M a t t . T r e d e r

Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

How goal-setting sank GM

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Ready, aim … fail

IN THE EARLY years of this decade, General Motors had a goal, and it was 29. Determined to boost its flagging profits and reverse a long, steady fall from postwar dominance, the automotive giant did the natural thing: it set a goal. The company pledged to recapture 29 percent of the American market, the share it had ebbed past in 1999. The number 29 became a corporate mantra, and some GM executives took to wearing lapel pins with the number emblazoned on them.

It didn’t work. GM never did regain 29 percent of the market, and today, facing the possibility of bankruptcy, it looks even less likely to do so. The lapel pins are gone, and that number isn’t much heard from the company.

And while the causes of GM’s woes are many — from poor design to high labor costs to a prostrate economy — industry analysts argue that one of the most damaging things the company did was to set that goal.

In clawing toward its number, GM offered deep discounts and no-interest car loans. The energy and time that might have been applied to the longer-term problem of designing better cars went instead toward selling more of its generally unloved vehicles. As a result, GM was less prepared for the future, and made less money on the cars it did sell. In other words, the world’s largest car company — a title it lost to Toyota last year — fell victim to a goal.

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 at 10:21 am

Andrew Sullivan:

It is very rare to get someone with the same stratospheric levels of arrogance and incompetence as you find in Dick Cheney. Let’s go to the tape: A war launched on false premises, a trillion dollar debt in a period of growth, a destruction of America’s moral standing, the loss of one major city (New Orleans) and the devastation of another (New York City), two horribly bungled military campaigns that have trapped his successors for decades, a political party decimated for a generation, his closest aide in jail for obstruction of justice, his own daughter and grand-child targeted by his own party as second-class citizens in the state they live in. And a war criminal. Did I miss anything?

Worst logo ever

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2009 at 11:59 am

So bad, I won’t even display it here…just point to the link.

13 things that do not make sense

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2009 at 10:48 am

The most interesting science read I have come across in recent weeks. I’ve excerpted the phenomena from the article below, but the real fun is in actually reading it.

Update: From my practical and personal perspective, the two most interesting phenomena that do not make sense are the placebo effect, which is now known to be biochemical but remains as yet unexplained, and the Belfast homeopathy results, in which a scientist aiming to discredit homeopathy’s claim that a chemical remedy can be diluted to the point where a sample is unlikely to contain a single molecule of anything but water and yet still have a healing effect, instead produced striking evidence affirming that the homeopathic effect exists, despite no known mechanism for how or why it might work.

  1. The placebo effect
  2. The horizon problem
  3. Ultra-energetic cosmic rays
  4. Belfast homeopathy results
  5. Dark matter
  6. Viking’s methane
  7. Tetraneutrons
  8. The Pioneer anomaly
  9. Dark energy
  10. The Kuiper cliff
  11. The Wow signal
  12. Not-so-constant constants
  13. Cold fusion

The reason why we tortured

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Andrew Sullivan:

The torture techniques were all the more brutal in order to push back against the reputation of the US even in the minds of Qaeda or alleged Qaeda members. What Mukasey and Hayden are arguing for today is a scheme whereby, in secret, the US government credibly allows captives to believe they are in an endless, bottomless pit of extra-legal terror. This is the state of mind they are trying to construct by torture. That’s the point of the sensory deprivation, the disappearances, the sequestering from the Red Cross, the endless solitary confinement, the IRFing, the hoods, the nudity, and all the other sadism. It is precisely to persuade the barbarians that we are as bad as they are and have no limits and no qualms in doing to them whatever we want.

Looked at from a distance, the Bush administration wanted to do two things at once: to declare to the world that freedom is on the march, and human rights are coming to the world with American help, while simultaneously declaring to captives that the US has no interest in the law, human rights, accountability, transparency or humanity. They wanted to give hope to all the oppressed of the planet, while surgically banishing all hope from the prisoners they captured and tortured.

Roger Ebert to Bill O’Reilly

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently. Did you really say you are more powerful than any politician?

That reminds me of the famous story about Squeaky the Chicago Mouse. It seems that Squeaky was floating on his back along the Chicago River one day. Approaching the Michigan Avenue lift bridge, he called out: Raise the bridge! I have an erection!

Hey boomers! Avoid going to pot (by going to pot)

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2009 at 12:33 am

Time’s Joe Klein:

The U.S. is, by far, the most “criminal” country in the world, with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. We spend $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of those being corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. We spend about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5% of all arrests are marijuana-related. That is an awful lot of money, most of it nonfederal, that could be spent on better schools or infrastructure — or simply returned to the public.

At the same time, there is an enormous potential windfall in the taxation of marijuana. It is estimated that pot is the largest cash crop in California, with annual revenues approaching $14 billion. A 10% pot tax would yield $1.4 billion in California alone. And that’s probably a fraction of the revenues that would be available — and of the economic impact, with thousands of new jobs in agriculture, packaging, marketing and advertising. A veritable marijuana economic-stimulus package!