Monday, December 29, 2008

America can't win with its critics

"Retail Sales Plummet," read the Christmas headline in the Wall Street Journal. "Sales plunged across most categories on shrinking consumer spending."

Hey, that's great news, isn't it? After all, everyone knows Americans consume too much. What was it that then Senator Obama said on the subject? "We can't just keep driving our SUVs, eating whatever we want, keeping our homes at 72 degrees at all times regardless of whether we live in the tundra or the desert and keep consuming 25 percent of the world's resources with just 4 percent of the world's population, and expect the rest of the world to say you just go ahead, we'll be fine."

And boy, we took the great man's words to heart. SUV sales have nosedived, and 72 is no longer your home's thermostat setting but its current value expressed as a percentage of what you paid for it. If I understand then Senator Obama's logic, in a just world Americans would be 4 percent of the population and consume a fair and reasonable 4 percent of the world's resources. And in these last few months we've made an excellent start toward that blessed utopia: Americans are driving smaller cars, buying smaller homes, giving smaller Christmas presents.

And yet, strangely, President-Elect Obama doesn't seem terribly happy about the Obamafication of the American economy. He's proposing some 5.7 bazillion dollar "stimulus" package or whatever it is now to "stimulate" it back into its bad old ways.

And how does the rest of the world, of whose tender sensibilities then Senator Obama was so mindful, feel about the collapse of American consumer excess? They're aghast, they're terrified, they're on a one-way express elevator down to Sub-Basement Level 37 of the abyss with no hope of putting on the brakes unless the global economy can restore aggregate demand. What does all that mumbo-jumbo about "aggregate demand" mean? Well, that's a fancy term for you - yes, you, Joe Lardbutt, the bloated disgusting embodiment of American excess, driving around in your Chevy Behemoth, getting two blocks to the gallon as you shear the roof off the drive-thru lane to pick up your $7.93 decaf gingersnap-mocha-pepperoni-zebra mussel frappuccino, which makes for a wonderful cool refreshing thirst-quencher after you've been working up a sweat watching the plasma TV in your rec room all morning with the thermostat set to 87. The message from the European political class couldn't be more straightforward: If you crass, vulgar Americans don't ramp up the demand, we're kaput. Unless you get back to previous levels of planet-devastating consumption, the planet is screwed.

"Much of the load will fall on the US," wrote Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, "largely because the Europeans, Japanese and even the Chinese are too inert, too complacent, or too weak." The European Union has 500 million people, compared with America's 300 million. Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain are advanced economies whose combined population adds up to that of the United States. Many EU members have enjoyed for decades the enlightened progressive policies Americans won't be getting until January 20th. Why then are they so "inert" that their economic fortunes depend on the despised moronic Yanks?



No Peace in the Holy Land

It's no surprise that Israel would launch a new offensive against Hamas. Israeli officials have been warning that they would not sit back indefinitely and let Hamas rain missiles on their citizens. The timing - after Christmas and before Obama is sworn in - make sense. It's also no surprise that much of the coverage has ignored the years of missile attacks Israel has endured or treats them as though they are just a minor annoyance: Can't the Israelis use umbrellas or something?

A CNN piece I saw earlier today made no mention of the missiles until the very end when they quoted from a White House statement calling on Hamas to finally put a stop to the rocket salvos.

Context is also missing from many reports: Israelis left Gaza in 2005 - after years of being told that if they "ended the occupation" the violence would subside. It's been just the opposite. Instead of proving to the world that they are capable of building a free and democratic state, the Palestinians voted in the militant Islamist group Hamas which - with support from Tehran - quickly turned Gaza into a terrorist enclave. Hamas then took over full control of Gaza in a bloody operation against the Palestinian Authority and its supporters.

In June of 2006, Hamas "commandos" invaded Israel and kidnapped an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The "international community" has been virtually silent about Shalit who - unlike the detainees at Guantamo - has never had access to the Red Cross much less to an attorney. The real question now is will Israel do to Hamas what it failed to do to Hezbollah: demonstrate clearly that terrorism is a dead end - figuratively and literally - for those who employ it, sponsor it and support it?



The corrupt UAW makes it impossible for GM to compete

An insider tells how hard UAW workers work

As a former supervisor of UAW workers at a GM facility, I will say that poor management and union malpractice made the Detroit Three uncompetitive long before the government sent in their arsonists. To put it bluntly, the UAW takes the hard-earned money of the best workers and spends it defending the very worst workers while tying up the industry with thousands of pages of work rules that make it impossible to be competitive. And the spineless management often makes short-sighted decisions to satisfy the union and maximize immediate benefits over long-term sustainability. The strength of the union and the weakness of management made it impossible to conduct business properly at any level. .

I supervised a loading dock and 21 UAW workers who worked approximately five hours per day for eight hours' pay. They could easily load one-third more rail cars and still maintain their union-negotiated break times, but when I tried to make them increase production ever so slightly they sabotaged my ability to make even the current production levels by hiding stock, calling in sick, feigning equipment problems, and even once, as a show of force, used a fork lift truck and pallets and racks to create a car part prison where they trapped me while I was conducting inventory. The reaction of upper management to my request to boost production was that I should "not be naive."

One afternoon I was helping oversee the plant while upper management was off site. The workers brought an RV into the loading yard with a female "entertainer" who danced for them and then "entertained" them in the RV. With no other management around, I went to labor relations for assistance. As a twenty-five-year-old woman, I was not about to try to break up a crowd of fifty rowdy men. The labor relations rep pulled out the work rules and asked me which of the rules the men were breaking. I read through the rules and none applied directly, of course. Who wrote work rules to cover prostitutes at lunch? The only "legal" cause I had was an unauthorized vehicle and person and that blame did not fall on the union workers who were being "entertained" but on the security guards at the gate. Not one person suffered any consequence.



Preparations for the day when Obama is confirmed as ineligible to be President?

A new report from the U.S. Army War College discusses the use of American troops to quell civil unrest brought about by a worsening economic crisis. The report from the War College's Strategic Studies Institute warns that the U.S. military must prepare for a "violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States" that could be provoked by "unforeseen economic collapse" or "loss of functioning political and legal order."

Entitled "Known Unknowns: Unconventional `Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development," the report was produced by Nathan Freier, a recently retired Army lieutenant colonel who is a professor at the college - the Army's main training institute for prospective senior officers. He writes: "To the extent events like this involve organized violence against local, state, and national authorities and exceed the capacity of the former two to restore public order and protect vulnerable populations, DoD [Department of Defense] would be required to fill the gap."

Freier continues: "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order . An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home."




NYT wobbling financially: "Seeking to fortify its core assets, The New York Times Company is actively shopping its stake in the holding company of the Boston Red Sox baseball club, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Times Co, which faces a cash shortage accelerated by steep industry-wide revenue declines, has been rumoured for months to be open to selling non-core assets. Besides its flagship newspaper, Times Co owns the Boston Globe, and a 17.5 per cent stake in New England Sports Ventures (NESV), which owns the Red Sox, their fabled ballpark Fenway Park and most of the cable network that airs the team's games. Times Co pushed discussions beyond the exploration phase early last month at a quarterly meeting of NESV's limited partners, at which the company indicated to the partnership its intention to sell. Since then Times Co has been pursuing potential buyers, according to people familiar with the discussions. Barclays Capital has pegged the value of the investment at about $US166 million ($244 million). A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment".

Darling Caroline: "It seems that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, or how ever she is styling herself this week, has been carrying on a "close friendship" with NY Times publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger (in this context his nickname is most appropriate) and the NY Times refuses to comment on the subject. Sez them: "we don't report stuff like this, regardless of the people involved." To which a person who hasn't been in a coma for the better part of a year would ask, why didn't that standard apply to John McCain when the NYT ran its scurrilous front page insinuation of adultery? And why wouldn't they cover this as the NYT will be covering Ms. Whatever's actions in Washington when Governor Paterson (boy is it ever a metaphor that he is blind) appoints her a Senator.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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