Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Drive the new Pelosi

You owe it to yourself, the Earth, the UAW, and big government to drive one. Courtesy of Iowa Hawk.

h/t Carpe Diem via Right Michigan

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

To Lansing

There will be zero posting later today which, by itself, does not seem that impressive. But, in dog years, that is easily 0000000 posts.

Is it any wonder that I have become so popular by churning out the content?

Pat Buchanan and the Israeli Blitz

It is always a nice touch when the word "blitz" can be used to describe a military action carried out by the Jews. That Pat Buchanan can do it in his current description of the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza is almost delicious. Pat has, after all, become an apologist for the Third Reich over the past few years, and his latest column offers us the same sort of historical revisionism we have come to expect from a man that wishes the Jews would go the way of the dinosaurs or, at the very least, stop fighting so hard to get off of the endangered species list.

There is no crime too great that the Jewish state should not tolerate beyond a very measured response, and there is no response big enough to end Hamas launched terrorism that is justifiable. Striking back with too much vigor is so off putting. Better, I suppose, for Israeli children to routinely play in rocket bombarded fields launched there by people who send their children to terrorist camp the same way we parents send our children to summer camp.

After all, that is exactly how we Americans would act if a horde of crazy Canucks started lobbing both home made and Iranian made rockets at us from across Lake St. Clair. "Kids, remember your umbrellas if you go out to play."

Pat does give Israel a leash, one long enough to do exactly what I am not sure. He admits that Hamas had it coming, but then qualifies his tepid statement by surmising that

[...] crass Israeli politics seems to be behind this premeditated and planned blitz.
Pat pines for the day when nations (well, at least Jewish ones) would forget about the hundreds of rockets launched at its territory by sworn enemies, even if the launchings take place in the midst of a so called cease fire.

It is the only way to guarantee a response as pristine and unplanned as the freshly driven snow. Totally ineffective, of course, but short of surrender and marching into the Mediterranean voluntarily, it is the best, if not the final, solution.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rod Marinelli is no Politician

If only politicians were as easily separated from their jobs as coaches are.

Rod Marinelli, the oft ridiculed coach of the hapless Detroit Lions, cleaned out his locker today at Ford Field. His team finished 0-16.

“You can’t go 0-16 and expect to keep your job,” Marinelli said in a news conference. “I didn’t conquer anything. I got defeated.”
There is no way to nuance an 0-16 record. A record like that is self defining. Sports teams are pretty easy to figure out.

Football, like sports in general, is a zero sum game. That is, whenever one team wins, another loses. At the end of the year you have, all teams combined, a .500 record. When exposed to such brutal measurement, it is easy to pick the winners and losers.

Oh that it were so in politics, where the winners and losers are so intertwined with regulation, obfuscation, and political favoritism that it is almost impossible to find where the wins and losses are listed.

That is why someone like Barney Frank can stand before the whole world and declare with certainty that there is nothing systematically wrong with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He can spend a large portion of his career doing his level best to submarine any and all changes designed to steer the mortgage giants toward fiscal health, this while collecting into his campaign coffers large amounts of Fannie and Freddie donated cash. Which, by the way, came in pretty handy in that last election, months after Fan and Fred melted down.

So, Rod Marinelli is out of work and Barney Frank is gainfully employed. One man will wear his 0-16 record like an albatross around his neck for the rest of his coaching career. The other has sidestepped all culpability for his miserable record and will ride the crest of a successful blame game into another term in the Congress while sitting at the helm of the Financial Services Committee.

Its good work if you can get it.

Another Chapter in the Book of Unintended Consequences

Government knew what was best and it acted.

This is where we are now:

The heavily subsidized ethanol industry is the latest to seek a federal bailout. If there is any industry that deserves to go bankrupt, it's this one. Time has come to stop putting food in our gas tanks.

The bailout-seeking domestic auto industry has been criticized as being unproductive and inefficient. It hasn't been helped by mandated fuel economy standards that have done little to reduce our dependence on foreign energy or help the environment. Now the fuel we have been mandated to put in our cars, equally unproductive and inefficient, is also seeking a bailout.

Ethanol never made much sense economically or environmentally. It never would have made it to market without congressional mandates and huge subsidies. Having the first presidential contest in the corm state of Iowa didn't hurt either. With oil prices plummeting, it is even less competitive — if it ever was.

The product has benefited from a tax credit paid to gasoline producers to blend gasoline with ethanol; a federal fuel economy standard that sets a minimum amount of ethanol to be blended; and a 54-cents-a-gallon tariff on cheaper imported ethanol made in places like Brazil. Brazilian ethanol is made from sugar, not corn. But corn is grown in Iowa, and Brazilians can't vote.
Read the whole article.

This is just one more benevolent boondoggle in a long line of benevolent boondoggles that our federal government has misguidedly gotten us involved in, all because they do not have the wisdom to use the truths of economic laws to their advantage. If these government do-gooders were rocket scientists, all of their projects would take shape without considering gravity.

Let us hope that those in power have the foresight to drop this monster dead in its tracks, regardless of how Iowans vote.

All Cultures Are Not Created Equal

How dare we make judgments! From the AP:

Late at night, the neighbors saw a little girl at the kitchen sink of the house next door.

They watched through their window as the child rinsed plates under the open faucet. She wasn't much taller than the counter and the soapy water swallowed her slender arms. To put the dishes away, she climbed on a chair.

But she was not the daughter of the couple next door doing chores. She was their maid.

Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family's crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.
Is it not ironic that a nation that tore itself apart 150 years ago to end the practice of slavery, would, under weighty accusations of racism and Islamophobia, be urged to adopt cultural mores that accept slavery as a way of life?

h/t Dhimmi Watch

Friday, December 26, 2008

UAW Benefits from Failure

Now that the bailout has been secured the UAW has, predictably, decided it will not work to make the automakers viable.

IBD asks, can we get our money back?

The government gave the Big Three a $17.3 billion bailout based on the idea that both management and the unions would make concessions. Now the UAW says no thanks. Can we have our money back?

Last week's deal was supposed to hold both the managers' and unions' feet to the fire. In handing out the taxpayer money, the White House insisted the auto union cut worker pay roughly to the levels of their successful competitors, Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

For $17 billion in emergency bailout cash and possibly much more later, it was a reasonable request. As President Bush said, "The time to make the hard decisions to become viable is now — or the only option will be bankruptcy." He added that a deadline of March 31 for the industry to prove its "viability" and other limits "send a clear signal to everyone involved."

Well, if so, the United Auto Workers didn't get it.
And, how could they have gotten it? Did we really expect anything different?

This is tantamount to an intervention being planned and carried out by the largest of enablers. The intervention was a no strings attached permission slip to an ever-flowing liquor cabinet. The UAW knows this first paltry stipend (if 17.3 billion could ever be considered paltry) is but one of several more (less paltry) installments to come.

"Ron, we need you to stop that drinking. It is killing all of us. And, as an incentive for doing the right thing, here is a shot of Bourbon."

We need to exit out of the fantasy land where companies can remain viable when not profitable, the land where finger crossing carries the same logical weight as does cutting costs.

If we want to save the domestic automobile industry, we need to save it using tough love measures, measures designed to force all parties to tow the line when it comes to regaining profitability. That the UAW is refusing to, and that the government will allow them to refuse to do so, speaks volumes about how successful these bailout tactics will be.

How many billions of taxpayer money will we waste in the interim, hoping upon hope, that all interested parties will reach the same conclusion, all on their own, especially when we grant incentives that will do nothing but sow contrary opinions?

The bailout has given the UAW incentive to resist making the changes it must make for the auto companies to remain viable. Future bailouts have now become part of the equation and it is money that the UAW is banking on.

When the UAW benefits from failure, should we expect success?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obama Cleared of Any Wrongdoing

The findings were uncovered by a spectacularly objective internal review. Fitzgerald might as well not even bother sniffing anything in that direction.

Meanwhile, President Nixon declares he is "not a crook" and Robert Mugabe exclaims "Rwanda is mine!"

I personally doubt that Obama did anything inappropriate here. But, what I think will be very interesting is how much validity the press will give this internal investigation based on its own merits.

AJ Strata has more.

Father Knows Best: Iran

Seventy eight years after abandoning his two year old daughter, the Iranian government is looking for the father of an 80 year old bride-to-be in hopes that the deadbeat dad might give her the permission necessary to tie the knot.

[...] Iran's laws require a father to give permission before a daughter can marry.

Now the lovestruck octogenarian has asked a Tehran court to establish whether her father, who abandoned her when she was two, is dead or alive so her wedding can go ahead.

The legal obstacle came to light when Setareh and her betrothed, Jamshid, tried to tie the knot at a registrar's office, only to be told she needed written agreement or proof of death of her father.
What other evidence would be necessary to prove to the world that Iran and Islam have little respect for the standing of women in society? A woman presumably never reaches the age of accountability. She never reaches a point in her life when her emotional maturity would allow her to live outside of the control of a man, even one proven to be an unfit father to begin with.
Her plight is an example of what campaigners say is systematic discrimination against women under Iranian law.

But the state-linked Iranian Women's News Agency said women need their father's permission to protect them from "emotional" marriage decisions.
Robert Spencer gets the h/t over at Dhimmi Watch and adds:
Yes, we can't have a lonely and bereft octogenarian woman being "emotional." It would be...un-Islamic!

Welcome to my World: Chapter 47

Don't worry, this is supposed to end in the next day and a half.

Rewarding Failure

We all threw a hissy fit when AIG spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a spa getaway for special clients and staff. As far as I'm concerned those pampered souls could have worked up a good sweat shoveling my snow and then enjoyed a comfortable cool down taking turns in my bathtub/shower. We don't do foot treatments, but if you aren't quick putting on a sock you might get a disgusting lick from the dog. (We change socks quickly around here.)

Now it is becoming known, despite attempts to shroud it all in secrecy, that many of the receivers of bank bailout monies spent quite a bit of that cold cabbage on hefty executive bonuses. That is, $1.6 billion to be shared among 600 bankers. This without so much as a thank you to taxpayers, which would include the underpaid management of Rougman's Resort and Spa.

From Investor's Business Daily:

On Sunday, the Associated Press found that $1.6 billion of bailout cash was converted to gravy for 600 bankers. They got bonuses, club dues, financial planners, corporate jet travel, daily limousines and home security systems, courtesy of the taxpayers.

This is a bad sign of what's ahead if failure continues to be rewarded and government keeps propping up uncompetitive companies and industries in crisis.
$1.6 billion is small change in comparison to the total amount of bailout money being tossed around like so much green confetti at the moment, but it is by itself a huge amount of cash, larger than Michigan's projected budget shortfall for this fiscal year.

If added compensation is a reward for good performance, the bankers have just been given 1.6 billion kudos courtesy of US taxpayers. At $1 apiece, that would net you a whole boatload of struggling auto executives who, by the way, seem to have chosen the wrong vocation.

Glee Club of the Year: Time Magazine

This is old news, of course, but when I first heard it I was somewhat surprised.

I do not read Time Magazine because the weekly glossy long ago joined the progressive glee club. That they cheered for Barack Obama all the way through 2008 is no shock, and that Obama was ultimately named Person of the Year by the publication is not startling either. It would be hard to argue against that designation regardless of one's political bent.

What is surprising, however, is the shameless level of cheerleading that the tired political rag engaged in. Fourteen times during the course of the year, Time dedicated its front cover to The Obama and, when you include the "skybox" portion of the cover, Barack Obama had a presence, in name or in picture, on 25 of the magazine's 52 covers. "Korea Dictators Today" wouldn't be vacant enough to dedicate that many covers to Kim Jong-il.

When seeking hard-hitting and objective political journalism, Time Magazine is not the place to look. One could find more objectivity on Obama Girl's debut release.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Stamping out Dreaded Library Favoritism

"We decided to err on the side of caution"
Whenever you hear this phrase uttered by a government worker it would serve you well to prepare for the disclosure of an extremely stupid policy. This time the phrase was used by St. Tammany Parish Library Director Janice Butler, and it not an exception to the rule.
After asking the state Board of Ethics last month whether library staff can accept inexpensive and homemade Christmas gifts from grateful patrons, St. Tammany Parish library officials last week received the board's response: Bah, humbug.

Even small gifts, such as "cakes, pies, houseplants, etc., from patrons of the library for their performance of the library employees' duties" are off-limits, according to an advisory opinion issued by the ethics board.

Any employee of a Louisiana public library who receives such a gift from a library patron needs to "return the cookies to the person and say that, 'I cannot accept these cookies under the ethics law,' " said Aneatra Boykin, staff attorney for the ethics board.
We can assume, given the strict nature of ethics rules, that all lobbying efforts in the great state of Louisiana have ground to a screeching halt. (Ya, right.)

How can it be that ethics laws have come to mean that I cannot give a library worker, or a postmaster, or a school teacher, a plate of cookies if I feel I was well served by their efforts? Is our society bettered in any way by the peanut butter cookie being placed on the same ethics plane as a $2000 campaign contribution? Just what office, exactly, is the lady at the counter running for? Is the dreaded chocolate chip cookie as harmful to public works as the $1,000,000 a year lobbyist?

A junket financed by an oil company or hedge fund? No problem...just keep those corrupting Rice Krispies treats out of my sight!

It doesn't stop at holiday cookie plates, however. No, to see stupidity harnessed on that small scale would actually be a victory for sanity.
Butler said ethics concerns have also prompted her staff members to forgo their traditional holiday party and employee gift exchange.
Get ready for it, here it comes!
"We decided to err on the side of caution," she said.
Now, that is really taking an effective swipe at corruption--those reference librarians are in a perfect position to offer huge political favors to the readers of romance novels and the latest from Larry McMurtry.

And honestly, nothing torques me off more than knowing that the library staff gets together once a year after hours and exchanges brownie plates!
Covington library patron Chandler Willis said he is planning to lobby the ethics board on behalf of public library employees.

"I think that this is political correctness run amok," he said.
Now, that is exactly the type of thing I would expect to hear from an abuser of the system. Come clean, Mr. Willis. What sort of favors are you seeking? What, exactly, are you hiding?

h/t Pirate's Cove via Right Wing News

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Long Bridge to Detroit

The automakers will receive their first installment of their bailout on December 29. It was not as much as they were hoping to get, and it was not nearly as much as most analysts say they are going to need.

While I was not supportive of the bailout, I must say that it is not as bad as it could have been today, nor is it as bad today as it probably will be in the next six months. Of course I have no way of knowing exactly how this will all play out, but it seems to be frighteningly similar to a Nigerian e-mail scam.

You know the story, Great Uncle Joseph Hazzid, a diplomat and businessman, was assassinated by rebels but left behind $25.2 million American in a bank in Lagos. Unfortunately, the family cannot access the money unless they find a most sincere and trustworthy foreign agent to assist them. This trustworthy soul will receive a full 20% of said funds as thanks for the assistance.

The fish nibbles at the bait. Correspondence takes place. There is a back and forth and trust is established. The money is very close to being free. But then a catch develops. A small pittance must be delivered to the family in advance to assist them with the paperwork. Later, another pittance is needed to free up regulators. Then another. And another. Every fiber within the fish says cut the losses...but the goal is so close at hand.

It is hard, of course, to consider $17.4 billion a pittance. Unfortunately, when it is compared to what will be necessary to elevate these companies to profitability, it is but that.

This deal does ask for the companies to strive for a new business model. Unfortunately for the executives, they have partners in this mess. And while one begrudging partner, the UAW, has been asked kindly to please deliver on some concessions, the second partner, the US government, which through shortsighted energy policy, monetary policy, heavy regulation, and its unrelenting pursuit of a cooler climate, caused most of this problem to begin with, has agreed to make no concessions at all. This money buys the government, from a practical standpoint, an electric prod with which to herd the cattle toward the government's desired corral. (This would be the big green corral where physics has little import and economics even less.)

The biggest fly in the ointment however, is the overall economy. A credit crunch that affects all but the most qualified of buyers is still in place. Unemployment figures are bulging like the midsection of a gluttonous Santa, and many people who are employed are not buying anything right now because a job is nothing to take for granted these days. Who is going to buy enough of these products to enable the Big 3 to get back on their feet in the short amount of time allotted?

In the meantime, where, exactly, will this money be used? Even with extended plant shut downs in vogue these days, UAW workers still receive 95% of their base pay. (Incidentally, how many out of work construction workers do you know that would like to have a deal like that?) And don't forget, legacy costs have not gone away either. I guess those $1 executives will come in handy.

This whole bailout measure was presented as a bridge loan to the companies. Only enough money will be given to the troubled automakers to allow them to get back on the path to profitability. It could not have been presented in any other way. Detroit was a good citizen fallen on hard times, its major industry having spread wealth across an entire nation. It needed help, and it needed it quickly. This was not welfare, it was a loan.

Washington responded in the only way that it knows how. With ponderous inexactitude, the taxman wore a white hat.

I grumbled and groaned during the whole process, but now that the first hurdle has been crossed, I am pulling madly for Detroit. The money is committed. It will be spent. As a Michigander that does not want to have to pull up stakes, I want this plan to work.

Not too far from GM world headquarters sits the 7,500 foot Ambassador Bridge. Upon its completion in 1929 the steel structure, which crosses the Detroit River from Detroit to the city of Windsor, Ontario, could boast the longest suspended bridge span in the world. It did that for all of two years.

The much longer bridge that was financed today runs all the way from Washington, DC. to Detroit. In order for this whole thing to work, I hope that the cars traveling along this new bridge to viability contain people who are as wise as they think that they are, have good reasons for the all the confidence that they enjoy, are a lot less belligerant than previous travellers, and very hopefully, contain only a few necessary bureaucrats.

We can always hope.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top 10 Reasons for an Auto Bailout Bill and/or Needed Repairs/Maintenance For My Sleek 1995 American Four Door

  1. American manufacturing could otherwise be destroyed
  2. Bent windshield wiper shaft
  3. UAW might have to sell its golf course on Black Lake
  4. Bad smell in the glove box
  5. Check engine light on for three years
  6. Buick Open!
  7. Destruction of the middle class/oil change
  8. Acorns hidden inside the hood
  9. Detroit might start to deteriorate
  10. Ron Gettelfinger needs the work

At Least Someone Is Getting a Raise

Fortunately for all of us, at least one highly efficient and valuable segment of our society will not be forced to wallow in the tar spits of a sputtering economy. It will probably help them with their concentration.

With approval ratings at about 20%, Congress is getting itself another one of its annual pay raises with a big thank you courtesy of, you got it, themselves.

The raise will amount to $4,700 a year per House member.

The really cool thing about the way this whole Congressional pay raise business works is that it is automatic. It takes an act of Congress to actually stop the process. By doing it this way Congresspeople don't have to spend a lot of time gaveling and debating the finer points of their own compensation when there might be other pressing business to take care of, like asking auto maker executives and UAW workers to agree to slash their own pay.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe we need qualified people willing to serve in government, and I think that in order to attract high quality candidates the salary does need to be high enough to compete with the private sector for talent. Guys like William Jefferson and Duke Cunningham don't come on the cheap. However, I also think that current economic conditions should dictate to these lawmakers that there are times when even the most encumbered among us must make some sacrifices.

As it turns out, however, some people are simply better at leading through pointed posture than they are by, you know, taking any action. It wrinkles the suits, and you should see first hand the skyrocketing costs of dry cleaning/ironing in DC.

h/t Protein Wisdom

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Bunch of Guys

Impoverished OPEC ministers met today and agreed to an unprecedented cut in oil production, a cut they deemed necessary to stabilize world oil prices that have dropped over $100 per barrel since a $147 per barrel peak was reached earlier this year.

To see these corrupt dictatorships struggle is a great spectator sport. Having squandered their billions on political favors, extravagant palaces, and on exporting funds to encourage the growth of Islam, many OPEC members are no longer sitting on huge piles of cash. Every dollar that a barrel of oil falls in price will cost these nations millions. Sadly for these countries, every barrel they do not produce also reduces their revenues, which is why most analysts doubt that all those who pledge to cut production in solidarity will actually adhere to the allotments.

The natives are already restless in Iran and Venezuela and time may soon run out on a couple of tin pot dictators.

Mired in a recession, it truly is nice to finally find something to smile about.

Business as Prey

From Thomas Sowell:

Detroit and Michigan have followed classic liberal policies of treating businesses as prey, rather than as assets. They have helped kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. So have the unions. So have managements that have gone along to get along.

Toyota, Honda and other foreign automakers are not heading for Detroit, even though there are lots of experienced automobile workers there. They are avoiding the rust belts and the policies that have made those places rust belts.
The auto industry is deserving of all the added attention these days because of its sheer size and extreme difficulties.

I would, however, take Sowell's comments one step farther. The state of Michigan treats every working person and struggling business in this state as prey rather than as an asset, this through punitive taxation, encumbering regulation, and through an ever expanding arena of invasion.

Recent changes in the building energy codes (adding restrictions and cost,) discussion of expanding smoking laws (more restrictive and hurting private business's revenue,) and skirt chasing green energy initiatives (stunting competition) that will wipe perhaps thousands of dollars a year out of individual's home budgets, are but a few off the cuff examples.

The well worn prey vs. asset miscalculation on the part of Michigan governments is certainly true, but it does not stop there. It is an attitude that is applies to all enterprise in this state, not just that of the automakers.

h/t Carpe Diem

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

John McCain, It Is Not About You Anymore!

There was a lot about John McCain that I disliked in the last election. He had proven himself to be pretty much of a jerk during his years in the Senate, and there were no particular high points in the campaign that did anything to convince me otherwise.

Perhaps he is taking an undeserved drubbing over recent comments about Sarah Palin, but I think he should be better prepared to answer questions about his former running mate; a simple shrug and an admission that he might not support her in a run for the Presidency is a bit too mavericky for my taste.

We all know that McCain's first choice for VP was Joe Lieberman. That in itself should be a real reminder as to how dedicated McCain is to conservative principles. The guy hangs around with Lindsay Graham for crying out loud. Other than being right on Iraq and national defense, what exactly did McCain do to distinguish himself from most of the Democrat Senators in Washington? I blackened the little circle next to his name because the circle just beneath his belonged to Barack Obama who could not even get Iraq correct with hindsight. It was, shall we say, a classic lesser of two evils choice.

Now we have all of that behind us, and McCain and Palin lost their bids for higher office. In the aftermath McCain has done nothing to shrug off the Maverick image and still appears to be trying to strengthen his appeal to centrist voters by casually dismissing Palin.

Sure, there are other young GOP governors around, and Palin does have to win another election in Alaska to remain viable. Who knows, she may not even decide she wants higher office. These things are a given to all of us, and not just discernible through the the eagle eyes of a documented maverick. Please John, cut the crap. It all isn't about you anymore.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama's Reluctance

It was a point blank question, and it was a question that had to be asked.

Did The Obama have any conversations with the corrupt Democrat Governor of Illinois over who he would appoint to the Senate seat he had vacated? It wasn't even a gotcha question, for it had already been asked and answered weeks earlier.

Back in November, Obama adviser David Axelrod had said there had been conversations between the two camps. The statement had been in the public record and it had not been downplayed or denied by anyone from the O-Team or, just as notably, it had not been a point of contention for any political foe of Obama. But, that was before Rod Blagojevich was arrested, and that was before it became public knowledge just how brazenly stupid and corrupt Rod Blagojevich actually is.

So, when Obama was asked about any conversations between the two, Obama curtly denied any. Shortly thereafter, Axelrod himself submitted that he had been mistaken.

Of course, now we know that there had been conversations between the two parties.

Barack Obama had every legitimate reason to be concerned about whom the corrupt Illinois Democrat was going to appoint to the Senate seat vacated by Obama. Good grief, when I left the stock room at the college food commons I went so far as to talk with the boss to see who was taking over. Now, that is not to say that Obama could demand the appointment of any one of his favored candidates, (he is denied that power in the process,) but presenting his opinion to the Governor on the matter should have been expected. Who would have thought otherwise? No one that I know of.

And yet, out came the denial.

Politics is a rough game, something that Obama has probably figured out even with the media performing during his latest election like the Harvard Glee Club on his behalf. He can expect things to get appreciably tougher now that he has ascended into a new theater.

By most accounts I have seen, Team Obama probably performed admirably during its communications with Blagojevich concerning the Senate seat. There certainly is nothing on the surface that would point to any questionable behavior. Except the denial, that is.

So, what does this episode tell us about Barack Obama?

During the campaign, when asked to dispute accusations that he was too inexperienced to ascend to the White House, Obama used the shallowest of qualifications as an example of his experience, that being the size and scope of his own campaign team. In effect, running for the office of the presidency was the best qualification he felt he had in actually holding the office of the presidency. As it turns out, that experience, and John McCain, were good enough to get him elected. Well, that and the Glee Club thing.

His inexperience, his glorious campaign machine notwithstanding, might already be showing. So afraid of the appearance of impropriety or dirty associations, the Obama did what lawyers do best, deny everything, when the truth would have been a better option. His tactic of denial might work well in a courtroom venue or in any legal process where all players are routinely expected to only begrudgingly accede to a distant foregone conclusions--for knee jerk denials and obfuscations in law are nothing more than a part of the landscape. In the office of President, however, a more forthright approach might be advisable.

I hope that we can expect Barack Obama to perform admirably whenever he is confronted with not only corruption, but pointed questions. Both flow in politics as frequently as the f-bomb does from the noted potty mouth of Mrs. Rod Blagojevich. He is going to have plenty of chances to learn the ropes.

It is not going to help his ability to govern when the truth can only eke its way out on the third try.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Robert Mugabe Needs a Union

The occupation of tinpot socialist tyrant is not at all what it is cracked up to be.

There is just so much to do.

There are political opponents to murder, limbs to sever, huts to burn, a currency to ruin, and thankless peoples to starve into oblivion. And then, after all of that hard work, just as things start falling into place, the stupid British spread disease amongst the peasants before they are given adequate time to succumb to the elements.

Robert Mugabe needs a union.

Jennifer Granholm Has Her Own Definition of "un-American"

And that definition might be a bit different than the one I was raised with.

The socialist leaning panderer of the great state of Michigan has decided that the best way for Senators to prove their American mettle is to vote for the automobile bailout--that is, using tax payer money so that the federal government can get directly involved in the propping up of unyielding labor unions and the operation of the domestic automobile industry. To not do so would be un-American.

The founding fathers might be puzzled by this.

"It is unacceptable for this un-American, frankly, behavior of these U.S. senators to cause this country to go from a recession into a depression," Granholm said during a radio interview Friday morning.
Creating recessions and depressions is what government does best, and our current doozie can be laid right at the doorstep of pandering socialist demagogues such as Governor Granholm--socialists that love forcing lenders into making bad loans that helped cause the credit crunch, love energy policies and environmental standards that helped crack the Big 3's business model, and love promoting pro labor legislation that helps embolden a belligerant labor force into orchestrating bad faith negotiations.

But that isn't the type of un-American behavior that Granholm is railing about.
Negotiations over an agreement to assist Michigan's Big Three stalled last night in a 52-35 vote on a procedural motion to bring up the package for a vote. Republicans largely opposed the bill after it failed to win concessions from the United Automotive Workers union on wages and benefits.

“It is such an unbelievable stab at workers across the country,” Granholm added. “You give this big bailout to these financial institutions–don’t ask a single question, they can do what they want–and then you lay the blame for the auto industry, which is a victim of this financial meltdown, on the backs of the people who are working on the line.”
Governor Granholm would be the wiser if she took a long look back at the policies and constituencies that she has supported during her disastrous foray into public service. She has been, philosophically at least, supportive of every major piece of crackpot legislation and misguided policy that has helped cause this mess.

All of her expensive law books and degrees might have taught her a thing or two about the law of the land, but they have taught her nothing about the laws of economics. It is the equivalent of shaking the tree and hoping all the apples will fall upward. Now, ankle deep in fruit, she has become hysterical.

This painful recession and the Big 3's struggles are simply the fruits of bad economic policy at its most predictably grotesque.

So, let's blame the Senators.

h/t Power Line

The Real Patti Blagojevich

Character may not be made under fire, but it is the best place to prove it.

It is easy to be a great guy when a person is untempted by corruptions and it is relatively easy to be a wonderful person when there is no stress or pressure. Though some people fail even in those easy situations, we cannot measure a person's character by the way they act when things are just hunky-dory.

Therefore, it rings hollow when people defend the first lady of Illinois after her profanity-laced tirade against those who dared stand in the way of her family's ill-conceived plans for political and financial advancement. This, by claiming stress.

From Yahoo/AP:

"That is absolutely not my sister," Deborah Mell told the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 in an exclusive interview Wednesday. "Patti is a mother, a sister and a devoted wife. She is particularly protective of her family."

Prosecutors say the governor plotted to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat and he was arrested Tuesday. In the criminal complaint, his wife emerges in recorded phone conversations as scheming to punish those who got in her way.

According to the complaint, it was Patti Blagojevich's voice in the background spewing a suggestion to "just fire" some newspaper editors if the Tribune Co. hoped for state assistance to sell Wrigley Field, the storied home of the Chicago Cubs.

"Hold up that (expletive) Cubs (expletive)," she says as her husband is talking on the telephone. "(Expletive) them."

Patti Blagojevich's family acknowledged the salty language contained on the recordings but said those words were uttered at a stressful time as both she and her husband were under federal scrutiny.

"I can understand it. This a pressure cooker she's living in," said Deborah Mell, who will be sworn in as a state representative next month.
So, which Patti Blagojevich is the real one? Is it the understandably salty one that bristles when the Tribune company refuses to bow to her husband's extortions, or is it the one that, under less stressful times and with genteel language, became an accomplice in her husband's scheme to use his golden opportunity to enrich the couple when The Obama was elected to higher office?

I'm certain there is a big difference between the two.

h/t Michelle Malkin

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Weather, And Being Under It

There is a very small chance of me posting anything substantive today.

Even on a typical day the chances of such a posting is about 4%. But, with my oncoming cold and the sniffles and the headache and the medicine and the friggen cat that woke me up at 3:00 o'clock this morning (discernibly to play catch with a mouse it is otherwise supposed to decapitate,) the chances aren't even that good.

I'd put them at about 1%.

Which is about the same as Chrysler's chances of long term survival with a bailout. So, there is that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fruit, Tree

It did not roll very far.

CHICAGO – A lawyer for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. says the congressman is the "Senate Candidate 5" mentioned in the federal corruption complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Attorney James D. Montgomery Sr. said Wednesday that Jackson never had a "pay-to-play" conversation with Blagojevich.
I am pretty certain that this is not the Jesse Jackson, Jr., that Barack Obama knew.

Obama To Deliver Speech in Muslim Capital

Barack Obama has announced in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that he intends to deliver a major address in the capital of an Islamic country.

"I think we've got a unique opportunity to reboot America's image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular," Obama said in the interview published late Tuesday on the Tribune's website.

Obama promised an "unrelenting" desire to "create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership in countries and with peoples of good will who want their citizens and ours to prosper together."

The world "is ready for that message."
This represents one of those head-scratching moments for me, moments that seem to be occurring with ever greater frequency of late.

My initial response to such an announcement is that it is a bad idea. What words could be molded by The Obama that would somehow pacify the Islamic world into seeing America as anything other than the great Jew-loving Satan? We were, in fact, the Great Satan even back when Jimmy Carter was President.

What can Barack Obama say to the Muslims of Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan that will do anything to quell the centuries old dogma of Islam that requires America, along with the rest of the world, to submit to the will of Allah?

The Muslim world is a world where any infidel that suggests a connection between Islamic terrorism and terrorism committed by Muslims is charged with Islamophobia. (This is also the world of the EU.) What substantive speech can Obama make in a Muslim capital if terrorism is not mentioned, and by association, can he make without being guilty of Islamophobia as a Muslim would define it? As the leader of a country that financially supports Israel, what bone will he be willing to throw to Muslim states that vehemently support the destruction of Israel through terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad?

If he avoids the necessary words the speech will be essentially meaningless. If he speaks the necessary words he will create more wrath in Muslim countries than he could have ever hoped to salve.

All things considered, I suppose, the meaningless speech is his best option, and that is truly what Barack Obama is best at anyway. Flowery words with no substance that will be swallowed in whole by a media that worships at the altar of His Changiness.

Kim Preistap at Wizbang is dubious as well, but does suggest that Baghdad is the best venue if the speech occurs. I would have to agree. There are, however, thousands of better venues, none of which are on Muslim soil.

h/t Moonbattery

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Without Bribe or Coercion

The causes of the financial meltdown have been well documented and agreed to by nearly all except Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd. One of the basic lessons that should have been learned through the suffering caused by this fiasco is that banks (and individuals) should be held accountable for the loans that they make or accept. If banks do not think that a business or person is capable of paying back a loan, it should not make the loan. If a business or person is incapable of meeting its financial obligations, it should not embark on the path of creating ever larger mounds of debt in which to live on.

When third parties become involved in an effort to get these ill advised loans approved, bad things tend to occur.

Unfortunately, this is the way that things worked in many parts of the lending industry for a very long time. Lenders were concurrently bribed and coerced into making loans to people that did not have the ability to repay, and borrowers were bribed into accepting the loans through what many consider the illegitimate marketing devices of the sub-prime lending industry.

In an effort to rescue the financial industry from the problems caused by consequence free lending and borrowing, the federal government enacted the bail out bill to the tune of $700 billion.

(I know I am abridging the overall situation. A more thorough explanation can be found here.)

Much of this $700 billion has already been doled out to lenders. We hope that the forces that be within the industry and government have learned a very important lesson, or at least I do.

I do not attempt to imply that I know the whole situation surrounding Republic Windows and Doors of Chicago.

What is known is that Bank of America, one of the recipients of taxpayer provided bail out money, has canceled the line of credit to the manufacturer. Without access to the line of credit the company was forced to close its doors and lay off its workers.

One of the last great acts of Gov. Blagojevich of Illinois (before he was arrested today for being a pretty standard Chicago politician) was to order the state of Illinois to cease doing business with Bank of America until it made the necessary loans to keep the business open.

I am not unsympathetic to the laid off workers of Republic, and it does appear as if those laid off are owed some compensation. They may even have some legal recourse against the company if it closed its doors and laid off its workers improperly.

However, if Bank of America deems that Republic Windows and Doors is not a viable business, if it thinks that to give the business any further loans is too risky, do we want government agencies and officials to try to coerce the bank into making what the bank thinks is a poor loan? Does this not sound vaguely familiar?

If we want the system to change, if we want lenders and borrows to coexist within a system that provides both profitability to banks and access to money for viable borrowers, we have to allow mortgage companies the latitude to make the best decisions they can based on their own expertise--without bribes or coercion.

For Sale

Soon to be vacant Senate seat in rust belt state.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald described the corruption charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich as "appalling," saying his "cynical behavior" reached "a truly new low."

"He has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree," Fitzgerald said at a news conference in Chicago on Tuesday -- just hours after the Illinois governor and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested on two counts each of federal corruption charges stemming from allegations Blagojevich was trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Fitzgerald said Blagojevich engaged in "pay-to-play politics" in an attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat. He said Blagojevich was recorded during court-authorized wiretaps as saying, "It's a bleeping valuable thing. You just don't give it away for nothing."
Some passing thoughts...

First, should we assume that Blagojevich is a Republican because, as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid pointed out a few years back, Republicans are the purveyors of that dastardly "culture of corruption?" Fox News doesn't seem to know.

Second, if Jesse Jackson Jr. was lobbying so hard for the vacant seat, how deeply involved might he be? If not willing to play ball with Blagojevich, was he even aware that the good Gov was holding out for the best offer?

How many politicians in Illinois are going to have their names mentioned as having talked to Blagojevich for the seat? Are any of them corrupt, or, are they all corrupt? I wonder how many of these pols, after weeks of behind the scene lobbying for the position, might suddenly show an almost inexplicable change in their interest levels.

Will the federal prison system open up a special wing at one of its facilities that caters only to ex-Governors of Illinois?

Monday, December 08, 2008

John Conyers Makes His Pick

For car czar that is.

He wants a man with "an uncanny understanding of the technical operation of the auto industry." He wants someone with "the leadership skills needed to bring competing interests together."

His pick.....drum roll......Ron Gettelfinger.


This is but an example of the sort of gifted intellectual reasoning that permeates our halls of Congress these days. We are so screwed. Here is another idea, how about Jack Kavorkian as Surgeon General. Or maybe one Dennis Dale McClain as Secretary of the Treasury.

Hey, Big Three...choose bankruptcy over being strapped to this idiocy. If you think saddling your wagon to this old nag is a good idea, your EEG is flatter than John Conyers'.

h/t to Q and A

The Dreaded Cap Gun of Terror

I do not blame officers of the law for taking seriously the claims that a child has a weapon at school. We have seen too many instances where some immature cretin has suffered some perceived slight only to come back with a weapon to exact revenge.

So, when six sheriff's deputies do a take down on a 10 year old that took a $6.00 cap gun to school, I can understand, especially when there is no way these people could have known at that time that the gun in question was harmless.

What I have a problem with is the way that the supposed adults have handled this situation after having found out what the child had in his possession.

Alandis' gun was a "cap gun," a toy cowboy six-shooter that his mother bought for him.

"We got it from Wal-Mart for $5.96," Tosha Ford said, "in the toy section right next to the cowboy hats. That's what he wanted because it was just like the ones he was studying for the Civil War" in his fifth-grade class at Fairview Elementary School.

"It kind of reminded me of the [soldiers'] guns that I was studying," Alandis said, "because I had brought pictures home of the gun and stuff, and that gun that I had reminded me of the revolver" depicted in his textbook.

Tosha said that Wednesday afternoon, after school, "six police officers actually rushed into the door" of their home. "He [Alandis] opened the door because they're police. And then they just kind of pushed him out of the way, and asked him, 'Well where's the gun, where's the real gun?' And they called him a liar... they booked him, and they fingerprinted him."

The "police officers" were actually Newton County Sheriff's Deputies.

Lt. Mark Mitchell said Thursday that Alandis had used the toy gun to threaten other children on the school bus and in his neighborhood, which Alandis denies.

Alandis was charged with possessing a weapon on school property and with terroristic acts and threats.

"On the school bus," on Tuesday, Alandis said, "when I dug into my bookbag trying to get my phone out, the boy beside me, he reached in my bookbag and got it [the toy gun] and started telling everybody, 'He's got a gun, he's got a gun,' and spread it around the whole bus. So I put it back in my bookbag."
There apparently is a video camera on the bus that is being studied.

This reminds me a lot of the incident where middle school kids were charged as sexual offenders for spanking classmates on the bottom as they ran down the hall. Not behavior to engage in, certainly, but not an activity that should have someone listed on the sex offenders registry either. Is there no room for common sense in this sort of a situation?

So, little Alandis Ford will probably be expelled and is facing terrorism charges for toting a cap gun to school. Because, as fate would have it, none of these charges could have waited until after an investigation to spare the kid some emotional trauma--something had to be done immediately!

Don't you all feel so much safer?

h/t Moonbattery via commenter V the K

Real Progress!

Investor's Business Daily is less than thrilled over the prospects of a federally administered recovery plan for the ailing domestic automobile industry.

[...] That leaves the latest bright idea from Congress: a broad, federally mandated restructuring of the Big Three in exchange for financial help. Congress would in essence become the Big Three's uber-manager, telling them how to become profitable again.

Excuse us, but are we supposed to believe that the same Congress responsible for next year's estimated $1 trillion deficit can profitably run a market-sensitive company like a car manufacturer?

Or that the same Congress that sat on its hands as the financial meltdown unfolded and helped create the mess will know how to financially restructure America's highly complex auto business?

Or that the people who just last year imposed $85 billion in new "efficiency" standards on a teetering industry will be savvy enough to run them anywhere but further into the ground?
As IBD goes on to point out, there is only one Democrat member of the Senate Banking Committee (that would be the committee that the Big 3 has had to pander to these past few days,) that has any experience at all in private enterprise other than working stints in law firms. This does not give me that warm fuzzy feeling.

The deck is stacked against the domestics right now. Huge unsustainable labor contracts, crippling legacy costs, creeping regulation, and an activist government that has empowered a belligerant work force, have all contributed greatly to the system's failure, and the only way to reasonably expect a successful rescue of the failing companies would be to move forward with a radically altered business environment--one that favors the Big 3.

To this though, there may be some contention.

Will the UAW willingly give up any of its gained power? Will environmentalists and socialists willingly retreat from their hard earned gains on energy and the environment? Will bureaucrats admit that their busybody interferences have helped to drive an industry to the brink and pull back on regulations?

No, no, and no. (Don't believe me? Look at all those Youtube videos of Ron Gettelfinger, Al Gore, and Barney Frank.)

The course of action directed from Washington will most likely be, lend the companies billions upon billions of dollars, leave all the external forces substantially in place, and have government lawyers oversee the administration of the companies in the proper (and government enlightened) way. All of this, of course, while refusing to recognize that the plan is doomed to fail by definition, not by adherence.

The only way to save the Big 3 is through bankruptcy, and we have already been told that this is "not an option." It would seem the only alternative then is keep the companies operating in a mode that is already proven to fail.

Money down a rat hole.

And that is real progress!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Et tu, Levin?

One need not look to the cleaner air around Detroit these days to discover that the domestic automobile industry is in free fall. Unfortunately, that does appear to be the only place where most people are looking.

All eyes are on Detroit and its struggles. Some people have a valid excuse for this, others do not.

Amongst the fields and forests of Oscoda County, the least populated county in all of lower Michigan, the failing automobile industry has exacted an almost silent but very painful toll.

To the casual eye it might be hard to believe that the automobile industry ever had much of a presence in the small burgs across northern Michigan. These were never factories that employed thousands. One shop might have a dozen workers, another perhaps thirty. One small shop just down the road employs five. One hundred here, and twenty there.

The buildings stand, but why would they ever catch anyone's eye? There is no freeway winding past huge smokestacks. There is no dedicated traffic light installed to allow workers easier passage at shift change, and twenty employees' cars can be parked in a rather small lot. There is nothing to notice really, for these are not the huge industrial complexes seen in Saginaw, Lansing, Flint and Detroit.

Though certain people seem not to have noticed, the activity inside these small factories has also dwindled and, in many cases, ceased entirely.

When Wayne Wire Cloth consolidated operations and trimmed a few jobs in Hillman, very few people noticed. When Fabex closed its factory in Luzerne, it did not make headlines in any of the major dailies. When Cooper Standard shut the doors in Tawas City and moved its remaining production, did you hear about it?

And, how many of the right people know or care about Kneeland Industries?

In the grand scheme of things, Kneeland's closing is but a small blip on the screen. This would not be a big numeric disaster to cities and counties of Michigan where populations are measured in the hundreds of thousands. But, in a county of less than 10,000 people, this is a big deal.

Kneeland Industries is located in, as the name might suggest, Kneeland. There will be no huge cash prize rewarded for knowing where Kneeland is, but if you do know, you deserve one. As the crow flies....? Forget it, the crows don't know where it is either.

Kneeland is not on most maps. Kneeland does not have its own post office, the mail comes from Mio. Its own school district? Forget it. Children living in Kneeland go to Fairview Area. Telephone exchange? Nope, it is a Fairview number. Automobile industry? Why yes, thank you. Or, at least it did, up until a few weeks ago.

Sixty new people joined the unemployment line when Kneeland Industries announced it would be closing its doors, all victims of the domestic auto industry slump.

Fifteen dollars an hour in Oscoda County represents a good wage. Those that are not forced to move out of the area or out of state to find work will be very lucky to find a job that will pay two thirds of that amount. Benefits are going to be pretty iffy. Life, it seems, can be very difficult, even for the virtually unnoticed.

Some people really have no reason to care if others lose what are considered good paying jobs in northern Michigan. One of these people is Ron Gettelfinger and, in this case, I understand. These workers were never members of the UAW. These men and women were never paid $30 or $40 per hour. Their wages and benefits combined were never in the same zip code as the $70 per hour average total compensation that Gettelfinger's legions routinely command. These people were never Ron Gettelfinger's to worry about, and he is paid good money to worry about the people he is supposed to worry about. Sure, I think he is a horse's ass anyway, but I understand.

The Big 3 leadership has a lot to worry about these days. The corporations these three men represent own factories throughout the world, and these three companies are in turn owned by people that live in every state and on every continent. They have spent billions and billions of dollars in Michigan by building factories here, by doing research here, and by paying taxes here, but their loyalties must lie with a larger audience. These men have been well paid (at least up until that unfortunate $1 annual salary popped up,) to worry about the viability of their company and its value to the shareholders.

When threatened with a strike, and not just on a national scale but sometimes even in smaller, factory specific ones, the companies these men direct can lose millions of dollars every hour. I drink a cup of coffee, they lose a million bucks. So, while I think executives at the Big 3 made major errors when they succumbed to what have to be considered the unreasonable demands of the UAW, I understand why they did so. Sure, I still think they are horses' asses, but I do understand.

But, it is not my understanding of Ron Gettelfinger's motivations that is at issue here, nor is it my understanding of the motivations of the Big 3 that I'm really concerned about at this point. There is a third contributor to this calamity for whom there is no understanding, and that is the elected officials from our state and elsewhere that feel they are not obligated to represent lowly non-UAW workers.

Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow, and Jennifer Granholm are the three most powerful elected officials from the state of Michigan. All three are liberal Democrats, all three are lawyers without any visible understanding of economics, and all three depend mightily on the monolithic voting bloc of the UAW and big labor--a voting bloc that does not come without stings attached.

On issue after issue after issue, these three scholarly nincompoops, among other lesser nincompoops, have sided with the belligerant Ron Gettelfinger, helping to strengthen his organization's leverage against the Big 3. In the end it mattered little whether or not the union had been negotiating in good faith, if the Big 3 did not give in to demands, it possibly meant shuttering the doors, permanently. How is it that the labor pools were formed if not because of a playing field filled with land mines? How did legacy costs get so far out of kilter? How can the wages and benefits of an average worker reach $72 an hour if not at the point of a loaded gun?

The UAW demanded these things, understandably, because they could get away with it. The Big 3 gave these things, understandably, because they felt they had no other choice. But, all of this was made possible because elected officials such as Levin, Stabenow, and Granholm helped make up the rules to a no-win game that the people working at Kneeland Industries never even got invited to play. There is no understanding this.

The good news is that Ron, Alan, Rick, and Bob are in Washington again today begging for taxpayer money, some of which was, until just recently anyway, removed from the paychecks of Moms and Dads that used to work at Kneeland Industries. Ron says his tactics might change if the government antes up, and Alan, Rick, and Bob have pledged to update their business models if they can stay alive long enough.

The bad news is that the officials the unions have elected into office are not going to change the rules to this disastrous game. Levin has even been given another six years to play dungeon master.

Levin and company will never betray those to whom they feel they owe their election.

Who is even left to forsake the rest of us?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

'Let me ring that up for you, Mr. Obama.'

There are rumblings within the Hispanic community that Barack Obama has not yet satisfied his obligation to them for having voted for him in such overwhelming numbers. They delivered the goods, now he must pay up.

I don't think that anyone was naive enough to believe that this one election would somehow erase all animosity and assumed debts between peoples of different hyphens, but it had to be seen as a positive sign that such large voting blocs of pasty skinned Americans would vote for a black man, whatever the reason.

It will not be until all Americans begin to understand the unblemished beauty of the American melting pot that we will be able to get beyond the racist tones that now define our political and social landscapes. And, while it did appear as if this past election was providing us hope that we had taken a step in the right direction, we are plainly seeing, front and center, that we still have a long way to go.

The one benefit many conservatives felt they might receive from an Obama administration, the burial of assumed animosity and favoritism, is already being cast aside by identity groups eager to carry on with a business as usual attitude. That this is a dust up between Hispanics and a black President-elect is irrelevant.

Unlike the shamefully errant Ad Council advertisements we have all seen on television over the years, our diversity has never been our strength. Rather, it is our willingness to work together while overlooking our diversity that gives us the potential to be strong.

graphic via The People's Cube

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

And You Exist Because?

That was a question a buddy and I had for a clerk shortly after we walked into a doughnut shop at about 3:00 AM early one Saturday morning. It was mid December in Garland, Texas, and it was cold, not in the sense that a couple of transplanted Michiganders would need triple layers of clothing and ear-muffs cold, but in the, 'gee, I wish I had worn a lined jacket' sort of cold.

We walked to the counter and perused the high quality lighted case. It stood there, sadly vacant. Not a doughnut to be had, neither glazed nor plain, and when the doughnuts disappeared, they apparently took their doughnut holes along with them. There were no long johns. No fritters. No cakes. No twists. Nothing. A sugar ant would have starved in a case so dedicated to emptiness.

The lights were on in the store and in the case, the sign outside blazed, the doors were unlocked, and a worker was busy in the kitchen. We rang the cute little bell that stood on the counter and the worker came forth.

Alas, there were not going to be any doughnuts for some time, or anything else for that matter. All there was to buy in the doughnut shop were small cartons of white milk (no chocolate available) and orange juice. If only I had entered that store with a dairy tooth instead of a sweet one I might have left the establishment a bit more satisfied.

We thought it an odd marketing strategy--a complete retreat from the conventional. A doughnut shop with no doughnuts. When we suggested aloud that it seemed a bit odd to us, we were met with a shrug. When we sauntered out the door the clerk sauntered back into the kitchen. There would be no transaction that early morn.

What is the purpose of a doughnut shop that contains no doughnuts? The shop had not gone out of business and therefore I'm certain that during most business hours it actually had what it advertised on its sign outside. But, during its normal daily business cycle, the store, at least on that day, totally lost focus on its whole purpose of existing--providing me an opportunity to consume 1000 calories of sugar laden dough to be washed down with coffee charged with too much caffeine, this all just before bedtime.

This story is but an introduction to another organization that appears to have lost track of its purpose for existence, though rather than operating on a 24 hour cycle like a doughnut shop, the Bishops of the Catholic Church of England and Wales appears all too willing to flush and forget its purpose for all time.

How long can any organization forsake its core mission before it becomes something completely different than it was originally intended to be? When the doughnut shop begins to sell pizza I won't be so concerned. When Catholicism begins to encourage Islam I have to ask, 'And you exist because?'

As an aside, one of these days I'm going to add Cranmer to my blog roll. It has become one of my favorite daily reads.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh Great, Another Thing to Worry About

It was not much more than a year ago that everyone on Earth was apprised of the slow spread of the potentially catastrophic bird flu virus. The virus did not mutate and jump to the human species mind you, and most of those people that did die did so because of directly handling dead birds. Still, there was no end to the reports.

When a chicken in Hungary developed a fever, we in northern Michigan were filled in on the matter. It was spreading the globe over. We could expect it any month.

This is not to be confused with global warming, that potentially catastrophic Earth changing event all but guaranteed to drown every person living within 100 miles of any coast, starve every one unfortunate enough not to drown, kill off countless cute furry species, and make Al Gore a mega billionaire if we would only buy enough carbon credits.

And now, as if we mortals did not have enough things to worry about, the UN has decided that the world must together face down the potential destruction of Earth by asteroids.

The international community must work together to tackle the threat of asteroids colliding with Earth, a leading UN scientist says.

Professor Richard Crowther's comments come as a group of space experts called for a co-ordinated science-led response to the asteroid threat.

The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) says missions to intercept asteroids will need global approval.

The UN will meet in February to discuss the issue.

In the ASE report, the group of scientists and former astronauts point to the historical record to highlight the dangers of asteroids; an impact 65 million years ago may have wiped out the dinosaurs, and the Tunguska impact in 1908 produced a 2,000 sq km fire in Siberia, big enough to engulf a city the size of New York.

They say the next major threatening event could occur in less than 20 years. Asteroid Apophis is due to pass close to the Earth and analyses suggest a one in 45,000 chance of a collision.
Anyone that thinks the UN is capable of doing anything about an asteroid colliding with Earth is an idiot. This is the same group that cannot effectively barter medicine for oil without Kojo Annan scoring a Mercedes, and even has great difficulty providing peace keepers to war torn areas without the victims of war also becoming rape victims of the peace keepers. Ya, thats who I want my money on in a crisis.

If the UN wants to spend a fortune developing a workable plan to knock an asteroid out of its orbit it should just write a blank check to the US military. No other entity on this Earth has the capability of undertaking such a task, and no other organization on Earth could even handle that type of money without guaranteeing that a gaggle of bureaucrats with funny accents would become billionaires through embezzlement almost over night.

I think we should keep the UN doing what it is good at--quickly passing strongly worded resolutions against the US and Israel on behalf of third world tyrants, and fixing traffic tickets for diplomats in New York. The money they save on moving violations alone could finance the first mission.

A Blind Ostrich

A blind ostrich might as well leave its head in the sand.

There is an interesting editorial in the Detroit Free Press today that discusses the evil terrorist acts that took place in Mumbai last week.

Surprisingly missing (or maybe not so surprising after all) is any reference to radical Islam, or the jihad. Given that those terms are omitted, it should not be surprising that this final paragraph is included:

As with the 9/11 gang, it's not clear just what the Mumbai terrorists hoped to accomplish, other than death and destruction. It would serve them and all like them right if this latest horror spawned a truly global, concerted effort to hunt them down and bring them to justice before they can act again.
If someone is unable or unwilling to properly define one's enemy, should it be a surprise that the person might also be unable or unwilling to define the goals of one's enemy? And, if the motive is too difficult to be detected, how likely is it that the next plot might be sniffed out?

Forgive me for not being overly encouraged by a charge called by people standing with such unsure footing. It seems to me we are more likely to catch the next band of Islamic terrorists by complete accident than we would ever be by heeding the rhapsodies of the willfully ignorant. This is the sort of thinking that helped us arrive at a system that mandates 80 year old ladies be searched in airports at the same frequency as Arabic speaking middle easterners.

Don't get me wrong, I would applaud the global effort that the Freep pines for, though it will never come. I just hope that whatever global effort is cobbled together, such as it ever exists, will be led by someone not quite so constrained by fear or blindness as are those brave journalists down at the Freep.

When I need someone to make public classified operations designed to track down and kill terrorists, I'll call me a journalist. When I need someone to announce to the world how our government is secretly tracking terrorists' funding, I'll call me up a journalist. But, when I need someone to lead the charge against terrorists, I hope you don't mind, I'll put my faith in someone a bit more determined to, you know, actually fight terrorists.

I'm funny that way.

A Lesson Unlearned

In 1990, the year my only son was born, we were looking to buy a home that would satisfy the needs of a growing family. At the time we were renting a smallish two bedroom home that worked great when there were but three of us. But circumstances being what they were, we truly needed at least a third bedroom.

Farther down the street a home had fallen into foreclosure. It was on a heavily wooded lot with a big yard. There was no visible signs of distress from the outside so we got our real estate agent to get us inside. The inside was, to be polite, a bit more distressed.

There were numerous places where the drywall had been torn out and punched through. Carpet was stained and burned. Cabinet doors were broken and missing. Wood trim was gouged, broken, and much of it missing. Light fixtures? Several gone. I didn't take the time to venture into what I'm sure was a lovely garage or the bathrooms that I'm positive were in sparkling condition. The home may have represented a good buy under the circumstances, but with my skills more honed toward computers and eating authentic Mexican cuisine, I deemed it stood a better chance of proper resurrection with someone else cussing at trim that was cut about an inch too short.

When did the damage occur? Could it have occurred while the residents still lived in the home and held a sound mortgage? Certainly, it could have, but it is unlikely that people who had invested into their own property and were building equity in the property would suffer the effort of intentionally destroying their huge investment. Much more likely the damage to the home occurred after the home owners became temporary residents of a property that was soon to go back to the bank.

Several years later I faced a similar situation, this one a bit more personal.

In the summer of 1994, the season that is much celebrated by Michiganders as the one in which I returned to Michigan, my uncle was dying of cancer. I don't even remember where it started any longer, but when the spots on his liver grew and multiplied, he and his family began to make plans for what future remained.

My uncle owned a portion of what had been my Grandfather's farm, it's 200 acres having been divided up among his five children. On my uncle's portion stood the farmhouse that was built early in the 1900s. It was neither a beautiful nor lavish home, but it was structurally sound and could have, under different circumstances, harbored great country charm.

My uncle lived in Lansing and the home was a rental. He did not charge a lot but instead hoped that the property would at least pay its own taxes. It had been rented for a number of years to very good renters that eventually built their own home but, as fate would have it, as the cancer began to slowly kill him, the new renters, the final renters, would not be so good.

The personal circumstances of the final renters of the home are not completely known to me. I can tell you that the home was rent subsidized and that it quickly became an eyesore and in ill repair. Garbage was strewn about a never mowed yard. Dirty diapers began to appear in the driveway.

Things got so bad that finally the insurance agent absolutely refused to continue to provide liability insurance to my uncle on the property with the home in such condition. This insurance had to be in place to rent the home and my uncle desperately needed to get his affairs in order. Of course, when the eviction notice was sent out, things got worse, much worse. Oh, and rent payments stopped.

For several months the squatters waged a relentless war on the house. With my uncle one month from death they finally departed, leaving nothing of value, only their waste. Even the well pump had been removed--a theft that could not legally be attributed to the renters without proof.

I entered the home with my Father just a couple of days after the eviction and it makes me feel dirty to describe what I saw. The living room ceiling was covered with hundreds of dried fly bodies having been swatted and squished, their cemented carcasses creating a disturbing mural celebrating nothing more than defiance--a mosaic of filth. Walls were punched and gouged and emblazoned with graffiti. (The holes, my Dad opined, may have been created by rats that were trying to escape.) There had been no need, apparently, of garbage bags during those last few weeks of tenancy as the floors themselves had served a fine place to dump discarded food, wrappers, and diapers. The mystery of the missing garbage bags was solved when we peered into the basement. Dozens of overstuffed bags had been tossed down the stairs only to spill their contents on the floor where many had burst upon impact. Hundreds of soiled diapers, some of them split open as if they had been hurled in anger, lay on the concrete. Soiled diapers had found their way into the lawn, the driveway, every room, the basement, and the roof.

I touched nothing in the house. I showered immediately when I returned home.

In a perfect world these sorts of tales would never happen. But in truth, most people I know have at least one similar story to share.

Good renters can often be good home owners while some renters should not jump into home ownership. Good home owners can typically be good renters too, though without ownership many take little pride in where they live. Poor renters make shoddy homeowners and, by definition, are not the perfect folks to be renting the upstairs apartment to.

When mortgage companies took pride in their investments, when they knew that without exercising proper due diligence they might end up owning a damaged home in foreclosure, might lose money on the transaction, and knew that they couldn't make other good loans if their money was tied up propping up bad ones, these sorts of occurrences, though not exactly rare, were largely avoided. In 1990, in Coppell, Texas, someone had to stand front and center when a property went into foreclosure. That is what happened in most places.

The same was true in 1994 in Michigan when poorly investigated renters were given the keys to a rental home. The person that owned that home, in this case my dying uncle and his widow and his children, paid that heavy price.

Is there even a moral to this story, and if there is, does it in any way relate to the financial meltdown we see today where mortgage companies were goaded by busybody bureaucrats into making crappy loans to unqualified people without consequence of loss?

Could there possibly be something to be learned from this tragic mess?


Monday, December 01, 2008

A Christmas Gift For The Capable Girl

A thoughtful Christmas gift for teenage girls who happens to be

capable of making decisions about their health on their own, in line with Government guidelines.
Well, not a gift per se, but a needed application should, you know, yuletide passions get a bit out of hand.
Teenage girls and women will be able to get the morning after pill in advance over Christmas from a chain of abortion clinics.

Bpas, formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, is urging them to stock up in advance because many pharmacies and GP surgeries will be closed, making it harder to get emergency contraception in time for it to be effective.

They suggest women should keep an emergency pill in their cupboard over the holiday period in case they need it.

Campaigners said it was a 'despicable ploy’ by the charity, which performs abortions under contract for the NHS, to drum up business and promotes promiscuity.

The charity is issuing free kits containing one dose of the morning after pill, condoms and information leaflets to women who want one after a face to face consultation in one of their clinics.
On a hat tip from Cranmer who opines
One might think that Christmas, when the world remembers the most important baby ever born, might be a time for reflection on the gift of life, the incomparable beauty and wonder of new birth, the importance of family and the innocence of childhood. Millions of pictures of the Madonna and Child are sent and received, and our thoughts are turned to Mary as an exemplar of faithfulness to God whom all nations call blessed.

By choosing such a life-destroying gift pack at this time of the year, BPAS insults the Christian faith and rides roughshod over religious sensitivities. It is as offensive as the 2004 campaign by Schering, manufacturers of the Levonelle brand of morning-after pill, who ran a pre-Christmas campaign entitled ‘Immaculate Contraception’.

November Religion of Peace Report

November was a busy month for jihadist adherents of Islam. During the month there were no fewer than 810 deaths and 1,567 injuries perpetrated by murderous jihadis. According to to The Religion of Peace, these numbers were achieved in 157 separate attacks.

Attacks were carried out in Afghanistan, Algeria, Dubai, India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Thailand, and Yemen. The most tragic of these attacks took place in Mumbai over several days late in the month where at least 187 people were killed in coordinated attacks that targeted non-Muslims. That the murdering bastards were only capable of achieving a small portion of their intended goals is a small consolation to those in charge of picking up the pieces, and is proving to be an embarrassment to many Muslims.

Truly, peace may only be achieved when the rest of us are dead.