Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Here's an excellent version of Time Warp from Glee's version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. This post is dedicated to Pat K., my friend from high school and college, who found fame maybe not fortune as Riff Raff in West Lafayette, Indiana in the early 1980s. The Glee Horror show can be watched for a while on at this link.

Gran Turismo 5 - Fast But Late

When I was trying to figure out which game console to get "for my son" last year, there were three reasons I picked the Playstation 3: (1) Blu-Ray; (2) Free online play and (3) Gran Turismo 5. Gran Turismo 5, or GT5, is an uber racing game with graphics to die for. There's only one catch: it was supposed to be out about two years ago, but it's still MIA. As of the summer of 2010, it was supposed to be released November 2, 2010, then October 13 release was set for "this holiday season". Even though ads from Sears & Target, etc. say to pick up the game there on November 2 (Tuesday), the latest word on the streets is that the game won't be available before January 1, 2011. Despite the lack of Indycars in the initial release (serious bummer), I'll probably lay my money down anyway (for my son, don't you know).

Friday, October 29, 2010

How to Kill a Pontiac

You can count me among the dissenters who never thought General Motors should have killed the Pontiac division in the first place. If you are going to kill a Pontiac, you should do it with style, so this is how GM should have done it, with a 1,200 pound pumpkin.

Allied Interstate Settles with the FTC
Agrees to Pay $1.75 Million Fine

More good stuff from, Allied Interstate, Inc., one of the biggest collection agencies, agreed to pay $1.75 million, one of the biggest administrative fines for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Specifically the fine was tied to efforts to collect debts from the wrong person, but the consent decree covers other practices as well.

I most commonly run into Allied Interstate when I have a client who has a dispute with DirecTV. After I dispute the matter with DirecTV, they send it to collections, often to Allied Interstate. Usually after a follow-up dispute and request for validation to Allied Interstate or the other collection agency, the claim goes away. Sometimes you have to pick it up again at the credit reporting level, and that gets to be a hassle. IMHO, the company the FTC should be going after is DirecTV. Their advertising, sales, billing, and collection practices are atrocious.

On the subject of debt collections: Our Video of the Day is this clip on abusive debt collections from ABC's 20-20. (By the way, if there's one thing these calls have in common it's that the consumer was smart enough to record the call and save the recordings. If you didn't tape it - they didn't say it.)

It's Chevy Volt Week

This week marked the end of the press embargo on driving impressions of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range-electric vehicle. Just about every auto site has a Volt review. Here's one of the better ones from I'd love the chance to drive one, but I don't want to work for auto-writer wages.
Credit Card Companies Are Thriving Despite Card Act

When Congress was considering tightening the leash on credit card companies with legislation that eventually became the Card Act, the credit card companies whined about how limitations on their practices and default fees would cause massive financial losses. Here we are a few months down the road past the effective date of most of the Act, and in fact the credit card companies are thriving. According to Collections and Credit Risk, charge-off's (losses from defaulting accounts) have gone down by double-digits at major lenders.

I think what the lenders are seeing that if you are fair with the customers, the customers will to their best to make sure that you get paid. If you are unfair, John Q. Public will get mad and give up or get even. We may be seeing some of that sentiment in the mortgage markets. People who got screwed by mortgage brokers and lenders are getting payback by squatting in the homes for months without paying. These same borrowers would likely pay a reasonable rental or mortgage payment for the home based on the home's current value, but since that's not offered, the borrowers don't pay at all.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy 40th Birthday Chevrolet Vega

The Chevrolet Vega was introduced 40 years ago this year, and Popular Mechanics has a feature story called How the Chevy Vega Nearly Destroyed GM. Here's the quick and dirty: the Vega sold really well because it was cheap and kind of looked like a junior Camaro, but it was underengineered and poorly assembled. It was an early example of the "top-down" management that ruled General Motors at least until the recent bailout.

My family never had a Vega, but they did have a Pontiac Astra with the "iron duke" engine that replaced the prone-to-failure Chevrolet 2.3 liter Vega engine. Not all Vegas had this engine. My college roommate had a late model Vega with a v-8 engine. The car still wasn't particularly fast, but it never came within shouting range of 20 MPG. It also ate tires.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

China is Playing Games with Rare Earth Metal Supply

China appears to be playing games with the supply of rare earth metals either to the entire world or selected countries. (They appear to be especially ticked at the Japanese right now.) Rare earth metals are a key component of batteries for electric cars and hybrids, so without the rare earths, the Prius would be prostrate,the Volt would be vanquished and the Leaf would be left. Overall though, somehow, I think we'd still be able to carry on even if the Chinese cut off the rare earth supply. On the other hand, if they cut off the supply of zinc oxide, this would happen:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pinsent on Beiber

The laugh track ruins it.

Rest in Peace Tom Bosley

Tom Bosley, the actor most famous for playing Howard Cunningham died today at age 83. I probably learned a thing or two about being a dad him. Let's drink a toast in his honor with beer in teeny weenie glasses. Maybe even seventy-two.

UAW Chastises Chase Bank

According to the Detroit News, the UAW is threatening to take all of its deposits out of Chase Bank, deposits amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars for multiple reasons. The bank has refused to honor a foreclosure moratorium in Michigan. The Bank has taken a position backing Big Tobacco in its fight against unionization of farm labor, and although the article doesn't mention it, Chase is just a shitty bank. Don't believe me? Check out these sites (check out the forum)

I was already boycotting Chase due to its close relationship with Trilegiant Corporation (now part of Affinion). Here's a link to my blog post on the subject in 2007. Trilegiant/Affinion is a multi-billion dollar scam enterprise. How big of a scam is it? Apollo Capital, the private equity company that owns Affinion is trying to take Affinion public with a starting market capitalization of about three billion dollars.

Now for my marginally relevant video of the day: Be Gentle Tonight, by Jaye P. Morgan, formerly of the Gong Show and Founder (okay, probably not) of J.P. Morgan Chase.

Since I'm on the subject of the Gong Show (and in keeping with my usual criteria of only the highest standards of blogginess or blogitude) , I have to embed this Gong Show clip. It's been almost thirty years since I last saw Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine. I didn't realize how much I missed him.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The British Perspective on the Decline of US Industry.
The BBC visits Gary, Indiana

Check out this link for the BBC Newsnight's story on the sad state of Gary Indiana. Gary was a boomtown through the first half of the 20th century. The decline of the steel industry resulted in Gary becoming close to a ghost town. Actually, Gary isn't a ghost town, 100,000 people still live there. On the other hand, Gary is still the home of U.S. Steel's biggest plant. When you talk to somebody who questions the use of $16 billion in stimulus dollars used to prop up General Motors and Chrysler, I suggest that you point to Gary, and ask the person what would have happened to all these towns dependent on the auto industry had GM and Chrysler not been saved.

Here's reporter Paul Mason's detailed report on his visit to Gary.
50 States Looking into Robosigning by Mortgage Servicers
Where Have They Been the Past 3 Years?

Most of the major mortgage servicers have announced moritoriums (moritoria?) on foreclosures in order to correct questionable paperwork practices, Meanwhile, the attorneys general of all 50 states have no jumped on the bandwagon and have announced a coordinated investigation of mortgage foreclosure practices.

My question: where were the attorneys general three years ago when consumer attorneys first broke news that there was rampant fraud in mortgage filings. It was almost three years ago (October 31,2007) when USDC Judge Boyko through out 14 foreclosure cases by Deutsche Bank on the grounds they couldn't prove their chain of title. Click here to see my write-up on the subject November 16, 2007. I wonder what happened to the homeowners covered by those 14 mortgages. The Deutsche Bank cases made the national news. In my blog post at the time, I linked to a front page New York Times story. In other words, fabricated foreclosure paperwork is nothing new, and has not been a secret. Where were the attorneys general three years ago?
Jobs Jobs and More Jobs.

People say the American economy is broken, and it just can't create enough jobs to go around. Ok, you haters, what about THIS.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Donald Duck vs. Glenn Beck

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Staying Alive in The Wall

An interesting mash-up.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Happy 70th Birthday John Lennon

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Clinton-Biden Swap - Bill's all for it

There's talk in the political press that there have been serious discussions in the White House about Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden swapping positions for 2012.

When asked what he would think about a Hillary/Biden swap. Bill Clinton said, "I'm all for it. Jill Biden's kind of hot."

"Oh, JOE BIDEN? Let me think about it."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Can New Engines Drive Market Share?
Part 1 - Ford Launches 4 New Engines in the F-150

The Ford F150 pickup is the #1 selling light vehicle model in the United States, and it has been for a generation. Ford's 2011 models are coming a little late this year, but they should come on like gangbusters, because Ford is showing off not one, not two, not three, but four new engines in its signature pickup line. The base engine is a version of the 3.7 liter V-6 that debuted to great acclaim in the 2011 Mustang earlier this year. The 3.7 is tuned to generate 300+ horsepower in truck form, a substantial increase over the previous base engine. Combined with a revised 6-speed automatic transmission, the 3.7 liter engine is expected to outperform General Motor's upgrade V-8 engine, but still deliver best-in-class fuel economy, exceeding the Chevrolet Silverado hybrid's 21/22 MPG. In fact, the superior fuel economy in the F-150 is a big reason Ford is discontinuing the compact Ranger pickup. The Ranger with a V6 only rates 16/21 with the EPA.

Ford's other engines for 2011 include two V8 engines, a 5.0 liter and 6.2 liter, for those who need more torque for towing, as well as its technological star, the 3.5 liter Ecoboost engine. The 3.5 liter is a V6 with gasoline direct injection (GDI) and dual turbochargers. A version of the engine has powered the Taurus SHO and the Flex and Lincoln MXT for a year or two. Ford hasn't releasted power or fuel economy numbers for this engine, but promises that trucks with the Ecoboost will match the 11,300 tow rating of the 6.2 liter V8 while having fuel efficiency close to the base 3.7 liter V6. The Ecoboost will come at a price premium, and will not be available until sometime in 2011, so it'll be awhile before we see how much people will pay for top of the line fuel efficiency and power combined with untested durability.

It appears that the 3.7 liter and 5 liter engines will be the volume motors for the F150. It won't take much of a market share boost to increase sales by the 11,000 unites needed to push Ford into the #1 position ahead of General Motors, this time not just in trucks, but in light vehicles (cars and trucks) altogether.
September Car Sales Show Improvement

September light vehicle sales in the USA finally crept back up to an annually adjusted 12 million vehicle level in September. Almost all automakers posted gains for the month compared to last year. (September 2009 marked a low sales point after the end of the "Cash for Clunkers" program.) Chrysler was up almost 61%, Ford was up 46%, and General Motors was up 22%. Ford's market share gains over this year really came into focus in September as the Ford brand posted only 11,000 units short of GM's 4 "core" brands combined.

Overall, the industry appears to have adjusted to a "new normal" marked by slow, steady growth and controlled inventories and incentives.

For more information, check out By the Numbers at