Next Up, George Bush Saves His Legacy By Cranking Up The Microwave During Cheney’s Final Briefing As Veep

Well, that’s not really happening, but this is.  Our esteemed Veep, Mr. Cheney, and former Attorney General Alberto “Gonzo the Great” Gonzales have been indicted for mistreatment of prisoners at private federal prisons.

IN TEXAS!!!

Yeah, I know. Nothing likely will come of it, but it must be said…

Ahem OK, now I’m going to go have some schadenfreude pie. Mmm…

[Thanks to Bill Crider for the heads up.]

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Why Save GM? We Can’t Afford Not To.

I confess.  I am, somewhat indirectly, a product of the Big Three culture that’s now on the ropes.  My paternal grandfather worked for GM for several years starting in World War II and on up through the mid-1950’s.  GM paid him handsomely for his service.  My maternal grandfather, when I knew him, sold Chevies for a living before disappearing on us.

But let’s be honest.  The Big Three and the United Auto Workers have been living in the 1950’s long after their foreign counterparts have embraced the New Millennium.  If you drive a BMW, a Toyota, or a Honda, chances are, it’s really an American car.

The Big Three and the UAW had their heads in the sand for so long that, by the time it occured to them to scrap the old post-WWII model they’d been using, it was too late.  Any other business that did this, I’d say let them rot.  They did it to themselves.

Too bad letting General Motors die would send our unemployment rate to 16% and crash a huge amount of the economy.  I keep hearing “Well, that’s what the market’s supposed to do.”  Excuse me?  How is this a good thing?

“Well, it means the market works.”

Um…  no.  It doesn’t work.  If it work, companies like AIG and Exxon and General Motors would not be single points of failure for the entire economy.  And before you scream “Socialism!” (which shows a monumental ignorance of the term’s meaning) or whine “What about market forces?”, remember the market is supposed to serve the citizenry, not the other way around.  Letting the economy spiral into an irreversible freefall in the name of preserving the market is, at best, immoral.  It would border on an atrocity to allow GM’s suppliers, dealerships, and domestic competitors crash with them.  It’s not Ford’s nor AutoNation’s nor Fram’s fault General Motors’ management has suffered from institutional stupidity for the last 40 years.

Yes, Ford, Chrysler, GM, and the UAW sat on their hands for too long, foisted gas-sucking oversized SUV’s on the consumer for about a decade, and only when gas prices skyrocketed did they agree they needed to streamline and give up the fat paychecks.  A competitive American car market is on the horizon, but only if they can survive until 2010.

However, fiscal conservatives, you’re not entirely wrong on this one.  The Big Three are just close enough to get back to being competitive, possibly being more competitive than their diesel-obsessed European counterparts that floating them a loan should be a no-brainer.  But…

There should be some pain involved.  Republicans and a lot of Democrats rightly believe we shouldn’t reward bad management.  Chrysler should get a free pass for their messy divorce from Daimler.  (How could the maker of Mercedes be so incompetent?)  It’s early in the new era for Chrysler.  Ford – meh.  They’re financed through next year.  Credit them and Chrysler for bringing in outside management.

I know what’s at stake.  I live in an area reeling from Ford’s implosion.  I wouldn’t mind seeing that transmission plant in Batavia open again.  And GM?

Give them a loan, but demand 1.) progress on new technology and 2.) a higher interest rate.  Time the taxpayer got a little ROI from these bailouts.

But GM?

GM brought us to this point.  GM is the one putting us all at risk.  GM is the one who would force us to pony up money we really don’t have.

If we’re going to do this thing – and clearly we should, since no one ever confused cutting off one’s nose to spite their face with wisdom – we need to make demands.

  • First, pay for it out of that $700 billion we’re throwing at the banks.  You can’t sell houses when 16+% of people are out of work.  Ain’t happening.  So if the bailout was to stabilize the economy, the Fed can spare $25 billion of that.
  • GM’s entire senior management should resign without compensation.  Including Richard Wagoner.  Demand outside managers, say maybe from BMW or Nissan, be brought in.  (But for God’s sake, don’t ever let Daimler touch another car company again!)
  • Instead of allowing GM and Chrysler to merge, break up GM.  It’s been discussed.  They already want to jettison Hummer.  One of the reasons GM in particular puts the economy at risk is it’s too damn big.  It was probably not a bad idea to split up AT&T.  Now that they’re back together, they’re no longer the only gay in the telcom village.  The American auto industry needs to do the same.
  • Subsidize startups, or cut venture capitalists a tax break for funding startups.  A French company with a curiously Henry Ford-type spin on capitalism wants to build compressed air cars in the US.  The catch?  The cars have to be built within 450 miles of where they’re sold.  Hmm…  That would create, like, yanno, jobs?  Another company, Tesla, has built an electric sports car.  Is it ready for prime time?  I think if someone ponies up for building them a decent transmission (Tesla’s biggest setback of late), they could go places.  Part of the problem with the American auto industry is you only have Ford, GM, and Chrysler, and no more Studebakers, Nashes, or Packards.  We need more of those smaller companies back into the mix.
  • This one is leveled at Chrysler.  Or maybe for it.  Daimler, which badly handled Chrysler when they owned it, should kick back some funds to their former sister company.  When they merged, Chrysler was building some decent cars (Yeah!  And American cars at that!)  and Mercedes Benz was the premier German brand.  Now?  Chrysler is now so behind on electrifying its cars that it has to have China’s Chery Motors build the next line of cars until Toyota can help them catch up.  And Benzes since the merger, even after the messy divorce, are…  um…  Did I mention some BMW’s are built in the US?  They build a damn fine automobile.
  • Benchmarks – Energy is a national security priority.  If Joe the Plumber’s cash is going to go into keeping the Big Three afloat, when, in turn, is Detroit going to allow us to tell Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, et al. to go to hell?  Personally, I’m not overly fond of depending on countries that don’t like us in the best of times to fuel my car.  Neither’s Joe.  The technology’s already here.  Time to put it on the street and let me and Joe and even Ralph Nader (unsafe in any election) take it for a spin.
  • An auto czar.  I have just the guy to do it.  His name is Lee Iacocca.  Can you imagine the guy Henry Ford II stupidly fired, GM let get away, and Chrysler hired as their savior cracking the whip on this mess of an industry?

I’d almost buy another Chevy to see that.

Almost.

If Chevy ever builds a decent car again.

Or any car.

Tech Ignorance: Gadgets That Haven’t Quite Outlived Their Usefulness

I read an article last night on gadgets that should no longer be kept or purchased.  I wished I kept the link.  Not because I agreed with it, but because the writer seemed so enamored with the idea that your phone will do everything for you from now on, including your taxes and laundry.

But I do remember his list.  And while some of these products are in their waning days of usefulness, I seriously doubt they’re finished.

PRINTER – This made the list on the premise that everything is done electronically now, and only people of a certain age (ie – older than me) print things out “to be read later.”  Not so fast, whippersnapper.  Contracts have to be printed out.  If you own rental property, it’s quite likely your rental app will need to be printed out (though electronic apps are fairly common).  Your lease definitely will need to be printed out.  Medical claim forms, warranty registrations…  Yes, we are still killing trees and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  We will never be a paperless society, though we are becoming rather paper-light.  (Consider that I have not even used all my checks up on my bank account yet this year.  I used to order 2-3 times a year.)

SCANNER – But we have digital cameras!!!  In our phones!!! This is when I realized the writer likely owned an iPhone or a G-Phone.  Those of us doing graphics 1.) aren’t too fond of the unreliable printer-scanner-fax units, 2.) still get stuff in hard copy that has to be digitized, and 3.) don’t feel like spending $800 for the steroid-chomping commercial scanners like those featured in yesterday’s rant about the F*****u Corporation. That said, it is getting harder and harder to find a flatbed scanner, and I may have to bite the bullet and buy an all-in-one unit soon.  I’d hate that because the all-in-ones have the one item I agree with…

FAX – I hate faxes.  I hate when I’m required to send faxes.  I’m not exactly sure why lawyers loves them the fax, but faxes suck.  I’m pretty much opposed to anything other than voice that goes over dial-up.  And my landline is a VOIP line.  Speaking of which…

LANDLINES – I’ll give the writer this one, but I miss the days when I didn’t have to answer the phone because “I was away.”  Land lines could survive if they didn’t charge $50 a month for something I get for $25 from Vonage.

CD/DVD DRIVES – This one is just stupid.  Just freaking stupid.  They’re called movies, and until the entertainment industry gets over it’s fear and loathing of downloadable content, DVD’s are going nowhere.

MP3 PLAYERS – Honestly?  I play most of my music on my computer.  And really, I’d prefer the MP3 player to be separate and unequal from my phone.  Why?  If I’m listening to Tom Waits while out hiking the Little Miami Trail, I sure as hell don’t want to answer the phone.

LAPTOP – The writer believes – and probably rightly – that the laptop will go the way of the MP3 player and the land line, that iPhones and G-Phones and Blackberries will replace your portable laptop, maybe even your PC and Mac.  Maybe.  But your going to need a dock to plug in a keyboard, mouse, and a monitor you can, yanno, read stuff on.  Actually, the idea of going through the airport and tossing your phone into the bin as your only gadget is kind of appealing.  I’d still need that big keyboard.  Speech recognition, you say?  Is that how we’ll type in the future?  Hey, kids, try working on a cramped airliner speaking your 50-page report on how you’re going to downsize your company and move all the jobs to Albania while sitting next to Gertrude, who got a window seat and a bad case of diarhea and loves to talk to you.  It ain’t happening.  Whip out the keyboard, plug in the headphones, and go to work silently.

And see if Gertrude will switch seats.  She’s gonna need that emergency aisle more than you.

Tales From Tech Hell: F*****u Corporation

Here at BigHugeCo, we use a lot of F*****u high-speed scanners for our document management system.  These scanners ship with a third-party proprietary imaging system and Adobe Acrobat.  Both apps are licensed and activated.

However, F*****u is not the brightest of companies.  I’ll go as far as to say they’re a shining example of why Japan had a depression in the late eighties and early nineties.  They’re run kind of like General Motors or your average investment bank during the housing boom.

Recently, BigHugeCo ordered a small high-speed scanner from F*****u for one of its Atlanta offices.  The unit arrived without CD’s to install the imaging system, Acrobat, or, yanno, the driver?  No prob.  If I have this problem with Dell Computer, I either get Dell to send out a new set or even burn a copy.  Hewlett-Packard?  You can download drivers for most of their equipment.  Compaq was even easier before HP ate them, and Lenovo (formerly IBM) had the simplest system once you figured out how to navigate it.

But what does F*****u want us to do?

“Could you ship back the entire unit so we can exchange it for a new one?”

I am the Tod Goldberg of IT.  I attract fucktard vendors.

A Lesson In Diversity And Sensitivity

A coworker came by yesterday to show me an off-color cartoon about our new president.  I said, “Dude, that’s a sensitive area for me.  Don’t go there.”

“Oh, well, I don’t want to get near your sensitive areas.”

I’m glad he understood.  Coworkers should not touch each others’ sensitive areas.  It’s just common sense and smart business.

Except in the porn industry.

Later…

Leaving standup comedy, at least for a while, has given me opportunity to query, or at least spec, a few pieces I didn’t have time to work on before.  I know one of these will pay.

Eventually.

The test revamp of jamesrwinter.net has attracted (finally) some interest from potential clients.  One of them will pull the trigger.

Eventually.

When I originally started writing, I fell prey to the bug.  I wanted it now! I wanted the street cred.  I wanted the big contract.  I wanted the big checks.

That led to some stupid decisions, especially when I had money in the bank to invest more wisely.

Now I have possibilities again.  And I know something will pay off.

Not now, though.  Later.

I’m taking my time saying yes.  I’m making sure I know what questions to ask and what sorts of things I want to hear.  And I’m not expecting anything now.

Instant gratification is expensive.  Patience, I’ve discovered, is quite lucrative.  It just doesn’t seem like it while you’re being patient.