Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One Man's View About How GM Lost The Third World Market

The government of the tiny ex-British colony of Barbados had a problem in the late 70's and decided to borrow some money from the twin brotherhood of state destruction; The World Bank and IMF - International Monetary Fund. That's right, the island had a problem of outpacing development; the city's sewer (or lack thereof) couldn't accomodate the drastic increase in tourists: cruise ships were coming at a furious rate; money was to be made and the government wanted to keep the gravy train flowing.

So, the government convinced the people that borrowing this huge sum of money was a good idea: while they were at it, they would rewire the island to take advantage of the upcoming telecommunications boom; and away they went, mortgaging the country to the tune of over a hundred million US dollars. That would be well over four hundred million US dollars in today dollars.

US $400,000,000.00.

Aside: As of 1997 one US dollar was equal to 27 cents from 1972; the last year American money had any real meaning. We have had eight more years of currency devaluation or if you prefer the politically correct term, inflation.

Anyhow, back to the story: The government of Barbados mortgaged its soul and whoever it could find to join at the hip and signed on the dotted line but the purse strings were being pulled before the ink was dry. Washington began leaning on the island to spend the money back into its borders; borrow from us, spend with us.

It was, for all manner of speaking, nothing but a nice little piggy bank for American businesses. No fault for the businesses; they were tied to the hip of Washington by something called lobbying. These big boys would use that big stick to get what they want and the name of the game is money, big money!

However, little old Barbados didn't want none of that crap. This little country really wanted to upgrade its sewage system but increasingly found itself being caught between a rock and a hard place by Washington.

What to do?

The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. E. W. Barrow MP. Esq, at that time but now deceased was a sharp mongoose; he agreed to the idea of spending the back with American businesses on the stipulation that he got what he specifically asked for. The World Bank and IMF agreed to the terms of the loans and the prime minister promptly called upon General Motors to deliver a fleet of Cadillacs.

General Motors readily accepted. After all, this was a done deal; 36 cadillacs for cabinet level appointments for starters, plus more to come.

Man, what a sweetheart deal!

Until someone at GM headquarters read the fine print!

The Cadillacs were to be right hand driven and diesel powered!


Detroit Auto King refused to put the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car and their attempt at diesel is history.

The Japanese did; and the rest, as they say, is history...

Side Note: The island of Barbados paid a heavy price for that move but that story is for another time. I just wanted to concentrate on General Motors and their decision making powers.

What did they say about history?

Something like: Those who do not know it are destined to repeat it.

Or, something like that!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I had a dream: Apolitic or cryptic?

I had this dream and in my dream I was standing in our nation's capitol was but DC wasn't there anymore; it was one flat black spot. There wasn't a deep hole in the ground, charred or burning emblems with rising smoke, or any other suggestion how the city disappeared; the capitol simply wasn't there.

The squarest capitol on the face of the earth was no more!

I stood in my dream and looked around, the ground being elevated slightly for viewing and I saw buildings: buildings as far as the eye could see; thousands and thousands of builings. These newly constructed structures were in various stages of completion. These structures were not located in the city itself but rather, their boundaries started at the city limits.

These buildings were very identical in my dream; three floors. They even had the same exterior color; beige and white. The completed homes were closest to the city line and lessser finished buildings as you get away from town. Incindentally, the buildings were not built in circular fashion around the city but there were randomly located with interconnected roads.

I took a walk, deciding to visit one of these buildings and as I got closer, I noticed the buildings were nothing but apartments; three storied apartments. I was about to enter one when I saw the sign at the door asking all to remove shoes. I took off my shoes and went inside.

I was totally surprised!

The interior had wodden floors; higly polished and luxury carpet in the bedrooms. There were three bedrooms; a master bedroom with a luxury master bathroom. The master bedroom was at the opposite end of the apartment from the other two bedrooms. These two bedrooms shared a large double wash basin bathroom between then and there was a half bath in the foyer.

I walked into the kitchen. There was light brown granite island counter top with a six burner electric stove. A large stainless steel refrigerator with matching stacker ovens adorned the brightly lit room; a microwave complemented the area.

I walked from the kitchen into the living room and stopped. My counsin's mother was standing in the room sadly shaking her head and making a clucking sound with her mouth. She saw me and said with heavy anger mingled with cynicsm in her voice, spreading her hands, indicating the opulence of the apartment.

"Your tax dollars at work. This is your tax dollars at work!"

I decided to leave; leaving my cousin's mother still shaking her head in the living room. I walked towards the door where I had left my shoes but there were not there. I went to the other doors, thinking perhaps I was mistaken but no, my shoes were not there; they were gone.

Someone had taken my shoes!

I couldn't leave the apartment for outside had suddenly become wet. I needed my shoes to put on my feet so that I could walk through the mud; that clayish soil for which the DC area is famous for. I suddnely realized for all the beauty of the apartments that I was trapped.

I was trapped because of my own actions!

I awoke from my dream and went to work, telling a freind about my dream. We laughed, talking about the meaning of the dream, among other daily events, including General Motors, Delphi, Mortgages and the coming meltdown in the US economy as it shifts from an industrial era to...Global Informational?

That is, until I realized the meaning of the dream; a meaning so sinister and deadly that it made me to tremble.

Everyone living in good old USA is trapped: trapped, merely by the fact of living in this country and they cannot escape unless they walk away from the largesse of government. The problem is they have lost their shoes and therefore, it is impossible to walk.

Unless of course, they find their shoes!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

No to the SONY PSP

I have been sitting on the fence ever since Sony Corporation introduced their PSP - Playstation Portable gaming console. Really, I have seen one of these things; they are sweet and I would like to buy one BUT ...

From the onset, the company deliberately crippled the equipment by NOT releasing the UMD - Universal Media Disc - in recordable fashion. This decision forces the more expensive use of memory stick; a business move, I am sure SONY has calculated well.

But how much more easy would it be had if Sony decided to make this disc recordable?

Ingenuity would fit the guts of the hardware into that of the floppy drive and since it is nothing but a DVD recorder, there will no need to reinvent the wheel. Sony would make money from lincensing the manufacture of both hardware and discs.

Strike one against Sony...

The second mistake SONY has made with this PSP is with the upgraded firmware. It seems that with every release, the Japanese giant is making their handheld less innovative. They decided from its conception that the use of Homebrew would be disallowed but even more onerous, SONY has introduced DRM technology into the system. Courting Hellywood does bring its own problems and Sony has decided that is the way to go.

Strike two against Sony...

Should I wait for the third strike?

I am afraid that SONY, like Apple with their iPOD and all the other producers of video and audio content gadgets, has forgotten the most important purpose of their business: THE CUSTOMER!

In their zeal to maximize ever dollar profit, these companies had locked down their equipment with these management technologies that their have become nothing but paper weights. By lumping all experimentation as illegal, they have virtually made these TOOLS useless.

What they have done is shut out the most exciting aspect of our society; that is by allowing a few to experiment so that we all can benfit and these companies have also forgotten another fact.

CUSTOMER BUY THINGS, NOT THE RIAA OR MPAA...

So, at this juncture I will say politly to the SONY Corporation, "Thanks but no thanks. I will pass this time, on your PSP."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Detroit Steel: A Conundrum

I bought my first new vehicle in the fall of 2000. It came down to choosing between two SUV's: GM Jimmy 4x4 and Toyota Forerunner 4x4. The deciding factor was choice of brakes; all other features being equal. The Toyota had a disc-drum brake combination while the Jimmy had disc-disc brakes.

I bought the Jimmy because the salesman got me a two tone truck: black and gold. Toyota had black with white but the paint scheme was not the clincher. It was the all wheel disc brakes on the Jimmy that sold me but this vehicle has been a thorn in my side ever since the day that I sign on the dotted line.

Consider:

One: The vehicle refused to start the first day after I brought it home. The dealership replaced the ignigtion module because it was faulty.

Two: GM recalled the vehicle a year of months later.

Three: The left front drive axle went out at 60,000 miles. This happened when my sweetheart was forced to drive through a pot hole created by the city's negligence.

Four: The right front drive alxle went out at 61,500 miles later.

Five: The left front drive axle went out at 65,000. This happened a hundred miles from home. I was se annoyed at the vehicle that I towed it directly back to the original and left it there for a week.

Six: Replaced all tires and brakes on the early side of its cycle, considering I drive four miles eachway to work. I am not a foot stomping driver either.

Seven: The right head lamp assembly is broken and needs replacing. It's not as a result of an accident. The socket that holds the bulb is broken and cannot be repaired.

Eight: The most recent aggregation. The electronic shift control module on the transfer case is defective and needs replacing.

I submit the notion that the camel's back is broken. This part, no bigger than a wiper blade's motor has a listed price of over $600; and though I am aware of it being an electrical component, subject to failure and all that, I am a bit peeved at GM.

The drive train on any vehicle should be the most robust part of the vehicle but it doesn't seem so in this case. Almost all the problems related to this vehicle are drive line related.

I am not using the SPLIT MILK analogy and say, I should have bought Toyota. That would not do any good at this late stage in the day.

Not really!

However, I will say this: I will drive Detroit steel BUT I find it VERY difficult to recommend any of them...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Odds and ends

Rethreads. the words has been on my mind very much of lately. No, I am not referring to the strips of rubber that are seen along our highways but the process by which these strips are the final result: Rethreads.

The process began way back in the 50's and has revolutionized the tire industry by extending their useful lives but if that was a god-send discovery back then, I would say it has grown into the antitheses; an albatros around my neck if I may so boldly say.

Consider a few examples:

Disney's most recent reintroduction of "Cinderella." This company, which hasn't made a good movie since Shrek is stuck in the rethread mode. They take their age old movies, add a few enhancements and sell them to the public at full price. It is cruel to watch this once great company relying on past glories to blaze a new path.

Disney would have been better if they would simply hire Dreamworks SKG to remake this movie; not only this one but all the others and while they are at it, rewrite them, if deemed possible.

On second thoughts: don't rewrite, bundle the original with the new and make it two-for-one deal! Doing this would not only lend value to the original movie but it would let Disney be seen as a leader in the animation industry.

A second example is Microsoft. Beginning with Windows 98, the Redmond giant has been rethreading their DOS. I am granting Win95 as the start but, like Disney, this is all Microsoft has done: add a few features to the original product and sell it at full price. Ironically, their world was threatened with the advent of virus, spyware, malware and Trojan horses but it is back to business as usual with their upcoming release of Vista.

Interestingly enough, these two companies have made a success out of the rethreading process because their products are voluntarily acquired. Neither MS or Disney held a gun to anyone's head and forced us to buy their goods but in other realm, rethreading has reached new heights: or is it new lows?

Detroit is rife with rethreads. Top management has been recycled in the automotive industry for years and we are finally reaping the benefits of their collective wisdom. Finger pointing, name calling and face blaming is all that's left; the industry is in a sad state of disarray as these rethreads struggle to find their footing.

The next phase, "fallout" has already begun. Bankruptcies, both personal and business are in the works. Government's move to halt the tide is too late. People will simply walk away from the problem when it becomes overburdening and the Chairman of GM will be the first top level casuality.

How can new ideas come from the same people?

Has it ever dawned on these people that it took a Frenchman to save Nissan?

The new models rethread old ideas. Chrysler hit upon a Hemi engine in an old Charger. GM is using their Cavalier shape to build a Pontiac G6, putting a large 6.0 Liter V8 engine in it to woo the power crowd.

New models with old names: New models with old engines.

We can't seem to break the mold!

Dear GM: Take the engine block that was used to build the 4.3L V6. Scrap the six cylinders and build a V8-32 valve engine. Use individual fuel injector ports rather than the single port in the throttle body.

Throw away the automatic transmission and craft a six-speed shifter to match the engine you've just build.

Take the Pontiac Grand Prix. Strip out the crap inside. Expand the line and build the car in two more configurations: Rear Wheel Drive and All Wheel Drive. The regular engine go into the RWD, while the high output turbo-charged version go into the AWD.

To sell the car: Make an infomercial, telling the public how the car was made but use regular people as the drivers: The most selling point would be as the commercial ends, you see a man dropping off his son at school. The door closes and Dad starts dreaming about the curves in the road as he pulls off...

Make driving, exciting again. People will buy it.

But if it is possible to break the rethreading trend in business, it is a daunting task in politcs, especially down in Potamacville. The most recent nomination to the Supreme Court by GW Bush is a classic illustration.

What to make of this?

Nothing!

It is business as usual because this is the end result of our political dieltic. There is no spoiler when Democrats and Republicans disagree. They squabble but in the end we get one or the other. In short: the new Republocrat; a little of this, a little of that and nothing for us.

Our polictical stability has become our achilles' heel!