No. 310: "Insight Out"

No. 310: "Insight Out"

No. 310: "Insight Out"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
Sept. 28 1999 3:30 AM

No. 310: "Insight Out"

"I'm saying we really do have to recognize that it's going to be difficult and take a while for people to get this stuff," says Professor Shoshanna Sofaer of Baruch College, an adviser to the federal government. "And for a significant percentage, they're never going to get it because they're cognitively impaired, they're too frail, or they just don't have the energy to invest in understanding these things." Who's never going to understand what?

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Send your answer by noon ET Tuesday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Thursday's Question (No. 309)--"Lost in Translation":

" 'EIN Nod: Bodlonrwydd Llwyr I Gwsmeriaid' is not the snappiest slogan to those who speak no Welsh. Yet the banner inside General Electric's aero-engine servicing department in South Wales--'_____________'--is a fair approximation of what GE has been up to in Nantgarw since it bought the business from British Airways in 1991."Fill in the blank in this lead from the Economist by translating that slogan from Welsh to English. (Question courtesy of Andrew Solovay.)

"A note: We apologize for Suddenly Susan."--Mac Thomason

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"Working in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism under the party's tutelage to achieve the Four Modernizations."--David Lofquist (Shany Mor had a similar answer.)

"Kill All the Fish and Blame Somebody Else."--Dave Gaffen

"No scrubs: A scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me."--Dennis Cass

"Our Goal: A Low-Wage Workforce Without the Brown People."--Matthew Heimer

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Randy's Anecdotal Wrap-Up

Before GE bought NBC, just outside each bank of elevators at 30 Rockefeller Center was a direction sign listing each employee who worked on that floor. It was exciting, albeit in a slightly childish way, to see your name on that signboard, confirming that you still had your cushy job in this historic broadcasting center. And the signs made it easier for visitors to find their way around. After the takeover, one of the first hints of the new corporate culture was the removal of all those convenient signs, and--so the rumor went--the firing of the guy whose job it was to keep them up to date. As he went from floor to floor removing the signs, did he realize what was going to happen after he'd taken down the final one?

A little while later, the "RCA Building" sign that had been on 30 Rock since its construction was replaced with one reading "GE Building," completing the eradication of the individual employee and the rewriting of architectural history. Isn't this the sort of thing we used to detest when the Soviets did it? That, and replacing all the hall lighting with 40-watt bulbs and MIRV missiles?

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Total Electric Answer

"Our Goal: Total Customer Satisfaction"

Says the Economist, the popular business fanzine: "GE tops most polls as the world's most-admired company. This year it may become the first firm to rack up net profits of $10 billion." Most people still associate GE with making things. (And with mass firings, polluting the Hudson, busting unions, scary nuclear power plants, scarier defense contracting, and scariest NBC twaddle--Ed.) In 1980, manufacturing provided 85 percent of the group's profits; now three-quarters come from services. Around half of that comes from its two "pure" service arms, GE Capital, which alone provides about 40 percent of its profits, and NBC. (But even as a service provider, GE will always be known for mass firings, polluting the Hudson, busting unions, scary nuclear power plants, scarier defense contracting, and scariest NBC twaddle.--Ed.)

In addition to its shift from manufacturing to service, GE is changing from an American company into a truly international operation. Again, the Economist: "GE has redoubled attempts to pass business to cheap hands and cheap minds. If you live in Texas and get a strange voice asking why your credit-card payment is late, it is probably because the call is coming from India (the operators assume western names and reportedly pick up the twang of the region they cover)."

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Servicing aircraft engines in Wales embodies both these aspects of GE's new philosophy. No wonder they're so admired. By the Economist. The popular business fanzine not known for its nude CEO centerfolds.

Anecdotal Extra No. 1: Ooh, It's the New Norma Kamalis, Your Grace

When I called to renew my New Yorker subscription, I asked the operator if she could offer me a bargain. "Are you a priest?" she asked. A special low rate is listed for priests but not for the clergy of any other faith. Presumably, Condé Nast is courting Catholic clerics (coveted by advertisers?). "It's true at Vogue, too," she said. "And if you're a bishop or above, we'll actually pay you to subscribe to Mademoiselle," she did not add.

Anecdotal Extra No. 2: Why John McCain Will Never Be President

"John McC. was on my US Airways flight from Orlando to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport this morning. He kept his head down and avoided eye contact. He pressed no flesh. He was widely recognized, but it appeared he did not wish to be seen. Was it because he was flying economy class? Because of his Mickey Mouse-logo polo shirt? Did he pay for it, or was it baksheesh? Face it: He just doesn't seem hungry."--Leslie Goodman-Malamuth

Common Denominator

A demigod walks (or rides around in a limo) among us, and his name is Jack Welch.