Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24th Edition of The Holiday Spirit Blog Carnival

I’m pleased to present the first edition of The Holiday Spirit Blog Carnival. The response was pretty good and I look forward to seeing what other posts are submitted.


From the Personal Finance Blog by Money Ning

Like the first Thanksgiving in America, these are challenging times and all the more reason to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with your family and friends.

Celebrating Thanksgiving is a must this year

Keeping Holiday Spirits Alive

From Donna Freedman at smartspending

Donna says “Scale down, sure. Get creative, definitely. But don't forego a ritual that has the potential to make you really happy if you do it right. Beginning to look a lot like glum Christmas- don’t let it

The Spirit of Charity

From Neko at LuckyMoneyCat

He is thinking about ways that he can give back during the holidays. Giving Back During the Holidays

Shopping and Gifts

From Heather Levin at The Greenist Dollar.

Some unique, frugal, eco-friendly gifts you can give this year. Eco-Friendly Gifts For Under $40

From Chief Family Officer

create a gift basket out of things that you probably have around your house. Make a free "Economy Survival Kit"

From Condo Blues

An idea for those DIYers out there (Do It Yourself) “These homemade shopping tote bags make great gifts and even better gift wrap!” Turn Rice Bags into Shopping Tote Bags

From Wisdom From Wenchypoo’s Mental Wastebasket

Remember layaway, well it has been making a bit of a comeback Wenchypoo lets us in on a little secret about layaway. Layawayboon or Burden

From Money Blue Book Blog

A collection of credit card offers with shopping rewards and 0% APR. Best Christmas Holiday Credit Card Offers and Deals

From Money Blue Book Blog

Mapping out a strategy for saving money by shopping online all year long. How To Save Money By Shopping Online

Honorable Mentions

From Dave at Cheapogroovo

Submitted posts Shop the internet and get free shipping and Woot Your Way to Mega Savings . He did mention that Woot is an online store offering daily deals but it would be nice to see some further detail as to why any potential shoppers should have a look at ether site, like personal experiences with the sites, unique or hard to get gifts, something that would make you want to check them out.

Not Related to the Holiday Spirit

The remaining articles weren’t really related to the Holiday Spirit, but worth mentioning.

From Cory at eat-healthy-live-healthy

“Did you know that eating many small meals every day is actually healthier than the traditional 2-3 large meals?”. Frequent Small Meal Diet

From imarketing4s at consolidate4free

A look at debt consolidation loans. Low Interest Debt Consolidation: Can The Attractive Loan Package Really Be Harmful to Your Financial Standing?

From KCLau’s Money Tips

He shares his views about buying term insurance and investing the difference. Buy Term and invest the difference

Thank you to all the participants. I’m looking forward to the submissions to the next edition (planned for December 1st). Remember that the Holiday Spirit isn’t necessarily about only Christmas, so I’d love to hear about Hanukkah, Ramadan, and other non-Christian celebrations as well as Christmas. It would be great to hear about your family traditions, your creative give ideas, and your recipes for holiday treats. If you’d like to become involved please feel free to submit your post and help spread the Holiday Spirit.

Photo credits: "Winter Scenes (1)" courtesy of bosela

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Should the Government Help the Ailing Auto Industry?

"Traffic lights in the evening" courtesy of 13dede

CEOs of the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) along with the head of the U.A.W. (United Auto Workers) appeared in Washington recently, hoping to talk Congress into providing desperately needed aid. A question now being heavily discussed and reported is should the government help the ailing auto industry? At the moment Washington seems unable, unwilling, and incapable of helping to resolve a crisis that has spread far beyond Wall Street and has brought the world to a crossroads.

Before proceeding any further I should state that I am biased and though I have tried to write this post without being effected by my biases, you should realize this at the onset. Having been born in Detroit and having lived in the Detroit area much of my life, it is hard not to have cars and trucks in your blood. I have family and friends that work at the Big Three, and suppliers, and other car companies (maybe we all do, if you think about it), so when I read and hear the numbers being batted around they’re real people to me and not just some cold faceless number to callously brush off.

Why should the U.S. government even consider helping the Big Three you might ask? The car companies have argued one in 10 U.S. jobs depends on the big three. As GM, Ford, and Chrysler employ close to 250,000 people in the U.S. and some supporters claim they touch more than 4 million other jobs between suppliers, dealers, and other related industry and business. Losing all, or even a portion, of those jobs would further amplify current economic problems being felt in the U.S. and would spread beyond. The Detroit area is so dependent upon the auto industry as all of the Big Three have world headquarters in the area and there are a whole host of suppliers that employ many people as well, that losing one or more of the Big Three would be cataclysmic on a region that is already down. In addition areas where assembly and manufacturing plants are located, closing them down would surely strain their economies. In many of the plant locations the local economies are often very dependent upon those plants. Although many manufacturing jobs have been moved to locations outside of the U.S. in the last couple of decades, the Big Three still make up a huge chunk of manufacturing in the U.S (and much of Europe for that matter). What is often overlooked or probably not given enough consideration in this discussion is the rippling effect; much like the waves follow when you cast a stone in the water that goes beyond the initial water displacement. In your economics 101 (or whatever macro and micro economics classes you had) they referred to it as the multiplier effect: figuring the loss of all (or part) of those jobs and thinking about what it would mean to the economy as the effect is spreads beyond the obvious businesses associated with producing cars. A colleague of mine sent me to the video that I have embedded below. Some of the numbers mentioned in it might be in question, but it gives you a good idea of the magnitude of that we’d be facing if the Big Three were to fail. They used to say that “when General Motors sneezed that America caught a cold”, well given how the financial meltdown has shown some of the negative effects of globalization, if the Big Three fail, the effects will go way beyond Detroit.

The Auto Industry and the Ripple Effect Video

In Europe there have been discussions about what aid (if any) should be given. Opel is a wholly owned division of G.M. that has been doing pretty well in Germany but there are fears that failure of G.M. would bring it down, prompting talks with the German government about what they can do to help. I saw on television the other day that 1 in 7 jobs in Germany is automotive related (note, I didn’t get a breakdown of those figures). The region that I live in would be severally impacted should Opel fail.

My Mindmap

When I started putting this post together yesterday I created a Mindmap asking the question posted in this article. On the right side I came up with some reasons that the government shouldn’t help (or that they shouldn’t use the “bailout” money or that it should come from funds intended for “alternative fuel” development) and on the left side I put some of the reasons why the government should become involved. The list is not exhaustive by any means and there are certainly some valid points on both sides. I don’t wish to restate them all, but you can see them if you look at the Mindmap.

When looking at the government’s role in business there are several different theories and views. One view would be that the government could “encourage” the Big Three to do the kind of research and development of use of alternative energy and fuels that they wouldn’t ordinarily have budgeted, putting the R & D on steroids if you will. This could also be the chance to encourage the use and development of more eco-friendly products. I don’t have any idea of how much plastic is in the average vehicle now a day, but it is a lot. Can you imagine if world moved away from the use of plastics and a more environmentally friendly material was developed and used in its place that didn’t rely on oil?

I read and heard many of the critics of helping the Big Three indicate that they should go through bankruptcy or that probably even one of them should go out of business because there is too much capacity at the moment. While letting nature take its course as it were, might sound good at first, it doesn’t take into account how bitter a pill it would be to swallow and how those people that lose their jobs as part of “the natural process” will get by when their savings have gone (if they even have any left) and if there are any other jobs available that don’t pay nearly enough to adequately take care of their families. It is easy to make those statements when you don’t believe that you’re affected. It would make sense if the changes that are needed can occur in a more structured way that can minimize or dampen the ill effects. All those jobs lost in America would be your friends and family, not just numbers.

When you look at the list I put together for the reasons not to help out the Big Three, there are some good points there, but maybe the aid can be set up so that the Big Three are “encouraged” to address some of the auto industries failings (like too much upper and middle management receiving too many perks). There has been a lot of discussion about limiting CEO bonuses when the government is providing some kind of financial assistance (especially with the financial bailouts) and certainly some limitations on management bonuses could be “suggested”. Higher fuel economy and use of alternative fuels engines, hybrids, and other targets could be tied in the aid. While I don’t wish to touch a debate on national healthcare, in many of the countries where cars and trucks are produced, there is some sort of national supported health care, meaning that the cost of providing health care coverage is not borne within the cost of the vehicles. One of the biggest expenses faced by the Big Three is their outlay for health care coverage and other benefits for current employees and their obligations owed to retirees (based on past labor contracts). If the Big Three had moved all or the bulk of their operations to places where they don’t have to negotiate with unions and could drastically reduce their labor costs, the discussions going on today would be of a different nature, but one of the reasons that we should even care about the lost jobs is because they would be in America (and Europe for those of us over here) and the effects would be here (as well as around the world). I could go on at length about high union wages and the movement of work via globalization but it would only detract from the main discussion (maybe this it a topic to be explored at another time?).

A final point to be made here and that is while many of the problems facing the Big Three are of their own doing, the severity of their current situation has been amplified many times over by the Financial Meltdown. Credit has been tightened and it isn’t so easy to get a car loan or financing and people are hesitant to buy or lease a new car or truck when they’re not so confident about their own jobs and well being, so they put off buying a vehicle. The President is reluctant to act, and the Treasury doesn’t want to use the “Bailout” money outside of the financial markets. But in all honesty, buying a vehicle is the second largest cost to most of us and is only smaller than buying a home but it has every bit as large an impact on the American economy (and the world) for that matter as it the financial markets that are being bailed out. We can not let the Big Three fail, the cost of doing nothing is too great. Other car makers outside of the Big Three are starting to feel the pinch from people not buying vehicles, there are loads of non Big Three cars sitting in dealer lots in America as well and this is beginning to happen in other countries around the world as well. The financial crisis has moved well beyond Wall Street. Please have look at the video, I realize that many people will say it is only scare, but even if the figures presented in the video are only slightly exaggerated, you can begin to comprehend how far reaching letting the Big Three fail could go. Please contact your Congressional representative and Senators and let them know that we can’t let the Big Three fail.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Announcing The Holiday Spirit Blog Carnival

"Snowflakes " courtesy of TouTouke

Given that Christmas is around the corner and the challenging times that most of us are facing today Systems-Overload is very excited to announce that “The Holiday Spirit” blog carnival is coming to this corner of the internet in the near future.

I was first introduced to Blog Carnival in a post from Think Simple Now. I decided to give it a try and have participated in several (in fact you can find most all of the blog carnivals that I’ve participated in here). Blog carnivals are nice because there is a wide variety of themes to choose from and they provide topics ranging from finance, health, business, making money online, to art history, and all kinds of other themes. When you find a theme that you’re interested in and look at one of the published editions you’ll typically see links to several different posts about that theme that usually cover different areas within that theme. Even if two of the posts cover the same area, the information provided or the point of view between the similar posts will, in fact, be different. Blog carnivals are also nice because they can introduce you to new blogs that you might not have found otherwise. The writers of the articles still host the articles on their blog but the blog carnival edition will provide a link to the post, so there is the added benefit to the author of increased exposure as well as potential traffic from the blog carnival. In edition there can be the long tail effect even months after the blog carnival edition is published as new people discover past editions. There are a lot of things that I like about blog carnivals and so I decided to give hosting one a try.

Although I’m not really a Winter person, that is to say that I’m not such a fan of the cold and sometimes extreme weather that many of us experience in this season, I do really like Christmas. I wrote several posts last year around various themes related to Christmas and thought that having a theme based on Christmas would be nice. While everyone out there isn’t necessarily Christian (Catholic, Protestant, or some of the other denominations), with the central theme being around the holiday spirit, it should allow for posts around Hanukkah, Ramadan, and other non-Christian celebrations, as well as topics that aren’t necessarily religious. This would be a good chance to provide people outside of your religious beliefs with some insight into traditions that your faith follows and what they mean. While this is not meant to be a “conversion” moment or propaganda, it does allow you the change to express yourself to people that are interested in learning more about the traditions of your faith and personal traditions. I’m also looking for holiday recipes, creative gift ideas, family traditions, inspiring stories, and a whole host of things related to this time of year. As many of us find ourselves in very challenging financial times, we’re more constrained in the budget that we have to spend on holiday gifts so I’d love to see a lot of posts on creative and inexpensive gift ideas as well as other things that you can do to make the most of this holiday season. Do you have a recipe for some holiday dish that has been very popular, why not share it?

How does this work? If you wish to read any or all of the upcoming editions all you need to do is subscribe to this blog via email or rss feed or check in weekly between November 24th and December 22nd as I will be hosting one edition per week. If you wish to participate, you’ll need to submit a post by going to “Submit your Blog Article to this Carnival”. This link also appears as an orange button on the right side within the blue title bar “Blog Carnival Blog Communites Publishing Magazines”. You’ll need to complete a form that will be generated. Within the form you’ll need to include a link to your post, I’d also suggest that “Select a category” from the drop-down menu, and in the text box following “Remarks”, please include some information about your post (this can be used when the carnival is published and will hopefully draw people to your post), and if you’re happy with the form you can then click submit. Note: you’ll probably need to become a member at Blog Carnival in order to submit or you might need to provide an email address as an anti-spamming measure, in either case there will be no charge to become a member at Blog Carnival or to submit articles. You’ll receive an automated email at the email address that you’ve provided, there is a good chance that it might end up in your junk or spam folder, so you’ll want to have a look there if you don’t see it in your inbox. It is pretty easy to submit articles, so why not be inspired by the Holiday Spirit.

If you’re The Holiday Spirit blog carnival and you go near the middle of the page you’ll notice tabs for “blog carnival” (this tab shows when the next issue is planned to be published and will link to where it is published); “past posts” (this tab will show past editions, after they’ve been published); and “future posts” (the tab shows all dates of the currently planned issues with links to their locations). All the links to any edition of “The Holiday Spirit” blog carnival are currently set as default to the Systems-Overload blog, but will be update as I know the url, which should be closer to the publication date, this means that when and issue has been published, that the link will be updated at Blog Carnival. I’ve planned the following publications dates…

Nov 24, 2008

Dec 01, 2008

Dec 08, 2008

Dec 15, 2008

Dec 22, 2008

The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year. Many people are cheerful, hopeful, and just plain accepting of their fellow humans. It is a time of the year where we can become kids again, by living vicariously through our own children and the gifts they receive or reminiscing about holidays past. We can enjoy some of the holiday dishes that go with the season as well as the other festivities associated with this time of year. I’m sure that I’ll have a glass of glüh-wine at one of the local Christmas markets between now and December 25th. Why not help spread a little holiday spirit of your own and submit your blog article I’ve already received some submissions for the first edition so I’m looking forward to seeing the submissions. So in addition to the other posts here at the Systems-Overload blog, be on the look out for some holiday spirit.

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