Still Falling Down

Still Falling Down

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Apropos of Nothing, my $0.02 on Detroit

The “big 3” automakers are no longer the real US auto production base. Honda, Nissan, Toyota (and their “hidden” brands) make cars for the US market here, and their sales are a significant part of domestic auto production.

The big 3 probably make more US-sold cars in Mexico and Canada then the Japanese make in the US.

And yes, I know that “make” doesn’t mean anything when parts and intermediate assemblies criss-cross the world several times before final assembly.

The UAW is terrified of the manufacturers seeking bankruptcy protection because it’s the closest the mfrs will ever get to rewriting work rules, pay scales and no-show job requirements. And all of those factors have one underlying concept: dues collection (and that cash doesn’t go to retiree health benefits, either).

If Ford, Chrysler, GM “go away”, then their brands, intellectual property (think of the hundreds of thousands of patents they hold), usable production capacity, and employable, productive people (minus their union contracts) will be snapped up at auction by the hedge funds that still have cash (yup there are a few, and I bet you could raise 4 billion in about 20 minutes to go shopping at a Detroit fire sale) or other capital-flush enterprises. Christ, if someone can invest $37million in a blog (Huffington Post), there must be capital for an automaker.

Isn’t a hedge fund or Japanese manufacturer-led bailout at $0.25 on the dollar better than a runaway train government bailout at $5 on the dollar (how much actually has to be collected from us for each dollar paid out in a bailout)? Which will result in more “real” production of US autos and a better workforce and supply chain?

Yes, hedge funds are corrupt and leaky, just like a Federal agency, but they are much more efficient at it, and they didn’t point a gun at anyone’s head to get the money.

Finally, cars made by Detroit suck. Bottom line, they fall apart, they burn gas like there’s a royalty arrangement involved, they lack features, and they’re just not as much fun to drive. If a non-Detroit car sucks, it’s likely that the suck factors will be addressed in the near future, OR, it’s OK, because you still got value for money.

Which products should the market encourage?
Bzzt. Sorry. Too late. The market spoke long ago.

Thanks for listening. When I try to talk to my cats about this, they just get up and walk away.

Come on! Let’s hear how utterly, completely, and thoroughly wrong I am! Speak up!

FEMA shows what causes disasters

A graphic (see below) on the FEMA website seems to show that the next step after Preparedness is Disaster.

Jeremy Zawodny has an entry that talks about this, but I think Jeremy is slightly off when he describes disaster leading to response, which leads to recovery, etc.

If you look carefully at this image, you will see that, except for Preparedness, in each of the phases of this diagram the arrows miss the next phase. Preparedness is the only phase which leads directly to the next one, which is Disaster.

Maybe the artist knew exactly what they were doing.

Update:

Garr Reynolds
takes all the fun out of this by actually doing a professional analysis of the image and it’s failure as a graphical presentation of FEMA’s mission.

Great quote, though: “Powerpoint should do no harm” (Edward Tufte)

MTA looks to buy some votes with your money

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has generated a proposal to cut subway and bus fares by 50% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. According to the Authority’s 2006 Financial Plan, as a result of the Gap Closing Program, their New York City Transit division will save $43.7 million with a reduction of 432 positions. These positions are involved in the delivery of new subway cars, the design of new electrical and signalling systems, and, of course, station, car and bus maintenance.

“Gap Closing Program”? Why does a organization with a billion-dollar surplus need a Gap Closing Program? Or is there really a surplus? Will we hear next year about the deficit? Sounds a little too Enron/Worldcom/Adelphia to me.

The money New York City residents have been paying in increased fares, which we are told is needed for system upkeep, will go to subsidize the tourist invasion of Manhattan during the holidays, but also to buy your votes on the Transportation Bond Act. I happen to be in favor of this bond issue, since I haven’t been able to find where they’ve hidden the line items which will actually go to operational expenses instead of capital expenditures. As a rule, though, I just don’t like vote buying.

So, the trains, buses and stations will be dirtier, the new trains will be delayed another year, signalling improvements will take a few more years to design and even more years to install. And we’ll take on more debt.

So, thanks MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp, for a thoughtful proposal. And I’m sure the suburban commuters (of which, Katherine, you would be one if you didn’t have an Authority provided car and driver) whose rides are subsidized at the expense of city dwellers will continue to thank you. Oh, and how’s that 22% salary increase from Pete Kalikow holding up?

Busy over in the City Council, aren’t they?

The members of the New York City Council obviously need a hobby.
Introduction No. 563 of the New York City Council attempts to regulate the times at which movies can start.

Council Members Brewer, Gerson, James, Koppell, Liu, Nelson, Palma, Perkins, Seabrook, Weprin and Reed are so concerned about the barrage of commercials, promotions and other unrelated media, that they are riding to the rescue of the New York moviegoer. According to this proposed law:

Once the consumer has purchased his or her theater pass, he or she has also acquired the right to view the motion picture free of additional advertising.

Huh? I must have missed that section of the US Constitution. How do rights enter into this?

The introduction goes on to threaten penalties of $1,000.00 for each advertisement which does not contain the actual time at which the movie itself begins. Even if the advertisement did not plan to include any showing times. How about letting people vote with their feet, instead of imposing fines on theatre owners who will simply view it as another cost of doing business? All the fine will accomplish is to raise the price of crappy movies from $11 to $15. Thanks for the protection council members!

As long as we’re discussing the rights of moviegoers, how about the right to smack the mother who brought their tired, screaming 3-year old to the PG-13 movie?

Or to wrap in his own cellophane the the jerk who takes 10 minutes to unpack the sandwich he stuffed in his pants to avoid the theatre’s food police?

How much is the Weiner-dog in the window?

Haven’t seen or heard much speculation on the price paid by Fernando Ferrer’s campaign or the NYC Democratic Party leadership for Anthony Weiner’s sudden withdrawal from the mayoral campaign. Sudden, because he had been quoted hours earlier as saying

I think a runoff wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

So, what price concession?

Was this a simple quid pro quo? Did the Democrats offer Anthony a place in the Ferrer administration? If so, Anthony sold himself cheap, given the odds that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be re-elected.

Did they threaten his future prospects as a Democratic candidate if he didn’t play ball? Sounds more like the machine we all know and love here in NYC.

Say, can you tell me where to find the…

Yahoo! carries this photo of President Bush writing a note to Condoleeza Rice during the UN Summit in New York.

His note seems to ask Rice “I may need a bathroom break?”. Reuters says this note “falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s vision of freedom”.

Hastert shows his sensitivity – aides backpedal furiously

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) showed the world how clueless and insensitive it’s possible to become in the insular world of the federal government.

“It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed,” the Illinois Republican said in an interview about New Orleans Wednesday with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill.

Hastert also claimed that federal aid to New Orleans is not worth the money for just a few thousand lives.

These statements are the latest in the questionable output from the House Speaker. His most extraordinary outburst probably came last August when he accused financier George Soros of receiving money from drug cartels.In April, Haster claimed that Democrats were blocking Ethics committee hearings to prevent investigations into their own misdeeds, and not to institute needed rules changes.

Now his aides are scrambling to spin his statements. They say that he was merely trying to inject fiscal responsibility into the discussion of aid to the areas ravaged by Katrina. Given his history of shoot-from-the-hip whoppers, it’s your choice whether to believe them.

I guess the House really needs someone to replace Jim Traficant.

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