Friday, July 22, 2011
Hasler wants to profusely apologize to friends, family and acquaintances for their embarrassment. More details in the future.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009
Personal reasons bring an end to Trifles. Thanks to all who subscribed and commented over it life. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.
TURNING and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
"The Directory reports Indiana suffered a 1% loss in manufacturing employment between 2005 and 2006, a loss of 2.4% between 2006 and 2007, and a 2.2% decline over the 2007-2008 survey period.
Manufacturers' News reports Indiana is now home to 10,748 manufacturers employing 610,491 workers.
'As with the entire nation, the recession continues to chip away at Indiana's core sectors. The auto industry has taken the greatest hit, while the faltering housing market has affected industries such as wood, furniture and building products,' says Tom Dubin, President of the Evanston, IL-based publishing company, which has been surveying industry since 1912.
MNI reports a quarter of the state's losses were felt in the auto industry, which tallied a loss of 12,814 jobs or 14.4% over the year following layoffs and closings at RV manufacturers and suppliers such as Monaco Coach Corp, Starcraft RV, Travel Supreme and Newmar Corp., as well as continuing cuts at the Big Three and their suppliers. The auto industry currently accounts for 73,364 jobs, while the transportation equipment sector as a whole employs 90,660. One bright spot in the auto sector was the opening of a new Honda plant in Greensburg that will be producing fuel-efficient vehicles."
Monday, May 18, 2009
"Hubler Chevrolet Center Inc. of Shelbyville and several other General Motors dealerships in Indiana are on the chopping block after receiving notice Friday that their dealership agreements would not be renewed when they expire late next year.
But most dealers are keeping quiet about the notifications as they hold out hope they can persuade GM that they deserve to stay open.
Nationally, about 1,100 GM dealers have received notice. But unlike Chrysler LLC, which released a list Thursday of almost 800 dealers it plans to terminate, GM is keeping its list secret.
Joe Munson, vice president of Hubler Chevrolet told The Shelbyville News that he was surprised to receive the closing letter, particularly because of the strong sales his dealership has logged since opening in Shelbyville in 1988."
GM's Downsizing Strategy Moving With Great Efficiency comes from workforce.com:
"Employing the efficiency of an automotive assembly line, General Motors has laid off close to 3,400 salaried workers in recent months, moving individual employees from their desks and out the door in a half-hour’s time.
The GM layoffs are part of a last-ditch effort to “right-size” its workforce in order to avoid the kind of bankruptcy filed by Chrysler on Thursday, April 30.
Yet it looks like the latest round of layoffs is just that—the latest round, giving employees who remain at GM little relief.
May 1 marked a soft deadline for accomplishing the first round of layoffs. It also marked the beginning of a pay cut—3 to 10 percent, depending on a person’s rank—for many of the remaining 26,250 salaried workers in the U.S.
Now the company is looking to its next major deadline of June 1, when, according to a regulatory filing last week, GM said it would run out of cash unless it receives more financing and debt relief. In the filing, GM said it expected additional manpower reductions among its salaried workforce. The company also said it would trim its hourly workforce by 7,000 more than it had outlined in its first restructuring plan submitted February 17.
Then there was Experts say GM bankruptcy almost inevitable from The Muncie Star Press
To remake itself outside of court, GM must persuade bondholders to swap $27 billion in debt for 10 percent of its risky stock. On top of that, the automaker must work out deals with its union, announce factory closures, cut or sell brands and force hundreds of dealers out of business -- all in three weeks.
"I just don't see how it's possible, given all of the pieces," said Stephen J. Lubben, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who specializes in bankruptcy.
Meanwhile. Anderson's GM retirees shiver but not with anticipation.
"Here is the grand vision I suggest Americans can pursue: the right of all citizens to larger lives. Not to get richer than the next guy or necessarily to accumulate more and more stuff but the right to live life more fully and engage more expansively the elemental possibilities of human existence. That is the essence of what so many now seem to yearn for in their lives. People--even successful and affluent people--are frustrated because the intangible dimensions of life have been held back or displaced in large and small ways, pushed aside by the economic system's relentless demands to maximize yields of profit and wealth. Our common moral verities have been trashed in the name of greater returns. The softer aspects of mortal experience are diminished because life itself is not tabulated in the economic system's accounting."
Most of these elements are controversial. Former single-payer advocates, for instance, are banking on a public plan to open the door to a single-payer system. Insurers know that and are working overtime to make sure that doesn't happen. Aside from saying he supports a public plan, the president hasn't gotten his hands dirty in the political muck. Is he pursuing a conscious strategy to be above the fray or waiting to see what Congress does before jumping in? Is the president being strategically vague or abdicating to Congress because he, too, is feeling the heat from the special interests that contributed millions to his campaign?
Campaign rhetoric led the electorate to believe that a new president was ready to overhaul the healthcare system and bring health coverage to everyone. A poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that there is strong support for health reform but that the public can be swayed on the details. "There is still a tremendous opportunity for leadership," says Kaiser CEO Drew Altman. But the special interests can still move the debate in one direction or another.
Money directed at health information technology in the stimulus package is not likely to bring down the cost of medical care; nor will preventive care, the much-touted disease-management programs or research into what medical interventions work. Earlier this year an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine by three respected healthcare experts, Theodore Marmor, Jonathan Oberlander and Joseph White, concluded that such reforms "sound like benign devices to moderate medical spending" and may be desirable for other reasons. But they are "ineffective as cost control measures." Serious cost containment--global budgeting, for instance, which sets a cap on what can be spent on healthcare by various sectors--is as far off of the table as single-payer.
"We do not know how to control health spending significantly," Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt told health journalists at their annual conference a few weeks ago. "The Obama administration must have the guts to force physicians to defend their high cost of spending. We could save 30 percent without hurting patients if they practiced medicine right." But the administration seems to be moving more in the direction of stopping the Medicare fee cuts already scheduled for doctors. The AMA was gleeful when the administration released its budget. President Nancy Nielsen said that the budget proposal "takes a huge step forward to ensure that physicians can care for seniors by rejecting planned Medicare physician payment cuts of 40 percent over the next decade."
If Obama wants to give more than lip service to a public plan, he should offer guidance on how it will work. Right now the term is loosely tossed around and means different things to different interest groups. But most ordinary people, if they understand it at all, believe it will enable them to chuck the coverage they have and choose cheaper and better coverage. If Massachusetts healthcare is a model, though, that's not likely. There, if residents have employer coverage and decline it because it's too expensive, they are barred from subsidized insurance. In other words, they don't have much of a choice. The reason: to keep people from "crowding out" private insurance; that is, taking away business from the private carriers. On May 4, New York Senator Charles Schumer stepped into the void and proposed " principles" that seem to answer some objections from insurers.
Right now it looks like the insurance industry has the upper hand in negotiations over a public plan. It will take a lot more voices and political muscle to nudge health reform to a point where it serves the needs of millions of Americans who are either shut out of the current system or have become its victims.
The inclusion of as much as $36.5 billion in spending to create a nationwide network of electronic health records fulfilled one of Obama's key campaign promises -- to launch the reform of America's costly health-care system.
But it was more than a political victory for the new administration. It also represented a triumph for an influential trade group whose members now stand to gain billions in taxpayer dollars.
A Washington Post review found that the trade group, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, had worked closely with technology vendors, researchers and other allies in a sophisticated, decade-long campaign to shape public opinion and win over Washington's political machinery.
Such an approach would rely on unprecedented data-mining into medical records and the practices of doctors, a kind of surveillance that also would enable insurers to cut costs by controlling more precisely the care that patients receive.
"Finally, we're going to have access to millions and millions of patient records online," said Blackford Middleton, a physician, Harvard professor and chairman of the Center for Information Technology Leadership, whose studies have concluded the health-care system could save $77.8 billion each year through the universal use of information technology networks. "This is the biggest step for health-care information technology in this country's history."
But others said the case was far from being so clear. Some observers said the projected savings are overly optimistic and that launching such vast computer networks under tight deadlines is risky, a lesson learned by the Bush administration when it botched a variety of homeland security systems rushed into place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The CBO, then led by Orszag, examined the industry-funded study behind the $77.8 billion assertion, among other things, and concluded that it relied on "overly optimistic" assumptions and said much is unknown about the potential impact of health information technology.
A CBO analysis of the stimulus bill this year projected that spending on electronic health records could yield perhaps $17 billion in savings over a decade.
GE Launches $6 Billion Plan to Develop Health Care Innovations
With the pace of health care reform quickening in Congress, General Electric came to Washington on Thursday, May 7, to launch a multibillion-dollar initiative it says will provide better health care at lower costs to more people—goals shared by many lawmakers.
The company also hopes the $6 billion program, dubbed “healthymagination,” will substantially boost its bottom line by fostering the growth of GE Healthcare.
During the next six years, GE plans to invest $3 billion in research and development to create at least 100 technologies and innovations it says will reduce the cost of medical procedures by 15 percent, increase access to health services by 15 percent and improve quality and efficiency by 15 percent. Another $3 billion will be allocated to improving coverage in rural and poor communities around the world.
"At worst, the burgeoning debt could trigger a future financial crisis. The danger is that 'we won't be able to sell [Treasury debt] at reasonable interest rates,' says economist Rudy Penner, head of the CBO from 1983 to 1987. In today's anxious climate, this hasn't happened. American and foreign investors have favored 'safe' U.S. Treasurys. But a glut of bonds, fears of inflation -- or something else -- might one day shatter confidence. Bond prices might fall sharply; interest rates would rise. The consequences could be worldwide because foreigners own half of U.S. Treasury debt.
The Obama budgets flirt with deferred distress, though we can't know what form it might take or when it might occur. Present gain comes with the risk of future pain. As the present economic crisis shows, imprudent policies ultimately backfire, even if the reversal's timing and nature are unpredictable.
The wonder is that these issues have been so ignored. Imagine hypothetically that a President McCain had submitted a budget plan identical to Obama's. There would almost certainly have been a loud outcry: 'McCain's Mortgaging Our Future.' Obama should be held to no less exacting a standard."
I have no idea what might have been said McCain. We - the whole country - have been lead down a garden path towards a service economy for most of my adult life. That leaves a lot to fix. We know now that we cannot base our entire national economy on financial services that amount to not much more than financial chicanery.
We now confront the effects of mollycoddling our remaining industrial companies from the brunt of complete international competition. We now know the true costs of not having a sane energy policy means that GM and Chrysler are heading towards bankruptcy and we have a quagmire called Iraq.
I am guessing that much of Obama's plans hinge on one idea - that we can increase our national incomes to match the costs of change. Think about his education plans.
All I can do is consider what Paul Krugman wrote yesterday in The Perfect, the Good, the Planet:
I think Obama is making the necessary bet to fix our economic and financial problems. I onoly worry that it is too late."Now, however, a somewhat uneasy coalition of progressives and centrists rules Washington, and staking out a position has become much trickier. Policy tends to move things in a desirable direction, yet to fall short of what you’d hoped to see. And the question becomes how many compromises, how much watering down, one is willing to accept."
"For his part, Obama gave what may have been both the most radical and the most conservative speech of his presidency. Acknowledging the Roman Catholic Church's role in supporting his early community organizing work, the president drew on the resources of Catholic social thought. It combines opposition to abortion with a sharp critique of economic injustice and thus doesn't squeeze into the round holes of contemporary ideology.
'Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism,' Obama declared. 'The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice.'"
Although Jenkins made no reference to them, the scriptural readings at Catholic Masses yesterday drew on St. John's emphasis on the law of love. "This I command you: Love one another," Jesus declares in John's Gospel.
It was hard to square that message with the rage directed toward Obama and Jenkins by their detractors. Yet in raising the stakes entailed in Obama's visit, the critics did the president a great service.
By facing their arguments head-on and by demonstrating his attentiveness to Catholic concerns, Obama strengthened moderate and liberal forces inside the church itself. He also struck a forceful blow against those who would keep the nation mired in culture-war politics without end. Obama's opponents on the Catholic right placed a large bet on his Notre Dame visit. And they lost.
Meanwhile, The UK's Guardian has a link to the video.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Ah, what a bit of sunshine will do for a day.
Not something seen every day - a 1960 Indy race car.
Friday, May 08, 2009
SINCE THE global financial meltdown began, financial services sectors across the world have become increasingly nervous about European and/or US politicians forcing through punitive and ill-considered regulation to appease public anger.
This anxiety eased with the appearance of carefully considered reports on the possible shape of future regulation, such as those by Lord Turner, chair of the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA), and an influential European report by the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Jacques de Larosiere. However, the sector's anxieties have been fully justified with the European Union's announcement on April 29 of a draft directive, cobbled together without consultation, aimed squarely at the European alternative fund management sector - often dubbed "the shadow banking system".
Seen as throwing subtlety to the winds, the EU has produced a piece of draft legislation that sweeps together hedge funds, private-equity funds, commodity funds, real estate funds and infrastructure funds. It proposes to regulate them all if the funds under management exceed 100 million.
To put this in context, in hedge fund terms, a 50m fund is a start-up fund and most such funds would expect to exceed £100m in a year or two. This means that the EU has used rather a fine mesh for its regulatory net, and apparently intends to scoop up even the tiddlers - funds which by no stretch of the imagination could be classified as a "systemic threat" to the Eurozone. The legislation, if allowed to pass, will, as an incidental by-product, impose a heavy regulatory burden on Scotland's tiny hedge fund management sector.
David Aldrich, managing director of alternative investment services at The Bank of New York Mellon, (BNY Mellon) called the directive "a political attack on hedge funds, rather than a rational approach". A survey by BNY Mellon showed that while the global hedge fund sector is expected to shrink from just over $2 trillion in 2008 to $1trn by the second quarter of 2009, the sector will enjoy a resurgence - if it is not regulated to death - and by 2013 will have surpassed the high-water mark of 2008.
Commenting on Scotland's hedge fund sector, Aldrich said: "The reason why Scotland, which has no advantages such as the beneficial tax or corporate structures offered by offshore havens such as Bermuda or the Cayman Islands, enjoys a strong, if small, hedge fund sector has purely to do with the excellence of Scotland's fund managers - a few of whom have been attracted to the absolute return philosophy of hedge funds."
The sector in Scotland tends to focus on long/short equity strategies rather than on the more exotic strategies offered by London-based hedge funds. However, its performance through the crash has been outstanding.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Those who are alarmed about President Obama's easy, casual camaraderie with Chavez misunderstand the role of civility in public life. Barack Obama is, if nothing else, a civil and gracious political leader. In all honesty, he is a little too civil for my taste. I am cut from the sarcastic, snarky, blogger cloth. I hold grudges and prefer to punish my political foes with biting commentary whenever possible. Barack Obama appoints his adversaries to cabinet positions and asks those he disagrees with to pray at his inauguration. It is a core element of who he is. Even in Obama's pre-presidential book, The Audacity of Hope, he displays his brand of polite restraint. He condemns racism, but doesn't name racists. He blames conservative policies for creating our national mess, but doesn't attack conservatives. You don't have to like it, but that handshake was authentic Obama.
Who thought post-partisanship meant we had to be co-opted by the Republicans?
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
"In fact, cost cutting and restructuring are simply the first steps in repositioning and leading your company and industry through the crisis and in defining how business will be conducted in the future. In this interview, Applegate explains how large and small companies can position themselves to survive—and thrive—in turbulent times."
A Ball State University documentary about the Indiana segment of the National Road will be featured across the state with six free screenings. "Movers and Stakers: Stories along the Indiana National Road" will debut in Muncie at 7:30 p.m. May 7 at Pruis Hall. The documentary will also be shown in Greenfield, Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Richmond.
The documentary focuses on the Indiana segment of the nation's first federally funded highway, which was commissioned in 1806 by President Thomas Jefferson and runs from Cumberland, Md., to Vandalia, Ill.
"Movers and Stakers: Stories along the Indiana National Road" will not only air on public television, but will also be used in visitor centers, touch screen kiosks, museums and schools. To watch the trailer and learn more about the documentary, visit www.nationalroadfilm.com.
Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard.
This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.
Which brings me to the final entry in the lexicon.
Hoperoots. Sample sentence: "It's time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots"
Obama's 100-Day Hope Check
Are Barack Obama's supporters wondering where the hope went? Does the campaign now seem only a golden dream? After all, Obama's been in the White House for over three months, and people are still losing jobs and houses, US troops are still overseas, single-payer health care is still not on the agenda. Surely the President should have fixed all that by now with the power of his mighty hope machine.
I have a lot of respect for Naomi Klein, but I think her own hopes for a mass radical movement are getting in the way here. According to polls, after all, Obama is wildly popular. A Harris Interactive poll released on April 7 found that 68% of Americans have a good opinion of him. That doesn't necessarily mean they approve of everything he's doing, but it means that a heck of a lot of people who didn't vote for him like him now. Is there any evidence that "a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard"? And by the way, did anyone over the age of 21 ever really believe this? That hope, an emotion, was going to "save the world," the way children clapping their hands saves Tinkerbell? Are Americans really such idiots? Hmmm, better not answer that.
I know a lot of people who supported Obama, and every time I see them I ask how they think he's doing. The only people I've found who've given up on him, who feel betrayed, misled, and foolish, are those leftists who didn't like him in the first place and voted for him in a weak moment as the lesser evil. They, predictably, went back to their cabins on Mt. Disdain before Obama had even been inaugurated. Obama will never satisfy the left because no president could. FDR didn't satisfy the left either.
I was a strong supporter of Obama but I always thought hopespeak fell somewhere between metaphor and twaddle. Obviously, Obama was not going to turn the US into Sweden. Obviously, he would make all sorts of compromises and deals. And obviously I would hate that. That's politics. Where am I on the hope-o-meter? Like everyone, I'm worried about the bailout, Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm appalled that he envisions no prosecution of those who set up the legal framework of torture and those who carried it out. And what about Bagram? On the plus side: he's been terrific on women's rights and reproductive rights here and abroad, made some excellent appointments (Hilda Solis at Labor), reached out to the Muslim world, opened communications with Cuba and Iran, said he'll close Guantanamo, declared an end to torture, and, with the stimulus, successfully challenged the notion that government spending (except on the military) is bad. He's made it less embarrassing to be an American. I think he'll make good judicial appointments. If another Katrina happened tomorrow, I think he'd handle it well.
It's important to challenge Obama. No president deserves mindless loyalty. But color me modestly hopeful -- for now.
Monday, May 04, 2009
Teaching Children to Manage Money
by Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita
Consider this: the latest version of the classic board game Monopoly trades in cash for debit cards, but does it explain to children what overdraft charges are or how to maintain a register of transactions? What about the Barbie doll that comes equipped with her own credit card and cash register? When she swipes too many times, her balance resets without requiring any payment. What message does that send children about the reality of using debit and credit cards?
Establishing good money management habits and a solid understanding of financial concepts is important for Hoosiers of all ages. But it’s especially important for younger generations to understand how to manage money even at a young age, giving them a solid foundation for when they enter the “real world” later. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s spenders, savers and investors. It’s critical that we stay invested in their future and make financial literacy a focus of their education.
April is national Financial Literacy Month, highlighting the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy financial habits. Simply put, financial literacy is a basic understanding of personal finance. It includes concepts like budgeting, saving, investing, insurance, understanding how credit and debit cards work, retirement planning and much more.
From The Kokomo Tribune comes Fiat impressed with Kokomo facilities:
Representatives from Italian automaker Fiat SpA toured the four Kokomo Chrysler plants and were reportedly impressed with the facilities.
Fiat announced Thursday it would form a partnership with Chrysler LLC that is expected to return the American automaker to profitability.
Fiat has agreed to share its engine and powertrain technology with Chrysler and intends to produce an economical model in the U.S.
Shawn Fain, a representative with United Auto Workers Local 1166, said the tour took place about a month ago.
“They were impressed with the facilities,” Fain said of the Kokomo Transmission Plant, Kokomo Casting Plant and Indiana Transmission Plants I and II. “They wanted to see the facilities to determine if we had the capacity to do the work.”
The New York Times covers the filing with Chrysler Begins Voyage Down Bankruptcy Route:
As part of its reorganization, Chrysler said Friday that it planned to shut eight plants permanently, lay off about 6,500 workers and close an unspecified number of dealerships.
Judge Gonzalez granted Chrysler’s request to use its existing cash management system, which would enable the company to transfer money to other subsidiaries to keep operating.
Lawyers for various constituencies, including banks, car dealerships, hedge funds, parts makers and others have been working around the clock readying their arguments to make sure their interests are protected in court.
Thomas E. Lauria of the law firm White & Case, who represents a committee of the secured creditors, declined to comment to reporters and did not raise any objections to the motions at the hearing. It is still unclear whether the group, which includes Oaktree Capital Management, OppenheimerFunds, Stairway Capital Management, Schultze Asset Management, Group G Capital Partners and the TCW Group, will object to Chrysler’s restructuring plan at the continuation of the case next week.The lenders, who say they believe they are being treated unfairly in the process, may request that Chrysler be liquidated. But, according to the company’s own analysis, a liquidation would cost more than $2 billion and there are unlikely to be many buyers for Chrysler’s assets.
Judge Gonzalez has experience with major bankruptcy cases, having overseen the reorganization of Enron in 2001, which set a record by filing for bankruptcy with $63 billion in assets, and WorldCom in 2002, which topped Enron with $107 billion assets when it filed.
Court documents filed by Chrysler in New York on Thursday showed that Chrysler’s re-emergence from bankruptcy could take until Aug. 28, or four months from now.Bankruptcy always contains some element of unpredictability, and the debtholders who oppose the new arrangement could argue in court that the company is worth more to them in liquidation.
And also Chrysler Files to Seek Bankruptcy Protection:
But administration officials said they believed that it was highly unlikely that a bankruptcy court judge would side with the minority when those holding 70 percent of the debt had signed off on the arrangement.
Chrysler said its factories would go mostly idle starting Monday, and remain so for the bulk of the process. Auto workers will receive about 80 percent of their base pay during the shutdown. The Treasury is providing $3.3 billion in so-called debtor-in-possession financing, and administration officials said during a conference call with reporters that no jobs would be lost during the bankruptcy.Any future cuts, they said, would be decided by the new company’s board — which is to include representatives appointed by the union, the administration and the government of Canada, which also lent money — and the successor to the Chrysler chief executive, Robert L. Nardelli, who said he would leave the company at the bankruptcy’s end.
Some older stuff now.
Local unions confident in Obama’s plan (Kokomo Tribune):
UAW Local 1166 representative Shawn Fain didn’t want a bankruptcy to occur at the company at all, nevertheless, he thinks it’s better it happened now.
“[Obama] cares about the families and the thousands of people this affects,” said Fain, who was also a member of the UAW Chrysler National Negotiating Committee. “If this was eight years ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all. We would have been liquidated.
“We hoped to avoid bankruptcy, but it’s here. We are not out of work and we have our jobs. Now, we need to get this [bankruptcy] done as fast as we can so we can get back to work.”
Meanwhile, Fiat appears to be building an empire out of some other US properties: Amber warning light as Fiat woos German ministers in attempt to take control of Opel."But some bankruptcy specialists warned that the court process can be unpredictable and difficult to manage in the case of a company as vast as Chrysler. Fearing the worst, for example, the National Automobile Dealers Association, which represents Chrysler dealers, has hired law firm Arnold & Porter to protect dealer investments.
The administration's assertion that the bankruptcy could wrap up within 60 days 'is something I would expect someone who has never been involved in a bankruptcy would say,' said Jean Robertson, chair of business restructuring at Calfee, Halter & Griswold. 'There is nothing typical about this case. It's like Frankenstein, and Frankenstein isn't pretty.'"
Bankrupt Chrysler owes Cummins $43.9M:"Chrysler LLC owes Cummins Inc. $43.9 million, the ailing automaker disclosed in its bankruptcy filing yesterday, making the southern Indiana company one of its top unsecured creditors.
A Cummins spokesman said some of that money will be covered by the U.S. Treasury Department's new Supplier Support Program, which the company entered last month.
'It's our belief a large percentage of that is going to be covered,' spokesman Mark Land said. 'That program is working. Some of it's already coming our way.'
Chrysler's bankruptcy raises big questions for Cummins, which less than two years ago counted the manufacturer's Dodge Ram pickup as its single-largest customer.
Cummins is the exclusive provider of diesel engines for the heavy-duty Dodge Ram, and it has been working on a new light-duty line."
In the worst economy we've seen in decades, Passlogix, a privately owned 100-person software development company, just received over a million dollars in prepaid commitments for the next three to five years of service. And they beat out several much larger more established companies, like CA (14,000 employees) and IBM (400,000 employees), to win those customers.
Now, how do you explain that? The bigger companies aren't getting similar deals. It's not standard in this industry to prepay contracts of that size and duration. And the clients received only a small reduction for their upfront payment, less than the cost of capital.
I think it's a trend. And understanding it might just be the difference between failing and thriving in this economy.
Yesterday morning I had breakfast with a good friend of mine, a mentor in the consulting industry. He's a senior partner in a large consulting company and has worked in one large company or another for the past 35 years. Really smart, really talented.
Now compare that to Passlogix, whose clients know they can pick up the phone and speak with Marc Boroditsky, the CEO. He tells clients about his commitment to the company and to them, and they know exactly who to call if the work isn't done to their expectations. That personal relationship, that trust, is important to them. They're willing to invest in it long term — to the tune of millions of dollars, up front.
And it's not just the CEO. If clients speak with other employees in the company, they'll get the same feeling of trust. A small company gives its employees a sense of security and employees pass that feeling on to clients. Not that small companies don't go out of business. They do all the time. But each employee has much greater control over his own destiny. In a company of 30 employees, if you do a great job, there is a good chance you'll be recognized. But in a company of thousands? It's easy to be missed. And easy to be laid off.
The gap of confidence between small companies and big ones is growing. We used to rely on the security of big companies. That's why we worked for them. And hired them. And put our money in them.
Recessions mean big changes for everyone and everything, including the marketing campaigns businesses use to reach customers. During economic downturns, the “same old, same old” advertising that carry businesses through prosperous times simply will not cut it. Our current recession is no exception, as businesses take to the Internet, radio, television, and billboards with marketing tactics that target the needs and concerns of consumers under duress rather than the products themselves. Here are twelve examples of such recession marketing strategies, as well as the companies known to employ them.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
"Real estate developer Lauth Investment Properties LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection this morning after months of weathering brutal market conditions here and across the country.
The filing in Indianapolis bankruptcy court listed assets and liabilities of up to $10 million.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Lauth Investment Properties represents only part of the Lauth Group Inc. development empire.
IBJ reported last month that Lauth Group had cut about 90 percent of its staff and lost control of part of its portfolio to an equity partner."
Fodder for special session
Should anything else be put on the table for a special session? Here’s a partial list of what didn’t happen:
–fixing the Capital Improvement Board mess
–streamlining local government
–funding mass transit
–banning smoking statewide in public places and businesses
–expanding charter schools
–forcing utilities to supply part of their electricity from renewable resources.
I wrote a few days ago that Gov. Mitch Daniels was probably rooting for a special session, seeing as how it is a proper distraction from his inability to push large portions of his legislative agenda through either half of the General Assembly this session. Bosma and his ilk clearly see lucrative political hay in a protracted battle, although their refusal to vote for anything over the last few weeks begs the question as to what exactly they do support other than their own re-election campaigns.
Pig flu: warnings the world ignored:
A team led by Dr Gregory Gray at the University of Iowa College of Public Health has long been investigating the risks of viruses jumping from animals to people. In November 2005, they published a major study in the scientific journal, Clinical Infection Diseases.
It pointed out that an enormous shift had taken place in pig farming in the US over the last 60 years. In 1965 there were more than a million farmers with an average of 50 pigs each, but now there are only 50,000 farmers with an average of 900 pigs each.
In Iowa there are nearly nine times more pigs than people, with 25 million hogs a year raised at 9,300 farms.
"The potential for animal-to-animal transmission will be much greater than on a traditional farm because of the pigs' crowding resulting in prolonged and more frequent contact," it argued.
"In addition, virus-laden secretions from pigs may be more concentrated, and reductions in ventilation and sunshine exposure may prolong viral viability."
The study warned swine workers could "initiate epidemics" by mixing viral strains which would then trigger a pandemic. "They may serve as a conduit for a novel virus to move from swine to man or from man to swine," the study said.
"One might envision that, once a novel virus is introduced into a densely populated swine barn, the viral loads swine workers would experience could overwhelm any partial immunity they might possess. After work, they may readily communicate that virus to their family members and neighbours."
Gray and his colleagues uncovered evidence that swine flu was widespread in farmers, meat processing workers and vets. They also pointed out that the infection now occurred all the year round in pig farms, instead of just seasonally as in the past.
Swine flu has disturbing echoes of bird flu H5N1. Its epicentre was the intensive poultry farms of Asia. One theory is that H5N1 originated at Qinghai Lake in northern China which is surrounding by intensive poultry farms whose "poultry manure", a euphemism for what is scraped off the floor - bird faeces, feathers and soiled litter - was used as feed and fertiliser in fish farms and fields around the lake. Worldwide, intensive poultry production, like pig meat production, has exploded and this growth has been mirrored by an increase in avian flu. In southeast Asian countries, where most of the H5N1 outbreaks are concentrated - Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam - production has jumped eight-fold in just three decades as cheap chicken meat has become an international commodity. Thai chicken, for instance, is a common ingredient in many UK ready-meals. They don't yet contain Mexican pork, but if our taste for cheap foreign meat persists, anything is possible.
Despite a persistent recession and soaring budget deficits, Democrats overwhelmingly endorsed the president's request for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending over the next decade for college loans, early childhood education programs, veterans' benefits and investments in renewable energy aimed at reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil.Congress Approves Obama's $3.4 Trillion Spending Blueprint - washingtonpost.com
Lawmakers also agreed to use a powerful procedural tool known as reconciliation to advance the president's proposal to expand health coverage for the uninsured -- a move that ensures Republicans would not be able to filibuster the legislation. Unlike in 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton unveiled a universal coverage plan that went nowhere on Capitol Hill, Obama has a strong mandate for change from both chambers of Congress and a mid-October deadline for key congressional committees to send legislation to the full House and Senate.
The budget resolution didn't win a single vote from Republican lawmakers, who were enraged that the deficit is projected to exceed $1.2 trillion next year. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called it an "audacious move to a big socialist government" that piles "debt on the backs of our kids and our grandkids."George F. Will - Washington Unreconciled on 'Reconciliation' and Torture - washingtonpost.com
Still, the measure passed the House by a vote of 233 to 193 and the Senate 53 to 43. Only 17 Democrats in the House and three in the Senate voted against it, as did Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who announced Tuesday that he would leave the Republican Party.
Approval of the budget blueprint marked a huge victory for Obama on his 100th day in office, but it was not a slam-dunk for him. Lawmakers trimmed his tax-cutting plans, refusing to extend his signature tax credit for working families past 2010 unless it is paid for. They sliced $10 billion from his spending request for non-defense programs in the fiscal year that begins in October and jettisoned his suggestion that another $250 billion would be needed to stabilize the banking system. They also refused to authorize the use of reconciliation for his plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
The reconciliation process was created in 1974 to facilitate adjustments of existing spending programs. Former senator John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says using reconciliation to ram through health-care reform would "circumvent the normal and customary workings of American democracy." But those workings have changed markedly.
The most important alteration of the legislative process in recent decades has been the increasingly promiscuous use of filibusters to impose a de facto supermajority requirement for important legislation. And "important" has become a very elastic term.
It should be difficult for government to act precipitously. "Great innovations," said Jefferson, "should not be forced on slender majorities." Revamping health care -- 17 percent of the economy -- qualifies as a great innovation. This is especially so because the administration and its allies, without being candid about what is afoot, are trying to put the nation on a glide path to a "single-payer" -- entirely government-run -- system. They would do this by creating a government health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. It would be able to -- indeed, would be intended to -- push private insurers out of business.
But when Republicans ran the Senate, they, too, occasionally made dubious use of reconciliation. And Republicans' merely situational commitment to legislative due process was displayed in 2003 when they held open a House vote for three hours until they could pressure enough reluctant Republicans to pass the prescription drug entitlement.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Proposals Would Transform College Aid - washingtonpost.com
If adopted, they could transform the financial aid landscape for millions of students while expanding federal authority to a degree that even Democrats concede is controversial.
At stake is a plan to expand the Pell Grant program, making it an entitlement akin to Medicare and Social Security. Key to the effort is a consolidation of student lending that would give the U.S. Department of Education a near monopoly over the practice -- a proposal that has mobilized the private loan industry, which lent $55.3 billion to 6.4 million students in the 2007-2008 school year.
Obama outlined his initiatives, which also include incentives for colleges to cut costs and to raise graduation rates, in the fiscal 2010 budget that Congress approved Wednesday, and Democratic leaders said they hope to make them law by October.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
These experiences have crystallized for me the need for Congress and the courts to reassert themselves in our system of checks and balances. The bills I have outlined are important steps in that process. Equally important is vigorous congressional oversight of the executive branch. This oversight must extend well beyond the problems of national security, especially as we cede more and more authority over our economy to government officials.
As for curbing executive branch excesses from within, I hope President Obama lives up to his campaign promise of change. His recent signing statements have not been encouraging. Adding to the feeling of déjà vu is TheWashington Post 's report that the new administration has reasserted the "state secrets" privilege to block lawsuits challenging controversial policies like warrantless wiretapping: "Obama has not only maintained the Bush administration approach, but [in one such case] the dispute has intensified." Government lawyers are now asserting that the US Circuit Court in San Francisco, which is hearing the case, lacks authority to compel disclosure of secret documents, and are "warning" that the government might "spirit away" the material before the court can release it to the litigants. I doubt that the Democratic majority, which was so eager to decry expansions of executive authority under President Bush, will still be as interested in the problem with a Democratic president in office. I will continue the fight whatever happens.
—April 16, 2009
Barack Obama is a truly flabbergasting president. And in a good way -- not the way some of his predecessors were. He's not flabberghastly.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
A statement issued by GM bondholders said: “We believe the offer to be a blatant disregard of fairness for the bondholders who have funded this company and amounts to using taxpayer money to show political favouritism of one creditor over another.” The advisers are preparing to issue a counter offer within the next ten days.
GM, in its revised survival plans, made no mention of Vauxhall, its British operation, which employs 5,000 people, nor of the German business operating under the Opel brand with a workforce of 25,000.
Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, the union, said that a fire-sale by GM of Opel and Vauxhall to Fiat might follow as part of GM’s restructuring. Mr Woodley said that the British, German and Spanish governments should fight such a move because GM Europe needed far more investment than Fiat could muster.
Fritz Henderson, chief executive of GM, admitted that the chance of bondholders agreeing to the debt-for-equity swap by the May 25 deadline was slight. He said: “It’s not impossible, but the bankruptcy is now more probable.”
Thin the headline says it all - very close to the feces hitting the fan. is this a game of chicken or a drag race down a blind alley?
Monday, April 27, 2009
"Thanks to the stimulus plan, a part-time dentist and three other health workers will soon arrive at the health center that sits along Ohio Avenue in the shadows of closed plants. The building, where patients squeeze into in a few examination rooms, will expand to house nearly triple the work force of 35 if a federal grant of $450,000 arrives.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m saying, Thank God,” said Mr. Malone, president of the Madison County Community Health Center, which like other offices here is troubled by budget shortfalls. “Yes, stimulus money makes a difference. It’s created a new sense of hope in this community.”"
A drive through Anderson brings to life some of the complex challenges that Mr. Obama inherited, notably the final shift to a service-based economy. A casino with a flashing neon advertisement, “Easy Come, Easy Dough,” sits near a Starbucks and a string of other chain stores, while less than a mile away is a desolate patch once so busy with General Motors workers that plants staggered schedules to keep traffic moving.These problems are far bigger than one president, particularly because Anderson has been in economic decline since Mr. Obama was a teenager. Its history can be glimpsed in symbols of the past that remain open, like the Lemon Drop Drive In and Gene’s Root Beer.
Norman became a broken man when sterling was forced off the gold standard by a run on the pound and — perhaps more inexplicable to Norman — after a new American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, chose to devalue the dollar when he didn’t have to. In 1948, a couple of years before he died, Norman wrote: “As I look back, it now seems that, with all the thought and work and good intentions, which we provided, we achieved absolutely nothing… Nothing that I did, and very little that old Ben [Strong] did, internationally produced any good effect — or indeed any effect at all except that we collected money from a lot of poor devils and gave it over to the four winds.”
It would be tempting to dismiss the interwar years as a period of collective insanity, when there were no voices of common sense and reason among the world’s political, economic and intellectual leaders. But that would not be right. The great British economist, John Maynard Keynes, routinely saw the elephant in the room and was ignored until it was too late. Keynes was eventually invited to be a member of the Court of the Bank of England, where he regularly lunched with Norman. “I do enjoy these lunches at the Bank,” said Keynes. “Montagu Norman always absolutely charming, always absolutely wrong.”
A group of Ball State University business and telecommunications student fellows will debut their documentary film entitled Increasing the Odds: Starting a Business. The presentation on April 30 will begin with hors d'oeuvres at 6 p.m. after which the film will premiere at 6:45 p.m. in the Interurban Hall of the Horizon Convention Center.
The film features a number of start-up businesses in various stages of development to illustrate the process. Insight from top executives at Vera Bradley, Anheuser-Busch and Ball Corporation represent the large, well-known and developed companies. Muncie's Blue Bottle Coffee Shop and Air Robotics LLC are included in the film to feature younger and smaller start-up companies.
Admission to the film is free and open to the public.Information: www.bsu.edu/vbc or call the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at 287-0117.
There has been plenty of speculation over what impact the Federal stimulus package will have on Indiana communities. On Friday -- more than 100 days into the Obama administration and two months after the beginning of funds distribution -- E. Mitchell Roob Jr. will discuss the outlook for how dollars will be utilized throughout Indiana, with particular attention paid to the implications for health care information technology. Roob is the Indiana Secretary of Commerce and chief executive officer of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Roob will speak in a video conference of the latest TechPoint New Economy New Rules briefing. The conference can be viewed at the Ball State University Alumni Center, with registration to begin at 8 a.m.
There is no charge to attend, but register by contacting Susan Orebaugh at 751-9116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barack Obama's audacity of hype crumbles
"Gary, Indiana is like an eagle poised to fly," mayor Rudy Clay tells me, "All we need is the air of the fiscal stimulus beneath our wings and we'll soar once again and make America proud."
The mayor has applied for $400 million out of Barack Obama's $787 billion fiscal stimulus plan. Top of his wish list are automatic weapons and Kevlar vests for the police, and some more police to tote them: last year, in this, the crime capital of the Midwest, he had to lay off police officers due to shortage of funds.
The city symbolises the scale of the economic challenge facing Obama as he approaches 100 days in office. If the president is to deliver something more than the "audacity of hype", homes will have to be built in Gary, health care delivered, and a way found for its inhabitants to live on something more than benefits and debt. But much of America is in revolt against what needs to happen for this to be achieved. And Obama's own momentum on the economic front looks weak.
If there is a pattern emerging here it is not incompetence but, say Obama's critics, "capture". Both Bernanke and Geithner stood at the heart of the Bush policy elite during the days of dither and denial that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Obama, lacking credible economic heavyweights in his own circle, was obliged to reach into the ranks of Clinton-era Democrats. The irony of Larry Summers' appointment as chief economic adviser was not lost on historians of the credit crunch: Summers had hailed the 1999 law that deregulated Wall Street as "a major step toward the 21st century".
Obama is surrounded by decision-makers who had "drunk the Kool Aid" during the subprime bubble and were profoundly committed to the neoliberal ideology of self-regulation that has now fallen apart. Only the fiscal stimulus truly bears Obama's chosen brand values of audacity and untaintedness. But this, too, is proving heavily problematic.
In January, two Left-leaning members of Obama's transition team laid out radical objectives for the stimulus plan. It would "create or save" between three and four million jobs by the end of 2010 and boost GDP by 3.7 per cent. It would be delivered not primarily through tax cuts but by public spending. And, though construction and energy would account for a quarter of the job creation, more than a million extra health, education and social care jobs would be created, together with 800,000 public sector jobs saved at state level.
As Obama's 100th day approaches, the dangers looming on the economic front are clear: neither on monetary, fiscal nor banking policy is there a tangibly successful programme in place. Meanwhile, the economic pain is getting worse, encouraging his opponents to chip away at his credibility.
Both people confirmed that the plan includes the death of Pontiac, famous for the Trans Am sports car and the GTO. Efforts in the last few years to market Pontiac as performance-oriented brand failed to work. The company had said it wanted to keep Pontiac as a niche brand with one or two models, but is buckling under tremendous government pressure to consolidate its eight brands, several of which lose money.
The people said GM won’t have much new information on Hummer, Saturn or other brands, including Europe’s Opel. GM has indicated it wants to focus on four core brands, Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.
“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others. In 1997, the year an international climate agreement that came to be known as the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, its budget totaled $1.68 million, according to tax records obtained by environmental groups.
DETROIT — Union leaders said Sunday that they had reached an agreement with Chrysler that meets the federal government’s requirements for the automaker to receive more financing.
The deal also includes Fiat, the Italian automaker with which Chrysler was ordered by the government to form an alliance before Thursday.
Neither the United Automobile Workers union nor the company released details of the agreement, which modifies the union’s 2007 contract and reduces the amount of money Chrysler must pay into a new health care fund for retirees.
DETROIT -- Chrysler’s lenders have delivered another counterproposal to President Barack Obama’s auto task force, as the gap narrows on what the company can pay and what creditors will accept to reduce $6.9 billion in loans, according to a source familiar with the process.
In New York, a group representing Chrysler's secured lenders on Thursday was preparing to send to Treasury its latest terms to wipe out much of the $6.9 billion in company debt they carry. The two sides remain far apart in these crucial talks.
The Canadian Auto Workers said Thursday night they were close to a deal on labor concessions with Chrysler, but with the number of details still to be worked out, talks were expected to continue today.
In Italy, Fiat SpA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said he was still committed to concluding an alliance with Chrysler, but reiterated that the Italian automaker would not inject cash to close the deal.
In Washington, the Obama administration's auto task force continued intensive negotiations with the United Auto Workers on an agreement to protect the bulk of workers' health care and pension benefits in the event of bankruptcy.
At an extraordinary moment when the global financial crisis has put governments, rather than auto executives, in the driver’s seat, Mr. Marchionne may have found a way to build an empire with — almost — no money down.
In his first 100 days in office, former President George W. Bush preempted primetime only once, for his State of the Union Address.
Obama is asking for the 8 p.m. slot on Wednesday to discuss his first 100 days in office. This is inconvenient for the networks because it falls during the May sweeps period.
CBS and ABC have lined up new episodes of their comedies, while Fox planned to air a new episode of "Lie to Me." NBC is running a repeat of "Law & Order." (News Corp. owns Fox and The Post.)
The networks got Obama's request on Thursday. Both Fox and NBC said no decision had been made as of yesterday evening. Both networks also have the option of shifting it to their respective cable-news outlets, Fox News and MSNBC.
Considering how well the mainstream press did not cover the Bush White House, considering the crisis to date. perhaps the networks should bite their tongues. As for those complaining aobut too much Obama - it helps to see that guy in the Oval Office is working and not complaining about how hard a job he has.
But a careful analysis of the record shows that the picture is more complex and, ultimately, far less daunting: An investor who invested a lump sum in the average stock at the market’s 1929 high would have been back to a break-even by late 1936 — less than four and a half years after the mid-1932 market low.
How can this be? Three factors have obscured this truth from investors: deflation, dividends and the distinction between the Dow Jones industrial average and the overall stock market.
Other protesters contended that the tax system already strains the vital connection between individual effort and reward and warned that further tax increases might destroy it.
But these accusations don’t withstand scrutiny. The current system is much fairer than many people believe, and the president’s proposal will make it both fairer and more efficient.
Contrary to what many parents tell their children, talent and hard work are neither necessary nor sufficient for economic success. It helps to be talented and hard-working, of course, yet some people enjoy spectacular success despite having neither attribute. (Lip-synching members of boy bands? Money managers who bet clients’ retirement savings on subprime-mortgage-backed securities?)
Far more numerous are talented people who work very hard, only to achieve modest earnings. There are hundreds of them for every skilled, perseverant person who strikes it rich — disparities that often stem from random events.
The president’s proposal is modest: raising the top marginal tax rate from 35 percent to 39.5 percent, its level when Bill Clinton left office and well below the corresponding level in most other industrial countries. There has never been a shortage of talented people willing to work hard for success — even in countries with top rates much higher than 50 percent. And the president’s proposal would not cause such a shortage in 2010.
It would, however, promote more efficient provision of public services, in much the same way that contingent fee contracts often promote more efficient provision of services in the private sector. For example, when lawyers are willing to waive fees unless their client wins, wrongfully injured accident victims often gain legal representation they couldn’t otherwise afford. Similarly, when government levies higher tax rates on the wealthy, we can provide public services that the wealthy and others greatly value but that would otherwise be beyond reach. Under such a tax system, the heavier tax bill becomes payable only if we’re lucky enough to end up among life’s biggest winners.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
An Indiana biotechnology company announced yesterday that it has begun producing a genetically modified yeast that promises to make it easier and faster to turn corn cobs, wood chips and a host of agricultural wastes into ethanol.
Green Tech America Inc. of West Lafayette said its modified yeast ferments both major forms of sugar - glucose and xylose - involved in creating cellulosic ethanol from plant matter.
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