Friday, December 07, 2012

Wither the Tax Resolution Companies?

I was recently thinking that it had been a good year since I'd received a consumer complaint about national tax resolution firm J.K. Harris. With good reason, as it turns out. Roughly a year ago the authorities finally caught up to the firm and shut it down. Apparently firm founder John K. Harris hasn't been too forthright about what's happened to all the money. The Taxresolutiontalk blog has a list of other tax resolution companies that have bitten the dust in 2010-2012. All in all, this is one of the best trends in consumer affairs / consumer law that I've seen in a long time.

Monday, December 03, 2012

How Times Change

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Bitch-Slaps the Eastern Seaboard

Too harsh? Not according to the Googleteer

search: Hurricane Sandy bitch-slap

Almost 1.5 million hits as of today. It's too bad neither of the presidential candidates thought it was important to talk about global warming.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paul Ryan & Ayn Rand

This weekend, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his VP running-mate. Ryan is a darling among the "new conservatives" even though (or because of) his major accomplishment in Congress has been promoting gridlock. Ryan's budget, which Romney has not completely endorsed, proposes gutting almost all government programs except defense and social security while dangling carrots in the form of tax cuts which mostly flow through to the very rich. Even though Ryan is Catholic, Catholic clergy groups have derided Ryan's budget, even calling it immoral in the way it treats the poor.

Ryan is unperturbed by the criticism. He has bought into the morality espoused by Ayn Rand which promotes selfishness something to strive for rather than to avoid. More on Ayn Rand below.

From the "and that's what banking is all about Charlie Brown" file:
Victoria Explains It All

Victoria Grant, a 12 year old Canadian girl has taken the WWW (wonky world web) by storm with her pitch for a public reserve bank rather than a private reserve bank.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Exclusive Clip - The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is the hot movie right now.  I was given this exclusive clip that was cut out of the movie.  Well, I'm told it's from the movie.  I think Batman was a little more macho before the French got involved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weweese Weuwns Womney

The calls are growing louder for Mitt Romney to release more than a year's tax returns.  Now even conservative media players like George Will and Erin Burnett have joined the call to the Mittster release his returns.  I just wanted to use this issue as an excuse for a Monty Python reference.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Ford C-Max Targets Prius-V 
But is that the best comparison?

Ford is issuing press releases touting the fuel economy of its new hybrid, the C-Max, by saying the bulbous compact gets better fuel economy than Toyota's Prius-V. The V is the larger sibling of the traditional Prius. At 47 MPG, the C-Max beats the Prius-V by 4 MPG. The problem is, looking at the specs, the C-Max is really squarely sized in between the regular Prius and the Prius V.  At 173.6 inches long, the C-Max is three inches shorter than the standard Prius, and is 8 inches shorter than the Prius V.  In fact, the C-Max is only 2 inches longer than the hatchback version of the Ford Focus. The C-Max shares an assembly line with the Focus in Wayne, Michigan.  What about cargo space? Here again, the C-Max is closer to the regular Prius than the Prius-V. The C-Max has 24.5 cu.ft. in cargo space with the rear seat up.  That's just a bit more than the regular Prius's 23.8, and it's a lot lower than the Prius-V's 34.3 cu.ft. The C-Max barely exceeds the cargo space of the regular Focus, which has 21.6 cu.ft.

This is not to say that the C-Max doesn't have some advantages over the Prius V. The C-Max has an inch or two over the Prius V in virtually every measure inside the passenger cabin. The C-Max has a substantial edge over both Prii in total system horsepower. Ford is quoting a combined gas-electric rating of 188 horsepower. Both Prii have only 134 horses. Per Edmunds, the C-Max weighs 3,674 lbs, significantly beefier than either the Prius V or the base Prius. Even so, that's 19.5 lbs/hp. That's a better power to weight ratio than the regular prius (22.7 lbs/hp) and the Prius V (24.4 lbs/hp).  Based on the numbers and the performance of the lower-powered 2008-2012 Ford Fusion hybrid, it is likely that the C-Max will be able to go from 0-60 in the 8.5-9.0 second range, compared to high 9's for the standard Prius and mid-10s for the Prius-V. 

The bottom line is that the C-Max really isn't an extended family wagon like the Prius-V. Ford makes and sells in other markets a slightly longer version of the C-Max called the Grand C-Max. The Grand C-Max would have been a closer match to the V. The C-Max is really just a somewhat taller version of the Focus Hatchback, a car much closer in size to the standard Prius.  It's likely that comparably equipped, the C-Max will be available for a somewhat lower transaction price than even the regular Prius, because Toyota dealers still seem to have a problem selling the Prius without a bunch of dealer-added gunk.  The fuel economy difference between the two is essentially trivial. For the typical car buyer the decision will come down to which one you like better and which dealer gives you a better sales and service experience.

The C-Max covers the hybrid field in one respect. It's union-made in the USA. The C-Max seems to be a good blend of fuel economy, practicality and performance, and the hybrid premium is relatively low, much lower than the discontinued Ford Escape Hybrid. The C-Max is therefore on my short list for new car shopping this fall.

Here's the link to the comparison that I used to look at these cars. Feel free to play around with it at your leisure 

Image credit: I got the image from, but it appears to be a Ford press image.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hey Dolphin!

Do you know you have an octopus hanging on your genitals?

Know it? I WROTE IT.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy 70th Birthday, Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson

Paul McCartney turns 70 on June 18. On June 20, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys turns 70. These two fellows were perhaps the most influential songwriters of the last 50 years, and they profoundly influenced each other. Brian Wilson cites the Beatle's Rubber Soul as the standard that he tried to beat with Pet Sounds. McCartney cites Pet Sounds as a benchmark for the Sgt. Pepper album.

This is the only video that I could find with the two of them singing together. It's not that great, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to Get Inside the Logic of Mortgage Servicers
- Channel Jaws 4

I've been dealing with a number of cases where my clients are involved with mortgage companies who do a lot of stupid things that aren't in anybody's interest - totally illogical behavior. I've been trying to get inside the head of the decisionmakers at these companies and figure out why they do things they do. I think I may understand it better. I have been looking at this from the logical rules that apply in the ordinary universe. What I should be doing is applying the rules in the "stupid" universe. Let Richard Jeni explain it.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Law - Where the Jobs Are
What do you mean you won't work for $10,000/year?

A Boston law firm posted a job opening for a full time lawyer for $10,000/year. That's not a misprint. Americans just don't want to work, that's the problem.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Rest in Peace - BUD HIBBS

Word came to me recently of the passing of Bud Hibbs. Most people don't recognize the name, but if you ever searched the web for answers to problems with abusive debt collectors, not only are you likely to have come across Bud's name, but he probably gave you more help than anyone else. Bud's website, is the best place on the web for information on the scams run by collection agencies. Even though Bud was not an attorney, he was adopted into the fold by the consumer attorneys at NACA, and he was a regular at NACA conferences. I did not really know Bud. I talked to him for a few minutes at a few conferences, but that was the limit of our face to face interaction. On the other hand, I exchanged emails with Bud on countless occasions. He usually had inside information on the collection agency that I was dealing with. He was always a gentleman, and he never asked for anything in return for his information. Goodbye Bud, you will be missed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2013 Nissan Altima - #2 Does it try harder?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, we are in the middle of the year of the mainstream sedan. The newest entry to come out swinging is the 2013 Nissan Altima. Unlike Honda and Toyota, Nissan was pretty much able to keep producing the Altima at full speed last year, despite the Japan earthquake and Thailand floods. Thanks to its US production base, in sales, the Altima ranked #2, behind the Toyota Camry -- and ahead of the Camry's usual rival, the Honda Accord. This year, Nissan's gunning for #1 with a redesigned Altima, and it has some specs in its favor.

The Altima has a much more curvy shape that still follows the basic (and popular) dimensions of its predecessor. The Altima gets a refined, 182-horsepower version of its previous 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine as standard equipment; and Nissan has further refined its CVT transmission. Unlike some of its competition, Nissan says it reduced the weight of the Altima while gaining more luxury equipment. The Altima is supposedly the lightest entry in its class at under 3,200 lbs. In other words, it's just a hair heavier than the heavier compacts like the Chevrolet Cruz and the Dodge Dart. It's about 400 lbs lighter than the similarly-sized 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco that is just now being delivered to dealers in quantity. With several trim levels and a carry-over V6 as well as the standard 4-cylinder, the Altima will start at around $22,000 and go up from there. That's pretty much in the mainstream of the market.

According to Nissan, thanks to light weight, good aerodynamics and an efficient drivetrain, the Altima delivers best-in-class fuel economy, 27/38 on the EPA scale. Nissan does this without hybrid technology or even direct injection. The Altima's mpg beats the Chevrolet Malibu Eco's 25/37. The extra hybrid hardware makes the Malibu Eco about $3,000 more expensive than a comparably equipped Altima. The Malibu is about a second and a half slower than a 4-cylinder Altima, and the Altima roundly beats the Malibu Eco in cargo capacity, with a standard-sized, uncompromised trunk with folding seats.

It's interesting to me how much technology has progressed in one generation of automobiles. Five years ago, the highest MPG mainstream car was the Honda Civic at 35 highway MPG. The Civic EX offered 94.7 cubic feet of interior room and 0-60 in about 9.3 seconds with an automatic. The 2013 Nissan Altima has 100.7 cubic feet of interior room, and fanboys figure it will go 0-60 in 7.5 seconds or less.

The next major entrants in this sweepstakes will be the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord. Ford is hoping that its styling and technology can make the Fusion a volume seller without getting down and dirty on price. We'll see. Honda has a base of repeat customers that don't shop other brands. For everybody else, competition will likely result in discounts soon after new model introductions. It's only May, but Hyundai is already offering lease incentives on the 2013 Hyundai Sonata. Based on what I've seen, Chevrolet is going to have to put thousands of dollars on the hoods of the Malibu to stay in the lead group.

Unless GM's new Silverado and Sierra trucks turn into big hits, GM could be in for a tough year in MY 2013. GM's other new products for the year are basically niche models.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What I learned on my Spring Vacation:
Lesson 1: The Libertarian West is Full of Hypocrites.

The highlight of my last two months is a trip out west to Arizona, Nevada and Utah to enjoy our national parks. We traveled from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park, back to Las Vegas, then to four national parks in Utah: Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon. It's nice to see that many of our national treasures are in good hands with the National Park Service.

These states are known to be hotbeds of libertarianism. I ran into a lot of folks who were hostile to the United States government and Barack Obama in particular. This was incredible to me because the overall impression that I got of these states is that almost everything that was great about these states was either made that way by God or the National Government. These states, with their thin populations have wonderful, well-kept highways. Most of the money circulating came into the economy courtesy of the U.S. government, whether it be social security, military wages and pensions, military contractor money or public works. Hoover Dam is a spectacular facility, providing countless megawatts of power, and initially paid for by the United States government. Remote areas have electric power, phones and postal service due to federal initiatives and subsidies.

What I learned on my Spring Vacation . . .

I blinked and two months passed since I last posted to the blog. Chaulk it up to an early spring, an antihistimine-haze, and a welcome chance to get away. Also, as Bill Cosby used to tell us "if you're not careful, you just might learn something." I did, and I'll finally write it down.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Remove an Engine - Eurostyle

I've had lots of serious posts lately that I haven't got around to finishing. I had something to say on the economy, but then I saw this video. It's more interesting.

Volkswagen Golf Engine Chained to a Tree!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The New Angelina Jolie Meme

Things sure move fast in webtime. It was just two days ago at the Oscar telecast that Angelina Jolie made waves striking a pose in a leg-bearing dress. There have been numerous copycats since then.

My favorite courtesy of

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gadget of the Week: Magnetic Retainer

From Engadget: a company is showing off a magnetic retainer that will allow the user to control video games with his tongue. (I would say "his or her" tongue, but who are we kidding?)

You'll be hearing this conversation a lot in households all over the world: "Son, I don't want you touching another videogame until your homework is done."

Son: "No problem, mom."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Life of a Lawyer

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Some Videos in Honor of the Phantom Menace 3D

I wouldn't say this is one of the must see films of the year, but if you want to get in the mood . . .

More on the Tesla Model X and its "falcon doors"

Tesla really, really wants you to know the Model X's doors can work in close confines, so they released the video below. I believe the music is a fan accoutrement.

If Tesla ever does release the Model X, I think I found a spokesperson for them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Michigan: Santorum is Spurting up from Behind

Rick Santorum is favored now in the Michigan primary. Get ready Ron Paul, you're next up.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Tesla Model X to have "Falcon Doors"

Tesla's follow up to the Model S, the Model X (crossover) was teased today with a release of this picture which shows a hint of the X's "falcon doors". I'm guessing that the Model X was given Falcon doors to distinguish Tesla from the failed Delorean company. Tesla has the Falcon, Delorean was the Snowman.

Image via

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Chicago Auto Show:
The Redesigned 2013 Buick Acadia - Huh?

Here's a picture of the "redesigned", new for 2013 GMC Acadia. The Acadia is one of GM's successful, 3-row "Lambda" crossovers that debuted originally 6 years ago. This would mean under normal circumstances that a comprehensive redesign would ordinarily be expected. This seems to be substantially less than that.

(image via

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

From the "You can't trust Canadians, anyway" file:
Brock University: Racists and Conservatives Tend to Be Less Intelligent

Researchers from Brock University in Ontario, Canada have released a study which concludes that people of lower intelligence tend to be more prejudiced, and gravitate to conservative and racist ideologies. What do those pinko nutjobs know anyway coming from a college named after the biggest doofus in the Pokemon cartoons.

Friday, January 27, 2012

From the "I shall name him George" file:

Guy in Costa Rica has 17 foot long pet crocodile.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

2012-2013 - The Year of the Midsize

Chevrolet just announced that the first of its redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu midsized sedans just shipped out to dealers. The first models are the Malibu Eco models with the eAssist engine. (Don't call it a mild hybrid, even though that's what it is.) The Eco model is rated at 25 MPG city and 37 MPG highway. That's a higher highway figure than the 2006-2011 Honda Civic. Whereas the eAssist system really takes a toll on the luggage space on the Buick LaCrosse, which was the first GM car to be eAssisted, the Malibu reportedly keeps 14 cubic feet of luggage space. Chevy's high-mpg thunder was somewhat stolen earlier this month when Ford unveiled its 2013 Fusion models. The Fusion has a wide range of engines but directly competitive to the Malibu Eco, Ford will offer a Fusion with a 1.6 liter Ecoboost turbocharged engine which is also expected to deliver about 37 MPG highway. Ford will also offer a full hybrid with MPG better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid and a plug-in electric Fusion with expected MPGe at or near 100 MPG. Some UAW members will finally get a chance to build the Fusion as Ford will be adding a Fusion production line to its Flat Rock, Michigan plant. This will supplement the Mexican plant that currently builds the Fusion.

For a detailed comparison of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu and 2013 Ford Fusion, check out this article at (which is the source of the picture to the right showing the Malibu on the top and the Fusion on the bottom).

In addition to the Malibu and the Fusion, in the late summer this year, you can expect Honda to release the redesigned Honda Accord. It looks like Honda is going all out this time, with redesigned engines including hybrids and plug-in hybrids like Ford.

My first impression is that the new Fusion and the new Accord will make other newish designs such as the Malibu and the new-for-2012 Toyota Camry seem dull and old-fashioned by comparison. Chrysler and others following on the heels of the Accord will have their work cut out for them in fighting for market share. Chrysler is expected to bring out a replacement for the 200 on a Fiat platform with a new generation of engines and transmissions. I don't expect the new Chrysler until MY 2014. The bottom line is that if you are planning on buying a family sedan in the near future, you should try to hold off until at least this coming fall. Not only will there be a whole new generation of attractive contenders, the best of what's out there now may come with huge incentives to stay competitive.

Newt & Shrute


Jan Brewer - Everything I know, I learned on Star Trek

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From the "Don't let the door hit you in the . . ." file:
Geithner won't Stay on For 2nd Obama Term

Thank heavens for small favors.

Marginally related video time:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ratings Week Special
Them's Good Eatin'

Once again, in an effort to keep my ratings up during ratings week, I make extra effort to raise the quality of the blog. Check this picture out. Looks familiar, right? It's not what you think it is. It's a cake.

Friday, January 20, 2012

. . . and that's what Occupy Wall Street is all about, Charlie Brown

(Graph from Paul Krugman's blog)

Why I didn't Understand Apple's Textbook Program
- It Doesn't Make Sense

I wrote yesterday that I was disappointed that Apple's new iPad textbook program didn't target college student, and I couldn't see it adopted in K-12. Laptop magazine's Avram Pittch explains the flaws in Apple's program very cogently here. The economics of using Apple's proprietary system in the K-12 level just don't work out. Eventually digital textbooks may migrate to K-12, but in my opinion, they will likely be open-sourced "wikibooks" and they will be distributed in an opensource format that is hardware-agnostic. Most likely they would be played on a very inexpensive tablet of a type that does not currently exist. The iPad is too proprietary and too expensive. The new XO3 OLPC tablet (pictured) is a start, but it is a little too small and probably still too fragile. The bottom line is that it will be several years until K-12 education shifts in a significant way to e-textbooks. I think the shift will be led by the homeschoolers using wikibooks, followed by certain private schools, with the public schools taking at least a decade.

Steve Jobs is known for his reality distortion field. The RDF died with Steve. Apple's new CEO Tim Cook can't dodge or distort the reality that our public schools, which are laying off teachers, can't afford classrooms full of iPads. That's not going to change anytime soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Plan B - Draft H

Monday I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was pondering the imminent loss of my job (albeit two years from now). I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. I started watching How I Met Your Mother, with master thespian Chris Elliot as the guest star, a memory came back to me, then it hit me - my new Plan B.

My Hopes Dashed by Apple's Textbook Plan

I had heard that Apple scheduled a big "Apple Event" today to announce it was revolutionizing the textbook business. Since I will have two kids going to college in the next three and a half years, it really got my hopes up when I heard that Apple was going to make a deal with major publishers to put textbooks on the iPad for $14.99 each. The press conference has happened, and it appears that the rumored $14.99 price was correct but the focus will be on middle school and high school texts. When you figure in the cost of a $500 iPad, it's not clear how much savings there will really be. More and more college texts are already going digital, but the pricing structure is not that different from the traditional (and ever-increasing) paper book price.

The revolution will eventually occur but it will probably be too late for my kids.

President Obama Finds His - Kills Keystone Pipeline

President Obama's supporters have long been pleading with him to follow the rhetoric that got him elected and fight Congress on important issues. It looks like he's finally taking that advice to heart, because he acted to kill the Keystone XL pipeline project.

This might cost him more votes in the upcoming election than it gains him, but it was necessary to earn the votes he got the last time around, and I commend him for it.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Prediction: Patriots by 10.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chase Stops Filing Credit Card Suits - Robosigning Fallout?

Just over a year ago, I blogged about whistleblower Linda Almonte's allegation that Chase Bank was engaged in a pattern and practice of fraudulent behavior in its credit card division relating to fraudulent and robosigned documents constructed to back up its credit card receivables. Now industry trade journal Collections and Credit Risk is reporting that Chase has abruptly stopped fililng suit on its credit card accounts and some other accounts. Apparently, in the past year, Chase has fired many, if not most, of the lawyers who have been collecting their accounts. Whatever happened to Linda Almonte? She apparently settled her wrongful discharge case against Chase on confidential terms. I have a hunch that she came out alright.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Why 2012 is Going to Rock

It started out like this . . . Jan 1, 2012 Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper and my man - Weird Al - on stage belting out the Beatles' Come Together.

Presidential Race 2012: Romney-Rubio vs. Obama-Clinton

According to Robert Reich, the presidential tickets for November 2012 will be Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio versus Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. According to Reich, Biden and Clinton will switch jobs for the second Obama term. This Biden-Clinton swap has been bantered around on message boards before, but Robert Reich is the first person that I've seen that actually knows these folks that's actually gone on the record with such a scenario. Things that make you go hmmm.

2013 Ford Fusion

It appears that the embargo came off the 2013 Ford Fusion at midnight. The new Fusion goes worldcar this year and will be essentially the same as the European Mondeo. Judging from the picture at, the new Fusion looks a lot like the old Mondeo, but it's a handsome car, nevertheless. I just got back from a trip where I rented the current Fusion. It was a very sound and capable family car. Let's see if Ford announces whether the UAW will build the car in the underused Flat Rock, Michigan Plant. For more info, check out's story here.