Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Real Bill Ayers

by Bill Ayers / New York Times

IN the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”

Secondary characters in the narrative included an African-American preacher with a fiery style, a Palestinian scholar and an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.” Linking the candidate with these supposedly shadowy characters, and ferreting out every imagined secret tie and dark affiliation, became big news.

I was cast in the “unrepentant terrorist” role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the “Two Minutes Hate” scene from George Orwell’s “1984,” when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.

... more about Bill Ayres and his role.

My comment: Keep in mind that during the 1960s I was a long haired draft resister. I lived in Chicago in 1968 and, though I avoided the Democratic National Convention, several good friends were on site ... one as a medical volunteer patching the wounds inflicted during what was later characterized as a police riot. I was in Chicago during the riots that followed the Martin Luther King assassination ... barricaded in an apartment on the south side with that same medical volunteer ... the door barred, a Mauser and a Baretta nearby as we listened to gunfire outside in the street.

If you weren't a little radicalized during the 1960s, one way or the other, you simply weren't paying any attention.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sen Bob Casey (D-PA) ... for the record

I have to say also, with regard to the labor concessions -- Mr. [Ron] Gettelfinger [UAW president], I wanted to review some of those. Because I am stunned by the kind of -- when you hear the talking heads on television and when you read what some people say in this town and across the country about the mythology that's out there about how we're -- how we got to this situation. And, frankly, the scapegoating of the men and women of organized labor, and in particular, autoworkers.

Point number one: In 2005, cuts in wages for active workers and health-care benefits for retirees -- point number one. I'm reading from your testimony. Cuts for new workers, bringing the wage level down to 14 bucks an hour. How many industries are doing that? Reducing the company's liability for retiree health care by 50 percent. And I realize these have been in the record before, but it is very important.

And wages and benefits. You said yourself that they're about 10 percent -- 10 percent of the budget? You would think listening to some of the people talk out there, some of the so-called experts, that wages and benefits were 70 percent of the cost. So there's a lot of mythology, a lot of myth generally that has been put on the record.

In 20-- since 2003, downsizing by the companies has reduced their workforce by 150,000 people. That doesn't get said very often. The labor-cost gap with foreign transplant operations will be largely or completely eliminated. OK? So, it's -- I think it's important to put this information on the record for this hearing. And then we've heard this garbage about 73 bucks an hour. It's a total lie, and some people have perpetrated that deliberately in a calculated way to mislead the American people about what we're doing here. It's a lie, and they know it's a lie.

My comment: According to a bit on MSNBC the other night the average wage for a line worker at the Big Three is $28/hour. the average wage for a line worker at one of the "Transplants" is $25/hour. $28/hour is a far cry from $73/hour.

From where I sit the big difference in the price of cars between foreign manufacturers and domestic manufacturers is a health care issue. Japan, home of Toyota and Honda, has Universal Health Care. Germany, home to Mercedes Benz and BMW has Universal Health Care. Korea has Universal Health Care. Virtually every civilized country on the planet has some basic Universal Health Care. If you want to know why American companies have trouble competing in the global market, looking into Universal Health Care would be a good place to start. Our companies, in all industries across the board, shoulder the burden for employee health care. The companies based in other countries are not saddled with that burden. Products are priced accordingly ... and when employee health care costs are factored in to the price of products, that cost is a liability. I know from my own corporate experience that the health care costs paid by the company I worked for represented a 25-30% add on to my salary. It was a Japanese company and that health care factor went a long way to explain why our products were manufactured in Japan, Korea, China and Vietnam ... not here. I worked for a sales entity ... a means of transferring cash from the US to Japan. We basically bought our products from the parent company ... and product was priced in such a way that the subsidiary I worked for was barely profitable. It wasn't supposed to make money! The manufacturing arm was the place the money was made.

Why don't we have Universal Health Care? Because we don't want no stinking government bureaucrat making decisions about our health care. We'd much rather have some clerk with a high school education, working for an insurance company making those decisions. After all, getting health care is a privilege in this country - not a right. We'd rather see second rate health care (or none) for a significant segment of our population than have our industries compete on a level playing field. No! Wait! That doesn't make sense?

Sure it does ... if you're blinded by ideology!

Compuware CEO reminds Senator of Alabama's aid to foreign automakers

Note: The following letter (pdf 19 KB) was sent on Nov. 17 from Peter Karmanos, Jr., chairman and CEO of Compuware Corporation, to U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a critic of bridge loans for American automakers.

Dear Senator Shelby:

On Sunday, Nov. 16, I watched with great interest "Meet the Press," during which you and Sen. Carl Levin debated the merits of (or, concerning your position, the folly) providing financial aid to America's domestic auto industry. I must admit that I was more than a little taken aback by how out of touch you really are about what Detroit's Big Three automakers have been doing for some time and continue to do to transform their businesses to both survive in today's debilitating economic climate and thrive in the future. The steps have been extremely significant and take it from me — someone who lives and works in the Motor City — incredibly painful as well.

Frankly, I could go on for pages in an effort to educate you about these measures, but I think Senator Levin did a good job of providing the high-level facts about these transformation efforts. As the ranking member on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, I can only trust that you will take some time and conduct the proper due diligence before continuing to espouse your inaccuracies. At minimum, I believe the domestic auto industry (and its millions of hardworking, taxpaying employees), which helped make America great, deserve as much.

Don't you?

The intent of this letter, however, is not to take you to task for the inaccuracy of your comments or for the over-simplicity of your views, but rather to point out the hypocrisy of your position as it relates to Alabama's (the state for which you have served as senator since 1987) recent history of providing subsidies to manufacturing. During the segment on "Meet the Press," you stated that:

We don't need government — governmental subsidies for manufacturing in this country. It's the French model, it's the wrong road. We will pay for it. The average American taxpayer is going to pay dearly for this, if I'm not wrong.

I trust it is safe to say that when you refer to "government subsidies," you are referring to subsidies provided by both federal and state governments. And if this is in fact true, then I am sure you were adamantly against the State of Alabama offering lucrative incentives (in essence, subsidies) to Mercedes Benz in the early 1990s to lure the German automobile manufacturer to the State.

As it turned out, Alabama offered a stunning $253 million incentive package to Mercedes. Additionally, the state also offered to train the workers, clear and improve the site, upgrade utilities, and buy 2,500 Mercedes Benz vehicles. All told, it is estimated that the incentive package totaled anywhere from $153,000 to $220,000 per created job. On top of all this, the state gave the foreign automaker a large parcel of land worth between $250 and $300 million, which was coincidentally how much the company expected to invest in building the plant.

With all due respect, Senator, where was your outrage when all this was going on? Perhaps on principal you did disagree with your colleagues in the Alabama State Government over these subsidies, but I don't recall you ever going out and publicly decrying Alabama's subsidization strategy. I certainly don't recall you going in front of the nation (as you did this past Sunday) to discuss what a big mistake Alabama was making in providing subsidies to Mercedes Benz. If you had, however, you could have talked about how, applying free market principles, Alabama shouldn't have had to resort to subsidies to land Mercedes Benz.

Competitively speaking, if Alabama had been the strongest candidate under consideration (i.e. highest quality infrastructure, workforce, research and development facilities, business climate, etc.), then subsidies shouldn't have been required.

The fact is that Alabama knew that, on a level playing field, it could not compete with the other states under consideration and, thus, to lure the German car builder to the state, it offered the aforementioned unprecedented subsidies. In effect, Alabama — your state — did exactly what you said government should not do: provide subsidies for manufacturing. It's no great mystery why Alabama politicians went to such dramatic anti-free-market measures to secure Mercedes Benz — they did it for the betterment of their state through job creation and increased tax revenues. And who could blame them? Is that so different than what would occur by providing financial aid to help rescue the domestic auto industry?

Such aid would save millions of jobs and millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Additionally, unlike the giveaways Alabama bestowed upon the foreign automaker in question, United States taxpayers would be reimbursed with interest (as they were when Chrysler received government aid in the early 1980s) for their investment in what is clearly a critically important industry for America’s present and future.

Best Regards,
Peter Karmanos, Jr. Chairman and CEO Compuware Corporation

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Win Ben Stein's mind

By Roger Ebert / Chicago Sun Times

I've been accused of refusing to review Ben Stein's documentary "Expelled," a defense of Creationism, because of my belief in the theory of evolution. Here is my response.

Ben Stein, you hosted a TV show on which you gave away money. Imagine that I have created a special edition of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" just for you. Ben, you've answered all the earlier questions correctly, and now you're up for the $1 million prize. It involves an explanation for the evolution of life on this planet. You have already exercised your option to throw away two of the wrong answers. Now you are faced with two choices: (A) Darwin's Theory of Evolution, or (B) Intelligent Design.

Because this is a special edition of the program, you can use a Hotline to telephone every scientist on Earth who has an opinion on this question. You discover that 99.975% of them agree on the answer (A). A million bucks hangs in the balance. The clock is ticking. You could use the money. Which do you choose? You, a firm believer in the Constitution, are not intimidated and exercise your freedom of speech. You choose (B).

Squaaawk!!! The klaxon horn sounds. You have lost. Outraged, you file suit against the program, charging it is biased and has denied a hearing for your belief. Your suit argues that the "correct" answer was chosen because of a prejudice against the theory of Intelligent Design, despite the fact that .025 of one percent of all scientists support it. You call for (B) to be discussed in schools as an alternative theory to (A).

... more about Ben Stein's mind in The Chicago Trib.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Oh, how the times have changed!

Sneaking around the Constitution

Atheists want God out of Ky. homeland security

Associated Press Writer

A group of atheists filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to remove part of a state anti-terrorism law that requires Kentucky's Office of Homeland Security to acknowledge it can't keep the state safe without God's help.

American Atheists Inc. sued in state court over a 2002 law that stresses God's role in Kentucky's homeland security alongside the military, police agencies and health departments.

Of particular concern is a 2006 clause requiring the Office of Homeland Security to post a plaque that says the safety and security of the state "cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon almighty God" and to stress that fact through training and educational materials.

The plaque, posted at the Kentucky Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort, includes the Bible verse: "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

"It is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I've ever seen," said Edwin F. Kagin, national legal director of Parsippany, N.J.-based American Atheists Inc. The group claims the law violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.

... get the rest in the Seattle Times after the click.

On doing things your own way ...

"If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity."

-- Bill Vaughn

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

More "Real"Americans

... or find the video here.

... way too real, and too disgusting.

Bush's Chances for a Place on Mt. Rushmore

Need I say more?

A Brief Apology

I haven't posted for a while. Believe me, it's not been a lack of desire or for a lack of absurdities in the world to point out. I just spent a week in the hospital (got out on Saturday) dealing with a ruptured appendix. I'm still not 100%, by any means but things are improving.

The real blessing is that we only come with one appendix.

More silliness in a bit.