Friday, December 30, 2011

Congratulations Drew Brees

My fellow ex-Purdue Boilermaker, Drew Brees, broke the NFL's single season passing record this week -- a record that Dan Marino held for 27 years. I've got a passing record too, but in my family, we've agreed to stop talking about it.

Report From the Indianapolis Auto Show

My buddy Bill and I made our (almost) annual outing to the Indianapolis Auto Show this week. The Indianapolis show isn't one of the big press events like the Detroit, New York or Los Angeles shows; rather, it's more representative of the rank and file shows that show up everywhere else.

I was impressed that all of the product representatives that we spoke to seemed to know their stuff. That was far from the case just a few years ago. I have some other "seat of the pants" impressions of cars that I had only read about in on the web and in magazines.

The cars that were better than expected:

The Chevrolet Sonic was only available in hands-on form in the sedan version. This is the lowest end Chevrolet that is sold here, but quite honestly, the majority of Americans could use this vehicle as their only car with very little inconvenience. It is decently roomy for four, front and rear. In fact of the A&B sized cars at the show, the Chevrolet seemed to be the most roomy overall, with the Toyota IQ matching it in front seat room. The Sonic also has a decent trunk and a very respectable 138 horsepower turbo 1.4 liter engine. Chevrolet is selling Sonics as fast as the plant can churn them out. The hatchback Sonic has been dubbed Chevy's "Tater Tot" by loving fans.

The Volkswagen Passat - From pictures, this car was purely unexciting, a generic box with a so-so engine and a downgraded interior. In person, what stands out is how roomy this car is. It has by far the best rear seat legroom in the midsized segment and a good trunk to boot. This is the car I would want to rent for my family and its luggage. This is what Chevrolet should be selling as the Impala.

The Chrysler 200 - I can't believe I'm saying this. The Sebring had one of the worst interiors in the car industry. The redesigned 200 has one of the best in its price range. It is better looking in person than in photos.

The cars that were the most disappointing:

The Toyota Prius V. They built a bigger Prius, but they forgot to give it a comfortable rear seat. The hard rear seat was fit for a penalty box.

The Fiat 500. They didn't build this for me. If you are little, you might give this a try. Just don't try to get anybody in the back while there is someone in the front.

The Lincoln Everythings - All of the Lincolns were vastly overpriced compared to more appealing competitors of many makes. This makes me sad because it wasn't too long ago that Lincolns were my aspirational vehicles.

The Buick Verano: This new compact from Buick is built on the same platform a the Chevrolet Cruze. I really like the Cruze, and I thought I'd like the Buick even more. The problem is that the Chevrolet Cruz has a rear seat that is just big enough. The Buick seems to have a lot less legroom in the back. I think this is because of a thicker front seat. The Buick Regal seems to have the same problem. The Lacrosse is great in the back. The trunk is pretty iffy in the 4-cylinder model with the eAssist helper motor though.

Most improved player: that would be Chrysler. With the 200, an updated (though pricey) 300, freshened Jeeps and the new 500, Chrysler rose from the near dead in the past year. I'm not into trucks, but I'd have to say that the Ram Sport on display for $26,xxx was head and shoulders better than the (now discontinued) Ford Ranger that was on display for $28,xxx. The Ranger had 4 wheel drive, but the Ram had a Hemi V-8, a full-sized body, but it still beat the Ranger in EPA economy ratings.

The brand with the most "incompletes": That would be Mazda. Mazda desperately needs to move its SkyActiv technology into its line if it wants to survive in the marketplace.

The two most important cars that I didn't get to try out: That honor would be shared between the 2013 Ford Escape and the 2012 Toyota Camry. There was a new Escape on a rotating display, but you couldn't get in it or even view it up close. I thought it looked pretty good, but I heard several people in attendance morning the passing of their old faithful boxy version. I was a little surprised at how commonly that feeling was expressed. Now, the Camry: I didn't check it out at all. I know it is usually the most popular car in the United States, but I didn't have enough interest in it to get around to looking at it, sorry. No, not really.

Now for a (more than) marginally related video. Indianapolis Reporter Kevin Rader interviewed the most important automotive analysts in the region for his report on the Indianapolis Auto Show. That guy interviewed at 1:25 in the video seems almost as handsome as he is astute.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Video of the Day -

For no particular reason.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Googleteer: Obvious Joke Alert - The Dog Particle

Last week, scientists at the supercollider at CERN found hints of the famous "god particle". That announcement brought our familiar searching superhero, The Googleteer to high alert, realizing that we would soon be deluged with reports of dyslexic scientists looking for the "dog particle".

the search

CERN dyslexic "dog particle"

Only 71 hits as of now. Only partially obvious, I guess.

Here's a better version of the joke: Scientists at Cern found hints of the famous Higgs Boson "god particle" by looking for tale-tale green streaks on their monitor. After these scientists were done, a group of dyslexic scientists took over looking for characteristic yellow streaks of the "dog particle".

A marginally relevant video perhaps? Doggone right.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's the deal with Santander Losing Payoff Checks?

When you pay off your car, either by the sweat of your brow, trading it in, or refinancing, you don't expect your old finance company to send its collection goons after you for more money. Yet that's exactly what's happening to a number of consumers with Santander auto loans. In two minutes, i was able to find three posted complaints, and I think that I could have spent half a day ferreting more out of internet complaints.;;

Message to car dealers, banks and credit unions: one of the worst customer relations problems that you can have is a consumer who is getting harassed because the check that you sent in didn't get handled properly by Santander. A customer should reasonably expect his/her car dealer or fiancial institution to give a damn that Santander is calling him/her several times a day. If it were me in that situation, I would go on Youtube and complain both about Santander and my financial institution. If you run across this posting and you are having a problem with Santander, please post in the comments. Thanks.

For a marginally relevant video, I couldn't find a good video on Santander, So I'll settle for Santana.

Tesla Model S - Almost Real Now

The Tesla Model S is one step closer to being ex-vaporware. According to the company, the car is just a year from production, and the company has set up its Model S configurator page.

The base model will have a 40kw/hour battery and will be rated for a 160 mile range for $57,400. That's "only" $49,900 after projected federal rebate. That's a lot of money, but there are a lot of mid-range "status" cars of every type that cost at least that much and won't draw nearly as much attention as the Tesla. I think it is a nice looking car, and I wouldn't mind if this is the "car of the future". It looks kind of Saabish to me - ironic since Saab has finally joined the ex-parrot club. Pricing and some info via For a marginally relevant video, I tried to see if there was a video of the Swedish Chef and a "cooked goose". No such luck. We'll have to settle for donuts. (That's the first and last time I've ever said or will ever say "settle for donuts.")

Monday, December 19, 2011

All I Want for Christmas . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nissan Targeted by UAW? - Unfortunately, it's a Moving Target

The UAW has refused to name a particular transplant carmaker as the primary target for an organization drive, but there's a report at today that the UAW may be planning to target Nissan. Since the UAW has tried and failed to entice Nissan workers before, the odds aren't good. The odds are ridiculously low if another news report is true. is reporting that Nissan is planning on nearly doubling its production of cars in Mexico, increasing production by 600,000 vehicles per year. There will be three separate production lines each with the ability to produce 200,000 units per year. This expansion of the Mexican operations would exceed the capacity of Nissan's largest US plant in Smyrna, Tennessee (555,000 units.). Nissan has a smaller plant in Canton, Mississippi that can produce 400,000 units. In other words, in the near future, Nissan may be bringing on more new Mexican production capacity than either of the potential UAW target plants. I don't buy the notion that this capacity is targeted at North American market growth or that it is intended to replace production in high-cost Japan. Nissan's high-volume US models are already produced in North America. Bottom line: I'm pro-union, but given Nissan's expansion in Mexico, I'm not sure that I would sign a card if I were a Nissan worker in Mississippi or Tennessee right now.

A marginally related video? of course.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012 Chevrolet Impala
300 Horsepower for $20,000?

I'm in the early stages of car shopping - dangerous for me. I'm mainly looking at small cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and the Ford Focus, but while I was looking at incentives on the Chevrolet Cruze (not much available), I saw shocking incentives on the 2012 Chevrolet Impala. The Impala is an old design, but this year it got a New engine, a 300 horsepower 3.6 liter V6, basically the same engine as the base Camaro. With the standard 6-speed automatic transmission, the Impala has EPA ratings of 19/29. As Adam Sandler would say, "not toooo shabby".

The Impala used to have many options, but they've cut it down to a 3 flavors deal with virtually no options. A reasonably equipped base LS model has a list price of around $25,000 or $26000 when you add the delivery etc. The incentives vary by area and trim level, but it appears that there is a $3500 general rebate and 3,000 in GM Employee Cash Allowance for the low trim levels (and $4000 GM employee cash for the LT and LTZ higher line models). These incentives can put a GM employee in the seat of a new Impala for around $20k, significantly cheaper than the price of a comparably equipped Cruze compact. If you are more into the Malibu, the Malibu looks to have 2-3k in incentives, but be advised, the redesigned 2013 Malibu is only a couple months away. The Eco version will debut in early 2012 with the remainder of the line set for a traditional late-summer introduction.

To check it out, go to

(Update: since I roughed this out, I talked to a salesman at a Chevy dealer who told me I was $1000 high on incentives for the $2012 Impala. GMFF's configurator confirms this, but GMFF's general incentive page tracks the $6500/$7500 total incentive figure that I provided in the post.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Everything Old is New Again
- Return of the Home Organ

Home organs pretty much died in the United States by the early 1980s. They never died out in Japan but they died back. In Germany, home organs are enjoying something of a Renascence. Check out the crowd for Mambo Kurt

If you want to see the state of the art in German organs, check out the Wersi Scala doing the holiday classic Sleigh Ride.
They even stole Michael Iceberg's horse. If you want one of these, they MIGHT take your BMW 750 in an even trade.

Friday, December 09, 2011

RIP Ford Econoline
Hello Ford Transit

At the Chicago Auto Show, Ford is officially retiring the venerable Econoline and E-Series full-sized vans, and at the same time, the automaker will be introducing the Transit van to the United States. Ford already sells a smaller van, the Transit Connect, in the US. The Transit is a completely different vehicle, a full-sized van replacement. The Transit is said to get 25% better MPG than the Econoline. That means, if you are Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, Scooby and Fred, you can solve 25% more mysteries.

For a marginally-related video, how about this one from Top Gear Germany as Sabine Schmidt hauls a Ford Transit around the famous Nurburgring track

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Really Needs . . .
Billy Jack? Flying Car?
How about both?

Tom Laughlin, the "guy who played Billy Jack", is 80 years old now, and he's trying to make another Billy Jack movie. He wants to use Occupy Wall Street as a theme for the movie, and he wants to use the film as a platform to voice the call for a new bill of rights, economic rights. There's just one little problem: money. I'll let Tom tell you all about it.

Hey, I know, by know that Moller Skycar guy must have raised enough money to get the flying car thing going with money left over for an indy movie. Maybe these two guys can team up.

Billy Jack could be a natural for Occupy Wall Street. He did have a certain way of putting rich a-holes in their place.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

2013 Dodge Dart
The Compact makes a Comeback

Ever since the demise of the Neon, Dodge and Chrysler have been without a true compact car. The Fiat takeover deal includes a provision that Fiat gets an additional 5% of Chrysler if Fiat can bring a US-produced car capable of 40 MPG highway. They think they have that in the 2012 Dodge Dart which will be officially introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in a few weeks. This week the Dart was teased to the media. Once again, the mail carrier misplaced my invitation.

The Dart will be union-made in the USA at Chrysler's Belvidere, Illinois Plant, which will get an expansion for the project. This is the plant that has been making the slow-selling Dodge Caliber. The Dart will use Fiat technology and will be based on the Alfa Romeo Guilietta, though Chrysler says the Dart will be longer and wider than the Alfa upon which the Dart is based. It has been a long time since Alfa has been sold in the US. What do US car buyer have to look forward to? Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson is an Alfa Romeo fan, once stating:

You cannot be a true petrolhead until you've owned an Alfa ???- until you've experienced that rollercoaster of pain, disappointment, and agony for that brief moment when everything works and you're on a nice road"


Alfa's are designed to be the best a car can be.... briefly

The compact Dodge Dart will offer three engines to start in the US. It will have tweaked versions of the 2.0 and 2.4 engines that are now used in the Dodge Caliber, but the engine that has the attention of the car wonks is the Fiat 1.4 liter multi-air turbo engine. This engine, the same one as in the Fiat 500 Abarth, is expected to deliver around 150 to 160 hp in initial trim. Manual and dual-clutch automatic 6-speed transmissions will be initially available. An advanced automatic with more gears and a CVT might be available later.

The Chrysler fanboys at are so excited about the Dart that they started a new site dedicated to the Dart alone. The new site is

For a marginally-related video, I couldn't find any Top Gear roadtests of the Guilietta, but I did find one from Top Gear's poorer cousin, Fifth Gear.

I also found a video of Jay Leno's test of the Fiat 500 Abarth, which should be available in the US anytime now.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Average Home in Foreclosure is Delinquent By Almost 2 Years

Collections and Credit Risk reports that, according to Lenders Processing Service (a company that provides foreclosure-related services to lenders), the average home "in foreclosure" is delinquent 631 days. I put "in foreclosure" in quotes because the term is not used consistently, and it means different things to different people. For example it might mean 90 days delinquent or more or it could mean a case where a petition to foreclose has already been filed in court.

Banks are not going to find foreclosures any easier going forward, especially since more and more evidence is appearing of sloppy and corrupt practices at the mortgage companies and banks.

In a feature story last night on 60 Minutes titled Prosecuting Wall Street, a whistleblower at Countrywide (now part of Bank of America) said that Countrywide had recycling bins full of fragments of paper that included signatures cut off of forged documents. Another whistleblower, an examiner at Citibank explained how he had alerted upper management to irregularities in first 60 then 80% of the mortgages that Citibank held and processed through the secondary mortgage market.

This link will probably expire in a couple of weeks, but for now it's a more than marginally related video.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Aptera Not Apt Enough
Three-wheeler Maker Goes Bust

Aptera was going to revolutionize the car business with its three-wheeled car. It's not to be. The company didn't have the money to ride out the economic downturn and is filing for bankruptcy. Too bad, the vehicle looked pretty neat.

Image via

Friday, December 02, 2011

Meet Zach Wahls
You'll be seeing him again

This video has been circulating for about 9 months, but only recently has it taken off, with twelve million views on Youtube. Nineteen year-old college student Zach Wahls talks about his family and the absurdity of Iowa's proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Thanks to Frankie J. for the link.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Website of the day:

A big problem with the mortgage messis that on one hand, you can't trust the records, and on the other hand you can't tell how much you can't trust the records. One reason is that it has been hard to identify the scope of the fraud and cover-up of mortgage assignment irregularities. It is very time-consuming analyzing these records. The website was designed to make it easier to analyze these documents using the technique of crowdsourcing. Briefly, anybody can sign up to help work on the analysis of mortgage documents. The first set of data involves mortgages in Palm Beach County, Florida, and to put it bluntly, the questionable mortgages predominate. isn't perfect, but it shows promise and has the potential to get better with time. It's a website to watch.
Detroit 3's White Collar Wages to Exceed Blue Collar Wages in 2012 reports on a Center for Automotive Research study saying that next year GM, Chrysler and Ford's total bill for white-collar salaries will exceed the cost of UAW blue-collar wages for the first time.

Sixty-six thousand white collar workers made an average salary of $122,500. One hundred fifteen thousand blue collar workers made $69,000 each. I was frankly surprised by these figures. First, judging by the blue collar figure, it appears that these figures only account for salary/wages and not "total compensation". Secondly, while you could expect the automakers to have some very well paid executives and well paid engineers; you could also expect them to have larger numbers lower level salaried workers who are paid less than UAW wages.

It appears that despite restructuring, or because of it, stratification of the American workforce is alive and well at the formerly big 3.

Marginally related video time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Billy Graham Get Well Soon.

93 year-old evangelist and American Institution Billy Graham is hospitalized. Getting old is never easy, especially when you in the public eye. Especially when people keep pointing out amazing coincidences.

Billy Graham Totally Looks Like Reeve Alvin Valkenheiser

Honda Wakes Up to "Earth Dreams"

For most of the last thirty years or so, Honda has been one of the leaders at bringing new engine technology to mainstream autos. That's why it has been surprising in recent years that Honda has fallen behind in the trend toward direct injection. Honda has also been behind the curve in 6-speed transmissions, and its hybrids have been less than stellar as well.

Well, say no more. Honda hosted a press event at the Tokyo Auto Show to show off some new engines and transmissions. Honda calls the new engines its Earth Dreams lineup. Now I know why I didn't get a press pass, because as soon as I heard the "Earth Dreams" name, I couldn't wait to ask what they were going to call their new boat engines. In all, Honda unveiled five new engines, from 600cc to 3.5 liters. The new engines feature direct gasoline injection, stop-start technology, and for the 3.5 liter, cylinder deactivation. Honda also showed off a 7 speed dual clutch automatic and a new line of CVT transmissions.

Honda says that Earth Dreams will bring class-leading fuel economy to all major market segments within three years. My guess is that the new 2.4 liter engine will be first up because the Honda Accord is due for a major redo for 3013. Inside Line hints at a plug-in hybrid Accord for 2013. If Honda can undercut the $32k price of the plug-in Toyota Prius, it could really be onto something. The car magazines are slobbering over Honda's SH-AWD system (for Super Handling All Wheel Drive) that appears to be destined for a successor to Honda's much-loved NSX sports car. SH-AWD combines a direct-injected 3.5 liter gasoline engine driving the front wheels with two 20kw electric motors in the back running off of a lithium battery. This should give you the scoot of a Tesla Roadster at a lower cost and with four-cylinder fuel economy.
Although the buff-books are looking at the NSX as the target of SH-AWD, Honda says the system is geared to "large sized vehicles". To me that means vehicles like the Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot. Perhaps this will mean the first 30-30 minivan, something I blogged about 3 years ago.
Time for a marginally-related video. Thinking of the NSX makes me think of Pulp Fiction. Here's the NSX's Hollywood minute:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Paul Krugman on the top .1%

Paul Krugman, writing for the New York Times today, goes off on the favorable tax treatment given to the top 1/1000th of the income earners, the top .1%. For the period ending in 2005, income for the bottom 99.9% went up 21%. Income for the top .1% went up 400%. The top .1% takes home 50% of all of the capital gains, which are, of course, taxed at a much lower rate than regular income. As to the Republicans' "job creator" argument on why rich people shouldn't be taxed more, here's what Krugman has to say:

For who are the 0.1 percent? Very few of them are Steve Jobs-type innovators; most of them are corporate bigwigs and financial wheeler-dealers. One recent analysis found that 43 percent of the super-elite are executives at nonfinancial companies, 18 percent are in finance and another 12 percent are lawyers or in real estate. And these are not, to put it mildly, professions in which there is a clear relationship between someone’s income and his economic contribution.

Executive pay, which has skyrocketed over the past generation, is famously set by boards of directors appointed by the very people whose pay they determine; poorly performing C.E.O.’s still get lavish paychecks, and even failed and fired executives often receive millions as they go out the door.

Meanwhile, the economic crisis showed that much of the apparent value created by modern finance was a mirage. As the Bank of England’s director for financial stability recently put it, seemingly high returns before the crisis simply reflected increased risk-taking — risk that was mostly borne not by the wheeler-dealers themselves but either by na├»ve investors or by taxpayers, who ended up holding the bag when it all went wrong. And as he waspishly noted, “If risk-making were a value-adding activity, Russian roulette players would contribute disproportionately to global welfare.”

I couldn't have said it better myself. (Okay, I couldn't have said it that well, that's why I quoted it. Happy now?) For a marignally-related video, how about a trailer for a movie about another wise guy named Paul?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Judging from the pictures on, if you don't have a South Park mentality, you should never buy a Thanksgiving cake.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Michael Moore's Manifesto for Occupy Wall Street

One of the big complaints about the Occupy Wall Street protesters is they don't really stand for anything. They don't propose any substantive change. I think it's a fair point but it does not necessarily delegitimize the protest. It is enough to protest because you are unhappy about something. "Venting" is an appropriate form of political speech. Anyway, Michael Moore proposes this statement of core beliefs. I agree with some of it, disagree with other parts. It's good to get it out there in the arena of public discourse.

Some people think that Michael Moore is just a carpet bagger who has gone to Wall Street to glom onto the attention that the Wall Street protesters have attracted. This can't be further from the truth. The Occupy Wall Street movement is just the kind of popular revolt that Moore called for in Capitalism: a Love Story, his movie from 2009. It was one of his more low-key films, but it is worth watching. You can stream it (with ads) here with what looks to be Russian subtitles. Actually, I don't know if that link properly respects private property rights. Here's a link to Netflix streaming. More capitalistic, perhaps but relatively reliable.

Foreclosure Firm that Mocked the Homeless Closes

You probably saw the news report a month ago about the Baum law firm. Baum was New York's largest "foreclosure mill". Baum was known for its raucous Halloween office parties. Pictures were leaked to the web of Baum employees dressed up as homeless people -- the products of their (allegedly robo-signer-aided) foreclosures. After the Baum firm was fined $3 million -- oh, yes, and the whole "homeless thing, clients left the firm in droves. Now the firm has announced that it is going to close. This news warrants a "Full Nelson"

(Still image from York Times. Video - The Simpsons - Fox - duh)

Graph of the Day - Texas Oil Production

The show Dallas premiered in 1978. It's interesting that the story of a Texas oil family roughly coincided with peak oil production in the state. I suppose that it's more accurate to say the conception of the show coincided with peak oil production. In 1974, Texas oil production peaked at just under 3.5 million barrels per day. By 1978, production had already dipped to about 3 million barrels per day. By 2005, Texas production was under 1 million barrels per day, significantly below 1935's production. Apparently without oil, Texas has turned to exporting the only thing left that it has in abundance: crazy politicians.

Megyn Kelly - Essentially a New Meme

After calling pepper spray a "food product, essentially", Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly has immediately become the subject of a hot internet meme, the "Essentially" meme. This comes at the same time as news of a study that found that Fox News watchers know less about current events than people who don't watch the news at all. Duh, I could have told you that. When preparing this blog post, I checked out M.K.'s Wikipedia page and found out that she's a lawyer. She practiced law for nine years. Part of that time was with the firm of Jones, Day. Among consumer lawyers, the defense lawyers of Jones Day are known for proving the adage that when you hire a big ticket law firm, you don't necessarily get what you pay for. If only MSNBC had hosts as good looking as Fox, then the political balance would look a lot different in this country.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Black Friday
Target Petition Ignites Pushback

This year Target announced plans to open its stores for Black Friday at 12:00 AM. In response, a (soon to be "ex"?) Target worker named Anthony Hardwick posted a petition at protesting the early opening because it robs the workers of their ability to spend Thanksgiving evening with their families. Other retailers have jumped on the early opening bandwagon. (In fact, I'm not sure that Target was ever unique in this strategy. It's just new for them.) I signed the petition in solidarity for the workers; but in hindsight, I have my doubts that working midnight is worse than working 5:00 AM. First of all, if you work midnight, you never have to go to sleep Thanksgiving evening. If you are drowsy on Friday morning, that's the company's problem. Secondly, Target pays holiday pay for working Thanksgiving (as do most retailers. Do they pay holiday pay on Friday? I suspect most don't.

Target has already begun its corporate campaign against Mr. Hardwick's petition, and it has taken the form of a personal slam on Mr. Hardwick. Hey, if you don't like the message, I guess you should attack the messenger. Target released a press release not mentioning Mr. Hardwick by name, but clearly referring to him stating that he was not scheduled to work Thanksgiving or Black Friday because he works full-time for another retailer and he needed Black Friday off. At first blush, this makes Mr. Hardwick look bad, but actually, his point remains as valid as ever regarding the vast majority of Target workers.

Whether midnight is better or worse than 5:00 AM is not really the big issue. The big issue is that the worker's family life has never been a high priority among American retailers, and it seems to be getting worse. Very few retailers are unionized. (Coincidence?) It should come as a surprise to nobody that the "occupy" movement has started a grass-roots "occupy black friday" movement. I have my doubts whether the protesters will have enough critical mass to slow down the compulsive shoppers driven by selective discounts into a feeding frenzy, but we'll see. Personally, I've been boycotting Black Friday for years. I could say it was because of social responsibility; but really,it's because I don't like to get up early and from experience I know that those extra-special deals are rarely available once you get to the stores. My suggestion: sleep in. Cyber Monday? Now that rocks.

A very short marginally related video. This will bring back memories.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Das Tub?

There hasn't been a great submarine movie since Das Boot in 1981. That's why, when I heard of Das Tub, I had high hopes that it would be as good as Das Boot. Is it? Well, you be the judge.

Das Tub from Media Design School on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Next Great Escape in Los Angeles

Ford used the Los Angeles Auto Show for the official unveiling of the next generation Ford Escape. This is the vehicle most of the world knows as the Kuga. It's less boxy than the current Escape. Being boxy never hurt the Escape's sales. It's been in the top two or 3 in its category for its entire run. The current 2.5 liter 4-cylinder will be the base engine. There will be 1.6 liter and 2.0 liter ecoboost (turbocharged) engines available as well. The hybrid appears to be dead for now.

Photo via

If you think I have a marginally relevant video for you, then I guess you know me too well. Actually, I have two. You see, when I first thought of the Ford Escape I thought of Rupert Holmes' The Pina Colada Song. That song always creeped me out though, so I didn't want to link to a video of his version of the song. What other versions are there on Youtube? Well, I found these two, and they both creeped me out even more. I figure since nobody will be likely to play through the whole song of either of these, it's like only having one. You know what I mean?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Honey Badger takes Two Human Lives

This video is almost a year old now, and I've been meaning to post it for a long time but I didn't get around to it. In the past 10 months or so a whole meme has grown up around it. I have to say that it deserves all of its 24 million views. That's roughly two human lifetimes worth of Honey Badger. Honey Badger Don't Care. (language alert)

Jimmy Fallon Does Morrison

Check out this clip where Jimmy Fallon and the Roots do a spot-on impression of the Doors doing the theme to "Reading Rainbow".

Monday, November 14, 2011

The New Incentive Wars have Begun

I actually watched some brain rot television tonight, and the level of auto advertising was up to pre-carpocalypse standards. There were lots of Chevy, Kia and Volkswagen 0-0-0 deals. Nissan got its licks in as well. It looks like the car manufacturers have some ambitious year-end numbers that they want to meet, and they are discounting to move the metal. If you are contemplating getting a different car, you might find getting a new car is about as cheap as a used one on a monthly basis. Edmund's Deals of the Month page was last updated for October 20, 2011, so they should refresh it soon. That's always a good place to start when looking at competitive incentives. Also, take a look at

Whatever you do, be careful on your test drive.

New Buzzword of the Decade: THORIUM
As in: "I'm so thorium, I can hardly pithium."

If you remember the old Batman television show from the 60's, whenever they climbed into the Batmobile (coolest car ever), Robin would call out "atomic batteries to power,turbines to speed" before they set out. As it so happens, maybe Batman was just 50 years or so ahead of its time. How's that? Atomic powered cars might actually be practical. The key is, you can't use uranium or plutonium, rather, the best bet is the (mildly radioactive) common, rare-earth metal, thorium. Thorium is fairly common in the United States, but right now there isn't enough demand for there to be much active mining. Thorium has enough atomic energy stored within so that 8 grams of thorium could power a typical car for its life time. Back in the bad old days of the carpocolypse, in January 2009, Cadillac came out with a concept car (right) to be fueled by a thorium/laser powerplant. (see pic from

For a detailed layperson's article on thorium reactor technology, check out this article at

A marginally relevant video perhaps? Of course

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Xtranormal Explanation of the Mortgage Crisis

This is from late 2010, but I think it explains the basic ideas pretty well.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Auto Finance Companies Making a Comeback
- Originating More Loans than Banks or Credit Unions

From Collections and Credit Risk comes a news item that auto finance companies have drastically increased their share of the auto loan market in the past two years, up 47% overall. Finance companies are originating 38.5% of auto loans versus 17.6% for banks and credit unions.

That finance companies have increased market share should come as no surprise. In 2008 Chrysler Financial and GMAC were severely limited during the bailout. Chrysler Financial ended up biting the dust and the auto arm of GMAC was replaced by Ally Financial. There was shrinkage and consolidation among other players. Most notably, Santander acquired Drive Financial.

How is this important to consumers and consumer lawyer? The finance companies generally buy installment sales contracts originated by the dealers. Traditionally, the dealers would try to write these contracts at as high an interest rate as possible, and the dealers would be rewarded with a yield spread premium kickback from the lender based upon the interest rate. I have heard anecdotally that the dynamic has changed, and the dealers actually have to pay the finance companies to take the deal now. I don't know if that is true, but it does seem like there are more "yo yo" sales going on where the dealer calls the customer back under the premise that the financing has fallen through.

I suggest that it is more important than ever for consumers to avoid financing through the dealer and to arrange your own financing separately through the bank or credit union of your choice. Lenders will bid to get your business at sites like and I have found that in most cases, going with an internet consolidator like these sites or by going through your local credit union, you can usually get the best deal and the most straightforward deal at that. If you are not comfortable negotiating a deal at the dealer, many credit unions offer a "car buying service" that will result in a cleaner, better deal than going in to the dealer with no experience.

What's all this fuss about Independent Foreclosure Reviews?

Among an outcry of citizens over bungled mortage servicing, bungled modifications and bungled foreclosures, the Obama administration last week announced a program that will extend independent mortgage reviews for homeowners who were in any stage of the foreclosure process during 2009-2010. The best coverage that I've seen on the topic comes from (Not surprising.) The review process will be undertaken by eight contractors hired by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve. Note that the OCC has not exactly been a consumer-friendly institution in the past. That's why much of its oversight authority is being transferred to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

I am skeptical of these reviews. It can take an experienced consumer attorney a week of solid work to evaluate the most easily ascertainable flaws in a mortgage. You need to see information that comes from different sources and is stored in different places. You have to look at the consumer's documents, the mortgage broker's documents, the title company's documents, the originator's documents, the servicer's documents, the public record of mortgage transfers, and the loan securitization documents. Finally, to determine a pattern and practice, you have to cross-reference suspected violations from one loan file to another. In short, a complete review costs thousands of dollars. to do this with millions of mortgages will cost billions of dollars. I don't know how much they've budgeted for this task, but it is likely not enough.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Onion Scores with "Ancient Job Creators"

Great satire here:

WASHINGTON—A team of leading archaeologists announced Monday they had uncovered the remains of an ancient job-creating race that, at the peak of its civilization, may have provided occupations for hundreds of thousands of humans in the American Northeast and Midwest.

According to researchers, these long- forgotten people once flourished between western New York state and Illinois, erecting highly distinctive steel and brick structures wherever they went, including many buildings thought to have held hundreds of paid workers at a time.

"It's truly fascinating—after spending a certain number of hours performing assigned tasks, the so-called 'employees' at such facilities would receive monetary compensation that allowed them to support themselves and their families," said archaeologist Alan H. Mueller, citing old ledgers and time-keeping devices unearthed at excavation sites in the region. "In fact, this practice seems to have been the norm for their culture, which consisted of advanced tool users capable of exploiting their skills to produce highly valued goods and services."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Was Shakespeare a Fraud? The Monty Python View

The movie Anonymous is out now. It's a dramatic take on the old issue of whether William Shakespeare really wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to him. This is an issue that former US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has spent most of his adult life examining. It's something I spent two minutes on a time or two listening to this Monty Python bit called Stake Your Claim. The thing that I find so shocking is that Youtube doesn't have English language video of this bit, so the English is dubbed on the German Python television special. I think there is a conspiracy among "truthers".

Now that's what I call entertainment.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is Portfolio Recovery Associates one of the 100 BEST Small Companies in the US?
The Googleteer checks it out.

Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc. has been named by Forbes magazine as one of the Top Small Companies in the US. If you are a consumer lawyer, you are already headed for the vomit bag - but it gets worse. PRA made this list in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
You have to wonder if Forbes got their lists mixed up. The Googleteer(tm) wondered. He flew in the window after a much overdue vacation and did the following search

"portfolio recovery associates" (complaint OR complaints)

More than 69,000 hits.

These complaints are not frivolous. PRA is among the worst of the "bottom feeder" or "zombie" debt collectors. Just last year, Portfolio Recovery Associates was in the news for using affidavits signed by Martha Kunkle to prove its debt. Who is Martha Kunkle? she was a woman who died more than a decade before her signature was affixed on the affidavits.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grammar Alert:
"Americans Driving Less Miles" - Ouch

There are many links to a news story that says Americans are driving less. There's nothing wrong with that. You can say Americans are driving fewer miles. That's okay too. You shouldn't say "Americans are driving less miles." That just hurts my ears. It's just another weird convention in the English language. "Less" can be an adverb, as in "Steve stinks less than last week." It can be an adjective also, but only when describing a noun that isn't being separated into tangible fixed units. In other words, you can use it with "love" or "credibility" or even "water" - when you aren't breaking it down into units. "There's less water in the pool right now."
Boy, you'd think these people never heard of Al Yankovic.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Conan takes on the iPhone 4s

One of my colleagues just got an iPhone 4s. Why don't you get one, Steve? Are you kidding me? I can't even stop watching the squirrels. Giving me an iPhone with Siri would be like giving Charlie Sheen a million dollar gift card to Meth, Coke and Beyond. Here's Conan O'Brien's take on the iPhone 4S.

Friday, October 21, 2011

English Lesson of the Month: WTFC?

The lesson that I learned this month is not to use the acronym WTFC in an email. The reason: the recipient might not know what I'm talking about. I could be talking about Wintrust Financial Corporation. I could also be talking about the "not for profit" Women Together Fighting Cancer, a/k/a the "other" pink ribbon charity. Dear readers, the next time one of your learned correspondents sends you an email with WTFC? Ask him or her whether he or she means Wintrust Financial Corporation or Women Together Fighting Cancer. Stomp out ambiguity before it spreads.
Mr. Green in the Drawing Room with a Frozen Armadillo

From Fox News, in Texas (and only in Texas hopefully) a man was accused of beating a woman with a frozen armadillo.

I think it was a wise person named Steve Altland who said, and I'm paraphrasing:

"If frozen armadillos were outlawed, only outlaws would have frozen armadillos."

Truer words were never spoken.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

GM to Finance Cannonball Run Remake?

New York magazine is reporting that General Motors is in talks to finance a remake of the 1981 movie Cannonball Run. Some say that the original Cannonball Run is the worst movie in the history of the world. Some say Cannonball Run 2 was. (I say that honor goes to Little Buddha.) Naturally, if the general is paying the bills, this will be a GM product placement extravaganza. One can only imagine the venom expressed on talk radio when a "Government Motors" movie debuts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bank of America no longer largest US Bank

It was news today that, thanks to "shrinkage", Bank of America is no longer the largest U.S. bank. That title now goes to J.P. Morgan Chase. Don't worry BofA, you're still the worst. - So you have that going for ya.

Bank of America also reported that they made their first quarterly profit in a long time - $6.2 billion worth. They also fessed up that that profit was due to an accounting adjustment and gain on sale of assets. The accounting change should come as no surprise. I have long suspected that BofA outsourced its accounting to the Bizzaro world. As recently as this past July, Reuters reported that Bank of America, along with other top banks , continues to use robosigners to sign massive quantitites of mortgage documents. Keep in mind, robosigning isn't the problem as much as it is the symptom of a problem; and that problem is that the paperwork supporting Bank of America's loans all to often doesn't support Bank of America's loans. The financial press has been rationalizing that everything will be fine with Bank of America, because if worst comes to worse, it could just bankrupt its Countrywide division. Not so fast says really smart financial blogger Alison Frankel. She says one trial court has already decided that BofA's acquisition of Countrywide was a "defacto merger", and as such, can't be separated from Bank of America as a whole.

Anyway - time for the marginally relevant video of the day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bob King's Father Couldn't Be Prouder of Him

Autoblog Discusses UAW Politics

If you want to read about the current state of UAW politics, click on this article at Autoblog. I'm all for disclosure, but, judging from the picture, Bob King is getting a little too personal for my tastes. Might there be a little bit of exaggeration there, Bob?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can Bank of America Bankrupt Countrywide to Avoid Insolvency?
- Not So Fast Says Legal Journalist Frankel

Alison Frankel must be the smartest journalist on the planet when it comes to legal matters. She writes a blog for Reuters called On the Case. Recently she commented on speculation in the financial press that Bank of America could dodge insolvency by separating what used to be Countrywide and bankrupting that unit only. Ms. Frankel considers that unlikely to work and points out that at least one New York Trial Court has already treated the Countrywide acquisition as a "defacto merger", which would prohibit BofA from separating the Countrywide mortgage business for a separate bankruptcy.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Why the Proposed $20 Billion Attorneys General Mortgage Settlement Stinks

It's hard to get a handle on the scope of the whole the banks dug for the entire economy in their mishandling of mortgages from 1990 or so to 2007. Incompetence and self-dealing across our financial community resulted in a vast wealth-distruction machine that not only cost more than 20% of our national wealth, it left us with broken institutions, no confidence in our economy, and, to top it off, it left millions of Americans with no home equity, no mobility and no ability to chase new economic opportunities. The best way to get a general picture is to look at the decrease in the value of your home and look at the increase of homeowners who are now trapped by negative equity. Wall Street and national demonstrations notwithstanding, President Obama still doesn't seem to get why he has lost so much support and credibility with the left two thirds of the American constituency (Forget the right third, they never liked him in the first place.) when he still seems to support letting the banks walk away with slap on the wrist for dragging the economy under. (Here's my prescription for Obama: fire Tim Geithner, you'll see your poll numbers go up 10% immediately, and you'll probably start getting some good advice once and a while.)

Rolling Stone writer Matt Tiabbi does an excellent job in a brief article that describes in plain English why the proposed $20 billion settlement between the 50 attorneys general and the big banks would end up as a bailout that dwarfs TARP. In essence, it would mean allowing the banks to pay $20 billion and walk away from more than $1 trillion in potential losses. Quoting:

How? The math actually makes a hell of a lot of sense, when you look at it closely.

Any foreclosure settlement will allow the banks to pay one relatively small bill to cover all of their legal liabilities stemming from the monstrous frauds they all practiced in the years leading up to the 2008 crash (and even afterward), when they all schemed to create great masses of dicey/junk subprime loans and then disguise them as AAA-rated paper for sale to big private investors and institutions like state pension funds and union funds.

To recap the crime: the banks lent money to firms like Countrywide, who in turn created billions in dicey loans, who then sold them back to the banks, who chopped them up and sold them to, among other things, your state’s worker retirement funds.

So this is bankers from Deutsche and Goldman and Bank of America essentially stealing the retirement nest eggs of firemen, teachers, cops, and other actors, as well as the investment monies of foreigners and hedge fund managers. To repeat: this was Wall Street hotshotsstealing money from old ladies.

later in the article. . .

[Just one] settlement, covering 22 mostly private plaintiffs, cost one bank, Bank of America, nearly half the size of the entire proposed AG settlement. This is from the Times story about that deal, in June:

In a research note, Paul Miller of FBR Capital Markets projected that Bank of America could face a total of $25 billion of losses from the soured mortgages, the most of any of the major banks.

So a private analyst this summer was estimating that just one bank, Bank of America, could face more in damages than the Obama administration and the AGs are now trying to “wrest” from all the major banks, combined, for all their liabilities.

Just a few days ago, news of more such suits came in. An Irish company called Sealink Funding is suing Chase and Bank of America, seeking $4.5 billion combined in connection to losses in mortgage-backed securities sold to them by those banks. Meanwhile, a German bank, Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg, is suing Chase for an additional $500 million in losses.

These huge amounts – a few billion here, a half a billion there – are coming from single companies, directed at single banks. And think about the Bank of America settlement for $8.5 billion: what’s the usual payoff in a lawsuit settlement? Ten cents on the dollar? Five?

In fact, the settlement amount in that case was just 2% of the face value of the loans when they were securitized ($424 billion), and represented just 4% of the principal still outstanding ($221 billion).

Why do those figures matter? Because the way these securitizations were structured, legally, Bank of America is obligated to buy back any loans that were sold fraudulently at face value – that is part of the legal language in the “pooling and servicing agreements” under which all of these mortgages were pooled.

So minus a settlement, Bank of America – one bank -- had a potential liability of $424 billionjust from its Countrywide holdings! And it got off for $8.5 billion, a major victory.

All of which puts in perspective the preposterously small size of the proposed AG settlement. $20 billion would be a lousy number if we were just talking about Bank of America. But all the big banks combined?

OMG - Brad Pitt TOTALLY LOOKS LIKE Elizabeth Warren

Brad Pitt

Elizabeth Warren

Tom Cruise, you stay out of this.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Michelle Bachmann Gets Equal Time
- at Bad Lip Reading

"... and when I buy stickers for folks in prison, I bring milk - not backyard meth." That's what I call a role model.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Flat Rock to Build Fusions

There is a tentative deal between Ford and the UAW, but not many details have been released other than there will be bonuses and promises of job preservation/creation. Some of those jobs will be at the assembly plant at Flat Rock Michigan. Flat Rock currently assembles the Ford Mustang and the (slow-selling) Mazda6. Earlier this year, Mazda announced plans to pull out of the joint venture Flat Rock plant. Without new product, this would leave the already underutilized facility operating at well less than half capacity.

The tentative contract would call for moving some production of the hot-selling Ford Fusion to Flat Rock. Currently the Fusion is assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico, and because it is not assembled by the UAW or the CAW, it is not on the UAW's approved vehicle list. The next generation Fusion is set to go on sale early next year as an early 2013 model. Since the Mazda6 is built on a version of the same platform as the Fusion, we can hope that UAW-built Fusions start rolling off the assembly lines either concurrently with or shortly-after their Mexican-built counterparts.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Stick a Fork in the AG Mortgage Settlement
- It's done

California attorney general Kamala Harris announced that her state was pulling out of the proposed 50 state settlement with the major mortgage servicers. Since New York and some other states had already pulled out, the loss of California suggest that there really isn't the possibility of a deal worth doing -- if there ever really was one.

This is both good and bad news for borrowers who are behind. It is good news because you don't have to worry about a broad release of claims that could take away foreclosure defenses. It is bad news because without broad-stroke handling of numerous claims, we aren't going to get to any solution fast of our foreclosure mess.
Elon's coming
Tesla Model S Has it's Coming Out Party

The Telsa Roadster, the company's first vehicle, was designed to sell in the hundreds. The new model, the Tesla Model S is designed to sell in the tens of thousands.

This weekend Tesla CEO Elon Musk held a coming out party for the Model S, which will go on sale next year, at the former Toyota/GM factory in Freemont, California where the car will be built. The audience included media and hundreds of future customers who have already put deposits down on the S. Even though the S will go 0-60 in the 5s, and have at 160 miles of electric range, Musk highlighted the carrying capacity of the car, packing 8 folks and their luggage in the car as it drove on stage. Official seating capacity is 7 including a 2-child back jump seat.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Rick Perry

"Is that a pledge pin I see on your uniform? A pledge pin! On your uniform!"

Friday, September 30, 2011

Meet Marc Martel -- the next Freddie Mercury?

Maybe not Freddie Mercury, but he has a good chance at becoming the next Arnel Pineda. Marc's audition for the Queen Extravaganza, a tribute to the band Queen featuring the original Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, has garnered millions of views on Youtube in just a few days. Not only can he virtually duplicate Mercury's most bombastic performances, Marc can apparently hit the notes live and at will, something Mercury didn't even try to do. Where did this guy come from? Apparently Martel has been fronting a Canadian Christian Rock band called Downhere for about 10 years. They are well enough known Canada to have won several Juno awards.

Rick Perry - "Save a Pretzel for the Gas Jets"
-Bad Lip Reading Goes Political

Thanks to Jack K. for the link.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Det. Free Press Updates UAW/Ford Talks
- In it's own particular idiom

(photo via

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dead Squirrels Aren't Much Fun? A dissenting opinion

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reality Hits You Hard, Bro.

Last week I posted George Lindell's description of his car accident. He's probably the fastest growing meme on the web. What a great catchphrase.

Oh the Humanity - Toyota Commercial

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Haters Have Their Say -
Detroit Free Press Cackles with Glee over GM's Legal Services Benefit Elimination

It's clear which way the political wind is blowing. Joe Public is behind the race to the bottom in wages and benefits. Check out this one-sided article in the Detroit Free Press talking about the proposed elimination of the legal services benefit in the GM contract. When you're done with the articles, read the comments.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Whatever Happened to Jeff Spicoli? He had an accident

UAW-GM Contract - If You Need Me, I'll Be Under the Bus
Well, my last post was on the prospects of a UAW Contract. I got it partially correct. Little or no raise - check. Significant signing bonus ($5000), check. Slowly closing the gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 workers, check. Give and take on benefits - check. They are getting some new work. Good, they need that. Wow, they're getting composite fillings and wigs for cancer patients. Uh oh, something has to go - what about legal services? Oh, no, here comes the bus.

Here's the link to the tentative contract. I couldn't find the legal services provision through Adobe Reader. (You'd think it updates often enough to have a clue when indexing a big document, but apparently not.) Here's the entire language on the subject from the summary

Legal Services plan
All current plan benei ts will
remain in force until Dec. 31,
2013. At that time, any pending
legal matters will be processed to
their conclusion

There you have it. I posted in the members area for my fellow Afscme3357 areas who want a place to express themselves.

What we need is a good pep talk.