Monday, March 30, 2009

GM CEO steps down

Most everyone knows now that the CEO of General Motors stepped down, or rather was asked to step down. Seems that President Obama and his administration didn't approve of the current restructuring plan and he had to go.

This may be the right move for GM. Given the money that the American taxpayer has already given GM, this may have been the right move for the taxpayer. But at this point every CEO needs to be afraid. Especially CEO's who take government money.

You may think you have nothing to worry about, but I would ask, who is the CEO in your family? If the CEO of GM is at risk, so is the CEO of your family. And especially if you're taking any government money. That includes Social Security of course. And it also includes any tax deductions (look what's happening to charitable contributions in the current plan). In fact, just by breathing, working and exchanging dollars for goods (groceries), you depend on the government for some things. And now the government is saying that if you don't do it their way, they can fire you, take over your management and run your business.

Yep, all CEO's everwhere need to be very afraid. We should all remember Proverbs 22:7

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Arena Football - part 2 - * updated *

Last Saturday night I attended the inaugural football game of Greenville's new Indoor Arena football team and I told you about it on Sunday here. Tonight, they play their second game, but it's in Reading, Pa, so I won't attend. But they will be playing without the benefit of their head coach, Bubba Diggs. After a poor showing in game 1, he was dismissed.

Now I don't think Coach Diggs made as much as Alan Fishman, CEO for Washington Mutual (WaMu) who made $18 million in 3 weeks (see here), but I suspect he had a contract that allows him to pay for food and shelter while he looks for his next job. But it seems a little harsh to dismiss a coach after a single game.

It seems Tony Wells, general manager for the team thought "for the direction that the team wants to go in, we needed a change." Diggs wasn't the only one let go, "the Force's director of game day operations, Jonathan Clark, was also dismissed." Now if this was the guy who was in charge of the carpet, he did deserve to leave after the fiasco last week. We waited an hour while they found AstroTurf for the field. I mean, those guys knew all week that the field wasn't complete, why didn't they fix it sooner?

Well, with or without Coach Diggs, I'll go see the Force play again. Maybe they can keep the players around a while. (Reference for quotes here).


Details on last night's game were hard to fine. The Greenville News seems to have written the team off already. I did find the scores and a write-up online at the Reading Eagle's website. Sounds like the SC Force had a better evening by leading "1-0 when Jed Dean (former Clemson kicker) opened the game with a rouge and again 8-7 when Mitchell, a former starting quarterback at the University of South Carolina, threw the first of his four touchdown passes."

Alas, the SC Force may have started in the lead and and led once later, they didn't lead when it counted, at the end of the game. They lost 47-27. Next home game is April 11 (just before my birthday if anyone needs hints).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What words do you bleep out?

Earlier this week I was listening to the radio when the song "I Put Your Picture Away" came on. The song is performed by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, lyrics can be found here and a music video can be found here (video starts playing automatically, so use care in a work environment). I've always thought the song was a good one. Kid Rock could make a good country singer if his songs contained trucks, trains or references to Willie Nelson (which this song almost does).

While listening, I realized that the station bleeped out (or more accurately wiped out) one word. In the song, Kid Rock sings about needing "a good girl to miss me" and being away from the one he loves. To get through the pain, he's with a "different girl every night at the hotel" and he's "been fuelin' up on cocaine and whiskey." The word cocaine was wiped out so that he says he's "been fuelin' up on whiskey." Ahh the beauty of digital editing.

Now I do believe promoting drug use in a song is a bad idea, but I also noticed that there were some four letter words that were not clipped. Admittedly, the two words that are used are words you could hear in church Sunday morning, even from the pulpit (but probably with different intent). But these aren't words I would use in front of my mother or my children - and that's the standard I try to use.

I confess that I tend to be more sensitive to four letter words than the average American. But it made me wonder - what words do you bleep out? No I'm not asking you to post them here, my mother and my children read my blog. But if you have any bleeping comments I'd like to hear them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bummer of a birthmark, Hal

No real time to blog today. I'm enjoying coffee in a cup with a Far Side comic strip. (You can buy the cup on E-Bay here). I can't find a picture to cut/paste here and it would probably violate copyright laws, but I'll describe it.

Two deer standing on their hind legs, are talking together like two human beings (typical Larson). One of them stares down at his furry chest upon which is emblazoned a giant circular target with smaller and smaller rings ending in a bulls-eye right over the deer's heart. The other deer takes one look and quips, "Bummer of a birthmark, Hal."

I searched for a picture and came across this site that points out the religious aspect of this cartoon. "The fact is we are all born with a fatal birthmark. According to the Bible, we have all inherited a sinful nature which inclines us toward sin, and furthermore have sinned and are thus destined to die. Romans 5:12; 6:23."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wal-Mart Stimulus plan

I have to say, I'm no fan of Wal-Mart. I pretty much hate the store. I recently emailed the corporate office because the local Wal-Mart So-Called-Super Store in Simpsonville mis-priced an item and caused me undue grief. They also were out-of-stock on several items which I noted in my email. I did get a call from the local manager, not sure if anything has or will change though.

But my hatred of the store is because of the lack-of-service, the sheer size of the store, and a loyalty to the grocery store where I worked as a teenager (a three-steer Bi-Lo, but I digress). It has nothing to do with the reasons most people that you read about in the paper hate Wal-Mart. Seems people think Wal-Mart doesn't pay enough. No matter that there pay is comparable to their competition, no matter that Wal-Mart employees are never held at gun-point and forced to work.

Some people hate Wal-Mart because they don't provide full benefits to their employees. While true, there is no mass exodus of Wal-Mart employees to Target, K-Mart or other comparable stores. Some people hate Wal-Mart because the employees aren't unionized. The unions want to take control of the store and some how Wal-Mart management doesn't want to give up control.

But now, Wal-Mart has come up with their very own stimulus plan. Wal-Mart plans to hand out $2Billion to their employees. With the down-turn in the economy, more consumers are shopping at Wal-Mart and their profits are up. The payout comes in cash, profit sharing, pension savings accounts and merchandise discounts for employees. And they have also reported that they are increasing the percentage of health benefits that they pay.

Hats off to Wal-Mart for their very own stimulus plan. And hats off to Eric over at the Edge of the Galaxy for pointing me to this article.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Will Geithner get the ax?

Some of my readers hate these hard-core, sometimes political, sometimes financial stories. Sorry, please read it anyway.

In case you missed it, Timoty Geithner is the Secretary of Treasury and he's come under a bit of fire. Some people have called for his resignation or that he be fired. Some of the mis-steps include:

1) He spent his confirmation hearings explaining why he failed to pay some of his taxes (and of course he wants you to pay yours)
2) He muffed the rollout of his most important policy initiative, the bank rescue plan.
3) He failed to stop AIG from paying out $165 million in bonuses -- which reminded Congress and the public that he was one of the people who presided over the AIG deal in the first place.
(source here)

But President Obama has full faith in the Secretary. On his recent pop-culture appearance, the President said "He is a smart guy, and he's a calm and steady guy."

I also heard he went on to say "Timmy, you're doing a heck of a job." - No wait, that's what the former president said to one of his agency directors. And all of the liberals made fun of that. It will be interesting to see how this is remembered....

**** Corrected typo - thanks to my editor ****
**** Another minor correction ****

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Arena football

Last night was the inaugural game for Greenville's new Indoor Arena football team, the Force. I fondly recall the previous team, so when I heard the game was on, I had to go. It was a bumpy start, but a good game and everything I hoped. Good entertainment at a low price.

The start of the game was delayed due to a carpet error. Seems the team purchased the field carpet (astro-turf) from another team that folded. So instead of saying the "South Carolina Force" it said "Austin Wranglers" and had the wrong logos. No matter, astro-turf is astro-turf right?

Well the second problem was that the purchased astro-turf was too small. There was about 10 yards at the back of each end zone that wasn't covered. Now these players are used to getting injured, but the idea of slamming your head on unprotected concrete isn't too attractive. Come to think of it, the idea of slamming your head against astro-turf protected concrete doesn't sound too attractive either. But regardless, the league wouldn't let them start until the concrete was covered. (true story - see here)

So, a quick trip to Lowe's brought in the astro-turf for one end zone. Wait a while, then come up with some carpet backing for the other end-zone. After an hour and a half delay, we were ready to start (the Lowe's trip may not have happened, but that's what those of us in section 100 decided).

Another mis-step when the announcer started his yelling. He asked the 3500 fans if we were ready to meet our Greenville Drive team. Uhhhh, that's the baseball team. Ok, he tried again, our Greenville Force. Uhhh, right team, but they try to pull from a bigger geography. Third time's the charm, our South Carolina Force. Yeah!!! It made for great jokes for all of us.

Once the game started, the referees with their whistles were a little like Barney Fife with his gun and bullet - ready to go off whenever they moved. But after setting the stage early by throwing flags like confetti, they settled down and let the play begin.

The game was all I expected. Sure it started slow and the players weren't professional. But most were local heroes, coming from colleges in the area (quarterback from USC, kicker from Clemson, head coach from Clemson). The quarterback made a beautiful pass to a small kid in the stands (way over the head of the intended receiver). We learned about rules that we didn't know, like you can kick a field goal on a kick-off and get an extra point. And one rule we never understood, when a kick-off was fielded by our team and the player stepped into the end-zone, giving the other team a point.

With the delayed start, the game went way past my bedtime. I left at the end of the third quarter. Our team was behind, but we would have left even if we were winning. And they didn't pull it out after we left, losing 39-18. But I will go back. The next game is April 11, just before my birthday (STRONG HINT here). Which comes back full circle as my first arena football game was for my birthday about 9 years ago.

And with that, I can't resist this ending since it's our team name - may the Force be with you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Did you get a $1m bonus?

Everyone is talking about the bailouts at AIG. Everyone thinks it's ridiculous. I didn't get a $1m bonus, how about you?

But with all the talk, there comes down some very specific facts. So far, the best article I've seen is by The Motley Fool (seen here). Now for those who don't know, The Motley Fool " is a multimedia financial-services company dedicated to building the world's greatest investment community." For financial matters, it's a good magazine. It's not political, it's financial.

The Fool says that the outrage over the bailout is bogus. It says that it's all a "distasteful combination of a populist pandering and lack of diligence." According to the article, the bonus plan was developed last September and filed with the SEC. That means anyone in the government could have read it. Also, "back in December AIG's CEO sent a letter to Congressman Elijah Cummings, a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, walking him through the bonuses and the reasoning behind them." Where was the outrage then?

But more importantly, if the government is going to continue to hand out big checks ($170Billion for AIG), shouldn't it at least KNOW about this stuff?

Now congress is looking at ways to tax the bonuses. I saw an article today that said they were looking at a 90% tax. Well another Fool article (here - free registration required) explains the ramifications of this action. See, AIG was legally bound to give out the bonus. They had contracts to fulfill. But it's a scary thing if congress can effectively voids these contracts with the stroke of a pen. And to retroactively tax an activity, well, what taxes will come about next?

One more note on the AIG debacle. Many people are suggesting that the people should return the bonuses. I haven't looked at the details to know if I agree with that or not. One thing I will say, is I agree with Chuck Thinks Right, the politicians need to lead by example. Any politician that received any contribution from AIG should return the money to AIG, who can then return it to the government (not the politician).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can you do your job TOO well?

Suppose that you were in a job where a lot of people were doing the same thing. Now suppose all of the people around you were failing at their job, but you were succeeding. The boss comes around, you would expect he would praise you, right?

Well not if you were a bank. Seems a bank in Massachusetts was doing a good job. Actually, an exceptional job. They had NO bad loans. While this article isn't clear, I would assume they got no TARP money since they had no Troubled Assets that needed Recovering (that's the TAR part of TARP).

But instead of praising the bank, the FDIC is criticizing them. Saying they should have taken more risk. Helped out "the community" more. Now I'm all about helping the community. Search back through my blog for the word VITA and you'll see the way I'm doing this now. Taking every Friday & Saturday afternoon, not to mention the classes I went to before that. But that's my choice.

If this bank wants to help the community, there are lots of ways they can participate. I'm willing to bet they already help in a lot of ways, they've just chosen not to write bad loans. Isn't that what got us into this trouble?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Verizon Freedom Essentials

Today I received a call from Verizon. They wanted to help me save money. Since saving money is always a good deal, I decided I'd talk to them (even though I figured they really wanted to sell me something).

So they proceeded to look at my service records and offer me the Freedom Essentials plan for only $49.99. This sounded like a good deal to me, so I asked how much I was currently paying. Turns out Mr. Victor Allen couldn't tell me that, he didn't have access to that information. All he could see was that I have a different vendor for my regional long distance and a third vendor for my out of state long distance.

True, I told him, the reason was that Verizon didn't offer a regional long distance so I used my cell phone for all long distance.

Realizing that he was quickly losing a sale, Mr. Allen asked if I had a computer. Yes, I said and he quickly offered me DSL service for only $19.99. I asked if they really had DSL service in my area, because they hadn't had it in the past. After checking, Mr. Allen was disappointed to find out that it was not an option.

So, if you're going to call me to sell me something, I have two suggestions: 1) Know what service you're giving me today and what it costs {especially if you claim to save me money} and 2) Know what services actually are available BEFORE you offer them to me.

Friday, March 06, 2009


I saw this ad in the paper that read "Wanted 30 People Who have difficulty hearing and understanding."

Do you think I could send them my kids?

Monday, March 02, 2009

What were you thinking?

Last week, a Greenville bank was robbed. The bank robber walked into the bank, "pointed the gun at two women and forced them into an office where he presented a note demanding money" according to The Greenville News. Police snipers surrounded the building, SWAT team was deployed, FBI was on the scene and the robber walked out in handcuffs about 2 hours later. No one was injured.

By all accounts, the alleged robber, Bruce Lee Windsor, was a good man. At age 43, he was a deacon in his church, married for 16 years with four children from 11 down to 3 years old. Apparently, he had a real estate business that had gone south. His sister appeared at his bond hearing and said that he had "just snapped". His pastor spoke and said he was "one of the best fathers I know anywhere," and that his role as deacon at Brushy Creek Baptist Church included visiting shut-ins.

Several people at my church knew Mr. Wilson or knew someone who knew him. One lady is related to him by marriage (I'm unsure of the details).

I have just one question for Mr. Wilson: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??

The obvious answer is that he wasn't thinking. Something possessed the man (and I do believe in a literal possession by evil spirits) and made him walk into the bank. The two women hostages were likely frightened out of their minds by the ordeal as were their families. Families of other bank employees were likely affected also.

I was at a meeting with someone who found out his daughter was across the street. He and his wife were also affected, as they worried about their daughter.

There is absolutely no excuse for this type of action. Mr. Wilson should have known that this is only going to make things worse. His wife and four kids will now be in the same fiscal problems they were in before, now he's not there to help them. I told my wife that I think he took a coward's way out.

The charges against him will likely keep him in jail for the rest of his kids' childhood. He can face 30 years for the robbery, 30 years each for each hostage taken and 5 years each on 2 counts of weapons charges. And that's just state charges, he could also face federal charges.

There were better ways out. Mr. Wilson had probably counseled people in his church to ask for help. He could have called lenders and explained the problem. He could have declared bankruptcy and still protected his house.

What seems odd to me is that the day after the robbery, the TV show Flashpoint (one of my new favorites) showed three "average men" who had hit rock bottom who held a company CEO hostage. One of the men threatened a dramatic suicide.

Hitting rock bottom is no excuse for this kind of behavior. It only makes matters worse. Even if Mr. Wilson was possessed (as I believe), he will still have to bear the consequences of his actions.