Explaining Southern California's economy

New Porsche 911: Still no substitute

A few final hits from the the 2011 La Auto Show, which runs through the Thanksgiving weekend. In this video, the mighty 911, now available in a new version for 2012. 

The 911 is the sports car by which all other sports cars are judged. Sort of the Platonic form of the sports car. Great handling. Fast. Beautifully made. The kind of car that, in theory, can seamlessly transition from a freeway cruise to a brisk turn on the racetrack, in the span of nothing more than an offramp.

In other words, there's still no substitute.

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Occupy Movement: A Kent State moment at UC Davis?

Occupy Protests Pepper Spray

Thomas K. Fowler/AP

In this image made from video, a police officer uses pepper spray as he walks down a line of Occupy demonstrators sitting on the ground at the University of California, Davis on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. The video - posted on YouTube - was shot Friday as police moved in on more than a dozen tents erected on campus and arrested 10 people, nine of them students.

One of the central problems with understanding the Occupy Movement is that, in America, we have no real recent experience with large-scale protests. It's not like police, mayors, members of Congress, university presidents, of even President Obama himself have been studying the country's last major protest movement, again the Vietnam War.

Some of these leaders have no excuse. They lived through Vietnam. Some were on the protest battlements themselves. Some were in the actual war.

The result is that the country is dangerously unprepared for what has suddenly morphed into an increasingly violent showdown between Occupy protesters and the authorities.

Last week, I suggested that another Kent State shooting is unlikely. "Kent State" is popular shorthand for a 1970 massacre at Kent State University in Ohio, when national guardsmen killed four students and wounded nine, prompting a national outrage and signaling the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War, as well as much of the romance of the countercultural 1960s.

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LA Auto Show: The future of Lincoln

So let me throw this one open to the audience. Lincoln: luxury yes or luxury no? And does Ford have any business keeping its luxury brand alive, when many people think that it just isn't as...luxurious as brands like BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, and even Cadillac, its historic rival?

I've argued elsewhere that Ford should let Lincoln go. But maybe I'm wrong...

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LA Auto Show: Telling the luxury technology story at Cadillac

Cadillac has a new in-car infortainment system, called Cue, that it's rolling out for the 2012 model year. At the 2011 LA Auto Show, it was one of the minor examples I saw of a major trend in the car business: bringing technology into vehicles.

An important thing to note now is that while just a few years back, luxury customers might have been more interested in whether their car seats were hand-stitched, heated, and massaged to a butter-soft texture by elves, they now want to know that their $50,000 automobile will be able to keep pace with the technological innovations that we're seeing almost montly in consumers products.

If a sub-$20,000 Chevy Cruze can talk to the interwebs and play MP3s, the Cadillac had better be able to, as well.

When it comes to tech, luxury cars aren't immune from the discussion anymore. And we all know how important the luxury market is in LA.

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LA Auto Show: Volkswagen aims for world domination!

Just having a little fun with Volkswagen here (Das Auto!). The German carmaker wants to knock off General Motors and/or Toyota as the globe's biggest auto company, and while it's doing well in Europe, China, and Latin America, it's been notably less-than-successful in the USA.

VW definitely wants to change that. But with a mere 3 percent of the North American market, it's a tall order. That said, much of that 3 percent seems concentrated in...Southern California. So if the VW plan for world domination is to begin, it will begin in LA. Or at that $1 billion plant they just opened in Tennessee...

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