Save the American Car

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve watched the television as politician after politician and pundit after pundit have come on television to pander to the long held meme of the failure of American car companies.

The pundits do it because they’re stupid and think so far inside the box that there’s another box inside of that one. The Democrats do it because they’re spineless and don’t know how to stand up for working people anymore. But the Republicans do it because of their failed ideological framework, which I might mention has brought us to where we currently are.

Here is a typical representation of how they choose to ignore facts in favor of ideological crap. Business Week takes a look at Mitt Romney’s suggestion that we should allow our entire auto industry to go into bankruptcy and potentially fail: 

Romney: If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for this week, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

Business Week:

[Romney joins a legion of pundits and kibitzers who are oblivious to two facts: The companies have been dramatically resizing and restructuring. First: Ford, for example, had cut its hourly workforce from 83,000 to 44,000 in five years, and its white collar workforce from 33,000 to 12,000. The numbers at GM and Chrysler are comparable. Second: Retiree burdens? The companies entered into covenants with workers on pensions and retiree healthcare. The big burden is paying healthcare benefits of retirees and their dependents still too young for Medicare—about 400,000. If the U.S. had a healthcare policy like Germany and Japan, just to name two rival auto-making countries, this wouldn’t be an issue. Just what would you do for those families and their healthcare costs Governor Romney? Chuck them onto the heap of the uninsured? How about a more constructive suggestion like compelling the retirees, through arbitration, to pay more for their healthcare benefits as a way of pitching in to the problem. Given the choice between losing all benefits and paying more for them, most families will opt for the latter.]

Now I’m not going to say that there isn’t room for improvement in the American auto industry, but here’s the dirty little secret that they won’t tell you. Auto industries across the globe are suffering from a negative turn in demand due to the credit bubble collapse.

Gleaming new Mercedes cars roll one by one out of a huge container
ship here and onto a pier. Ordinarily the cars would be loaded on
trucks within hours, destined for dealerships around the country. But
these are not ordinary times.

For now, the port itself is the destination. Unwelcome by dealers
and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars are
being warehoused on increasingly crowded port property.

And for the first time, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota,
and Nissan have each asked to lease space from the port for these
orphan vehicles. They are turning dozens of acres of the nation’s
second-largest container port into a parking lot, creating a vivid
picture of a paralyzed auto business and an economy in peril.

“This is one way to look at the economy,” Art Wong, a spokesman for the port, said of the cars. “And it scares you to death.”

The backlog at the port is just part of a broader rise in the
nation’s inventories, which were up 5.5 percent in September from a
year earlier, according to the Commerce Department. The car industry
has been hurt particularly, with sales down nearly 15 percent this
year. General Motors has said it would run out of operating cash by the end of the year if it does not receive a government bailout.

One in ten jobs comes from the auto industry. So far, I haven’t heard a single person tell me how we’re going to deal with the loss of tax revenue and the addition of unemployment if we allow the auto industry to collapse. No one seems to have thought it out that far.

So here are a couple of rules that I would propose we live by:

  1. Don’t believe most of what you see on TV unless you’re watching reruns of X-Files.

  2. If a politician comes on television and seems too sure of something that they’re saying, be suspicious.
  3. If that politician is a Republican and they suggest that we should give away more American manufacturing capacity because of some stupid ideological ax that they have to grind, call their office and tell them to shut up.

Times are about to get incredibly tough  (I’ll come back to this point in the future) thanks to 8 years of complete mismanagement of the country.

It’s time for solutions, not ideological orthodoxy.

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We’re back: Friday night culture jam

After a  brief hiatus–hey, I got a 10 month old uber-boy baby, two jobs and a wife– HTB is back with this week’s Friday Night Culture Jam. This is one of my favorite songs and I want to share it. This also helps me  share Deezer with you too. Deezer is a music site that’s a mix between Pandora and Last.fm. I’m still checking it out and will tell you more later.

For now, enjoy Nightlights by the Polyphonics.

Discover Polyphonics!
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Everyday Usability: the Silly Microwave Oven

In my day job I’m a Business Analyst who specializes in application design and usability. So I’m always curious about how people interact with the things in their daily lives and whether those things are well designed or should be thrown into a pit and never see the light of day again.

Over the fourth of July holiday I saw one of the most frightfully designed kitchen appliances that I’ve seen–my mother-in-law’s microwave oven. 

Everyone knows from experience the process of cooking with a microwave oven looks like the following:

  1. Open the door
  2. Place your food in the oven
  3. Close the door
  4. Enter cook time, change power settings, etc.
  5. Press start

Simple, right?

Continue reading ‘Everyday Usability: the Silly Microwave Oven’

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Teach Your Phone a Few New Tricks to Reduce Your iPhone Envy.

In just a few days version 2 of the iPhone comes out and man oh man do I have a case of phone envy. I’ve been sitting around annoyed that I spent about $400 on a T-Mobile Wing with Windows Mobile last year and with a new baby boy, I just can’t drop the money to have my iPhone.

So, what’s a guy to do? PIMP HIS PHONE! I’m going to tell you some tricks that I used to get a bit more mileage out of my phone and hopefully help you reduce your iPhone envy.

(Many of these tricks require an unlimited data plan on your phone.) 

Continue reading ‘Teach Your Phone a Few New Tricks to Reduce Your iPhone Envy.’

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Challenging Conventional Wisdom about Child carSeats

There’s nothing that fires me up more than someone looking at something from a completely different angle and challenging my assumptions about it. This talk from the TED Conference given by Steven Levitt threw me for a loop.

Why should you listen to this guy?

First, because he’s the award winning economist who co-wrote the New York Times Bestseller Freakonomics. And secondly, because he’s about to tell you that everything you think you know about child car seats is wrong.

Just to be clear, I’m neither advocating or denouncing his findings, but I think you should have this information. Especially if you’re a parent like me.

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Friday Night Culture Jam: Shatner, again?

Oh yeah baby. Shatner again. I don’t know when I became such a fan of Shatner, but everyone should love this. This is better than peanut butter and jelly.

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Test mobile

Posted by mobile phone:
this is a test.

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friday Night Culture Jam: Midi, Maxi, Efti

From the late 80’s these girls popped up while I was going to school in Paris. I love them because they always look like they’re singing the music phonetically and totally bored out of their skulls. That’s what makes them great. Enjoy.

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Towards a General Theory of Modern Communications: Part 1


My wife Cheryl and I were sitting in our living room talking about our family’s blog which we made expressly to keep in contact with our friends and family who are spread out all over the globe.

To varying degrees people are more or less reading it. Mostly less.

It could be that we’re just boring and that our friends and family don’t really care about our lives, but we noticed an interesting pattern.

People will call sometimes to find out what we’re doing and the conversations can go on for quite a while. In fact, recently a friend of Cheryl’s called to find out how she was. She’d just had surgery, but her friend didn’t have a clue about it even though we posted the news prominently on the blog. So our first question was, "didn’t you see it on the blog?" And he said "I don’t have time to check the blog."

Yet that same person is willing to talk to us on the phone for way longer than it would take to just scan the blog to see what’s going on.

My wife and I couldn’t understand why someone who didn’t have 5 minutes out of their day to just look at a web site had an hour or two to talk to us over the phone. We didn’t have that kind of time and we believed that we were being efficient by creating a feed of information that people could come to on their own terms. Some were doing exactly that. Others weren’t.

So we wondered if people tended to prioritize their personal styles of communication over what might seem to be logical or efficient and why. What affect does the channel itself have on the communicator and how does his or her preference of channel impact the message.

From our conversations came this model for how these communications may work.


I want to share with you the details of this model of communication which I believe might be useful in looking at social networking, blogs, texting, instant messaging and many forms of communication that we use to get through our day to day lives in the Internet age.

I am going to do this as a series. Otherwise you’d have to wait quite a while before you get any of it at all.

Next we’ll take a look at the problem in a more down to earth way.

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Friday Night Culture Jam: 1 Giant Leap — God

This movie will alter your frame of mind.

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