Friday, December 5, 2008

"GM knows how to innovate. We recognize that wheel covers and hubcaps are a thing of the past..."

GM CEO Rick Wagoner, Left, arrives in Washington in a Chevrolet Volt hybrid on December 4, 2008 to ask the Senate Banking Committee for a multi-million dollar bailout package. The Volt is intended to illustrate GM's ability to compete in coming years in the American marketplace.

[End of Post]

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Sort of like Arianna not being curious about her husband sleeping with men...

Arianna Huffington Laments Sarah Palin’s ‘Lack of Curiosity’
By Kyle Drennen, NewsBusters

Arianna Huffington, CBS During a discussion with co-host Maggie Rodriguez on Thursday’s CBS Early Show, liberal blogger Arianna Huffington, remarked that: "The problem with Sarah Palin was not anything to do with her being a woman. It had to do with her antediluvian views on creationism, her lack of curiosity, her lack of interest in the world around her."

The segment was about an open mic gaffe by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who said of Arizona Governor and Obama’s Homeland Security secretary nominee Janet Napolitano: "Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect." Rodriguez turned to Huffington and asked: "So what did you think about Governor Rendell's comment. Did you think it was sexist?" Huffington vigorously defended Napolitano: "I think that is illusion about a woman's life. Like Janet Napolitano has a very rich life. I mean, she plays tennis twice a week and nobody in her staff can interfere with that sacred time. She actually climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She goes river rafting. She loves movies and the opera."

However, Rodriguez observed: "You talked a lot about perceptions of women, especially women in politics, during the campaign, when Sarah Palin was in the news. And on your blog you openly criticized her." Huffington offered no defense of Palin: "Well, I thought that Sarah Palin, in a way, summed up what happens when you're not curious. When you're not interested in what is going on in the world. Because my problem with her was really her response to Katie Couric, when she was asked 'what do you read?' and she couldn't give an answer."

Later, Rodriguez asked Huffington: "Did you ever think that your blog, that blogging, would be so successful and have such an impact?...What is it about blogging that appeals to people so much?" Huffington replied: "It's so intimate. It's first thoughts, best thoughts...And also, right now when people are going through such hard times, it helps deal with the isolation of losing a job, or your 401(k) being depleted, and we want to collect all the stories and blogging is...It's very therapeutic, without having to pay a therapist, which many of us cannot afford."

While Huffington spoke of blogging as "therapeutic," a 2007 Media Research Center study, Huffington’s House of Horrors, found that the material found on the left-wing blog was far from soothing. In one case, Actor Alec Baldwin wrote: "Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home indiscriminately." In another, HuffPost blogger Peter Mehlman compared the Bush administration to past dictatorships: "the Bush administration is the first that doesn’t even mean well. You could argue that even the world’s worst fascist dictators at least meant well."

Here is the full transcript of the Thursday segment:


MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Also ahead this morning, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, did you hear about this? He put his foot in his mouth. He said something about another governor that was caught by an open mic. Well, coming up, we're going to hear what he said and his apology.


MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Politicians know to beware of an open microphone, but Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell forget that for a moment while commenting about Arizona Governor, Janet Napolitano, Barack Obama's choice for Homeland Security secretary.

ED RENDELL [OPEN MIC]: Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it. It's just like being an umpire at a baseball game, you do a great job, nobody notices. You screw up...we're talking about Janet.

ED RENDELL [PUBLIC APOLOGY]: What I meant is that Janet's a person who works 24/7, just like I do. Now, she has no life, neither do I. To be governor and to do your job well, you can't have a life. Governor Napolitano is one of the best governors in the country. She works literally 24/7 as governor. She'll do a great job because Governor Ridge told me you have to live that job every minute. Live that job every minute.

RODRIGUEZ: We are joined by Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. Also, now the author of 'The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.' Good morning, to you.


RODRIGUEZ: We know that you're not shy about giving your opinion. So what did you think about Governor Rendell's comment. Did you think it was sexist?

HUFFINGTON: Actually, you know what I thought? I thought that it really optimized a misperception in our culture. That if you work 20 hours a day, if you have no life, you're going to be more effective. And I believe the exact opposite. In fact, on The Huffington Post, and in the book, we have a lot of blogging about how you need to unplug and recharge, is what he we call it.


HUFFINGTON: That, in fact, if some of these Wall Street executives or these auto industry executives had spent more time napping and doing something to bring balance in their lives, they might have made better judgments, which is really the key to leadership, is judgment and wisdom, rather than being a work-acholic.

RODRIGUEZ: So do you think that if it was a man who was the nominee for that job that the comment would have been made. The "no family" distinction would have been made?

HUFFINGTON: I think that is really, again, an illusion about a woman's life. Like Janet Napolitano has a very rich life. I mean, she plays tennis twice a week and nobody in her staff can interfere with that sacred time. She actually climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She goes river rafting. She loves movies and the opera. So the idea that because she doesn't have a family and children, she's a complete work-acholic, or that this is a good thing, is a real misperception. And we really want to do something to change it, because men, after all, you know, end up with heart attacks or high blood pressure or something in their 50s or 60s, just because they have no balance in their lives.

RODRIGUEZ: You talked a lot about perceptions of women, especially women in politics, during the campaign, when Sarah Palin was in the news. And on your blog you openly criticized her.

HUFFINGTON: Well, I thought that Sarah Palin, in a way, summed up what happens when you're not curious. When you're not interested in what is going on in the world, because my problem with her was really her response to Katie Couric, when she was asked 'what do you read?' and she couldn't give an answer. The problem with Sarah Palin was not anything to do with her being a woman. It had to do with her antediluvian views on creationism, her lack of curiosity, her lack of interest in the world around her.

RODRIGUEZ: Did you ever think that your blog, that blogging, would be so successful and have such an impact?

HUFFINGTON: Well, we've been alive now for 3 ½ years and since then, blogging was exploded and, in fact, right now, we have a feature on The Huffington Post called 'Blogging the Meltdown,' because-

RODRIGUEZ: What is it about blogging that appeals to people so much?

HUFFINGTON: It's so intimate. It's first thoughts, best thoughts. It's the way you e-mail a friend, as opposed to the way you write a polished op-ed or a book. And also, right now when people are going through such hard times, it helps deal with the isolation of losing a job, or your 401(k) being depleted, and we want to collect all the stories and blogging is-

RODRIGUEZ: It's a release.

HUFFINGTON: Exactly. It's very therapeutic, without having to pay a therapist, which many of us cannot afford.

RODRIGUEZ: There you go.

HUFFINGTON: And in the end, collecting all these stories creates a sense of community.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, well congratulations on The Huffington Post and the book.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you so much.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

—Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Slightly Off-Tasting Food for Conservative Thought...

Bush Derangement Syndrome
There would be no cure with W. in the White House.
By Jason Lee Steorts, National Review

"What I think is that the Iraq War ruined President Bush’s brand and President Bush ruined the Republican brand. I think that’s what sank us in 2006 and 2008."...

Yesterday I wrote you some thoughts about the shallowness of the “Is social conservatism ruining the Republican party?” debate. I said it distracts attention from a number of distinctions that merit consideration if we wish to understand people’s political allegiances. Today I’d like briefly to consider these distinctions’ application to one issue and one man: the Iraq War and George W. Bush.

I will not try to justify any judgment of either, although my opinions will show through; let’s save the justifying for another day. What I wish to do instead is offer some broad-brushstroke description of the way Bush and the war have come to be seen, in slow motion and over many years. These brushstrokes are the landscape upon which voters formed many more particular views. Consider what I say in the light of your own observations and ask whether it contains any truth.
I’ll organize my comments with reference to the distinctions I introduced yesterday, though the order will be different.

Brand-name voting versus rational-analysis voting.

What I think is that the Iraq War ruined President Bush’s brand and President Bush ruined the Republican brand. I think that’s what sank us in 2006 and 2008. Sure, there were scandals, there was rampant spending and government bloat, there was a charismatic Democratic nominee, and in the final weeks of the ’08 campaign there was a financial crisis that sealed John McCain’s fate. But I think it was his fate. It probably would have been the fate of any Republican nominee.

Bush survived the ’04 election largely by running a national-security campaign. The memory of 9/11 was fresh and Iraq had not yet descended into the sectarian bloodbath that turned “We can’t police a civil war” into a pungent sound bite. (The Golden Mosque bombing, recall, happened in early 2006.) It helped in ’04 that the Democrats nominated a man with the warmth and charisma of Massachusetts cod. The WMD hadn’t turned up and there was a growing consensus that the war had been fought on a false premise, but the feeling was still: It’s a dangerous world, and now is no time to rock the boat.

Then Iraq really went to hell. A perceived mistake became a perceived catastrophe, and most people just wanted to be done with it. They wanted to be done, too, with the man and the party who had brought it to them.

These attitudes were not, in my opinion, the product of rational analysis, because the impulse behind them was more punitive than corrective, more backward- than forward-looking. Was the Iraq War unwinnable in 2006? Manifestly not, as the surge has shown. Was there serious discussion in 2006 of whether the war was unwinnable? Not really. A relative handful of specialists debated the question, but in the main one side asserted yes, the other no, and that was that.

To my mind, this was a frightening thing. It would have behooved us, amidst all the recriminations, to spend some time on questions like these: How does one recognize an unwinnable war? Should we be thinking in binary alternatives — winnable versus unwinnable — or should we be looking at things probabilistically? Should we be making, that is, a cost-benefit analysis — and what is the right analysis here? What are the consequences of this defeat? Does it embolden al-Qaeda? Does it destabilize the region further? How about Iran — will it not gain tremendously from our loss? And that’s not to mention the human cost: After what we have put the Iraqis through, should we not demand a very high standard of certainty that the war is in fact unwinnable before abandoning them? (If you would like to read my thoughts on this last question, you can find them here.) But that framework isn’t suited to vengeance — and we were out for blood.

Social issues versus moral issues.

Say what you will about Bush’s social conservatism, it was nothing new. In fact, it fell short of many social conservatives’ expectations. New was: Halliburton blood for oil torture Guantanamo domestic spying extraordinary rendition — plus ample (and amply televised) doses of death death death death death.

Consider the remarkable traction of the slander that “Bush lied, people died.” I had variations of it repeated to me by many well-educated non-extremists. None of them could justify it beyond pointing out that no WMD had been found in Iraq. If you told them that the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD were consistent with the views of just about every intelligence agency in the world, and that there is a difference between a lie and a mistake, they hardly cared. If you explained that, had the administration really been after Saddam’s oil, there were much cheaper ways of getting it, they hardly cared. They just knew Bush was a liar.

It is a special irony that the president who spoke in the most idealistic language since JFK has been branded a tyrant. Criticize his “freedom agenda” if you like, but don’t tell me he didn’t meant it. Decry his judgment if you like, but don’t tell me he is unmoved by suffering. Is there a president in living memory who cried more in public than Bush did? There he was with wounded troops, tearing up; there he was on TV talking about a 9/11 orphan, his lip quivering. Compassionate conservatism, expanded welfare state, funding for AIDS treatment in Africa on a scale that dwarfed Bill Clinton’s efforts — but it didn’t matter, because everyone just knew Bush was full of malice.

Then lo, who should appear but a messiah? It was Barack Obama’s genius to offer, not an alternative platform, but an alternative brand sold as a secular religion. “Hope” and “change you can believe in” would in other elections have been banalities, but in this election, context became content, and the content was contrastive: roughly, the Prince of Darkness versus the Light of the World.

Of course, Obama had some help.

Influencers versus influenced.

The elites and intellectuals (as defined yesterday), far from being immune to Obama’s stylistic seduction, were uniquely susceptible to it. Much more than the public at large, they look down on Bush’s Texas twang, his dropped g’s, his “nucular,” his Evangelical Christianity, his lapel pin. They prefer the ethics of the ACLU and the English of law professors.

That preference is relevant to understanding the psychotic hatred many of them directed at Sarah Palin. Sure, she made plenty of gaffes — but weren’t they listening to Joe Biden? Biden, however, has trained himself to talk like them. Palin bears the cultural markers of a W. — the dropped g’s, the “nucular,” the Evangelical Christianity. If you hated him, you hated her in equal measure, and then you hated her a little more for reminding you of him.

That the influencers tended to see Bush as a jingoistic, fundamentalist idiot rather than a worthy adversary with whom they had profound disagreements inevitably influenced their presentation of his policies. They are supposed to specialize in nuance and subtlety; the assessment of a war fought against an appallingly cruel autocrat, on the basis of flawed but sincerely believed intelligence, would seem to cry out for such virtues. Their narrative instead combined the nuance of an infomercial with the subtlety of a morality play. Again, think what you will of Bush’s policies — but don’t tell me you arrived at a thoughtful view of them by reading the fulminations of Paul Krugman and Frank Rich.

The influencers convinced the public that the war had been a mistake but failed to get it thinking about how the mistake should be managed. They convinced the public that the war had been wrong but failed to get it thinking about whether we could right the wrong. And when the tide turned — when Iraq stabilized, and we started to win after all — they offered the public a yawn.


I have much sympathy for our 43rd president. I think a good, maybe even a great man has been vilified. It’s fine with me if you disagree. But it is not fine with me, and it should not be fine with you, and it is not good for any of us, that the discourse surrounding this man has been so foolish.

I’ve dwelt on the foolishness because I think it is relevant to what I said yesterday about communication: about the need to justify our beliefs from the ground up, in a way comprehensible and persuasive to those who don’t already hold them.

I am fond of Bush’s colloquial, unpretentious English, and law professors bore me to death — but Bush is not a gifted extemporaneous speaker. Would the received wisdom about the war be quite what it is had it been justified with the suave articulacy and command of detail of a Mitt Romney? I can’t know, but I suspect not.

Bush also seems to have made a decision to put on an air of certainty, as the public’s doubts grew. I even recall his saying, in response to a question about this certainty, that the commander-in-chief must appear strong and confident for the sake of the troops. (I paraphrase.) That seems right, to a point. But the president must also reassure the people he leads that he understands their concerns. Here too I think Bush fell short.

After the failure to find WMD in Iraq, he might have done much more to control the terms of debate. He might have explained — again and again and again — that the war’s justification depended not only on what Saddam had done, but on what Saddam might do. He might have said this in regular press conferences, not occasional speeches. He might have personally announced the intelligence discoveries in post-war Iraq, which left no doubt that Hussein intended to reconstitute his WMD programs as soon as U.N. sanctions were lifted. He might have talked in concrete terms about the strategic stakes, the price of losing. He might have told the public: “Look, we’ve made some great big mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, and we still need to win, and this is how we’ll do it” — and he might have told them this long before the ’06 midterm rout.

In March of 2003, the American people had a very clear idea of why they were going to war, and that idea was: WMD. When the question became instead whether to stay at war, they never heard anything like the best possible affirmative answer. Giving the best answer is all the more important when you’re up against cultural gatekeepers who despise you and the policy you’re justifying puts a lot of blood on TV. Neutralizing those disadvantages would have been beyond the power of any president, but I think Bush could have done better, and I think we should learn from his mistakes.

All right, that’ll do for today. Return tomorrow, if you’d like, for the final installment of these ramblings, in which I’ll tell about my uncomfortable relationship with opinion journalism.

— Jason Lee Steorts is managing editor of National Review.

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One Advantage of Being The Chosen People

Report: Israel Preparing to Strike Iran Without U.S. Consent

Israel is drawing up plans to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and is prepared to launch a strike without backing from the U.S., an Israeli newspaper reported Thursday.

Officials in the Israeli Defense Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that while they prefer to act in consultation with the U.S., they are preparing plans that would allow them to act alone.

"It is always better to coordinate," a senior Defense Ministry official told the newspaper. "But we are also preparing options that do not include coordination."

It would be difficult, but not impossible, to launch a strike against Iran without permission from the U.S., as the American Air Force controls the Iraqi airspace Israel's jets would have to enter on a bombing mission.

"There are a wide range of risks one takes when embarking on such an operation," a senior Israeli official told the Post.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude oil producer, maintains that its uranium enrichment activities are aimed at making fuel for a network of planned electricity-generating nuclear power plants and not for developing weapons.

However Israel intelligence sources say Iran has sufficient nuclear material to make an atomic bomb.

Last month, amid mounting fears in Israel that the U.S. was doing nothing to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, warned President Bush the last chance of destroying Tehran’s nuclear bomb-making program was passing.

Iran dismisses the possibility of an Israeli strike.

"We think that regional and international developments and the complicated situation faced by Israel itself will not allow it to launch military strikes against other countries," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said, according to the Press TV Web site.

"Israel makes threats to promote its psychological and media warfare," Qashqavi said.

A report, published in September in Britain's Guardian newspaper, claimed that Isreali Prime Minister Ehud Olmert requested a green light to attack Iran in May but was refused by Bush.

Fox News
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

He ain't (too) heavy, he's my brother...


Here is the news from the Politico.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The South Will Rise Again

GOP Senate Win in Georgia Blocks Dem Supermajority

ATLANTA -- Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss handed the GOP a firewall against Democrats eager to flex their newfound political muscle in Washington, winning a bruising runoff battle Tuesday night that had captured the national limelight.

Chambliss' victory thwarted Democrats' hopes of winning a 60 seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It came after a bitter month long runoff against Democrat Jim Martin that drew political luminaries from both parties to the state and flooded the airwaves with fresh attack ads weeks after campaigns elsewhere had ended.

Minnesota -- where a recount is under way -- now remains the only unresolved Senate contest in the country. But the stakes there are significantly lower now that Georgia has put a 60-seat Democratic supermajority out of reach.

With 70 percent of the precincts reporting, Chambliss captured 60 percent to Martin's 40 percent. Chambliss' win is a rare bright spot for Republicans in a year where they lost the White House as well as seats in the House and the Senate.

"It's been a hard and tough four weeks," Chambliss said at a victory party in Cobb County. "We had a hardcore campaign on both sides and while things look good right now, we're going to continue to follow the returns as they come in."

Chambliss' mantra on the runoff campaign trail was simple: His re-election was critical to prevent Democrats in Washington from having a blank check. Chambliss, 65, had angered some conservatives with his vote for the $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry and his early support in 2007 for the guest worker provision in President Bush's immigration bill. But fearful of unchecked Democratic dominance, some came back into the GOP fold Tuesday.

Martin made the economy the centerpiece of his bid, casting himself as a champion for the neglected middle class. He also linked himself at every opportunity to Barack Obama and his message of change. The Democratic president elect was a no show on the campaign trail in Georgia but did record a radio ad and automated phone calls for Martin.

In the end, Martin, a 63-year-old former state lawmaker from Atlanta, wasn't able to get Obama voters back to the polls in large enough numbers to overcome the Republican advantage in Georgia, which has become an increasingly a reliable red state since 2002.

Turnout was light throughout the state Tuesday. A spokesman for Secretary of State Karen Handel predicted between 18 and 20 percent of the state's 5.75 million registered voters would cast ballots -- far less than the 65 percent who voted in last month's general election.

The runoff between the former University of Georgia fraternity brothers was necessary after a three-way general election prevented any of the candidates from getting the necessary 50 percent.

Chambliss came to the Senate in 2002 after defeating Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in a campaign that infuriated Democrats. Chambliss ran a TV ad that questioned Cleland's commitment to national security and flashed a photo of Osama bin Laden. Cleland is a triple amputee wounded in the Vietnam War.

He was a loyal supporter of President Bush and, as a freshman, rose to become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. the former agriculture lawyer from Moultrie has been the ranking Republican on the panel since Democrats won control of the Senate.

Some 3.7 million people cast ballots in this year's general election, and both sides have since tried to keep voters' attention with a barrage of ads and visits by political heavy-hitters.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore both stumped for Martin. President-elect Barack Obama recorded a radio ad for Martin and sent 100 field operatives, but he didn't campaign in the state despite a request from Martin to do so.

Several ex-Republican presidential candidates made appearances for Chambliss, including GOP nominee John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Chambliss brought in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential pick, as his closer. She headlined four rallies for Chambliss across the state Monday that drew thousands of party faithful.

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Cheney's Favors, or Lack Thereof . . .

This is an interesting study on the stock market value of "Cheney" connections. It will be met by a chorus of disbelief from the conspiracy-minded, but is sound analysis.

is the article.

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At least the cops removed carrier pigeons from the Taj...

Mumbai Terrorists Used BlackBerries to Watch the World

Commandos sent to get the Mumbai terrorists were surprised to find BlackBerries in the bags of terrorists.

After the authorities have cut the cable feeds to the hotels the terrorists followed the news and the world by going online from their handset. What’s surprising is that the officials were surprised to find smartphones with terrorists. And with all the technology available they were not capable of tracking down cell phone usage from inside the hotels before while they were negotiating?

RELATED STORY: Obama Fights for Right to Retain His Blackberry As President.

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This is what we'd be bailing out, folks...

Jobs bank programs -- 12,000 paid not to work
Big 3 and suppliers pay billions to keep downsized UAW members on payroll in decades-long deal.

By Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News, 2005

WAYNE -- Ken Pool is making good money. On weekdays, he shows up at 7 a.m. at Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, signs in, and then starts working -- on a crossword puzzle. Pool hates the monotony, but the pay is good: more than $31 an hour, plus benefits.
"We just go in and play crossword puzzles, watch videos that someone brings in or read the newspaper," he says. "Otherwise, I've just sat."

Pool is one of more than 12,000 American autoworkers who, instead of installing windshields or bending sheet metal, spend their days counting the hours in a jobs bank set up by Detroit automakers and Delphi Corp. as part of an extraordinary job security agreement with the United Auto Workers union.
The jobs bank programs were the price the industry paid in the 1980s to win UAW support for controversial efforts to boost productivity through increased automation and more flexible manufacturing.
As part of its restructuring under bankruptcy, Delphi is actively pressing the union to give up the program.
With Wall Street wondering how automakers can afford to pay thousands of workers to do nothing as their market share withers, the union is likely to hear a similar message from the Big Three when their contracts with the UAW expire in 2007 -- if not sooner.
"It's an albatross around their necks," said Steven Szakaly, an economist with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "It's a huge number of workers doing nothing. That has a very large effect on their future earnings outlook."
General Motors Corp. has roughly 5,000 workers in its jobs bank. Delphi has about 4,000 in its version of the same program. Some 2,100 workers are in DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group's job security program. Ford had 1,275 in its jobs bank as of Sept. 25. The pending closure of Ford's assembly plant in Loraine, Ohio, could add significantly to that total. Those numbers could swell in coming years as GM and Ford prepare to close more plants.
Detroit automakers declined to discuss the programs in detail or say exactly how much they are spending, but the four-year labor contracts they signed with the UAW in 2003 established contribution caps that give a good idea of the size of the expense.
According to those documents, GM agreed to contribute up to $2.1 billion over four years. DaimlerChrysler set aside $451 million for its program, along with another $50 million for salaried employees covered under the contract. Ford, which also maintained responsibility for Visteon Corp.'s UAW employees, agreed to contribute $944 million.
Delphi pledged to contribute $630 million. In August, however, Delphi Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert S. "Steve" Miller said the company spent more than $100 million on its jobs bank program in the second quarter alone.
"Can we keep losing $400 million a year paying for workers in the jobs bank and $400 million a year on operations? No, we cannot deal with that indefinitely," Miller said in a recent interview with The Detroit News. "We can't wait until 2007."
Guaranteed employment
The jobs bank was established during 1984 labor contract talks between the UAW and the Big Three. The union, still reeling from the loss of 500,000 jobs during the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was determined to protect those who were left. Detroit automakers were eager to win union support to boost productivity through increased automation and more production flexibility.
The result was a plan to guarantee pay and benefits for union members whose jobs fell victim to technological progress or plant restructurings. In most cases, workers end up in the jobs bank only after they have exhausted their government unemployment benefits, which are also supplemented by the companies through a related program. In some cases, workers go directly into the program and the benefits can last until they are eligible to retire or return to the factory floor.
By making it so expensive to keep paying idled workers, the UAW thought Detroit automakers would avoid layoffs. By discouraging layoffs, the union thought it could prevent outsourcing.
That strategy has worked but at the expense of the domestic auto industry's long-term viability.
American automakers have produced cars and trucks even when there is little market demand for them, forcing manufacturers to offer big rebates and discounts.
"Sometimes they just push product on us," said Bill Holden Jr., general manager of Holden Dodge Inc. in Dover, Del., who said this does not go over well with the dealers. "But they've got these contracts with the union."
In Detroit's battle against Asian and European competitors that are unencumbered by such labor costs, the job banks have become a major competitive disadvantage.
Breaking the banks
Analysts say the jobs bank could be a bigger issue than health care in the 2007 contract negotiations, particularly at Ford. It has a younger work force than GM, meaning any workers Ford sends to the bench are likely to stay there for a while.
"Ford is under pressure from investors to cut costs," said Roland Zullo, a research scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. "At the same time, the unions are going to be under pressure to protect jobs."
Given that, he expects a compromise that allows for the jobs bank to continue but not on the scale of the current programs. "There's going to be a lot of give and take," he said.
But does the jobs bank make any sense in a climate of shrinking profits and declining market share?
"Labor wants the (jobs bank) because they want protection for their members," Zullo said. But he added that the jobs bank was also designed to help the companies by ensuring that skilled workers did not take their talents elsewhere.
"Companies invest in training," he said. "It protects that investment."
The investment only makes sense when viewed from a long-term perspective, a vantage point Wall Street is not known to favor.
"If they're going after the job banks, that would signal to me that the folks at the top have lost faith in their ability to recoup market share," Zullo said. "That would suggest to me that they really don't see a turnaround."
Analysts and labor experts believe some sort of compromise is inevitable as pressure builds on Detroit automakers to lower operating costs.
"The union probably realizes the money to pay for these programs probably doesn't exist," Szakaly said. "There's going to have to be some give on the jobs bank."
While the job banks may exemplify the sort of excesses that give unions a bad name, experts say it is wrong to cast all the blame in the direction of Solidarity House. He said the leaders of GM, Ford and Chrysler also bear some responsibility for the current problems.
"If these guys built cars people wanted, this wouldn't even be an issue," Szakaly said.
'Put out to pasture'
That view was echoed by Dan Cisco, another member of the jobs bank at Michigan Truck, as he drained a cup of coffee with Pool and other idled workers at Rex's restaurant in Wayne last week.
Ten members of UAW Local 900 are currently assigned to the jobs bank at Michigan Truck. They are all gun-welder repairmen -- or "gunnies." It is a classification each says they earned through decades of hard work.
And none of them is ready to give it up.
While some might envy their life of leisure, workers like Cisco, 56, feel humiliated by the program.
"I felt like I was useless -- like I was put out to pasture," he said. "It's just like how they treated the veterans. During the war, we were heroes. When we came back ... "
Cisco adjusts his cap, emblazoned with the familiar silhouette of a captive American POW, and sighs.
Michigan Truck, which builds the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size SUVs, used to be one of Ford's most profitable plants. Today, the nation is turning away from the big trucks and sport utility vehicles it builds.
Cisco, Pool and eight other gunnies from Michigan Truck have been in the jobs bank program since their positions were eliminated in July. They all have more than 36 years with Ford and are among the highest-paid workers in the plant. They say the company is asking them to accept one of the $35,000 retirement packages it is offering to trim its blue-collar headcount.
Most say they have no interest in retiring -- or spending the rest of their careers doing crossword puzzles.
"We want training," Dale Hall said.
Classes are available, the workers said. They have been invited to take courses on bicycle repair, home wiring and poker. Silk-flower arranging is also available.
"They might as well just give us a basket-weaving class, set us in the corner and let us feed the pigeons," Cisco said.
Community service
Not everyone in the jobs bank is spending their time marking it.
Dan Costilla, a member of UAW Local 602 in Lansing, was a body shop worker at GM's Lansing car assembly plant until it was closed in May. Now, instead of grinding joints, he rides herd over 16 of his former plantmates, making sure they keep their appointments at the local thrift store or Head Start program.
"I'm making sure that everything's going smooth," he said.
In the five months since Costilla and his co-workers have been unemployed, they have been busy mowing lawns for the handicapped, patching roofs for senior citizens and chaperoning youngsters on field trips to the zoo. It is all part of a community service effort organized by the union, with the support of the company.
"They realized you could only sit so long at the job bank office," Costilla said. "Your bones, they get sore after a while sitting down."
Bob Bowen, former president of UAW Local 849 in Ypsilanti, said the original intent of the jobs bank program was that idled workers would be gainfully employed on community projects or learning new skills -- real ones that they could actually use on the assembly line.
"The idea was not to have people loafing," Bowen said. "But that was a concern."
The problem, he said, lies in the way the jobs bank is administered.
Instead of setting up a central authority to manage them, responsibility was largely left to union locals across the country. Some organized community projects and job training. Others passed out decks of cards and hooked up VCRs.
Ken Pool said he can only take so many more World War II documentaries and crossword puzzles.
He and the other members of Michigan Truck's jobs bank planned to meet with a lawyer. They have already filed numerous grievances, accusing the company of age discrimination, but have heard nothing from the union or the company.
Now they are going to see if the courts can help.
As for Costilla and his colleagues, they are getting ready to go back to work at GM's new Delta Township plant. Costilla acknowledges that many of the union members are not looking forward to going back to work at the factory.
"The majority of us would rather stay here doing what we're doing," he said.
"You're not on the line, chasing a car."

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Monday, December 1, 2008

I might buy this if it weren't coming from Tucker Carlson...

The Case for Pardons
by Tucker Carlson

December 1, 2008 | 8:12am

From Martha Stewart to anyone ever convicted by Eliot Spitzer, why Bush—the compassionate conservative—should be more liberal about letting felons off the hook.

Congressional Democrats are starting to worry that George W. Bush might get away with it. A few, including New York congressman Jerry Nadler, have convinced themselves that in the next six weeks Bush will preemptively pardon members of his administration who may have committed crimes.

Nadler and his fellow Bush haters can relax. Bush won't do any such thing. Unfortunately.

How do we know this? Because Bush hates pardons. Though he recently described himself “as somebody who liberated 50 million people,” he wasn't referring to his fellow Americans. Over the past eight years, Bush has granted a total of just 171 pardons, far fewer than any modern two-term president. Bill Clinton, by contrast, pardoned 140 people on a single day at the end of his last term.

A pardon is the least they owe Scooter Libby. Also, it would drive Paul Krugman even crazier than he is now.

Which is precisely the problem: Clinton went to one extreme – accepting favors to exonerate Marc Rich, pardoning Puerto Rican terrorists. Bush responded by going to the other. Typical political overcorrection, but a shame nonetheless. Pardons aren't illegitimate. They're constitutional (Article II, Section 2). They're also compassionate. We need more of them.

Who should get pardoned? Contrary to myth, there aren't a lot of innocent people on death row. But there are a quite a few guilty people who ought to be forgiven. Last week, for example, Bush pardoned a 50-year-old Missouri farmer named Leslie Owen Collier. In 1995, Collier accidentally poisoned three bald eagles. An indisputably solid citizen, Collier was horrified by the birds’ death. Some self-aggrandizing prosecutor went after him anyway, and he wound up a felon. The conviction overshadowed Collier’s life. Bush fixed it in an instant.

There are thousands of Leslie Colliers out there. The trick is bringing them to the attention of the White House. That’s not easy. Typically, you've got to know someone who knows someone.

Consider the case of imprisoned rapper John Forte, whose sentence Bush recently commuted. In 2000, Forte, who had produced albums for the Fugees and once toured with Wyclef Jean, was busted at Newark Airport carrying 31 pounds of cocaine. He wound up with 14-year prison term. He'd likely still be there, but for the fact he'd gone to Exeter with Carly Simon’s son, Ben, and had visited the Simon family spread on Martha’s Vineyard .

A few years ago, Ben’s mom collaborated on a country song with Sen. Orrin Hatch and told him about Forte’s case. Hatch called the White House. Forte was sprung.

So because your boarding school friend’s mom finds herself in a recording studio with a U.S. senator, you get out of jail early. Whatever else it is, that’s not an efficient way to dispense justice. The incoming president ought to set up a well-staffed office of investigators at the Justice Department whose only task is to find felons worthy of pardon.

In the meantime, Bush should grant mercy to some obvious candidates:

Edwin Edwards. The former Louisiana governor has been in prison for more than six years on federal racketeering charges. Yes, he did it, and probably a lot more. No, he’s not likely to be very penitent when he gets out. But Edwards is also 81 years old, and one of the most entertaining political figures in American history. Plus, he prevented David Duke from reaching statewide office. He won't hurt anyone. Let him go.

Jim Traficant. As long as Edwards is getting out, why not the disgraced congressman from Youngstown? Congress has been a dull place since he and his possum-shaped wig left for federal prison.

Martha Stewart. Sure she’s annoying, but that’s not a crime—or it shouldn't be anyway. Stewart went to jail mostly because she was famous, as a lesson to the rest of us. That’s not a good reason. Stand on principle. Clear her name.

Everyone ever convicted by Elliot Spitzer. Long before he became the governor who overpaid hookers, Spitzer was the man who prosecuted cases solely for their publicity value, in order to advance his own political career. His targets must be considered victims, even the guilty ones. Absolve them, not least as a warning to budding Spitzers everywhere, and unfortunately there are many.

Webster Hubbell. The former mayor of Little Rock came to Washington to work in his close friend Bill Clinton’s justice department. He left to go to prison for mail fraud and tax evasion. Though he could have hurt the Clintons in a thousand ways, Hubbell has remained silent all these years. Yet in a classic case of unrequited loyalty, Clinton refused to pardon him, or even say a good word on his behalf. Hubbell’s still in Washington, and still tainted by his convictions. Bush ought to do what Clinton should have done.

Scooter Libby. For the same reason: It’s immoral to let people who work for you suffer for your sins. Whatever Libby did, he did on behalf of his superiors. A pardon is the least they owe him. Also, it would drive Paul Krugman crazy. Really crazy. Even crazier than he is now.

Non-violent drug felons. Why not find six or seven hundred of them, maybe a thousand, people who screwed up, but who have turned their lives around and done something useful since. Not the usual loudmouth, addict-turned-counselor/evangelist types, but the quiet ones who go to work every day and raise decent children. They're out there. Reward their perseverance and self-control. Pardon them.

Original Article can be found at The Beast.

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Government To Offer Worthless Porn-Free Internet For Free

Wonkette reports that FCC Chair Kevin Martin is pushing for a new mandated "porn free" internet. This from a guy who most certainly could use some, ahem, pathways for release...

The FCC has announced a bold new socialist plan to provide wireless Internet all over America, for free! But it won’t have any pr0n, so Americans won’t actually use this free gift. Also, it will be hella slow, as it will be operated by wireless companies forced to do so, by the government, and in competition with the for-profit porn Internet wireless service, which will be super fast.
Reports the Wall Street Journal:

The proposal to allow a no-smut, free wireless Internet service is part of a proposal to auction off a chunk of airwaves. The winning bidder would be required to set aside a quarter of the airwaves for a free Internet service. The winner could establish a paid service that would have a fast wireless Internet connection. The free service could be slower and would be required to filter out pornography and other material not suitable for children. The FCC's proposal mirrors a plan offered by M2Z Networks Inc., a start-up backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr.

The proposal faces objections from consumer groups -- who say the FCC's filtering will go too far -- and the wireless carriers, who complain that a free Internet would interfere with their own radiowaves (and customer-base).

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Still Hope for Al!

[H]ere's a little reminder of what looms in the background of the whole Minnesota Senate recount mess:

The Minnesota U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken is undergoing a recount, with the candidates separated by less than 300 votes out of 2.9 million cast. But a controversial decision by the state's Elections Canvassing Board could end up throwing the election into the lap of the Senate itself, a scholar told Minnesota Public Radio.

"Ultimately, the Senate has complete authority to determine who was elected," Washington University political scientist Steven Smith told the broadcaster, citing the canvassing board's decision this week to disallow disputed absentee ballots that Franken had urged be counted.

The board's move was "a cause for great concern," Reid said this week, and those comments may indicate his willingness to start a Senate investigation of the Minnesota recount, Smith said. And if so, it's possible that Franken's argument regarding rejected absentee ballots could be reconsidered by U.S. senators.

It's certainly true that the Senate can settle the issue by simply choosing to swear in one or the other, but I wouldn't necessarily agree at this point that the Senate is likely to intervene, or that Reid's comments should lead us to anticipate that. "Cause for great concern," without more, is about as boilerplate as it gets.

Whence cometh such authority? Article I, Sec. 5:

"Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members"

Ding. That's it.

That applies equally to determining who won elections and shall be seated, and to who is such a pain in the ass that they'll be expelled from the Senate once seated, though there's more about expulsions later, including the 2/3 vote requirement for kicking someone out.

So, has it ever happened? Sure. In fact, according to a 2005 paper by Prof. Jeffrey A. Jenkins of Northwestern University, there have been 132 contested Senate elections through the 107th Congress, i.e., from 1789 through 2002, or an average of more than one per Congress. But since the 17th Amendment, the number of cases has declined fairly dramatically, with just 35 cases, or 0.8 per Congress on average. The last such dispute -- not included, it appears, in the Jenkins paper -- was current Senator Mary Landrieu's first election to the Senate in 1996.

From Daily Kos.

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Diplomacy IS her strong point, after all...

In responding to a question from a reporter regarding his previous very dismissive comments about Senator Clinton's international experience being similar to a series of tea parties, President Elect Obama basically said that what was said during the heat of an election does not matter. Really????

At a morning news conference in Chicago, Obama said his team "must pursue a new strategy that skillfully uses, balances, and integrates all elements of American power: our military and diplomacy, our intelligence and law enforcement, our economy and the power of our moral example.

"The team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that," he added as his Cabinet picks stood behind him on a flag-draped stage. "They share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America's role as a leader in the world."

Obama named Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and Arizona Gov. Janet Naploitano as homeland security chief. He also named two senior foreign policy positions outside the Cabinet, including campaign foreign policy adviser Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador.

Obama introduced Clinton first, saying of his former presidential rival, "She possesses an extraordinary intelligence and toughness, and a remarkable work ethic. ... She is an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence, who knows many of the world's leaders, who will command respect in every capital, and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world."

Clinton will give up her seat as a senator from New York to join the Obama Cabinet. Her appointment was preceded by lengthy negotiations involving her husband, the former president, whose international business connections posed potential conflicts of interest.

The former president also agreed to disclose the donors to the foundation that built his library, as well as contributors to his international foundation.

She said to Obama, in brief turn at the lectern, "I am proud to join you...and may God bless you and our great country."

Sen. Clinton had scarcely finished speaking when her husband issued a written statement.

"She is the right person for the job of helping to restore America's image abroad, end the war in Iraq, advance peace and increase our security, by building a future for our children with more partners and fewer adversaries, one of shared responsibilities and opportunities," he said.

Gates said he was "mindful that we are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world."

"I must do my duty as they do theirs," he said of the men and women in uniform in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. "How could I do otherwise?"

He said he was "honored to serve President-elect Obama."

Gates' appointment fulfilled a campaign promise by Obama, the naming of a Republican to his Cabinet.

Obama said Napolitano understands the need to protect against terror attacks and to respond to natural disasters -- and that she also understands as well as anyone the danger of unsecured borders.

Obama now has half of the 15-member Cabinet assembled less than a month after the election, including the most prominent positions at State, Justice, Treasury and Defense. Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Silver Lining

It’s Official: Barack Obama is no Longer a U.S. Senator

by Bonney Kapp
CHICAGO - In a letter dated November 18th to the Vice President and President of the U.S. Senate, Richard Cheney, Barack Obama officially resigned his seat in the Senate chamber.

“This letter is to inform you that I resigned from the United States Senate, effective November 16, 2008, in order to prepare for my duties as President of the United States,” the president-elect wrote in his succinct letter.

The Secretary of the Senate’s office told FOX News that his resignation has been accepted earlier this afternoon, and the President-elect is officially no longer a Senator.

The Governor of Illinois, who received a similar letter from Mr. Obama last week, will now appoint a successor to fill out the remainder of the junior senator’s term through 2010.
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