Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Digital Research Speaker Scam

There are reports from all over the country (including here in Indianapolis) of hucksters who are selling speakers and surround-sound systems out of the back of a van or SUV. The pitch is that the speakers are have a MSRP of $3000, but the sellers need to get rid of them for $300.

Strangely, the consensus at the forum at is that the speakers are worth about what people pay for them. Based on the standard of fraud used in Indiana, you're going to get skunked in damages if you try to take this case to court.

Digital Research Speaker Scam

Below is a post from with details on the scam which they identify as "The White Van Scam."

International White Van Speaker Scams
Surprised that I received the initial letters within days from different parts of the country led me to investigate this situation which I had never before heard of ( yes, I am fallible ).

Much to my surprise this turns out to be a scam of international proportions ( Canada, U.S., Australia, U.K., Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Switzerland ). There are even web sites specifically devoted to exposing it.

Essentially it involves selling cheaply made, but impressive looking, home stereo speakers under the names:

Acoustic Response Series 707, Acoustic Image, Acoustic Lab Technology, Acoustic 3312 Studio Monitor
Dogg Digital, Digital Dogg Audio
Dahlton KV 1500, Dahlton KV 2500 TI Speakers, Dahlton AV5.1 THX
Digital Pro Audio, Pro Audio, Digital Pro Audio SL-T 2.8,
Digital Audio SL-3810, Digital Audio DA 2000SL / 2000CS, Digital Audio 2000, Digital Audio Professional Speaker Systems SL-3810, Digital Audio Skyline 900-SL, Digital Audio SL-3910 Speakers, Skyline AD-900SL, Digital Audio 2003 DA 5.1 Pro-Series III
Digital Research 5.1 Pro Series, Digital Research DA 5.1 Pro Series III
Audiofile 835LR, Audiofile 583LR
Epiphany Audio speakers
Theater Research TR-1120, Theater Research TR-6000, Theater Research TR-1410 Digital Sound Speakers, Theater Research TR-900 Speakers, TR-5210 Professional Home Theater, Theater Research TR-2810, TR900, TR-6100 Digital Sound/5.1 Home Cinema, Theater Research Pro Series III Professional Home Theater TR5160
8810 Linear phase studio monitors
Cerwin-Vega AVS-632 Surround Sound, Cerwin Vega AVS 632 Speakers
Protecsound PT-5000 digital surround sound system speakers

using a variety of ruses out of the back of vans and SUV's. Most shocking is that it appears to be some kind of franchise operation for cons with impressive brochures, van decals, and a bogus website to delude you into believing you have gotten quite a deal.

In addition to the info below I direct your attention to ScamShield White Van Speaker Scam, White Van Scam Forum
The Next Big Mortgage Fraud Settlement?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting that Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch is on the verge of announcing a settlement with Ameriquest regarding a number of challenged practices regarding subprime mortgages. The Minnesota settlement will likely be the pattern used to settle claims by other states' attorneys general.

The allegations include counts that Ameriquest routinely falsified mortgage applications by falsifying income, work history, etc.

Hatch investigating Ameriquest

Monday, July 25, 2005

Spinning the Pontiac G6

This article from the San Antonio Express-News tells the Pontiac side of the story on whether the G6 is a success or a disappontment.

According to Pontiac, the G6 is outselling last year's comparable Grand Am models by 75%. (The Grandam was available in 2 and 4 door models, V6 and 4-cylinder versions, whereas the G6 (until a couple weeks ago) was only available in a 4-door V6 model. Business
The Pontiac Cobalt-ish thingee has a picture of the rebadged Cobalt in full Pontiac trim. As far as I know, this model hasn't been named yet, and I'm not sure if it has received full approval for sale.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Is your "Anti-spyware" really "Scumware"?

We've all seen websites where there is an ad, or a pop-up that says "Your system is infected with spyware, get rid of it -- Click here." In many (most? all?) cases the software that you are directed to is not real anti-spyware software. In some cases, the stuff you are directed to may be worse than what you were trying to avoid.

The site tries to sort out the bad guys from the good guys.

Spyware Warrior: Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products & Web Sites
Why Costco is Better than Walmart.

Walmart leads the "race to the bottom" with low wages, low benefits, and low standards for off-shore suppliers. There's an alternative: Costco.

According to the New York Times article linked below (free registration required), Costco pays their workers $17.00 per hour on average, 45% more than Walmart. As to health insurance, over 85% of Costco employees have it, while less than 50% of Walmart employees are insured. Not only that, but Costco is not a union buster. The Teamsters union represents a significant portion of the Costco workers.

How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart - New York Times

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Evan Bayh's Grassroots Support

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh wants to be president. The grass roots support is really starting to build (ala Howard Dean). His Indianapolis meetup group on has - 2 members. At least they can play ping-pong waiting for the third one to show up.

Indianapolis Evan Bayh/All America Committee Meetup Group -

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


The Fair Credit Billing Act requires credit card issuers to furnish an address to which consumers can direct their billing disputes. Traditionally, phone companies have considered themselves exempt from the Fair Credit Billing Act Requirements. That being said, SBC agreed in settlement to provide a billing dispute address, at least to California customers in a lawsuit brought by UCAN. Do you think they would take the simple yet fair step in furnishing ALL customers a billing dispute address? Nah. Do you think the federal or state regulatory authorities would make them do it? Nope.

Q&A for UCAN Complaint
GM Posts $286 Million Quarterly Loss:
GM Posted a $286 Million quarterly loss in the second quarter, compared to making $1.4 Billion in profit in last year's second quarter. The second quarter was the first period to include results fromthe "Employee Discounts for Everyone" promotion. Auto sales revenues were down about half a percent compared to last year. Still, compared to the $1.1 Billion first quarter loss, the $286 Million loss doesn't seem too bad.

In separate news, Ford posted a modest profit, but its North American automotive operations posted a loss. Just like at GM, it's the financial services arm that keeps the black ink flowing.

G.M. Posts Third Straight Quarterly Loss - New York Times
Pontiac News
- Solstice to Arrive before the Equinox
- Pontiac manages sales decline while other GM Divisions prosper

As reported at, Pontiac announced that deliveries of its 2-seat roadster, the Solstice, will start in August, somewhat earlier than expected. Pontiac said that pre-orders exceed 9,000, and are higher than the number of Mazda Miatas sold last year. Pontiac hopes to sell about 20,000 of the well-reviewed roadster. Between the Solstice, a revamped Miatta, and the upcoming Saturn Sky, competition will be tough in the two-seat roadster niche.

From the same source, Pontiac reported that its sales were down in the second quarter, even though other GM divisions reported double digit sales gains. The G6 was not enough to overcome diminishing volumes in its older model lines. The 2006 Model year looks like it will be a mixed blessing for Pontiac. On the one hand, it will finally get its two-door and 4-cylinder G6 models, the new G6 models will finally replace Pontiac's volume leader, the Grand-am. Also, Pontiac will lose its flagship, the Bonneville as well as that famous crossover "with a good personality", the Aztek. Pontiac already lost its compact Sunfire. Even though General Motors said that it would reduce "badge-engineered" models that dilute its resources, it has been reported that pressure from retailers will likely result in a Pontiac variant of the Chevrolet Cobalt.

The Car Connection - Daily Edition: July. 20, 2005 - Solstice set for August, Ford NA pulls down Q2 earnings.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Factoid of the day: How to be a millionaire

If instead of smoking 2 packs per day for 50 years, you could have had an estimated $1,000,000 if you invested it in a major tobacco company (cost of smoking calculator on the webpage linked below).

Cost $$$$
The Not-So-Wonderful Thing About Tigger's Voice

Actor Paul Winchell, who supplied the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh's "Tigger" died recently. I was referred to a blog by Paul's daughter, April Winchell. She has few nice things to say about her father. (April Winchell is an accomplished voice actor in her own right. Among other notable voices, she was the voice of Miss Finster in Disney's "Recess".)

April Winchell: June, 2005

Monday, July 18, 2005

Car Comparison: Mercedes R-Class, Chrysler Pacifica, Cadillac SRX

German carmakers often use the summer slow period for new model introductions. This summer has been no exception. The Audi A3 was just introduced, and Mercedes is showing off its new R Class. Even though it has three rows of seats, don't call it a minivan. After all, it has doors that swing out. It's a tall wagon, very much like the Chrysler Pacifica, which was introduced a couple years ago. It's not too far off the Cadillac SRX, but the Caddy is a little shorter and overall more lithe an athletic.

I generated a comparison chart between these three vehicles at As you can see, the Pacifica and R-class are within a per cent or two in virtually every dimension. This chart includes data from the 8-cylinder, 302 HP Mercedes. The data are even closer when you figure the 3.5 liter 268 horsepower Mercedes versus the 250 Horsepower 3.5 liter Chrysler. Although Chrysler and Mercedes are divisions of the same company now, and these cars are within just a few inches of each other in every dimension, they come from totally different platforms. The Mercedes derives from the M-Class SUV, and the Pacifica comes from the Chrysler minivan platform. Still, convergent evolution is readily apparent. The biggest difference is price. The Mercedes comes in at $55,500, and the Chrysler lists at $36,315. Chrysler is dealing on the Pacifica, so you can probably get a well-equipped model at around $28,000; and that's not far off 50% the Mercedes cost.

Auto Reviews, New Cars, Used Cars & Car Prices: New Car Test Drive

Friday, July 15, 2005

USA Today's less-than-enthralled review of the 2006 Hyundai Sonata
Early reviews of the new Hyundai Sonata were filled with lavish praise. This USA Today auto review, written by James Healey, takes Hyundai to task for a less than perfect ride, some cheap interior components, and a strange engine surge when turning. His overall conclusion:

"Overall: Not the overall equal of Camry or Accord, but well-equipped and worth a long look."

It looks like the Sonata will be going head-to-head with the Ford Fusion as the only brand-new mainstream sedans of the up-coming year. Ford has indicated a willingness to price competitively with the Hyundai. It will be interesting to see how this dual plays out. - Sonata looks like a sleek bargain

Thursday, July 14, 2005

If Ford Sells Hertz, Will Hertz still Buy Fords?

Yep, at least through 2010. All it took was for Ford to agree to pay 1/2 of Hertz's advertising expense.

Ford, Hertz agree to extend deal - 07/14/05 - a cool racing history site

I've just scratched the surface of this one so far. IT has a really need "where are they now" section for Indy 500 drivers. | F5000
Bush Declines to Comment on Rove

Apparently Rove hasn't told him what to say. - Bush declines to comment on Rove - Jul 13, 2005

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Live8 on AOL

Here's the link.

AOL Music: LIVE 8 Concerts -- Watch the event now, only on
The AMD Antitrust Complaint against Intel

The link below is to the .pdf of the complaint filed by AMD against Intel over monopolistic practices in the microprocessoer market. This should be interesting to attorneys (even those who don't deal in antitrust cases) because of the unusual style used in framing the claims. The complaint reads more like a business magazine article than a typical complaint. Quite frankly, the complaint is very persuasive, and if even 20% of the allegations are true, Intel will be writing out a very large check to AMD.

What Might have Been - Old Concept Cars

It's surprisingly hard finding good information about old Concept Cars on the Web. If came out before about 1996 - fagetaboutit. Here's a link to a message board at with quite a few interesting concept car pictures posted. If you are a car nut, it will keep you busy for a while. Forums -> Old Auto Show Concepts

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ford Prices Fusion below Hyundai Sonata

Ford has tentatively set the base price of its new mainstream Fusion sedan at $17,995, surprisingly, about $500 lower than the Hyundai Sonata.

According to the article linked below from, Ford's pricing decision was partially based on consumer surveys taken on the web. Ford wants to avoid a pricing disaster such as that suffered by Chyrsler when Chrysler loaded its early Pacificas with pricey options, and priced itself right out of the market.

It remains to be seen whether Ford will match the Hyundai on standard equipment, especially safety equipment. The Sonata comes with side and door airbags, traction control and stability control standard. These items are traditionally options on cars below mid-market.

The Car Connection - ?Net Gives Ford Fusion Pricing Clues - A bit of con-fusion on the Fusion Web site.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Bad Company of the Week: New Credit Financial Alternatives

Somebody called me because he got messed up with these guys. There's a lot that I don't know as of yet regarding their enterprise, but it seems to have to do with a special purpose credit card that can only be used for catalogs. Different people tell different stories about how the deal was proposed to them. The key point in remedying the problem seems to be first taking advantage of all rights under the FTC Telemarketing Rule, and secondly, following up with state authorities and the FTC regarding any deceptive practice that you might identify.

Below is a link to complaints about New Credit Financial Alternatives at

Rip-off -

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Iacocca to be new Chrysler Pitchman - Vikings will win the Superbowl

Chrysler Announced that Lee Iacocca will be back to pitch its new discount plan on television. Relations between Chrysler and its former chairman had gotten so bad that it seemed that hell would freeze over before he'd be back with the company. Since it's so chilly down under now, the Minnesota Vikings are a cinch to win the Superbowl. (Thanks Sven & Ollie.)

The Car Connection - Iacocca Back in Chrysler Commercials - All is forgiven for company?s long-time CEO and chief salesman.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Ford and Chrysler to Join GM's Employee Pricing Bandwagon

GM has reported a 47% sales increase due to its employee pricing campaign. If you believe it, GM says that the net incentive per vehicle did not really go up from the program in effect before the employee pricing plan. How, then could Daimler Chrysler and Ford resist going along with the flow and extending their employee prices to everybody. Answer: they couldn't. New plans are going into effect any day now.

It's bad news for us, because most of us haven't gotten the chance to use our hard-won discounts. Since everybody is paying less money for new cars, look for the prices on used cars to go down way below book values for both purchases and trade-ins. U.S.
Pick your GWB Headline:

1. There's Something Rotten in Denmark: President to attend G-8.
2. Bush to visit Denmark - looking for a Great Dane.
3. When asked why he wanted to go to Copenhagen, W. replied that he was out of Skoal.
4. When asked ifwhat he thought of the G-8, he said that it all depended on whether B-I-N and O were already covered.

Denmark on high alert for Bush visit -
New Castle Indiana Makes it to the Detroit News:

I'm linking a Detroit News article profiling the Metaldyne component plant in New Castle Indiana. Chrysler said that it was either going to shut the plant down or sell it. Metaldyne agreed to pick up the plant if it could get strict wage concessions from the workers. Metaldyne pays $16.00 per hour instead of $26.00 for Chrysler. Metaldyne makes more parts with fewer workers. The result: a plant has been turned around, and a "company town" may have some life to it yet.

Supplier forges path for success - 07/05/05
Honda Unveils new Civic Engines - Including a New Hybrid

Honda still has its next generation Civic under wraps, but it did disclose more information about the engines that will power it. A 1.8 liter gas engine will replace the previous 1.7 liter. The new engine is more powerful, lighter and more fuel-efficient than the one it replaces.

Also, Honda will have a new hybrid system based around electric motors and a new 1.34 liter gas engine. Unlike previous "mild hybrid" Civics, the new model will be a full hybrid, capable of starting and operating on its electric powertrain only.

Honda unveils improved engines | Tech News on ZDNet

Friday, July 01, 2005

Word of the day: Spokeshole

I'd never heard of the word until today. I conferred with the Googleteer, he said it had 674 hits. I think it's coming on strong.

Google Search: spokeshole
Some Good News for GM: Long Term Quality is up.

GM finally got some good news, a J.D. Power study of long term vehicle quality. General Motors took the top spot in 8 of 19 vehicle categories.

For those of you who think I'm "Mr. Negative" when it comes to GM: there, I posted something complimentary.

Big 3 quality gains on rivals - 06/30/05
UAW Finally Wins One in the South!

The UAW successfully completed an organizing plant at a Freightliner plant in North Carolina. How bout that.

UAW wins long fight in South - 07/01/05