Random Thoughts

Playing catch-up is impossible.  There is no way to keep all the comments & posts current with the work schedule that I’m keeping.  Thus, a few comments on various topics.

Things appear to be settling down in Ferguson, MO, or at least, it’s falling off the media’s radar.  The amount of media bias is stunning given the lessons not learned in the Travon Martin case.

Of course, the race baiters were out in force hyping up the deceased even before any facts were in evidence.  If the race baiters had their choice, there would have been vigilante justice before any negative aspects of Michael Brown surfaced.

Personally, we need justice to be blind to everything but the facts of the case.  However, that doesn’t appear to be on the agenda – either for the media nor the self-appointed protectors of civil rights (of whom real civil rights take a back seat to their self-serving agenda). 

Racial justice?  No, these folks want blood – any blood – to further their agenda.  Booker T. Washington said it best:

“There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

It’s absolutely stunning that the President of the United States chooses to involve himself and his administration in the cases of Travon Martin and Michael Brown, and yet says nothing of the black on black violence and murders in Chicago nor of the loss of police officers in the line of duty.

The President of the United States violates the laws of the United States when trading five known terrorist leaders for a soldier who, by all appearances, deserted his post, and suffers no consequences from Congress.  Additionally, the President is on the golf course within ten minutes of giving a press conference (with no questions asked) concerning the execution of a journalist by the terrorist group ISIS.  Furthermore, the President later stated that there is no plan to deal with ISIS even though this group has been on the radar for months if not years.  It is no wonder that the confidence in our President and government is so low.

The crisis at the Southern border is one of security, not immigration.  If there is not a secure border, then we do not have a country – our country will be destroyed from within by those allowed unfettered access whether they blow up buildings or destroy the economy by sucking the life out of it.

It was absolutely amazing to see the media lose their collective minds when not one, but two journalists were executed by ISIS terrorists.  Somehow, the media believes that they are exempt from any sort of harm by terrorists, thugs, or criminals.  Perhaps they believed that all they had to do is shout “I’m a journalist!” and they would get a free pass.  I think they now understand that they are in the same boat as everyone else – if these people don’t like you, they’ll kill you.

The only thing transparent about this Administration is their naked hostility to the People of the United States.  Let’s not even think about the restrictions various Senators want to place on your 1st and 2nd Amendment Rights.  Think about this instead:

The Administration is spending billions of dollars trying to gather all the information they can about the People through phone metadata in violation of the 4th Amendment in order to control the population, but they can’t even be bothered to secure the borders of this country from people who would do us harm.  Additionally, the IRS can’t even retain their own email records, but expect us, the People, to keep records in minute detail for periods up to 10 years.  And if you somehow run afoul of a government bureaucrat with a little power, your life can become a living hell.

Isn’t this a bit insane, or has the government gotten too big, too powerful, and completely out of control?

I’ve noticed that the Democrats decry the Koch brothers involvement in various issues, stating that the Koch’s are buying politicians and votes.  Funny – I thought that’s what George Soros, Michael Bloomburg, and other Democrat friendly millionaires were doing on the Democrat’s behalf, and the Democrats don’t say a word.  I guess it does make a difference on which side the money comes from.  F*****g hypocrites…

It’s sad, really sad, that we cannot seem to attract to politics the people that we can trust to set things right. Sure, there are a few, but they don’t get elected because they are too honest to play the dirty game that is politics. Politics seems to be a profession of where we elect (hire) people to office fully expecting them to lie to us. Almost sounds like another profession…

“Among a large class, there seemed to be a dependence upon the government for every conceivable thing. The members of this class had little ambition to create a position for themselves, but wanted the federal officials to create one for them. How many times I wished then and have often wished since, that by some power of magic, I might remove the great bulk of these people into the country districts and plant them upon the soil – upon the solid and never deceptive foundation of Mother Nature, where all nations and races that have ever succeeded have gotten their start – a start that at first may be slow and toilsome, but one that nevertheless is real.” – Booker T. Washington – Up from Slavery

I am fully expecting President Obama to use his executive powers to create some sort of amenesty for the illegal aliens among us in violation of the immigration laws of this country. It will be after the election to try and keep from losing any more Democratic seats in Congress or around the country. My question is going to be what Congress will do to rein in this self-appointed king…

Anyone who doesn’t think that mid-term elections aren’t important haven’t been paying attention to the state of the country.

There are many people who think that Hillary Clinton should be the next President, probably because she is a woman and a Clinton. Let me ask you these two questions:

  • What accomplishments did she have during her service with the State Department?  I see a foreign policy that left 4 Americans dead in Benghazi, our relationships with our friends in shambles, and an emboldened enemy.
  • Barack Obama was elected primarily on his “hope and change” mantra, and it didn’t hurt that he wasn’t Caucasian.  He had no experience in running anything, and voted “present” most of the time he was in office. How has that worked out for the country? Hillary has done much the same thing, and seems to be running roughly the same playbook in her pre-election bid.

Until next time, be well.

Washington’s Two-Step

This past week, I’ve been reading various news articles concerning the antics of the various Congressional leaders and the President, and I’ve come to the conclusion (again!) that these clowns have absolutely no respect for the Constitution and the American People that they claim to represent.  It really doesn’t matter what media outlet I read, the message is always the same with some minor variations as long as I remember the following:

News stories, which are like fruit punch, carry 70% propaganda to 30% juice, are always eager to explain to their readers that it is the other sides fault for __________ (fill in the blank with your topic of choice).

Our government is extremely dysfunctional with the current crop of politicians.  One side accuses the other for not compromising, and yet refuses to talk about said compromise.  The other side accuses the other of being terrorists and suicide bombers.  At the center of this kerfuffle is the one subject that is of vital importance to the economic viability of this country:  The Budget.

At front & center of the debate(?) is the continued funding of the unpopular, over-regulated, and trouble-ridden Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka, ObamaCare, and the Debt Limit, aka, how much money can Congress borrow & put our country into further debt.

Will you folks kindly cut the crap and do the jobs that you were elected to do?  Enough with the political theater that no one wants to watch.  It also reminds me again of the following cliché which is becoming more and more true every day:

Politicians, like babies, need to be changed regularly, and for the same reasons.

I often wonder how in the wide, wide world of political sports did we ever get to the point of where the political class feels that they should rule over all of us, especially since we elected them in the first place.  I believe it’s fairly simple – using an ideology that promises a chicken in every pot without telling the farmer that he has to supply the chickens.  Take the following excerpts from Daniel Greenfield’s blog “Sultan Knish”:

Ideologies can be roughly divided into the moral and the economic. Moral ideologies seek to guide people in their individual behavior as they seek resources. Economic ideologies are concerned with collective control over how resources are gained and employed. Revolutionary movements are often linked with economic ideologies because resource redistribution is a primary motivator for political upheavals.

The left is both a revolutionary movement and an economic ideology, using the pretext of inequities to seize power in order to engage in economic redistribution. However the modern left’s actual agenda goes well beyond only seizing and redistributing material goods and financial holdings. Its goal is to completely control all human interactions in every form through political, cultural, social and economic tools.

Anyone who is allowed to control competition in order to make resource redistribution “fairer” will eventually openly engage in resource redistribution, unless there is a compelling system of oversight governing his behavior. Since most such systems are either bureaucratic or become so, and since bureaucracies are undemocratic and will expand to the limits of the resources available to them, they are wholly and completely corruptible. Those who redistribute a resource are bound to become corrupted by that resource. The more valuable the resource, the more pervasive the corruption. Because corruption emanates from sources of power. Those who control power become corrupted by it. And those whose power comes from resource redistribution, are corrupted by that very resource.

Think about the above when considering the ObamaCare legislation.  Somewhere & sometime, someone has to pay for the services, someone has to be giving up something for someone else, and big government is there to administer & decide who gets what through a massive redistribution scheme.  This is something that the Washington Democrats are dancing around big time, and the Washington Republicans (at least the responsible ones) are trying limit or eliminate. 

Now understand that we are not only talking merely about economic redistribution, but about political power as well. That power is in the Federal Government’s bureaucracy. However, the bureaucracy that is now in place is so big, so entrenched, it takes a map & compass to navigate the labyrinth that is otherwise impossible to traverse.  As such, the bureaucracy can then become an almost unaccountable weapon with unlimited resources to crush political opposition in the hands of powerful politicians.  Think of the IRS targeting conservative groups and people (including Dr. Ben Carson after his National Prayer Breakfast speech), the NSA conducting domestic spying (which is out of its jurisdiction), and this abuse, real or potential, becomes rapidly apparent.

As an added thought, during the 2008 campaign, then candidate Senator Barack Obama campaigned with the slogans of “Hope” and “Change”.  He also, in an unguarded moment with “Joe the Plumber”, stated his vision for the redistribution of wealth from the hard-working successful people to the not so successful.  The voters, sucked in by this supposedly gifted orator, didn’t listen closely to the message that he gave on multiple occasions and elected him.  It now appears that the reality is that he and his Democrat cronies would affect the “change” and then “hope” that everything would work out, and they are not afraid to use the “big stick” of a big, unaccountable government to further their political agenda to try and make it work.  Thus is the hubris of our Democrat Party of progressives (aka, Liberals & Lefties).

So the country’s situation is this:  Mounting governmental debt with the Democrats insisting upon increasing without consequence; another large, bloated, unwieldy program that Congress had absolutely no authority to pass (the idea that ObamaCare is legal because it’s classified as a tax should cause everyone concern);  a sluggish job market that is uncertain with the future of government interference; more and more people dropping out of the job market because they cannot find a job & going on either Welfare or early retirement; and a government that is more interested in controlling the citizenry through multiple avenues of intimidation, misinformation, and subsidies (aka, “free stuff”) than it is to abide by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the laws of the land.

Now I’ve hit the Democrats pretty hard in the above, but I will state that the Republicans have not been innocent in any of the above.  They have also expanded government beyond its stated Constitutional limits (think Patriot Act, for instance), and have been complicit in many “compromises” that have expanded government programs that exacerbate the country’s debt problem and infringing upon the law-abiding citizen’s rights.  By no means are the Republicans looking out for the American People.

To back-up the above statement, I offer the fact that the “old-Guard” Republicans resistance to the ideas and statements of Tea-Party representatives, who are bucking the “business as usual” atmosphere and leadership because they believe that the country is headed down the wrong path.  Everyone knows this, but are unwilling to do anything about it because it puts in jeopardy their political careers with their respective political party.  This last is where I have issues with our current political leaders –  not taking a stand to do the right thing for the country and its citizens, but to go along to further their political careers.

Thus is the hubris of the political elite.  And they have reason to believe that they are smarter than we are.  Take the following statements from Bill O’Reilly:

Amid all the madness over Obamacare and the government shutdown comes a fascinating poll about “we the people.” For years, the Gallup organization has asked the following question: Do you trust the American people to make good judgments about political issues?

Eight years ago, 78 percent of those polled said they had trust in the folks. This year that number plummeted to just 61 percent.

And it is the fault of the American people that our politicians continue to let us down. Let’s be honest: Many of us simply don’t pay attention to our country. We are too caught up in our own situations to be bothered with public policy.

Talk-radio hosts call them “low information voters”: Americans who don’t know much about history, current events or anything else and who often vote on pure emotion. If they like somebody, he or she gets the chad. And Barack Obama is a very likeable guy.

We live in a complicated, dangerous age. Democrats have seized on the economic collapse and a bad war (Iraq) that happened on President George W. Bush’s watch. They have convinced the majority of voters to embrace a new America — one that gives the federal government extraordinary power, one that runs up a record amount of debt in pursuit of social justice and “income equality.”

As the Gallup poll suggests, we are beginning to blame each other for the confusing state of this country. And, indeed, it is collectively our fault. We should be electing problem solvers, not charismatic ideologues who can whip people into a frenzy.

So the result is this:


And this:

Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

Because we have this:

Political Cartoons by Jerry Holbert

And this:

Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

Reinforced by this:

Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy

Who states that We the People are this:

Political Cartoons by Glenn Foden

While We the People are not doing this:

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel

So now we are becoming this:

Political Cartoons by Steve Breen

Be strong, my friends – it’s going to be an extremely bumpy ride.

Political Ignorance

While I shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of quality & expertise of our elected leaders, I am reminded again and again almost on a daily basis.  The lack of knowledge of the history and laws of this country  in deciding actions upon the issues placed before the politicians is stunning.  What is worse, the politicians make decisions, policies, and laws that do not uphold the laws and their oaths to the Constitution and the United States.  The politicians are more concerned with gaining political power, and this is a cause of alarm for my wife and myself.  Let’s take the following examples:

Illegal Immigration:

Illegal immigration is now a political topic of epic proportions.  Both political parties are promising to address it with new proposals to mainstream the illegal immigrants into the United States, and stating that such proposals will fix the broken immigration system of laws.  To which I can sum up in one single succinct word:


Now before anyone starts coming after me for being a heartless, selfish bastard, let me make one thing perfectly clear – I fully understand the drive and ambition of the illegal immigrants to flee their native countries to come to the United States for a better life.  Opportunities for advancement in their respective homelands are often limited, and would otherwise relegate them to servitude and poverty.  However, they have do choices – stay in their own country & make do, work to make their own country better, or come to this country legally,  Somehow, illegally immigrating to another country and constantly looking over one’s shoulder does not sound like a life that I would want.

With that being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current immigration laws. Rather, the problem is two-fold:

  • The border of the United States is not secure, which means there are multiple ways for people to enter into this country illegally. And they do – in droves.
  • There is inconsistent enforcement of the laws once an illegal immigrant is found, and penalties to employers to use illegal immigrants are little more than slaps on the wrist.

These deficiencies have now made a problem so overwhelming it cannot be resolved by law enforcement alone.  So now the politicians must get involved to solve yet another problem in crisis mode that should have been taken care of years ago.

The number of illegal immigrants is estimated to be somewhere between 11 and 18 million people. That is a huge voting block, which is why both political parties are falling over each other to propose their version of immigration reform which will probably include a so-called “pathway to citizenship.”  To me, this sounds like the politicians selling out the People of the United States to advance their own political power.

The sad part of it is, nothing these clowns propose or enact will resolve the problems of a porous border and undermanned border security & enforcement.  If anything, their proposals will only encourage illegal immigration.

Our Second Amendment Rights

The United States Supreme Court in the District of Columbia v. Heller decision struck down the District of Columbia’s gun ban in June 2008.  This decision reaffirmed that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right of all Americans to “keep and bear arms” and is not limited to the militia and National Guard. The opinion continues “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

And yet this decision to uphold one of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States is still under attack by the gun banning crowd.  Fiction is part of their arguments to deny law abiding citizens their Constitutional Rights.  For instance:

From ColoradoPols.com:

Speaking at a Denver Post forum on gun control Tuesday, [Representative Diana] DeGette pushed for legislation that would prohibit the future sale of ammunition-loading devices that hold more than 10 bullets. Noting that Colorado had recently passed a ban on magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds, DeGette suggested existing devices that are grandfathered into the laws would lose functionality after being used.

“I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available,” she said, according to the Denver Post.

Obviously, Representative DeGette hasn’t a clue as to what she is talking about as gun magazines can be reloaded with ammunition, but that will not prevent her from weighing in on and voting on legislation to ban guns.

In contrast, some facts from the Wall Street Journal:

Much of the national discussion in the wake of the Newtown schoolhouse shootings has focused on limiting gun ownership by high-risk people. But to truly address the many homicides committed in America’s cities, lawmakers also need to ensure there are real consequences for illegally carrying a gun on the street. Regardless of whether or not the gun was lawfully obtained—carrying one illegally is a more serious offense than possession, since it is directly linked with high murder rates.

In 2012, 506 people were murdered in Chicago. According to an analysis of homicide data by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, nearly 86% of those killings were committed with a firearm, and more than three-fourths occurred outdoors, virtually all with illegally carried guns. Across the country in 2010, guns were used in 11,078 homicides—and illegally carried guns were a central element in most of the killings.

Did you understand the above?  It’s not the people obeying the laws that cause the majority of the problems – it’s the criminals!  In other words, criminals are breaking existing laws, and will most likely break any new ones that Congress or their respective State and Local politicians pass.

But the laws that the politicians pass are used to garner publicity for themselves, increasing their stature and chances for re-election.  Sandy Hook has been used by shameful politicians to advance gun banning legislation that would have not prevented the tragedy in the first place.  And yet the media and politicians obsesses over restricting weapons from law-abiding citizens who use them for recreation, hunting, and yes, self-defense.

From Thomas Sowell:

The defensive use of guns is usually either not discussed at all in the media or else is depicted as if it means bullets flying in all directions, like the gunfight at the OK Corral. But most defensive uses of guns do not involve actually pulling the trigger.

If someone comes at you with a knife and you point a gun at him, he is very unlikely to keep coming, and far more likely to head in the other direction, perhaps in some haste, if he has a brain in his head. Only if he is an idiot are you likely to have to pull the trigger. And if he is an idiot with a knife coming after you, you had better have a trigger to pull.

Surveys of American gun owners have found that 4 to 6 percent reported using a gun in self-defense within the previous five years. That is not a very high percentage but, in a country with 300 million people, that works out to hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns per year.

Yet we almost never hear about these hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns from the media, which will report the killing of a dozen people endlessly around the clock.

The murder of a dozen innocent people is unquestionably a human tragedy. But that is no excuse for reacting blindly by preventing hundreds of thousands of other people from defending themselves against meeting the same fate.

Something that I heard the other day rings oh so true:

Gun Control is not Crime Control.

But that simple fact will not stop the politicians from grandstanding & proclaiming that they are “doing something” to prevent another Sandy Hook while in reality, they are doing nothing constructive.

Civics Lesson

What is the United States?  A Democracy?  If so, then it’s rule by the mob.  We’re actually a Constitutional Representative Republic, but the lines are being blurred every day.  Here’s a video that should make it clear:

The American Form of Government

From clashdaily.com:

Mob rule brings about unbelievable occurrences. Guys are elected with little or no experience or preparation for the task at hand. Certainly the election of Barack Obama is a prime example – when you consider his inexperience and background compared to that of his opponent.

Democracy is leading to the decline of our once great country – as more and more takers vote for more and more politicians who promise more and more free stuff.

The history of the fall of Rome should be an example of what is in store for the United States if the government stays on the current path and the People do nothing to change the course of the country.

A Politician’s Real Job (from 2005)

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

And some wonder why Congress and the politicians constantly rate so low on the trust scale.  After all:

  • If you lie to the Politicians in Congress, it’s a crime called Perjury.
  • If the Politicians in Congress lie to you, it’s called Politics.

Any questions?

The Pursuit of Happiness

This are the words from the Declaration of Independence that many people seem to think that the Pursuit of Happiness is a guarantee, one that is backed by our government if you believe the Liberal agenda.  Yeah, those are probably fighting words for some Obama supporters, but let’s look at some opinions and facts starting with some personal experience.

I have worked for several different companies over the past 30 years, and they are rather large ones at that.  FMC and ITW were two of them.  I worked for divisions that were profitable, but didn’t meet the corporation’s goals for them.  The companies either closed or sold the divisions.

There wasn’t any calls for government bailouts of the employees, nor the employees demanding compensation.  No, most of us went about our business finding new jobs & careers.  Some were old enough and had enough years with the companies to take early retirement.

Some of you know that I worked for Chrysler for a little over a decade, and took a buyout on the eve of Chrysler’s bankruptcy.  While Chrysler seems to have recovered, it wasn’t without controversy, nor without government assistance.  The working conditions in my former department have deteriorated according to conversations that I have had with friends still at Chrysler.  Yes, it seems it was a good move, but I really have hated starting over.  Thus, I’m still pursuing happiness.

In contrast, let’s take a look at my now deceased former father-in-law.  At the age of 45, after spending 22 years at Anchor Glass, the plant closed.  Rather than look for another job, he decided to sit back, take a reduced pension & Social Security, and do nothing.  He became a bitter, sometimes cruel person with little to do for the next 20 years.  Did he find happiness?  No, he didn’t, not by a long shot.

Let’s be realistic – the Pursuit of Happiness is just that, pursuit – it doesn’t mean that we’re going to catch it.  Some people will, but some won’t.  There is not a guarantee of a happy ending, no matter what reassurances people (i.e., politicians) may make.  This is why I am extremely suspicious of any promises the politician’s make for economic and society’s happiness.

Who out there remembers the talking point for passage of the over $800 Billion “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” would keep unemployment below 8%?  And how well did that work out?  Unemployment skyrocketed, and is now barely above 8% three years later.  And that’s still a bogus number.

This number does not take into account people who are no longer are kept on the unemployment rolls because their benefits have run out, and unemployment numbers only reflect the number of people collecting unemployment.  The number of people who have found jobs are often underemployed because they can’t find anything else.  This leaves a gap of people who have left the job market, i.e., quit looking because they cannot find anything.  The Labor Department or whatever other department that is keeping the statistics never has and never will keep those numbers because they have no way to determine who has given up.  So the figures lie, or at the very least don’t tell the whole truth.

So now the politicians are stating that the economic recovery (and by extension, the good times) is just around the corner.  But is that true?  According to this excerpt from a Bloomburg article:

It’s important to note that historical data collected by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff show that it takes almost five years for employment to recover from the wreckage of a deep financial crisis.

And a deep financial crisis it was too.  Not a good time for anyone, and there doesn’t really seem to be the quick fix that the President or the opposition keeps thinking there is.  From the same Bloomburg article:

Much of the problem is self-inflicted by Congress. Lawmakers are putting off until after November’s elections a crush of expiring Bush-era tax cuts, the payroll tax reduction and dozens of other tax breaks and spending programs. If they expire, and an approved $100 billion in spending cuts occur at the same time, economic growth would slow to 0.5 percent next year, the Congressional Budget Office says. As Bloomberg View columnists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers write today, last summer’s debt-ceiling fight almost derailed the recovery, and this year’s replay could be worse.

Congress also lacks a plan to attack the long-term problem of entitlement spending and has yet to fix an overly complicated tax code. Worse, lawmakers have purposely built instability into the system by disingenuously adding expiration dates to tax cuts to meet budgetary rules.

Those invoking the uncertainty principle fail to mention that inflation and interest rates are historically low. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has repeatedly pledged not to raise rates at least through late 2014 — a gold-plated certainty guarantee if we ever saw one.

The pledge may be showing up in an uncertainty index created by Steven J. Davis, a University of Chicago business professor, with two others. Using news searches, differences among economic forecasters and other tools, they have measured the level of uncertainty by month, back to 1985. Their research shows that monetary policy and taxes, not regulatory policy, are the biggest drivers of uncertainty.

The Senate has not passed a budget resolution in over 3 years.  That’s uncertainty.

Here’s the bottom line – Neither political party will be able to guarantee your happiness, no matter what the political elite promise.  Your happiness is up to you, because the politicians have a different agenda:

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

And that’s their happiness, not yours…

A Rant on the Automotive Situation

It’s been a long weekend, and I’m PO’ed about this past week on so many different levels it isn’t even funny.  So let me explain a little further, or rather, rant.  However, be careful in reading this post – full Hazmat gear with an extended air-supply is recommended because this is going to be a long ride and it will get toxic.

As has been widely reported in the news, the CEOs of Chrysler, Ford, and GM with the head of the UAW went to Washington to pass the hat for loans to help keep their respective companies afloat and people employed.  Of course, they showed up in their nice Armani suits via their individual company jets.  Smooth move, morons…  Worse, they didn’t have any answers on how $25 Billion was going to be used and repaid.

What also showed up in the Detroit Free Press was the news that 50 Chrysler executives are going to get bonuses.  That’s right, bonuses!  The article states:

About 50 Chrysler executives are owed bonuses under a retention agreement hatched last year by DaimlerChrysler as it was looking to sell the Auburn Hills-based unit. The bonuses range from $200,000 to $1.89 million. The bulk of the bonuses are paid if people stay until August 2009, the two-year anniversary of Cerberus Capital Management taking majority control of Chrysler.

“Retention agreements are a standard business practice and are put in place to protect a potential buyer from losing key managerial talent,” the company stated.

I have no problems with reasonable executive bonuses providing that the executives are doing a good job.  But they weren’t doing a good job to begin with – that’s why DaimlerChrysler was selling the division.  Why the hell keep people around that are driving the company into the ground, and reward them for doing it?  Perhaps these asses should have been sent packing for poor performance in the first place…

Then I read about the Congress-critters hypocrisy as well as watch it on the various news channels.  I think that Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press stated it best in his column “If I had the floor at the auto rescue talks” with the following excerpts:

First of all, before you ask, I flew commercial. Northwest Airlines. Had a bag of peanuts for breakfast. Of course, that’s Northwest, which just merged with Delta, a merger you, our government, approved — and one which, inevitably, will lead to big bonuses for their executives and higher costs for us. You seem to be OK with that kind of business.

Which makes me wonder why you’re so against our kind of business? The kind we do in Detroit. The kind that gets your fingernails dirty. The kind where people use hammers and drills, not keystrokes. The kind where you get paid for making something, not moving money around a board and skimming a percentage.

You’ve already given hundreds of billions to banking and finance companies — and hardly demanded anything. Yet you balk at the very idea of giving $25 billion to the Detroit Three. Heck, you shoveled that exact amount to Citigroup — $25 billion — just weeks ago, and that place is about to crumble anyhow.

Does the word “hypocrisy” ring a bell?

Sen. Shelby. Yes. You. From Alabama. You’ve been awfully vocal. You called the Detroit Three’s leaders “failures.” You said loans to them would be “wasted money.” You said they should go bankrupt and “let the market work.”

Why weren’t you equally vocal when your state handed out hundreds of millions in tax breaks to Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda and others to open plants there? Why not “let the market work”? Or is it better for Alabama if the Detroit Three fold so that the foreign companies — in your state — can produce more?

Way to think of the nation first, senator.

And the rest of you lawmakers. The ones who insist the auto companies show you a plan before you help them. You’ve already handed over $150 billion of our tax money to AIG. How come you never demanded a plan from it? How come when AIG blew through its first $85 billion, you quickly gave it more? The car companies may be losing money, but they can explain it: They’re paying workers too much and selling cars for too little.

AIG lost hundred of billions in credit default swaps — which no one can explain and which make nothing, produce nothing, employ no one and are essentially bets on failure.

And you don’t demand a paragraph from it?

Besides, let’s be honest. When it comes to blowing budgets, being grossly inefficient and wallowing in debt, who’s better than Congress?

So who are you to lecture anyone on how to run a business?

Ask fair questions. Demand accountability. But knock it off with the holier than thou crap, OK? You got us into this mess with greed, a bad Fed policy and too little regulation. Don’t kick our tires to make yourselves look better.

For another article along the same lines, here are some excerpts from The Oakland Press:

No wonder people don’t trust politicians.

Suddenly, before approving any financial help to automakers, members of Congress demanded answers from them that they never demanded from Wall Street. Everything they wanted to know was reasonable: What kind of changes are they going to make in their day-to-day operations? What structural changes have they agreed to? What limits are they going to put on executive salaries? What guarantees exist that we’ll get our money back?

Again, those are all good questions, and questions Congress should ask. But Congress members were hypocrites in demanding answers to those questions from Detroit automakers when they had so recently approved a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street banks and financial institutions with nary a peep.

There’s nothing wrong with putting strings on federal dollars. But here’s my question: Why the huge double standard? Wall Street firms, remember, also screwed up.

For Republicans, we know the answer: because Wall Street is nonunion, and Detroit is all-union. Because Wall Street is white-collar and Detroit is blue-collar. Because Wall Street is upper-class and Detroit is middle-class. And Republicans would rather swallow glass than help a middle-class, blue-collar union member.

But self-righteous Democrats decided they’d rather help George W. Bush kill 3 million to 5 million more jobs, cause 775,000 retirees to lose their pensions, and force two million workers to lose their health benefits.  You think the economy’s bad now?

Imagine how much worse it will be when U.S. automakers go belly up, wiping out 20 percent of all retail sales in America, eliminating one out of 10 American jobs and destroying what little is left of America’s manufacturing sector.

So the Big 3 and the UAW are going to come back during the first week of December and restate their case to get the loans.  And I predict that they will.  I’m just wondering what is going to be the price for the loans.  I have no doubts that there will be pounds of flesh to be paid, and most of it will be from the people that make the product.

There is such an anti-Union sentiment out there in the news and the blogs that I am just shocked at the level of venom being spewed.  Yes, Unions have their bad side as well as their good side.  But just remember this:  Union members are people, wanting to make a living to support their families.  They are just like you, wanting to be paid for the work that they do, and to have that compensation increase with skills and time put into the company that they work for.  They want to have job security in an uncertain time to be able to put their kids through college, take vacations, and have a decent house.  In other words, just like non-Union people, they want to have their shot at the American Dream.

And yes, there are a few bad apples.  But there are the same number of bad apples in non-Union industries as well.

But one of the “concessions” that the UAW may be forced to implement for Congress to approve loans to the Big 3 is the jobs bank.  This program had been scaled back from an indefinite support to a maximum of two years.  From another article in the Detroit Free Press:

Until the union’s 2007 contract, workers could remain in the jobs banks for years. But under the new contract, the union conceded to tighter conditions, under which workers’ jobs are protected by the jobs bank for just two years, and less if employees turn down transfers.

Jobs banks come from an era when automakers’ manufacturing processes were being modernized to include technological improvements and the companies needed to win labor support for such innovations that seemingly would mean a loss of jobs.

“The jobs bank notion was created long ago with the idea of being a temporary location for people who were being displaced by upgrades in technology,” Cashman said. “That whole premise seemed to have died long ago, and jobs banks have been, from the perspective of folks down here, kind of abused ever since.”

UAW members say they have foregone increases in pay and benefits over the years in exchange for the job security provided by the jobs bank and would expect to see significant concessions in executive pay and from other constituencies if they are to give up that protection.

What the above article doesn’t state is that job banks were also used when plants shut down to change vehicle models.  During that time, workers also attended training for the new equipment being installed to build the new vehicles.

I’ve also heard a lot about wages and cost difference between the foreign and domestic automakers.  From an article in The Oakland Press:

Figuring out labor costs is tremendously complicated because the contract has many provisions that change based on U.S. auto sales and production rates. Also, GM is estimating costs for the Japanese automakers.

But GM, which negotiated the four-year deal that serves as a template for UAW deals with Chrysler and Ford, says its total hourly labor costs dropped 6 percent this year from pre-contract levels, from $73.26 in 2006 to around $69 per hour. The new cost includes laborers’ wages of $29.78 per hour, plus benefits, pensions and the cost of providing health care to more than 432,000 GM retirees, GM spokesman Tony Sapienza said.

The total cost will drop to $62 per hour in 2010 when the linchpin of the contract — a UAW administered trust fund — starts paying retiree health care costs.

But that’s still $9 more than the $53 per hour that GM estimated Toyota now pays in the U.S., and the gap could be even wider. Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said the company’s total labor costs at its older U.S. plants are around $48, with about $30 per hour in wages.

The remaining difference largely is due to “legacy” costs, the cost of a 100-year-old company paying its retiree pensions, Sapienza said.

“While legacy seems to be a dirty word of late, it also means we support hundreds of thousands of people via pensions, health care and good jobs,” he said.

There’s also the “jobs bank,” a feature of the UAW contract that drew fire from senators, in which workers get 95 percent of their base pay and all of their benefits if they are laid off or their plant is closed. In the past, workers could stay in the jobs bank forever unless they turn down two job offers within 50 miles of their factory. GM’s new contract imposes a two-year time limit, and workers are out of the jobs bank if they turn down one job within 50 miles or four jobs anywhere in the country.

GM has about 1,000 workers in the jobs bank now because it’s been thinned out by early retirement and buyout offers. At its peak, the jobs bank had 7,000 to 8,000 people, Sapienza said.

To be fair, Toyota also has paid workers whose plants were temporarily closed due to slow demand for their products. Employees attended training during the shutdown.

GM, which has been restructuring for about five years, had about 125,000 U.S. hourly employees in 2003 and expects to have 62,500 by the end of this year.

GM says it already is starting to see savings from the new contract because it has hired more than 1,000 workers who are paid $14 per hour, less than half the average UAW laborer’s rate. Most, if not all, of those workers will be laid off, though, as GM cuts production because of the sales slump. The company expects more long-term savings as it hires more lower-paid workers in the future.

Yes, the UAW has given up a lot of benefits and wages to help the Big Three compete.  And what has been their reward?  Bonuses to executives for a job well done in negotiating concessions from the Unions.  And yet, it’s still not enough.  They still bitch and moan about how the Unions are screwing them over while they gleefully count their bonuses.

The cause of much of the grief that the automotive industry as a whole (and I’m including the “other” automakers in this) is the government’s role in the current financial crisis as well as laying the groundwork & continued policies that work against the United States.  As discussed in some previous posts (here, here, and here), politicians in government have not done us any favors.  Indeed, I believe that they have created much of the problems that we are facing as an industrial country.

For instance – Pat Buchanan wrote this article (link pending) and had this to say about government’s role in the demise of the domestic auto industry:

To hear the media tell it, arrogant corporate chiefs failed to foresee the demand for small, fuel-efficient cars and made gas-guzzling road-hog SUVs no one wanted, while the clever, far-sighted Japanese, Germans and Koreans prepared and built for the future.

I dissent. What killed Detroit was Washington, the government of the United States, politicians, journalists and muckrakers who have long harbored a deep animus against the manufacturing class that ran the smokestack industries that won World War II.

How did Big Government do in the U.S. auto industry?

Washington imposed a minimum wage higher than the average wage in war-devastated Germany and Japan. The Feds ordered that U.S. plants be made the healthiest and safest worksites in the world, creating OSHA to see to it. It enacted civil rights laws to ensure the labor force reflected our diversity. Environmental laws came next, to ensure U.S. factories became the most pollution-free on earth.  It then clamped fuel efficiency standards on the entire U.S. car fleet.

Next, Washington imposed a corporate tax rate of 35 percent, raking off another 15 percent of autoworkers’ wages in Social Security payroll taxes.  State governments imposed income and sales taxes, and local governments property taxes to subsidize services and schools.

The United Auto Workers struck repeatedly to win the highest wages and most generous benefits on earth — vacations, holidays, work breaks, health care, pensions — for workers and their families, and retirees.  Now there is nothing wrong with making U.S. plants the cleanest and safest on earth or having U.S. autoworkers the highest-paid wage earners. That is the dream, what we all wanted for America.

And under the 14th Amendment, GM, Ford and Chrysler had to obey the same U.S. laws and pay at the same tax rates. Outside the United States, however, there was and is no equality of standards or taxes.

Thus when America was thrust into the Global Economy, GM and Ford had to compete with cars made overseas in factories in postwar Japan and Germany, then Korea, where health and safety standards were much lower, wages were a fraction of those paid U.S. workers, and taxes were and are often forgiven on exports to the United States.  All three nations built “export-driven” economies.

The Beetle and early Japanese imports were made in factories where wages were far beneath U.S. wages and working conditions would have gotten U.S. auto executives sent to prison. The competition was manifestly unfair, like forcing Secretariat to carry 100 pounds in his saddlebags in the Derby.

Japan, China and South Korea do not believe in free trade as we understand it. To us, they are our “trading partners.” To them, the relationship is not like that of Evans & Novak or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is not even like the Redskins and Cowboys. For the Cowboys only want to defeat the Redskins. They do not want to put their franchise out of business and end the competition — as the Japanese did to our TV industry by dumping Sonys here until they killed it.

While we think the Global Economy is about what is best for the consumer, they think about what is best for the nation.  Like Alexander Hamilton, they understand that manufacturing is the key to national power. And they manipulate currencies, grant tax rebates to their exporters and thieve our technology to win. Last year, as trade expert Bill Hawkins writes, South Korea exported 700,000 cars to us, while importing 5,000 cars from us.  That’s Asia’s idea of free trade.

How has this Global Economy profited or prospered America?

In the 1950s, we made all our own toys, clothes, shoes, bikes, furniture, motorcycles, cars, cameras, telephones, TVs, etc. You name it. We made it.

Are we better off now that these things are made by foreigners? Are we better off now that we have ceased to be self-sufficient? Are we better off now that the real wages of our workers and median income of our families no longer grow as they once did? Are we better off now that manufacturing, for the first time in U.S. history, employs fewer workers than government?

We no longer build commercial ships. We have but one airplane company, and it outsources. China produces our computers. And if GM goes Chapter 11, America will soon be out of the auto business.

Our politicians and pundits may not understand what is going on. Historians will have no problem explaining the decline and fall of the Americans.

So when we no longer make our own products to trade, where is the money going to come from?  A service-based economy that does nothing but shuffle money around before it heads offshore?  That certainly won’t last for long…

Buchanan’s statement “To hear the media tell it, arrogant corporate chiefs failed to foresee the demand for small, fuel-efficient cars and made gas-guzzling road-hog SUVs no one wanted…” also strikes a chord.  If no one wanted these vehicles, then why did Detroit make SUVs for years? Because the public wanted to buy them – that’s basic supply and demand economics.  And I would like to meet the person with the crystal ball that foresaw the high fuel prices that helped create the situation that the automotive companies find themselves in.  20/20 hindsight is the only sight that these buttheads have…

What I see happening is that the politicians in Washington are more interested in serving themselves and/or the world instead of this country.  Why else would they not even blink at doubling foreign aid from $25 Billion to $50 Billion that will never be paid back and then grill the domestic automakers over a loan no riskier than the loans made by Fannie May and Freddie Mack?  Where the **** are their priorities?

Where I see the domestic automotive industry heading and ending up is not going to be a good place.  The focus that I have been observing is that Chrysler and GM are almost being forced to merge, and that will impact many more than just the projected 35,000 people between the two companies.  The ripple effect between suppliers and dealers will extend that out to some large but unknown number of people.  If a merger doesn’t happen, I see that Chrysler will be chopped up & unloaded by Cerberus, and GM may file Chapter 11 even if the government loans are approved.  In either case, I do not have much hope for my department or my job to survive any type of transition along these scenarios.

When I moved to Michigan almost 9 years ago, it was to join a company so I could retire from with a decent pension.  Now, it is highly doubtful that I will see that pension much less retire.  I do not anticipate either company to survive this mess intact.  So…

I finished updating my resume (again!) and sending it off to a couple of people that I’ve contacted this past week.  What I did not want to do is start over again at a new place at my age.  And this will not make retirement, if any, any easier for my wife and myself.