June 25, 2009

It's a Great Day to Be a Cable Television News Anchor

Geraldo Rivera at Faux Noise: It's all about meeee! I was ready to shave off my mustache if Michael Jackson was convicted of child molestation. Let me tell you about my visits to the Neverland Ranch and the Playboy Mansion.

Larry King at CNN: It's all about meee! Here's a picture of me with Michael Jackson in 1971. Here's a radio interview I did with Michael Jackson in Miami in 1970. Here's me with Barbara Walters in 1957. Here's me with Joey Bishop before electricity was invented.

Keith Olbermann at MSNBC: It's all about meeee! Hear my deep, serious tone of voice as I fill 24 hours regarding the poignancy of Michael Jackson's death. Don't I sound like Edward R. Murrow or some serious journalist?

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Read more!

June 17, 2009

Going Postal

Several days ago, I sent my parents an anniversary card with the wrong zip code on the envelope. Surprisingly, the card arrived at their home, all the way across the country, on time. This got me thinking about the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Service is a favorite pinata for many people, who knock it for supposed inefficiency, lost mail, and workers who, every once in a while, "go postal" with an automatic weapon. But think about the millions of pieces of mail, many of which, like my card, are addressed with errors or at least bad handwriting, that the Postal Service accurately processes and delivers each day, for a measly 44 cents per letter. You can't buy a can of Coke for 44 cents. Nor a Snickers bar. Not even a day's worth of cable television or Internet service. And how many letters, postcards, and packages have you mailed in your lifetime? How many times has your mail gotten lost? I cannot even think of a single time that it has happened to me.

Some people claim that most everything in this world, including the Postal Service, should be "privatized." Imagine if the Postal Service was privatized. I cannot fathom that mail delivery would be any more efficient, or any cheaper. Just look at services like UPS and Federal Express. To me, they're quite expensive, and, despite their fancy online tracking capabilities, each of them has lost deliveries for me. The private Postal Service would also likely move its customer service call center to India, create an offshore tax haven in Bermuda, invest in risky derivatives, and then come to the U.S. Government -- meaning you and me, the taxpayers -- for a bailout.

So the next time the privatization crowd attacks the proposed public health insurance option (they'll do it again today), or other government agencies and functions, I'll be thinking about how our federal Postal Service workers delivered that anniversary card quickly and cheaply to its proper destination.

Labels: , , ,

Read more!

June 08, 2009

GM, Charging Boldly into the Past

Last Friday, I spotted a new Chevrolet Camaro, very similar to the 2006 concept version pictured above. Although the new Camaro is great-looking, stirs the senses, and faithfully harks back to the original Camaros of the 1960s, the problem is just that -- the Camaro is, literally, a car of the past. On Saturday, I read this article in the Washington Post, which confirmed my fears about the Camaro, its bankrupt manufacturer, General Motors, and GM's 76 year-old Vice Chairman and former global product development chief, Bob Lutz. Incredibly, they just don't get it.

The Camaro comes with either a hefty 3.6 liter V6 engine with 304 horsepower, or a much heftier 6.2 liter V8 engine. The Camaro weighs from over 3,700 to over 3,800 pounds. Fuel "economy," if you can call it that, for the Camaro is rated at only 17 miles per gallon city/29 highway for the smaller engine, and an even worse 16/24 for the larger one. In other words, the Camaro is a "muscle car" that reflects little change from its forty year-old ancestors. This is at a time where President Obama has raised the U.S. fuel economy requirements to 42 mpg for cars by 2016.

So what does GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz have to say about this? Tellingly, he drives a Corvette, another GM gas-guzzling muscle car based on even older ancestors than the Camaro. But wait -- GM is developing and marketing the hell out of a true car of the future: the all-electric Chevrolet Volt. Isn't it? Well, not so much. As the Washington Post reports, Lutz says, "If you look at most of the mainstream media, you get the impression that 95 percent of Americans today want a vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt or a [hybrid such as the] Toyota Prius . . . . And that, by God, the reason General Motors is in trouble, is that we have not offered a vehicle like that. But when you look at the reality, at today's fuel prices, most Americans still want a conventional car." Then why is GM developing the Volt at all? Lutz says, "[b]ecause it is an important symbol. We need it. It has a chance to change our image."

What? GM is half-heartedly putting out a car that its executives think Americans don't even want, merely for reasons of "image"? And Lutz thinks people want to buy Camaros instead, based on "today's fuel prices?" Has Lutz paid any attention to the rapid rise of oil and fuel prices at the pump in recent months? It's obvious to almost everyone, except Bob Lutz, apparently, that we are never going to see $ 2 or less per gallon gas again. It's also shockingly obvious to me that General Motors executives like Bob Lutz still don't get it. When it comes to looking backward when developing cars like the "new" Camaro," they have no trouble seeing back decades. But when it comes to looking forward, the limits of their vision seems to be a few months at most. Meanwhile, Toyota is coming out with the third generation of its wildly successful Prius Hybrid, which gets 50 miles per gallon and comes with such innovative features as solar-powered ventilation. Whose business plan do you think is better, GM's or Toyota's?

Now that I and the other American taxpayers own 60 percent of GM, I'd like to vote my shares. My first vote would be to replace dinosaurs like Bob Lutz, and to get some new executives with some fresh, forward, realistic thinking in there, quickly.

UPDATE: Hours after I wrote this post and just as I am publishing it, news comes today that Bob Lutz is leaving GM. That's a good first step.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Read more!