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October 13, 2014

"21 Scams Used By Devious Car Dealers — And How To Avoid Them"

In my experience buying a new car is definitely not fun. It's better than listening to a life insurance salesman pitching whole life insurance, but that's not saying much.

Some fine examples of the ugliness are in this piece. In my most recent experience, a few weeks ago, I encountered these three:

1. A car listed as "new" on the dealer's website had 4200 miles on it, but the sales manager informed me that it could be sold as new because "it has never been titled".

2. Seconds away from closing the sale at a price listed on the dealer website and agreed to by the salesman, the sales manager told me I'd have to pay $1500 more than that price. That price, as indicated by teeny, tiny print on a second page of the website--with no asterisk on the first page--included "all applicable discounts" such as $1000 off for owning one of the manufacturer's cars and $500 off for being a veteran. 

3. Almost all the dealers near me selling the make I was interested in had added several hundred dollars of "dealer options" which were heavily marked up and included such fabulous opportunities as a "rear bumper decal" for $75. This is to say nothing about the $500 "dealer prep" charge which every dealer added in. 

That said, the experience seems to be slowly improving. I found Truecar.com quite helpful. The Black Book assessment of my trade-in at, among other places, Cars.com was also helpful. I didn't use AAA's car buying service this time, but I had one excellent experience with them a few years back. 

Maybe in another ten or twenty years it'll be no more unpleasant than buying a refrigerator.

"Bankruptcy Judge Hammers Unions by Allowing Stockton Pension Cut"

From Breitbart California:

In what will be a devastating blow to California public employee unions, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled in the Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy of the City of Stockton that pensions managed by the California Public Employee Retirement System, known as CalPERS, can be cut in bankruptcy “like any other garden variety” unsecured debt. He rejected the unions’ argument that the world’s largest pension fund is an “arm of the state” and that public employee pensions are protected by federal and state laws.

"Zombie Spending"

I used to use the wool and mohair subsidy program as an example in class and a couple of students all but accused me of making it up. It's here as well as a few other apt and distressing examples.

"When Humans Lose Control of Government"

More on the same theme that Philip K. Howard has been advancing for some years now. (With new examples and details I hadn't seen before.)

But as I've noted before, it's a really good theme.

“Clear law” turns out to be a myth. Modern law is too dense to be knowable. “It will be of little avail to the people,” James Madison observed, “if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” The quest for “clear law” is futile also because most regulatory language is inherently ambiguous. Dense rulebooks do not avoid disputes—they just divert the dispute to the parsing of legal words instead of arguing over what’s right. Indeed, legal detail often undermines the regulatory goal. “The more exact and detailed a rule, the more likely it is to open up loopholes, to permit by implication conduct that the rule was intended to avoid,” Judge Richard Posner observed.

"Scalia’s Liberal Streak"

Writer for Slate discovers that principled people following their principles sometimes will surprise. Who knew?

"Some Cancer Experts See 'Overdiagnosis,' Question Emphasis on Early Detection"

This is so true:

The conflicting messages have left many patients bewildered. After years of educational campaigns saying that early detection saves lives, it's no wonder that some people view recommendations to cut back on cancer screenings as dangerous, or veiled health-care rationing.

When I was a kid it seemed like at least once a week--sometimes, once or more per day--there was an ad on TV from the American Cancer Society telling us how very, very important early detection of cancer was.

October 12, 2014

"French say au revoir to France"

Zut alors! Why would all those sophisticated French people be leaving their wonderful country?

More here: "How did France get it so wrong?"

"The Ring Leader: Bill Russell helped the Celtics rule their sport like no team ever has"

A fine tribute by Frank Deford to the greatest team athlete ever, William Felton Russell.

"10 Ways the Car Is Becoming More Than a Vehicle"

From Popular Mechanics. I've noticed that they are getting better at a rapid clip. One reason why:

In the past two decades, automakers have cut their seven-to-ten year product development lifecycles in half.

October 11, 2014

Yet another first world problem

"Brunch Is for Jerks".

But now that I have a young daughter, brunch is completely impractical. By noon I’ve been up for hours and am ready for an actual lunch — although that meal is an increasingly endangered species on the weekend. For most restaurant owners, serving brunch is mandatory. It’s a revenue stream that also exposes restaurants to diners who might become regular customers. Even our local Thai restaurant insists on topping every dish with a poached egg on weekends and offering an ambiguously Asian mimosa. . . .

This leaves an increasing number of well-off young professionals who are unencumbered by children — exactly the kind of people who can fritter away Saturday, Sunday or both over a boozy brunch. Our once diverse neighborhood now brims with the homogeneity of an elite university. (Julian Casablancas, I imagine, will be disappointed to discover the same crowd of white people brunching in Phoenicia, Hudson or Beacon upstate.)

“Brunch,” said Mr. Micallef, the author, over the phone, “is a visible sign of the changes that sometimes feel out of our control.”

Poor baby!

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