Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Village voice > news > Mondo Washington by James Ridgeway

Where was George? Where's the Plan?

At 5:00 PM EDT today President Bush finally spoke up about plans for relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Here's my summary of his speech: It was a disaster. The federal government is working hard. We're going to try to keep people from dying. We're going to try to come up with a plan for cleaning things up. That's about it.

He was proud of the plan to take 25,000 (mostly poor black folk) from one dome, and put them in another dome. Then again, he's proud of Guantanamo Bay. Maybe it's time for an open letter to President Bush:

Dear President Bush,

Bring the homeless people to Houston, but don't stick them in the Astrodome. I was in the Houston airport 3 weeks ago. That airport can process 25,000 people in an 2 hours. Keep the airport open an hour later tonight. Fill up 200 airliners and spread the homeless people out across the country, first to where they want to go, and then to places that have decent hotel rooms. If these people were your oil buddies and not low income minorities, you'd find a better place to put them than the Houston Astrodome.

HUD owns thousands of vacant homes. Let the displaced apply for emergency leases on the HUD homes, give them loans for furniture & essentials. Come up with a plan for giving them temporary jobs, filling potholes, working on the streets, whatever. Sign up applicants for new work crews for repair efforts back home in the Gulf states. Since you've admitted this can take months or years, do what FDR would have done and put these people to work.

Finally, face up to the hard question - how much SHOULD we rebuild New Orleans (and coastal areas in general). If they were overbuilt to begin with, don't repeat the same problem. Recognize that two environmental problems contributed to the New Orleans disaster: (1) destruction of wetlands; and (2) global warming. What are you going to do about these problems? In a best-case scenario we can make the second battle of New Orleans the first battle in our war against global warming. What will you do President Bush?

village voice > news > Mondo Washington by James Ridgeway - Conditions deteriorate in Katrina's wake - Aug 31, 2005

Update from New Orleans

President Bush has decided to cut his vacation short a day to "coordinate rescue efforts". That's leadership. We first learned that New Orleans could be in trouble when - last Thursday? Actually, it has been known for years that New Orleans was perhaps our city most at risk in the case of a major hurricane. In 2002 the Red Cross estimated that 25,000 or 100,000 people could die if a major hurricane hit New Orleans. Think somebody could have told George W. that this was worth leaving the ranch for? Finally we hear from the United States Navy that four ships will leave Virginia TOMORROW. The Navy's amphibious support ships are the best way to move lots of people quickly. Navy transports in the Atlantic fleet have enough capacity to house all of the 30,000 refugees that are now at the Superdome. They could have been on station by now if the federal government had taken its own hurricane predictions seriously.

Interestingly, FEMA was a cabinet level department under Bill Clinton. FEMA was demoted to a subbranch of the department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.

Now there's talk of moving about 30,000 people from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome. Here's an alternative: Give each person a number. Have a dozen people with laptop computers register each person. Give each person a $1000 check from FEMA. Have about 10 interim destinations set up as departure points. By Helicopter, bus, or boat, send each person or small group to the departure sites. (Houston, Baton Rouge, etc.) Recruit about 1000 travel agents to each book 30 people from the departure site to a chosen destination: The chosen destination might be a relative's house, a volunteer's house, a long-term shelter, or even a hotel or campground. With this plan everybody is out in 24 hours and you don't have to mess with the Astrodome. - Conditions deteriorate in Katrina's wake - Aug 31, 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Duct Tape Wall Tapings

Duct Tape 101

Is there someone whom you always wanted to stick to the wall with duct tape? Learn the proper technique at this website.

Duct Tape Wall Tapings

Topless virgins vie for Swaziland?s king - Africa -

50,000 Topless Virgins - One King - reality TV at its finest?

Topless virgins vie for Swaziland?s king - Africa -

Wells Fargo Announces Added Improvements to Nonprime Mortgage Lending Practices

Wells Fargo Announces Changed Standards for Sub-Prime Loans

Wells Fargo has joined the trend in national lenders to (publicly at least) decry various abusive practices that have been associated with subprime loans. Changes at WF include capped origination fees, capped prepayment fees, abolition of mandatory arbitration, and limiting loans to situations where the consumer actually benefits and has the ability to pay the loan back.

Cheers to Wells Fargo. Cheers to the consumer bar that has kept the pressure on Wells Fargo in various predatory lending suits.

Wells Fargo Announces Added Improvements to Nonprime Mortgage Lending Practices

Looters take advantage of New Orleans mess - Hurricane Katrina -

Looters Hit New Orleans

How is it that folks who can't/won't hold down a regular job have the fortitude and initiative to stay home through a class 5 hurricane then wade through contaminated waters to loot a grocery store, getting food they probably won't be able to keep anyway? Here's a thought, get a real job, and on payday you can buy some groceries.

Police battle looters after beer train crashes - Africa -

South Africans Loot Beer Train

Well, that I can understand. (Do we have beer trains?)

Police battle looters after beer train crashes - Africa -

Monday, August 29, 2005

Dateline Louisiana: Will the Killer Bees ride the Storm out?

Last month, news items like the one linked below reported that Africanized "killer" bees have been spotted in Louisiana. As I write this, the Lousiana Superdome is coming through as shelter to save the citizens of New Orleans from a natural disaster. In the 1976 TV movie, The Savage Bees, the (brand new at the time) Superdome also came through to save the day. In the movie, killer bees followed a red Volkswagen into the Superdome. They then turned down the air conditioning system, and chilled the bees into a stupor.

If you get a chance to go see this movie, run the other way.

'Killer bees' invade Louisiana -
China to Hike Taxes on Cars with Big Engines

It's weird seeing a government that actually has an energy policy.

China's little engines that could
The Greatest Hit ever for Katrina and the Waves?

This one-hit wonder band may have peaked with "Walking on Sunshine," but hurricane Katrina is about to slam into New Orleans as I write this. The category 5 storm currently has 175 mph winds and could put the city utilities out of commission for 6 months. One million people may be rendered homeless. When the water recedes, a chemical soup (from broken tanks, storage ponds and factories) could contaminate the entire region. The level of destruction could be on the same magnitude as a nuclear weapon. (The loss of life will be less, thanks to the evacuation.) It's time to call out the national guard. Oh, they're busy.

Katrina to Hit New Orleans

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The 2006 Reviews are Here!

The reviews for the 2006 models are starting to pour in. The most comprehensive review sites that I've seen are ( and (

Automotive Reviews - New 2004 Car Reviews, Used Car Reviews and Comparisons: New Car Test Drive
Sirius Hardware catches up to XM

One of the reasons I chose XM radio over Sirius last year was that the XM hardware was smaller than the comparable Sirius units. Sirius has announced new products to show that XM no longer has the same advantage.

The coolest item is the iPod-sized S50. The S50 is designed to record satellite radio while hooked up to a dock in your home or car, then you unplug the portable unit, and thanks to its on-board 1 gigabyte flash memory, you can listen to hours of recorded Sirius content and/or mp3s downloaded from your computer.

Droxy (Digital Radio)

Sirius also introduced the Starmate Replay. This is a direct competitor to the XM Roady2. The Starmate is a little more expensive, but it records up to 45 minutes of content. It has some interesting features like automatically updating you when your favorite team starts a new game, and flashing an update when the score changes. Since Sirius has the NFL contract, that's a useful feature.

Coolwebsearch - From Browser Hijacker to Identity Thief

For years, a trojan horse program called Coolwebsearch has blighted Windows pc users. If you have had your browser hijacked by a program that proved almost impossible to remove, it was probably coolwebsearch. The program has evolved over time, and according to the link below at, it's gotten so advanced that not only does it hijack your browser, it also can automatically update itself. It can track your keystrokes, and it can search your PC for passwords and personal information. After it gets your information, it sends it to who knows where to be spread to whomever.

The program has evolved so frequently that the creater of a program designed to remove CWS has given up in his attempts to track CWS mutations.

It seems to me that if government officials put in some effort, they could attack this thing and break up the racket that feeds on the information that CWS generates. This is even a matter of national security. First, the stolen IDs can be used to hide terrorists' identities. Secondly, this scumware program could hijack a government pc just as easily as a home pc.

The best way to remove CWS is to install virus and spyware filters on your computer, install all of Microsoft's patches. Whereever possible, don't use MS Internet Explorer as your browser. If you use a Mac or a Linux machine, you don't have to worry about CWS at all.

Spyware Researchers Discover ID Theft Ring

Here are a couple more links to sites with information on coolwebsearch:,-Spyware,-Adware-&-Malware-Applications/9016
The Navy's DD(X) - Is More Less?

The navy is lobbying to build a new class of "destroyers" called the DD(X). The DD(x) (or DD-X) is slated to displace 12,000 to 14,000 tons. This is equivalent to a World War II heavy cruiser or light aircraft carrier. It is about 5 times what a WW-II destroyer weighed.

It doesn't seem like a lot of bang for the buck - but what do I know.

DD(X) Multi-Mission Surface Combatant

Friday, August 26, 2005

When Free isn't Free: Experian Settles with FTC over "Free" Credit Reports

Experian reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over a dispute involving Experian's website The case originated with a complaint originating with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) that alleged Experian engaged in "bait and switch" type tactics, luring consumers in with promises of a free credit report, then signing them up for an expensive monitoring system.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Could the Nigerian Scam cost you your Life?

Thanks to Betty M. for this link to an MSNBC story about a record producer named Chris Julian who is now missing after getting messed up in the "Nigerian Scam".

Mystery of the missing music producer - U.S. Life -
Visteon cuts support for Childcare Centers

Visteon got a lot of positive press in 2001 for opening childcare centers with multiple programs for the families of both salaried and union workers. In a 2001 photo accompanying the linked article from the Detroit news, Ford Chairman William Clay Ford, UAW President Stephen P. Yokich and Visteon CEO Peter J. Pestillo unveilled near-lifesized statues of themselves at a family center in Sterling Heights.

Now, after losing $1 billion in the second quarter, Visteon will no longer fund the family center benefit for its salaried workers.

Gee how long do you think it will be before the statues are defaced?
HHR & PT Cruiser - Head To Head
Here's the first story I've seen comparing Chevrolet's new HHR to it's older twin, the Chrysler PT Cruiser head-to-head.

Auto Reviews

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Problem: Don't have any money
Solution: Start a Bank

Here's the tag line on this article from the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Matthew Hattabaugh had a simple scheme for getting rich: He opened up a fake bank and started taking deposits. $650,000 later the feds caught up with him. But apparently felony charges didn't even slow him down.

San Francisco Bay Guardian News
The Problems with buying a "Brokered CD"

I've seen a lot of scams, but another attorney in my office has brought a new one to my attention: Brokered CDs. A brokered CD could be a legitimate investment. In simple terms, a broker buys a long-term, large denomination CD and sells interests in fractions of the CD to buyers. The pitch by the broker is that the buyer of the brokered interest does not need to pay an early withdrawal penalty. The catch is that the buyer must actually resell the fractional interest at market rate. If interest rates have gone up, the redemption price will fall (like any bond). In addition, you have to pay the marketing costs on a nonstandard, and more risky investment.

Rarely will a brokered CD make financial sense. Here's why: you are taking a low-risk, low yield investment, and interjecting a high risk and high cost intermediary (the broker). It will be rare that the total broker's fees will be less than the difference between short-term and long-term investment rates at top rate institutions.

Finally, there's the potential that you are dealing with a fraudulent operator. The underlying CD may not even exist. You may be buying into a Ponzi scheme. The CD may exist but be oversubscribed. The potential for problems is enormous.

I suspect that we will soon see tighter regulation of CD brokers. If you get a case involving a brokered CD, I suggest that you put immediate pressure on the broker and have the client file complaints with every regulatory body that you can think of. Cross your fingers and hope the money isn't in a secret account in the Cayman Islands somewhere.

What to Do If You Have a Problem With a Brokered CD
Walmart Wants to Open a Bank: Activists Say NO!

ACORN: ACORN, WARN Oppose ?Wal-Mart Bank?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Walmart and Unions in China

Also in Businessweek, the head of China's largest labor union comments on unionizing Walmart in China:

Q: How do you ensure that foreign-invested and private enterprises open their doors to the ACFTU?
A: In reality, many private enterprises are unwilling to allow our union to enter. This is also true of some foreign joint-venture companies. So last year we carried out an inspection to check whether private and foreign enterprises were in compliance with the Trade Union Law [which requires a company to allow the official union to open if 25 or more workers ask for it].

I'll give you one example. Wal-Mart has opened [47] stores in China, and they employ more than 25,000 people. But they have long refused to allow our union into their stores. We have put a lot of effort into trying to get them to allow our union, but Wal-Mart has long found ways to block our efforts. Finally, last year Wal-Mart issued a statement saying that they would allow unions if workers at their stores requested them.

Q: Has the ACFTU established branches in Wal-Mart stores then?
A: As far as I know, no union branches have been opened. I think that is because workers at Wal-Mart are eager to ensure they keep their jobs, which in reality are quite good. So they are not willing to risk their employment at Wal-Mart by asking for a union. Basically they are afraid of losing their jobs.

Actually, some multinationals here in China perhaps misunderstand what it means to allow the ACFTU into their companies. They think that having a union might disrupt the normal carrying out of their China operations. But that isn't true.

Our purpose is to protect workers' rights, but it is also to ensure the enterprises continue with their steady and stable development in China. Also, some local governments are afraid that if they encourage the union to open in their cities, it will frighten away overseas investment.

Online Extra: A New China for Organized Labor
Interesting iTunes and iPod Statistics from Businessweek

Apple points to the 500 million tracks downloaded on iTunes to date as a milestone. But dividing that figure by the more than 20 million iPods sold indicates that each iPod owner has bought an average of fewer than 30 songs from iTunes. Piper Jaffray estimates that only nine tracks are bought per month per iPod user.

So the average iPod owner has only had the iPod 3 months? It seems like the average iPod owner actually downloads far less than 9 tunes per month. - Digital music king may lose crown - Aug 22, 2005
In Detroit, Even Teachers are Getting Squeezed

The Detroit school system is pressuring teachers to accept a wage cut and higher copayments on health insurance. The average salary of a Detroit teacher is $57,702.
Synthesizer Legend Robert Moog Dead at 71

Here's an obituary from his hometown newspaper. Celebrating the legacy of Robert Moog
In case you came in late -
A Summary of Bad Walmart Labor Practices. . .

Trenches - Journal - Wal-Mart Boycott & The Global Union Coalition
Walmart: Steal Diapers from us, and we'll kill you.


Wal-Mart LP's Kill Suspected Shoplifter

Posted by retailworker at 08/13/2005 - 15:53

Man held down on burning pavement until he died

Wal-Mart loss prevention workers tackled a man suspected of stealing diapers - a new father with a two month old child - holding him down with a choke hold and knee to the back while he was shirtless on the scalding pavement of a Wal-Mart parking lot in Texas.

The incident was witnessed by dozens of shoppers, including a prominent Texas attorney, Charles Portz:

Charles Portz said he was getting out of his car when he saw a heavy blonde haired man being chased by five people who appeared to be security or store employees. He said he saw them wrestling the man to the ground. "The blacktop was extremely hot," said Portz "He had no shirt on and they wouldn't let him up off the blacktop." He said one of the men had Driver in a chokehold and had his knee in the back of his neck as the men tried to subdue him. "He kept trying to get up and they kept pushing him back down," Portz said.

According to Portz, Driver began to plead with them men. "He's begging, 'Please call an ambulance, let me up, do something, I'm gonna die," said Portz. He said the loss prevention employees called the police more than once, but another bystander called for an ambulance after realizing Driver was in trouble. Portz said he eventually began to plead with the Walmart employees. "I told them, this guy doesn't look like he's breathing," Portz said, "They said, 'He's all right." He says he continued to plead with the men, pointing out that the man's fingernails were turning gray. "They said he's just high on something," adding, "They just kept him pinned down for twenty minutes or more until the ambulance came." He said he believed Driver was dead when the ambulance left with him, but he was not certain.

Retail Worker | Labor News - by for and about retail employees
The Declining Clout of Unions - A Detroit News Profile

Union labor under attack - 08/23/05

Monday, August 22, 2005

Request your FBI File

Does the FBI think you are a subversive? No? Why not? Here's a link for a Privacy Act request form to see what information the FBI has been compiling on you. (Thanks Paul McG . . .)

a href=""
Iraq as a "Failed State"?

With all of this talk about another delay on the "draft" constitution, talk is accelerating about Iraq as a "failed state". Our friend and hero, the Googleteer(TM) flew in the window & performed this search:

Iraq "failed state" - google Search

There are almost 66,000 web pages that discuss Iraq and "failed state". Can the country be held together? Should the country be held together? Is it better to have 1/3 of Iraq come out of this mess as a fundamentalist Islamic republic or to face a full-out civil war that could result in the entire country becoming an Islamic republic?
Ssangyong Rodius - Ugly is as ugly does

There's a new contender for the world's ugliest car. Just as the Pontiac Aztek leaves us, its styling continues with, um, improvements, in the Ssangyong Rodius. It should be a crime to import these puppies lest they reproduce.
Is your Lithium-Ion Battery Unsafe?

Several manufacturers of notebook computers have had their notebook models recalled because of the possibility of a fire hazard in their batteries. A company called Valence Technology, Inc. says that it has a fundamentally different technology for manufacturing Lithium Ion batteries. Its website shows a conventional lithium-ion battery and the Valence Saphion(R) battery being struck by a small caliber bullet. The ordinary battery burns violently for 4 minutes. The Saphion battery absorbs the damage with no outward signs of fire or heat.

What does this mean for electric cars? Unless you want the protection offered by a first generation Ford Pinto, use NI-MH or Saphion batteries.

Valence - Safety Video What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas - unless it's spread to the web . . .

A little more than a decade ago, I met an interesting fellow named Glenn Campbell. (Note: the singer has one "N".) Glenn was a computer programmer who sold out his interest in a software company before the dot-com crash, and traveled the world looking fore interesting things and places. The most interesting place that he came upon was a rumored secret Air Force base called "Dreamland" or "Area 51". This base was the core to a building doctrinal base for UFO believers and in a somewhat related bent - world order system believers.

Anyway, Glenn moved to Rachel, Nevada, the closest town to Area 51, and took it upon himself to become an expert on all things regarding the base and in the larger sense, UFO-ology. He became a major irritant to the Air Force when he blazed a trail up a mountain that had a good view of the base that the Air Force denied even existed. The mountain became known as Freedom Ridge, and the land grab proceedings whereby the Air Force removed public access to the mountain marked the peak of Area 51 activism in 1995.

Well, what does this have to do with Las Vegas? Not too long after the land grab, Glenn got married, moved to Las Vegas and lost interest in the whole UFO - Area 51 thing. For at least 6 years Glenn has lead a quiet private life, but he recently began publishing to the web again. The topic: Clark County Family Court in Las Vegas. Right now, his site,, is little more than an outline. Still, its a good idea for a website, and it may end up as a must-see site for those who are addicted to

Family Court Chronicles

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Are you a Sucker? Somebody paid seven cents for your name.

I've often wondered how one of our clients could be lucky enough to have a person calling him telling them they won an international lottery, and just a few days later have another caller telling him they won a second lottery. The answer of course is that he is on a "Sucker list".

The article linked below from explains the process of compiling and marketing "Sucker lists" (or "Suckers' lists") that are used by con artists to do their dirty deeds. If you make it on one of these lists, chances are that companies are paying $.07 to .08 for your name on a mailing list/calling list. If you can be identified as a gambler, or a sweepstakes enthusiast, it's likely that your name is worth more than a member of the general public.

Lead Generation Techniques Used by Fraudulent Con Artists for Direct Mail Fraud and Telemarketing Scams
MSN Article on "Zombie Debt Collectors"

Here's a great article for consumers on zombie debt collectors. Here we call them "Bottom Feeders". What are Zombie/Bottom Feeder debt collectors? These are debt collectors that buy accounts that others have failed to collect, and sometimes debt that can't be sued upon based on the statute of limitations. MSN says this is a multi-billion dollar industry that is growing by 30% per year. Here's what MSN says these collectors pay for these accounts:

The amount that companies pay for bad debt depends on the type of account and its age. In general, McVity said:
Debts that have recently been charged off: 6 to 7 cents on the dollar.

Accounts that are slightly older and on which a collection agency or two has already taken a whack: 1.5 cents to 2 cents on the dollar.

Years-old, out-of-statute debts: A penny or less.

Major players in the industry include:

Sherman Financial Group
Risk Management Alternatives
Arrow Financial Services
Asset Acceptance
OSI Portfolio Services

All of these companies we regularly see in our work at UAW Legal Services. None of these companies are known as fierce litigators.

One key point that the MSN article makes clear: Paying one of these old debts can actually hurt your credit score. Debts can't be reported on your credit report if it has been more than 7 years since it went into default. Zombie Collection Agencies are notorious for re-aging account to reflect a more recent default date. Also, in some cases and in some states, a payment on an old account may rob you of your statute of limitations defense by starting the clock all over again.

MSN Money - Zombie debt collectors dig up your old mistakes
Themepark Season Ticket Discount

If it's August, it must be time for season pass discounts to themeparks. Kings Island has an especially good deal. Buy your 2006 season pass now ($69.99 each if you buy 4 or more), and you get the remainder of this season free plus all of 2006 season. It includes free parking. In other words, if you go twice, the ticket pays for itself. Anything over that is gravy. I haven't checked, but I suspect that the Six Flags parks will soon have a deal that is equally as sweet. Six Flags season tickets have the benefit of being good at all the Six Flags parks across the country, and there are are a lot of them.

Paramount's Kings Island Ohio's Premier Theme Park and Entertainment Destination (Cincinnati)

GM Booth a hit at the Indiana State Fair

I recently visited the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. GM had two good-sized promotional tents at the fair. The tents included most of their notable 2006 models. Overall, the cars made a good impression.

I may have to eat my words about the HHR being a flop-in-the-making. This was my first hands-on contact with the car. In particular, the interior is very well-done. The fit and finish of the materials was good by any standards. The instrument panel was probably the best executed that I've seen from the general. Actually, all of the cars showed a corporate commitment to better quality interiors. The new GM style is much like the Honda style that debuted on the 2003 Accord: Quality without frills or gimmicks. I still think the niche is too narrow for this to be a mass market hit, but if I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

If you have a chance to go to the Indiana State Fair before it closes this coming Sunday, you should make it to the GM tents located near the natural resources building at the "back" of the fairgrounds. By the way, they give away stuff.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sonata lays a whooping on Accord & Camry did a 3 car shoot-out for family sedans under $22,000. At this price point, Honda and Toyota sent 4-cylinder versions of their flagships, and Hyundai sent a 6-cylinder 2006 Sonata. I wrote in June that Hyundai's Sonata looks like an early favorite for car-of-the-year honors, and this test confirms that notion.

A redesigned Camry is due in early 2006 as an early 2007 model. The 2006 Accord is due for a mid-cycle refreshening.

Inside Line: Comparison Test: Hyundai Sonata Takes on the Accord and Camry - Introduction

I've grown accustomed to this website. I could have surfed all night. Seriously, wouldn't it be lovely to get a group of the best Fair Credit Reporting Act consumer lawyers from all over the country and have them put together a website? Actually, this website is just in its infancy. Apparently, they had a "get me to the web on time" mentality when putting it together. I'm just an ordinary man, but I know that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. I couldn't work that last one into the narrative, but I couldn't leave it out either.

My Fair Credit

Monday, August 15, 2005

Car and Driver's long-term RX-8 -- a problem child, but a fast one.

Not all Japanese cars are problem-free. Car & Driver's long term Mazda RX-8 exhibited a number of flaws including three unscheduled services over 30k miles. Most problematic was what could be a systematic flaw in the catalytic converter system.

"Our long-term 2004 Mazda RX-8 traveled exactly 451 miles before the first thing went kablooey. Distant cheering could be heard from the Lincoln-Mercury, Volvo, and Mazda dealer across town."

Car and Driver - Long-Term Test: Mazda RX-8 - September?2005
How to not be taken by the Nigerian Scam

One man, Brad Christensen, came up with a solution: make sure you meet the Nigerian businessman on a nude beach. Here's a link to the correspondence.

Quatloos!: Brad Christensen Gallery: Ibrahim Musa - The Senator's Beach Pledge: "scratch"
Would you Rather . . .

Get stung by 200 killer bees [That's what happened to 70 year-old racing legend A.J. Foyt last week.]


Get whacked on the back of the head with a pool cue by Jessica Simpson?

[A.J. Foyt IV (big AJ's grandson) has a cameo role in the Dukes Of Hazard movie. J.S. hits him with a stick in the bar scene.] - Dodging the hazards at Michigan - Can a Pirate Llama be wrong?

I had a client with questions about patent land titles. I googled it. This was the best site that I found that explains and exposes various "taxfree" and "mortgage elimination" scams. In fact, if you run across a suspected scam, go to this site first. If you don't learn about your target scam, you'll learn something about something else.

Quatloos! -- Cyber-Museum of Scams and Frauds...
Israel pulls out of Gaza: A frustrated Gaza could not be reached for comment.

(I had to wait 30 years to steal that joke.)

Preparing to Pull Out - Newsweek World News -
Bill Clinton's Favorite Songs Released on CD

How much Barry White can one person take? - Entertainment - Album To Feature Clinton's Favorite Songs
Back from Vacation - NewsBits Accumulating
NUMMI Signs NEW Contract with UAW

I wasn't dead - just resting - pining for the Fjords. Here's the most directly applicable news : The UAW local representing the NUMMI plant in California that builds GM and Toyota vehicles approved a new contract. Significantly, the contract brings NUMMI up to the GM 2003 contract, with no significant healthcare givebacks.

According to

The highlights include a $3000 upfront settlement bonus. In a major victory for the union, the $1.61 cost-of-living allowance will be folded into base wage rates, bringing the base hourly rate for production workers to $27.97. Employees in the skilled trades workers will collect $32.34 per hour, under the terms of the new agreement.

The Car Connection - NUMMI, UAW Agree on Pact - An unexpectedly easy agreement binds Toyota?s transplant.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

2006 Chevrolet Impala: The money's on the inside

Chevrolet has unveiled its 2006 Chevrolet Impala. Like the 2006 Ford Exporer that I just wrote about, the manufacturer claims a new design, but based on the car's structure, it's really a substantial refreshining. Still, with updated engines, a newly available V-8 and a greatly enhanced interior, the new version of the Impala is much more competitive than the outgoing model. The Impala has been a steady best seller for Chevrolet. It has good quality scores, and it is a popular "company car". Fuel economy and performance are both improved despite "old-tech" engines and transmissions.

The Car Connection - 2006 Chevrolet Impala - Chevrolet improves its version of the stealth fighter.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Macintosh OS-X for Intel hacked to run on PCs

Below is a link to a story reporting that hackers have already defeated Apple's security code that was intended to limit the Intel version of their operating system to Apple-branded computers.

Wired News: Mac Hacks Allow OS X on PCs
2006 Ford Explorer: Take 2

Below is a link to a full review by

2006 Ford Explorer Road Test Review
2006 Ford Explorer: Something Old - Something New

Whenever Ford revamps its Explorer, it's significant news. Even with all of the new competition, the Explorer is the top-selling SUV in the United States. Ford calls it a redesign, but it appears to be more of a refressioning of the 2002 generation. For 2006 the Explorer gets updated styling, refined engines, new transmission options, and a new interior.

The Car Connection - 2006 Ford Explorer - Change evident from the first glance.: "2006 Ford Explorer"
Atlanta 2 Wixom 0

Ford has announced that its large Atlanta plant will be the manufacturing site of two upcoming Lincoln models. Lincolns have traditionally been manufactured in Wixom, Michigan. The Atlanta-built Lincolns will be replacements for the Lincoln Towncar and Lincoln LS. There have been no new lines announced for the Wixom plant. The Lincoln Zephyr, a platform-mate of the Ford Fusion, will be produced in Mexico.

Ford move puts Wixom jobs at risk - 08/11/05
So Where's MY Loaner Corvette?

While I was in California, Thrifty provided me an almost new 2005 Dodge Stratus for a week for $199 per week. So I come back and find out that certain people get Cadillacs and Corvettes for free.

Auto firms hope star power sells - 08/10/05: " "

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Is Kuwait stealing Iraq's Oil?
Oh, the old "horizontal drilling" trick . . . .

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Disney's Next Four Films Showcased at SIGGRAPH 2005 Convention

Siggraph is the big convention for 3-D animation. Disney is using the convention to score points with prospective animators and to show some bargaining strength in its negotiations with Pixar. The article linked below from includes notes on what Disney is showing on its next 4 animated films. Presumably, this is after Valiant (the pigeon movie) and Chicken Little (the other bird flick, you know the one they can't seem to finish). Based on what I read in the Jim Hill article, here are m predictions:

American Dog - Hit

A Day With Wilbur Robinson - Major Flop

Rapunzel Unbraided - a minor flop if it is ever actually released

Toy Story 3 - a bargaining chip that will not (hopefully) be released in this form. Toy Story was an all-time classic. Toy Story 2 was very good, but too much the same. Toy Story 3 looks to be pure profit-driven dreck.

Jim Hill : Disney showcases upcoming animated films at ... (8/03/2005)
Pres. Bush Says Intelligent Design should Be Taught in the Schools

It's a shame there is no sign of intelligent design in his Iraq policy, in his energy policy, in his economic policy . . .

Bush Remarks Roil Debate on Teaching of Evolution - New York Times
Purdue's Football Team gets National attention

This is a plug for my alma mater, Purdue. Here's a link to a New York Times article giving publicity to Brock Spack's Purdue defense. Purdue has been known for scoring lots of points, but giving up a few more on occasion. (Sound familiar Colts fans?) Coach Spack has made significant progress with the defense, and pre-season polls list Purdue at the top, or in the top 3, Teams in the Big 10.

A Veteran Purdue Defense Wears the Rugged Image of Its Coach - New York Times

Consumer Reports Pans Great West PPO

I've heard murmurs among comrades about problems with our Great West healthcare plan, or should I say "not-so-great" West. The coverage isn't the problem. We are lucky to have such an inclusive plan. (Well, there's the problem with domestic partners, but I'll let Paul C. address that.) The problem is with billing. Our experiences have been confirmed. In the most recent issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the Great West PPO is ranked next (tied) to last among all of those surveyed. The big problem is billing where Great West got a solid black circle. I'd link to the website, but there's nothing on the website about the HMO&PPO article.

I personally have had billing problems. I also had a problem where Great West seemed to deliberately withhold payment without any identifiable reason. In May, I broke my finger during a fight with my garage door. (Don't ask.) I went to the emergency room with a flat finger. The emergency room records reflect that my finger got caught in a garage door. I got x-rays, a splint, etc.

Well over a month later, I'm contacted repeatedly by the providers that the bill hasn't been paid. I then get contacted by Great West, and they are looking for information regarding third parties to recover from regarding the car accident. I call them back - tell them there was no car accident, it was a garage door, and there were no third parties. Over a month later, I get what looks to be a letter from a collection agency. It's not a collection agency, it's a third party recovery company that again is contacting me asking me to identify the third parties in the accident, again with the implication that it is a car accident. (sigh!) If they contact me again, I'm going to go to the Great West office and show them my finger in person. It might not be the one that I injured, but I think I'll get my point across.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A not too Shabby Abu Dhabi deal for Ferrari

Why buy the car when you can buy the company?

Abu Dhabi Group Buys Ferrari Stake -
Mouse Envy - Apple's new squeeze "Mighty Mouse".
Apple's Low-end Macs are upgraded

Hell froze over for the second time in three months at Apple Computer. In May, Apple announced that it was going to switch to Intel processors, with an implication that its Intel based computers would also run Windows. Now Apple has announced a fancy two-button mouse, throwing away 25 years of one-button dogma. As always, Apple has done it with style and with a twist.

The mouse is called Mighty Mouse. The two buttons aren't really buttons. They are touch sensitive areas on the mouse. The mouse actually looks like a no-button mouse. You can trigger functions by squeezing the sides. There's a little roller ball the size of a pencil eraser, and the touch-sensitive areas at the top of the mouse can be used to scroll like the touchpads on a modern laptop.

There's a price for this innovation, and it's $49.00. If you're having trouble with the nerves in your hand arm and wrist, you might want to try this mouse, because it seems like it has a good chance at eliminating a lot of the repetitive motion that is inherent in mousing.

Apple - Mighty Mouse

In other Apple news, last week Apple finally updated two of its lowest cost product lines, the mac mini and the iBook laptops. The updates were minor on paper but major for usability. Both computer lines had been handicapped by an unrealistic 256 mb of installed memory. The new upgrades double the onboard memory to 512 mb, making the computers viable right out of the box.

The mini gets built-in Bluetooth and wifi wireless capability, which is very important to its role as a home entertainment hub. Put the 2 lb. mini on top of your high-definition television. Put a wireless keyboard and mouse on your coffee table, and surf the web on your big-screen. The new mini is exactly what it should have been to begin with, a take-it-out-of-the-box-and-it-just-works appliance.

The iBook got the same upgrades as the mini plus a modest speedbump and a video-chip upgrade that will allow the iBook to run the "eye candy" features of the "Core Image" graphics that are part of the OS-X 10.4 "Tiger" operating system.

In the most recent issue of Consumer Reports, Apple computers rated very highly, particularly due to their relative immunity to spyware, viruses, etc. According to Consumer Reports, these software infections can be expected to cost the typical Windows PC owner the equivalent of hundreds of dollars. The macs rated by Consumer Reports are the outgoing models. The new models introduced last week, as well as the imacs introduced in May, bolster add even more weight to the case for leaving the Windows world.

Apple - Mighty Mouse<">
How do I report illegal aliens?

That's a question I was asked by a client. I looked it up on the web. The answer isn't easy. The beautifully streamlined Department of Homeland Security (cough!) forwarded me to the USCIS. The UCIUS forwarded met to the U.S. Immigration & customs Enforcement site, and the hot link for that site - doesn't exist.

After much searching and cursing, I believe the address below is correct. If it isn't, they deserve the phone call anyway as just reward for designing such a non-helpful website.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Office of Detention and Removal - Fugitive Operations
801 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20536
Phone: (202) 353-8003

If this fails search for your USCIS field office at

It's nice to know that our borders are safe, that the billions that we're spending on homeland security are going to the right places.

How Do I Report Suspected Illegal Aliens or Suspected Illegal Immigration Activity?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Evan Bayh Grass Roots Support Update - August 1, 2005

Last month, I reported that the Evan Bayh for President group on only had two members. Since then, Senator Bayh has crisscrossed the country, actively building support for his candidacy. Now how many members does he have in his grassroots group? He has 2. He can proudly point to no net loss in membership.

Indianapolis Evan Bayh/All America Committee Meetup Group -
Bush Admin Holds Back Report on Energy Efficiency

At the same time Congress was poised to vote on the President's "energy plan"; the EPA was supposed to release a report on declining fuel efficiency in new motor vehicles. According to the EPA report, all of the net technical advances in the past ten years have either gone to making cars bigger or faster. The EPA was supposed to release the report - but on orders from above, it was held up -- EXCEPT -- a copy was leaked to the New York Times. Whoops! The big kabosh probably had something to do with the fact that the new Bush Energy Plan does nothing to discourage driving of big gas-guzzling vehicles or vehicles that are powered far beyond the needs of ordinary driving. It also does nothing to discourage unnecessary driving in general.

Not only has fuel consumption gone up, highway safety has been stuck in neutral. Though cars today have more safety features than ever, increasing vehicle weight, speed and traffic density have made the over-all highway fatality rate remain constant at around 40,000 deaths per year. To put this in perspective, this amount is about eight times the amount of people who died because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. It is about 3/4 the amount of U.S. deaths in the Viet Nam War. Each year's traffic deaths dwarf the number of troops lost in Iraq. When the question comes as to who is responsible for this country's dependency on foreign oil, there is plenty of blame to go around, enough to fill all the garages in the country. Still, you'd think an ounce of leadership from the top would help things. We're just an ounce short.

E.P.A. Holds Back Report on Car Fuel Efficiency - New York Times
2006 Chevrolet HHR - An early review just posted its review of the 2006 Chevrolet HHR. The HHR is GM's copycat version of Chrysler's PT Cruiser. The reviewer, Gary Witzenburg, liked the HHR overall, praising it for its efficiency. Although it is bigger and heavier than the PT Cruiser, and the standard engine is less powerful (on paper), the HHR has better performance and fuel economy.

Personally, I was never that fond of the PT cruiser. To me, it was just a Neon with clever seats with enough extra weight to make it slow and bring it down to 18 mpg, the same as a minivan. The HHR, at 3155 lbs, weighs about the same as a 4-cylinder Chevrolet Malibu. It gets lower gas mileage at EPA 22-31 vs. 24-34 for the Malibu. Is the extra room worth 10% less gas mileage? Let the buyer be the judge.

The Car Connection - 2006 Chevrolet HHR - Copycatting gets its due.
What Chevrolet could have had instead of the HHR: The Opel Zafira

While Chevrolet Dealers get the HHR as a family hauler built on the Delta platform (like the Cobalt & Ion); most of the rest of the world gets the Zafira. The Zafira is an MPV in the European tradition. In the United States, the only European-type MPV sold is the brand new Mazda 5, which is just now starting to hit dealer lots.

The Opel Zafira's comes with 7 different engine options and features "flex-7" seating. In a commercial, the Zafira is thrown out of an airplane, and skydivers reconfigure the seats before the vehcile hits the ground.