This is extremely long but well worth the hour it will take you to read. It explains in painstaking detail exactly what brought GM, America's industrial titan, to its knees. I'll give you a hint: it doesn't involve the phrase "labor costs." The questions at the end emphasize the value of the GM story as a cautionary tale in business schools.
I'd just like to point out that I was in 2nd Grade when this happened and we actually got out of class to spend time watching this repeatedly.
Well, I'm off to Tampa. I may even visit Clearwater to get audited by the Scientology Mothership.
I feel strange and conflicted about this experience. After 30 years of being essentially the only Cardinals fan on Earth I dislike the feeling that I have to share this with 100 million viewers around the globe. One of my favorite parts of the playoffs this year is listening to the national media (who have obviously never paid two seconds of attention to the team) saying things like "Wow, this Fitzgerald fellow is pretty good!" Thanks for the scoop, guys. Yeah, he's pretty much the best football player on this, and I assume any other, planet. We've known that for five years. It's cute that you're surprised.
Now the secret is out. A lot of people have gotten to see that, yes, guys like Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Adrian Wilson will do things on a weekly basis that the human body should not be capable of doing. I hope the team does itself proud even if it loses.
I wonder how I am going to feel if they lose given A) the obscene cost of this endeavor and B) the fact that it'll probably be 60 years until they get another shot at the title. I have serious doubts about their ability to beat Pittsburgh. The Steelers might just be too damn good defensively. But if we score 35 on everyone, maybe that means we can at least hang 17 or 21 on Pitt and hope our defense, which is far better than anyone realizes, can have the game of its life.
I went to my first Cardinals game in 1987. When they were still in St. Louis. I've been to a couple in Arizona and plenty of midwestern road games. I don't think I've missed more than 5 or 10 games on TV since 1995 (when DirecTV debuted). Before that, my dad and I used to drive into the middle of nowhere (between Kankakee and Urbana) to pick up the faint signal of KMOX St. Louis and follow the games on the radio. We're a little hardcore. There will be a lot of happy Arizonans if they win, but deep down I'm going to feel a lot more payoff than the average bandwagon-hopping Phoenician.
That's human nature, isn't it? Everyone likes to point at the band and say "I heard of them first. Liked 'em way before they were popular." So be it.
If nothing else, like the White Sox World Series run in 2005 this is a welcome diversion from the glum reality of the job market, politics, and the economy.
How do we explain the House Republicans' behavior on the stimulus package vote? Their behavior is irrational. Or rational. One of the two. Well, it depends on what we consider rational.
Woefully outnumbered in a legislature in which the simple majority dominates, the logical course of action for the House GOP would seem to involve cutting the best possible deal with realistic expectations. The Democrats have an 80-seat majority. When the GOP threatens to hold its breath until it gets what it wants the inevitable response is "OK, good luck with that." There is absolutely no incentive for a majority that large to negotiate with assholes. If the minority feels like behaving, i.e. recognizing that they can't dictate the outcome with 188 seats out of 435 and making a few demands, it is worthwhile for the majority to logroll and make a few concessions to build goodwill for future conflicts. But if the GOP expects to get its way by pitching hissy fits they are simply going to get bypassed. Hence they are irrational.
They might be rational, though, depending on how rational you consider the Gingrich Plan.
The Gingrich Plan originated circa 1986, an era in which the GOP was not only the minority but had been the minority for decades. The party's strategy was to play along and take what they could get from the majority. Newt, an unknown at the time, disagreed. He urged the party to oppose the Democrats tooth-and-nail on nearly every issue and eventually the public would be persuaded by the inherent correctness of the Republican alternative. Because of the Republican takeover of 1994 the Gingrich Plan was widely hailed as a success. It might be a good minority strategy, but it's really a dice roll.
Their logic today is that getting a few concessions is not that valuable because it gets them a share of ownership in case of failure. By having voted against the bailout in unison it is owned by the Democrats entirely. So they are essentially making a huge gamble that the stimulus legislation is going to fail. They're rolling the dice that it will be a big disaster and they can beam smug we-told-you-so smiles to a voting public that will come begging for the GOP alternative. In short, if the GOP:
Of those four options they obviously chose the correct one. "Correct" in terms of their own interests. Note, however, that they chose an option that involves them rooting really hard for America and the world to spiral into a Depression unlike anything we've seen in 100 years. You know, just like they hope really hard for a terrorist attack so that they can wring out a few more votes.
America First!tm That's the GOP. Every single time.
I found a neat article from March 19, 2008 in the UK publication MoneyWeek about using Credit Default Swap rates to spot banks on the verge of failure. Author James Ferguson deserves admiration for his foresight. In the nine months after this article was published, HBOS, Kaputhing, Anglo-Irish, and Landsbanki indeed went belly-up as Ferguson predicted. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is circling the drain, and if it survives it will only be with intervention to the point of nationalization.
That has become the question – with the next jolt, it is inevitable that more banks will fail. Will they be allowed to or will we see a wave of de-privatizations? My sense is that European countries with a banking industry dominated by a single entity (i.e., ING Groep in Holland) will prop up their de facto national banks to the end. Countries like Britain and the US have too many passengers and not enough lifeboats.
In his later years, Mafia kingpin Vincent "The Chin" Gigante took to wandering the streets of New York clad only in a bathrobe and mumbling to himself. Facing indictment and good odds that he would die in prison, The Chin decided that putting on a well-publicized and elaborate display of "crazy" behavior would help him cop an insanity plea in court. When Federal prosecutors threatened to add perjury charges to his already daunting dossier of felonies, Gigante finally admitted in 2003 that his "insanity" was nothing but an act concocted to avoid prosecution.
This story came to mind immediately when I saw this:
Concerned that he didn't look enough like a Bond villain, he added a black stetson hat to his cane-and-wheelchair ensemble. Now, I am being only partly serious here. Obama, whose balls sure have shrunk and retracted a lot in the past month, has already made it clear that Cheney will never need an insanity defense or any other. Everyone gets a pass on the past eight years. Apparently we are going to do a big, national "Mistakes were made. But why talk about the past?" rationalization to excuse everything that happened.
I find this curious.
It's not a surprise that the political elite have little interest in investigations and criminal charges. What's truly disturbing is how little clamor for accountability there is among the voting public. I think this has a fairly simple explanation: a large percentage of this country feels culpable. They voted to put these lunatics in charge, voted to re-elect them, bought an almost laughably absurd rationale for war (and its supporting "evidence") without a moment's hesitation, applauded the criminally negligent economic stewardship (Boy, those $300 stimulus checks were neat! Remember those? Me neither!), and generally made excuses for the administration for eight years. To investigate or charge anyone with a crime would be to dredge up painful memories of how naive, selfish, arrogant, and flat-out dumb a lot of the public behaved after 9/11 and into Bush's second term. Like a victim of a scam who is too embarassed about being duped to call the police and file charges, Americans have no interest in re-living the days in which the Patriot Act seemed like a good idea, "excessive regulation" was our greatest economic problem, and a nation watched Uncle Colin's UN performance and fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. Amnesia regarding 2001-2005 has already affected millions of people and I suspect that it will continue to spread for the forseeable future.
Well, that didn't take long. I can't wait to see how shamelessly he's going to milk this for victimhood.
(This is a long and multi-layered post. Stick with it. It goes somewhere.)
I've not done well on the academic job market, partly because of my own deficiencies and partly because the academic job market is in shambles. Between near-broke state governments closing their wallets to public schools and the panic induced by the Harvard-Yale-Stanford hiring freezes (way to put your endowments balls-deep in hedge funds, geniuses!) among private schools, there simply aren't many jobs available. Accordingly, much of my near-to-medium term life planning involves trying to figure out when the economic malaise will dissipate.
Optimistically, we may be at rock bottom right now. In the financial sector much of the bad news has already hit home. Everything that needs to be written off has been or will be by the end of 2009. In this view, the job market (academic and otherwise) will continue to be horrendous or non-existent for 12 more months. But by 2010 the banks will be done vomiting red ink; normal lending may resume. State governments will have taken their big hits in tax revenue. The tentative private sector will start to invest and hire again. Consumers will start to spend. Thus by mid or late 2010 we will finally be on the upswing – I, like many millions of Americans, might reasonably expect to find some job opportunities.
This optimistic but realistic recovery scenario makes one key assumption: the economy will not be dealt additional crippling blows. Like a patient recovering from a serious illness, the prognosis for recovery is good if and only if the worst truly is over. Already weakened, one more big aftershock could turn a bad situation into a complete disaster. Unfortunately I think that such an event is imminent.
It is becoming increasingly obvious (to me, although it certainly is a matter of conjecture) that General Motors and Chrysler are in a race to see who files Chapter 11 bankruptcy first. At the beginning of the auto "bailout" talks I believed that government intervention could save the Big Three. After careful consideration of the facts, notably the speed with which they burnt through the first $15 billion in bailout funds, the failure of the industry (probably beginning with GM) is inevitable. Two quotes help make my case:
The last thing I want to see happen is for the auto industry to disappear, but I'm also concerned that we don't put $10 billion or $20 billion or $30 billion or whatever billion dollars into an industry, and then, six months to a year later, they come back hat in hand and say, `Give me more.' (Obama, 12/7/08 Meet the Press)
My fear is you're going to take this money and continue the same stupid decisions you've made for 25 years. (Rep. Michael Capuano, D-MA, 11/19/08 House hearings)
The automakers have presented no credible business plan suggesting that they can be competitive now or at any point in the future. The initial $15 billion allocated by Bush via Executive Order was nothing but a cynical and transparent effort to let the Big Three wheeze along for another month until Obama took over so that the history books would not say that they went belly-up on Bush's watch. GM couldn't even make it to Inauguration Day before publicly declaring that its plan to remain financially solvent throughout 2009 is to ask for more Federal loans – "loans" belonging in sarcastic quotes as they will almost certainly never be repaid. This company literally needs tens of billions of dollars just to keep running for another twelve months.
What GM is attempting to do is incrementally trap the government in the Concorde Fallacy. They figure that once Uncle Sam forks over the first $15 billion, Congress will pony up another fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty billion dollars. If not, the company goes bankrupt then all of the money Congress has already spent will have been wasted. So rather than making a single huge, painful rip-the-Band-Aid request for a one-time payment (like ING Groep did from the Dutch government) GM and its colleagues are attempting to draw Congress into a trap. They obviously have every intention of returning repeatedly, hat in hand, asking for more. Why? Because they are inefficient, redundant companies making products consumers do not want to buy. We can't avoid that reality.
The alternative is bankruptcy. For the sake of simplicity I am going to assume that GM goes first, although we have no way to gauge the financial condition of privately-owned Chrysler and it may in fact be in worse shape. What happens when GM goes into C11?
1. Ford and Chrysler immediately follow suit. As the wave of airline BKs from 2001-2006 proved, as soon as one company enters C11 all of its competitors are immediately at a competitive disadvantage. So the competitors file to level the playing field. The attitude will be "If GM gets a bankruptcy judge to rip up its labor contracts and dump its pensions, we can't compete without getting the same." Oh, that reminds me…
2. The first thing the bankruptcy courts will do is tear up contracts with the UAW and parts suppliers. The courts will also protect GM as it dismantles its ridiculous, bloated network of 6,000 dealerships which are currently protected by state laws which punish efforts to close franchises. This will lead to a rapid cascade effect as parts suppliers (including tire makers and what remains of American-based steel) and dealers plunge into bankruptcy with the loss of their GM/Ford/Chrysler contracts.
3. With labor contracts in the shredder, somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000 people with good, median incomes will be out of work. Many hundreds of thousands more will see their jobs rapidly change from well-paid with benefits to the kind of $11/hr, no benefits jobs that the Republicans insist we should all have.
4. The Big Three and their bankrupt suppliers will immediately welch on their pension obligations (as the airlines did in bankruptcy), shifting the burden to the taxpayer. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation – a kind of FDIC for pensions – will be insolvent overnight. Like the airlines, auto workers who paid into pensions for 45 years will end up receiving pennies on the dollar.
5. The companies' much-publicized millions of retirees and dependents who receive health and pension benefits from their former employers will see benefits disappear of shrink by 80-90 percent. These millions of people will be added to the rolls of state, local, and federal social services, providing a potential death blow to already reeling public budgets.
6. Several million people including auto workers, retirees, and their dependents will stop spending money, apply for welfare/unemployment, drain whatever meager savings they have from banks, and default en masse on mortgages, credit cards, and car payments. In other words, banks that are already on death's door will see another tsunami of defaults and withdrawls. Retailers will be faced with several million more people who won't be doing any shopping for a long time. Another million people will be dumped on the non-existent job market. Businesses in cities with a big auto presence will disappear as their customers hit the dole.
7. All three manufacturers lose whatever ability they have to sell cars. Regardless of their inevitable PR campaigns to insist that they'll still be around to honor warranties, nobody is going to buy a car from a bankrupt automaker except for a small group of consumers who are already and will remain fanatically loyal to the brand. As sales plummet overnight, whatever survival schemes they concoct in bankruptcy court will be rendered untenable.
When the Big Three fail they will take a lot of us down with them. Unfortunately I no longer see a reasonable way to sustain them. Congress and the President can lecture them to no end about how they have to present a strategy for long-term viability; they can respond by saying all the right things that we've heard before (blah blah alternative fuel blah blah smaller cars). In reality all we will get are excuses, SUVs, shitty products, closed factories, demands for more money, and contracts shredded with the Courts' blessing. If any of these dipshits had a strategy for long-term viability they'd have long since implemented it. The truth is that a viable strategy involves doing things that only bankruptcy protection can allow – voiding Union contracts, moving production overseas or to low wage/no benefit states, giving millions of retirees the finger, welching on pension plans, contracting brands and dealer networks, and so on.
Congress and the new President, then, are in a no-win situation. Their options are to continuously and indefinitely pour tens of billions of dollars into a lost cause or to let them fail and make the next five years resemble 1933. All of us, regardless of whether we have spent the last 20 years as free market cheerleaders or the as the people being called socialists by the free market cheerleaders, are going to suffer for quite some time on account of a criminally mismanaged industry whose failure has been decades in the making.
Who in the flying hell is Doug Giles and why is he authoring syndicated columns? According to his semi-literate bio on TownHall (carefully proofread by some second graders) Doug is: "the creator and host of 'The Clash' radio shows, winners of seven Silver Microphone Awards and two Communicator Awards in the last three years. In addition, Doug is a popular columnist, minister and award-winning writer." Having never heard of this modern day Alexander Pope, I cannot attest to the veracity of these claims (or that he is "also an accomplished artist").
I can, however, attest to the fact that he is competing (poorly) in a very, very crowded market for right-wing histrionics in print. After considering Doug a candidate for the FJM a few weeks ago with the surreal "A Theology of Hunting: Why God Loves Hunting & Hunters" he made the decision for me by following up with "Obama’s Evangelicals: The Liberals’ New Useful Idiots." And away we go.
In less than a week after Obama’s swearing in, our nuevo POTUS unfurled his radically liberal abortion and family plans together with his juicy pro-homosexual agenda.
Seriously. I am being serious now. Seriously. Is this a joke? Is "Doug Giles" the pseudonym of a sociology grad student exploring conservative subcultures? A real columnist playing an inside joke on his colleagues?
"Our nuevo POTUS?" "Juicy pro-homosexual agenda?" "Radically liberal abortion…plans?" What in the hell does any of this mean? And clearly I missed these important parts of the new President's opening week. Should have paid more attention to that inaugural address. I tuned out for 30 seconds and missed the juicy pro-homosexual agenda.
Good job, all evangelicals who voted for Obama
Yes, all seven of them. Step forward to be awarded a medal bearing the image of an aborted fetus marrying another aborted fetus of the same sex.
So we're 1.5 sentences into this clusterfuck and it's about A) some non-specific but "juicy" pro-homosexual agenda that the rest of us missed, B) some new and "radically liberal" change in the laws governing abortion that the rest of us missed, and C) some Evangelicals who voted for Obama who quite probably do not exist. OK, black Evangelicals voted for Obama. Black Evangelicals always vote for Democrats. Are you, "Doug Giles," suggesting that the reason for Obama's victory was some substantial portion of white Evangelical Protestants voting for him?
as these aforementioned ditties—from a biblical perspective—are about as sanctified as the Antichrist French kissing a crack whore in Bret Michaels’ hot tub.
"Doug," as the master of the profane and inappropriate analogy, let me give you a few pointers. First, Bret Michaels? Bret Michaels? Pick someone relevant unless obscurity adds to the joke. Second, this makes absolutely no sense at all. Does the Bible forbid French kissing? Show me where. Show me where French kissing is forbidden. Please. You bill yourself as a minister, so this should be easy for you. Surely your knowledge of the divine word is encyclopedic. Third, the hot tub contributes nothing. Sanctification of these events is in no way dependent on whether they are performed in tepid water.
Yep, I wanna give a special shout out to all the “major” ministers who fawned and swooned over Barack and swayed their congregations to vote for him in spite of his anti-scriptural stances on life, marriage and sexuality.
Well, logically if they endorsed him they're pretty happy that he won. Anti-scriptural stances and all. Maybe they fail to recognize "Doug Giles" as the final arbiter of a political figure's compatability with a Christian worldview as defined by "Doug Giles."
Let’s take a look at Obama’s homosexual agenda for our nation:
OK, I need clarification on the use of "homosexual" as an adjective here. Is Obama's overall agenda homosexual (i.e., "OMG that agenda is SO gay") or is this a "homosexual agenda" (i.e., "Here's my black agenda. In a few moments I will speak about my homosexual one")?
I know it's early but I nominate "Obama's homosexual agenda for our nation" as the most nonsensical sentence of 2009.
My colleague and co-belligerent compadre right here on TownHall.com, Matt Barber, pointed out to me during an interview on my show last week that literally within minutes after President Obama took the oath of office Tuesday, the official White House webpage was updated—under the heading of “Civil Rights”—to detail Obama’s wholesale “support for the LGBT (homosexual activist) community.” His stated plans include the following:
"Doug," it's common for a Real Professional Writer to note when he or she adds something in an offset quote. See, the open and closed quotes (" ") suggest that you are "quoting" something directly, yet the term "(homosexual activist)" appears nowhere on the stated website.
Your chosen syntax indicates that LGBT means "homosexual activist." What exactly is a homosexual activist? If the term is defined as anyone who believes that gay people should have more rights than "Doug Giles" would like them to have, then I suppose LGBT really does mean homosexual activist. Otherwise, this is problematic.
Defeating all state and federal constitutional efforts to defend the millennia-old definition of natural marriage;
WOW! I had NO IDEA that the President had the power to do that. Don't get me wrong, I fully agree with John Yoo's theories of executive power, but even I didn't think it could go this far. Boy is my face red.
Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed by Bill Clinton—the only line of defense keeping all 50 states from being forced to recognize so-called “same-sex marriages” from extremely liberal states like Massachusetts and Connecticut;
I thought the last line of defense against same-sex marriage was not marrying someone of the same sex. Or the Coast Guard Reserve. One of those two.
Also, WOW! The President can repeal laws. I really should not be teaching the Presidency given the Gulf of Mexico-sized gaps in my knowledge of the inherent powers of the office.
Repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy;
Yeah, you really have to be out on a limb to oppose a law as brilliant, effective, and well-conceived as that one. Only the queerest of the queer could oppose it. Truman Capote. The cast of Queer Eye. Austin Scarlett from Project Runway. Those oiled-up guys in thongs who dance in cages. The Grand Marshal of the Key West Pride Parade. Ken Mehlman.
Passing constitutionally dubious and discriminatory “hate crimes” legislation, granting homosexuals and cross dressers special rights—denied other Americans—based on changeable sexual behaviors;
Granting homosexuals and "cross-dressers" "special rights" to have the people who murdered them because they were homosexuals or cross-dressers charged with an additional felony after they are dead. I find this to be a very questionable definition of a "right" let alone a special one.
All sexual "behavior" is changeable, "Doug." When you define things as behavior then they are, by definition, changeable. Locking someone in solitary confinement, for example, would change all of their behaviors. What you can't change is who people are. Let me give you an example.
You could move in with me, "Doug," and I could put it in your ass every night for the rest of your life. You probably would not like this very much (nor do I look forward to it). But you could force yourself to do it if you allowed yourself to be convinced that it is what you are "supposed to" do. So if your point is that gay people could force themselves do A) do something they don't want to do and B) abstain from doing what they want to do, then I guess I have to agree with you. They could. This would leave only the question of why.
Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would force business owners (religious and otherwise) to abandon traditional values relative to sexual morality under penalty of law;
That's right, "Doug." Many people believe that an employer should not be able to fire an employee for being gay. Just like your employer can't fire you for being a loud-mouthed asshole who probably beat his children and a terrible writer.
Actually, I think you can get fired for that last one.
Creating intentionally motherless and fatherless homes and sexually confusing untold thousands of children by expanding “gay adoption.”
"Doug," I will make a sweeping claim with complete confidence here: your kids, and the kids raised by breeders who tune into your radio show every day, are without a doubt the most "sexually confused" children on the planet. The only question is where exactly they will fall on the continuum between "compulsive, self-loathing masturbator pinballing between sadistic porn websites and his local confessional" and "girl who ends up pregnant at 14 and/or finally moves away from home and ends up banging everything that moves until gonorrhea shuts down the party."
But maybe you're right. Children should all be raised by straight couples, an arrangement in which it has been proven utterly impossible to produce a maladjusted kid.
Barber went on to say, “While millions had hoped for a political ‘messiah,’ it’s rapidly becoming evident that, instead, we’ve stuck ourselves with an extreme leftist ideologue whose brand of ‘change we can believe in’ is, in reality, ‘change we never imagined.’
Was the new President's position on these issues a secret prior to the election? In that case I'd call it pretty darn imaginable. Also, way to keep up the "extreme leftist"/socialist drumbeat. That worked REALLY well during the election, so make sure to stick with it.
“The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated. Right out of the shoot, Obama has told the world that he is signing off, without exception, on every demand of the extremist homosexual and transsexual lobbies. The radical homosexual agenda and religious and free speech liberties cannot occupy the same space. It’s a zero-sum game. When 1 – 2 percent of the population is granted special rights based on deviant sexual proclivities and changeable sexual behaviors, to the detriment of everyone else, that’s called tyranny of the minority. People of faith and those of you with traditional values: hold on to your hats—it’s going to be a bumpy four years,” concluded Barber.
How much of your column consists of recapping or directly quoting this other genius's column? I'm estimating about 40%. Do you actually get paid for this? And yes, I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion. For people like "Doug" it is indeed going to be a bumpy four years.
And that’s just the tip of the pink iceberg, folks.
Naturally occuring pink ice is usually a result of billions of colored algae mixed into the freezing ocean water. So the only thing that's unclear is if the algae are supporters of the radical homosexual agenda or if homosexuals now control algae.
If it’s change you wanted, “Christian,” it’s change you’re about to get, as in more unborn babies are going to get offed, more Brad and Chad, and if things go Obama’s way, chunks of Scripture will officially get tagged as hate speech, your church will have to hire RuPaul or face punishment, and our military will have to make room for Chippendale dancers on the base partly because of you, the Obama evangelical, who voted for such a change.
That is one sentence.
"Doug" is the worst kind of right-wing jackass, the kind who thinks he is funny. Like, legitimately funny. The kind who arm themselves with Mesozoic Era pop culture references (There'll be gay Chippendales everywhere, dancing the Charleston atop flagpoles! How about those new Studebakers? I'd buy one if I weren't so committed to the new War Bond drive!) embedded in idiotic reductio ad absurdum arguments.
Social commentary should be either A) funny or B) true. You accomplish neither, Mr. "Giles." For instance, I don't think RuPaul ("Doug Giles," live from 1994!) is looking for church employment. Nor would any propsed legislation "force your church to hire" him or "face punishment." I think the Chippendales perform mostly for a female audience. And once again, what sort of law would require their presence on military bases? See, "Doug," this just makes absolutely no sense, which in a way makes perfect sense in a rant addressed to "Obama evangelicals" who may or may not exist.
And that is really the essence of being a right-wing columnist – unhinged shrieking about a threat that doesn't exist perpetrated by a ridiculous caricature of the opposition. Every day I inch closer to declaring "Fuck it" to all of my pursuits and becoming one of them. I can't imagine an easier job.
OK, not really, but it was worth $75 to sponsor this page in perpetuity. I have an amusing image in my head of some foreign reporter doing Super Bowl research and ending up at ginandtacos.