Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Poor Strategic Decision for An American Business

or how Sports Authority lost a customer and kept him lost.

I used to shop at Sports Authority. Got paintball supplies there, clothing, soccer stuff, some camping gear. I never really liked shopping there, prices always seemed a little high, but they had the best selection. Then we got an Academy Sports several miles closer, so I started going there. Hadn't been to Sports Authority in a while. You could say they lost me as a customer.

Today I was nearby and went in to see if I could pick up some ammunition. I burned through my last box of .380 at the range a couple weeks ago, and haven't been able to find any since. You may have heard, ammunition and firearms sales are up lately. Neither Academy Sports or American Sportsman had any FMJ ball, when I went so I thought to check out Sports Authority. Not only did they have no .380, they had no ammunition or firearms of any kind. They apparently stopped selling guns and ammo a couple years ago.

I think they made a bad decision. Maybe not a Circuit City strategic error, but a strategic error nonetheless. Here's why:
(1) A customer with money to spend walked in their door, walked around the store looking for a product they used to sell, and left without buying anything. How is that good business?
(2) In this soft economy, guns and ammo are one of the few things that are selling really, really well. Sports Authority doesn't sell that type of sporting goods though. How is that good business?
(3) Since guns and ammo is normally a profitable business, I'm thinking that Sports Authority is making a political statement against shooters by not selling them. How is that good business?

May not be a big deal to anyone else, but I won't be back, and I'll tell others why.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More No Change - Obama Continues Bush Policy of Secrecy

Federal Times reports that, "The Obama administration has directed defense officials to sign a pledge stating they will not share 2010 budget data with individuals outside the federal government. In an undated non-disclosure agreement obtained by Defense News, the administration tells defense officials that “strict confidentiality” must be practiced to ensure a “successful” and “proper” 2010 defense budget process. "

So now budget data is a secret?

How does this jibe with the President's Inauguration Day pledge "Information will not be withheld just because I say so," he said. "It will be withheld because a separate authority believes it is well-grounded in the Constitution." and the Presidential memo that followed directing that "In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve."

John Podesta, formerly of the Clinton Administration, most recently Chief of the Obama transition team, argued brilliantly when he wrote in an August 2003 Prospect article, "But what is troubling about this administration's approach to secrecy is its conversion of the legitimate need for operational security into an excuse for sweeping policies that deny public access to information and public understanding of policy making. ...a default to secrecy denies the public the vital information we need to strengthen security here at home. And that is the paradox -- when the penchant for secrecy threatens to leave our country less secure and to weaken our democratic institutions"

I agree with that argument. Did then. Do now. I wonder what Mr. Podesta thinks?

h/t Instapundit

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Does Recovery Bill Fund Gun Control Efforts?

I had not seen any big press about this... I hope someone notices...

In the Recovery Act Under Justice Programs, "$10,000,000 shall be transferred to ‘‘Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Salaries and Expenses’’ for the ATF Project Gunrunner."

So what is ATF project Gunrunner? According to the ATF factsheet, ..."The initiative seeks to focus ATF’s investigative, intelligence and training resources to suppress the firearms trafficking to Mexico and stem the firearms-related violence on both sides of the border."

Okay. No problem with that. One of their tools though is interesting. It's eTrace, a system to help investigators track "...recovered crime guns chain of custody from it’s source (manufacturer/importer) through the chain of distribution (wholesaler/retailer) to the individual who was the first retail purchaser of the firearm, or to a point where all other possibilities of identifying the original purchaser have been thoroughly exhausted."

Again, the idea here seems to be okay, to help identify source of firearms that routinely wind up in the hands of criminals. If someone is buying guns in order to transfer them illegally, they should be prosecuted. This can help do that.

I have some concerns though about a system that identifies the "first retail purchaser." As I understand it, gun purchases aren't "reported" but investigators can look at a dealer's record to see who a specific crime gun was transferred to. I have no problem with that, but it's a short step to make licensed dealers report on purchasers.

The next point is a huge red flag, in testimony to Congress last year, the William Hoover of ATF discussed that they needed resources. He identifies problem areas as the traditional bugaboos of "gun shows" and "straw purchasers". And continues "...As part of “Project Gunrunner” we will seek to expand inspection and compliance activities to include focused forward traces of firearms that, through historical firearms recovery and trace data have been identified as “weapons of choice” for the cartels and their enforcers. These inspections will also seek to use firearms tracing and proactive investigative measures to identify and interdict those who pose as legitimate buyers while they are actually straw purchasing firearms for cartel members and associates who otherwise are prohibited from purchasing firearms in the U.S."

Well the ATF now has $10 million of additional resources for this project. I just wish I knew more about what they mean by "forward focus traces" and "proactive investigative measures."

From a civil rights perspective, these are worrisome terms.

This is all put in the context of fighting international arms trafficking, but it certainly appears that eTrace is a US system, available to local law enforcement. If someone knows more, I'd be happy to learn about it.

Oh by the way, if you look at Mr. Hoover's testimony, be sure to enjoy the irony of this statement, "...The increased incidence of firearms trafficking to Mexico (from the U.S.) is influenced by numerous factors, including: The strict prohibition and regulation of firearms in Mexico;..." Classic.

UPDATE: JammieWearingFool has info on the effort to make eTrace data available to local governments, not law enforcement. Currently this is prohibited under the Tiahrt Amendment

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

General Motors Fail

One of my cars gets 36 miles per gallon. It has a lightweight, dent resistant polymer body. It's been reliable and inexpensive to maintain. I've had it for 12 years and it has over 234,000 miles on it. Nowadays I drive it between 250 and 500 miles a week.


Nope. It's an American car. A General Motors car. So what does GM do with a brand that could produce a car with those qualities?

You know, a car from a "different kind of car company"?

First they bring it in close, then they kill it.

GM today announced that the Saturn brand would be "phased out" after the 2011 model year.

What a shame.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Shoe Is on the Other Foot

There was a Washington Post Story today about former Bush administration officials criticisms of the new administration. I'm neither here nor there on the substance of the report - I can see a good argument either way on whether and how these guys should be criticizing the new administration.

I do have to disagree with the statement by Thomas E. Mann, "... A lot of these people are still caught up in these ideological battles and can't let go."

It's sad but that statement really isn't true anymore. Both side have ceased to honestly argue on ideological grounds. It implies that both Republicans and their opponents were engaged in ideological battles. In fact, very little of the opposition to Bush administration policies was ideological in nature. It was mostly personal. It was mostly because the policies were Bush's, they had to be wrong.

As evidence, here's what we've seen in two weeks...

Rendition? under Bush bad, under Obama ok
Lobbyists in Government? Under Bush bad, under Obama ok
Troops in Iraq? Under Bush bad, under Obama ok (read through the article to see how troops will stay in Iraq, but be designated "not combat troops.")
Corrupt officials? Under Bush bad, under Obama ok
Corporate fat cats influencing policy? Under Bush bad, under Obama ok.

You can tell me about the disagreements, but please, don't say they are ideological. That's just not honest. It's all about power.