Friday, March 28, 2008

UAW Membership down 14%
Gettelfinger's Pay up 4%

From the Detroit News: the UAW disclosed that its membership is now below 500,000 for the first time since World War II, now at 464,910, down almost 14% from last year. The union has lost 237,000 members since 2001.

Nevertheless, UAW financial coffers are doing quite well. The union earned $75.2 million in interest last year. UAW president, Ron Gettelfinger received a 4% raise. I have to admit though, that Ron did an excellent job in navigating the recent contract negotiations. He was probably underpaid at his 2005 salary of $150,763. Hmmm, that figure is awfully close to the salary of HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED.

I don't think I need to tell you what these trend lines tell you for UAW-LSP attorney employment. It is therefore crucial that we hold out for severence pay in our next contract. We can't rely on transfers and attrition.
American Axle Strike Starting to Hurt GM
Lines to Screech to a Halt for the "Dogs of Lordstown"

Word came yesterday that the ongoing strike at American Axle threatens to shutdown its first GM car assembly factory. Up till now, the idled facilities built trucks and suvs, models that had excess inventory anyway. Now it's GM's small car factory that is facing the hurt.

The Lordstown, Ohio factory that builds the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 may soon shut down due to lack of brake parts. Apparently American Axle supplies a key part to a subcontractor that provides brake assemblies to the Lordstown plant.

The Cobalt and the G5 are not superstars. They are competent if unspectacular performers, but they are among GM's largest selling auto models, always in the top 10 in Canada. Demand for fuel-efficient models is increasing, and GM can ill-afford to lose the CAFE credits that the Cobalt/G5 provide.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Holy Obradma Batman

Yesterday, the news story was that Hillary and Barack are related through Brad Pitt. Also, Hillary and Angelina are related. It had to happen, the composite pictures. Here's the Brad and Barack composite from the Prettyontheoutside blog. What, me worry?
Ford Completes Deal with Tata

Ford Motor Company (finally) announced that it has come to terms with Tata Motors on the sale of the Jaguar and Land Rover divisions. Ford will net about $1.7 Billion from the transaction. That's a small fraction of what Ford paid for these companies, and an even smaller fraction of the cash and development resources that Ford invested after purchase. Consider that it takes about $5 billion to develop one new model, it's clear that the $2.3 billion gross price was a fire sale.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sirius and XM Merger Approved

The Department of Justice finally approved the Sirius and XM satellite radio merger. It may be years before the channel lineups are fully integrated. Current hardware is not compatible between the two services. I'm hoping for NFL Network access on XM next year though.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Chris Elliot's Rocketman

Last Month, I posted a link to William Shatner's Rocketman. Here's Chris Elliot's cover of William Shatner's cover. As obscure as the Shatner
version is now, it was probably even more obscure in the early 90's
when Chris did this version on the David Letterman Show. Needless to
say, back in the early nineties, you had to work a lot harder to find
your clips ofShatner singing.
Tribute Band of the Day: The ZOMBEATLES
Hard Day's Night Of The Living Dead

What Can You Do With One Semester of Spanish?

You can sing the "One Semester of Spanish Love Song.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From the "I don't want to go on the cart" file:
Ford Workers Saying No to Buyouts

What if you threw an early retirement party, and nobody came? That's the question being asked at Ford right now. The company just completed a force reduction buyout program, and apparently the results were below expectations. Whereas the 2006 buyout plan yielded 33,000 takers, the 2008 plan has so far netted fewer than 9,000 participants. This despite payouts of up to $140,000 per worker.

It seems that anyone who thought they had a future outside the company has already jumped ship. Many of the workers that Ford would like to see leave are handcuffed by a poor housing market. Property values in Greater Detroit have plunged amid record foreclosures. Many workers are upside down on their homes, and if they left, they would have to pay their lenders a big chunk of any lump sum they received from Ford.

Primary Source: Bloomberg News

To Arms! To Arms! The Supreme Court Says it's OK

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in District of Columbia vs. Heller, and it looks like they are bound to rule that the Second Amendment right to bear arms gives us the individual right to own guns. It's hard to say what the brave new world of gun ownership has in store for us, but here's the first sign: Guns for Lego toys. A company called Brickarms,, provides a comprehensive assortment of well-armed characters for your play world, but if you already have the figures, Brickarms can provide the guns.

Thanks to for the initial info.

Monday, March 17, 2008

American Idol "Woulda'Been" #1
Ann Wilson

I don't know about you, but I'm somewhat disappointed with this year's finalists for American Idol, especially the women. I was thinking about what singers from previous eras would have made good American Idol contestants. The first one is Ann Wilson of Heart. I had the pleasure to hear her sing live on more than one occasion. Here's a link to a video from Midnight Special in 1976, just when Heart was catching on nationally. Nobody does Crazy on you like Ann.

(By the way, when I think about "woulda beens", I have to exclude Whitney, Mariah, Celine, and Elvis. Given how badly today's contestants fair when they taken on songs by these one-name singers, the originals get instant "woulda-been status.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

British Take on the Mortgage Crisis

Bird and Fortune explain the subprime mortgage loan crisis. "It's hard work doing nothing." Thanks to David L. for the link.

20 GM Plants Slowed or Idled by American Axle Strike

As of today, 20 General Motors plants will either be slowed or idled due to the strike at American Axle. The strike of 3,600 American Axle workers is now significantly affecting GM plants with 27,258 workers, a third of GM's workforce. Resolution of this strike is proving to be difficult because American Axle is reportedly asking its employees to cut their pay in half from $28.15 per hour to $14.50. This despite the fact that American Axle is profitable, at least it was in the financial period before this particular strike. American Axle is apparently offering buyouts from $80,000 to $110,000.

There appears to be a big difference between the way American Axle is going about its negotiation and the way the Big 2.8 did. The buyout packages were negotiated with the union in the case of the Big 2.8. American Axle seems to be taking a "take it or leave it" approach.

Some commentators are criticizing the UAW for allowing a small supplier to shut down large customers. These commentators fail to realize that contract negotiations are undertaken at the local or company level. If I were an American Axle employee, no way would I let them cut my wages in half without striking. These workers don't even have UAW Legal Services benefits to buffer them from their creditors.

For an interesting perspective on the American Axle strike and American Axle's history of outsourcing jobs to Mexico & beyond, check out Joe's Union Review blog.

Primary Source: Detroit Free Press

Thursday, March 06, 2008

From the "There's $2 billion you'll never see again" File
GM to Loan Delphi $2 Billion

In previous posts about Delphi, I wondered where the cash was going to come from to cover for the operational losses that Delphi was posting while under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Not too surprisingly, General Motors appears to be a big part of the answer.

According to the Detroit News, GM is proposing to loan Delphi an additional $2 billion to allow Delphi to emerge from chapter 11. In the original Delphi plan, Delphi was supposed to pay General Motors, but now GM is proposing to send a couple more billion dollars in cash to Delphi, and to end up with an equity stake in Delphi as well as IOUs. The catch: the other investors in the Delphi bankruptcy financing are objecting to the terms of the deal as being too favorable to GM. Of course, those investors aren't rushing to invest their own good money in new deck chairs for the Delphi-Titanic.

The Detnews also states that Delphi has failed to contribute $2 billion in pension fund obligations accrued since 2005. Waivers of these payments won't necessarily be coming from the appropriate government authorities.

The current deadline to have a deal done is April 4, but deadlines have come and gone in the Delphi case before. I would be surprised if this doesn't go beyond April 4 with no resolution.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clone wars: Cats vs. Bananas

What are cats good for? Cats are our secret weapon in the war against the killer clones. If you are a highly educated person, you may realize that almost all the bananas we eat are clones. What people don't realize is that these clones aren't harmless plants. Oh, no, they are killers, just waiting for the time to strike. Fortunately Kitty ain't havin' it.

American Axle Strike Effects multiply

It's not exactly the butterfly effect, but a strike at American Axle, hardly the largest auto supplier, has already idled six General Motors plants, and now supplier plants are starting to shut down as well. According to Automotive News, Lear Corp. has already laid off 1,000 workers and slowed down work in 7 plants. Magna International has also slowed its production. Autonews reports that lost production by GM is currently at 3,667 vehicles per day from six closed plants, but if the strike is not resolved, lost production could reach 16,884 cars per day by this coming Saturday.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Today's Sponsor
The Shining - A New Romantic Comedy from Stephen King

Ariel Atom 500 V8

A fast car may have a power to weight ratio of 1 horsepower for every 20 lbs. The 1001 horsepower, 254 MPH, Bugatti Veyron has a 1/4 ratio. The Ariel Atom 500 V8 packs 500 horsepower into a package that weighs just over 1000 lbs. Per pound, it has twice the power of the Bugatti. Holy _____ . Supposedly, you can drive this on the street. I know I could -- for about five seconds. After that they'd be peeling me off the side of a building like a sticker. I don't know whether they'd be able to peel the smile off my face or not. Here's a clip of an Ariel Atom in action. I don't know whether it is the V8 or not.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Predatory Lending Association

If you have 5 minutes to spare, check out this is actually a parody website, spoofing the various industry-trade sites in the consumer lending industry, especially those relating to payday loans. is basically an "honest" version of those sites.

Models or Not?
Netherlands for Healthcare
Finland for Education

Things have been flying at me right and left lately. Thank goodness for the exercise bike as an excuse to actually read some of it. I received my issue of the Public Citizen Health Letter which has a cover story discussing in detail the healthcare system in the Netherlands. The Dutch system has been hailed by some as an alternative to single payer plans and a model for adoption in the US. Public Citizen doesn't think so. Very briefly, the Dutch plan is a spiritual successor to the "managed competition" Clinton plan of the 1990s. The cornerstone of the plan is mandatory private insurance, with about 1/3 of the total premiums paid by the state through a health care tax. The biggest problem with the system per Public Citizen is the 30% administrative overhead consumed by the insurance companies. The system has limited benefits and does not actually provide universal care. The health letter is not available on line.

The second thing is a Wall Street Journal article about the education system in Finland. After objecting to my children's (public) school uniform policy, it is comforting to know that in Finland, where the schools beat all comers, there are no school uniforms. Surprisingly, children don't start school until age 7, and the classes are not differentiated by ability. Check out the story, it's an interesting read.