driving an Aspen as a teenager in the late 1970s. It scared the bejezes 9ut of me. It seemed like half the parts were left off, and those that were attached weren't attached well.

From the article linked below:

By 1978 fenders on many '76 models began showing rust, hoods began flying up and even the "indestructible" Slant Six and 318 V8 seemed to have caught a virus from body and began faltering and stalling. In all, the '76 Volarés and Aspens were subject to five mandated recalls on suspension, ignition and fuel systems, brakes, steering and the body. Chrysler instituted a voluntary recall on all front fenders and adjacent sheet metal which cost them $109 million they could ill afford. The problem was in quality control--poor fit of fenders on the assembly line--rather than design.

The Motor Trend Car of the Year award winners "won" another, the Lemon of the Year from the Center for Auto Safety, founded by Ralph Nader. The Volaré/Aspen twins became the most recalled vehicles in history...for a couple of years, that is, until General Motor' X-cars took the "honor" from them. Due to its size, GM was much better able to take the hit than Chrysler which almost went under until finally getting its true savior car, the K-car Reliant and Aries.

1976 Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen - Introduction and Reviews

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The History of Goalie Masks

I was talking to some guys, and one of them said that hockey goalie face masks didn't become common until the 1960s. No way, I said. A quick Google search - then - well, I'll be darned.

A guy named Clint Benedict experimented with a homemade mask in 1930,but quickly gave it up. Nothing new until a guy named Plante came along in 1959.

Benedict' experiment was not recorded as the first goalie mask in history. That moment came nearly thirty years later on November 1, 1959 after New York Ranger Andy Bathgate hit Montreal Canadien goalie Jacques Plante with a shot off the face. Plante would leave the game to get stitched up and later return wearing a mask he had made himself for practices. Plante won the game. This was the birth of the goalie mask. Plante was ridiculed for wearing this mask. Goaltenders were considered cowards to even think of wearing one, but Plante would often say "If you jump from an airplane without a parachute, is that considered an act of bravery?" In the time between Clint Benedict's experiment and Jacques Plante first putting on his mask, Benedict would encounter a mask that actually worked, worn by an unheralded young Canadian.

When Bendict's playing career was over, he turned to coaching and managing a team from the British Ice Hockey League named the Wembley Lions around 1934. There he encountered a young goalie from Winnipeg named Roy Mosgrove. Mosgrove had to wear glasses all the time. And so, in Winnipeg and then in England, Mosgrove donned a wire cage worn by baseball catchers. And it worked again thirty years later when a young goalie named Tony Esposito in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, could not play goal without glasses and borrowed the same piece of equipment from the sandlot. It would take decades for the players and the tinkerers to see the wisdom of Roy Mosgrove, and incorporate the wire cage with the fibreglass mask of Jacques Plante.

Are you telling me that it took until 1959 for some genius goalie to try a baseball catcher's mask? For crying out loud! I guess that's whey there aren't many goalies on the Nobel prize winners' list.

The idea was dropped until 1959History of Goalie Masks
Senator Evan Bayh is a Health Insurance Millionaire

United States Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat from Indiana, publicly released his asset information. He and his wife own more than $1 million in stock in Anthem Corporation. Ages ago, in the 1990s, Anthem was Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana, a not for profit corporation. BC-BS Indiana changed its status to a for profit corporation, went on an acquisition spree and made its executives and shareholders a whole lot of money. At the same time, Anthem has been opposed to measures that would extend coverage and affordability to the uninsured.

I consider Sen. Bayh's assets noteworthy because he is expected to announce a candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008. Healthcare is expected to be a key issue. You can expect candidate Bayh to make lofty speeches about changing our healthcare system, but the fact is, he's invested in the status quo. You can expect him to fight single payer coverage and anything else that will hurt the Anthem profit machine. In the end, you can expect him to side more with Republicans than Democrats, just like he did on the BARF bankruptcy reform bill and the war in Iraq.

Hoosiers among 46 millionaires

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Dear George W., Walter Cronkite is pissed and he's coming for you:

Walter Cronkite is joining the march on Washington to stop global warming. Oh bummer, it's a VIRTUAL march.

The Huffington Post Front Page
Ford to sell Hertz?

Ford moves to jettison Hertz rental car agency - 06/14/05
GM Health Insurance Cuts Imminent?

Apparently the collective bargaining agreement between the UAW and GM gives GM some authority to cut, but either GM wants more OR the boundaries of the authority are ambiguous.

How do the rank & file members feel about this? From the Detroit News article linked below:

Some UAW members said they don't support any reduction of health care coverage. "Don't touch it," said Robert Johnson, a member of UAW Local 652 who works at GM's Lansing Grand River Cadillac plant. "I don't want to compromise on anything."

Johnson, a GM employee for 27 years, said he'd rather see a program like legal services cut. But Bill Price, who has been placed in GM's "jobs bank" now that his production job has been cut, said he'd "be willing to pay $20 for an office visit. What's good for GM is good for us."

Here are some more tidbits:

GM wants to close the gap in health coverage between its 111,000 U.S. hourly workers and 39,000 salaried workers. Hourly employees pay 7 percent of their annual health care costs, on average, while salaried workers kick in 27 percent.

By instituting health care parity among all employees, GM "could save $2,500 per person and $300 million (per year) overall," Rod Lache, an analyst who follows the auto industry for Deutsche Bank, said in a report released Monday. "Unfortunately this equates to less than one year's health care inflation."

Union leaders are urging that health care benefits for retirees should not be touched, although the potential savings could be significant. About 1.2 million people, including 340,000 UAW retirees, are covered by GM health care coverage. Almost half of the automaker's active hourly work force will be eligible to retire within the next five years.

Half of the hourly work force can retire within 5 years? How can GM ever shrink itself to profitability with those numbers?

Note the 20% increase in health care costs shifted to the workers gains $300 million to GM's bottom line. Here's the problem: That's only a tenth of the savings they need. Where are they going to get the other 90%?

In our parochial interest: I don't think legal service benefits are in any immediate jeopardy. We are relatively cheap, no more than $.07 per hour. Moreover, some of that is recovered in productivity when whe deal with things the employee would otherwise have to deal with. Nevertheless, at the next contract renegotiation, all bets are off.

UAW: GM health cutbacks imminent - 06/14/05
Drunk Driver 1 : Batman 0

The Detroit News reports that a drunk driver crashed into a batmobile, wrecking it, before it could be used for this summer's Batman Begins. Superhero huh?

Batman returns in a rugged ride - 06/13/05

Monday, June 13, 2005

Apple vs. GM two Case Studies in Planning for Change

The more I read about the turnaround plan announced by GM CEO Rick Wagoner last week, the less impressed I become. GM is famous for its corporate doublespeak, and when you sift through the announced "changes", there's not much new, and what is new is not nearly enough to get the job done.

To start with, let's talk about the 25,000 announced job cuts. These cuts are to be mostly accomplished through attrition and retirement over 3 1/2 years. At the current rate of loss, and increase in rate of loss, GM won't be here in its current form in 3 1/2 years. Did GM announce any radical new products? Nope. Any new lines of business or any new revenue sources? Nope. Any plan for increased government assistance? Nope. Any great changes in the healthcare situation? Nope.

Now, contrast Wagoner's appearance with Apple Computer honcho Steve Job's announcement last week that Apple was going to shift microprocessors from IBM to Intel. Steve J. did the job right. First, he showed that Apple had been preparing for contingencies for five years and had secretly kept up an intel operating system during that whole time. Secondly, he showed that the company has already ported its most popular software to the new processor. Thirdly, he trotted out a number of key suppliers who said that they were behind the move and that they easily made the transition. In other words, Apple showed that it anticipated the need for change, made contingency plans, implemented the plan with a demonstration of the new software, and showed that other stakeholders would both be behind the switch and be supported during the switch.

Have you ever been playing chess, and at some point in the middle of game, you know that even though you still have more than half your pieces, there's no way that you can win? You look ahead, and you see half a dozen ways the other player can beat you, and you can't do a damn thing about it. That's where General Motors is now.

The game isn't over, but the end game is but a formality. To change this outcome will take an external force. There are five external forces that might be relevant. (1) Kerkorian. If he took over, you could expect him to piece out GM. At least part of the company would survive in this alternative. Ironically, some of the better GM auto components may end up owned by Honda or Toyota. (2) The UAW. The UAW would have to agree to massive give backs to get GM solvent. Wage & benefit givebacks of 20% will likely not be good enough. Would you give back 20% of your wages to a company that just paid Fiat $2 billion for the privilege of not buying it? (3) The Government. The government would have to come through with some sort of subsidy or some sort of health care plan that gets GM out of its mess. Based on the Bush Administration's response to the airline crisis, I foresee any such help on the horizon. This is true even though the Bush administration owes GM big time. After President Bush's heavy handed, the-sky-is-falling, response to 9/11, public confidence and the U.S. economy threatened to tank. GM, probably smarter then than it is now, realized that it couldn't prosper in a downturn with production-cutbacks, and threw unpresidented incentives at the market. The market responded with enhanced consumption. The increased consumer spending in the auto market helped minimize the recessive effect of 9/11.

I saved the most probable outside force for last. Number 5 is bankruptcy. In bankruptcy court GM can shed its union contracts, perhaps even its pension obligations and can emerge as a vastly different company. In bankruptcy court, GM's creditors would rule. GM shareholders would hold the short end of the stick, and America's greatest industrial corporation could have a net worth of zero. What does that say about the strength of the U.S. economy? Bankruptcy of GM is not a happy thought, but it could be just 2-3 years away.

Almost 30 years ago Chrysler Corporation was hurting. Lee Iacocca flat out laid his cards on the table with this pitch: Chrysler needs help. We need people to buy our cars now. We'll make Omni & Horizon America models with airbags & airconditioning, all for a low price. We'll throw in leather on the Cordoba, just buy our cars. We need the government to guarantee our loans. It's not pure capitalism, but it saves jobs and saves communities. FINALLY, we have a new products coming around the bend. We'll have K-cars, and we'll have something called a minivan. All of these things Iacocca said. His plan included new products and outside help. The loans bought the company time. The new cars came, and Chrysler paid its loans ahead of schedule. GM is yet to formally admit that it needs outside help. GM has yet to convince the world that it has products in the pipeline that can make the losses go away. I know I'm not convinced.

Can cuts lift GM? - 06/08/05: "updated 12/19/2002). "
GM's 2006 New Product Line-up

From this article, I can't say any models that will significantly increase GM's market share. The Pontiac Sky & Saturn Solstice 2-seat sportscars seem interesting, but that's a small segment of the market at best.

The Car Connection - Future Cars: General Motors
Don't look now, Tennessee, but India is Mocking you

Here's a link to a news report at about a big bust in Cocke County, Tennessee for, what else, cockfighting. Tennessee troopers shut down the Del Rio cockfighting pit, seizing about $40,000 and more than 300 roosters. The cockfighting venue seated 400.

Thank goodness for the "new south".

Cockfighting Bust in Tennessee Riles Hillside Locals
GM to Reduce List Prices on 2006 Models to Reduce Incentives.

AutoWeek - The Auto Enthusiast's Online Resource

Friday, June 10, 2005

Michael Jackson Suicide Hoax - is Front End for Trojan Horse

Don't click on an e-mail about a Michael Jackson suicide attempt. It is a hoax.

Jackson Suicide Topic Fuels Malicious E mail

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Lawyer Escrow theft Rampant in New York

Johnny Carson had a joke: "It was so cold in Burbank today . . . [How cold was it?] I saw a lawyer with his hands in his OWN pockets.

Here's a New York Times article (free registration required) about a real estate lawyer who allegedly stole $3.6 million from client's escrow accounts. Amazingly the routine practice for closings is to require a 10% down payment that lawyers put in their escrow accounts. I don't see any good purpose for this practice, and I doubt if it is very common elsewhere.

The New York Times > Real Estate > When Lawyers Steal the Escrow

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What do Paris Hilton, Methamphetamines and Lexis-Nexis have in common?

Read the story linked below.

Security Watch: Of ID theft, Paris Hilton, and methamphetamines - CNET reviews
Detroit News on GM Job Cuts: at least 6 plants to close - 20% of workforce to be laid off.

The Detroit News has comprehensive coverage of GM CEO Rick Wagoner's announcement of massive restructuring at GM. At least 6 plants will close, and 25% of the workforce is to be laid off over 3 years.

I find most interesting what wasn't said - how they're going to cut their healthcare costs - up to $5.4 Billion this year. All of the cuts that were announced will save about $2.5 Billion. At the current rate of increase for healthcare costs, that savings will be countered by increased healthcare costs in about 4-5 years.

Traditionally, when GM closes plants, it pays off workers, and many of them take early retirement. The high level of retirees supported by a smaller (in historical terms) workforce, is a big part of GM's problems. I don't see how GM is going to shrink its way out of its financial mess -- UNLESS -- it wipes away history through bankruptcy court.

At least 6 plants expected to close - 06/08/05

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Hindustan Ambassador

Now that you can't buy an original Beetle in Mexico, what's the junkiest old car that you can buy new? Perhaps it's the Hindustan Ambassador. This car will rock your world with its 36 horsepower engine. You have to go to India to get it.

Where In The World Does GM Have Plants?

Here's an interactive map.

GM - GMability Environment: Our Plants: Plant List: World Map
GM to cut 25,000 Jobs - Close Plants - By 2008

CEO Rick Wagoner told shareholders at the annual meeting that the job cuts would generate annual savings of $2.5 Billion. My questions:

1) Is that enough? The loss in the first quarter was $1.1 Billion, by my calculation, they're still $1.9 Billion short.

2) How much capital will they have to shell out to buy out these workers? Where's the money going to come from?

3) Could ABC News have picked a worse picture of Mr. Wagoner?

ABC News: GM Plans to Cut 25,000 U.S. Jobs by 2008

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dress Steve Jobs

As I write this, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs is delivering his keynote address at the World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC). It was apparently just confirmed that Apple will be shifting to Intel microprocessors, starting next year.

Okay, but that's no fun. Here's something fun: Dress Steve Jobs, a Flash game.

? The Joy of Tech! ?
You know you are ugly when . . .

You pay for the privilege of working as a nude model, they take your money, and they still don't want you. That's what "Juan" alleges in his complaint posted at

Rip Off Report:Promotional Video Promotions - Aivis Svirskis - Marck Macheras Charged me $250 for work in Nude Modeling then I never heard anything back from them Amsterdam The Netherlands
Preview - 2006 Buick Lucerne from has an excellent preview of the 2006 Buick Lucerne, the replacement for the best-selling Buick LeSabre. Based on this preview, it looks like Buick will hold onto its most loyal customers. Whether it can win new (and younger) customers may depend upon pricing and intangibles.

2006 Buick Lucerne: Autoblog First Look - Autoblog - _
Is there an Aromatic Membrane in your future? Fuel Cell Car Update 2005 - Hond FCX

This year's Honda fuel cell vehicle, the FCX, drives like an ordinary car according to Jim Motavalli of the New York Times. While range remains limited, at about 190 miles, this year's fuel cells are half the size of the previous models and produce twice the power. The subcompact FCX weighs 3700 lbs, goes 0-60 in about 11 seconds (slow but not extrodinarily slow), and costs over a million dollars.

Honda's #1 bragging point: an aromatic electrolyte membrane allows the FCX to operate at temperatures down to four degrees below zero. Cold weather performance has always been a problem for fuel cells. That's why I never understood why they are used in NASA spacecraft, since the temperature in space is close to absolute zero.

Honda FCX: What a Gas! A Week in Suburbia With a Hydrogen Honda - New York Times
Fireworks at the GM Annual Shareholder Meeting?

GM CEO Richard Wagoner is expected to announce a turnaround plan. Since changing anything at GM is like pulling teeth, the Wagoner plan is expected to involve fairies and massive amounts of enamel & dentin stashed under pillows all across the GM universe.

In March, Wagoner announced that GM lost $1.1 Billion in the first quarter. Coincidentally, $1.1 Billion is how much Hyundai spent to build its Alabama plant. Hyundai's plant will ultimately have the capacity to build 300,000 cars and light trucks. Coincidentally, 300,000 is about the total annual sales volume of GM's Buick division, or thought of another way, GM's smallest three divisions (Saab, Hummer & Saturn) put together.

The Car Connection - GM Braces for Shareholder Gripes - This time, it?s Wagoner?s big shot.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Three Seat Crossover Comparison

This month marks the formal release of the Subaru B9 Tribeca, a crossover SUV with three rows of seats. I put together an comparison of similar vehicles. What stands out is the tremendous price advantage held by the Ford Freestyle, about $6,000 in this set-up. The Ford has a lower horsepower engine, but according to multiple sources, it is anything but slow thanks to an innovative CVT transmission. With 0-60 coming in at under 9 seconds even with AWD, the Freestyle can get out of its own way. When the Freestyle was first introduced, I called it the "style fee" due to generic SUV styling. In all fairness, the styling is neither better nor worse than average for this class of vehicle.

Comparator - Print
True or False: It costs more to own a Honda Civic than it does a Dodge Ram 2500.

Answer: False, but it's closer than one might think -- at least for the first year. Even though the fuel cost for 15,000 miles for the Honda is only $653, the depreciation on the Civic is $5,252 for the first year, compared to $2,891 on the Dodge Ram. Thanks to higher financing, taxes, insurance, taxes and maintenance, the Dodge truck costs $10,339 for the first year compared to $9,403 for the Civic. Over the long term, the Civic is much cheaper. The 5 year cost on the Civic is $28,116 versus $43,707 for the Dodge. The difference: $15,591. It could be worse though, remember from my previous post, over 5 years, GMC pick-up cost about $10,000 more than the Dodge.

What about SUVs? A Nissan Armada is rated at $53,195 over 5 years, with a whopping $17,661 coming out of your pocket in the first year.

It's clear then that your choice in vehicle can easily make a $5,000 a year difference in your net worth over time. That difference can either be ameliorated or exaggerated based upon your choice of new versus used and based on how long you choose to keep your vehicles. If you are finding it impossible to save money, I recommend that you run the numbers an plan your car purchases far in advance. Also, these figures assume a 15,000 miles driven per year. You should budget the per mile costs of your actual vehicles when you are determining where to live. You may find that it is more economical to buy a more expensive house that is closer to work.

2005 Honda Civic True Cost to Own ratings at Edmunds
How much does it cost to tow your bass boat?

Here's an "True Cost to Own" printout on a Ford F150 4wd.

2005 Ford F-150 True Cost to Own ratings at Edmunds

Over 5 years, this vehicle will cost $46,124 or $.61 per mile. Like most vehicles, a higher percentage of the cost to own is depreciation than fuel. Depreciation is $5659 in year one but goes down to $2303 in year 5. With fuel costs of about $2000 for 15,000 miles, it's easy to see how drivers of full-sized trucks don't sweat fuel prices much. It's the price of the truck itself that predominates.

Incidently, Edmund calculates the TCO for the Toyota Tundra at $45,165 based on slightly lower depreciation and operating costs. On the other hand, the 2005 GMC Sierra 1500HD is rated at a True Cost to Own of $53,375. So, if you can believe these figures, you can buy yourself a $7000 vacation in Hawaii (or a used bass boat) every 5 years just by choosing a Ford over a GMC. And if you really wanted to save money, you could get a 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup 2500. This is an even bigger truck than those described above, and instead of sucking down $2000 in gas a year, it slurps $2700 to $3000. Even with the extra gas money, the True Cost to Own the Dodge over 5 years is only $43,707. What's the difference? Depreciation. First year depreciation is only $2,891. Fifth year depreciation is only $1859.

From a public policy standpoint, we will not achieve meaningful fuel savings until the cost of fuel relative to the total cost of ownership goes up substantially.
Overcapacity in China - Part One
Chinese domestic auto sales went down 4% this year. That country already has more capacity than domestic demand. Even with that, foreign automakers are investing $12 Billion to triple capacity there before the end of the decade.

(Not in this press release) Honda announced that it was going to import Chinese-made Fit minicars into Europe.

Research and Markets: China's Auto Market Faces Increasing Oversupply in the Next Two Years
Rosie O'Donnell's Most Shocking Confession: I Bought A Pontiac Aztek

formerlyROSIE: 6 months after leaving

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Strike 2 for General Motors Marketing -

General Motors has a gimmicky marketing website Unfortunately, it has a fixed browser window size without a scrollbar, and all of the feature's aren't accessible at 800x600 through MSIE 6.0. So, I'll pass.

That's marketing money wasted. Speaking of wasted marketing money. Earlier this spring, I got a certificate to test drive a Buick and receive a gift certificate. I went to the local Buick dealer to test drive a car, I waited over an hour, but they had no dealer plates left, so I left without test driving the car. They did validate my certificate, but it's been two months, and I haven't received anything.

The Buick LaCrosse might be a good car. I wouldn't know, I didn't get a chance to drive one. Hare Buick Pontiac GMC didn't think it was a good idea to have as many dealer plates as it has salespeople.

GM has to learn that you can't have cars 90% as good as the competition. You can't have dealers 90% as good as the competition either.

Proving Grounds
When you think Child Pornography - Think Yahoo!

I'm trying out for a marketing gig for Yahoo! The article linked below discusses an investigatory journalism article that blows the lid off of Yahoo!'s Child Pornography chatrooms. Yahoo hosts sites geared to adults trying to pick up kids. Pepsi, Countrywide Mortgage, and other major firms advertised on the site. - Technology - Investigation Shows Big Business Funding Sex Chat Rooms
GM Extends Employee Discount to Everybody

From June 1 to July 5. - Automotive - General Motors Offers Employee Discounts To All Buyers
Fight Bush - Buy your gas at Citgo?

The progressive website has a campaign "Buy your gas at Citgo: Join the BUY-cott!" What's that all about? The argument is that our foreign policy has been geared more to the interests of big oil companies and less to the needs of people. The main beneficiaries have been the ruling parties of Saudi Arabia & the like.

Now here's what I didn't know: Citgo is 100% owned by the Venezuelan government. According to, by buying at Citgo, you keep your petroleum dollars here in the western hemisphere at least.

Buy Your Gas at Citgo: Join the BUY-cott!

I googled to check if what they said was true, that Venezuela owned Citgo. Yep, it checks out, BUT according to, Venezuela is planning on selling its US refining operations within two years. (


The interconnections between bankruptcy law and divorce law have always made my head spin. Financial problems are a big cause of divorce, and divorce is a big cause of financial problems.

I was reading about the new law (which has become known as BARF for Bankruptcy Abuse Reform Fiasco) issue of NCLC Reports. as you know, most of our UAW members make over the average income for their families. If so, to determine what if anything you have to pay to creditors, you need to go through a complex means test.

In Truckland, how many of our clients have vehicles with ownership costs (that's not just payments, that's total ownership costs) below $475 for the first car and $338 for the second? That's it, that's the allowed transportation expense.

Now, here's the biggie that I think could lead to a small but significant number of bankruptcy planned divorces: Education expenses.

IV) In addition, the debtorÂ?s monthly expenses may
include the actual expenses for each dependent child less
than 18 years of age, not to exceed $1,500 per year per
child, to attend a private or public elementary or sec-
ondary school if the debtor provides documentation of such
expenses and a detailed explanation of why such expenses
are reasonable and necessary, and why such expenses are
not already accounted for in the National Standards,
Local Standards, or Other Necessary Expenses . . .

(Section 707(b)(2)(A)(ii)(IV))

How many private schools have tuition etc. of less than $1,500? Note, also this is elementary or secondary school only and IF the child is UNDER 18. If you have an 18 year old high school seniro, sorry Charlie. Pay money towards Junior's college expenses? Not when Citibank has its hand out.

On the other hand, court ordered child support and alimony claims are deducted as priority claims, so if you are ORDERED to pay 1/3 or 1/2 of Junior's college, you get to deduct it. sectionn 707(b)(2)(A)(IV).

Now, let's look at the spouse's income: Income of a non-filing spouse is considered in determining whether you are over the local mean and for the amount you need to pay for your debts. You can exclude the income of the spouse if you are legally separated, you live apart, and if you verify that you haven't separated just for the purposes of disassociating your income.

If you are divorced - what the ex-spouse does with his/her income is her business.

The bottom line: the "family-friendly" law that the God-fearing,heterosexuall Republicans rammed through gives couples lots of reasons to split up, and not much reason to keep a marriage together.