Thursday, December 29, 2005

WSJ - New Pension Rules could Wipe out GM's Shareholder Equity

WSJ: New Pension Rules could Wipe out GM's Shareholder Equity
Stock hits 20 year low

An article in this morning's Wall Street Journal discussed how a proposed new accounting rule for pension liabilties could wipe out all or most of GM's shareholder equity, thereby opening the door to bankruptcy court. I can't link the Wall Street Journal story because is a paid site, and I only have the print edition.

Lookng Back At Hof's Blog 2005

Looking Back at Hof's Blog 2005 - Part 1 January and February

Well Class, it's time to review for our final. What did we learn last year?

Hof's blog 2005 started with a link to a site describing how Capital One tries to undermine your credit score. Bankruptcy deform was berry berry good to the credit card companies in 2005, at least in the short term. They had their way and made record profits.

Also in January, Schnappi the Crocodile was berry berry big in Germany, big enough, in fact, that the Schnappi website was hi-jacked for awhile by some kind of web hooligan that downloaded who knows what onto the computers of those who visited the Shnappi website.

In January, I introduced Wikipedia to the blog. In the months since, I've come to rely on Wikipedia about as much as Google.

Cars previewed included the Chevrolet HHR, Buick Lacrosse, Lincoln Zephyr and Saturn Aura. All but the Aura are currently on the market. I initially panned the HHR, I've softened my stand somewhat in the intervening months. I tried to test-drive the Buick, but the dealer didn't have a dealer plate. The Zephyr looks good, but seems overpriced compared to its sibling, the Ford Fusion.

In consumer electronics, the Mac Mini came out and the JVC Everio was previewed. Both show the way the world is headed, small computers and even smaller do-everything camera/camcorders. The Radio Shack Cinego lead the way for integrated home theater projectors with speakers and dvd players built in. The cost at the Consumer Electronics show? $1495. This past Christmas season, the Cinego was on sale for $995.

General Motors announced that its 2004 profits would be approximately $6 per share, but warned that its 2005 profits would be down to $4-5 per share. It also stated that its health care costs were up $1 billion over the year before. How accurate were the 2005 profit predictions? The last I heard, GM was on target to lose $4.5 billion for 2005.

I looked at the Home Price Comparison Index where from market to market, the cost for a 2200 square foot house ranged from about $134,000 to $,1700,000.

State Farm was in the news for whitewashing the titles of rebuilt wrecks. I predict they'll be in the news again in 2006 for exactly the same thing.

On the lighter side of things, I looked at the rubber band gun - perfect for "mildly disgruntled" postal workers.

In February, I summarized a Detroit News article describing Chinese employment law. Among other things, employers must contribute to the "three insurances". Also, Chinese law mandates one month of severance for every year of employment.

February 10, 2005: "What if GM went bankrupt?"

Also in February, GM cut a deal with Fiat to get out of buying the portion of Fiat that it didn't already own. The cost to GM: $2 Billion. What did GM get in return: the right not to buy Fiat. At the time, Fiat was considered to be a money pit that might sink GM. As it stands now, Fiat's market capitalization is higher than General Motors'.

I looked at mandatory consumer arbitration from several angles. Among other things, I wrote about how at the same time Walt Disney's ABC Network was touting the evils of mandatory arbitration in its newscasts, the Disney Visa featured a potent arbitration clause.

Speaking of bad corporate actors, I hit on Ameriquest a couple of times. We'll hear more about Ameriquest in 2006 as they enter a huge settlement with regulators, all designed to clear the way for its CEO to become the Ambassador of the Netherlands.

On the lighter side, February featured a link to the Brady Bunch sack race game. (Don't everybody thank me at once.)

Halfbakery: Solar Roads

Solar Parking lots Part 3
Photovoltaics that You can Drive on

From the halfbakery - is it crazy to think you could drive on solar panels? The majority of the people who responded say yes . . .

Halfbakery: Solar Roads

BUT - that was before "cold-sintered" flexible non-silicon based photovoltaics. Using cold-sintering, you can manufacture in quantity photovoltaic plastic and even fabric. See the link below

Flexible plastics

Energy Services Bulletin

Solar Parking Lots Part II

Here's Riverside California's approach.

Energy Services Bulletin

Treehugger: Kyocera's "Solar Grove" Parking Lot

Solar Parking lots: Part 1: Kyocera's "Solar Grove"

Everytime I look out at unnecessarily large parking lots, and I think of all the heat soaking into the asphalt, I wonder why can't we use that solar energy rather than wasting it. I'm not alone. This article describes an effort by Kyocera to soak up the solar energy in a parking lot with a grove of 25 "solar trees"

Treehugger: Kyocera's "Solar Grove" Parking Lot

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cosworth Vega Owners Association's - Official Web Site of the Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

Looking back at the Cosworth Vega (1975-1976)

When I was in high school, in the mid to late 1970s, the Cosworth Vega was a mythical beast. Run-of-the-mill Chevy Vegas were everywhere - at least until they started rusting out and konking out, but somewhere there was a special Vega, a car that retained the affordable nature of its parent, but delivered sports car performance. The performance came from a dual overhead cam, fuel injected engine with 16 valves, the same configuration as a racing engine. It was hot stuff at the time, but it's pretty standard now.

To this day, I don't know that I've ever seen a Cosworth Vega on the road. The website linked below, the homepage to the Cosworth Vega Owners Association, gives some good reason why. First, the Cosworth engine option was delayed more than a year due to problems getting an emissions certification. By the time it was certified in 1975, the engine was so detuned that it only delivered 110 horsepower, far from the 185 hp that was initially expected.

Originally, Chevrolet planned on a limited production run of 5,000 units. Since Chevy had more dealerships than that, Chevy made the dealers jump through hoops including stocking parts and sending mechanics to school to get an allocation of one car. You can expect that many dealers didn't even bother.

With the 110 horsepower engine, the Cosworth Vega ran 0-60 in 12.2 seconds. Today, a bottom-of-the-line Kia Rio can do better. Even then, Camaros and other V-8 powered Chevys could beat that figure. Despite the so-so performance, the Cosworth Vega sold for only $600 less than the lowest-price Corvette. According to the CVOA, the total production run of Cosworth Vegas was only 3,508. Due to their scarcity, the Cosworth Vega is now a collectors item.

Cosworth Vega Owners Association's - Official Web Site of the Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

Monday, December 26, 2005

Win a Saturn Sky

Win a Saturn Sky

Go to the Saturn "future vehicles" website and enter the contest to wiin a Saturn Sky. In case you're not familiar with the Sky, it's Saturn's version of the two-seat sportscar platform that has given us the Pontiac Solstice. Which is better is a matter of personal preference. Personally, I'll take the free one.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Black helicopter conspiracy theory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Origin of Black Helicopter Legends

Black helicopter conspiracy theory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Boeing B-29 Restoration in Wichita

Boeing to Deliver One More B-29

If you visit one of the giant Boeing plants in Wichita, Kansas, you might find a site that was familiar to Wichita workers sixty years ago. There's a Boeing B-29 Superfortress being readied for flight. There's no definitive date when "Doc" will be ready for flight.

Right now, there is only one flyable B-29 in the world, the Commemorative Air Force's "Fi-Fi". Fi-Fi is going through some rough times right now, and might be grounded for good soon.

Boeing B-29 Restoration in Wichita

Friday, December 23, 2005

China now net exporter of cars-Geely, Chery lead the way; nation poised to become the world's biggest auto market.

From the "Boy, that didn't take long" file:
China is Now a Net Exporter of Cars

China now net exporter of cars-Geely, Chery lead the way; nation poised to become the world's biggest auto market.

Ball of Paint

The top reason to visit Indiana - The World's Largest Ball of Paint

It makes me proud to be a Hoosier.

Home Page

Main Page - Wikibooks, collection of open-content textbooks

What's a 'Wikibook'?

A Wikibook is a book that is put together through an open-source collaborative process, like the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Open-source textbooks seem to have a lot of promise, especially in conjunction with the "$100 laptop" project designed to bring low-cost computers to poor and remote areas. A low-cost computer loaded as needed with open-source textbooks can be far cheaper than getting the paper books.

Main Page - Wikibooks, collection of open-content textbooks

Health giveback ekes by at Ford-Just 51% of workers OK deal to use portion of future pay hikes to fund retirees' medical care.

UAW Ratifies Ford Health Givebacks

Just 51% of the voting union members approved the deal negotiated between the UAW and Ford. That shows that it was a tough deal to get done. A portion of future pay hikes will be used to fund retirees' healthcare. Most retirees will have to pay a yearly fee for their coverage. Active workers don't have to pay any fee for the coverage, but they will have a higher copayment for prescription drugs.

Scorecard: GM deal done. Ford deal done. Next up - DaimlerChrysler.

Health giveback ekes by at Ford-Just 51% of workers OK deal to use portion of future pay hikes to fund retirees' medical care.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

village voice > news > Mondo Washington by James Ridgeway

Impeach Bush? Just maybe.

Things are starting to get a little impeachy in Washington. A Google News search yielded 11000 hits with bush and impeach in tracked news stories.

There are parallel movements the first have to do with misrepresentation for the grounds for war in Iraq. John Kerry was one of the first to prominently discuss impeachment as a possibility, but he backed away when the heat was on.

Now there is discussion of impeachment relating to allegations of unauthorized spying on citizens' telephone calls.

Unless and until Democrats get control of the house, impeachment is unlikely unless evidence shows up that would make even the most partisan Republican vote for impeachment.

village voice > news > Mondo Washington by James Ridgeway

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Kirk Takes Tax Loss GM Shares Fall

Kirk Takes Tax Loss GM Shares Fall

Captain Kirk Kerkorian beamed up 12.8 million of his GM shares, cutting his stake to 5.8% of the company's stock. The market went down on the news, with GM stock trading at an all-time low in the $19/share range. In separate news, it appears that Toyota is on the verge of nudging past GM for the title of biggest car company (in unit sales). Toyota could buy GM lock stock & barrel with just 18 months of its profits, but that would mean buying GM's problems, so nothing like that is going to happen any time soon.

Jib Jab 205

Jib Jab's '205' year in Review

I'm not usually a big fan of Jib Jab, but their year end round-up song "205" is quite clever

Luxpro Pico (2GB) - Review : Music & Play - CNET Asia

From Nano to Pico - Apple Gets One-Upped by Clone

Last year, a company called Luxpro showed off a knock-off of its iPod Shuffle audio player. Last Summer Apple announced the iPod Nano to rave reviews, with more than a little amazement that so much could be packed ito such a small size. Well, wouldn't you know, the folks at Luxpro did it again, within a couple months after the iPod Nano was introduced, the Luxpro Pico was announced.

The Pico looks like it is the same size as the Nano. It also has a black case and a color screen. The control wheel is different. Not only does the Nano play mp3 and WMA files, it also has an FM radio tuner (with recording from FM possible) and a built in mic and high-quality audio recording feature.

Apple's lawyers will probably prevent the Pico from being sold openly here in the states, but I suspect that it will be available from time to time on eBay.

If Apple is smart, they'll buy this Taiwanese company lock stock & barrel and convert them to the "good side of the force."

Luxpro Pico (2GB) - Review : Music & Play - CNET Asia

ENERGY: Honda to build solar gear

Honda to make Solar Batteries

I have written before about the need to convert unused capacity in the auto industry to the the growing industry of alternative energy technology. Honda's doing something about it. This is an area where the government could do something to help spur things along. Is the government doing anything? No. Not really.

ENERGY: Honda to build solar gear

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Board rifts threaten VW's profits

Mitbestimmung - The German Way is Causing Problems at VW

Volkswagen is facing its own problems in the changing automotive scene. Profitable in Europe, VW is losing money in the US and in most of the rest of the world. VW's German unions have board representation. This, and an overall political and cultural environment that puts a premium on satisfying the workforce, a cultural norm called "mitbestimmung", could make restructuring even more difficult for Volkswagen than it will be for General Motors.

Board rifts threaten VW's profits: "Mitbestimmung"

VW bets big on pricey Bugatti |

Bugatti Veyron - What do you expect for $1.2 million?

Here's a reprint of a Wall Street Journal article about the most expensive production car in the world, the Bugatti Veyron. What do you get for that much money? How about a 16-cylinder engine with 1001 horsepower! It will accellerate from 0 to 62 mph in 2.5 seconds. Top speed is over 250 mph. As the WSJ points out, all of these specs are almost moot, because few owners will drive it. It's too risky.

The good news is that some videogame maker will model this car, and we'll all be able to drive it and wreck it, and drive it and wreck it again, at least in our virtual world.

VW bets big on pricey Bugatti |

List of school pranks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wikipedia Entry of the Day
"List of School Pranks"

For those who aren't creative to come up with them on their own.

List of school pranks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

President Bush Gives Segway to Japanese Prime Minister

Bush Gives Japanese Prime Minister a Wedgie

Oh, I'm sorry, I read that wrong, it's not a wedgie, it's a Segway. My stakemis.

President Bush Gives Segway to Japanese Prime Minister

Delphi backs off huge job, wage cuts

Delphi backs off Wage Cut Demands -- For Now

Delphi backs off huge job, wage cuts

Monday, December 19, 2005

EPA turns innovator with hydraulic hybrids-Carmakers would get edge in mpg race

Coming Soon: Hydraulic Hybrids?

Once you master hydraulic hybrid technology, you can tackle ultracapacitors. They'll be a short quiz on Tuesday.

EPA turns innovator with hydraulic hybrids-Carmakers would get edge in mpg race

Detroit Needs More Than Healthcare Cuts? - The Car Connection

Profit & Loss Per Vehicle:
Nissan Makes $1826 Per Vehicle
GM Loses $1227
'Profitable' DaimlerChrysler makes $186 story linked below reports on a study by Laurie Harbour-Felax, an industry analyst. The study's conclusion is that US automakers need to do more than just control their healthcare costs. Savings on healthcare alone are not enough to solve the profitability gap between the haves (Nissan) and the have nots (GM).

Detroit Needs More Than Healthcare Cuts? - The Car Connection

Microsoft drops Mac Internet Explorer - ZDNet UK News

Microsoft Drops Mac Support of Internet Explorer

Microsoft dropped development of Internet Explorer for the Mac in 2003. I use a mac at home, and in general I find the Safari browser and Firefox to be able replacements. Only gives me any trouble, it's not as functional with Firefox or Safari.
Microsoft drops Mac Internet Explorer - ZDNet UK News

Chrysler Games

The Chrysler Games Page

Chrysler Games

Bush Gives Sunday Speech
Shows he's Working Hard to Protect Our Freedom by Bugging Our Phones > In Iraq -- Bush senses victory in Iraq

Bush Senses victory in Iraq.

He also senses victory in the Canadian Lottery. > In Iraq -- Bush senses victory in Iraq

New twist to Arctic drilling deal / Hurricane-ravaged states would have stake in oil revenues

Senate Republicans are on the Verge of Ravaging Two Ecosystems with one Bill

There's a deal brewing to authorize drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. Alaskan drilling is part of a spending bill that includes funding of the war in Iraq and anti-flu preparations, with all of that, what may have broke the logjam is a provision to use billions of dollars from the Refuge for Hurricane Katrina Relief. Of course, there is still no plan in place for coordinating rebuilding efforts in a way that will revitalize the wetlands that have been slipping away due to human landscaping and global warming. A combination of more dikes and rebuilding in the same places can lead to another disaster.

Here's my pitch to Congress: go ahead, pass the spending bill, then come back with a better bill to undo the crap, pass it by a two thirds majority then override the veto.

New twist to Arctic drilling deal / Hurricane-ravaged states would have stake in oil revenues

Friday, December 16, 2005


From the 'Beating a Ded Horse' File:Federation of American Scientists on Project Echelon

There are plenty of leads here to keep civil libertarians and conspiracy theorists busy for a long time.


Ralphs supermarket chain indicted on federal charges from 2003 strike - MSNBC Wire Services -

Union Busting - 21st Century-style
Ralph's Supermarket gets caught

What did they do? They (allegedly) hired union employees to work while the union was on strike. So the union members wouldn't get in trouble, they moved the workers to other stores and provided them with fake identities.

(I can just imaging the Wal-Mart managers reading stories about the Ralph's case, and taking notes.)

Ralphs supermarket chain indicted on federal charges from 2003 strike - MSNBC Wire Services -

Can The Indianapolis Colts go Undefeated?

My first impression is no, there are too many things that could go wrong. On the other hand, when I look at the side-by-side schedules and winning margins of the 2006 Colts and the 1972 Miami Dolphins in the table linked below by, the last team to go undefeated, I notice that the Colts have a significantly higher average margin of victory. Bottom line: it COULD happen.

udpate reuters - Google Search

Reuters Loves to Udpate

This search yielded 609 "udpate"s.

udpate reuters - Google Search

2003 Nissan Murano SE -

"2007 Ford Edge, 2007 Lincoln Aviator, 2007 Mazda CX-3, Meet the 2003 Nissan Murano

Ford will try to gain market share with three versions of a new Mazda6 platformed crossover suv, badged as the Ford Edge, Lincoln Aviator, and the Mazda CX-3. When these vehicles show, they will look a lot like the 2003 to current Nissan Murano (except maybe the orange paint). The various dimensions and performance numbers will generally be within about 2-3 percentage points either way.

The Murano sells about 50,000 units per year. As far as I can tell, the similar Lexus RX series sells about the same. This is not a huge market, and there will be a lot of new competition when the Ford crossovers hit the street.

2003 Nissan Murano SE -

Fiat worth more than GM. Really. - Autoblog - _

FIAT is worth More than General Motors?

Are you kidding me? Last year at this time, the big news about General Motors was how in the world was it going to get out of being dragged down by its investment in Fiat. Earlier in 2005, GM paid $2 Billion for the privilege of not buying Fiat. Cut to December 2005, the London Financial Times has reported that Fiat is worth more than General Motors. Fiat Group has a market valuation of $12.87 billion, compared to GM's $12.67 billion. Two years ago GM's valuation was 7 times Fiat's. If GM doesn't turn things around soon, the'll be lucky to be worth 7 Fiats - not the car company, the individual cars.

Fiat worth more than GM. Really. - Autoblog - _

ECHELON - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wikipedia on Project Echelon

Here's a very good overview.

ECHELON - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stock Market News and Investment Information |

Udpate Update

Way back when I started this blog, actually when it was a newsletter, I tracked UDPATES found on the web. Here's one from Reuters.

Stock Market News and Investment Information |

Bush secretly expanded spying in U.S. , officials say-President authorized National Security Agency to eavesdrop without court-approved warrants

From the Spys Like Us File: Bush Authorized Widespread Eavsdropping on International Calls.

This is news, but I'm not sure why. It has been my understanding for years that the NSA routinely monitored large quantities of international calls; and in fact, after satellites, that's where the biggest part of its budget goes. It was widely reported around 9/11 that the NSA used advanced voice recognition technology to have computers listen to certain words or phrases, and when there was a match, the call would get human attention.

Bush secretly expanded spying in U.S. , officials say-President authorized National Security Agency to eavesdrop without court-approved warrants

Wouldn't you know it, just now, our favorite superhero, the Googleteer(tm) flew in through the window and performed this search:

N.S.A. "voice recognition" monitoring

and it returned 14,000 hits.

Many of the hits reference "The Echelon Project." I have a hunch that much of what's been written about the Echelon project is untrue, but since nobody has deemed it necessary to give me a guided tour of top secret intelligence operations, I'll leave it for others to debate. Personally, I love the sound of "Project Echelon", it sounds like it comes right out of the X-Files.

Bush, McCain agree on bill to ban torture-Consensus comes after White House's efforts to kill proposal by Ariz. senator, an ex-Vietnam prisoner of war.

Bush & McCain agree on Torture Ban

This one kind of surprised me. As I understand it, it was a hard-fought battle. To get Bush to agree, McCain had to pull out his fingernails.

Bush, McCain agree on bill to ban torture-Consensus comes after White House's efforts to kill proposal by Ariz. senator, an ex-Vietnam prisoner of war.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mercedes Oops

Mercedes S-Class Test Gone Wrong

In this case "S" Class must stand for "Salvage." The Australian car magazine Wheels reports a humiliating public car test by Mercedes. The company was promoting the "proximity control" on its top of the line S-Class, and it staged a demonstration on an airport runway. Three S-Class sedans were driven down the runway through a simulated fog. The first car was to slam on its brakes. In theory, the proximity control would automatically apply the brakes to the other two. Didn't happen. BAM BAM, three wrecked 6-figure cars.

mercedes oops

Top Secret Intel Processor Plans Uncovered | Tom's Hardware

Quad-core Intel Processors Due in about a Year

This holiday season, "dual-core" processors, processors with two full-fledged CPUs per chip, are just becoming mainstream. I'm linking a report on stating that Intel has four-core and eight-core chips in the pipeline, with the first quadcore chips due in about a year. Since todays 3+ Ghz single core chips would have met the definition of supercomputers just a few years ago, the rise in computing power is just astonding.

Top Secret Intel Processor Plans Uncovered | Tom's Hardware

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Predatory Lending Bills

Predatory Lending Bills Compared

There are two (anti)predatory lending bills winding their way through Congress. The first, Ney-Kanjorski, is basically an industry sponsored bill that sanctions all but the worst conduct and pre-empts the states from doing anything about what's left. The second, the Miller-Watt-Frank bill is a Federal follow-up that takes its cues from the successful North Carolina state legislation from a few years ago. Linked is a comparison of these bills. This comparison is somewhat dated, (March 16, 2005) but it's the best I've seen.

Based upon what happened with the bankruptcy legislation, I'm not too encouraged at the prospects of what will come of this. If you get a chance, look at these bills and contact your legislator.

GM Shelves GMX002 Saturn ION Replacement

GM Shelves Saturn ION Replacement
The Small Car Division without a Small Car

GM is planning on ceasing production of the slow-sellling Saturn ION in just a few months. What's it's replacement going to be? Good question. GM has apparently put on hold plans to build the "Evoke", an Opel Astra based compact.

Saturn was originally the car company that made plastic-bodied, small cars. Saturn was supposed to be "different". With the Ion gone, and the days of the plastic-bodied Vue numbered, Saturn may have no reason to exist.

GM Shelves GMX002 Saturn ION Replacement

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - a trade journal for the video game industry

Last week I talked about how I've always liked to spy on other industries by reading their trade journals. The videogame industry is no exception. Wow, the Xbox360 isn't selling well in Japan. It could be that they're still spending all that money on Cheap Trick concert tickets.

AutoWeek - The Auto Enthusiast's Online Resource

Collins & Aikman Bankruptcy is Hampering Ford Fusion Production

According to, trim supplier collins & Aikman is having trouble ramping up production fast enough to allow Ford to ramp up production of the Ford Fusion. Demand is high, but supplies are low. Collins & Aikman is in Chapter 13 protection.

AutoWeek - The Auto Enthusiast's Online Resource

GM can't shake Wall Street's bankruptcy fears-Credit agency lowers automaker's debt rating further, citing concerns over financial losses.

GM's Credit Rating Goes Down Again

GM can't shake Wall Street's bankruptcy fears-Credit agency lowers automaker's debt rating further, citing concerns over financial losses.

Monday, December 12, 2005 Your Source For New York News, Weather, Sports & Traffic: CBS2 Investigates: Rev. Al Pitching Curves To Poor

Shame on you Reverend Al!

Rev. Al Sharpton has turned into a pitchman for car title loans. Your Source For New York News, Weather, Sports & Traffic: CBS2 Investigates: Rev. Al Pitching Curves To Poor

Ford's bigger idea: A not-so-green jumbo SUV-As the company touts environmental image, it readies launch of even larger Expedition.

Ford to Stretch the Expedition

Five years ago, Ford ran a big publicity campaign wherein Bill Ford announced grand plans to increase SUV fuel Economy. Ford then introduced the massive Excursion SUV aka the "Ford Valdez". Just two months after the cancellation of the Excursion, it's revealed that Ford will soon have a new SUV that's just slightly smaller than the Excursion. The new ute will be a version of the current excursion, but stretched by about a food. The new ute has not yet been named.

Ford's bigger idea: A not-so-green jumbo SUV-As the company touts environmental image, it readies launch of even larger Expedition.

Mass deaths and atrocities of the twentieth century - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Bush: 30,000 Iraqi deaths "more or less"
Notes on 20th Century War Casualties

President Bush sites press reports of 30,000 civilian deaths in Iraq. I'm sure that the U.S. military has its own number, but it would jeopardize national security if the number was released. (I'm not sure who would come in and kick us out of our homes if somebody let the number slip, but if they say national security is at stake, then I believe them.)

To put things in perspective though, as civil wars go, it's doubtful if Iraq's would make the top fifty. Linked below is a list of conflicts and casualty numbers.

The United States may be brutal, may be the "Great Satan", but the combined death-toll in the Iran-Iraq war was over a million, we still have two decimal places to go to hit that figure.

Mass deaths and atrocities of the twentieth century - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ward?s Names 10 Best Engines for 2006

Wards Auto Names 10 Best Engines for 2006

Direct Injection has arrived. Three of the ten engines include direct gasoline injection.

Ward?s Names 10 Best Engines for 2006

Thursday, December 08, 2005 - Popularity of crossovers leaves SUVs in dust

Crossovers Cross Truck-based Utes in Popularity - Popularity of crossovers leaves SUVs in dust

Some analysts question strength of GM's cash reserves - Dec. 6, 2005

How much Cash Does GM REALLY Have?

When the issue of a GM bankruptcy comes up, the next sentence usually talks about GM's $20 billion in cash that separates GM from bankruptcy. The article below from CNN Money calls into question how much cash GM really has available to fund its operations. I won't get into the details, but it suggests that less than 1/2 of the $20 billion might be available to fund operational contingencies like a Delphi strike. According to the article, a Delphi strike might cost GM more than $1 billion per WEEK in negative cash flow.

Some analysts question strength of GM's cash reserves - Dec. 6, 2005

Volga vanishing? - Autoblog - _

A Superpower's Auto Industry is Biting the Dust . . .

This time it's Russia. Russia's Gorky Auto Plant, maker of the Volga, is shutting down.

Volga vanishing? - Autoblog - _

GM talking with Kerkorian about a board seat - Automotive -

Kerkorian may get GM Board Seat

GM talking with Kerkorian about a board seat - Automotive -

What's the perfect gift for this billionaire who has everything? The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia has just the right thing: a deck chair from the Titanic.

Titanic Deck Chair


Over 80% of Historians Surveyed give Bush a Failing Grade.

Fifty out of 415 historians who responded to a George Mason University poll characterized George W. Bush as the worst president ever.

This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:

He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;

He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;

He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;

He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;

He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign ( Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);

He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;

He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;

He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.


Milton Bradley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Who was Milton Bradley?

Since it's Christmastime, we're seeing ads for games that we never see the rest of the year. The name Milton Bradley is prominently displayed on various board games, the most prominent being The Game of Life. I wondered if there ever was a Milton Bradley, so I wiki'd him. Below is a link to his article:

Milton Bradley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Surprisingly, Mr. Bradley was born in 1935, and his first success was publishing a lithograph of (then) President Lincoln. He set up his game company in 1861 to publish a game he invented, The Checkered Game of Life. The game was quite successful. The modern Game of Life came about in 1960, in connection with the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the company. The Milton Bradley Company has since been taken over by Hasbro.

GM November Sales Down 11% -

GM Sales down 11% Year/Year in November
Some Encouraging news in the Midsized Sedan Segment

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

2006 Ford Fusion - Manual Transmission

2006 Ford Fusion SEL 2.3 - 5 Speed Manual - Review

There's a lot of good stuff at tonight. In particular, I've been waiting for somebody (besides Mike Karesh who manages to review everything) to review the 5-speed manual transmission version of teh Ford Fusion. I read that Ford makes these, but good luck finding them in stock at a dealer around here. (For that matter, ditto on the 5-speed manual Pontiac G6.) Nevertheless, I prefer manual transmissions. On the Fusion, you can only get the manny tranny with the 4-cylinder. On it's mother the car, aka the Mazda6, the man trans is available on the 6-cylinder as well.

Nascar Announces $4.5 Billion TV Package

What's that, about 1 Billion per tooth?

Hyundai Accent Hybrid

Holy Hyundai Hybrids Batman!

At a trade show in China, Hyundai just showed off a hybrid version of its compact Accent model. If brought to the states, it would probably be the first hybrid with a sticker price well below $20,000. Although the recently debuted Accent has generally won praise from the auto press, from the looks of this one, it shares a serious flaw with the abitious and technologically-correct Sonata. The dashboard combines tan and dark brown with puke-green electronics displays.

Tonawanda News--Delphi strike shaky

Delphi Strike "More Probable than Not"

- Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

Tonawanda News--Delphi strike shaky - Report: Ford could cut up to 30,000

Ford to Pink Slip 30,000 Employees - Axe 10 Plants - Report: Ford could cut up to 30,000

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

European First Drive: 2006 Ford Focus ST (Euro Spec) -- Inside Line

From the Not-Available Here File: 2006 Ford focus ST (Euro Spec)

European First Drive: 2006 Ford Focus ST (Euro Spec) -- Inside Line

SHECKYmagazine Standup Comedy...Seriously!

Shecky Magazine: A Stand-up Comedy Trade Journal?

When I was in law school, I used to go over to the undergraduate libary from time to time, and as a study break, I'd randomly pull a trade journal off the stacks and read it. Yeah, I know, it is scary. Anyway, apparently stand-up comedy has its own trade journal online, Shecky Magazine. Here's the link:
SHECKYmagazine Standup Comedy...Seriously!

Stand-up is kind of going through a resurgence right now. The last time I went to a Border's Bookstore, I notice lots of new comedy CDs. I think it's largely due to the popularity of satellite radio. Satellite radio has increased the accessibility of uncensored comedy. Since satellite radio is still in the sweet spot of its growth curve, the popularity in stand-up comedy should continue to grow as well.

Inside Line: Toyotas by Fuji: Subaru Parent Will Build Toyotas in United States -

100,000 Bottles of Camry on the Wall . ..
Toyota will Build Camrys at Indiana Subaru Plant - Or Won't they? is citing the Wall Street Journal and stating that Toyota & Subaru have cut a deal. The Detroit Free Press is saying maybe. Yesterday, a Subaru spokesman said that there were negotiations but no definitive deal.

In separate news, Toyota is considering building an engine plant in Michigan. When you're hot, you're hot. . .

The interesting thing between the Subaru-Toyota hook-up is the four-wheel-drive angle. As you know, for about a decade, all Subarus have been four-wheel-drive. Toyota wants the factory space to build a hybrid version of the Camry. In the Lexus RX-400h hybrid SUV, the rear wheels are not driven by a drive shaft or any mechanical system, the rear wheels are electric only. A hybrid system driving the rear wheels, batteries and all, is not significantly heavier than a conventional 4wd driveline. When mass produced it might not be any more expensive.

I've written before about the experience curve in relation to hybrid vehicles, and here's where it really kicks other technologies in the pants. For the type of 4wd that the average person needs, electric drive, at least for two of the wheels, kicks competing technology in the pants, and it's going to take over the market. For roughly the same cost, instead of getting a car with inferior mileage than a 2wd version, a hybrid 4wd car gets better mileage and performance. The bottom line to all this - within about two years, Toyota could be flooding the market with another 100,000 Camrys. Within two years after that, another 200,000 Subarus and Toyotas could be coming off the assembly lines in Lafayette, Indiana. The Legacy and Camry may share the same 4wd platform by then, a platform that in hybrid 4wd trim could provide all-weather traction, go 0-60 in about 7 seconds and return 35 mpg in mixed driving.

Inside Line: Toyotas by Fuji: Subaru Parent Will Build Toyotas in United States -

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ford's secret deal

Don't Count Out Ford's Atlanta Plant yet

Ford announced plans last week to shut down its Atlanta plant, the plant that builds the Taurus & Sable. The Detroit Free Press article linked below discusses a possible secret deal between Ford and state and local government entities in Georgia, a deal that could keep the Atlanta plant open.

Besides the government incentives, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Ford has business incentives in keeping the Georgia plant open. First of all, even though the Taurus isn't the industry-wide top-seller that it used to be, it's still Ford's top selling sedan; selling more than the Focus. If Ford stops building the Taurus, it's doubtful that all 180,000 sales per year would go to Ford Motor Co. products. Many of the fleet buyers that buy the Taurus may be prohibited from buying the Taurus's replacement, the Fusion, because it is assembled in Mexico.

Secondly, a withdrawal from the Atlanta area may be taken as abandonment by many Georgian Ford customers. Why buy a Ford when Ford has abandoned us? Atlanta is a huge market. It may be worth keeping some manufacturing presence just to show commitment to the area.

Ford's secret deal

French Indo-China PSIS 400-35

Don't Know Much about History
. . . Especially when the Government keeps 60 year-old Documents Classified

The Naval History center released on the web a document titled French Indo-China PSIS 400-35 a/k/ French Indo-China (Political Situation). This document is dated 11 October 1945. It's a fairly short and innocuous history of Japanese Occupation of Indochina as it is released on the web. Interestingly, this language appears in the middle of the document:

[Page 19-25]
[When this document was received at the Navy Department Library, pages 19-25 were apparently still security classified. To determine if these pages have been declassified, researchers should contact the Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001, tel. (301) 713-7250, where the original document should be located in Record Group (RG) 457. The Navy Department Library does not have the missing pages from this document in it's collection.]

At first blush, it seems that the Naval History Center just doesn't have a complete copy; but these are the Navy's trained staff historians. Here's a document that they're taking the time to post to the web, and though they don't have the original, they know where to find it. Why not take this opportunity to complete the Navy's historical record?

French Indo-China PSIS 400-35

Friday, December 02, 2005

Escape cell early termination charges?

Escape Cell Phone Early Termination Charges?

Is it possible to escape cell phone early termination charges? A website called claims that it has a better idea: create a market for subleasing of cell phone accounts.

They charge you $19.99 to look at responses from people who might want to buy your cell-phone account. To me, this seems just a little bit too much like the folks who claim to be able to re-sell your time share. I don't see how a market can work that's 95% supply and 5% demand.

Ford Taurus, the Car that Doesn't Get No Respect

Ford Taurus: The Car that Doesn't Get No Respect

Let's say you're Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford Motor Company. Times are not the best. Is this a good time to close the plant that makes your most popular passenger car? Well, that's what Ford is on the verge of doing. It's on the verge of killing the Taurus. The fact is, the Taurus still sells almost 200,000 units per year even though it hasn't seen a significant upgrade in years. It outsells the Focus, the Mustang, the 500, the Fusion and Milan -- all of them. Maybe not forever, but for now.

Most of those sales are to fleets, but hey, the fleets have to buy something. If they don't buy the Taurus, what are they going to buy? Some might buy the Five Hundred or the Fusion, but the majority of those sales are going to go somewhere else. Some of them probably can't buy the Fusion because it's assembled in Mexico. There isn't enough capacity on-line now to fill those orders anyway.

The fact of the matter is that the Taurus doesn't get any respect. In a market with quite a few excellent cars, a good car is ridiculed. I'm going to post a comparison of the Taurus and the Fusion very soon. On paper these cars look more the same than different. There's no question the Fusion is a better car, but I can go to my local Ford dealer and buy a 2005 used Taurus with the 24 valve engine, 12,000 miles and lots of warranty left for $11,700. That's half the price of the Fusion. So, the question is, would I rather have a new Fusion or TWO almost-new Tauruses? I think that's the question that Ford doesn't want answered, and that's why they're killing the Taurus.

Update: November sales, first quarter forecasts - Autoblog - _

Reuters Business Channel |

November Sales Results

GM Down 11%
Ford Down 18%
DC Down 7%

Even though sales were down in November, GM is forecasting higher sales and is increasing production for 1st quarter 2006.

Reuters Business Channel |

Thursday, December 01, 2005 The Fastest Cars Sold in America

The Fastest Cars Sold in America has posted a list of the fastest cars sold in America. Imagine that you're cruising down the highway in your Ford GT at its official top speed of 205 mph, and some bozo comes up behind you in a SSC Ultimate Aero at 273 mph and blows your doors off. Life just isn't fair sometimes.