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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saving the Auto Industry - Part II - "The Big Wigs"

In a rather telling indicator of the second part of the discussion on "salvaging" the auto industry's giant, a member of the U.S. government - "on the floor" - when faced with the request by industry officials for additional funding to bolster the operation, rather pointedly asked who, among them, had flown "commercial" to attend the meeting. No one responded.

"Let the record show", he said, "none of the officials in attendance has indicated that they have flown commercial."

To their credit, two or three of the officials smiled in response. However, under the circumstances, the smiles were completely inappropriate and, at that point in the equation between seeking recognition from the populace which supports it, and asking them for their money without buying anything to show for it, it became almost a mockery of the very procedure.

I like to think helpfully.

I like to think that those officials, faced with the daunting task of holding so many futures in their hands, were unaccustomed to both begging, and recognizing that that was what they were doing. As a result, they did what is socially acceptable of "in control officials" in an exceedingly awkward situation: they tried to look like they WERE in control. Often, we do this by exhibiting a lightheartedness in a desperately difficult situation. It then becomes almost unreal, rather than potentially devastating, if a mistake is made.

It was painfully obvious that those smiles were an indicator of extreme awkwardness - and yet not one person indicated that they recognized the serious of the request - and the situation - by having provided the leadership of a simple thing like "flying commercial" - something government officials MUST do, as an accountability factor, every single day.

It was an indicator, simply put, of instant expectation, in behaviour, outlook, and expected result, and it was an immediate, serious, and honourable one. I am not sure how successful, or sobering, it was, sans the smug superiority the ires of the irascible executive would intantly have read into it, in a moment of extreme personal discomfort, but it was a very gentle shock to the "system" which requires such examples, and quickly, if we are, as a group, to bring a group of people to the brink of personal ruin, and back again.

Consider the following, ensuing realities, in tandem with working with "the line", if you will:

1. The requirement for all company officials in management to pay for their cars, like those on the floor. Certainly, there will be drastic, and immediate incentives for these purchases, but there will be no more "freebies". They are ambassadors for a necessity - from the salesman's perspective which they will support - not a draw on a currently overstretched system. Nothing in this life is free, and especially not during the implosion of the industry from which it is drawing blood on a constant basis, without replenishment.

2. A recognition that administration feeds the "outgoing" business of making sales. At this point, all bonuses should be cut, and all percentages given to the people "on the sales floor" - in this case, dealerships - in order to "move out" old stock, and move in new stock. If they do not sell, you do not have a reason to produce. This is a reality everyone seems to have forgotten. Even more so than the "creators" of the commodity, if you do not have a market, then you had better make one for yourselves again, even if it means "brutal shock sales" for a brief period of time. If you break even, you are still not "under". The danger is not underselling, and, thus, devaluing your commodity, on a permanent basis. This is called "market glut" and "flooding", and farmers know about it well, in a market which does not have the same standards, the same expectations, or the same costs. They fight back with a marketing board, and the odd subsidy. Perhaps it's time we treated our auto industry with the same considerate eye to import/export relationships, if we are serious about maintaining it as an entity. At this point, on the long road back, this is a huge step over constant, steady loss. It only goes up from here....

3. Recognize that this equation, this input/outpout relationship, and this priority, in the chain of production and replenishment, must be an ongoing one. You cannot continue to suck upon the teat that has no output. Eventually, the sustenance dries up. Seasonal imbalances are one thing: constant draw with no "busy time" means L O S S. Customer brand loyalty, although true for a time, will not endure if there is no integrity during a tough period, in product, service, and considerate cost management during a period of slump. They are telling you that they want something different. You are not listening. It is time you did - and fast. The recognition of "help and continuance" must bring with it a different way of doing business. Period.

4. Also recognize that allowing even a partial "Chapter 11" bankruptcy to occur will do nothing to fix the problems which exist at the top. They will only punish the line workers who will only pledge to seriously examine the "group pain" required if it begins at the top, and includes them, and their input for saving the industry, at every step. If you are not on the same team, and continue a pattern of adversarial blame, and ultimate target, during a near bankruptcy, they will NOT be on the same team, and any attempts to begin the painful idea of salary, wage reductions, job sharing, cost cutting, job layoff, and renewed input for streamlining, employee stock options, rotating and voluntary "time offs", and other drastic measures, will simply not be on the very large round table which is still possible, and could begin a new, and exciting era in an industry which takes a long, hard look at itself, shakes off its doldrums and its arrogance, and, like Madonna, successfully reinvents itself with an exciting, bold, mercurial, and always gutsy renewed sense OF its own possibilities. Use the ingenuity within, without hesitation. Use the bold and unexpected approaches. Woo the unreached, and lull the already won.

Your audience, and our chariots, await. Only the horses know what happens next...wink.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saving the Auto Industry - from the Inside out

Amidst worried governmental approaches to industry "bailouts", an inclusive, revolutionary change must occur within the auto industry which, essentially - at least for the time being - sets in place the means by which a kind of inclusive nationalization takes place.

Why? In the midst of near chapter status, involvement needs to be on ALL levels, and the seriousness, and the speed, with which these changes occur, need to be immediate, if we are to actually HAVE an industry at all. Thus far, despite the fact that the fallout will touch virtually every single community in both the United States and Canada, if it implodes, and in every place where there is a car dealership, a car service depot, a plant which feeds into the industry, and gas stations which depend upon vehicular appetite to sustain travel poosibility throughout the nation. Thus far, again, no one seems to be taking this seriously enough. If they go, the country will slide into immediate depression - in many, many ways.

Not one to dwell on the problem, but only the answers required for immediate action, I radically propose the following:

1. Immediate involvement of all employees, in the form of a REDIRECTED 20 percent pay cut, which immediately goes into available cash flow, and SHARES PURCHASE FOR EMPLOYEES. The Lee Iacocca model works, but it only does so if there is a recognized change in attitude, and a shared desire to keep both jobs and industry viable. "Cents an hour increase", for the next three years, at least (or as long as it takes to make immediate retool adjustments to assembly lilnes to restart all current products on the assembly lines. This must immediately reflect what has sold in the last six months to a year, with realistic, projected growth for brands that wil sell, are affordable for a populace whose income has shrunk, and whose fuel consumption will reflect the shift to alternative, and fossil-augmented fuel sources, in the coming years. This must be approved by all board member participants - which will include employee shareholder representatives, whose holdings will always be required, before the industry is shut down as a whole.

2. An immediate "huddle" with the petro chemical industry, to explore what fuel alternatives are being implemented over the next five years. The industry, itself, as well as oil sands refining and drilling efforts, needs to be the pioneer within its OWN INDUSTRY, to explore and develop alternative measures with which it will sustain itself, in generations to come. This is revolutionary, and will require what other businesses call "branch out activities." The time to do this is NOW. Shareholders within the petrochemical industries will begin to demand, and expect this, as part of shareholder securities. Simply put, what measures are being put in place to ensure that my investments are in an industry that is sustaining itself, by "diversifying"? In any other area, this would be considered "intelligent investment continuance", with as low a MER as possible. This is doable, ladies and gentlemen. You have been avoiding it.

3. In addition to guaranteed industry loans which will require, again, corporate decisionmaking inclusion at every level, as part of its guarantee (for when public moneys are uses, safeguards WILL BE IN PLACE), immediate action needs to occur by governments in the following areas:

a)tax cuts which encourage use of, location of, and CONTINUANCE of, operations in North America.

b)tax cuts to auto industry, and offshoot industry operations which seriously demonstrate a committed approach to saving themselves, with creative scheduling, job sharing, employee reinvestment, early retirements - but not necessarily, since this involves capital outlay, and a loss of some its most experienced, and "stick to it" coaching skills, for the teams that will need it, to get through this difficult period, "on call" stipends, for those who may be required for a shift on overtime, if needed, but will remain "on page" for three hour call in periods, rather than full shifts, as a minimum. This will only be for overtime, to begin with, and will hopefully not be required to augment regular shifts - but for those who can afford it, if it is noted that the line can be thinned, during an eveing, the ability to "volunteer an early night", to cut shift expenses, when the line is thin, may do so, without penalty or recrimination. We will all do more, with less - including living on our salary, with overtime a welcome, and carefully used, extra.

Where possible, overtime might be banked as time, or optioned as reinvestment in company shares, to boost the available liquid capital.

These measures should be investigated, and considered, by any governments considering investing public funds into a faltering company. Just how serious are these people about saving their industry, before the public bails them out? Remember: we all make far less than you, and have been doing so for quite some time, and yet, our purchases ensure your viability. This relationship needs to be recognized. How are you continuing to make it possible for us to support you, in terms of "purchasable vehicles for all?"

c)Small business loans which encourage, or support, diversification or improvement to upgrade technologies supporting the auto industry "shift":


4. The serious recognition by the public that if we do not support our own industry, we will not have one. The result of dependency is obvious, geopolitically. Can you imagine your transportation in the hands of someone who may wish you dead, as an entity? The next time you make a purchase, think long and hard about this. It is not xenophobia. It is reality. Charity begins at home. The reason international sales shifts occur is by lowballing local industry. We have seen this in other areas, and farmers have been dealilng with it for years, as part of GATT and other "low import" gluts, which effectively destroy domestic markets.

What measures has the government put into place, notwithstanding the speed with which they tried to implement NAFTA, to ensure that trade gluts are not designed to destroy the competition? Sun Tzu says one must examine these movements with considered thoughtfulness. Have you done this - with ultimate goals in perspective, erasing the sales naivite which suggests "friendly competition" against the backdrop of a heretofore "dying" industry? Who says its If you had any brains, we would be sustaining ourselves by agricultural production which augments transportation - field crops grown to feed the engines, as well as the mouths who drive them. But then, you scoffed at LIVE OIL, as opposed to DEAD OIL, as a concept, when I brought it up ten years ago. Are you doing that, now? I think not.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the second of several parts of "internal rebirth." I have only just begun. Our transformation will be a shared and satisfying thing, methinks.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Misted Landing's Victory

The sleet spread like fingers across the blot of sky,

Tapering, like a skeleton trace, its oblong blob scratch of water, scarring the windshield, thusly -

More tears across a charcoal landscape of smoke wisps and huddling howling, its icy nearness

Of Season,

Sliding close.

The tap tap tapping of taps increased, as the temperature dropped, and the water's rhythm


A "dance macabre"against eagle sky time venture, a hesitant, dark brood messenger of apology betwixt intruded rage storm sky territory, signalling Death, nonetheless.

And yet! - amidst the shimmering vistas of exploding clouds - a blot of blue;

Only orbits of hope can seem, then, as these moments show themselves:

Sweet surety of scope, and flight, and hope intermingled,

As each and all winged prayers whoosh forward, hurtling

Towards themselves; a hopeful blot, annointed not as blight,

But Bird, life honored,


D. Nevills


This grey rain, which swirls and wails, beyond these walls, bemoaning the long darkness

Until its rebirth, short months away,

Is harbinger.

And what of? I will scoff at this darkness, only eye glow held against misery;

I shall be your spring, first, lit as I am, amidst the folds and comforts here,

And, drawn such, languid and longing,

Suggest honey upon honeyed, warmed and liquid, glass reflected as it is

in this resting time of winter's ice vista.

You shall be - and me,

Mellowing with the we, until (such-like and sometimes),

It is suddenly us,


D. Nevills Nov. 15, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Helpful Tips in Answer to tough questions

Question: I went with an exorcist for a bit. I just want to know really practical things, do you hold someone possessed by the devil?"

Answer: Tip 1.

Start with plain black gym pants emblazoned with the adage, "Flake Off", in sparkles. on your ass. A little gentle flower-like snowflake beside it is also a nice fashion touch. A lot of the ministers really go for it. Be firm, and don't be afraid to protrude once in a while, like a real ass, instead of just a little dawnkey. Then begin, carefully, to do a passable fox trot by yourself in the living room. Hold your arms up - but not beside your ears, like a goof. People will mistake you for a flower, or a tree, if they are partially blind, when shooting. This could be helpful, in certain conditions, but not in others, so store that away for later. Sway gently, unless you have had a hip replacement. Don't undo some very fine work just because you have too much "petal pride" to try another dance move, but avoid the "full body twirl" if you've been known to hit your head a lot. You may fall down, and have to be a rock. This involves a lot of patience in a major production, but is kind of tiring - sort of like guarding a dumpster for three days, in the pouring rain: helpful work, but one involving real self discipline.

2. Question: How do you recover from a tricky moment of possible embarassment?

Tip 2. Learn the quip.

Example: During attendance at a knitting class, I once actually knit my one hand TO the needles, accidentally, for instance.
I almost had to go to special class for crafters, because all the ladies thought I might be retarded, or "challenged", to use the modern, kinder term, (in terms of pattern retention), when I held up my hand - which had suddenly become a webbed wonder with spikes sticking out of it, in a universal message of peace, rather like a very thin alien.
I told them, ( rather drolly, I thought ) that I was "practicing to be a spider", in my own self defence. They looked confused, but I raised my self esteem tremendously, without any prior training, or insulting anyone.
One lady said very quietly, afterwards, that she had peed a little bit when I said it, but had managed mightily not to laugh out loud, in case my feelings got hurt, and I left the class, and did I think that that was all right in mixed company, as long as no one else knew about it? She didn't want to tell her daughter, in case she was accidentally mistaken for a really old person, who couldn't hold their maybe, their late nineties, or something. She had just turned eighty.

Later, considering my possible failure in this area of womanhood - and one which I value, too, along with a wellmade quilt, which can cost hundreds of dollars - I thought, in a moment of expansive inclusiveness, that hunting, too, could very well include stabbing the meat with knitting needles wound to your hand, if only a technique could be invented for it - while staying busy, God forbid - and wearing a glowing flack jacket in the pitch dark, in case a truck ran you over.

Irrelevancy wasn't my only talent. It was clear knowledge that I had baited both of my brother's hooks with crayfish, in the past. Then they invented gummie bears, and my shortlived career was over. Weird damned fish. Made you want to buy a quilt, and fall asleep, after a good meal of homemade pizza....with, well...maybe a few long as they hadn't been stabbed first.

More later! I'm tired.