Friday, August 31, 2007
Dodge Challenger niet voor Europa
HT Telematics Research Group (Minnetonka, Minnesota)
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
"I think it's pretty clear the direction I'm headed in," said Thompson, who plans to announce his official candidacy next month.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
American drivers are finally coming to their senses. American automakers, not so much.
Chrysler bets on new designs to restore minivan sales
Who's Killing the Minivan?
Minivan sales down
Of all the minivans on sale here, only the Honda Odyssey continues to gain in sales. Every other minivan is showing a decline in sales. So, have minvans peaked? Is their popularity indeed on the decline? Are they too smarting from the high gas prices, like SUVs and pickups? Are the 3-row seat crossovers starting to steal traditional minivan customers? Is the "soccer mom" stigma finally taking its toll?
The problem with minivans isn't just the stigma. No automaker has ever been able to design one that is "cool" looking, and Minnesota statutes don't allow you to tint the windows dark enough so that your friends can't see you. Minvans would be like mopeds (fun to ride until your friends see you) but they're no fun to drive either.
Automotive industry surveys have repeatedly shown that Americans care as much about style and fun as they do any other feature. Vans were once cool in the 70's, remember "....in my Chevy Van and that's alright with me..."? Minivans were never cool, and as far as I know have never appeared in any song about anything.
The Honda Odyssey, the only miniman that has not lost sales, comes the closest to achieving a level of groove but last I checked Daniel Craig (or Patricia Heaton for that matter) isn't going to be seen in one any time soon.
The problem is, if you have more than two kids, and abhor minimans like any red-blooded American man should, your choices are limited, especially if you put a lot of miles on and don't have a $500 monthly gasoline budget. A good ol' Buick Roadmaster Wagon would work, but they haven't made them since 1996. A Volvo Wagon would be great but they come equipped at the factory with a faded Kerry/Edwards sticker on the back.
As millions of minimans hit the street, the novelty wore off and increasingly, crossovers like the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook, Ford Edge, Lexus RX , Chrysler Pacifica and Mercedes R-Class are displacing minivan sales.
Ironically, many crossovers have at their foundation minivan underpinnings, hiked up for effect (and coolness quotient), and with the dubious (even in Minnesota) addition of all-wheel drive for those two days per year that it is needed. I drive rear wheel drive cars and have never had to stay home more than a couple hours in any recent winter.
The problem with all of these new crossovers is with all three rows of seats up, there is very little storage area behind the last seat. They can't pull a (real) boat. But, they are still way cooler that your miniman, and isn't being cool what really matters any way?
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
250 GT California Spyder LWB
Designed for export to America, the 1957 250 GT California Spyder was Scaglietti's interpretation of an open-top 250 GT. Aluminum was used in the hood, doors, and trunk lid, with steel specified elsewhere for most models, though a few aluminum-bodied racing versions were also built. The engine was the same as in the 250 Tour de France racing car with up to 240 hp (179 kW). All used the long 2600 mm chassis. About 45 were made before it was replaced by the SWB version in 1960, a fact mentioned by Cameron Frye in the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day off." This film made that car famous. Since a replica of one of these called a "Modena" appeared in the 1980's as Cameron's father's dream car in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the Ferrari 250 GT California may be the most widely recognized of the various models produced.
This particular example sold at auction for $4.5 Million
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
Michael Moore loves government.
I want FedEx health care: innovation, new cancer treatments, hip replacements and pain relief. We get that from private-sector competition, not government lethargy.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The Notebook is not exactly unpredictable in it's plot however the editing is very tight and you never lose interest in the story.
She doesn't miss a beat, and smiles (most) all the while.
The clones are cultivated in an underground utopia where a lottery is held each day whereby the winners are transported from the underground facility to The Island, a faraway paradise.
Think that famous 1984 Mac Commercial where the running woman throws the sledgehammer through the big screen brainwashing machine, extended to motion picture length and you have the gist.
The lottery is a ploy to give false hope and keep the clones in compliance as the winners have actually been called in by the client for needed organ harvests and transplant. They are whisked upstairs, sliced open and discarded.
Meanwhile, one clone, well played by Ewan McGregor starts to have nightmares and through an likely series of events realizes what is really happening and snatches new found friend and fellow clone Scarlett Johansson from her trip to “the island” just in the nick of time.
The ensuing manhunt its production values are reminiscent of The Rock, Enemy of the State Total Recall, and Minority Report.
The special effects and stunts are well choreographed, quite impressive and on par with and Mission Impossible and or recent Bond film.
The “car chase” which actually includes futuristic flying vehicles of all sorts, is impressive and includes the destruction of a budget-busting amount number of Chrysler 300’s and Dodge Magnum’s. Watching Ewan McGregor pilot a jet powered flying jet cycle through the streets of 2009-era Los Angeles is reminiscent of the Jet Speeders in the Star Wars Sixology.
The suspension of disbelief required to process the survival of the two key characters through the chase scenes is unsurpassed in any movie I can recall.
While questions surrounding cloning, genocide and abortion are potentially raised in this film, it is too far fetched to be taken seriously as any sort of social statement.
In the end, the formulaic battle of the “Mad scientist with God concept” and the hero is a bit prescient especially contrived that he himself, rather than his hundreds of minions, battles at the end to save his underground empire.
While entertaining, unless you are a die hard science fiction junkie (which I am not), I recommend you pass on this one.
Is Starbucks genuinely concerned for the environment or just jumping on the bandwagon to drive traffic to their stores? I don't have a problem with either, but let's not forget that while our planet may or may not be in a warming phase there is still no proof yet that it is man-made, especially amidst recent disclosures and discoveries of corrupted or inaccurate data.
The Man Made Global Warming movement is big business and Starbucks is taking full advantage. Which is fine, since after all it is not their job to prove or disprove the science. It is their job to make money for their shareholders. Starbucks has proven to be very adept at leveraging their brand into the supermarket, convenience stores, music, movies and now politics.
The "National Day of Discussion" will "raise awareness about climate change and facilitate conversations on solutions to positively affect the environment," according to the Starbucks Web site. Coffee shops in more than 60 U.S. cities are hosting the discussions in partnership with several environmentalist groups, including the Earth Day Network and Global Green USA. The sponsors hope to "host an engaging dialogue and help people collectively develop solutions that they can use in their communities and daily lives."
They also hope to promote "Arctic Tale," a new film from National Geographic and Paramount Classics, the studio that distributed former Vice President Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."The new movie follows a polar bear named Nanu and a walrus named Seela as they grow up in the Arctic.
"Once a perpetual winter wonderland of snow and ice, the walrus and the polar bear are losing their beautiful icebound world as it melts from underneath them," according to the movie's Web site."We're really proud to share this powerful and entertaining story with our customers,"
Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, said in a statement about the movie."Starbucks has a long and significant commitment to communities and the environment, and by highlighting 'Arctic Tale' to our customers, we can spark discussion on this issue and impact change from right inside our stores." Lombard's statement highlighted Starbucks' efforts to fight the "climate crisis" by purchasing renewable energy, conserving energy and increasing public awareness.
"And in an effort to show a credible commitment to the environment, we are immediately closing all of our drive-through windows nationwide to reduce the greenhouse emissions stemming from Flip-Phone-Chatting Baseball-Capped Soccer Mom's idling for twenty minutes in their Cadillac Escalades in our drive through lines waiting for their Skinny-Half-Caf-Extra-Hot-No-Foam Chai Tea Lattes."
OK. They didn't actually say that last part.
The reviews? There are many out there, and they are mixed. Here's the one I liked:
"ultimately Arctic Tale is only moderately more engaging than if it were literally cobbled together from parts of those other films, because its pre-teen targeting and vague hipster posturing ultimately distracts from what might have been a more effective message movie."
"it's slightly disappointing for a movie that purports to be so sensitive to the environment and the natural world to sometimes feel, well, quite so plastic."
Saturday, August 18, 2007
It's Saturday night and this is one of funniest and most famous SNL bits.
Don't miss the deleted scenes. The movie is better without them as it would be way too long, but the deleted scenes are a story unto themselves.
Drew at Wright County Republican sent one too (his is much better).
Polls show Minnesotans believe that even if MNDOT is found to be culpable in the I35W Bridge Disaster, it isn't a revenue issue, rather a spending and management issue, further mitigated by the Federal Government's pledge of $250 Million.
While we haven't heard the Governor mention a special session in a while now, It would appear some legislators are starting to reflect the majority of Minnesotans that feel new taxes are not the answer. Andy at Residual Forces covers one example here.
We can only hope the Governor's speech writers are at work as we type figuring out how the Governor can change his mind.
Friday, August 17, 2007
The lifestyle choices that lead to obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise, are the cause of many conditions and diseases that rank at the top of the leading causes of death in the US. Heart disease and Type-2 Diabetes are good examples. Sadly, many children are now among the ranks of the obese and consequently are also developing Type-2 Diabetes and even heart disease at younger ages than ever before.
Fed Cuts Discount Rate to 5.75 Percent to Ease Credit Crunch
The Federal Reserve, in an unscheduled announcement, cut its discount rate and said it's prepared to take further actions to ``mitigate'' damage to the economy from the rout in global credit markets.
The central bank reduced the rate at which it makes direct loans to banks by 0.5 percentage point to 5.75 percent. Policy makers kept their benchmark federal funds rate target unchanged at 5.25 percent. It's the first reduction in borrowing costs between scheduled meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee since 2001 and Ben S. Bernanke's first as Fed chairman.
``Financial market conditions have deteriorated, and tighter credit conditions and increased uncertainty have the potential to restrain economic growth going forward,'' the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement released in Washington. ``The downside risks have increased appreciably.''
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The concept is cool. The execution?
There are so many things that were unfunny about this movie I can't begin to count them.
A friend of mine, Phil Thompson, has composed a beautiful peice of music to raise money for the victims of the I-35W collapse and memorialize the victims:
It's hard to believe it's been two weeks since the horrible tragedy occurred on the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis. Please take a few minutes out of your day to watch the following video tribute to realize the magnitude of this event and the countless lives that were affected.
Also, the accompanying song to this video, Final Ride Home, is available on iTunes with 100% of the proceeds going to benefit the local chapter of the Twin Cities Red Cross. Thank you for taking time to reflect and send your thoughts and prayers.
Please take this opportunity to send this along to those who you feel would also be touched by this tribute.
Starting today, we can all help raise a million dollars, through a million downloads, one song at a time. If your office does not allow YouTube, you can also view the full tribute on my web site.
Monday, August 13, 2007
I love this version with the USC Trojans...check it out.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Our health care system has to evolve from a reactive, pharmaceutical-based system to a proactive nutraceutical-based system. Incentives will have to shift from decreasing care or costs for given aliments and procedures to an approach that rewards preventive care and the reduction of risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol.
Our system is so driven by the pharmaceutical industry that now they are inventing things for which to create a reactive treatment (see Take a pill).
But that doesn't explain Michael Moore's assertion that the French smoke as much as we do and also eat fatty foods and drink plenty of wine and still exceed us in most measurements of our collective health.
Essentially, our health care system is going to have to find a way to wedge it's way into our lives before we need it instead of us wedging our way into it after we need it.
Policymakers also should focus on ways to reduce cancer, heart disease and lung disease, said Murray. He advocates stepped-up efforts to reduce tobacco use, control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
"Even if we focused only on those four things, we would go along way toward improving health care in the United States," Murray said. "The starting point is the recognition that the U.S. does not have the best health care system. There are still an awful lot of people who think it does."
Saturday, August 11, 2007
SiCKO is to that issue as An Inconvenient Truth is to MMGW. It behooves all of us to become involved and educated on this issue, whatever your political leanings.
It would be impractical for me to fact-check every assertion made in this film so I will simply share my experience with the film and encourage comments, rebuttal, or corroboration and encourage you to watch the film yourself.
This is the first Michael Moore film I have ever seen. I expected his approach to consist more of satire or sophomoric antics and to feature himself more. Such was not the case, at least not in this film.
As an artist, I found Moore’s style witty, fun and entertaining, and then emotional and poignant. His creative skills are undeniable. As objectionable as many find him personally or politically, he is an effective filmmaker and a master at eliciting an emotional response. His narration is well done and his sincerity appears mostly genuine. His goal is not to be exhaustive, rather to be provocative.
As a political statement, I found the film substantially effective, but as you might expect, quite well tilted to the left.
His premise is that America’s health care system is broken in a fundamental and measurable way evidenced by benchmarking against other Western countries. He repeatedly cites potentially unsubstantiated but commonly used statistics on infant mortality, longevity and comparative rankings.
He asserts unabashedly that socialized health care works in other countries and that we are the last Western nation that hasn't figured that out. He offers that even in America, we have already successfully “socialized” many services. Is this valid?
Police and Fire: Good Point, ...the Postal Service: OK, Education: oops...not so much.
He offers harrowing case studies of injured or ill American citizens. One after another, they have gone without care or have lost loved ones because they could not access or afford insurance or basic health care. Others were insured but denied access or coverage by insurance companies and the medical facilities that have to abide by their payment provisions. One was simply pushed out of a cab hired by a medical center, which was caught on a security tape.
No one will deny the fact that this goes on and is a real problem. While Moore’s vignettes are excruciating emotionally, they don’t add or detract from his credibility just yet as one can always find exceptional cases of this sort no matter what point you are trying to make.
There is a history of the origins of HMO’s and the smoking gun of a Nixon Oval Office tape marking their purported birth. He showcases insurance company executive compensation including our own Bill McGuire, pertinent in an era of increased scrutiny of executive compensation, corruption and increased stockholder vigilance. He also cites America’s obsession with a "pill for every ill" versus preventative care, also timely and effective.
His prerequisite treatment of Hillary Rodham Clinton was at first a bit much and then unexpected given Moore's presumed political leanings.
Initially it is a cinematic shrine to a “Sassy, smart, and sexy” champion of universal health care who cedes to forces greater than she. Not the least of which are her husband’s political realities. Moore then discards her, counting her among all bought-and-paid-for politicians, asserting that Hillary succumbed to the siren song of health care lobbyists and political contributions.
It begs the question: If elected President; could Hillary resume her crusade now even if she wanted to?
The film then takes the viewer on a field trip to Canada, Great Britain and France, to discover if universal health care is the debacle that the US media and many of our government officials depict it to be, and along the way moves tangentially into a giddy celebration of socialism.
Apparently, there are no lines and no long waits. Prescriptions are cheap or free, and plentiful. Care is high quality and high-tech, as far as we are shown. Moore posits that Canadians, Brits and the French live longer than we do, work less than we do, have lower infant mortality, and are all the happier for it.
Here Moore tips his hand and starts to lose some credibility. He interviews former US citizens that have moved to France including one to gain access to treatment of his cancer. Everything is taken care of and is free. He gets paid to recuperate for three months by his employer on the merit of a letter from his doctor. One wonders if three months on the French Riviera was what his employer had in mind, let alone the systematic repercussions of this sort of policy.
The French are depicted as living a care-free, stress-free life in utopia. Free daycare, unlimited sick days, free health care, doctors perform free house calls, paid medical vacations, and government-provided nannies for new mothers. Moore unashamedly depicts life in France as a bunch of people lying around in parks, kissing each other all day long and at the same time claims that productivity in France is higher than America. It begs the question: is that true, and again, who pays for all of this?
His answer is an “investigation” of how the average French family is affected by the increased tax burden of their governmental system. It consists unconvincingly of an interview of one upper middle class family…and he quickly moves on.
In Canada and Great Britain, more of the same only Moore heads me off at the pass on one of my lingering questions: what about the doctors? Are they as credentialed, motivated and as well compensated as in America?
Moore interviews a British doctor; living in a $1 Million dollar home, driving a $70,000 Audi A8, and earning $200,000 annually plus pension and ostensibly, free health care. All good.
More intriguing however was the fact that the good doctor earned a bonus on his performance, receiving incentive pay based on such metrics as the lowering of blood pressure, cholesterol and tobacco use of his patients. It's a convincing interchange and a compelling approach to medical care.
Now, you have my attention. This is good stuff. SiCKO inadvertently makes as much if not more of a case for preventive care, a common thread in all the other countries featured, as it does for socialized medicine.
Fade to the notorious roundup of neglected 9/11 volunteer rescuers, injured or ill due to their service on site, and denied care by our government on the grounds that they weren’t on the payroll. Fact or fiction, these scenes are moving and effective.
Moore rents boats, skirts the Coast Guard, and takes these patients to Gitmo where enemy combatants including the 20th hijacker are receiving free quality health care. His point: shouldn’t our heroes get the same? A fair question.
Denied entry to Gitmo, Moore takes to the streets of Cuba with his crew of heroes where they all receive high-tech tests and treatments apparently denied them in America. The 9/11 rescuers are then invited to a Cuban firehouse where in a moving scene, the firefighters stand at attention in honor of their esteemed visitors and express their fellowship as firefighters. The Cuba sequence, while almost surely staged, was also effective in making Moore's point.
All in all, SiCKO is an entertaining, well-crafted film that dispatched my preconceived notions of Michael Moore as an artist if not his political views. It is emotional, compelling, and provocative, but leaves as many important questions unanswered, which is probably fine with Moore, if not intentional.
One such question: Does the pharmaceutical system in America subsidize the rest of the world, allowing them to offer drugs so cheaply?
If the health care systems in Canada, France, Great Britain and even Cuba result in lower costs, longer lives and reduced infant mortality, is it because the government pays for it or because of the emphasis on preventive care?
While I am not yet convinced that socialized medicine is the answer, there is no doubt that our system is broken because among other factors it is reactive, and because it is predominantly tied to employment. SiCKO, by no means an exhaustive documentary, is a provocative and relevant film for anyone interested in becoming more aware of what will most assuredly be the next big thing in American politics.
In closing, Michael Moore offers: “You know, when we see a good idea from another country, we grab it. If they build a better car we drive it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. So if they’ve come up with a better way to treat the sick, to teach their kids, to take care of their babies, to simply be good to each other, then what’s our problem? Why can’t we do that?”
"...I aint askin nobody for nothin' if I can't get it on my own..."
She made her case.
I am nothing if not open-minded but mentioned that I would be happy to watch it if somehow it could be done without a penny of my hard-earned reaching Moore's pocket.
She obliged. I will be watching it this weekend...stay tuned. She agreed to watch The Great Global Warming Swindle. Fair enough.
Yesterday I also agreed to watch An Inconvenient Truth. Given my incessant posting on Man-Made Global Warming it is only fair that I actually watch the movement's most prominent installment.
The two Rats become aware of each other and the chase begins.
Bullets, blood, brains and the effenheimer and worse fly everywhere and it wouldn't work with out all of it. The dialog is graphic, tight and constant; as is the violence, both conspiring to reach almost comedic levels. We laughed out loud throughout the picture.
The direction is frantic and cuts this way and that; the music - and the sound effects for that matter - are awesome. You can't turn away from the screen for two and a half hours. If you have to go to the biff, best to hit the pause button.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Popular I-35W Bridge Collapse Conspiracy Theories
- Russians report that they have evidence that this was caused by a secret US military sound weapon
- The bridge was damaged by experiments being run in a secret underground nuclear lab
- Numerology predicted this event
- The bridge disaster was a controlled demolition
- Police are keeping people so far away because MN-DOT screwed up so badly
- President Bush wants to fast-track the new bridge to be part NAFTA highway
- It was the alignment of the planets
- Police are covering up the fact that a large number of Somali people were killed
- Mothman was responsible
- The video tape of the collapse was edited to cut out the smoking gun
Very interesting (imaginations that is). Read the answers here.
HT John H.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Time will tell what Cerberus' exit strategy is, as surely they went in with a way out firmly in mind. But what will become of Chrysler? We have to assume the executives at Cerberus are good investors, hopefully good managers, but only their product will tell us if they are good car guys.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Director Ali Selim first read Will Weaver's short story "A Gravestone Made of Wheat" in 1989 in the Sunday magazine of the Star Tribune, a Minneapolis newspaper. After purchasing the film rights, he spent much of the 1990s working on a script in his spare time as he worked as a director of television commercials (from Wikipedia).
An "Indy" film financed by Ali Selim and several private investors, it is the story of a man and a woman who build a lifelong bond, completing each other as they work their land while at the same time gaining acceptance from a community troubled by her German ancestry, and accidental membership in the Socialist Party (now more accepted in Minnesota - but I digress) in the era after World War I.
When men were men and women were men too.
The characters are rich and unique to one another, the music and the cinematography are perfect.
You may recognize Elizabeth Reaser from Grey's Anatomy (which I've never seen) or from another excellent film The Family Stone. With the exception of the prodigious John Heard, Lois Smith (Aunt Meg in Twister), and good 'ol Ned Beatty, the cast is made up of talented but heretofore unrecognized actors, at least by me.
It's a difficult movie to convey or condense as there are no special effects, no gratuitous sex or violence, no subplots, no surprise ending...and the hero is everyone at some point in the film...well, except the nemesis, the banker, played by Ned Beatty. And therein lies the charm. It's a simple timeless story, well told.
I would rank this film among my favorites.
I don't know if this is a case of poor management or stockholder apathy or both.
Losses widen at Caribou
I don't own their stock and don't recommend individual stocks to clients any way.
Two years ago their stock was in the 12 range. Last close was 6.66.
This is a company that needs to make dramatic changes in their model or their pricing or both.
Friday, August 3, 2007
In an unprecedented time like this, where we have Fox News, CNN and the like camped out in our own community because a local disaster is the nation's news, we can't help also being proud when we see how our community reacts to such an event.
Our public servants including law enforcement, medical, emergency services and other officials demonstrated that in fact the lessons learned at 9/11 were not lost on us. I have not heard of any confusion, lack of leadership or jurisdictional conflicts whatsoever.
Republican representatives and activists in town during this tragedy found themselves reassured of their selection of the Twin Cities for the 2008 GOP Convention.
But most impressive of all...and why we can be so proud to live here...is our observation and the media's corroboration of the fact that Minnesota Nice, as hokey as that moniker sounds, is alive and well.
It has been reported nationally over and over that mere seconds after the disaster occurred, passersby rushed to the aid of their fellow citizens, and no doubt lives were saved. Even more amazing are the stories of the rescued turning right back around and helping to save and give aid to others.
No doubt lives were saved even before our professional heroes were able to arrive on the scene.
We live in a high-tech world. We bring improvements to our lives and create economic growth through the use of technology. But not without risk.
Every day we get into our car or fly in an airliner or even bike to work we are exposed to certain albeit mostly negligible or least acceptable risks, as we employ these technologies in our daily lives.
Driving over a bridge is no exception.
While we can and should expect our government to maintain our nation's infrastructure, and certainly this disaster will bring increased attention and with it political pressure to increase or reallocate resources, we cannot remove all risks from our daily life.
Nor can our government. Nor can we expect our government to have the resources to completely mitigate the effects before, during and after a disaster of this magnitude.
All the more reason to find ourselves reassured and in awe, and so proud of the heroes of late - both professional and civilian, that have shown our entire country how great a place the Twin Cities of Minnesota are to live and work.