Domestic Day... clearing out a few accumulated 'other' stories...
Friday, June 13, 2008
Stalled in the USA: Europe's Small Cars
When automakers reported how many cars they moved in the U.S. in May, small fuel-sippers were the clear favorites. Ford Motor (F) sold 53% more Focus compacts than it did a year ago, while Nissan's (NSANY) tiny Versa sold 15% more. And Volvo (F), Volkswagen (VLKAY), and BMW? All sold fewer of their small models.
A head-scratcher, that. European carmakers should be cleaning up. After all, small cars rule the road on the Continent, where the ancient horse and buggy infrastructure virtually requires smaller cars. But here's the dirty secret: Volvo, VW, BMW, and their peers are limiting the supply of some of their cars in the U.S. because they aren't profitable.
Earl J. Hesterberg, chief executive of Group 1 Automotive (GPI), a Houston megadealer with two Volvo stores, says he could sell 5 to 10 times as many S40 compact sedans if Volvo reinstated a lease deal it dropped in March to suppress sales. But "there isn't a scenario where we can sell cars under $30,000 at a profit," says Volvo Cars of North America President Doug Speck. [snip]
While a 13% dollar to euro exchange rate shift hasn't helped, it's high labor costs that are the primary culprit: in Europe unions remain powerful...
MOVIN' TO MEXICO
U.S. automakers are closing plants and slashing jobs in Michigan, Ohio and other U.S. union havens, in favor of non-union, foreign places, like Mexico and China. Past deals with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union have saddled U.S. companies with such high costs that they can no longer make cars here and compete on a global market:
• U.S. carmakers pay their workers an average of about $73 an hour in wages and benefits -- way more than others.
• According to the Center for Automotive Research, there's a $16.15 per hour gap between what Detroit's Big 3 pay workers and what Toyota pays workers in the United States.
• Add to that a $5 billion a year difference in health care and other retirement costs, totaling thousands of dollars in extra costs on every car sold, and U.S. automakers operate at about a $12 billion a year disadvantage.
• From 1999 to 2007 alone, the United States lost 281,500 auto-related jobs, or 25 percent of the total.
Though little noted, last year was a watershed for U.S. carmakers:
• For the first time, foreign producers in the United States made more cars -- 54 percent of the total -- than the former Big Three.
• As recently as the 1980s, Ford, Chrysler and GM made 73 percent of all cars here.
Ford's recent investment of $3 billion in two auto plants near Mexico City is the largest foreign company investment ever in Mexico. Ford's move to Mexico should be a warning to the UAW, which has seen its membership shrink from 1.5 million in 1979 to about 500,000 today. The decline of Ford, GM or Chrysler is bad news for the United States -- and the UAW has played a major part in it.
The Threat to the Car
Recent evidence that automobile use is declining in America and that some Americans are making significant -- and in some cases not readily reversible -- changes in their lives because of escalating gas prices should be worrisome signs for those who love liberty. (Snip)
Methods governments can use to do this include placing constraints on parking availability, forbidding taxpayers from using certain lanes of the highway (or even certain highways) unless they agree to carpool or ride a bus, and imposing excessive gas taxes or road tolls...
Trip home highlights changes brought by illegal immigration
Two weekends ago I was excited about attending my nephew's high school graduation in my hometown of El Paso, Texas, just across the Rio Grande from Juarez, Mexico.
Things have changed a lot.
The decision to allow students from Juarez had changed the standards and academic pride of the school, explained my nephew sadly. English is no longer the primary spoken or preferred language in El Paso, Texas. At the graduation ceremony for the class of 2008, one of the opening announcements was that specific parts of the ceremony would be in Spanish only... [snip]
The Boy Scouts paraded in with the flag. Guests were asked to stand. My family and I placed our hands over our heart to recite the Pledge to the Flag, as we had done so many times during our school years. However, many people in front and all around us refused to stand and continued to talk and conducted themselves with complete disrespect for the flag and the Pledge that only American citizens understand and appreciate.
It was then that I understood my nephew's sadness regarding the erosion of his rights as a citizen when the overwhelming majority of his classmates were not U.S. citizens...
Chrysler Building on the Block
The latest Big Apple trophy being coveted by oil-rich sovereign wealth funds is the landmark Chrysler Building. Sources say the super-rich Abu Dhabi Investment Council is negotiating an $800 million deal for a 75 percent stake in the Art Deco treasure that has defined the Midtown skyline since 1930. (Snip) The deal follows last month's sale of the GM Building and three other Macklowe/Equity Portfolio properties for $3.95 billion to a group of investors including the wealth funds of Kuwait and Qatar...
[the bright side? we're getting our money back...]
Sex ed planned for fourth graders
The Springfield School District plans to introduce sex education to fourth-graders next school year, a grade younger than its current practice. “Kids are developing a little more rapidly,” said Kathy Hulcher, who oversees health education for the district and helped lead a committee that re-evaluated the sex education curriculum.
Africentric school to open in 2009
After years of debate that has divided communities of every colour, Toronto's public school board voted tonight to open an Africentric alternative school in September 2009. The junior kindergarten to Grade 5 school – believed to be a first in Canada – is expected to help tackle a 40 per cent dropout rate among black students. Approved by a 13-8 vote after a heated debate in which one trustee called another a racist, the school will be located in an empty wing of Sheppard Public School...
[segregation - how progressive]
PUTTING CHILDREN LAST
Congress have finally found a federal program they want to eliminate: the four-year-old Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Consider:
• The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides vouchers to about 2,000 low-income children so they can attend religious or other private schools.
• More than 80 percent of the voucher recipients are black and most of the rest Hispanic; their average income is about $23,000 a year.
• The budget for the experimental program is $18 million, or about what the U.S. Department of Education spends every hour and a half.
•The $18 million allocated to the program does not come out of the District school budget; Congress appropriates extra money for the vouchers.
• The $7,500 voucher per child is a bargain for taxpayers because it costs the public schools about 50 percent more, or $13,000 a year, to educate a child in the public schools.
• D.C. schools are among the worst in the nation; in 2007, D.C. public schools ranked last in math scores and second-to-last in reading scores for all urban public school systems on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
• More than 90 percent of the families express high satisfaction with the program, according to researchers at Georgetown University.
The fight to eliminate this program has nothing to do with saving money, but a lot to do with election year politics. The teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down. Unions are afraid the voucher program will succeed, and show that there is a genuine alternative to the national scandal that are most inner-city public schools.
Media Ignore That Gagging Sound from Canada
Usually, when a journalist is censored in a Western nation, American news organizations respond with collective outrage. But as a major attack on press freedom unfolds in Canada, America’s mainstream media are silent.
Neither the TV networks nor the major newspapers have reported on hearings last week at what amounts to a Stalinesque show trial in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Mark Steyn, a Canadian journalist who now lives in New Hampshire and whose column appears in National Review magazine as well as several U.S. and Canadian newspapers, is facing charges before British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal.
The evidence? A 5,000-word excerpt of Steyn’s book America Alone that was carried as an article.
His crime? Spreading “hatred”...
Celebrate Radio Independence Day
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), Congressmen Mike Pence (R-IN), Greg Walden (R-OR) and Trent Franks (R-AZ), syndicated radio talk show host Laura Ingraham and President of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist in declaring this July 4th to be Radio Independence Day, and called for Congress to allow a full up or down vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act (BFA).
The BFA will kill once and for all the Fairness Doctrine, the onerous governmental policy that served to stifle free speech on the radio airwaves for four decades. Twenty-one years since its repeal, radio has flourished on the air, but some in Congress have been seeking to again reinstatement the restrictions of the Fairness Doctrine.The BFA is currently stuck in committee. A discharge petition has been started to allow it to the floor for a full vote, but it has only 194 of the needed 218 signatures.
'Allow a full up or down vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act'
Your Congressman > https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtml
Be sure to also check out the MRC's Culture and Media Institute study, "Unmasking the Myths Behind the Fairness Doctrine"
ABCNews.com: Republicans 'Fueling Anger' with Blockage of New Oil Tax
Blame do-nothing Republicans for high gas prices. That was the impression visitors to ABCNews.com got this afternoon.
Among the "top headlines" lineup Web site editors included a story on "Fueling Anger" with the teaser headline: "Rejected! Big Oil Tax Gets Shelved." [see related post about CBSNews.com's bias here]
The accompanying caption to the ABC photo illustration read, "With prices soaring, GOP halts Democrats' wide-ranging energy plan."
The article itself, by writer Z. Byron Wolf, was front-loaded with bias, slamming Republicans for their filibuster of a new windfall profits tax measure while dismissing the GOP's energy production plan as 'ineffective'...
LOOK FOR THE UNION LABEL
What do the farm bill, the cap-and-trade global warming bill, the clean water bill, the housing bailout bill and the school construction bill all have in common? In each one and countless others the Democratic majority in Congress has inserted "prevailing-wage" requirements that amount to a super-minimum wage, says the Wall Street Journal.
We're speaking of Davis-Bacon, the 1931 law that set a floor on wages in part to price black and Mexican workers out of the work. Today, its main impact is to require de facto union wages. For example:
• A Heritage Foundation analysis of wage data reports that in many cities the mandated Davis-Bacon wage is twice as high as the market wage.
• In Nassau-Suffolk in New York, for example, Davis-Bacon requires a minimum wage for brickmasons of $49.67 an hour, though the more common area wage for that work is $25.50.
• Many reputable studies have estimated that Davis-Bacon inflates federal construction costs by anywhere from 5 percent to 39 percent.
• America could be building about 25 percent more bridges and roads by repealing Davis-Bacon.
• A 2001 study by economists Daniel Kessler of Stanford and Lawrence Katz of Harvard found that when states repeal their Davis-Bacon laws, it is followed by an appreciable narrowing of the black/nonblack wage differential for construction workers.
Barack Obama has proposed a new taxpayer-supported $60 billion infrastructure bank that would siphon billions off to his union friends by mandating Davis-Bacon. That's "change," -- right out of taxpayer pockets, says the Journal.
Tribune Co. Plans Sharp Cutbacks at Papers
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA Tribune Company newspapers like The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune will quickly cut costs - by printing fewer papers and employing fewer journalists - top company executives said on Thursday.
If you ask Americans what issues matter most to them in choosing a president, the candidate's judicial philosophy is not likely to make it into the top 10. But a president's power to nominate judges is, in fact, one of his most powerful tools -- and often leaves a legacy that lasts far longer than any policy initiative. President Dwight Eisenhower was no liberal activist, but his appointment of Earl Warren as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court dramatically shifted the nation leftward for decades on everything from criminal justice to separation of church and state..
Media Should Think ‘Maybe We’re Just Doing This Wrong’
Media coverage of the economy in recent months should make journalists wonder what kind of job they're doing, according to Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor.
"‘If it bleeds it leads' has always been one theory. That only works up to a point," Gainor told Fox Business Network host Neil Cavuto June 2. "When you are actually spinning the results so much so that they're more negative than the worst economic time period in American history, well then you really have to sit back and think, ‘Maybe we're just doing this wrong.'"
"The media coverage [of] Bear Stearns [was] more than four times more negative than when the stock market lost 30 percent in six days," Gainor said, referring to findings published in a new BMI report, "The Great Media Depression."
Warning issued for West Nile virus
Summer is almost here, and with the arrival of warm weather comes the potential for West Nile virus. California's Department of Public Health has issued a warning urging people to protect themselves from the mosquito bites that transmit West Nile by ...
PG&E to offset state Dems' emissions
Sacramento - California Democrats have recruited Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to offset carbon emissions related to the national party convention this summer. The state's largest utility will buy $8,440 worth of carbon credits that will come from a Northern California redwood forest. (Snip) California's is the first Democratic delegation to announce such an arrangement as part of a national push by the Democratic Party to reduce or offset carbon output at its convention...
[the religion spreads...]
Losing the Information War with Amendment 56
The Democrats are angry.
Despite investing enormous effort undermining the military, things are going fairly well in Iraq. The anti-Bush themes of an "Iraqi quagmire" and "surge failure" were premature, and all the congressional show hearings, the choreographed Code Pink performance art and the MoveOn.org smears were for naught. The president and the military [eventually] did it right, and the Democrats got it wrong.
Time for a little vengeance on the Pentagon.
The House passed Amendment 56 to the Defense Authorization Act for FY 2009, prohibiting the Department of Defense from engaging in "publicity" programs, banning funding for such programs and calling for an investigation by the Government Accounting Office.
The three sponsors of the Bill, Representatives Hodes, DeFazio and DeLauro, vote along party lines. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, they hold to their perspective that Iraq is a failure and the American people and the media have been deceived. [snip]
In the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people, the Democrats work hard to silence information that undermines their agenda and they are winning. While the military fights for victory, Democrats plot their defeat, not on the battlefield, but in the minds of the very citizens they serve. In this, they diminish us as a nation and inch us ever closer to defeat.
The political fight for America's access to the truth, whatever the source, is one battle the military cannot fight for us. They must remain apolitical. This is a fight we, the people, must win for them.
[long, but Highly Recommended as an example of the depths politicians will stoop to acquire power > ]
Dems Use Edgy Films to Rally Youth Voters
A stunning 20-something woman hooks up with a seemingly innocent guy at a rowdy singles bar. Hot foreplay starts on the cab ride home and progresses into the bedroom. That is until, while searching for a condom in the bedside table, she sees a photo signed "Thanks for your support!" from Republican candidate John McCain. Horrified, she bolts, dropping her bag and spilling a campaign button on the sidewalk: "I only sleep with Democrats."
[the party of tolerance and inclusion]