Monthly Archives: March 2009

The dog ate my homework and my Corvette

Here is a link to the Obama’s team, “Path to Viability for GM and  Chrysler.”  

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/business/20090330-gm-chrysler-fact-sheet.pdf 

I would encourage all of you to spend a few minutes and read the document.  I also need someone who is far smarter than me to tell me something good about this report. 

Also in the those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it I offer the following article:

http://www.american.com/archive/2009/march-2009/small-car-big-shadow

As you can expect I do have a few observations on the Obama Car report, as you knew I would.

First, since the day the first spoon-cooked hypodermic filled bailout was injected into GM and Chrysler they new they had a deadline to put together plans on how they were going to return to financial viability.  The deal was, here is the hypo, enjoy it for a few days and then get your shit together and let us know how you’re going to extricate yourself from this mess.  Seems the hypo filled with the spoon-cooked bailout was too much a good thing. 

Based on the Obama report, “The plans submitted by GM and Chrysler on February 17, 2009 did not establish a credible path to viability. In their current form, they are not sufficient to justify a substantial new investment of taxpayer resources. Each will have a set period of time and an adequate amount of working capital to establish a new strategy for long-term economic viability.”

Basically, they totally fucked up the homework assignment they were given. 

First step should be to terminate the employment of every executive and Union leader who had ANY, I repeat ANY responsibility in putting together the plans in response to the government.  This includes the board of directors at both companies.

In the next paragraph the report says that even though the GM plan is not viable the Administration is confident that with more fundamental restructuring (or in my term – layoffs) GM will emerge from this process a stronger more competitive business. 

And then they say, I paraphrase, that since the CEO has resigned we’ll give you 60 more days of funding to develop a more aggressive restructuring plan and credible strategy to implement such a plan.  WHAT THE FUCK!  So basically someone in the Obama camp had a hard on for this Wagoner dude and said, we’ll give you 60 days of funding if you whack him.  Sounds like a contract hit to me. 

What makes anyone feel confident that in 60 days GM will all of a sudden have a plan that is viable?  This is like me not doing my homework and then having the teacher say, it’s ok, take it home and do it again and here is $100 go have a good time tonight. 

When are the folks at GM and Chrysler going to take this seriously?  Why do we think they can get it right the second time and who the fuck did our government have working on this path to viability, the Bush team?  

As far as Chrysler goes – if they don’t complete the partnership with FIAT – they are fucked.

An interesting paragraph that should scare every vendor of GM and Chrysler is found at the bottom of page 1.  We’re talking the B word – yep, that same B word the Obama folks said we would never let happen,

While Chrysler and GM are different companies with different paths forward, both have unsustainable liabilities and both need a fresh start. Their best chance at success may well require utilizing the bankruptcy code in a quick and surgical way. Unlike a liquidation, where a company is broken up and sold off, or a conventional bankruptcy, where a company can get mired in litigation for several years, a structured bankruptcy process – if needed here – would be a tool to make it easier for General Motors and Chrysler to clear away old liabilities so they can get on a path to success while they keep making cars and providing jobs in our economy.”

Here, according to the path to viability is how GM is going to turn it around:

First significant restructuring at the corporate level then the following from the report:

Sustainable profitability: A viable GM should be able to generate meaningful positive free cash flow in a normalized business environment, generate net free cash flow over the course of a business cycle and invest capital in research and development and capital expenditures sufficient to maintain or enhance its competitive position while also earning an adequate return on its capital.

 

A healthy balance sheet: The restructuring must substantially reduce GM’s outstanding debt and existing liabilities to a level where they are consistent with both its normalized cash flow and the cyclical nature of its business. Given the deterioration in the auto market since late last year, this will require substantially greater balance sheet concessions than those called for in the existing loan agreements.

 

More aggressive operational restructuring: The restructuring plan must rapidly achieve full competitiveness with foreign transplants and more aggressively implement significant manufacturing, headcount, brand, nameplate and retail network restructurings.

 

Technology leadership: The new GM will have a significant focus on developing high fuel-efficiency cars that have broad consumer appeal because they are cost-effective, have good performance and are reliable, durable and safe.

 

Wow.  I am not a Wharton Business school grad even though I did work with a few….wicked smart peeps.  However, I have stayed at a Holiday Inn so that qualifies me to comment on the above.

Cash flow, healthy balance sheet, aggressive restructuring, technology investment.  That’s the best we could come up with?  No shit business management 101.  

I love the term unsustainable liabilities and positive free cash flow.  If you find a bag of money on the street is that considered positive free cash flow.

So based on the above GM will most likely: get a lot more hypo’s of taxpayer cake, declare some form of bankruptcy (wink,wink), close a few plants, layoff some people and tell us now that the Tahoe hybrid gets 22 mpg.

At some point is anyone going to talk about getting together with the Unions to get some labor concessions in the arena of wages and benefits.  I have a question – if GM and Chrysler went completely out of business what would the Unions do, never mind their constituency.

 

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rambling I am I am

Top of the morning to ya.  It’s a beautifully yucky end of March day here in the Happy Valley. 

Well so much for my NCAA hoops bracket thingees.  Man I suck at those things.  I just can’t separate my head from my heart when I am trying to pick a winner.  I mean come on, who didn’t think Cornell could go all the way.  Damn.

I was reading this morning about this whole auto industry bailout stuff.  I know, I know…we can’t let them fail.  The records stuck, the records stuck. 

We the government of the people laid down the law and told GM that if they want more money the CEO has to go.   Considering that GM has effectively burned through all the cake ($17.4 billion) we’ve given them, since DECEMBER, me thinks they don’t have a choice. 

Sort of seems like we the government is taking on the role of a drug dealer….get GM hooked on cake and then if they want more cake – we get them to do something they might not have done without the original cake fix. 

Don’t get me wrong CEO Wagoner should have been gone a while ago.  I am sure he’s a sweet guy, however, GM’s performance under his watchful eye has been a wee bit less than stellar. 

This just in –  GM has asked for another $16.6 billion.  100 times more cake, 100 times more cake than the $165million in AIG bonuses.  That’s a lot of cake.

Has Jon Stewart stopped beating on that Cramer dude yet?

Is it just me or is there some weird irony that the former CEO of GM has the same name as that old faux wood sided Jeep called the Wagoner?  

As for Chrysler, they get no more cake  unless they consummate their partnership with FIAT.  By some reports the deal is basically giving FIAT a third of Chrysler for free.  Yes, that same company that was better known as (Fix it Again Tony) due to their incredible unreliability during the 70’s and 80’s. 

The good news is that FIAT is something of an example, an automotive success story.  They have risen from the ashes of financial despair to being a very viable European automaker.  It is interesting to note that having “failed” in the American auto marker Fiat abandoned the American marketplace in the mid 80’s.  Fiat also has a sports car division Alfa Romeo that I think stuck around in the American market until the mid 90’s.  Either way it will be interesting to see how FIAT can leverage Chrysler and Chrysler, FIAT.

Per the governments Viability assessment report here are some of Chrysler’s challenges:
Scale: Chrysler cannot afford to dedicate enough R&D to each product platform to maintain competitiveness, suffers from having a smaller supply purchasing base and amortizes its significant fixed costs over a much smaller base of vehicles than its competitors.

Quality: While the Company is committed to improving quality, its current quality scores significantly lag competitors. Chrysler admits that improving quality and associated brand perception will take a number of years.

Product Mix: Chrysler does not have a product pipeline to cover the smaller car segments which are projected to grow in share of the overall car market and will struggle to meet proposed fuel-efficiency standards.

Manufacturing: In contrast to best-in-class OEMs, as well as both GM and Ford, Chrysler has not investedsignificantly in common architectures and flexible plant manufacturing capacity, which will be critical to longterm profitability.

Geographic Concentration: Unlike many of its competitors, Chrysler’s business is heavily weighted to North America, which makes the Company more vulnerable to local economic fluctuations and less able to take advantage of developing markets.

Hmmm, I’d get laughed outta the bank if that was the assesment of my business.

Then we have the G20 meeting that I think is going to take place this week. 

No the G20 isn’t some new scaled down hybrid from Infinity.  It is the meeting of the finance folks of the world’s largest economies and a handful of other financially important  entities like the International Money Fund and the World Bank. 

You have to love the G20 – check this out from their website:

What are the criteria for G-20 membership?

In a forum such as the G-20, it is particularly important for the number of countries involved to be restricted and fixed to ensure the effectiveness and continuity of its activity. There are no formal criteria for G-20 membership and the composition of the group has remained unchanged since it was established. In view of the objectives of the G-20, it was considered important that countries and regions of systemic significance for the international financial system be included. Aspects such as geographical balance and population representation also played a major part. 

So there is no formal criteria to belong.  Interesting – we have Country Clubs in this country that have tougher membership criteria – and that includes the ones that DO let in woman and African Americans.

It pisses me off that South Africa is included in this meeting.  Bastards. 

I read the other day South Africa was having a world peace conference and denied the Dali Lama a visa to attend.  A world peace conference without the Dali Lama.  Seems that South Africa didn’t want to create headlines that would take away from their hosting the soccer world cup in 2010.  The irony of this whole cluster fuck is that the conference was to have discussions on how soccer can help fight racism and xenophobia.  I bet that if the Dali Lama had a good soccer club he’ d have been included.

I understand the racism part but why is everyone concerned about people with a fear of xylophones.  I for one, enjoy a good xylophone.

The G 20 Meeting is in London.  I think the meeting should be held in Caerbannog.  Pronounced (Kire- ban – nog).  The reason Caerbannog would be perfect is that it is a terrifying place.  Having the meeting at a place that harbors such evil would make the topics that need to be addressed at the meeting seem tame.  Can you imagine what would actually get done at such a meeting if, say, unless they all came up with concrete solutions, that everyone supported –  we’d not remove the rabbit from the lobby of where they are meeting.

Don’t laugh, this is more than just a rabbit.  It is a killer rabbit with huge fangs that rip and tear.

Caerbannog is not for the week of heart.  We’ll see who amongst these folks will scamper and who will emerge the most brave.  Early bets are on Merkel from Germany and Brown from the UK.

One last bit of advice – Brother Bernanke you better pack the Holy hand grenade because these folks are going to need a couple of them.  Remember thou counts to 3 no more no less.

G20 attendees – you people are smart, work together and come out of these meetings with a solution for the world not just your neighborhood!

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Oreo and the Miracle of the Hot Dog

I started this posting the better part of a year ago (actually looking back at the log I realize it was Aug 2007).  You see I was convinced then, that our Old English Sheepdog, Oreo, was about to pass away and I was sad.  Really sad.  That sadness went the way of the miracle hotdog.

The Miracle Hotdog.  Blessed be the Miracle Hotdog!  Long live Oscar Meyer.  Bust out the Boar’s Head, All hail Nathan’s best.  Kayem and Sabrette rock.  The Hotdog as canine savior!

Oreo was battling lyme disease and was barely moving.  Heck, she was barely breathing.  That is when my brother decided it would be a good idea to give her a hotdog.  Why I don’t’ know.  She opened her eyes and with little energy ate each piece of hotdog that my brother fed to her. 

In the next few hours Oreo’s breathing was stronger and in a matter of a day she was back to her stubborn, “I am the Princess don’t fuck with me,” attitude.  In the months that followed she was, well herself.

Well today I write because there was only one miracle hotdog and our Oreo passed away last night.

I am so thankful for the past 18 plus months that the Miracle Hotdog gave us with Oreo.  We had a great ride and a great many more adventures.  Whether it was a drive somewhere or a simple walk in the woods, it was great.  Plus Oreo was able to meet and help shape Otis (the leg breaker himself) our 1 year old sheepdog. 

Here is what I wrote then –

It’s hard for me to write this as I can barely see the screen cuz my eyes are overflowing with tears.  Tears of great saddness.  You see, one of our dogs, Oreo passed away today.  Damn it hurts.  She was the most beautiful Old English Sheepdog you ever met.  Beautiful both physically and beautiful in spirit.  Damn she was a pain in the ass.

 We adopted her from the New England Old English Sheepdog Rescue folks.  They’re a great organization and can be found on the web at http://www.neoesr.org/main.htm.

We got her when she was about 4 years old and definitely full of herself.  Over the years she has fit right into our family of animals, albeit we’re down to a single sheep dog now.    

She was both strong willed, stubborn and most of all very lovable.  She loved to sit between the two front bucket seats whenever we went for a ride and she loved to go for a ride.  She was one tough dog.

She had the most amazing bark when she wanted something.  You know, one of those barks that goes clear on through to your soul. We will miss her.

Zooming back to today –  I gotta go now, Otis the leg breaker just decided to intrude on this moment of reflection and defiantly shit on the rug.  I think the baton has been passed.

Here is a photo of Otis (on the left) explaining how he broke my leg to Oreo

otis-and-oreo

Long live Oreo and the Miracle of the Hotdog

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Concession to the depression of the Recession Confession

I usually try and stay away from current events but  I thought I’d a share a few synaptic provocateur free rambling  observations on the world today….ok maybe not totally s.p. free

First, there is a great Op Ed piece in the NY Times today from an AIG employee.  As my brother said, “there’s always two sides to a story.”  Here’s the link to the piece:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/opinion/25desantis.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Mr. DeSantis resignation letter is both interesting and not surprising.  Might I add, bravo.

We’ve run out of collective fingers and toes to count how many people have been sacrificed by corporations.  Now don’t me wrong, I’d be happy to be sacrificed for a $740K bonus (after taxes).  However, understanding the timing of all this crap Mr. DeSantis is still just an employee who did his job with the corporate commitment and contractual agreement from his employer that he’d be compensated for said job.

I am confident for every Jake DeSantis there are thousands of people who have had similar experiences, albeit without the significant cake.  Whether it was by reinvesting in corporate stock shares or working 15 hour days folks make dedicated commitments to corporations and after all that they end up having the company drain them of both their financial and emotional capital.  Why is it that corporations fail to recognize and demonstrate the value of human assets.  When did this relationship start being a one way street?

I know I am generalizing .  There are some good companies out there doing great work with a commitment to their employee base.  The challenge is they never make the headlines.  Nope, the headlines are left for the Enrons, Bear Stearns and AIG’s of the world. 

Then we have the government.  Ah, the government.  Knee jerking like the high stepping army of Kim Jong Il.  Quick let’s pass specific laws to punish these people who received these bonus’s.  Beautiful knee jerk reaction….horse – barn folks.  Why is it that this bonus structure which has been on the AIG books for months never was identified.  Shit, we the people supposedly own 80% of AIG.  Who is overseeing this crap.  Where were you six months ago Mr. Blumenthal?  Tied up in tracking down illegal weight loss claims and credit card fraud by some rogue Acai berry sellers?   Senator Mr. Dodd everything was cool when AIG was filling your campaign coffers and paying your wife to be some defacto director….huh?  What’s that, we can’t hear you?  Me thinks your run is just about over, get that resume ready.  Hey, maybe you too can get a job at AIG.

We have such short memories.

I read a great article the other day about the SEC.  We have a government that goes to great lengths to create Drug Czar to oversee drugs (how does one apply for such a job) yet the SEC chairman just asked permission to use $17 million of unspent funds from previous years.  UNSPENT?

Hmmmm, think maybe we should have spent those funds on some due diligence figuring out how “investors” were promising 20 to 30 percent return on ones investment or maybe taking a good look at the credit swap transaction and derivatives?  Oh, wait maybe that wasn’t the SEC’s job, maybe it was the Federal Reserve or maybe the Treasury Dept.  We got this great big government that has had their heads up their collective asses for years now. 

Please understand this isn’t about Democrats or Republicans.  It’s not about Conservatives or Liberals.  It’s about working together in a god damn unified fashion.  Like one big fucking team.  Novel concept if there ever was one.  Working, efficiently and with politics aside.  The only reason to review how we got in this damn mess is to understand it and set up the appropriate checks and balances to ensure it don’t happen again.  NOT TO PLACE BLAME.  Any one can identify a problem, the key is being able to understand it and produce a solution.  

Speaking of blame, there is a great Monty Python sketch, I think it’s called the dead bishop sketch, here is a bit of the dialogue:

Son: (coming in the door) ‘Ello Mum. ‘Ello Dad.

K: ‘Ello son.

S: There’s a dead bishop on the landing, dad!

K: Really?

M: Where’s it from?

S:Waddya mean?

M: What’s its diocese?

S:Well, it looked a bit Bath and Wells-ish to me…

K: (getting up and going out the door) I’ll go and have a look.

M: I don’t know…kids bringin’ ’em in here….

S: It’s not me!

M: I’ve got three of ’em down by the bin, and the dustmen won’t touch ’em!

K: (coming back in) Leicester.

M:‘Ow d’you know?

K: Tattooed on the back o’ the neck. I’ll call the police.

M: Shouldn’t you call the church?

S: Call the church police!

K: All right. (shouting) THE CHURCH POLICE !!

(sirens racing up, followed by a tremendous crash) (the church police burst in the door)

Detective: What’s all this then, Amen!

M: Are you the church police?

All the police officers: (in unison) Ho, Yes!

M:There’s another dead bishop on the landing, Vicar Sargeant!

Detective:Uh, Detective Parson, madam. I see… suffrican, or diocisian?

M: ‘Ow should I know?

D:It’s tatooed on the back o’ their neck. (spying the tart) ‘Ere, is that…. rat tart?

M: yes.

(pause)

D: Disgusting! Right! Men, the chase is on! Now we should all kneel!

(they all kneel)

All: O Lord, we beseech thee, tell us ‘oo croaked Leicester!

(thunder)

Voice of the Lord: The one in the braces, ‘e done it!

Klaus: It’s a fair cop, but society’s to blame.

Detective: Agreed. We’ll be charging them too.

K: I’d like you to take the three by the bin into consideration.

D:Right. I’ll now ask you all to conclude this harrest with a hymn.

All:All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The church has nigged them all. Amen

There you have it –  “societys to blame.”  Blessed be the cheese makers!

Repeat after me – Funky Town greed.

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Oh Deer

A pozitoodinally spectacular morning here in the Happy Valley.  A bit cool and breezy, however, the trending is for it to continue to get warmer as the week goes along.

From my key vantage point on the couch there doesn’t appear to be a cloud in the sky and that big ol’ sun is doing everything in its power to inch the thermometer up over the freezing mark.

As the snow melts it reveals the volume of yard work that needs to get done this spring.  I abhor raking, however, I find myself looking forward to being able to do it this spring.  Maybe it’s the understanding that in a month or so I should be able to stand on two legs and with that comes a level of physical independence I haven’t had in a while.

Yikes,  in a million years I would have never associated raking with physical independence but as I sit on my couch and look at the leaves strewn about the yard…..wow….as I was typing and looking at the leaves in the backyard a huge deer just ran by.  Fucking cool.  Wait, here comes another and another.  That makes three.  Amazing how that mathematics thing comes in handy.  Nature rocks.

Where was I , oh yeah, looking forward to being able to rake leaves and do yard work.  Hold on, there is yet another deer.  That makes four.  Simply awesome.

So as you make your way through today I thought i share this quote with you.  I may have already done so in an earlier blog, but I cannot remember.  Getting old it tough.

Thoreau said, ” live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the water, taste the fruit and resign yourself to the influences of each.”

Today seems like a good day to put into practive what H.D. was talking about.

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Groovy

It’s been two weeks since my last post and it feels like two centuries.  

The leg continues to mend, I think.  I am getting around more, albeit not getting around better. 

We need to start using the word Groovy again.  Don’t ask where that came from, it is a very pozitoodinally correct word.  Say it with me, “groovy.”

I’ve decided the healing process is just that, a process.  It doesn’t happen quick and other than keeping the leg up, eating right and not trying to push it too hard I am not sure what else I can do to expedite the process. 

Without any pain medication I have been able to begin reading.  I just finished a wonderful book by Erica Bauermeister which is titled, “The School of Essential Ingredients.”  What a delightful read.  It gave me plenty to think about both from a restaurant and life perspective.   Thanks to Mom for sending it to me.  Thanks Mom!

The best thing about my injury is it has forced me to slow down.  Actually, stop would be a more appropriate description.  I am beginning to think that I am lucky in that most of us never get the opportunity to slow down, never mind stop.  When was the last time you really had a chance to “enjoy the moment.”  You know that – take a deep breathe of the world around you and just do nothing.  You should try it, even if it’s for a minute.

Part of our challenge is that we are all so “plugged in” these daze.  I am wondering if Timothy Leary was alive today his quote would be, “Turn on, Plug in, Drop out.” 

Online there are hundreds of accounts of people going “technology free” for 24 hours.  I think that is pretty cool.  Do you think you could do that?  No cell phone, no laptop, no PC, no television, no IPOD, no IPhone, no satellite radio, no technology for a day.

Think the world would end?  I think not.   

A day of no phone vibrating or ringing in your pocket.  A day of no self-imposed sonic cocoon created by a digital media player tucked in your pocket and plastic thingees in your ear.  What would be funny would be if you were listening to, “The 59th Street Bridge Song,” by Simon and Garfunkel.  For those to young to remember the lyrics they are below:

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.
Hello lamppost,
What cha knowing?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in’ doo-doo,
Feelin’ groovy.

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.

Yep, all is groovy.

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stuff this

Weird things amaze me.  One of those amazing things happened today.

I went to the post office to get my mail – you see I have a PO Box.  Since my leg thingee I hadn’t gotten to the mail box in a few days.  Ok, like three weeks.  What’s the big deal, it’s simply full of  bills and catalogs.  So it was no surprise to me that my mail box was jammed full.  When I say jammed full, I mean jammed full like Pam Anderson in a size 32 A  bra.

I started taking shit outta the box and the pile just kept getting bigger and bigger at my feet.  Then it happened, as I was reaching for the keystone piece of mail it slipped out of my grip and sure as shit there was an avalanche of mail that fell back inside the mail area.  Oops.

“Holy fucking shit,” I thought to myself, how much crap can they jam into one box.  As I peered into my mail box all of a sudden an eye appeared at the open end of my box and I heard the mouth attached to the eye say, “ah, there’s some mail that fell on the floor, let me pass it through to you.”

So for the next 10 minutes this poor mail dude passes me the remaining mail from my box.

“Christ on a crutch,” I mutter,  there is a pile of mail that is like 2 feet high and 2 feet long at my feet and me on crutches

These postal workers are like the Houdini of mail.  How the hell do you get a 2 foot by 2 foot pile of mail jammed into a mail box that is 11x5x14.75 inches deep.  Come on even Davey Copperhead can’t do that kind of magic.  Hmmm, maybe Davey Blaine could jam himself into a PO box.

The funny thing is it’s always boobytrapped, like an evil version of that jenga game.   When you start pulling out the mail you get to that one piece that you know if you can grab you can prevent the avalanche back into the mail room. 

Alas, as you try to get a grip on that rolled up copy of the New Yorker or maybe it’s yet another Sundance catalog you can feel it slipping away and soon you hear the sound of the avalanche hitting the bottom of the mail room valley floor.  Hahahaha – you can tell I am experienced at not getting my mail.

I wonder if they have to go to class and be trained in how best to stuff mail in a PO Box.  The training could definitely come in handy at Thanksgiving.  How else would you get 15 pounds of stuffing in a 10 pound turkey – let your friendly mail dude help ya.

Needless to say, I was able to borrow one of those mail carrying boxes, albeit only after I had sworn on the Obama bible that I’d return the thing after I got my mail home.  I threw the mail in the box, kicked it out the door with my good leg and threw it in the car. 

I now have a problem, after I emptied the box I put all my drawing and watercolor stuff in it and it holds all that shit perfectly.  Me thinks the postman is gonna be short one box.

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