Monday, December 29, 2008

Professor predicts end of U.S. in 2010

If this Russian professor's prediction comes true, millions of northern Americans may soon have government health care.

Prof. Igor Panarin, a former KGB analyst and dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats, has been predicting for the past decade that the U.S. will collapse in 2010.
"There's a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur," he says. ...

Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces ...
So where does health care for northern Americans come in? Michigan will be grabbed up by Canada according to the professor. This is how he sees the country splitting up:
California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.
Alaska will go to Russia? So much for Sarah Palin's claim that she had lots of foreign policy expertise due to her proximity to Russia.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

So This is Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! My husband and I will be traveling to our daughter's house today so we can spend the holiday with family, but I wanted to leave you with a present first.

I believe the spirit of Christmas is selflessness and love, and here in the Detroit area we have a couple who embody that ideal. They recently took their own money and sprinkled it around $100 dollars at a time to help people down on their luck. Their actions reaffirmed my belief in the goodness of people. Click here to read their story and be prepared to shed a tear or two. I did.

Also, before you leave, check out my post from a couple of days ago: Christmas trees should come with a warning.

Consider yourself warned! Merry Christmas everyone!

Update: Oops, I almost left without mentioning this. Santa took lessons from certain southern GOP politicians this year and wrote the following letter to kids across the land. So much for "Jolly" Old St. Nick.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas trees should come with warnings

Live or artificial? What kind of Christmas tree do you have at your house? We have family members with allergies so we always put up an artificial one, but I've always missed the pine scent and fun that goes along with picking out the "perfect" tree. Not anymore. After reading this, I have a new found respect for artificial trees.
Last year Vickie Wright and her friend Gail Leonard got a Christmas surprise they hadn’t anticipated. They each bought a live Christmas tree at one of the local tree farms. They took the trees home, decorated the trees and were ready for Christmas.

But about a week before Christmas, Vickie came home to find a room full of praying mantises (or “mantes,” which is also acceptable as the plural). They had landed on her floor, and more were coming out of the tree in waves.
The warm house tricked the mantis larvae into thinking it was spring! Gail experienced the same thing too, although her mantises didn't start appearing until after Christmas, and for several days in a row.

Gary Letterly, natural resources educator at the University of Illinois County Extension office, says this doesn't happen often, but he acknowledged it happened to him last Christmas.
“In about a matter of six days,” Gary says, “We had one little praying mantis. We thought, ‘Isn’t that cute!’ The next day we had six or 10. After that, we noticed them on the draperies.”

And then, he says, there were hundreds.
Hundreds! Ugh! Not exactly what I'd want under my Christmas tree.

So what should you do if you find these creepy, crawly mantes in your house? No, don't step on them or reach for the Raid. Horticulturists suggest carefully scooping up the insects and putting them outside under some compost or leaves where they, hopefully, may have a chance of surviving till spring.

And if you haven't brought your live tree inside yet, they also warn never spraying the tree with insecticide.
If you want to do something preventive, check for mantis egg pods in the Christmas tree, pull them out and put them under some leaves.

“It’s anywhere from a half-inch to an inch long,” Jennifer says. “It’s got a hard, protective shell over the eggs. There are anywhere from 12 to 400 eggs in a case.”
The egg case can be put outside under compost too. With any luck, they'll survive and hatch in the spring, and go on to lay more eggs on more Christmas trees.

Consider yourself warned. I think I'll stick with my artificial tree. Sorry, Santa.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Labor Gets an Early Christmas Gift

This is a good argument in favor of unions. h/t Kevin Drum
Felix Salmon, after noting that FedEx has announced across-the-board pay cuts for just about everyone:

There's been a huge shift in power in recent years from labor to capital: corporate profits have been rising much faster than wages for some time now. It makes sense that capital would make use of its newfound power to reduce labor costs in a deflationary environment of rising unemployment. During the boom, companies laid off workers because those workers demanded, and cost, too much money. Now that workers have lost their negotiating leverage, we might start seeing more across-the-board pay cuts.
Drum summed it up perfectly: Heads I win, tails you lose! In boom times you get laid off, in slack times you get your pay cut.

Labor may finally be gaining an ally in Washington. Rep. Hilda Solis of California will be nominated as labor secretary by President-elect Barack Obama. Solis co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act in the 110th Congress and earned a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO last year.

Maybe there really is a Santa Claus after all.

(More on Solis at BFM.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thanks for nothing, senators

Author and Free Press columnist Mitch Albom wrote a response to the senators who killed the auto loan deal last week and it's generating a lot of attention here in Michigan. (It's been recommended more than 1,000 times so far.) He pretty much expresses the collective outrage most of us have been feeling since Friday, starting with the title - Hey, you senators: Thanks for nothing.

Here's a sample of what Albom had to say. Click over to read the rest.
Kill the car, kill the country. History will show that when America was on its knees, a handful of lawmakers tried to cut off its feet. And blame the workers. How suddenly did the workers — a small percentage of a car’s cost — become justification for crushing an industry?

And when did Detroit become the symbol of economic dysfunction? Are you kidding? Have you looked in the mirror lately, Washington?

In a world where banks hemorrhaged trillions in a high-priced gamble called credit derivative swaps that YOU failed to regulate, how on earth do WE need to be punished? In a bailout era where you shoveled billions, with no demands, to banks and financial firms, why do WE need to be schooled on how to run a business?

Who is more dysfunctional in business than YOU? Who blows more money? Who wastes more trillions on favors, payback and pork?

At least in the auto industry, if folks don’t like what you make, they don’t have to buy it. In government, even your worst mistakes, we have to live with.
Ain't that the truth. Remember Iraq, senators? That was supposed to be cheap, and quick too. The only thing cheap about that mistake was the way you tried to cut corners and save money at the expense of our troops. From inadequate bullet proof vests and armored trucks to the horrid conditions at Walter Reed Hospital, you turned your backs on the soldiers just like you turned your back on middle-class jobs last week.

And don't try to sell us the idea that your vote was designed to protect taxpayer money. The same day the Free Press ran Albom's column, they also ran one by Susan Tompor describing the financially struggling Pension Benefit Guarantee Board, who may also find themselves needing a bailout. Allowing the Big 3 to fail would only add to the problem according to one expert:
He said that the PBGC could inherit more than $100 billion of pension obligations if Ford or GM filed for bankruptcy and the pension funds were turned over to the agency.
That $14-25 billion bridge loan is chump change by comparison. Add in unemployment compensation, increased Medicaid spending, the loss of tax revenues, etc., and that loan looks like a better deal by the moment.

Adding another 2-3 million people to the ranks of the unemployed is a huge mistake too. Obama wants to pass a stimulus package pushing $1 trillion dollars in order to create 2.5 million jobs, which won't even replace the jobs lost under the Bush administration. How does killing even more jobs help? Washington might as well double that package to $2 trillion if the Big 3 go down.

Thanks for nothing, senators. Do me a favor and take Albom's advice.
You’re so fond of the foreign model, why don’t you do what Japanese ministers do when they screw up the country’s finances?

They cut their salaries.

Or they resign in shame.
In order to resign in shame, these senators would have to feel some shame first. And in order to feel shame they would have to care. They don't.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How will the Big 3's cries for help be answered?

Tom Walsh has a very thoughtful column at the Free Press that reminds certain GOP senators of the Big 3's response after Hurricane Katrina:
...the automobile companies of Detroit did not harrumph that the Gulf Coast should have been better prepared.

They didn’t sit back and wait for New Orleans to submit a detailed plan for future repair of the ruptured levees.[...]

Between them, the three Detroit auto companies gave more than $18 million in cash and vehicles to the Katrina relief effort in the ensuing months. No strings attached.
That's just one example. Detroit's Big 3 are known for their charity and generosity in communities across our country. Now its their turn to ask for help. Before you just brush them off and say no, consider what else Walsh had to say:
If you see a fellow American is drowning, gasping for air, do you quiz him for awhile about whether he’s drunk or why he never learned to swim better? Or do you throw him a lifebuoy and ask questions later?

That, it seems to me, is where we are with America’s car companies.

You can do nothing and watch them die, senators.

Or you can rush in immediately with emergency aid – as GM, Ford and Chrysler did in the case of Hurricane Katrina, and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and during countless other disasters.

And you can hold their feet to the fire afterward, empowering a strong auto czar to make sure they do what’s needed to withstand future shocks.
Millions of lives are hanging in the balance, senators, including those of children, seniors and others who rely on the workers for their incomes. Please consider them when you make your decision. This is about more than unions or poorly managed companies. This is about families. They don't deserve to have their feet held to the fire.

“The quality of mercy is not strained, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest, It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” - William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Recession taking toll on disabled Americans

The rising unemployment numbers are hitting Americans with disabilities particularly hard. From US News & World Report:
"People with disabilities tend to be the last hired and the first fired," says Rick Diamond, director of employment services at Disability Network/Lakeshore, a disability rights nonprofit based in Holland, Mich.

Advocates nationwide say they've seen a sharp increase in the number of their clients who have been laid off. And if data from 2007—as well as from previous recessions—holds true for this year, people with disabilities will be cut from their jobs at a rate disproportionate to that of nondisabled workers. [...]

The disparity in employment between people with and without disabilities has already been growing. In 2007, according to last month's Disability Status Report, only 36.9 percent of working-age individuals with disabilities were employed. The year before, it was 37.7 percent. But the employment rate of people without disabilities, at 79.7 percent, didn't change.
Sadly, many of these people will have very little to fall back on in terms of savings. Nearly one in 4 working-age individuals with disabilities were below the poverty line in 2007 compared to one in 10 people without disabilities.
Diamond says that one of his coworkers has noted that of her 70 client cases, 15 of them are both employed and homeless. "Three years ago, I would have said I'm not aware of anyone in those circumstances," Diamond says.
To make matters worse, groups that help disabled individuals face cuts next year from already-tightened state and federal budgets. Private donations are down from past years too. Unemployment is scary for able-bodied people, but it takes a real toll on people with disabilities.
"I can't think of a person now with a physical disability, literally today, that I'm working with, who isn't also struggling with depression," he says.
I hope Michigan and other states make budget cuts with a scalpel, not a knife, and try to protect our most vulnerable as much as possible.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The legacy of WWII veterans

Today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the Flint Journal observed it by telling the story of one man who survived the attack, Staff Sgt. Ward Anderson of Chesaning.

It was 7:55 a.m., Dec 7, 1941 and Anderson and some friends had just left church and were thinking about going to the PX for breakfast.
Suddenly planes appeared overhead, flying low and loud. The men didn't pay much attention at first.

"We thought it was probably Navy maneuvers," said Anderson, then 20.

Then they noticed "big red suns" painted on the planes' wingtips: The Rising Sun emblem of Japan.

"I said, 'Oh, hell,'" Anderson said. "Or probably something worse."

Anderson counts himself lucky to have survived the first foreign attack on U.S. soil, which claimed the lives of more than 2,000 and pulled America into the second World War -- 67 years ago today.
His service to our country does not go unnoticed. Anderson wears his "Pearl Harbor Survivor" hat while out in his community and he's often approached by grateful people, rightly so, but we shouldn't let this day pass by without recognizing the sacrifice and service of an industry that has been maligned quite a bit lately - the Big 3. The Detroit News stepped up and recognized them in an editorial today: Remember the Arsenal of Democracy
We note with considerable irony that today, as the fate of Detroit's automakers rests in the hands of Congress, the nation marks the 67th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In the days after that attack, as the nation geared up for war, the federal government turned to Detroit's automotive industry and asked it to convert its factories to produce military hardware.

In a matter of weeks, Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and the other automakers of the time were churning out tanks, planes, Jeeps and other machinery of war. They stopped making passenger cars and turned their full energies toward defending the nation, and agreed to only a minimal profit for their work.

When America's survival was on the line, Detroit didn't ask questions; it pitched in with all its industrial might to save the country. The Big Three's survival is now on the line. We hope Congress remembers the sacrifice the auto industry has made for America and considers carefully whether it would ever want to go into a war of that magnitude again without the Arsenal of Democracy.
I hope Congress also remembers the survivors of WWII, who came home after the war and worked in factories across the country to build a better future for their children and grandchildren. Unionization grew to one-third of the workforce, every income group grew (incomes grew fastest for the lowest-income Americans) and most middle-class Americans had good health care and could look forward to a secure retirement.

The "Greatest Generation" fought in WWII because it was the right thing to do, and they came home and fought for shared prosperity and better living standards for everyone because that was the right thing to do too. As Americans, we honor them by fighting to protect what they worked so hard to give our country.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Washington Should Protect U.S. Cars and U.S Jobs

Gettelfinger appeared before the Senate Banking Committee today in Washington and was asked a question that I can't recall now (I'll keep searching for the transcript), but I do remember he referred to the Level Field Institute when giving his answer. It's an interesting site with a wealth of information and statistics on quality, R&D, jobs, suppliers, etc. But more importantly, they have the facts you need if you want the car you buy to support jobs and investment in your community.

Here's some information I gathered from their pages.
  • Ford, GM and Chrysler sell about half the cars bought in the U.S., but they buy nearly 80% of the parts made here.

  • On average, Ford, GM and Chrysler cars use two and a half times more "domestic" parts.

  • GM and Toyota use approximately the same numbers of workers to build each car. The difference is, only 12% of Toyota's workforce is here. At GM, it's nearly 40%.

  • The bulk of Ford's engineering, design, financing and marketing are here, while Toyota conducts much of that work in Japan.

  • U.S. automakers invest more in R&D than any other industry - and Ford, GM and Chrysler invest approximately 80% of that spending here in the U.S.

  • Ford, GM and Chrysler spend nearly fifteen times more than the Energy Department spends on energy efficiency/alternative fuels programs.

  • Buying a Ford, GM or Chrysler supports about 6 times more U.S. jobs, on average, than buying a Hyundai - and 2.5 times more U.S. jobs, on average, than buying a Toyota. Does that mean the Big 3 are 6 times less efficient than Hyundai, or 2.5 times less efficient than Toyota? It's where the work gets done that matters most to U.S. jobs.

  • "Made in America" matters even more when you look at the men and women working for auto parts suppliers that serve automakers. These companies employ about twice as many Americans as the automakers themselves. And Ford, GM and Chrysler purchase nearly 80 percent of the parts these people make. Based on their market share, foreign automakers should be buying about twice what they are.

  • Tomorrow's jobs will depend, in part, on today's R&D, particularly in fuel efficiency and safety. The Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), an association of 14 Japanese automakers doing business in America, notes that they collectively employ 3,600 R&D workers at 36 facilities nationwide. Honda operates 10 facilities employing 1,300 R&D professionals. Level Field welcomes these jobs, but more than 65,000 Americans (nearly 20 times JAMA's total) work in 215 automotive R&D facilities in Michigan alone.
  • Check out the Level Field Institute for yourself. I only touched on a few areas, but one thing is certain - the U.S. car industry is huge and allowing it to fail will kill jobs we'll never get back.

    Gettelfinger touched on that today when he noted the following (I'm paraphrasing):
    For every 2500 cars made in U.S. plants by the Big 3, approximately 78 people are employed to make them. If the domestic automakers fail and foreign makers in our country pick up their production, only 33 jobs will be created per 2500 cars. That's because the foreign automakers buy more of their parts from overseas. We'd still experience net job losses of about 45 jobs per 2500 cars produced.
    Once those jobs go, they'll be gone forever, and foreign automakers will reap the profits. R&D will suffer too. Is that Washington's idea of putting America first?

    (Cross-posted at Blogging for MI)

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Republicans deny economic reality

    Can you believe Republicans are actually trying to pin the blame on President Clinton for the drumbeat of bad economic news we hear day after day?
    The U.S. credit-card industry may pull back well over $2 trillion of lines over the next 18 months due to risk aversion and regulatory changes, leading to sharp declines in consumer spending, prominent banking analyst Meredith Whitney said.

    The credit card is the second key source of consumer liquidity, the first being jobs, the Oppenheimer & Co analyst noted.
    Reminder: George Bush is the only president to ever preside over an economy that has lost jobs, and now the people who probably need that credit card so they can fill up their gas tanks to hunt for jobs may be cut off.

    Obama can't come to our rescue fast enough. We desperately need jobs in this country. High unemployment numbers continue to strain borrowers, leading to more foreclosures and delinquencies.
    "The unemployment rate is highly correlated to consumer defaults," says Arpitha Bykere, an analyst at, an economic consulting and research firm.
    Well, duh! That's pretty simple to understand. If people aren't making money, they can't pay their bills, especially the big ones like mortgages. And according to Calculated Risk via the WSJ: Delinquent mortgages are set to nearly double in 2009.
    TransUnion LLC ... predicted that the proportion of consumers with mortgages that are 60 days or more past-due will hit 7.17% in the fourth quarter of 2009.

    That would be the highest level reached since the Chicago credit bureau ... first started tracking these statistics in 1992. It compares with an expected delinquency rate of 4.67% at the end of 2008. [...]

    "There are a lot more loans that will be resetting throughout 2009 through 2011," says Ezra Becker, principal consultant in TransUnion's financial-services group, who notes that rising unemployment and depreciating home values are other contributing factors. "There may be an ongoing flow of consumers who may now be able to pay their mortgage but may not be able to a year from now."
    Republicans willfully ignored warnings about the financial meltdown and now we're all paying the price, but you won't get them to admit they screwed up. It's never their fault.