Sunday, October 21, 2007

Moving...

By the time you read this post, I will moved this blog to another site. The last post with it's screwy formatting finally did it. I can't find the problem, and that's it. I've had other mysteries as well with Blogger come up over the past couple of years, but enough is enough.
The new blog is Tom's Place. (tomsplaceblog.wordpress.com)
See you there!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Chrysler Contract Highlights

Coming into work this morning, I heard on the radio that Chrysler's St. Louis Plant "overwhelmingly" voted down the national contract by an 81% vote while the Kenosha Wisconsin plant approved it with an 82% margin. Our voting will take place tomorrow afternoon, and it will be interesting to say the least.

I received a copy of the summary of the contract (salaried summary and hourly summary) a couple of days ago, and from what I read, I wasn't impressed. In fact, I was alarmed. Of course there are numerous items that I read that didn't strike me as being favorable to the Union Membership, and there just didn't seem to be much that the Company was giving up.

One of the items that I noticed was a change in COLA. COLA is very important to me - no one likes to see their paycheck lose it's purchasing power. The new formulation could actually reduce what I take home.

The next item I noticed is the wording of job security concerning life cycles of products. Who determines life-cycles of products? Management does. While there is a moratorium on idling or closing plants, that doesn't mean that the plants cannot be cut back to a minimal production and staffing level. While this can happen underneath the auspices of a revised business climate, and the company is certainly entitled to take these actions, what bothers me is that the Union Leadership is touting an increased job security level for its members through this agreement. Last, the summary does not state any commitments by Chrysler to the plants beyond the terms of agreement, which is true job security.

And it goes on...

I understand that one of the Union's chief negotiators is speaking out and wanting a return to the bargaining table, and a website (www.soldiersofsolidarity.com) has posted his letter to the rest of the Union leaders advocating this action. Additionally, the website has posted the following objections to the proposed contract agreement:

UAW-Chrysler 2007 Lowlights

Rather than compare what we got to what we had, the UAW-Chrysler “NEWSGRAM” makes bread crumbs look like meat and potatoes by comparing what bargainers gave away to what the company wished to take away.

“Chrysler had an agenda that was nothing but cutbacks.”

“Your bargaining team successfully resisted the company’s demand to cut your pay.”

Ignore the sales pitch and study the numbers. Not only will .10 cents per quarter be deducted from COLA raises but an additional $1.01 will also be deducted. As a result “your bargaining team successfully” cut $2.51 per hour over the life of the agreement. That is $100 per 40 hour week.

Lump sum payments are here today, gone tomorrow. Raises and cost of living adjustments are here today, and grow tomorrow. COLA and annual raises compound quarterly and pay dividends, week after week after week. COLA diversions compound deductions, month after month after month.

On top of that, new hires will start at $14 per hour, a standard well below the nonunion manufacturing average of $19.62 as cited by the UAW Research Department [www.uaw.org/facts/index.cfm]. Wages will be frozen for the next four years, but in 2011 everyone will be degraded.

Are you “core” or “non-core”? First class or second class? And what is the value of seniority if you can never transfer to a better job? The parties agreed “to consolidate classifications” [pg 121].

There will be two classifications among “core” workers: Team Member or Team Leader. “Every employee is a Team Member; there are no specialty job classifications.” [pgs 227-228]

Core workers will not be allowed to transfer to the better “non-core” jobs. If a worker is currently in a non-core job, they will be “red circled”. Management will have a powerful motivation to remove you and replace you with someone who will earn half as much.

“The parties have identified Non-Core product and process work totaling 8,000 jobs represented by the UAW that will be retained through a moratorium on outsourcing” [pg 159]. BUT in an “UNPUBLISHED LETTER” the parties agree “to meet and establish initial guidelines and parameters within 120 days of ratification that will be used to determine the application of the MOU” [pg 308]

In other words, we haven’t heard the last word. There’s more to come, including, “The parties will also determine appropriate application of core/non-core provisions to future Temporary Part Time (TPT) employees” [pg 308]. The future is increasingly temporary [see pg143].

Three facilities— Toledo Machining, Detroit Axle, and Marysville Axle — will be designated entirely non-core [pgs 154-155]. Nineteen Parts depots will be designated entirely non-core [pg 168]. All transport workers will be designated non-core [pg 151].

Despite the job security brouhaha in the “Newsgram”, all insourcing is “dependent upon a favorable business case” [pgs 159-160]. And despite the so called moratorium on outsourcing, the parties have “agreed to exit” janitorial, cardboard disposal, trash handling, ground, lawn care, snow removal, line sweepers, booth cleaning, machine cleaning, and chip handlers [pg 302]. But that’s just the beginning.

Skilled trades will be systematically reduced [pgs. 274-280]. “...any given classification may perform work normally belonging to another classification” [pg 275]

Forty-eight skilled classifications “will be incorporated into the Work Group Model based upon plant needs” [pgs 276-277].

“Implementation of the basic trade classifications into the Natural Work Groups is expected to occur no later than the end of the 2nd quarter, 2008” [pg 279].

Retirees were not spared. The VEBA is less than 50% funded. “In reality, the $11 billion you paid to get the health-benefit liabilities off your books will soon look outrageously cheap” [www.portfolio.com/executives/features/2007/10/11/Rescue-Memo]. But in reality, it’s $7.1 billion cash for $19 billion in liability. What’s a “debenture” to a private equity company? They can print stock at Kinkos. A seventeen year old prom queen wouldn’t buy that line from a quarterback in a tux.

According to Newsgram: “The company will pay an additional $1.5 billion to pay for retiree benefits from now until 2010 when the VEBA becomes operational.”

The company was already legally obligated to pay for retiree health care as a result of previous contracts. There was nothing “additional” about it.

If $1.5 billion is needed to cover retiree health care for the next two years, $8.8 billion will not last more than twelve years. Hence, the repeated phrases, “provide benefits at modified levels,” and “trustees will have the authority to make benefit adjustments” predict further rollbacks.

Stand your ground. There’s nowhere to run.

Labor Donated by Soldiers of Solidarity [www.soldiersofsolidarity.com ]

During our brief strike, many of us mused on the picket line what was going on at the bargaining table. After finding ourselves back at work the next day, it seemed that the strike was only for show. A comment in this article seemed to echo this sentiment:

The short strikes may have been more for show than an actual inability of the parties to agree on a new labor contract said David Cole, chairman of Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“It’s hard to know what the real rationale was for the strikes, but it seems they were something designed to show that what the automakers and the union had agreed on was really important,” Cole said. “Now they can go to their members and say we have made concessions on wages and on health care costs, but we have fought for an agreement on job security.”

Did the Union negotiate a good agreement? I personally don't think so. Did they negotiate in good faith to the Membership? I think they did, but I also think that they gave up too much in wages and COLA for the sake of VEBA.

Whether or not we will ratify this agreement will depend on the voting this week, or if it's back to the table. In either case, it will be interesting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two Years and a Day Ago...

...Tom's Common Sense came into being by publishing the "mission statement" for what the blog was to do. By and large, I think it's lived up to that semi-bold goal. After 230-some posts, I might be slowing down a little, and contemplating moving the blog somewhere else. But regardless, I'm still going to hold true to my beliefs and thoughts. I just wish that I had more time to write and visit the blogs of others on the blogroll. But in the end, it's still about the content, isn't it? So keep reading, and keep commenting. I'll be seeing you around the Internet!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Decisions, Decisions...

As if we don't have enough to decide or worry about, it's always something new. So I'm faced with a decision...

What is it, you may ask?

Is it who I'm going to vote for in the primaries and general election? Will it be Queen Hillary, Breck Edwards, Baba Obama, Tepid Thompson, Grinning Guiliani, or Ramrod Romney? I'm not telling, but it won't be a Democratic candidate...

Is it going to be on an issue such as immigration reform, universal health care, Union activities, or defending my Constitutional Rights? Well, sorta, but not quite.

I'm thinking about moving this blog to another service such as Wordpress.com.

Don't get me wrong!! Blogger has been a great service for this exercise in free speech. But I'm always looking for something better, or maybe just different.

Blogger does have some good things going for it. Custom templates for one. As many of you know, this blog template has been tweaked, stretched, and dinked with for as long as this blog has been in existence. HaloScan adds trackbacks and well as a host of commenting & editing features. StatCounter adds loads of statistical information on who and where the hits to the blog are coming from. Adding the JavaScript coding for the neat scrollers and graphics makes this site unique from all the others out in bloggerland.

But there are some downsides. Currently, there is no way to back up your posts, so unless you keep copies of your posts somewhere, you could lose all of your work if Google/Blogger takes an unrecoverable dump without a way to restore the posts. With HaloScan, you do need a premium account to have the capability of exporting your blog's comments, so that is an option. But if you don't have posts to link the comments to, you're hosed anyway.

Another downside is that I like to write my posts offline and then upload them using Microsoft's Live Writer Beta. Even though it is made by Microsoft, it does a pretty decent job. The part about using this editor is that it will not allow me to add tags or categories to the posts that I'm writing. After submitting the post to be published, I then need to log into Blogger, access the posts editor, and then select the post just published and select the tags for that post. Just a bit cumbersome for my taste...

Last, to view all of this wonderful information from StatCounter and HaloScan requires that I log into each service separately. Yes, maybe I'm nitpicking somewhat, especially for what I'm getting for free, but I still need to see what's out there and may offer something better for the long run.

Wordpress.com addresses some of the above, but at a price. There are a number of standard templates to choose from with limited options for customization. Gone will be HaloScan and StatCounter as well as any Javascript scripts as the standard (free) part of the site will not allow this type of custom code. Wordpress.com does not offer the functionality of StatCounter's statistical functions and hit tracking.

On the plus side, posting with tags & categories is handled very well by Live Writer as well as other offline editors. Posts and comments can be exported to a XML file for importation into another Wordpress blog, whether it is another one on Wordpress.com or your own private website/blog (which is a long-term goal of mine). There is even the option of importing Blogger posts and comments (not HaloScan, though) into Wordpress.com, although there are some application notes for importing HaloScan comments back into Blogger and then importing everything into Wordpress.

So it comes down to a couple of questions: Is Wordpress worth moving to? And if it is, is it worth importing this site's posts to the new one and either manually or automatically moving the comments, or just start fresh?

More importantly, is it content that you are looking for, or the presentation, and will you link to the new site? (Personally, I think it's the content that's important, but that's me...)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chrysler Picket Line Notes

Against all my fears, we walked out of the building shortly after 11:00 this morning and headed for the picket line.  Not a good feeling, I assure you.

I would much rather have been at my desk earning a living.  But that's not the case.

My first taste on carrying a sign this afternoon was mixed.  Yeah, there were those idiots that screamed and hollered at foreign cars as they turned in, and those that behaved like children on recess, but for the most part, things were well behaved.  That could change if this lasts more than a week.

Second time around is tomorrow morning at 6:00 am.  Not looking forward to it - it promises to be a cold morning with rain.  Yuck...

UPDATE!!!

It appears that the strike against Chrysler is over.  Details are pending, but at least I'll be back at work tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Strike at Chrysler?

The UAW has notified Chrysler that unless a new contract is agreed upon by 11:00 AM Wednesday, it will call a general strike and its members will walk off their jobs. This means that I could end up on a picket line Thursday morning (yes, my steward has already given me my assignment). I'm not thrilled about this one bit - I would much rather be working than have an unpaid vacation.

The main sticking points that have been reported include health care costs for both active workers and retirees & job security. Excerpts from msnbc.msn.com:

Chrysler's needs are different from GM's requirements, analysts said, so a deal requires cost cuts in different places.

"We think that they may be holding out for something more than GM got," said Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst for the consulting firm Global Insight.

Among the differences this time, analysts say, are health care givebacks granted to GM and Ford Motor Co. in 2005 that Chrysler didn't get, worth approximately $340 million a year.

Several analysts also said the company and union likely are apart on setting up a Chrysler-funded union-run trust that would take on the company's roughly $18 billion in retiree health care costs. Unlike GM, Chrysler also may be against giving specific job security promises by guaranteeing new cars and trucks will be built at U.S. factories, and it wants to hire out parts transportation rather than pay full UAW wages for it, the analysts said.

Cerberus, a private equity firm, probably doesn't want to put too much cash into the trust fund because it wants to turn Chrysler around and sell it, Bragman said. "They don't necessarily want to contribute a large amount of money to a long-term solution when Cerberus is more than likely a short-term owner."

Job security could be a tough issue because Chrysler and its new owner, Cerberus Capital Management LP, would be reluctant to commit to huge investments when the company is looking at potentially cutting some (vehicle) models, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

As a bargaining chip, Chrysler could back off from new factory investments that it has announced and make them contingent on a new agreement, Cole said.

A short strike might not hurt Chrysler much. Five U.S. plants were scheduled to be shut down during the next two weeks due to lower market demand for their products. The shutdowns were expected to last one or two weeks.

A short-term strike of up to three weeks would have little effect on the company, which has sufficient inventory to continue selling most of its vehicles, said Jesse Toprak, chief economist for the auto research site Edmunds.com.

"They might actually even benefit from it," Toprak said.

There probably are several readers of this blog who are thinking that Union workers are overpaid, spoiled, & otherwise lazy, and probably deserve an unpaid "time-out." Considering that the media jumps all over stories of Union worker malfeasance and misdeeds, it is easy to understand that sentiment. But lets think about a couple of items for a couple of minutes.

Think of the last time you have read or seen reports of executive "golden parachutes" for managers and CEOs that drove a company on the verge of or into bankruptcy, but still get paid multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses? How about obscene salaries of company executives running companies that complain about sub-standard profits for the quarter, and the need to cut costs (usually labor)? I guarantee you hear more about those than the average Union worker screwing up.

How about the way Walmart treats its workers? I saw a program on one of the pay cable channels that showed Walmart encouraging it's workers to apply for state Medicaid programs for their healthcare. And Walmart would not have any of its hourly employees work over 32 hours a week, otherwise they could be classified as full time workers and be eligible for full-time benefit packages.

Perhaps the way I look at a Union is simplified: To negotiate on the behalf of employees fair wages and benefits, and to prevent abuses of those same employees by the company employing them. The Union is not to run the company.

I think that I can speak (or write) for the majority of Union workers is that we want a fair wage for the work that we perform. You, the reader, probably think that you are being underpaid in your current job, and could always use a little more.

But I can also understand the resentment of the Union protecting the goof-offs, thieves, and idiots that bring the reputation of the rest of the hard-working Union Membership down. I have a couple of these people in my Unit that I wouldn't trust to shine my shoes, but in many ways, it is Management's fault for a) hiring them in the first place, and b) not taking disciplinary action to either train and/or fire them. I also blame the Union for allowing such actions to occur. Personally, I would like to see the Union adopt a Guild mentality - if a person doesn't stay productive and qualified for the job, then that person should be demoted or let go, i.e., they must earn that position. If the Unions are to remain relevant in today's business economy, they will need to adapt to the needs of that economy.

A comment about the timing of this potential strike: The timing for a strike couldn't be worse. Those workers who have been laid off due to plant shutdowns to reduce inventory are still being paid up to 95% of their normal wages by Chrysler. A strike would mean that they would not get that pay, but would receive strike pay (which is significantly less). A strike would actually save Chrysler money since Chrysler would not have to pay those wages, and would hurt the UAW workers. I think our Union Leadership screwed up big time on this issue. Chrysler has a financial incentive, although small, in allowing a strike to proceed.

I can see a strike being called Wednesday, possibly lasting around a week or less. I hope that it doesn't come to that, but we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Is it any wonder...

...that the public dislikes politicians, especially those in Congress?

Here's the best recent example of this:

I'm traveling this week, and the car I have has satelite radio. All the talk shows have segments highlighting the Senate Majority Leader's letter to Clear Channel Radio flaming Rush Limbaugh's use of the words "phony soldier." It doesn't matter that Rush's use is in reference to a debunked video of a person misrepresenting his service (he flunked out of basic training and didn't serve in Iraq as he claimed), it's still good for a Senate sponsored spanking.

What is so infuriating about this is that the politicians (mostly Democratic) are accusing Limbaugh of being less than Patriotic, and not supporting the troops. Excuse me?!?!? Exactly what have these various Democratic politicians been doing but calling the troops far worse names than what Limbaugh has falsely been accused of? Just look at Jack Murtha's comments for starters, and you get the idea.

While Rush can get on your nerves with some of his shameless self-promotion and ego boosts, he does bring out many points that would otherwise escape the media's attention. And this brings the ire of the Liberal politicos in this attempt to smear him and otherwise discredit his show and others like his.

Here's the point: The hypocrisy that the Liberal politicians have demonstrated is absolutely disgusting. It is no wonder that the approval rates for Congress are the lowest that have been in years, lower than the President.

Personally, I would vote each and every one of them out and start with a clean slate, and that includes a clean slate of all the Presidential candidates too. We need people, not politicians, running this country. People with common sense(!), integrity, and a selflessness that is not evident in today's government. People who are driven by a sense of public service, not power. I'm tired of the career politicians taking our tax dollars and lining their pockets or the pockets of their cronies with it. It is time to get the money and power out of politics and put the service back in. But then, I can be an idealistic you-know-what at times...

Yeah, I know, when pigs fly under their own power...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays (& Taxes)...

...always get me down. Considering what the Michigan legislature did Sunday night, rain on Monday is so appropriate...

Excerpts from msnbc.msn.com:

The Legislature agreed to raise Michigan's income tax rate from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent and expand the 6 percent sales tax to some services. (Governor) Granholm signed both measures. Structural changes to state government — including the management of teacher and other public employee benefits — also are part of the package.

Raising the state's income tax to 4.35 percent will raise an additional $765 million for the state. The income tax bill is written so the rate will gradually drop back to 3.9 percent between 2011 and 2015.

Extending the sales tax to some services starting Dec. 1 will bring in an estimated $614 million for the 10 months remaining in the fiscal year at that point, or about $750 million annually,

The tax increases should erase most of a projected $1.75 billion deficit in Michigan's next budget. The final budget for the new fiscal year will include $440 million in spending cuts, including no inflationary funding increase for public universities and community colleges, Granholm said.

There are a number of problems that I see with this action by the Michigan government. First and foremost, the state is in a depression/recession. The unemployment rate is more than 7%, and this hike does nothing to attract businesses and people to the state. Instead, it encourages people and businesses to leave the state. Reduce the tax base, reduce the income to the state, and then what? Raise taxes again? Smooth move, morons...

The next problem is that the Legislature has been working on this new budget for over 7 months, and this is the best they could do? Why weren't cost cutting measures implemented from the last budget re-write? If the common person is expected to tighten their belt and not spend as much if they don't have the money, why can't the government?  Although, to be somewhat fair, there is supposed to be large cuts in government spending, but we will see if that will be the case.

Last is the statement that "The income tax bill is written so the rate will gradually drop back to 3.9 percent between 2011 and 2015." Right...how often are taxes reduced? And by that time, most of the bozos that voted in the increase will be gone, and the tax hike would be permanent because of the same fiscal irresponsibility.

In many respects, we do not hold our politicians (government) accountable for the expenditures that they make. Indeed, how many studies and reports on waste, mismanagement, and sheer stupidity are published, but how many are actually implemented? Not many, I would presume. If they were, government (both Federal and State) would not find themselves running on deficits.

Yep, time to get rid of the Redundancy Department of Redundancy...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Strike is Over

Yes, the strike was short-lived, and that's probably a good thing.  But we'll see what really got agreed to, and what Ford and Chrysler have to deal with (along with the Union).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

UAW Strikes GM

Yesterday morning, 73,000 UAW GM employees walked off their jobs to put pressure on the company to resolve issues concerning job security, wages, layoffs, and how much production goes overseas. Of particular interest is the initial funding of the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), which is the trust fund for retiree health care to be administered by the Union.

In today's economy and job market, I can totally understand the concern over job security by the Union membership. Layoffs and the closing of plants are life-changing events that some people cannot recover from. And wages are always a contentious issue - there is a standard of living that many workers have gotten used to, and a reduction in those levels in an age of uncertainty is unsettling at best.

From an earlier post:

The whole idea behind a Union is to first and foremost protect the worker from abuses from the company they work for. Fair wages and other benefits are also part of the contracts as well as a certain amount of job security if the company runs into problems. A Union is not about telling a company how to run its business!! If anything, the contract that the Union and company signs is to protect the worker from mistakes the company’s management may make, which should help the company plan better.

Where the Union has been stung before is two-fold: The company asks for concessions due to the company losing money for the year, and closing the plants due to non-profitability. The company then turns around and gives executives multi-million dollar bonuses. The lack of credibility on the company’s part is obvious.

This now puts pressure on GM’s negotiators to come up with a workable solution that satisfies the Unions but still provides a profitable scenario for the company. Not an easy task, especially with the volatility of the automotive sector with changing consumer tastes and foreign automakers increasing their market share while Detroit struggles.

Part of the solution (from the automaker’s viewpoint) is VEBA. Excerpts from Newsweek on msnbc.com include:

The costs of providing health-care insurance have risen 78 percent this decade, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Hewitt Associates. And that has caused many companies to drop coverage for retirees while others feverishly cut benefits. Last year three quarters of big American companies increased premiums for retirees under 65, and 58 percent raised rates on Medicare-eligible pensioners, according to the study.

Nowhere is the pain more acute than in Detroit, where General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are confronting a lifetime retiree medical tab of $100 billion. Providing medical insurance for 540,344 retirees and 180,681 workers adds about $1,500 to the cost of every car Detroit builds—which goes a long way toward explaining why America's automakers lost a combined $15 billion last year. So the car companies are taking a cue from Goodyear, negotiating with the United Auto Workers to rid themselves of their retiree medical obligations by setting up a union-controlled trust known as a voluntary employees' beneficiary association, or VEBA. (Among the benefits to employees: if an employer goes bankrupt, the retirees' medical plan is protected from hungry creditors.)

In contract talks that have stretched well beyond a Sept. 14 deadline, GM and the UAW are haggling over how to create such a trust. The companies want to kick in about $70 billion to fund the trust, analysts say. That would wipe retiree health-care expenses off their books, which would immediately improve their credit ratings, cut costs and free up cash for other uses.

The union, however, wants more money in the fund—closer to the companies' entire $100 billion obligation. The UAW may have good reason for wanting more. A retiree health-care fund set up by Caterpillar in 1998 went broke in 2004 when it couldn't keep up with runaway medical bills.

It is this last paragraph that concerns me. Medical costs continue to escalate, possibly more than what the fund is able to keep up with. If the fund gets into trouble and needs an influx of cash, where is that going to come from? And the costs for administering the fund will also need to come from somewhere, and that is also a drain on the fund.

Is VEBA really a long-term solution for health care? From the standpoint of GM, it is. Consider this statement:

GM wants the trust, called a Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, so it can move much of its $51 billion in unfunded retiree health care liabilities off the books, potentially raising the stock price and credit ratings. It's all part of the company's quest to cut or eliminate about a $25-per-hour labor cost disparity with its Japanese competitors.

Yes, I have concerns about a Union-managed retirement health-care fund. A statement from the same article by a Union retiree:

…says unions have no business taking on the risk of doling out medical benefits to retirees.

While the auto companies need to be profitable to stay in business, it cannot do so without the Union’s cooperation. And the Union membership cannot live without the auto companies staying in business. A catch-22 if there ever was one. The problem is for the company and Union to come to an agreement that benefits both for the long-term, not a quick-fix, greed-ridden short-sighted agreement. And what that will be remains to be seen, not in the short-term, but with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Coming Back to Civilization?

Coming back from a long, restful vacation is always interesting. One always wonders how fast reality displaces that peaceful feeling.

Mine came real fast. My desk at work earned a PhD while I was gone (that’s Piled Higher & Deeper), and I was assigned two more projects while I was gone to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Worse, I needed to come up with a presentation on one of those new projects by the end of the week, and still keep all the other projects running. I felt like a juggler with one arm tied behind his back trying to keep all the balls in the air. Sigh… There went the stress relief…

But the time away allowed Mrs. Common Sense and I some much needed time alone, and the unforgettable memories that make up any marriage. We had not been on an extended vacation away from home for 10 years. We were due, big time.

However, the world goes on, and one again wonders what is coming around the bend next.

For instance, OJ Simpson is back in trouble with the law. I have no idea how his latest run-in is going to shake out, and in some respects, I don’t care. I believe that this person got away with two murders, aided and abetted by the inept prosecution & law enforcement that is in Los Angeles, and the judge & jury that had no idea what they were doing. In some respects, that case shows how woefully inadequate our justice system is in dealing with celebrities and other high-profile cases – it becomes a popularity contest instead of justice & closure for the victims (or their families).

And this idiocy isn’t limited to celebrities either. The protests in Jena, Louisiana over the initial charging of 6 black youths with attempted murder over the beating of a white youth is incredible. While the initial charge was over the top, if the colors of the victim and defendants were reversed, the protesters would be screaming “hate crime” and nothing short of life imprisonment. From MSNBC.com:

The six black teens were charged a few months after three white teens were accused of hanging nooses in a tree at their high school. The white teens were suspended from school but weren’t prosecuted. Five of the black teens were initially charged with attempted murder. That charge was reduced to battery for all but one, who has yet to be arraigned; the sixth was charged as a juvenile.

The beating victim, Justin Barker, was knocked unconscious, his face badly swollen and bloodied, though he was able to attend a school function later that night.

The only crime here was the assault of the victim by the 6 defendants. While the act of hanging the nooses from the tree is disgusting, the act didn’t break any laws. But that’s not going to dissuade the race-baiters and activists from a good protest.

Where I have problems with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and their ilk (yes, ilk) is that they are not as color-blind nor as for equal treatment for all persons under the law as they would have you believe. No, they want their race to have special treatment. Multiple cases and incidents for both of these “gentlemen” speak for themselves if you care to do the research. The history there is that they stir things up, not resolve the problems or injustices.

Here’s my case in point: If they were as color-blind as they say they are, they would be pushing for hate-crime charges on the 6 black defendants. After all, didn’t the 6 black defendants beat up a white victim? And if past cases are to be used as examples, it shouldn’t matter what provocation took place – a physical assault took place.

And that’s the fallacy of “hate-crime” legislation. As far as I’m concerned, all crime is hateful in one respect or another. Hate crime legislation is not for the protection of the minority from the majority, but to provide additional penalties for crimes based entirely on hate. Which is another problem – how do you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what a person is thinking or what really motivated him to commit a crime? Justice should be blind, and race (or any of the other hate-crime labels) should not enter into the mix. Entering criminal charges based on crimes with differing race, beliefs, or other criteria as factors can be just as discriminatory as the actions the accused is charged with.

While the above may crank off some of the readers of this post (and I can just hear this one coming) and think that I’m a racist, please stop and be intellectually honest with yourself. Do you really think that one race is superior than another? Do you hate a person’s race or skin color? I don’t on either count.

In many respects, this incident is something that has been blown completely out of proportion by activists. I’m not saying that nothing happened of a racist nature (there was), but calling attention to this event in this manner does nothing but present an “us versus them” attitude which numbs the message that they supposedly want to get across – equal justice. No, they want the defendants freed and not prosecuted for the assault. There is the injustice – do the crime, do the time, not freedom for the criminal.

And they wonder why people, in general, ignore these protests, and distrust the justice system.

Let’s not even start on Congress’s lowest approval rating ever, HRC’s health care plan or promised tax hikes, or Dan Rather suing CBS… 

Friday, September 07, 2007

Before I Go...

Mrs. Common Sense and I are taking a long and well-deserved vacation.  We haven't taken a vacation for a long time, and this one will be special.  We will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next Wednesday.

But before we go to a place without Internet access or cars(!), there are a few comments about the past week's events:

Fred Thompson finally announced his candidacy for the Presidency.  It will be interesting to see if his bid is as well timed as he hopes it will be.

Osama bin Laden released a tape a week before the 6th anniversary of 9/11.  It looks like he is just as vain as the civilization he wants to destroy - he dyed his beard and eyebrows!!

Cerberus has stolen or hired away a top gun at Toyota to run the sales and marketing for Chrysler.  Then the next day they hired GM's man in China to help with globalization efforts.  Does make you stop and pause and think about the future of Chrysler.

Volkswagen announced this week that they were moving their North American headquarters from Michigan to the suburbs of Washington DC.  Another blow to Michigan...

The Michigan Legislature wants to raise taxes on anything from telephones (cell, land-line, & Internet) to health clubs.  Just what a state in trouble needs - more taxes...

Another sex scandal in Washington.  This time, a Senator plays footsie in an airport stall.  Where are the politicians that actually stand for something besides themselves and their party?  Is there no one with integrity?

The financial meltdown in the mortgage industry continues.  Countrywide Financial, a major lender, is cutting 12,000 jobs from it's payroll in response to the flurry of bad loans, defaults, and the collapse of the housing market in general.  Who knows where this will end?

Luciano Pavarotti died this past week from cancer.  While not a fan of opera, his voice was one that would send chills down your spine with it's power and tone. 

Finally, the Surge appears to be working, but we'll see what General Patraeus has to say next week with his report.

Later...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Katrina +2 Years

This past week saw the two-year anniversary since Hurricane Katrina put New Orleans under water.  Of course, the news agencies were all over this, citing failure after failure of the government to address the needs of the storm victims.  And in some respects, they are right.

In other respects, what else would anyone expect from government?  Government, by and large, is a taker, not a giver.  Government is very quick to take a portion of your paycheck in taxes, but very slow in distributing funds (just the paperwork takes weeks to process).  If I remember correctly, there are still portions of Florida that are still in recovery mode from Hurricane Andrew from 1992.

Government failed the people of New Orleans.  First and foremost was the Mayor of New Orleans, who didn't order an evacuation of the city with the resources he had available to him (remember the infamous pictures of the drowned school buses?).  He had plenty of time to implement disaster plans, but for some reason, didn't.  Second was the Governor, who stuck her head in the sand and didn't call the National Guard to assist in evacuating the city, nor to provide relief efforts until days afterward the disaster.  Last was the Federal Government, but not for the delay with FEMA aid.

The fault there was that there were numerous studies done and billions of dollars allocated for the levies to be reinforced.  The levies were not reinforced as needed, but the funds diverted for other projects as deemed by various Federal politicians.  I lay the blame squarely on the Federal government in not making sure that the funds were spent where best needed.  (link here)

The other problem that I see is that the people of New Orleans (and other places in the United States) believe that the Government will take care of them, no matter what.  The sad reality is that Government will not take care of them, and it is not the responsibility of the Government to take care of the individual's needs.  We are being lead to believe to the contrary, but where in the Constitution does it state specifically that the Government is to take care of the individual?  It doesn't, but we have been lead down that path, and we have blindly followed.

While I'm not a fan of Rudy Giuliani, he made this statement:

Government cannot take care of you. You've got to take care of yourself.

When I listen to some of the stories brought out this past week, some of them are truly heart-wrenching, others are not.  When I hear of people moaning and groaning that the Government isn't taking care of them and doing nothing to help improve their situation, my sympathy for that person hits a new low.  When I hear of people trying to improve their situation by taking matters into their own hands, and requesting assistance to finish up that last part of putting their lives back together, then they have my admiration.

People need to take responsibility for themselves, period.  Yes, there are those that need help to get back on their feet.  But I oppose the "cradle to grave" or as Right-minded Frank would say "womb to tomb" support that certain segments of our society feels that they are entitled to.  But I digress...

When I think of Government assisting the population, I always think of this quote:

The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help. - Ronald Reagan

Enough said...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Global Warming from China & India

Looking through this Sunday's Parade magazine, I read an article titled What's Really Heating Up the Planet which states that carbon-dioxide released by coal mine fires in China and India could equal the total gasoline carbon-dioxide emissions by American drivers.  Why hasn't this been front-page news on the global warming front?

Looking into this subject further, I ran across an article published on July 13, 2007 by The New York Sun titled The Wrong Fire.  Some excerpts from this article include:

It is astounding that with all the expensive proposals to combat global warming no one is discussing reducing global carbon emissions by putting out mine fires. Although putting out fires in America would not have a significant effect, putting out fires in China and India would.

So as the former vice president, Al Gore, organizes Live Earth concerts, as Congress ponders raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, and as Michigan's John Dingell, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, proposes America's first carbon tax, uncontrolled Chinese coal mine fires are sending millions of tons of carbon into the air.

China loses between 100 and 200 million tons of coal a year — a significant fraction of its production of 2.26 billion tons — to mine fires, according to Holland's International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation. This results in carbon dioxide emissions in a range of between 560 and 1,120 million metric tons, equaling 50% to 100% of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from gasoline.

It may well be less costly for us to put out the Chinese mine fires than to cut emissions at home.

Second to China is India, where mine fires burn between 3 and 10 million tons of coal annually, with emissions of 15 to 51 million metric tons. Emissions will only grow in the future as China and India expand production of coal to fuel their thriving economies.

Congress wants to impose billions of dollars of costs on consumers and American industries in order to reduce global warming. The energy bill making its way through Congress would substantially raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for cars and trucks, decimating the American automobile industry and increasing the unemployment rate in Michigan.

Another idea is cap-and-trade programs. Under these schemes, the government grants credits to favored industries, which then sell them to those who need to produce emissions. This system requires the correct allocation of credits and level of caps to be successful. In Europe, caps were set so high that emissions were not reduced significantly.

A carbon tax, proposed on July 8 by Mr. Dingell, is a more neutral way to reduce emissions. The tax would encourage Americans to reduce consumption of all fossil fuels — petroleum products, natural gas, coal and shale oil. Yet raising taxes is never popular, and few voters trust politicians to offset carbon taxes with reductions in income taxes.

Further, gases other than carbon contribute to global warming — so why stop at a carbon tax? Congress could copy New Zealand's new flatulence tax on sheep and cows, designed to reduce emissions of methane, another greenhouse gas. New Zealand's Treasury will collect $5 million a year.

Carbon offsets, often "feel-good" measures such as planting trees or cleaning the ocean, are an increasingly trendy way of reducing global carbon emissions. Vice President Gore, defending the size of his residence, said that he purchased carbon offsets, and Senator Clinton supports funding for new carbon sequestration technologies.

But the most efficient offset would be extinguishing international mine fires, and neither Mr. Gore nor Mrs. Clinton are proposing research for this.

Looking over the content in this article just reinforces everything that I have thought about our politicians addressing the issue of Global Warming.  Rather than addressing the problem, they would much rather subject the people of the United States with onerous taxes and burdens.  Meanwhile, while they are gathering power and money at our expense, what little heavy and medium industry we have left will be taxed and legislated out of existence.

What also bugs the hell out of me is that these same countries, China and India, are being given by the UN's Kyoto Protocol a pass on reducing their carbon emissions.  Instead, they are allowed to pollute as much as they want because they have "developing economies."  If the UN was serious about Global Warming, then China and India would be required to base their economies on green technology - that would show the decadent West how it's really supposed to be done.  All this does is just helps to support a contention that the UN is anti-America (or anti-West), and seeks to bring the wealthier nations down to the level of the poorer nations.

I think the last paragraph of the article sums it up nicely:

We don't yet know definitively, despite much assertion, whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon or simply the product of lengthy climate cycles. But if we're going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, let's tackle the biggest culprits first — the mines burning out of control in China and India.

Senators and Representatives of the United States, please put the welfare of your country first, not the rest of the world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Made in China...

Who said making things cheaper, i.e. in China, is better for business? Only a short-sighted person interested in the bottom line would…

China has been cheaply manufacturing many types of goods for many years, but the shine of the low-cost Empire is becoming increasingly tarnished over the past few months. Pet food contamination was only the beginning. Toothpaste contaminated with an antifreeze ingredient, defective tires, tainted medicine, and lead paint on toys appears to only have been the tip of the contamination iceberg.

Now there are massive recalls on these and probably dozens of other products that haven’t made it to the mainstream headlines. The cost of these recalls can be tallied up fairly quickly, but what about the all-important confidence of the consumer? Once a company has lost the confidence of its customer, it is very hard to get them back.

Don’t believe it? Look at the Big Three. When the Japanese imports hit American shores, the call went out that the Japanese had better cars with higher quality at a lower price. That perception is alive and well today thirty-plus years later. It doesn’t matter if the quality has improved according to numerous benchmarks and magazines, the perception is still there.

And it’s bound to get worse. There are massive influxes of cash and investments in Chinese manufacturing from the West, and the potential consumer market there is incredibly huge. Factories are being built at a staggering rate, not only to manufacture products for export to the West but for consumption inside of China itself. It only stands to reason that on this wild-west frontier of business that corners will be cut to gain the advantage of billions of dollars/euros/yuan available to those businesses that drum up lucrative contracts. With Chinese-built cars due to hit the American market within a couple of years, one really needs to wonder if these vehicles won’t be another set of Yugos in the making.

The Chinese government is ill equipped to regulate this burgeoning industry. Lack of experience, corruption, and a rapidly expanding industrial base all contribute to less than stellar quality and contamination concerns. But that is just the beginning of my concerns.

Part of what concerns me is that for all the billions being spent in China, the government there is still Communist. Not only is it Communist, it is backed by a million-man army with nuclear weapons. Billions can be lost should the government decide to nationalize all of the industry that the West has built. The world economy would crash, but the Chinese have isolated themselves from the rest of the world for years, and can do so again at the drop of a hat. But this won’t happen for some time – the Chinese aren’t done yet. No, they will wait until the rest of the world is utterly dependant on their country for goods, then they will slam the door shut.

Inviting industry to build in their country is a great way to build up their infrastructure. What isn’t commonly known is that the Chinese have been quietly buying bonds and securities from countries around the world. They now have so much that if they decided to dump these securities on the market, the economy of the world would crash and burn. Therein is my other concern. I believe the Chinese are waging an economic war, and doing it for the long term goal of dominating the world.

Unfortunately, it appears that the world is headed down this road. It looks like we are all in for a bumpy ride sometime in the near future, and hitting the wall in the long term.

And yes, I am trying to get my blog banned by the Chinese, and I've been successful in that endeavor. 

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chrysler, Cerberus, and Daimler, Oh My!

It's been a little over a week since Cerberus signed the papers getting Chrysler out of the clutches of the Germans (well, almost), and there's not much change.  But then...

The Pentastar is back!!  Finally, a symbol of the heritage of the company that just doesn't seem to die, no matter what happens.  At least it's not a three-headed dog, even a three-headed Hemi-dog would have been too much.

Tom LaSorda got bumped from his top banana position down to 2nd banana.  Not surprising since Chrysler hit the skids on his watch and Cerberus wanted someone else not connected with the previous regime to be in charge.

The Top Guy that Cerberus put in LaSorda's position is the former Home Depot CEO, Robert Nardelli.  He floats over to Chrysler/Cerberus under a $250 Million golden parachute left over from his Home Depot days.  How much money can a person be worth?  Of course, since Chrysler is now a private company, Nardelli's salary doesn't need to be disclosed to shareholders, but it has been stated that he will earn only $1 for his first year (a la Iacocca) with future compensation dependant on his performance.

But the Germans (a.k.a Daimler) still have a little under 20% of the company.  It will be interesting to see how they fit into the picture.

There is a lot of speculation at the company about how all of this will impact Union negotiations.  Not much feedback yet, but we all know that healthcare is at the top of the list right along with the job bank.  Will both sides play hardball?  Too soon to tell, but I predict a lot of yelling.

I wonder if we'll all have to wear little shop aprons with the company logo on them...they had damn well better not be orange...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I’m Pro-Choice…

…but not on the issue that you think.

On Tuesday, Rudy Giuliani proposed a unique health care plan that radically differs from the government managed system that the Democrats have touted. The Giuliani Plan, in essence, gives each family up to a $15,000 tax credit to buy health insurance, and anything left over from that credit would be rolled over for year to year medical expenses.

From an MSNBC Article:

Democratic candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama have proposed more detailed steps to deal with the 47 million Americans lacking health insurance. Edwards' plan has an individual mandate requiring all Americans to have coverage. Employers would have to share the cost of insuring workers or pay into a public program.

Edwards estimates that his plan would cost $90 billion to $120 billion per year and would be financed by repealing President Bush's tax cuts on those making more than $200,000 per year.

Obama's plan calls for the creation of a public program similar to the health plan offered to federal employees, and a National Health Insurance Exchange for consumers to shop among private plans. Employers would have to share the cost of insuring workers.

Obama estimates his plan would cost $50 billion to $65 billion per year, paid for by letting Bush's tax cuts expire on those making more than $250,000 per year.

OK, let’s think about this for a second or two. The Democrat’s plan is funded by taxes and managed by the government. So that’s more money out of your pocket (higher taxes), and when have you last heard of anything managed by the government being a success? And if the Democrats plan becomes reality, do you really think that it will hold costs down, i.e., your tax bill?  Government is famous for spending your money.

Let’s also think of this too – at the present time, if a HMO screws up, denies or delays coverage for a medical procedure, and the person dies, their survivors can sue for damages & compensation. Do you think that you can sue the government for the same thing? I highly doubt that anyone would be successful in that endeavor.

So Giuliani’s plan is pretty attractive for more than a few reasons.  Here are a few more:

First of all, it puts the consumer (you) in the driver’s seat for selecting the health plan that best suits you. A government plan would have only a few choices, the private sector has hundreds.

Second, it gets the employer out of the health-care business. Take a look at the automotive sector for instance. Several thousand dollars from each American-built car go into paying for the health insurance for its employees and retirees. The financial burden is huge, and does not help the Ford, GM, and Chrysler products compete against those brands that do not have this burden. Removing those costs would help businesses become more competitive not only domestically, but internationally as well.

Third, it keeps the government out of your personal health-care decisions. Yes, there will be those that make poor decisions (there always are), but we need our citizens to stand up and take personal responsibility for themselves instead of relying upon government to do it for them. A quote from Giuliani from the same article states:

"Government cannot take care of you. You've got to take care of yourself."

Next, this plan has the potential to keep the size of government down. Less government, less taxes (or at least that’s the theory). All one has to do is look at the bloated Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid agencies, and you know what I mean.

Last, this would not be funded by tax increases, but on money that you have already earned in your job. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have a bigger tax bill, and take home more of what you earn?  (Note:  This last is my interpretation of the plan.  It will be interesting to see how this does pan out.)

Whoever wins the next election seriously needs to look at this plan.  At first blush, this is a unique approach to the health care costs facing this country's employed and employers.  I believe it's better than the government becoming more of a "nanny-state" that the Democrats are promoting with their proposal.  I already know that the argument will be made that there will be those that make poor choices, and that will be true.  However, those people should be the exception, not the rule, and should not be the reason for dragging the rest of us down.

Yes, I'm pro-choice - for my health care options.  How about you?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Patton Speech on Today's War on Terror & Iraq

I normally don't post YouTube videos (actually, this is the first), but I heard this on Bill Bennet's Morning in America show on either Thursday or Friday (can't remember - too tired). 

Warning - In the traditional Patton style, there is profanity, but the message is excellent.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Approval of Congress?

By now, everyone has heard or read that the approval rating for Congress is below that of the President. While it is not surprising to me that this is the case, there are those that do not understand how this Democrat-controlled body has fallen so far from the promises that they touted during the last election cycle.

One of the first things that come to mind (and the biggest) is the immigration reform fubar. I don’t think that anyone was happy with the obvious closed-door backroom deals that were made to even bring this miserable piece of legislation to the floor of the Senate. This displeasure was made known to the Senators by the numerous phone calls and emails made by the concerned citizens of this country. If the Senators thought that they were doing the will of the people, this was certainly the loudest wake-up call that they have received in a long, long time that they were way off the reservation.

Next on my list is that the Democrats ran on the platform of reforming the Republican’s “Culture of Corruption” in which they were to clean Congress of misdeeds, earmarks, and wasteful spending. Never mind that William Jefferson (D-La) was caught with over $90,000 of FBI marked money in his freezer and was later indicted. Ignore the dust-up made by John Murtha over a challenge by Mike Rogers on Murtha’s blatant attempt at earmarking funds for a pet project. And let’s not mention all the deals that were made just to bring the aforementioned Immigration Reform Bill to the Senate floor. These are just a few of the many dealings along this line that this Congress has shown that it’s “business as usual” in the Capitol instead of the reforms that the Democratic leadership promised.

Then there are the incessant investigations into this, that, and the other. The political prosecution of Scooter Libby, investigation into the Attorney General’s office, NSA wiretap investigation, the detention of terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, the calls to investigate and impeach the President are but a few of the antics that this Congress is busying themselves with instead of the more important issues facing this country. I’m now waiting for a Congressional investigation into steroid use in professional wrestling a la baseball. Need I say that the country is sick and tired of investigation upon investigation over nothing and non-issues?

Then there is the Iraq War and the War on Terrorism. This Congress called for the President to change strategies, and he eventually did - and then they still complained even with the new strategy appearing to be working. Congress has called for a withdrawal of troops but lack the intestinal fortitude to withdraw funding for this conflict. And the Congress is trying their best to micro-manage the President and the military, even though it is not within their Constitutional authority to do so. Along with this is a shortsighted view of the big picture – i.e., the security of this country, and it is no wonder I feel more insecure knowing that these bozos are running the show.

Last are the obvious power politics. How many non-binding resolutions on the same subject can be voted on? Who cares that it involves a sleepover along with pizza and beverages? The results are the same – nothing significant gets done, no problems are solved, and more problems are the result. The only thing that these clowns are doing is playing power politics to have the next President be elected from the Democratic Party.

Quite frankly, with the antics of the Democrats in charge and the past actions of the Republicans, I’m not really sure if I want either party in the White House. It is a shame that there is not a credible third party out there that enjoys nationwide support. A change is needed in Washington, and I just don’t see it happening with the current political parties that we have to choose from.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tale of the Trids

Haven't done one of these for a while, and considering that I just went through workplace violence prevention training today, perhaps it's time to purge some of these non-conformist thoughts...

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On an island in the South Pacific, there lived a tribe of natives called the Trids.  They are a peaceful people, although, well, vertically challenged.  But their island had everything that they could want or need.  It was Paradise....except for the giant.

The giant lived on a mountain on one end of the island.  Every now & then, usually once every couple of months, the giant would come down from the mountain into the village of the Trids and kick them around.  No deaths, no broken bones, just lots of bruises.  Only the very young and the very old were spared the wrath of the giant.

One day, a cargo ship was passing by the island, and stopped for supplies.  On the ship was a Rabbi looking for a place to live for a while.  He saw the island as a sanctuary, a place to relax while he sorted out the problems of life in general.  The Trids welcomed the Rabbi as their guest, but they did warn him about the giant.  He promised that he would do his best to help save them from the giant.

The cargo ship sailed away with the captain promising to return for the Rabbi in four months.  And for about six weeks, everything was as if the Rabbi was in the Garden of Eden.  Then the giant came down off his mountain.

The Trids heard the giant, and ran screaming through the village for everyone to run and hide.  The Rabbi heard this commotion, and went to the front of the village to confront the giant.

And he saw the giant coming down the path from the mountain.  And he was huge!!  The Rabbi's confidence was fading with every step the giant took toward the village.  Finally, the giant reached the village and stopped in front of the Rabbi. 

The giant looked down on the Rabbi and started to chuckle a low, rumbling, bemused type of chuckle.  With every passing second, the Rabbi's knees began to shake.  The giant saw this, and chuckled louder.

Finally, the Rabbi couldn't take it anymore.  He looked up at the giant and shouted, "You're not going to kick the Trids around unless you start with me first!!  Well, get on with it!!  Start kicking!!"

The giant let out the loudest chuckling laugh ever heard, shaking the very ground and echoing through the land.  The giant leaned down and looked the Rabbi in the eye.  The Rabbi thought he was a goner as the giant fixed him with a penetrating gaze with his yellow eyes.

Still chuckling, the giant said, "Silly Rabbi.  Kicks are for Trids..."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Illegals Cost You Money, and So Do Politicians!!

Gayle has this post over at Dragon Ladies Den which really tells how much our elected Senators were going to hose us for if the Immigration Reform Bill became law.  I stand by my assessment that these jerks need to be replaced by someone with, well, a little more common sense than a rock. 

It still amazes me that most of these Senators have law degrees, which means that they are supposed to have some smarts upstairs.  But how can they be so stupid as to not see the reality of the situation?  But then again...

Quoting from an earlier post:

In case any of you didn't know, a typical politician's primary job is not to serve the people who elected him. His primary job is to get himself (or herself) elected or re-elected. Second job is to reward all those contributors that gave $$ to help him get elected. Third is to get as many perks & benefits as he can while he is in office. Last on the list is the common person like you & I.

While there are some exceptions, they are the minority (or they're up for re-election), but I am just amazed at the arrogance of the politicians.  After all, it's not their money, but yours.  Earmarks, pork, and backroon deals all come together for power to the politician, not to the people that elected them.  Why am I reminded of the Jimmy Stewart movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?

Then there is the open microphone incident that exposed HRC (a.k.a Hildebeast) and JE (a.k.a. Breck Boy) plotting to exclude their competition.  If this doesn't demonstrate the elitism that these politicians believe in, then nothing will.

Term limits, financial responsibility of Congress, flat tax or a national sales tax instead of an income tax are all things I would like to see, but then again, I'd like to have a winning Powerball ticket too.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the 13th vs. Global Warming

Just when you thought it was safe to hide under the bed and cringe over the Algore prophesy of Global Warming doom, some facts come out. Of course, Al's not going to let a few facts get in his way of hawking carbon credits.

The American Thinker published an article a couple of days ago titled Global Warming and Solar Radiation. To summarize the article, Global Warming is not a man-made or caused phenomenon. Big surprise...

But then again, what else would you expect from someone who has great expectations of himself with an ego to match?  A not so complementary article is here, which beats mine to pieces...

Monday, July 09, 2007

200 Posts and 10,000 Visitors...

...and then I get tagged!!  This time, Always on Watch ever so nicely slipped me the assignment of listing 8 things/habits.  I normally treat such things as the electronic equivalent of a chain letter, but how can I say no to a teacher?  I sure don't want detention, so here we go...

1)  I was involved in sports 30 years ago, track mostly.  Didn't do much between then and a year ago when my wife and I started training together.  If I'm not careful, she's going to kick my ...

2)  One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.

3)  Learned how to play golf without a single lesson at 16, and was down to an 8 handicap after two years of playing.  I'm now fighting to keep an 18 to 20...why does it get to be so hard when you get older?

4)  Medically, I'm allergic to cats, but we have two and I'm not having any problems.  Go figure...

5)  I firmly believe that the Constitution of the United States outlines the most perfect form of government.  Now if we can just keep the politicians from mucking it up...

6)  Life is too short to not have fun.  Are we having fun yet?

7)  In God I trust - all others bring data.

8)  I speak my mind and opinion without much sugar - sugar is for my morning coffee.

 And no, I'm not going to tag anyone (unless you ask really, really nice...) 

Friday, July 06, 2007

Pardon Me!?!

Let's get one thing straight – Lewis “Scooter” Libby has not been pardoned by President Bush. His sentence has been commuted. He still pays a $250,000 fine, and will not be able to practice law. If he was pardoned, then he wouldn't have to pay the fine and he would be allowed to practice law.

So he didn't pull a Bill Clinton, who seemed to pardon almost everyone around him for similar and worse crimes. So why are the Democratic candidates (especially HRC) making so much of this? In a word – politics.

The problem that the Democratic candidates have is that they are not running against President Bush in the next election. They really don't have anything else to showcase what they stand for. National or universal healthcare is an issue that might fly at first blush, but if anyone with half a brain thinks about it for any length of time, this is one elephant that no one wants in the same room. All the candidates have stated is that they will raise taxes on the wealthy, but they differ on who exactly fits in that category. They also want to repeal the tax cuts that helped boost the economy (and exactly what do they think this will do?) They can try to hang their hats on Iraq, and they might get some traction there, but again, they are not running against Bush. And let's not even talk about the “culture of corruption” - both parties have major problems with this one.

So they are left with trying to make political hay over a commuted sentence. Big deal. But since they decided to bring up the rhetoric a notch or two, why don't we chew on this one for a couple of minutes...

Why don't we start with the Democrats favorite son, the former President Bill Clinton. Looking at his pardon record at the US Department of Justice, there are so many pardons that he issued it is unbelievable. Some of the most notorious are Marc Rich, who was pardoned while he was still evading authorities and after his family made a $1,000,000 “donation” to the DNC. Then there were the FALN pardons timed to help his wife gain the New York Puerto Rican vote in her successful bid for the Senate. Or how about his brother's drug sentence? All in all, Bill Clinton pardoned and commuted the sentences of over 180 people for various crimes.

Compare Bill Clinton to his predecessor, George H. W. Bush, who only pardoned and commuted the sentences of 78 people. The current President, George Bush, currently has a paltry 117 pardons and commutations.

In all fairness, many of the pardons issued by all the Presidents were for run of the mill items. But some really stand out, and others are for the same types of offenses. But the political rhetoric is incredible!!

So now the Democratic Presidential hopefuls are screaming at the top of their lungs, “Unfair! Unfair!” to which could I say “Can it!!” Or maybe we should keep quiet and let these buffoons continue to shoot themselves in the foot. After all, the more noise they make, the more scrutiny they bring upon themselves (especially HRC), and the more attention they will garner on their many faults.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Declaration

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Immigration Reform Defeat Backlash

If anyone thought there wouldn't be any repercussions from last week's defeat of the Immigration Reform Bill in the Senate, they are dead wrong. In fact, the seeds of discontent sown by the citizens of the United States are bearing horrible fruit in the Senate and House.

Because so many people bombarded the Senators with their objections over the proposed Immigration Reform, the Senators are royally honked off. It isn't often that their constituents object to what this glorified elitist country club does – they are often left to “legislate” in peace without much scrutiny by the public at large. Not this time as talk radio informed millions of people what the Senators were trying to do behind closed doors. The result was thousands of phone calls and emails that clogged the switchboards and email servers.

So now our “esteemed” Senators are trying to bring the defunct FCC “Fairness Doctrine” back to life in the form of a law. The Fairness Doctrine requires that communications media either refrain from publishing controversial opinions or to present all sides of an issue. On the surface, this doesn't sound like a bad idea, but it is just as bad if not worse than the Immigration Reform Bill.

First of all, who decides what issue is controversial? Who defines what sides there are? The government? This definitely sounds like the beginnings of censorship, which is prohibited by the First Amendment.

Next, the proposal that has been floating around only targets radio, specifically talk radio (at least that's what I understand). Why not other media such as television and newspapers as well as commercial media websites?

And then there is free choice. You and I have the choice to listen to or read opinions as we wish. Air America died because no one wanted to listen to the Liberal opinions expressed on that station. In many respects, the market (you and I) determined that Conservative Talk Radio was what we wanted to listen to, probably because we were tired of the daily Liberal newspaper and TV mindwashing.

Last, where would this stop? Private blogs such as this one be forced to present all sides? That would mean that the fabled “thought police” would now roam the Internet, seeking out all the malcontents and free-speakers like you and I.

George Will had this quote from Supreme Court Justice William Douglas in his excellent article Fraudulent 'Fairness':

"The Fairness Doctrine has no place in our First Amendment regime. It puts the head of the camel inside the tent and enables administration after administration to toy with TV and radio."

I look at our elected official's actions during the Immigration Reform Bill debacle, and now with this latest assault on the populous at large, I cannot shake the thought of our elected officials being completely out of touch with the people who elected them in the first place and the laws of the United States that they are sworn to uphold. I'm reminded of two things – One, the Jimmy Stewart movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and two, of a child being caught with his hand in the cookie jar just before supper. In the first case, Senators trying to weasel back-room deals with each other to get votes for their bills. In the second case, the Senators got caught trying to pull a fast one.

The bottom line to all of this is that the Senate (and probably all politicians) would much rather that we disappear until election time, because that is the only time that they really need us. As for me, I'll try and vote out any politician that voted for or supports the Immigration Reform Bill and the Fairness Doctrine, regardless of their party affiliation (providing that they meet a couple of my personal criteria).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

National Health Care

National Health Care. Just the words make me think of HRB's foray into the health care industry when her husband was President. Now with the 2008 elections around the corner, this issue is being raised again as a campaign platform.

It doesn't matter what side of this issue you are on. Everyone has valid points for their side of the argument. My two questions about the matter are: Who is going to pay for it, and who is going to manage it?

The short answer for the first question is: You are. You will pay for it in higher taxes, direct and indirect. Your income tax will increase. The goods you buy will most likely have their increased cost of materials rolled into the price (companies pay taxes on the raw materials used to manufacture their product). And if possible, the sales tax on those goods could increase too.

The answer to the second question, if the politicians have their way, is the government. Again, nations that have a national health care system manage it with a governmental department.

A quick look into nations that have nationalized health care show that they do indeed pay higher taxes. Great Britain, Canada, Germany, Sweden, France, and others have horrendously high percentages of their taxes going to their health care systems, but services and the health of the system itself is failing. An example is that France has 9.8% of its Gross National Product going to its health care system, and the system itself will be 70 Billion Euros in debt by the year 2020 (link here).

Does anyone else find this frightening? Look at the examples of current government-managed programs and you will understand my concern. Wasteful, redundant, mind-numbing bureaucracy will be the norm. Anyone who has dealt with a government agency and an insurance agency know that there is little difference between the two, but I would much rather deal with the insurance agency – I will get things accomplished much quicker.

What is also disconcerting is that the politicians supporting a national health care don't really have a good plan on how it will be funded, much less run efficiently. Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are all in financial trouble. To add another government controlled bureaucracy is financially suicidal, and raising taxes will not be the solution. These bozos either don’t have a clue or don’t care how this policy will affect the country.

Last, is this really what we need to have? Hospitals, by law, are required to treat anyone without regard to their capability to pay. Yes, there are sad stories of people not being treated in time and dying. But look at the waiting lines for surgery in Canada and Great Britain, and one wonders if this would be an improvement over the current system. For some, yes, for others, it will not.

Quite frankly, if there is to be a nationalized health care system, I would not have it run by a government department. Rather, it should be run by a contracted non-profit private agency with an oversight from the Government Accounting Agency (GAO). Waste would be held to a minimum, and the contracted agency would need to show fiscal responsibility and high standards for patient care in order for the contract to be renewed. But then, that's me...

Friday, June 08, 2007

News Bytes & Comments

Haven't posted for over a week, and that's just not good.  Son is graduating from high school, so there's all that to get arranged & taken care of.  He's also trying to get a job, and find a roommate for his assisted living arrangements.  We think he has found a place to live, but there are so many details that need to be worked out.

Then there's the job.  Have a project that's going to take up most of my time for the next 6 weeks.  It's good that I have a job considering the state of the automotive industry in Michigan.  It's bad that the OT will cut into what little free time that I have to write.

Upshot is that posting will be light or non-existent for the next few weeks.  Don't worry - I'll be back!!  Stay tuned and keep commenting.

But before I go, here's a few headlines and comments that have shown up in the past week:

Immigration Bill Pulled

The Senate immigration bill has been pulled from the floor of the Senate.  This just might kill this horrible piece of legislation, but there are those who state that it will be back.  I hope not...

Paris Hilton Out of Jail

Yep, she's out of jail, but not out of trouble.  Now it's house arrest for 40 days with a rather unstylish electronic ankle bracelet.  Why we care about what happens to this protected airhead is beyond me.

Democratic Candidate Debate

Verbal body slams were the on the agenda for this debate.  It was interesting that the candidates attacked each other as much as they attacked the President.  But there's no way I would vote for any of them.  Obama is becoming a Black Militant.  Edwards is bordering on the left-wing fringe.  Clinton is stiff and smarmy, and who really wants Bill back in the White House?

Democratic Candidates Express Faith

Faith in what?  Didn't hear anything on the sound bites that resembled anything but self-promotion.

Republican Candidate Debate

Much more agreeable debate.  Were at least courteous in their disagreements with each other's opinions, & didn't stoop to character assassination.

Republican Candidates Express Faith

At least there were a couple that stated that their faith was based on God and Jesus Christ, and done so in a way that promoted God and not themselves.

Jefferson Charged

William Jefferson (D-LA) finally has been charged with multiple counts of criminal activities.  About time.

Time to go.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cindy Sheehan Resigns

As many of you probably already know, Cindy Sheehan has “resigned” from the protest over the Iraq war. The event as described in a MSNBC article has several snippets that I would like to comment on.

In what she described as a “resignation letter,” Sheehan wrote in her online diary on the “Daily Kos” blog: “Good-bye America ... you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

I’m sorry that America is not the country you want it to be. I’m not exactly happy about all of the things that happen here, but I am not na├»ve enough to believe that if I parade around the world protesting that everyone is going to follow my lead and do the same.

“I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called “Face” of the American anti-war movement.”

And that’s exactly what will happen if you go out and protest. There will be repercussions of some nature from the opposition, especially from parents in a similar situation. Whether you will be strong enough to weather the criticism is something that is not for the faint-hearted.

When she had first taken on Bush, Sheehan was a darling of the liberal left. “However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the 'left' started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used.”

“…would rather live under Hugo Chavez than George W. Bush.” (Hardball, July 5, 2006, with guest host Norah O'Donnell)

Sheehan said she had sacrificed a 29-year marriage and endured threats to put all her energy into stopping the war. What she found, she wrote, was a movement “that often puts personal egos above peace and human life.”

Congratulations, Cindy, you just found out you was used by the liberals to further their agenda. Once you outlived your usefulness, you were discarded like yesterday’s garbage. Making statements of wanting to live in a Socialist country with an anti-America dictator running it did nothing but make you appear like a wacko and make you a liability. Politics (and politicians) do not respect personal sacrifice, nor do they care about anything but the advancement of their personal agendas.

“Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives.”

I can do nothing but agree with her statement (surprise!!). We are a fickle nation with misplaced priorities and limited attention spans.

Kristinn Taylor, spokesman for FreeRepublic.com, which has held pro-troop rallies and counter-protests of anti-war demonstrations, said dwindling crowds at Sheehan's Crawford protests since her initial vigil may have led to her decision. But he also said he hopes she will now be able to heal.

"Her politics have hurt a lot of people, including the troops and their families, but most of us who support the war on terror understand she is hurt very deeply," Taylor said Tuesday. "Those she got involved with in the anti-war movement realize it was to their benefit to keep her in that stage of anger."

I agree with Miss Taylor. Cindy Sheehan has always struck me as a person with a deep amount of pain over her son’s loss. I think she started asking why her son died, and couldn’t come to terms with it. I do hope that she finds peace, and hopefully, heal the wounds that the loss of her son created.

Monday, May 28, 2007

In Flanders Fields

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army