Sabine Schmitz's Nurburgring Van challenge

This Top Gear episode is simply gold!

In part 1, Richard Hammond pays homage to the Ford Transit... which tees up Part 2 where Sabine Schmitz attempts to drive a transit van around the Nurburgring in under ten minutes. I love her complaining about the slow motorbikes in her way! Priceless.

I have to admit, I'm dying to get to the Nürburgring - the Nordschleife ("Northern Loop") in particular.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:15 PM, ,

Government Motors

In an overdue blog on the state of the American auto industry (I've not blogged about things since Carmageddon '09), and in the long running saga that is the auto industry's GFC related woes, GM finally went into bankruptcy as long predicted.

Their bankruptcy, as ranked by total assets, is the fourth-largest in U.S. history, following Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Washington Mutual and WorldCom Inc.

They are quickly selling off Saab and Hummer as part of the Chapter 11 process, but as you'd expect from an attempt for a rapid Chapter 11 process, there is already concern over flaunting long-standing rules & regulations. Furthermore, American taxpayers should be concerned that in financing the new GM, they may not have saved American jobs as hoped for if plant closures continue in the US whilst investment in China increases.

Recently, GM named Edward Whitacre Jr, a former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of AT&T, as chairman. He is scheduled to take the position when the automaker emerges from bankruptcy proceedings.

Interestingly, Whitacre isn't a "car guy" as Bloomberg reported. To quote:
I don’t know anything about cars,” Whitacre, 67, said yesterday in an interview after his appointment. “A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.

I sincerely hope that the news that the Holden built Pontiac G8 might survive as Buick, is true. Holden produce a great car and have done some smart things around their business locally as I blogged in Where all think alike, no one thinks very much, so having this car continue in the US would be great for Australian jobs.

Again, I'll leave Jon Stewart to provide you a laugh:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
BiG Mess
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Full Episodes
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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:07 AM, ,

Carmageddon '09

When I last looked at the situation with the US car industry in Two flat's and a fast leak, the jury was out on how GM & Chrysler were performing after the first round of government funding.

The update from early April is that GM is racing a 60-day deadline Obama announced on March 30, while Chrysler has 30 days to complete a tie-up with Italy’s Fiat SpA. The article What's Next For GM and Chrysler has a pretty good summary of the individual challenges each company faces in the next 30-60 days.

In this same news, GM's Rick Wagoner became one of the latest members to the GFCRV club (Global Financial Crisis Redundancy Victims). As Deborah Yedlin writes for CBCnews:
"it remains somewhat unsettling that it was his administration, and not the GM board of directors that forced the resignation of the company’s president, Rick Wagoner.

As Obama rightly said, the workers at these companies are not to blame for today’s problems - it’s the lack of leadership on the part of management and the boards of directors that have brought the once proud companies to their respective knees."

As Shikha Dalmia suggests in GM Should Run To Bankruptcy Court, GM needs to run to bankruptcy court and get this stuff over an down with now - especially as the government has now guaranteed warranties:
"...GM should demur and file for bankruptcy now. For starters, waiting 60 days will mean it will be about $8 billion or so more in the hole given that it costs about $ 3 to $4 billion to keep it afloat for a month. Borrowing more money is not a smart move for a company whose debt--not counting its pension obligations--is already more than 24 times its market capitalization. But it's an especially bad idea to get in deeper with the government. Why? Because if GM ends up in bankruptcy anyway, the court will be able to write off its debt to unions and creditors. But Uncle Sam will take its pound of flesh. This means that GM will have less on its back to start anew once it emerges from bankruptcy.

But GM has to fear the government even if it doesn't go into bankruptcy. In that case, the oversight for its restructuring plan will be supervised not by a court but by the Obama auto task force. And the odds that the task force will be guided solely by GM's bottom-line interests rather than Obama's political agenda are about the same as pigs flying."

To round out the perspective on GM's woes, I agree wholeheartedly on the point made in UAW President Should Share Wagoner's Fate, in that the UAW bosses should be crucified for their part in this fiasco - particularly the failure to collaborate to produce a long-term, sustainable industry.

Yet, as I've noted from the get-go, Ford is enjoying the benefits of foresight (in mortgaging everything they had before the excrement hit the fan), the moral high-ground (in not asking for US funds) and making the hard calls on their business needed to emerge out the other end.

The Ford Advantage Plan is a great piece of consumer incentive marketing (if you ignore the basic issue of *should* they be offering people more cheap consequence free credit).
In a nutshell: The Ford Advantage Plan is effective on vehicles delivered from March 31 through June 1. The Plan offers payment protection up to 12 months for up to $700 per month on any new Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicle if a customer loses his or her job. Plus, 0 percent financing from Ford Motor Credit is available on select vehicles.

If you think about a key concern for any potential car buyer right now, it's that they may lose their job and be unable to afford the repayments. Great solution !

As usual, Jon Stewart has a humorous take on the situation:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Carmageddon '09 - Lemon Aid
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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:58 AM, ,

Bailing out the Thieves

A.K.A. Bringing in the Sheaves (the lyrics can be found here).

Over the last few months, myself and countless others have been providing commentary on the GFC and all the inter-related issues.

One topic that is certain to polarise people at your next dinner gathering is the issue of bank bailouts. Trust me - it's better than religion and politics right now!

One school says we can't afford to let the system crash. That is fair. Thomas L. Friedman makes this point in his article This Is Not a Test. This Is Not a Test: "You need to let failed companies, or homeowners, go bankrupt, unlock their dead capital and reapply it to thriving entities. That is how the dot-com bust ended, and out of that carnage emerged a whole new set of companies. The problem with this crisis is that A.I.G., Citigroup and General Motors — and your neighbor’s subprime mortgage — are not You let the market clear them away, and we could all be wiped out with them. Therefore, the president has to find a way to punish bad financial actors without setting off another Lehman Brothers domino effect."

To further drill-down on this issue, checkout Time's great commentary on How AIG Became Too Big to Fail.

Another school says we shouldn't reward fat cats and criminals for having gamed the system. That is also fair.

Clearly, any actions the authorities apply to move this thing forward needs to cater to both schools of thinking.

Looking at the SEC website, I hope the short list of charges for bankers and brokers is merely the start.

A good start was the news of Bernard Madoff's guilty plea on March 13th. As usual, Jon provides us interesting commentary (about 2min 20secs into the video below):

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:54 AM, ,

Reviewing how culture shaped the GFC

Having blogged about Louis' & Michael's books and discussing my 'culture epiphany', it's interesting to look at the GFC with this lens.

Check out this delightfully hilarious view by Bird & Fortune on the reckless, but not unexpected, behaviour from investment bankers and mortgage brokers alike.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:23 PM, ,

You Suck at Photoshop

I was introduced to this video series whilst attending Adobe's 2009 sales conference in San Jose.

What a riot!!! This guy's sense of humour is great, if not a little dark. My favourite is episode #4: "strap on your stupid and get at it"... "you've only been using about $75 worth of Photoshop and this is going to open you up to, like, at least $250 worth". :-)

Aside from the hilarity of the clips, there is quite a lot you can learn from this professionally. The first point is the authentic style of the presenter - uber critical in gaining the audience's respect. Another key lesson is the role YouTube can play in how an organisation can support it's customer base with fun and interesting tutorials on products. And finally, this series reiterates that learning doesn't need to be boring!

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:38 AM, ,

Marketing lessons from the US election

Following on from my blog on State of Denial and the recent inauguration of President Obama, I think it's worth taking a look at Seth Godin's Marketing lessons from the US election.

In doing some additional research to provide counterpoint for this blog, I Googled "analysis us election 2008" and found 3m+ articles.

Shortly before just closing the browser in an uncharacteristic moment of laziness, :-), my eye fell on the URL This took me to their analysis of battleground states for the election. This goes to show just how programmed by mainstream media I have (had?) become. I see "aljazeera" and think "terrorist news network". After a quick read, their analysis reads just like CNN's or BBC's. In fact, it has more facts and less sound bites. I've subsequently left the site with a reprogrammed view of Aljazeera as an "Arab and Muslim world news network".

But let me leave you on a humorous note... Jon's highlights from the Bush years:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:54 AM, ,

Obama & Clinton Sarcasm

It is funny to see the 'before' moments now that Obama has announced Clinton's role in the incoming administration.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:01 PM, ,

End Times Countdown - Bush Exit Interviews

Will Jon be able to continue once Bush leaves office? I'm sure he'll keep being handed material in this current climate and the shine comes off the Obama yet-to-be administration.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:26 PM, ,

Team America

Funny! Jon takes a look at Obama's bogey men. Not sure if there is much 'change' from politics as usual.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:17 PM, ,

Food fight !

An abridged history of American-centric warfare, from WWII to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict.

For a breakdown of the actual battles portrayed in the film, visit:

For the official cheat sheet (breakdown of the foodstuffs), visit:


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:15 AM, ,

Clusterf#@k to the Poor House - Dude, Where's My Car Industry?

More hilarious commentary from Jon Stewart on the past weeks news from Detroit:

This frames a slew of commentary on weather US taxpayers should or should not save the Detroit Big 3.

Mitt Romney's op-ed piece on NY Times is interesting particularly because he suggests blowing up the management that drove them into this mess whilst attempting to maintain employment for workers and dealers. The Bloomberg piece drives the point home on management needing to absorb significant change whilst this news on Chrysler's management bonuses puts the nail in the coffin... but it's great to see they retained 'talent' with the program. :-)

The Carroll Plan is a little more drastic and I think would suit the industry if you had 2 years to scale up the factories in question, but the US doesn't have that sort of time.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:47 AM, ,

Jedi mind trick

Let me take you on a quick flashback to March 2008 with the Jon Stewart's "Broken Arrow" clip. I love the "Jedi mind trick" comment at the very end. Riot.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 10:36 PM, ,

The Spiral

Unless you are a President, Prime Minister, Treasure Secretary, etc, you are probably as resigned to the sidelines of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) as I am.

I learned a while back to focus on the things I can change and try to make sense of the stuff I can't. Soon after that, I discovered finding the humour in it was even better than making sense of it! :-)

Going Private has posted these hilarious clips, merging the images from the movie Downfall with a plot from the GFC into a 9-part (so far) series. It's kind of like a "what might have happened if Hitler was running an ailing financial services firm in the current climate".

I was going to attempt a disclaimer to ensure readers don't get confused as to what I find amusing about this series... but to do so would have been to assume you were either a humourless git or a 3 year old. :-)

Check them out on YouTube:

The Spiral - Part I - Those Vultures

The Spiral - Part II - Managing Directors Everywhere

The Spiral - Part III - On Stage

The Spiral - Part IV - Liquidation

The Spiral - Part V - The Board

The Spiral - Part VI - Crescendo Partners

The Spiral - Part VII - The Kitchen

The Spiral - Part VIII - Jet A

The Spiral - Part IX - Paulson

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:27 PM, ,


On the plane back from Singapore this week I managed to watch "Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?".

As soon as I saw in the movie guide that Morgan Spurlock had produced this, I was in... and I wasn't disappointed - this is one HILARIOUS film!

Wikipedia has a good synopsis, but looking at the comments there, it seems the Americans didn't find this film as amusing as I did.

The scene is set with Morgan expecting a new child and therefore worrying about his child being 'safe'. So, he gets on the trail of Osama.

After some funny graphics (think Street Fighter featuring Osama vs Morgan), we're taken to Egypt where Morgan does a great job of drawing parallels with Americans every day lives. The majority aren't that different in their daily goals and their dreams.

Morgan takes a look at the Egyptian government's democratic and human rights history (or lack there of) and we're left asking why America supports this regime. We treated to a review of America's support for "Our SOB's" which was quite amusing. I was immediately reminded of the book "The One Percent Doctrine".

Morgan then heads off to Saudi Arabia to chat to Osama's family. In his phone book search, he comes across 'Bin Laden Aviation' - what a riot! I'd have changed that company name after 9/11.

Next, we are off to Afghanistan, a country that has been at war for forty years and is riddled with poverty. I quiet enjoyed the suggestion to turn Tora Bora into a tourist destination... "Tora Bora - it's the bomb!". Here he investigates what is important to the locals and it comes back to the basics: water, food, safety, education... the same message we get time and time again (checkout 50 Facts that Should Change the World). Morgan suggests the best way to win hearts and minds is focusing on the centre of gravity: the people who like clean water, etc, which you service via mundane tasks like school & hospital building. This reminded me of the quote at the end of Charlie Wilson's War: "we fucked up the end game!".

It was a timely as I recently was reading a Time magazine article on 'soft politics' i.e. not the use of direct force to achieve objectives. It points out, however, that Americans like decisive victories which makes 'soft politics' seem... soft.

A final thought from watching this excellent and cheeky film was the polarity of 'developing nations' (aka third world) vs first world nations vs cosmopolitan (ie city) life in first world nations. Life jetting between Singapore and Sydney is just so far removed from the life and death struggle experienced daily in places like Afghanistan. Thank goodness and I hope in my life time the Afghans escape the cycle they are in.

BTW - Morgan never does find Osama.


posted by Lee Gale @ 12:05 AM, ,

Riot! Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

This just keeps getting funnier every time I watch it !

This was the 34th season premiere episode, aired September 13, 2008, Tina Fey is in the role of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, alongside Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:00 PM, ,