December 26, 2008

You're Entirely Unwelcome

Chrysler has blown $100,000 of our money to run a full page ad in USA Today to thank us for bailing them out.

As if the bailout and the ad weren't insulting enough, the text reads in part (emphasis added):

The United States is home to 74% of our employees and over 3,300 dealers in communities across this country. Of every dollar we spend, 78% is spent here at home.

Excuse me?

You just begged $4 billion taxpayer dollars to paper over your failure and then you run an ad telling us "Thanks. And oh, by the way, we're going to send 22% of that out of the country?"

Are you F'ing kidding me?

HT: Instapundit

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:37 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment


December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas from Singapore

I have not posted any progress reports for the yacht Hold the Mayo in the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race game because I became too involved in making progress!!

Unlike the previous two legs which were primarily reaching and running this leg was almost all beating into the wind. This made it tactically more challenging and more interesting.

On port tack - sailing to the northeast - I lost boats by the hundreds every 10 minute cycle of the game. The first couple of times this was quite unnerving. But the losses were always made up on starboard tack.

I did well. As I approached the turning mark at Palau Weh I was in 1,400t place and on a lifted starboard tack thus still gaining boats.

Unfortunately the ever improving number of my rank in the fleet became a Siren's Song. I stopped looking ahead and thinking and sailed for the moment to moment gains. Gains that proved all too fleeting. Here is how the game site described the last segment of the leg (emphasis added):

The Malacca Strait is not feared for the traffic of giant vessels, fishing boats and nets or millions of seaweed but for the trickiest part of this short leg. It is going to be a tense run to the finish as the Malacca Strait works its magic, narrowing the fleet down into a funnel and slowing us down considerably.

The forecast is for little to no wind and who will get the little zephyr is anyone’s guess? Staying North of the Strait looks good at this stage however the extra distance might be too costly whilst the most direct route could be the quickest way to get there.

Only 40 miles separates the leader from the 50,000th placed boats and any single mistake will be extraordinarily expensive. Positioning ourselves in the strait will be crucial and a little bit of luck will not go astray as well.

Following the tracks of the countless competitors tells us that sleepless nights and tense moments are on the card until the finishing line is in sight!

A single mistake I might have survived. There were at least 4 that cost me greatly. The first was sailing to the fleet position number and not the wind and the course. This facilitated the second mistake which was that the lack of strategic focus allowed the wrong instincts to take over.

In the real world, I have done a fair amount of inshore around-the-buoys racing. In that type of racing you generally try to pass a turning mark as closely as possible without hitting it. Taking this approach to the mark at Palau Weh, took me out of the better wind. By the time I came to my senses I was too committed to a middle/inside track to change.

Mistakes three and four were navigational errors. In both cases I miss-judged the boundary between wind zones and instead of moving from one decent wind to another I spent some time in adjacent zones with little to no wind.

I did eventually recover a bit and in the last 350 or so miles I picked up about 1,000 boats to finish a still disappointing 3,726. I try to tell myself that myself that this is a respectable finish in a fleet of 110,086, but it doesn't work!

So from the entire crew and shore team and virtual dock in Singapore, Have yourself a Merry Christmas!

Leg 4 starts on January 18, 2009. Destination Qingdao, China

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:25 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


December 21, 2008

InstaMayo

They told me if Bush were elected you could save the economy and stop global warming with carbon fiber nanotubes. Which are now half price at Amazon.

Heh!

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:32 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 20, 2008

Bailing Out a Sinking Ship

Every time I read a story about Bush deciding to give TARP money to the the Formerly Big Three I get a strange sense of Deja Vu. As though I've read the story of a futile bail out/rescue attempt before.

It Just seems so familiar.


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:57 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 19, 2008

Global What?

Here's a special message for the High Priest of the Sacred Holly Church of Global Warming, Albert al Gore: "I've got eight inches of fresh Global Warming on my driveway. STFU."

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:51 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 15, 2008

Starting Over - UPDATED

Leg three of the Volvo Ocean Race began this past Saturday. Cochin, India to Singapore. The yacht Hold the Mayo was off to a pretty good start. Passing the southern tip of Sri Lanka I was in the 4,500's and moving up through the fleet steadily. I was in a good wind line and moving toward even more favorable conditions.

They announced at about 2:00 this afternoon that they were starting over.

There was some ambiguous language in the sailing instructions that could be read as not requiring boats to leave the island of Sri Lanka to port. There were a number of boats that went above Sri Lanka and thus gained signifcant advantage.

The committee running the game couldn't just punish this group of boats because they did not explicitly exclude that course in the instructions.

Likewise they could not just let things continue as they were because that would not have been fair to those who followed the intent of the instructions.

Here is the language in question:

Departing Kochi in mid-December, the fleet will first have to negotiate the southern tip of both India and Sri Lanka. But this leg could be pretty straight-forward, the routing chart shows the north-east Trade Winds just about blowing down to the great circle route from Sri Lanka to the Malacca Straits and on to Singapore. But it won’t be that comfortable; the course puts the average wind a little wider than close hauled on port tack. At least there should be steady breeze.

I certanly read this as you have to go to the south of Sri Lanka, though going above the island is not expressly forbidden.

There will be a restart off the southern tip of Sri Lanka tomorrow morning at 5:00 am EST (11:00 - GMT + 1. The official time zone of the race.).

We feel that the restart is the best choice out of the options available to us for these reasons:

The restart will reinstate the level playing field for every player

The majority (98,100) of the players are already near the restarting point and therefore the impact will be as minimal as possible under the circumstances.

We greatly regret the fact that the sailors that took the northerly route or are in leading positions down south will feel disappointed, and we feel very bad about this. We are extremely sorry but we have thoroughly discussed this solution with all officials, virtual and real ones, and we feel this is the fairest way to redress the situation for the entire player fleet.

I am counted amoung the dissapointed though I hae to concede it is a fair decision and one I am glad I didn't have to make. I will also give them credit for learning a leasson. Gone are the flower descriptions of the anticipatd race and in its place explicit clear instruction:

RESTART PROCEDURE
All boats will be teleported to the start point off the southern end of Sri Lanka.

The restart will happen at 11:00 (GMT +1) on 16 December 2008.

The starting position will be 05°600N - 80°600E.
All boats will be sailed automatically until you can log in.

THE COURSE
Starting from the pack boats shall:

Leave the island of Sri Lanka to port.

Sail through the Pulau We gate. The gate is a line true north of position 05°50.000N - 095°20.000E, leaving the island, Palau We, to starboard.

Finish in Singapore. The mark will be set @ 01°15.830N - 103°36.010E

I'll be on autopilot for an hour in the morning putting me at a disadvantage against those for whom the start is during waking hours. Every place I am behind 4,500 I'm going to be that much more aggravated, and I will have that much less time to catch up.

I'm thinking right now that it's a good thing you get to throw out your three worst scores.

UPDATE: Woke up this morning and found myself in 22,669th place. I am not happy.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:31 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 14, 2008

Sending The Wrong Message

Some companies just don't seen to get the idea that EVERY impression they make on their customers matters.

While driving down the highway the other day, I was passed by a generic white van with a large GE logo and the words Appliance Repair. I only noticed it because I tend to notice they type on everything. If you asked me a billboard we just drove buy I'm more likely to comment on their use of Futura than to be able to tell you what the billboard was advertising. It's an occupational hazard.

It's not likely that I would have remembered the logo or what they the words on the side of the van had I not read what was on the back of the van. In addition to the standard "How's my driving," (it was good) there was a line of type that read:

This vehicle makes frequent stops.

Clearly the inclusion of this had have been mandated by the legal department or some "Safety Department." In other words some corporate middle manager who insisted on getting his "input" included in the van graphics regardless about what it says about the company and it's brands.

I don't know about you, but I will think twice about buying an appliance from a company who's repair van has to warn of frequent stops.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:09 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 12, 2008

Trusting Their Judgment

I have been less than generous is my opinion of the Detroit automakers appealing for a Federal Bailout. I have been less than generous with my opinion of the companies and their executives. Now it's Congress's turn.

After the first session of Corporate jet facilitated begging Congress sent the auto execs packing. This may be the first - and last - thing they got right in this entire economic crisis. They told them go back to your executive suites and work up a plan for how you plan to use the government's money to save your businesses.

So the executives flew back to Detroit and had their people write up some plans. Then they headed back to Washington, wisely deciding that begging from a corporate jet wasn't going to help their cause, they decided to drive. Once they arrived they went to hearings and more hearings and presented their plans to congress.

Here's the problem. How many people are there in Congress who are competent enough to pass judgment on the viability of the business plan of a large multi-national corporation? For that matter, how many people are there in congress who are competent to pass judgement on the business plan for a fourth grade bake sale?

Remember, this is the same group of morons whose policies got us into this mess in the first place. And this is the same bunch of financial wizards who handed Bush and Paulson $350 billion and said go forth and bail however you see fit.

We're going to trust their judgement on how good someone's business plan is?

What about the executive branch? Based on his past record of business successes are we going trust W to determine if the plans are any good?

I suppose we could always ask Paulson. The man who sold congress on giving him $700 billion to buy troubled assets then decided to just buy up a few banks instead. How well has his judgment worked out?

I think it's time to re-write the first amendment. I might be willing to live with and officially established national religion as long as we could build an impenetrable wall between economy and state.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:38 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


The Secret Senate Election

It is no secret that Congress is one seriously screwed up institution. It's members instead of legislating justly and honestly are primarily concerned with the protection of their incumbency. This leads to distortion, corruption and out of control pork barrel politics.

It is time that we change the system. And passing another Congressional Ethics bill is not going to change anything any more that the last dozen or so have. What we need to do is change the way we elect members of the Senate. (I'll think up something to fix the House another time, I only get an hour for lunch.)

Here's my proposal. Every Senatorial election cycle, the names of the states who's senators are up for re-election are placed in a hat. The governors of those states come to Washington and draw a name from the hat. Their state will elect the Senators to represent the state who's name they drew.

Pork would go back to being just the other white meat. There's no reason to send pork back to your home state because they are not going to be voting for you. There's no way to know which state you're going to have to campaign in so there's no where to send pork to help you get elected.

It would also greatly increase the turnover in the Senate and eliminate the entrenched power of long term incumbency. How much of a chance do you think Harry Reid or John Kerry would have if they had to stand for election in say Texas? That may seem a bit unfair, but remember there is every possibility that the Senators from Oklahoma could be voted on by the people of Massachusetts.

The overall ideological composition of the Senate probably wouldn't  change that much. Just as many Senators would be elected by red states and blue states as happens today.

There may, of course, be some animosity over the representation elected by one state for another. And there may be the temptation for the electorate of one state to try to "stick it to another." But what goes around comes around, so they will learn to be more judicious.

I know it's not a perfect system, but it's probably not that much worse than what we have now.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:40 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 11, 2008

Apparently It Is An Option After All

"GM hires bankruptcy lawyers"

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:09 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 10, 2008

Speaking Truth to Power

The One has apparently taken the bold, brave and daring principled positioned and suggested that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich resign.

The One really went out on a limb to throw his old friend under the bus.

I'm sure it is a move that will anger the party faithful.


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:39 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


December 09, 2008

What's In A Name

For weeks we have been have been referring to the bailout of the Not So Big 3 Detroit car makers. It looks like over the objection of a majority of the American people some sort of bailout is going to happen. All that's left is to decide what to call the legislation.

I propose calling it the Corporate Reinvestment Act.

Like it's cousin the Community Reinvestment Act the legislation will result in loaning money to uncreditworthy borrowers.

The car companies will eventually default on the loans that they cannot afford to repay.

But there will be no one to rescue the lender.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


The Chicago Way


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:07 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


The Windbag Responds

I'll give Senator "Friend of Angelo" Dodd credit for one thing. He is quick with a form letter response. I don't think I can give him credit for any meaningful content.

Dear Mr. Macklin:
 
Thank you for contacting me with regard to a Federal financial assistance package for the United States automotive industry. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
 
The automotive industry has long been an important sector of our economy. Over 25,775 people in the state of Connecticut are employed in either the manufacture or sale of motor vehicles. Nationwide, it is estimated that over 3 million jobs are dependent upon the industry. As you may be aware, the financial situation faced by domestic auto manufacturers-Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler-is serious, and they have requested that funds from the recently passed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act or from another federal source be made available to help them continue operations.
 
On November 18, 2008 the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, of which I am Chairman, heard testimony from the heads of these companies regarding this issue. While I am sympathetic to the needs of the industry and the urgency of their situation, I believe that the American people need to be assured that any federal money granted to these companies be used to implement a business plan that will ensure long-term viability for the industry. For this reason, Congress has asked these companies to furnish detailed plans as to how any funds given to them would be used prior to taking any action. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind in the coming days as these plans are submitted for Congressional review.
 
Thank you again for contacting me. If you would like to stay in touch with me on this, or other issues of importance, please visit my website at http://dodd.senate.gov and sign up to receive my regular e-mail issue alerts. If you would like more information on my actions as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, or on this or issues before the Committee, please visit our website at http://banking.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me again if I may be of assistance in any way.
           
 
Sincerely,
 
CHRISTOPHER J. DODD
United States Senator

Senator, it doesn't really matter how a big a number you put in front of the sob story. No job is guaranteed. No success is guaranteed. Companies that cannot compete fail.

The Chief Begging Officers of Detroit have said that bankruptcy is not an option because people will not buy cars from companies in Chapter 11. I would have respected the decision by any one of the automakers to go through the bankruptcy process and fix their problems and it would have probably made me more likely to buy one of their cars in the future. However, having made the decision to beg taxpayer relief from their failure has assured that I will NEVER buy a Ford, Chrysler, or GM product.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:48 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 08, 2008

Tilting at Windbags

I know its completely pointless, but I wrote to Senator Dodd to urge him to oppose bailing out the Not So Big 3 automakers. I will let you know if I hear any response.

Senator Dodd,

As a resident and registered voter in the state of Connecticut and a citizen of the United States I am writing in the attempt to shine the light of common sense on the proposed bailout of three failing corporations in the futile hope that you will oppose this legislation.

The economic strength and vitality of this nation was built on a backbone of freedom, not excessive government regulation and manipulation. It has been said many times, and quite correctly, that America is not great because of its government but in spite of it.

In a free market economy, companies fail. They fail when they are poorly managed. They fail when they cannot keep pace with changes in the marketplace. Employees of any company should understand that by agreeing to work for that company their fate is tied to the company’s. If the company goes under because it cannot effectively compete, the jobs it provided go away as well. Employment is an agreement between employer and employee - it is not a right.

I understand the motivations behind your willingness to support bailing out these failing corporations. Giving them an infusion of taxpayer money will keep thousands of union members gainfully employed and thousands of dollars in union donations flowing to the Democratic Party.

I do not know if your name appears on a list of “Friends of Mulally,” or “Friends of Wagoner,” or “Friends of Nardelli” netting you a sweetheart deal on a new car to which you are completely oblivious, but I can think of few other reasons to support this bailout.

Senator, if the American people had wished to give Ford, GM or Chrysler their hard-earned money, they would have done so by purchasing their products. For Congress  to hugely overstep its Constitutional authority for the sake of preserving jobs for its union donors is a travesty.

If you want to financially support these corporations go out a buy a car from each of them tomorrow. But use your own money not that of the American taxpayer.

Freedom to succeed means freedom to fail and choices have consequences.

I urge you to oppose bailing out these private corporations.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:57 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


December 04, 2008

How To Save Detroit, The Economy, and the Planet

I figured out how to bail out the Big Three Autofailures, stimulate the economy, reduce dependence on foreign oil and save the planet. All at the same time.

I'm that good.

The Detroit 3 have already been promised $25 billion to retool factories to make more fuel efficient and "Green" vehicles.

They are asking for another $25 billion in pure bailout cash just to stay afloat. That number is probably going to go up because that's what these things do, so let's call their total bail out $70 billion. (Michelle Malkin expects to be a lot higher but that just makes my plan even better.)

According to the Federal Trade Commission the average price of a new car is $28,400. At that price, the Auto Bailout would purchase 2,464,788 cars.

Any American with a car built after 1980 that has been registered and insured will receive a voucher worth $28,400 that can only be used to purchase a new car. I picked 1980 because if you have a car older than that it is probably just a toy you're collecting.

If you pick a car that costs more than that average you have to pay the difference - if your car costs less the difference rolls back into the program. However I suspect there would be a lot of cars on the market for $28,400.

Set a time limit to apply for the voucher and start sending them out to the owners of the oldest cars first. Keep doing this until the $70 billion has been spent. It should be included in the bill that  a car - tracked by VIN number - can only qualify for a voucher replacement once.

The car makers - and this would include the foreign owned manufacturers - would need to ramp up production to meet the sudden surge in demand from 2.5 million car buyers. This would reduce unemployment, stimulate the economy, grow tax revenues, and help the Not So Big 3.

Also by replacing the 2.5 million oldest, least efficient, least "Green" cars on the road with more fuel efficient, less polluting new cars and even hybrids, we can reduce gas consumption and greenhouse gas emissions dramatically.

I currently drive a 1994 Toyota Corolla. I'd like my voucher, please.

UPDATE: I keep thinking of more and more problems that this will fix. States will get a nice boost in taxes and fees for all those new registrations and insurance companies will make a killing insuring all those new cars.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:18 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


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