9.23.2009

Is This Their Legal Defense? (ACORN)

I saw this on NPR just today and find the entire legal defense rather troubling. I consider myself a champion of fair play and if ACORN and its employees have been wronged, I would be the first to speak up for them. But I don't see it here. If you haven't seen the vid posted all over YouTube, CNN and other places, you might want to check it out.


[[[Part 2 of 2]]]]]


The journalistic methods used were sound, not necessarily professional like CNN or NBC, but they did the one important thing that the big guys do: visit multiple places to gauge whether the first was a anomaly or the tip of the iceberg. So kudos to Hannah Giles and James Okeefe.

Back to my point... NPR reports that ACORN not only fired these two ladies who gave the "pimp" and his "prostitute" advice on how to skirt the law, but ACORN also filed a lawsuit against Giles and O'Keefe for - now get this - it 'damaged ACORN's reputation'. EXCUSE me? Your employees willfully aided and abetted a hypothetical criminal enterprise, but the people who filmed it damaged your reputation? Dang. Talk about shooting the messenger!

Now the funny part....

The story goes on to say that ACORN wants all distribution of said video stopped. This the age of the Internet, man! Ain't no stopping that train! There's people like me that the courts cannot stop, and even if they did - it's too late. Do they not live in the same sphere the rest of us do? All the important people (i.e. the people who can bring down ACORN) have already seen it. Congress is investigating too and ACORN wants it to stop? Funny stuff. I guess it doesn't hurt to ask.

And for more funnies....

The issue ACORN is using to bring this embarrassing situation to an end is the old Johnny Cochran trick: "If you can't refute the evidence then refute the one who brings the evidence" (okay, the late JC didn't actually make up that trick, but you get the point). The NPR story says that ACORN is suing using the Linda Tripp Law - the one that says both parties have to know the conversation is being recorded. True enough, but NPR quotes their attorney as saying -


While everyone, including them, agrees that some of the things they said were dumb, in Maryland we have a right to say dumb things in the privacy of our homes and offices without fear of being taped and without fear of being splashed all over the Internet."
---Andrew D. Freeman — an attorney for ACORN

If that's not attorney speak, I don't know what is. I mean, does it really make sense to you that I'm free to say stupid stuff to a prospective client without fear of repercussions? If that's the case then the two ladies shouldn't have been fired. They should be free to say whatever they want without fear of losing their jobs!! We should all behave like we are being taped - because you are... Did I mention this is the age of the Internet?

Bringing It Down and Keeping it Real

I genuinely feel bad for these two ladies the former employees of ACORN. We could pick them apart all day, but I won't do that. It is hard for me to accept their fate in a way because I have seen ACORN at its best. They do a legitimate service - sometimes. Unfortunately, they have come under a lot of fire for a number of indiscretions - both real and perceived - so something like this was bound to occur. Particularly in this environment (some of the more cynical conservatives even blame ACORN for the landslide election-day loss).

My take from this video? There are several... One, I find it mind-boggling that the ladies in this video didn't seem to pick up on the fact something was wrong. No pimp uses the word "prostitute". I don't care how "classy" he may be. In fact they had to tell him to stop using the word "prostitute" and call Giles a "performing artist". That should have been a red flag.

Two, ACORN's mission is the help the indigent, less-represented members of society. I'm sure they deal with such unsavory characters as Giles and O'Keefe all the time, but I doubt any of them were as white (er, I mean 'eloquently spoken') as these two. Judging from the employees' reactions, I can't tell if they caught on and were playing along, or if they genuinely thought they were actually helping someone in need. If they were following ACORN protocol, then they should not have been fired. ACORN should have been reprimanded (which they were, later, by Congress no less).
Three, which is obvious - ACORN should always try to uphold the law, regardless of the circumstances. The video made its point for the anti-community organization crowd.

That's my hit for today. It has been a while, hasn't it?


7.03.2009

The New Chrysler and the Fenton, MO Plant

Senator Claire McCaskill Meets With Chrysler

You know how much it hurts to say this, but it must be said - again..... My friends who work at the Fenton, MO plant are being let go, possibly permanently. Much has been said and much is known about the Chrysler restructuring. And I cannot conceiveably blame McCaskill for going to bat for my fellow Americans who just completed their last day at Chrysler. However, I can point out that her "talks" with Chrysler not only won't do much good, but it political grandstanding at its finest.




I don't care much for Claire McCaskill, and this latest stunt is just one more example why. First of all, Chrysler is no longer an American car company. Everyone who's read the newspaper or listened to tv or radio knows by now that Chrysler is now an Italian car company who's parent company is Fiat. Being a senator, I must assume she knows this. Fiat's first priority is not to keep Americans working. In fact, the status of the American work force, particularly at Fenton is of no concern to Fiat. It's primary mission is to get new, exciting cars to market as quickly as possible. If Ms. McCaskill has any sense, she should know that too.

Fiat is keeping some American plants open, but not all. They can't afford to keep them all open just to keep people employed. They have to restructure and that requires some very, very difficult decisions. Everyone at Chrysler knew such decisions were necessary.

So what's the purpose of this "meeting"? So that when it comes to her re-election bid, she can say she tried. But why raise the hopes of so many people - including people like me who have no connection to Chrysler? Congress gave Chrysler an ultimatum which included the Fiat deal. Now that the deal is done, and the economics didn't work out in your favor, McCaskill is crying foul? Talk about hypocrisy!

To my friends at the Fenton, MO plant, I'm very sorry that your company is in such deep trouble. In spite of my rhetoric, I do hope that McCaskill or any other government official can help each and every one of you through this difficult period. I may not work there, nor work in any related industry, but like all workers in all industries - our livelihood depends directly upon our customers being employed, with steady incomes and able to purchase our goods and services. Whether you know it or not, some of you are my customers. If you're unable to continue buying my products, I will struggle as well, and in fact already have. My point is, it is imperative we keep the work flowing for all those who want to work.

6.26.2009

Goodbye, Mr. Jackson

As everyone knows by now Michael Jackson, a person who's life and work I admired greatly, passed away yesterday 6/25/2009. My condolences to the Jackson family and friends. Like all of his millions of fans, I'm deeply saddened by his departure. My only wish is that the haters and naysayers who dogged him since 1987 will give him, the Jackson family, and all of us devoted fans the peace we deserve.

As I listened to the radio today, the DJ was asking people to call in to tell everyone what Jackson hit meant the most to them and why. Well as a fan, I have several, but the one that hit home the most was a somewhat obsure song that never made it to the clubs or even on most radio stations - Leave Me Alone from the album Bad. The song was the first of several songs telling people to get out of his business.

At the time I was in college and in my social circles I had people all up in my business too (although no where near what MJ was dealing with), so the song really resonated with me. Leave Me Alone fit my mood perfectly. Also I liked the fact he fought back negativity in the best possible way, through his music.

Farewell Mr. Jackson. As I listen to "Keep the Faith" on my PC now, I wish you well in your new resting place. Thank you for showing us the Man in the Mirror for that is the only way We Can Change the World.

4.16.2009

United Says You're Too Fat to Fly

From Marketplace: Heavy Passengers Must Buy Two Seats

Audio of Story

I prefer to fly first class, but can’t afford it. Although most people looking at me wouldn’t conclude I’m overweight, the fact is I’m very tall, of athletic build, and the airline seats are atrociously uncomfortable. So I would gladly pay an extra $100 more for a comfortable seat. However just paying extra doesn’t buy me more comfort (unless I go first class for $1000 more). The airline wants the fat passenger to pay them for lost revenue since they cannot fit another passenger on board. In return the fat passenger gets what? Nothing. The seats don’t suddenly become comfortable simply because no one is sitting next to them. On some planes the armrest is fixed so the wide-body passenger has the same discomfort, same issues as if they had paid less and sat next to another passenger.

I understand the airlines need to draw in more cash. But I don’t understand their methods. They should know by now people don’t like to be nickeled and dimed to death. This “fat surcharge” is just another nuisance charge. What’s next? An extra charge for people whose legs are too long that prevents the person in front of them from reclining or the person next to window from getting out to the restroom? How about charging wheelchair-bound people for the extra space, time, and weight they bring to the plane? Oh, and charge extra for crying babies too - they make flights memorable, to be nice. They could charge old people who walk too slow, or young people who refuse to turn off their radios when told to.

Sorry I can’t get behind this rule at all. Fortunately I don’t fly that often because the seats are so uncomfortable. I drive or take the train or a boat virtually everywhere I travel. You small people can enjoy your flights.

4.12.2009

Good Morning and Happy Easter

I will probably not go to church today, although I know I should. I've become quite disenchanted with the entire religious experience over the years. Not that I don't love God or Jesus any less, not that I don't believe in the lessons Jesus and his disciples teach, but rather that church has become disturbingly passive and/or hateful. I no longer find peace in church, even in happier churches - the ones that gleefully celebrate God (as opposed to the monotone drone of other churches).

First of all, western Christian churches in particular behave more like corporations vying for market share than holy entities saving our souls. During the American slave era, American churches weren't united on the evils of slavery. Quite the opposite. Southern churches preached to the enslaved, even attempting to interpret the Exodus as proof that slaves shouldn't run away from their masters. Northern churches didn't exactly put themselves on the forefront of abolition, some did, serving as stops along the Underground Railroad, but most sat on the sidelines. Now, virtually all churches in the North and in the South acknowledge slavery for what it is. Why couldn't they do that during the height of the slave trade? Did God suddenly change His ways? The Bible hasn't changed, so what gives?

Following the slave trade, churches again had the opportunity to lead and failed to do so. Racism became the next challenge with Jim Crow laws being passed at the beginning of the 20th century. Again Southern churches in particular embraced it - barring blacks from attending the same church as whites. One of many stories that came to me is about 4 little girls - all of whom were black - decided to go to the closest church which was a "white" church. They walked in and the congregation gasped. The pastor came up to the girls and told them they can't come in. "This church is for people going to 'white heaven'", he said in a decidedly Southern drawl. " Your church down the street is for people going to 'colored heaven'". Now, in 2009, that same church has black and white members. So what happened? Why is it that in 1950 it was exclusively white, but in 2009 it now accepts all people? I didn't realize God was subject to equal housing laws.

Women in America were long held down - not allowed to hold positions of power or do certain things that were considered "manly work". The church followed suit, not allowing women to become pastors, ministers, deacons, etcetera. But they could organize bake sales, work in the kitchen and teach Sunday School - jobs considered women's work. It wasn't until AFTER society began accepting women as 1st class citizens that the church began to allow women in more high profile roles. The one exception is the Catholic church, but even The Vatican is under intense pressure to allow female priests. Again, if women weren't good enough to be ministers or deacons then, why now? Is God subject to fair hiring laws too?

Even now in the 21st century, Christian churches face the same opportunity to lead and have already stumbled. Gays in the clergy is a hot-topic, just as slavery and racism were. Unlike racism which isn't explicitly stated in the Bible, homosexuality is stated and called an "abomination". So churches have used this point as a way to keep gays out of the clergy and other church roles. But society is changing and is becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians. And just like the issues before, the church will eventually cave-in, but only after gays and lesbians earn respect in secular society. The churches who have already accepted gays can and have pointed to the New Testament where Jesus accepted all people - including a known prostitute. Church again will follow, not lead.

Churches have used religion to justify virtually anything that is explicitly against the 10 commandments. War of any color should always be vigorously opposed by any church, synagogue, or mosque that is true to itself. The war in Iraq was supported by Christian churches, just like World Wars I, II, the War of 1812, and most other conflicts where America was attacked first. Yet the sixth Commandment says: "Thou shalt not kill". It does not say "Thou shalt not kill except in self-defense, or in case of war, or on behalf of Jesus, or by accident". OUR laws may say that, but that isn't church law. In Mathew 22:36-40, Jesus himself explains that second greatest commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself. Yet, many of the pastors I listened to in 2003 made no distinction between peaceful Muslims and Islamic terrorists. They used the actions of a few to justify attacking a sovereign country and a peaceful religion. It's as if Christians don't have their own terrorist groups (i.e. Ku Klux Klan, Skinheads, Neo-Nazis), only Islam. It's bad enough that those of us who attend church can't follow the 10 Commandments. But if the church can't serve as an example - what hope does the individual have?

This issue goes way, way, back to the Middle Ages where Christian churches justified attacking Muslims in order to wrest the holy cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth away from them. There's many other examples of this same contradictory behavior on the part of churches in other parts of the world.

I know full well why Christian churches behave in this manner. They are trying to attract and retain their flocks. The pastor from the white church I mentioned would have lost his members if he spoke out forcefully against segregation. Much as the pastors I listened to in 2003 would have also lost members if they vehemently opposed attacking a Muslim nation. There's the rub. These churches are concerned about losing market share. They don't lead society, they follow. And in doing so they simply justify our behaviors (good and bad) all the while leading us to believe that "God is on our side", when in fact he is not. There's a saying, "God don't like ugly". And since war is ugly - God doesn't like war and therefore he's not on the side of either participant, but on the side of the peacemaker. The same logic can be used for slavery, racism, sexism, or other ugly -isms you can think of.

I am Christian. I believe and love Jesus Christ and always will. I also follow his teachings to the best of my ability. However, I need assistance at times, and unfortunately that assistance cannot be found in any Western Christian Church. I admire and immensely appreciate the sacrifices Jesus gave us, but just because he died for us, doesn't mean we're off the hook. We have our own sacrifices to make and it is His example we should follow. Why can't my church lead by example?

3.29.2009

1,2,3,4 Honey, a HoodRat is At My Door!

I usually blog about worldly stuff - economic collapse, war, nation-building, etc. But sometimes a more important event happens right at home. This one has to do with my daughter, her lover, and a movie script....

My daughter is bi-sexual - meaning basically she's attracted to human flesh be it male or female. She met a person while attending a trade school in Kansas City, MO and her name is D as in Desiree. I'm using D's real name, at least the name she gives people. I'm hoping someone will Google her name and find this post. Anyway...

D is bad news. Every teacher, counselor, and student at the trade school told me the same thing. D is trouble. She lasted all of 3 weeks in school before dropping out for the umpteenth time. Even her peeps tell me she's bad news. So I kept all of this in consideration, but my daughter was in love with D. And keeping them apart just makes the affection stronger. So, we - her mom and I -decided to let it flow and give D the benefit of the doubt, until we met her.

Background

There's a lot to the background but suffice it to say that D was expelled, my daughter wound up on medical leave so the two of them got separated. As young love often is impatient, my daughter couldn't wait to get her cell phone back, so we allowed her to use ours. Big Mistake. D blew up my phone non-stop, even when we asked her nicely not to, that we'd have our daughter call her back just as soon as possible. She refused to oblige, so Mom and D had it out over the phone.....

For my part, I tried to stay fair and civil, but then I didn't talk to D but once. That conversation was cordial but seemed forced from D.

So over the past 4 months, while my daughter was on medical leave, there was of calls, text, IM, lovey dovey, and kiss my a** conversations between our daughter and D. They talked about a lot of things including moving in together be it here or in Kansas City. We still wanted to meet this person they call Desiree, but she came up with every excuse under the sun not to come here.

You would think that an effort would be made to come to your girlfriend's 18th birthday party, no matter how far away it may seem. But no, D couldn't do that. But should COULD come 2 days afterward, which is where this story gets interesting.

"I'm Here For Your Daughter"


Two days after the birthday party I get a page from my daughter and a separate one from her Mom saying that D is in town. Apparently she wants my daughter to go with her back to KC. My daughter loves us and I think that is the only reason she refused to go, as bad as she wanted to. She was packed and everything but wanted to say goodbye to us in person. So she made D wait until we got home. It brings joy to my heart to know she loves us enough not to just walk out. It also gave me some time to meet D.

I got home and found no one at the house or in front of the house so I was a bit disappointed. My daughter was upstairs crying. D apparently gave her an ultimatum or something. As we were talking, her mom came home and as all three of us were talking in her bedroom the Knock came to the front door. I went downstairs to open it (had Mom gone down there, D might be dead right now). She - all of 5' of her was leaning on the door frame, looked up at me and says "I'm here for ". It was like she's a pimp who came to accept delivery of a new bitch. No Hi, no how are you, no introduction whatsoever. I overlooked it, but didn't forget.

"Okay", I said. "And you are..?"
"I'm D. Desiree and asked me to come get her".
"Oh, really? Well D, it's nice to meet you. You're just the person I wanted to talk to" as I shook her hand. "Won't you come in?"

She stepped in and we went upstairs where I asked if she'd like a drink and to make herself comfortable. She said they were on a tight schedule so I asked if she had 5 minutes to talk. She said yes so we went to kitchen where I poured myself something to drink.

I asked her what she and my daughter planned to do once they got back to KC. How would they take care of themselves. And she gave me a line or two that my daughter can finish up high school with her. D has been on her own since she was 14 and raised her little brother. But she couldn't give a me a good reason why my daughter cannot finish high school here THEN go to KC with a job.

She offers me the reassurance that her older "sister" would be taking care of them while in school. To wit I replied my daughter isn't her sister's responsibility. But thanks for the offer.

I asked her where she worked and she said she works for a contractor for Job Corps and that's why they have to leave ASAP so she can get enough sleep to get to work the next day. LIE NUMBER 1. She told my daughter she was unemployed but was to start a new job on Monday. So she either lied to me or she lied to my daughter - either way is bad news.....

We then proceeded with the conversation and she tells me that my daughter asked to leave and because she is 18 I can't stop her from leaving. So I called my daughter to come down and she did, with Mom.

"Oh really." I said. "Is this true" as I looked at my daughter.
"yes" she says very sheepishly. "but, not to go to KC"

D looked stunned. Turned out my daughter only wanted to roll with them for the day, maybe even hanging out a the local hotel.

"Well I got news for both of you. I have power of attorney over my daughter". As I looked at D I said "Do you know what power of attorney is?"
"Yes"
"What is it?"
"Well, I..." as she fidgets with her cell phone. "I know she's 18 and she can leave whenever she wants"
"Right, and with power of attorney, I can call the police and they will pick her up and bring her right back home" I said.
"Not if she's 18" D insists
"You clearly don't know what power of attorney means. Why don't you look it up on the fancy cell phone and tell me what it means. Google it or something".

That was LIE NUMBER 2.

The conversation goes on, this time Mom got involved talking about her attitude going back to December. That's when I chimed in.

"I really didn't like your attitude at the door. No introduction, just 'I'm here to pick up my bitch'"
"That's not what I said"
"Your first words were 'I'm here for '.
"No it wasn't"

LIE NUMBER 3

So in the course of just 6 minutes she lied me 3 times. Sad thing is if she was just being truthful, she may have found a friend in me. But no she had to lie, unnecessarily.

The story doesn't end there.....

I need a second opinion


By the time the third lie rolled around, she got the 10th text message telling her they have to leave. I said fine, go on. And she left.

2 minutes later, she's still outside my door on the cell phone. By this time we had already called the police, so I went out to remind them they were late and had to get home.

"I thought yall had to go?" I said, standing just a few feet from D and another girl.
"The police are coming. We need a second opinion on this power of attorney" D says, with the phone stuck to here ear.
"huh,second opinion" I said under my breath as I turned to go back in to the house and wait for the police.

The police showed up - two squad cars. One officer separated us while the other officer dealt with D's 5 Crew (they had 5 kids inside a car and wanted to squeeze my daughter in for a 4 hour trip). D got a ticket for trespassing as did the driver and they shuffled back to KC - without my daughter.

They now have a court date that I'm sure they'll miss. But if they make it, so will I.


POSTSCRIPT

I later found out that D's sister did not offer to take care of my daughter. On the contrary, she told my daughter that she couldn't take care of both of them. D is more than she can handle.

Stay Tuned. This could get even more interesting.

2.28.2009

GOP Response to the State of the Nation Speech

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29289533/vp/29378488#29378488


You know, I really liked Bobby Jindal - that is until he did this rebuttal to President Obama's speech. I found it to be hokey, almost a "hey-we-Republicans-have-a-colored-in-our-ranks" kind of a ploy.

I still like Bobby, but he was played a fool.

The Employee Free Choice Act II

Get ready. The hype building around the next attempt to pass the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (HB800). First attempted in 2007 this act failed, due largely to partisan differences. Now, with a clear Democratic majority, the bill is poised to become law. So, hold onto your hat. Labor Unions and Corporate America are about to engage in that tried and true American tradition of hyperbole and political spin.

Arkansas IndyMedia
Committee on Education and Labor

Those who know me understand I don't much care for unions. Those who know me well understand that I don't oppose them either. However, I can't help to get ticked off every time I hear a union representative flapping his trap. They just don't seem to understand the new reality (well it's not all that new, but it's new to them). Workers like myself no longer see unions as a savior, in part because of the three highest profile industries they represent - automotive, airlines, teachers - all of whom are struggling and badly. But there's more to it than that.


My Granddaddy's Union
For starters, Big Labor 2009 isn't the union my granddaddy joined. The union of yesteryear worked tirelessly on behalf of ALL Americans. Among their many accomplishments - 40-hour work week, overtime pay, safe working conditions, affirmative action, minimum wage, Labor Day, holiday time off and pay - things we now take for granted. These efforts in Congress were clearly to help their members, but that union understood it was to help all Americans. In doing so the unions made themselves attractive to non-union workers. Membership increased because people saw value in their services. No more.

Big Labor 2009 is and has been focused inward - more so on its declining enrollment and making sure its members keep their benefits, no matter what. I can thoroughly appreciate their desire to take care of their members, and that should be commended. But from what I see too often - both nationally and personally - is the efforts are often not in sync with reality. We see in the news that Big Labor is in tough negotiations with an airline and win getting most of what they want (most often subsidized health care, which many of us don't have at all), then we see the airline fall into bankruptcy. Not to say the union had anything to do with it, but it doesn't look good nonetheless. Why would I want a union representing me if all the high profile companies they bargain with are failing?

That brings me to the Employee Free Choice Act. You may notice this is the one act before Congress that Big Labor showed up for, and it has to do exclusively with their ability to organize at currently non-union companies. Big Labor has been conspicuously absent from the other major debates that would have a far greater impact on their ability to organize. The biggest issue being universal health care. I'm sure Big Labor made some statement on it, but they are not at the forefront. My granddaddy's union would have been front and center.

The Battle
The specific provisions of the bill are hotly contested, which is where Big Labor and Corporate America will be doing battle. Big Labor contends this bill will eliminate the intimidation used by Corporate America to keep Big Labor out of its house. Ironically, it is Big Labor that uses fear and intimidation just as or if not more effectively as Corporate America because it is not only in your face, but in the face of customers too. Of course Big Labor will deny this but I have proof that such incidents have happened at several locations at my company. Which effectively turned us off on Big Labor.

For Corporate America's part in this debate, they will claim this bill strips employees of a secret ballot. Also, it will allow unions to claim representation simply by obtaining 50%+1 to sign authorizations. Which means, an employee can suddenly become unionized without ever getting a vote. It also gives the union powerful information to target those who are more friendly towards their aim as well as the ones who refuse to go along. Of course the unions will say they have no power to do such things -right....

One thing that is overlooked, but just as important - the right for the Corporation to provide opposing viewpoints. This is the sticking point for Big Labor because to them, simply providing information about the "other side" of unionizing is considered "fear and intimidation" by Big Labor. Think of it this way: What if Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton were running for President, but Hillary wasn't allowed to campaign and all you heard were glowing statements from/about Sarah? Would that be a fair election? Don't think so. Don't know about you, but I want to know all the details - the good, the bad, and the ugly before I make any major decision.


Can I Get Some Help Please?
My plea to Unions - help ALL of us find universal health care, sustainable pensions, and/or solvent Social Security and Medicare - and I promise you, membership will improve. Keep looking inward, and I can also promise you things will keep getting worse.

My plea to everyone else - do not blame unions for the current economic crises. They are not responsible for GM's demise or the insolvency at unionized airlines. Hold them to their legacy, because it is a good one.

2.16.2009

Another Revolution Tied Down

This is horrible news for Venezuela. It's not the specter of no more term limits for Venezuelan presidents, or the prospect of 30 or 40 years of Hugo Chavez, it's the principle of the matter. Venezuela voted and decided to remove term limits - great, that's their decision to make and I'm in no position to question that, nor would I want to. But if Venezuelans want genuine change, a genuine "revolution" that withstands the test of time, it won't happen with this decision.

Wrapping up a revolution in the guise of a single person will ultimately fail shortly after the death of the revolutionary. History is full of examples. There is also a very eerie recent example of how another democracy was upended by a skillful orator and became a dictatorship under the banner of a "revolution". That nation was Germany - 1938.

Is Venezuela of 2009 the same as Germany of 1938? Of course not. But when anytime a president refuses to give up power, and then convinces the people to allow him to retain power, you have disaster. Look no further than Zimbabwe. Now Chavez may do a fantastic job, may never be challenged, and may restrain from crushing all dissent like Mugabe has, but why even make that a possibility in the first place?

Good luck to Venezuela. In spite of their leader's animosity towards the USA, I'm not mad at him or the people of Venezuela. In fact I'm actually concerned for their long-term welfare.

2.15.2009

Pay Me Back First

I have mixed feelings on this.
http://www.cnbc.com//id/29197739

There's a couple of issues at work here. Number one, I like the fact that Congress isn't pushing for a hard number limit on compensation (unlike so many other rules). That allows a lot of flexibility to adjust to changing conditions both on the part of Congress and on the bank's part. That's a good thing.




Number two, banks will do what humans do - find ways to maintain the status quo in the face of overwhelming change - and will simply pay executives more via stock options. The argument however, that somehow banks will lose their best and brightest if they don't pay bonuses is marginally true. Yes, some will bolt, but there are thousands - literally - that are currently unemployed precisely because of this economic downturn. Whatever talent is lost can be quickly filled and even upgraded. The sooner that is realized, the better off any bank will be - bailout or no bailout. So bonuses are not required, but bankers expect it.

Number three, as for the government assistance the rules aren't hard to understand. If bonuses are that precious, then pay us back, plus a bonus, then sail off on your own. And if you sink - so be it.

Personally, I don't think any money should be in the bailout of banks. The crux of the problem were allegedly toxic mortgages - adjustable rate mortgages or alternative mortgages that skyrocketed far above the borrower's ability to pay. I don't understand how giving banks - the same ones who came up with alternative mortgage financing, oversaw its distribution and created securities based on those mortgages that are so complicated the banks themselves don't understand them, somehow brings my mortgage rate down or props up my property value. If anyone can explain that to me, I'm all ears.

My suggestion: start a new bank(s) - one that has zero bad assets, and let them start competing with existing banks. That way those who need credit and always got it before can once again get credit and we can move our economy forward. Let the existing banks deal with the mess they created while the rest of us move on.

But hey, I'm an engineer - what would I know.

(Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images North America)

UAW Backs Away From GM, Chrysler

As if we couldn't see this coming.... http://www.cnbc.com//id/29198688

I have to side with the UAW on this one. Although that's a rather hollow endorsement because GM is in dire straits. If the UAW (and GM bondholders) stick to their guns and forces GM to honor previous commitments, things can and will probably get ugly - fast. President Obama may have to step in much like this CNBC article (via Reuters) states. The best option in that point would be bankruptcy in my opinion.

What would bankruptcy mean? Probably not as dire as GM portends it to be. For starters, consumers aren't buying cars now, so what difference does it make if GM files for Chapter 11? GM and Chrysler are concerned of course that the public won't buy from a bankrupt company. Not sure where they get that from - virtually every legacy airline has filed for bankruptcy, some multiple times - and the public still flies on those planes.

I'm sorry to say this to my friends in the automotive industry, but slow car sales didn't start this economic downturn and getting those sales back won't bring us out of this malaise. According to economists and those who watch these things carefully, the problem started with toxic mortgages and therefore the solution must be in addressing these mortgages the securities based on them. Solving the mess in Detroit does not meet that goal.

For the record - I drive two Chryslers.

1.17.2009

Minneapolis Star Files for Bankruptcy

From Marketwatch.com

If you just got off the bus, newspapers are in trouble. They have been for a while, and if you listen to talking heads and other analysts, they'll tell you the decline began once the Internet became ubiquitous across the nation. The genuine experts will tell you newspapers started losing subscribers and revenue as far back as 1990 - when CNN and other 24/7 news outlets became popular. Some say the newspaper is completely dead and will be washed away by the Internet. Others don't quite have such a pessimistic view. And me? Well as always I have an opinion too.

I don't think ALL newspapers will fail - if they did then a significant portion of the online news we get would also fade away. This may surprise some youngsters but Google doesn't report the news - they just distribute it. So if the news reporters go out of business, you won't see as much news on Google. I do think that the newspapers that remain will be much smaller.

The way I see it, local newspapers don't take advantage of their strength. They still operate as if they are the one and only source of news for the region they serve. Nothing could be further from reality. To illustrate my point, let's look back at 9/12/2001 - the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The paper had already run for Tuesday 9/11/01 when the first plane struck. By 9:20am EST the story was all over the place - every online site, every TV station, every radio station, every office water cooler from New York to Tokyo. The issue was discussed at length worldwide, so when the paper printed - there was nothing "new" in the "news".

So what could the news industry do? Well, no one can report on local news quite like the local newspaper and local TV stations. CNN isn't going to report a story about a superintendent of my local school system embezzling money - unless of course they have no other news to report. Even if they did, CNN would rely on local news outlets to provide that content. In other words, let the national press - USA Today, Wall Street Journal, etc. have the world stage - they're outselling the local guys anyway. Provide stories that we cannot get anywhere but the local paper, such as an in-depth exposé on local controversies/issues. So when war breaks out in Somalia - the local paper shouldn't have a headline about it unless there's a connection to the region and the story is about that connection.

I understand from listening to my favorite news outlet - NPR.org - that many newspapers are moving towards commentary and opinion, gleefully giving up their attempts at objective impartiality. That might be good in the short run, but will ultimately lead to even smaller newsrooms. Why? Because although a news outlet may officially become "liberal" or "conservative" or of some other persuasion, not every reporter will fit that description, nor would they want to be associated with a liberal paper if they are a conservative writer. They will then look for a conservative paper to join, or create one themselves. And thus the outlet will have a smaller pool of reporters and other workers. Not to say it can't be done, I'm just saying it is leaves the public begging for a new paper when the only one in town turns liberal and by extension alienates the conservative base in the region (or vice-versa). The last 3 presidential election cycles should have proven by now that the USA is split almost evenly between liberal (Democrats) and conservative (Republican) so why would a newspaper want to cut out half of what few subscribers they have left?

That's my two cents.... What's your take?

1.12.2009

The Bush Legacy

In this story, there's only one thing I agree with Condoleezza Rice on - that history cannot be judged in the here and now. Bush's legacy and it's effect on the world won't be known for years or even decades. Will it be positive? Not likely. Will it be negative? I bet it would. This story (and a related story) shows that 75% of the US is glad to see the president gone. I count myself among them, but in the spirit of fairness, let's consider the pluses and minuses of the Bush Administration.

Hear Condi's statements here

+ George W. Bush can make decisions. Can he ever. I have to give him a lot of kudos on this one because making decisions is what the job of President is. He decides what he wants to do, does it, and makes no apologies. Best example - the 2004 presidential campaign against John Kerry. Bush made Kerry look stupid simply by deciding he didn't want the gay/lesbian vote. President George W. Bush declared that he did not favor gay marriage and would prefer a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. This scored him HUGE points among the religious right - the conservative base - while at the same time putting pressure on Kerry to either A) also support an amendment against gay marriage, thereby showing he's no different than Bush, or B) say he is in favor of gay marriage and thus take the gay vote and alienate a powerful and much larger evangelical voting bloc. Kerry did neither showing he cannot make tough decisions, and thus lost the election.

+ Early on, Mr. Bush appointed the best Secretary of State we've had in a while - General Colin Powell. A respected man held in high regard throughout most of the USA and the world. In my opinion the best cabinet choice Bush made in 8 years. Too bad Bush didn't listen to him.



+ Mr. Bush decided long before 9/11 that Saddam Hussein had to be dealt with, and the cat and mouse games Saddam was playing with the world had to end. I agreed with that assessment at the time. In retrospect, however I have since learned that Saddam was playing his only card of self defense. He had no choice but to make the outside world THINK he had weapons of mass destruction. Otherwise his enemies could move in on him and he had lots of enemies: Iran (by virtue of he 8 year war he started in the 80s), Kuwait (and by extension the Western World), and of course Israel. He had no reason to believe that the West, particularly the UK and the US would protect him should Iran decide to invade. WMD was a bluff.

+ Bush's promise to cut taxes gave him points among voters during the 2000 campaign. And he followed through on that pledge - a rarity in politics. So I'll give him kudos on that too.

+ The President has shown the ability to work with Democrats - albeit reluctantly. More recently, he even agreed with Democrats on a relief package for the auto industry. Not sure if this is genuine leadership or playing to the crowd.

That's the positives - very few as you can see. None of which have any long-standing effect on the world. Why? Due to the negatives I'll list here shortly. We were friends with Russia, our Cold War adversary, but no longer are we friends. We had friends in the Middle East, whom we have since alienated. We had friends in Asia who depended on our leadership and stability who have since lost confidence in us. And then there's the people of Iraq. They are now "free" to choose their own path, just as long as we approve. What if Iraqis chose Communism as their official form of government? Communism is more naturally aligned with Islamic law than any other modern government. Would the Bush Administration continue to provide military and police support to such a government? Of course not. How would we feel if China came to our "rescue" and removed a dictator, and told us we have only Communism to choose from? It would feel a lot like an occupation, and less like liberation. The Bush Administration doesn't understand this, which is why I highly doubt history will look favorably on Bush. Now, let's get to the negatives. Pull up a chair and get some coffee because this may take a while.

- Afghanistan. The premise behind going into Afghanistan is because the ruling party then - the Taliban - refused to cooperate in apprehending Osama bin Laden or any of his lieutenants. Under International law, Afghanistan was not required to assist the US. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Afghanistan and never was, yet Afghanistan was a sovereign nation. What if Osama had moved to Malaysia where we have friendly ties and no extradition treaty? Would Bush have invaded Malaysia? Probably not, but that is the precedent the Bush Doctrine set - attack others before they even think about attacking you. That philosophy has eroded America's good standing in the world and has undercut our influence.

- Iraq. Bush and then-Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, steadfastly refused to accept the military's recommendation of 500,000 - 1M troops. A strategy that would have worked in two important ways: 1) we would have had the ability to hold the territory that we cleared of insurgents, and 2) if Bush turned out to be right and we didn't need that many troops, then we could have begun to draw down much sooner giving he impression that we are leaving. Of course, that didn't happen and now Iraq has eerie similarities to Vietnam. In Vietnam we would fight the enemy, take over their territory, leave the position to fight elsewhere then the enemy came right back into the territory we just left. That's a strategy for perpetual warfare.



- Iraq, part 2. War is expensive - be it a minor conflict like Somalia or a full-fledged world war. When you know war is coming, you need all the cash you can get. In this case Mr. Bush cut taxes at a time when we were going to war and when our troops didn't all have the gear they needed. I understand from others that we sent our soldiers in the battlefield with only a few HumVees with armor. They should have all had armor. Bush tried to fight this war on the cheap and that never works.

- Iraq, part 3. According to published reports both in the media and from the CIA, there was no ties between Iraq and al Queda. Their respective leaders had no fondness for one another. Osama didn't like Saddam for his treatment of other Muslims or for the invasion into Kuwait. Saddam was by all accounts a classic, stereotypical dictator who was paranoid of anyone from anywhere usurping his power. Moreover he wanted to be the greatest leader the Middle East had ever had and be acknowledged as such by his peers, countrymen, and everyone else in the Arab world. Osama bin Laden however stole his thunder and was far more popular outside Iraq than Saddam would ever be. Saddam was despised outside Iraq whereas Osama was held in high regard among the common people. The idea that Saddam would give weapons of any kind to an enemy is ludicrous but that's the sales pitch Bush gave us and we bought it.

- Iraq, part 4. Removing Saddam was one thing, what we did afterward is entirely different. And in this I give Bush very low marks. I could go on and on with a string of examples, but suffice it to say, we are an occupying force in Iraq tying to impose our will. We are demanding a democratic state in Iraq. That is NOT liberation for the Iraqi people since they were not given a choice of government.

- The Home-front. I'm discouraged, saddened, confused, and utterly disappointed that I was not asked to help in the war effort. We have countrymen fighting for us, making themselves a target so that we aren't targeted at home, but yet Mr. Bush only asks that we just keep shopping and spending money so we can keep the economy flowing. For those of us with no family overseas, the war is nothing but a backdrop now. For those of us who are fighting or have family members fighting - the sacrifice is all ours. That's not how America wins wars. We win wars where all of America participates - by recycling, saving energy, BUYING US TREASURY BONDS to fund the war, among other things. That's the least we could do.

- Israel/Palestine. This issue is by far the most frustrating for me. Mr. Bush waited until his 7th year in office to take up this issue??? It's not new!!! And now that he has set the precedent of pre-emptive strikes, we have no leverage to pressure Israel to stand down. And because we have taken up arms against Muslims, we have no leverage to pressure Palestinians. I hope he doesn't seriously expect any fruits from this labor.



- Russia. Although I cannot say this is all Bush's fault ( I think Vladimir Putin would have distanced himself from the US regardless of the President), he didn't help matters. Major and minor wars start when one country tries to inject their own beliefs onto others. There were many other ways to express our position without antagonizing Russia. Not that the US should be afraid of Russia, we should be afraid for the people stuck in the middle - such as Georgia and Kosovo and other former Soviet states. Unless we are willing and able to take on Russia - which we can't do because we are in Iraq and Afghanistan - then we need to back down and work things out with Russia.

- China. Don't lecture China. They aren't Americans and they are trying to avoid our many mistakes as they march steadily towards capitalism and some modified form of democracy. If we are to allow US companies to do business in China, then those companies have to follow the laws of China - as distasteful as we may think they are. It's no different than if a Chinese company opened shop in the US - we would fully expect them to follow our laws. Just because our laws make sense to us, doesn't mean they are reasonable to the Chinese and if they choose not to comply what happens? They would face some form of legal punishment. Same applies in reverse when US companies do business in China. The Communist regime is loosening rules albeit very, very slowly, but they are trying to avoid the chaotic anarchy that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. As well they should.

- Economy. There are a lot of errors here - starting with the aforementioned error of cutting taxes when war is imminent. Ridiculous. That's like someone buying a new house, car, and boat, then going to their boss the next day and say - "Hey boss, I need you to cut my salary. I'm taking home too much money". Would YOU do that? I know I wouldn't, and can't think of anyone foolish enough to do so. But that's exactly what President Bush did when he cut taxes in 2003, just to fulfill a campaign promise.

- Economy part 2. As much as I hate regulation, it is absolutely necessary. Without it, companies would run amok doing whatever they want whenever they want. Take note: the largely unregulated investment banks collapsed, while the largely regulated commercial banks did not. That isn't a coincidence.

- Environment. Just as with the Iraq war, the president did not listen and is incapable of understanding the scientific facts of the status of our environment. The threat is very real, and although the scientific community is still investigating, thus have various hypotheses, the proof is in the polar ice caps (melting at an alarming rate), the mountain snow-caps (also melting), and coral reefs (disappearing rapidly). It must be taken seriously, which this president did not.

- Other issues. Oddly, many of the other issues he could have worked on, would have helped tremendously with the issues mentioned already. For example, some form of universal health care, funded by the US government, would have freed up a LOT of cash for businesses large and small as well as helped keep their employees healthy and working. We didn't even get a discussion. The Green Revolution in the US, could have not only addressed the environment, but could give us a path to migrate to as other jobs are cut. Instead of manufacturing cars, we would manufacture wind turbines or solar panels. Again, never discussed.

History may very well acknowledge George W. Bush to be a great visionary, but it is very hard to see from this day and age. In fact I would argue that even if history does come to that conclusion, chances are it would be later revised when historians acknowledge that this president didn't complete what he started. It took yet another president to close the chapter on the Iraq occupation among other things. My personal opinion is that he set the next president up for greatness. If President-elect Barack Obama can successfully bring two wars to an end, mend fences with our allies, and disarm our enemies, HE would then be the one remembered most by the people, and eventually by history.

1.01.2009

Welcome to 2009

What a wild 2008 we had! What will 2009 bring? More of the same? More stability? More chaos? Of course no one knows, so let me offer my prediction along with everyone else.

December 2009 will look vastly different than December 2008. There will be more certainty, better leadership, but the same problems. The difference will be the outlook for the future. We will have solid ideas and/or understanding of where we are going.

Politically, the mood will change in 2009. We are getting a president in Barack Obama who wants the entire nation to focus on a single, national task. Only a handful of presidents have ever tried, and most them did so during war where war was the focus of our attention. Mr. Obama has TWO wars AND an economic focus - talk about ambition!

Economically, there will be more of the same calamities we witnessed in 2008, probably through June - albeit of a smaller scale. Wall Street will continue to decline. Main Street will see a light at the end of the tunnel, but won't be in much better shape than Wall Street. All industries not already touched by the recession will feel the effects. The Dow will not recover this year.

Crisis around the world will continue unabated. Darfur will get only lip service. Zimbabwe will continue its decline with only minimum action on the part world leaders. More civil unrest in the Congo, and possibly new unrest in Rwanda. Venezuela will capture the world's attention on some new matter of state. And of course the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will receive press coverage, opinions from world leaders, continued talks, but no action. Germany's fiscal policies in dealing with a worldwide recession will prove correct. China will continue its long, arduous, but controlled, steady conversion from Communism. Iraq will suffer serious setbacks among impressive gains. Pakistan will find itself tested, on the world stage, on several matters including the Mumbai attacks and allegedly allowing a safe haven for Islamic extremists in their country along the border with Afghanistan.

In sports - the Chicago Cubs will go yet another year without a World Series Championship (a pretty safe prediction, no?) The Yankees will surprisingly not win a championship. Baseball's crown jewel goes to the most unlikely team in 2009. I'll say it will be either Baltimore Orioles or the Washington Senators. In football, the choices are a lot easier since the championship game is played in January and the playoff teams are already set. As much as I favor the NY Giants, it is very difficult to repeat, so I'm going with the Tennessee Titans.

Also, maybe Danica Patrick will win the Indy 500 this year. Or better yet win the IRL championship!

Well, here's to a fantastic 2009. May we all be blessed.

Happy New Year!

NPR Topics: News