Thursday, July 02, 2009

Straight faces, winners, and losers

IPBiz found the following from yahoo finance (via Fortune) of interest:

Following a speech at Peking University on his first trip to China as Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner was asked to share his thoughts about the safety of Chinese investments in the United States. They are "VERY safe," he quickly asserted.

At which point the audience burst out laughing. Apparently, the audience was amused not only by the answer's substance, but by the flat "don't worry your little young heads about it" certainty with which Geithner insisted that China's U.S. debt holdings were A-OK. Because as even a group of Chinese college kids understood, that's just not as clear as the Treasury Secretary insisted it was.

In law school at Chicago, Professor Dennis Hutchinson would speak of the straight-face test. Apparently, Geithner failed.

Elsewhere in the yahoo finance article one found criticism of the GM PUMA.

The GM PUMA looks somewhat like this rickshaw, seen in Toronto on June 30, 2009. [IPBiz notes the irony in Canadians pulling rickshaws while Chinese build cars.]

Of GM, yahoo finance did not consider the PUMA an innovation; in that the PUMA will not change the way we live, they have a point. The article said:

It became clear this spring that General Motors was going to have to get smaller to survive, but this was ridiculous. A week after President Obama gave the company a 60 day deadline to avoid bankruptcy, GM took time out from its turnaround efforts to unveil the PUMA, a two-seat vehicle being developed with Segway that looked more like a rickshaw than a car.

The vehicle, capable of going only 35 mph and traveling 35 miles between charges, got lots of attention, but did little to change popular opinion about the company that had ridden large SUVs to the cusp of failure. On June 1, GM filed for bankruptcy.

Just because GM backs something, does not mean it's a winner. (Coskata?) Conversely, just because many big companies don't back something does not mean the thing is a loser. Ask Chester Carlson and Xerox.


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