The Man Takes His Oil Changes Seriously

He flew the car to Heathrow… I’m surprised he actually got it back. I love reading stories like this if for no other reason than the self-induced outrage from critics is entertaining… throw in a quote from PETA and it would make my day.

A RICH Arab sent his Lamborghini on a 6,500-mile round trip to Britain for a service.

The £190,000 supercar was put on a scheduled flight from Qatar to Heathrow – then flown BACK after the oil check.

[From Sheikh flies Lamborghini £6,500 miles to Britain for oil change | Exclusive pictures of the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 supercar arriving in Heathrow | The Sun |News]

200807311149.jpg

More on this topic (What's this?) Read more on Oil, Investing in England at Wikinvest

Local Ad Dollars, Slip Sliding Away

Mark is spot on, newspapers are selling a one-size-fits-all display ad model to local advertisers who won’t buy banners and they are trying to sell these through a sales force ill-equipped and uninterested in selling online ad inventory.

There’s a good but depressing article in the Wall Street Journal about how newspapers are continuing to fall behind in the local online advertising derby–even as their print ad revenues are ebbing away. According to Borrell statistics cited in the story, newspaper share of the local online ad market has fallen to 27.4 percent from 35.9 percent two years ago. Things aren’t going in the right direction. That’s not good–especially when the overall local online advertising market is growing, ahem, at a 57 percent annual clip.

[From Recovering Journalist: Local Ad Dollars, Slip Sliding Away]

For my take on newspapers and local ads click here for something I wrote a few weeks ago.

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Why I Don’t Eat Out in SF Anymore

Sometimes it unavoidable but if my wife and I are contemplating where to have dinner next Saturday it certainly will not be in SF. Why? Because between the hassles of parking, traffic, and panhandlers, I now often have to deal with already too expensive restaurants nickle-and-diming me to cover their SF mandated living wage, healthcare, paid time off, and other social initiatives that really don’t get paid for by businesses but are directly passed on to consumers. And if the Board of Dupes has their way, it will only get worse.

Businesses with more than 20 employees working in San Francisco would be required to help their workers ditch their cars and commute to work on transit or in vanpools under a proposal being considered by city officials.

[From PLAN AFOOT TO GET S.F. WORKERS OUT OF CARS / BUSINESS' OBLIGATION: Firms would have to provide transit passes or shuttle service or help employees set up pretax accounts]

There are some fantastic restaurants in SF but it’s simply not worth the hassle and now additional costs. For every Michael Mina in SF there is a Village Pub on the Peninsula where I can still get overcharged for the food and wine but at least I don’t have to pay surcharges for the non-food part of the experience.

Back to the Stone Age

Well it’s relieving to see that Jerry Brown isn’t wasting any time before running for Governor… again. Why not stop with evaluating electrical usage and diesel emissions, they should also be forced to evaluate emissions created by the cars that people will invariably use to get to work, their body heat and CO2 output, methane gas from human, uh, waste products, and radiation emitted by microwaves used to heat up Hot Pockets for lunch.

In other words, instead of encouraging the creation of jobs in a community that was decimated when the logging industry collapsed, let’s make it as difficult as humanly possible for these towns to use their local resources. It kind of makes one wonder if we will get to a point where humans are banned from non-urban areas because of their environmental impact.

He said it failed to include an examination of whether the operation will contribute to global warming through the production of plastic bottles, the operation’s electrical demands and the diesel soot and greenhouse gas emissions produced by trucks traveling to and from the plant.

[From cbs13.com - CA. AG Cracks Down On Nestle Bottling Plant]

On the surface these requirements don’t seem that insidious, if it were the case that reasonable and objective politicians but we all know that this is not the case. Lastly, I don’t have any opinion on the proposed Nestle bottling plant and find the entire notion of bottled water to be rather silly in the first place, but I remain adamantly opposed to politicians in Sacramento telling the residents of Shasta County what industries they can and can not foster.

Improving Online Experience

okay, much of what is in this study falls under “stating the obvious” such as site visitors wanting information fast and that visual design is important. Having said that, there is a lot of subtlety here and it’s worth a read, I found the focus on site and visitor orientation to be interesting.

This report outlines key findings from surveys that explored factors that drive online experience as expressed by the three different subject groups – nonprofit organizations and cities, web designers and firms, and the general public. The survey’s major findings are:

[From Factors that improve online experiences]

Dead Body Found on Delta Airplane

The shocking part of the story is that because Delta doesn’t bother to clean their airplanes anymore in an effort to cut costs, the body wasn’t discovered until the plane had been on 4 roundtrips. Kidding… I’m kidding.

Delta flight attendants found the body of a 61-year-old woman in the restroom of a plane that landed in Atlanta early Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for the company said.

[From Delta says body found in plane's restroom - News- msnbc.com]

Dr. No

Fascinating look at the expansion of Medicaid as states have taken advantage of this uncapped entitlement for decades to provide health care to constituencies well beyond the original mandate of the program. This is a crystal ball for both California and the nation as a whole as politicians fantasize about national healthcare without considering the fiscal implications and marketplace impact that socialized healthcare induces. Simply put, we’ll never have healthcare reform until the cost side of the equation is dealt with.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed of uncommon chutzpah, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano attributes her state’s travails to Washington’s alleged failure to “pay its bills.” Characterizing supposed cuts in federal transfer programs–including contemplated and rejected cuts–as federal “debts” to the states, she maintains that “Arizona would not be in deficit this year” if Washington paid up on only a few of its obligations.[2] The governor could not be more wrong. Arizona’s fiscal crisis is due chiefly to the state’s expansion of its Medicaid programs. That decision, in turn, is largely attributable to the perverse incentives created by Medicaid’s inordinately generous transfers to the states. To oversimplify slightly, states get into fiscal trouble not because the feds shirk their obligations, but because they have made promises to pay in the first place. While Arizona’s problems are exacerbated by a dysfunctional political system, the state’s predicament illustrates a pervasive structural crisis.

Which brings me to Dr. No, otherwise known as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who is the emerging as one of the more interesting members in Congress. His stance on fiscal issues should be singled out and held high as a standard other members of Congress should aspire to. In a sentence, Coburn demands that new spending bills be paid for by eliminating redundant Federal programs or other cost savings, and that programs have performance measures mandated as part of the authorizing legislation. Sounds obvious right? But for the last 30 years Congress (under either party) has behaved in an entirely different fashion.

Reid cobbled together the 35 bills — each of which had passed the House by large margins — into one legislative package in an attempt to overcome all of Coburn’s parliamentary obstacles at once. Coburn is opposed to creating federal programs unless other programs he considers duplicative are eliminated or reduced in scope, and he demands that new programs also contain measures of their effectiveness.

[From Sen. Reid Thwarted On Bundle Of Bills - washingtonpost.com]

Bust a Deal, Face the Wheel

Sprint lost a pretty significant case involving the early termination fees (ETFs) here in California. A contract is a contract and I’m not inclined to cheer the court action nullifying a valid contract between two parties, however it’s also clear that cell phone companies have profitably abused ETFs (e.g. attaching an ETF to a renewal contract even when the consumer didn’t get a new handset) and something needs to be done.

Verizon has a proposal to the FCC that is pretty reasonable. Basically what they are calling for is a national policy on ETFs that allows an opt-out period (similar to a cooling off clause), pro-rated ETFs, and lastly, no ETFs for contract renewals unless the consumer receives a new handset.

While I think this is an issue that needs to be dealt with at a regulatory level, I am not inclined to support judicially inspired chaos that will result from each state regulating the issue independently. What will be a natural consequence of such a market would be handsets that are rendered inoperable on carriers other than the one originally sold on and that can’t be a good thing.

Bonus link, the NY Times has a good piece on ETFs.

200807291129.jpg Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) was dealt a major blow in its early-termination-fee case when a California judge ruled it would have to pay $ 73 million.

[From Sprint Loses Early Termination Fee Case, May Pay $73 Million]

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LA County Proposes Tax Cut With a Tax Hike

What can I say… business as usual in California.

Supervisors voted unanimously last week to place the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, reducing the tax individuals and businesses pay on phones, natural gas and electricity from 5 percent to 41/2 percent in unincorporated areas, affecting more than 1 million people.

But the measure also would expand the types of communications that could be taxed, including text messaging on cell phones, paging, conference calls and other new technologies.

[From Cut may turn into tax hike - LA Daily News]

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