Excerpts from the Associated Press as reported by MSNBC:

Chrysler LLC is offering buyouts of up to $100,000 to hourly workers at 11 of its U.S. facilities as part of its goal to cut up to 21,000 manufacturing jobs, or nearly half its U.S. hourly work force, a company spokeswoman said Monday.

Chrysler has approximately 45,000 UAW-represented hourly workers.
Chrysler is in the midst of a restructuring after a majority stake in the automaker was sold last summer to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP. The auto company announced in November it planned to cut up to 12,000 jobs, including 8,000 to 10,000 hourly and 2,000 salaried jobs.
The cuts came in addition to 13,000 layoffs Chrysler announced last February, including 11,000 hourly and 2,000 salaried workers. Around 6,400 hourly workers had left the company under than program as of June, Tinson said, but additional retirement packages could be rolled out under that program, which was scheduled to run through 2009.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. are offering similar buyouts and early retirement packages to cut costs and reduce production capacity to match sagging U.S. demand.
On Thursday, Ford announced it will offer buyouts to all of its 54,000 UAW-represented employees.

GM has offered early retirement packages and buyouts to 5,200 UAW hourly workers at service and parts operations but has yet to make similar offers to workers in assembly and parts plants. GM is close to agreeing with the UAW on the second round of buyouts and hopes to announce details next month, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. Once the second round is announced, the buyouts are expected to cover 46,000 workers.

Not what the state of Michigan really needed to hear. More cuts, more people out of work looking for jobs in an economy that is the worst in the nation. On top of that, the housing market is so bad that people can’t afford to leave the state to find jobs.

Just a really, really bad situation.

We, the citizens of the United States, should not take our First Amendment Rights to Free Speech for granted. Citizens in other countries do not have the freedoms that we enjoy on a day by day basis.

For instance, there is the case of a blogger with the name of Lionheart from the United Kingdom. Always on Watch has the details on her website, Lionheart states his case here, and there is a two-hour web cast on Blog Talk Radio in which there is a discussion of the incident with Lionheart. To recap the situation and interview:

  • Lionheart published photos & material on his blog dealing with Islamic terrorist involvement in drug-related activities in England. (It should be noted that Time Magazine published a report on the same activity in 2001.)
  • As an indirect result of the blog entries, the authorities in the UK have issued a warrant for his arrest, supposedly citing hate crime laws in “stirring up racial hatred” against Islamic people. However, a formal charging has not happened, and will not happen until he is arrested.
  • During the interview, Lionheart was understandably upset, especially when questioned by a caller for the details of the situation. He interrupted the caller constantly, which didn’t help his case. But then, considering everything he is going through, I’m not sure if I would have handled the situation any better.

Here is the problem with hate crime laws – they are subject to what someone finds objectionable to their race, religion, and/or belief system. In other words, there are no absolute standards or limits to what these laws could eventually cover. Where this could eventually lead is a suppression of our ability to voice our opinions for fear of being charged with a hate crime. Freedom of speech now becomes a casualty of “political correctness” and “hate crime” laws.

And now this is leading to censorship of you and I, the private citizen, of what we think, say, and write as well as the Media at large. Lionheart’s case is not the first nor do I think it will be the last. And if taken to the extremes, will severely impact what we write in our blogs.

Recently, I found a deal with an internet provider that would supply a free domain and site for life for a one-time price. Here are the two catches: The provider is located in Canada, and their terms of service include the following:

XYZ’s hosting service may only be used for lawful purposes. Transmission of any material in violation of any Federal, Provincial or local regulation is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to copyrighted material, material legally judged to be threatening or obscene, or material protected by trade secret.

XYZ has the right to refuse to host adult content and to remove it from our servers at any time. Further, you are not permitted to distribute material promoting hatred against individuals or groups or any content which may be deemed to be illegal according to the laws of your country of residence.

THIS AGREEMENT SHALL BE GOVERNED BY AND INTERPRETED AND ENFORCED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF PROVINCE OF QUEBEC AND THE FEDERAL LAWS OF CANADA APPLICABLE THEREIN WITHOUT REFERENCE TO RULES GOVERNING CHOICE OF LAWS. ANY ACTION RELATING TO THIS AGREEMENT MUST BE BROUGHT IN QUEBEC AND YOU IRREVOCABLY CONSENT TO THE JURISDICTION OF SUCH COURTS.

OK, so that means if I write something that pisses someone off enough that they believe I have violated a hate law, I could not only lose my site but potentially be prosecuted internationally. Considering that there is at least one province in Canada that considered adopting Sharia law into their civil legal system, it is almost asking for it if I write something about Islam and posted it on a server located in Canada in that province. I have enough problems keeping track of this country’s laws, and who knows where Canada is headed with their hate crime statutes. No thanks, I don’t need anymore headaches than I already have…

Let’s step away for the moment to just check on the status of the freedom of the media worldwide. The media in various countries, when not restricted by their government, impose upon themselves censorship. The perfect example of this is the now infamous Mohammed cartoons.

Some European papers as well as some US papers feared publishing the cartoons for fear of inciting violence among the Muslim population. And yet these same papers have no qualms about publishing a less than complementary cartoon of Jesus Christ. According to my belief system, such a depiction is objectionable, and could even be considered hateful. What’s the difference? In a perfect world, absolutely none! In this imperfect world, whoever files the most lawsuits and generally screams the loudest is the winner.

Coming back the United States, our Freedom of Speech is also being curtailed, although not evenly through the various groups. For instance:

The KKK and other white supremacist groups are often called hate groups because of their beliefs and speech. But when Louis Farrakhan makes a public speech along the same racial lines (although reversed in color), no one ever seems to call neither his speech hateful nor his organization a hate group. Why?

In short – politics.

Who has the greater influence on elections? Who must the politicians pander to in order to be elected? Last, who makes the laws that we must follow?

The result is that hate crime legislation and the enforcement thereof is written to protect certain groups. And now our country has slid further down the slippery slope of where the law by the people & for the people is not protecting all of the people. Of course, this is facilitated by the ever changing Political Correctness crowd.

So now Islamic radicals, thinly veiled Black hate groups, and other vocal militant groups that wield political, financial, and physical power are claiming protection under Free Speech statutes as they are spreading their hatred while also claiming being the victims of hate crimes. Our Media and politicians allow this to happen without challenge because it is the easiest path to follow and often fits their Liberal agendas.

The barbarians are not at the gates, they are through the gates and in the city…

Soon, the common person like you and I will not be able to voice our opinions without being labeled a bigot, racist, or hate-monger. And in some respects, we already have.

Many of us who have posted blogs have been called the above and more by the people visiting and commenting on our sites. Some we will edit, others we will delete, and the rest we will leave just to prove the person commenting is an idiot. Nonetheless, the seeds are being planted of where it will be extremely uncomfortable to voice or write our opinions from a legal standpoint.  But there is hope on the horizon.

There is a resource for the blogger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. From their website:

EFF’s goal is to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger, to let you know you have rights, and to encourage you to blog freely with the knowledge that your legitimate speech is protected.

To that end, we have created the Legal Guide for Bloggers, a collection of blogger-specific FAQs addressing everything from fair use to defamation law to workplace whistle-blowing.

Yes, we have the Right to Free Speech and resources to fight those who want to restrict that right. But for how long? I’ll leave you with this quote from Voltaire (1694 – 1778):

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

Found this over at Real Clear Politics:

Democrat Delegate Count:

State Delegates   Clinton Obama Edwards
Total   236 152 50
 
Super Delegates 463   200 114 32
 
Iowa 57   15 16 14
 
New Hampshire 30   9 9 4
 
Michigan 0 *  
 
Nevada 33   12 13
 
2,025 Delegates Needed to Win (Delegate Counts Come From AP, Wash Post, ABC News & RCP)

Republican Delegate Count:

State Delegates   Romney Huckabee McCain Thompson Paul Giuliani
Total   59 40 36 5 4 1
 
Unpledged RNC 0  
 
Iowa 40   7 30
 
Wyoming 14 *   8 3
 
New Hampshire 12 *   4 1 7
 
Michigan 30 *   23 1 6
 
Nevada 34   17 3 4 2 4 1
 
South Carolina 24 *   5 19
 
1,191 Delegates Needed to Win (Delegate Counts Come From AP, Wash Post, ABC News & RCP)

The interesting thing about the Democrats is the “Super Delegates,” who are not selected by the voters. From MSNBC:

Voters don’t choose the 842 unpledged “super-delegates” who comprise nearly 40 percent of the number of delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

The category includes Democratic governors and members of Congress, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former vice president Al Gore, retired congressional leaders such as Dick Gephardt, and all Democratic National Committee members, some of whom are appointed by party chairman Howard Dean.

Although dubbed “unpledged” in Democratic Party lingo, the super-delegates are free to come out before their state’s primary and pledge to support one of the presidential contenders.

So the voters have 60% of the say, but in the tight contests that the Democrats have between the top three contenders, it now is going to boil down to who owes whom the most favors (or who has the most dirt on a delegate), or who has the fewest skeletons in their closet. And that could lead to someone that the voters really don’t want.

On the Republican side, Fred Thompson announced today that he was withdrawing from the race for the Republican nomination for President. Where Thompson’s delegates will go is not known at this time.

The winning Democratic candidate needs 2,025 delegates to secure the nomination, the Republican candidate needs 1,191 delegates.

Ain’t politics wonderful?

We’ve heard different news reports that the icecaps are melting, and polar bears, walruses, seals, and penguins are soon going to be homeless unless we, the evil human race, cease and desist our way of life (i.e, breathing).  Yes, we are to blame, so say the eco-nuts, but are we?  Excerpts from Mirror.co.uk and the International Herald Tribune:

Another factor might be contributing to the thinning of some of the Antarctica’s glaciers: volcanoes.

Scientists have discovered a huge active volcano under Antarctica.

The volcano in the West Antarctic ice sheet last erupted 2,000 years ago but may still be helping to melt the ice sheet and speed up sea level rises.

Radar used by the British Antarctic Survey has revealed a layer of ash produced by the volcano, which extends across an area bigger than Wales.

In an article published Sunday on the Web site of the journal Nature Geoscience, Hugh Corr and David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey report the identification of a layer of volcanic ash and glass shards frozen within an ice sheet in western Antarctica.

Hugh Corr, author of a report on the volcano, said its previous eruption was the biggest in Antarctica for 10,000 years.

He said: “It blew a substantial hole in the ice sheet and generated a plume of ash and gas that rose 10km into the air.”

“This is the first time we have seen a volcano beneath the ice sheet punch a hole through the ice sheet” in Antarctica, Vaughan said.

Volcanic heat could still be melting ice to water and contributing to thinning and speeding up of the Pine Island glacier, which passes nearby, but Vaughan said he doubted that it could be affecting other glaciers in western Antarctica, which have also thinned in recent years. Most glaciologists, including Vaughan, say that warmer ocean water is the primary cause of thinning.

Hat tip to the Mad Pigeon and Blue Crab Boulevard on this one.

Just a few comments on the events of the past couple of days…

Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

I have today off, and tried to put it to good use. Going to the gym, playing nursemaid to my sick wife, cleaning up the blog. But regardless, there is a reason for this holiday – Civil Rights.

Unfortunately, Civil Rights is being confused with Diversity. Rather than go into a long dissertation, I would like to quote from an earlier post:

Government sponsored quotas & regulations will not change people’s attitudes toward diversity. All these will do is promote division, dissension, and resentment. I have noticed in recent years an increase of these attitudes. This is NOT what Martin Luther King had in mind.

His vision looked for the Negro people to stand side by side with the White people as equals, and to get there by self-sufficiency, not by a government mandate. He wanted his people to rise up to their potential, to stand on their own two feet, not by some law or subsidy. Patronage of the Negro was not his vision, but to join the human race as equals to any other ethnic group, to enjoy the fruits of hard labor through equal opportunity, and not through quotas…

Diversity is for everyone, not just for one group of people, and is to have people look and treat each other with respect and civility. Civil Rights is the legal position that everyone is to be treated equally under the law.

New England Patriots & New York Giants in Superbowl

In two weeks, these teams will meet in the next Superbowl. I’m leaning toward the Patriots to win and complete a perfect season, but I think the Giants will put up a good fight & make it interesting. The Colts didn’t make it this year, but at least there will be a Manning in the big show. I hope the commercials will be good…

Blog Comments & Links

The comments from Tom’s Common Sense have been moved over to this blog from the Haloscan database (although they are messy), and the internal links have been fixed. I’m not sure if or when the comments will be cleaned up (Gravitar notes, non-working Homepage) on this blog or not, which leads to…

Possibility of Moving the Blog (Again!!)

I’m seriously considering moving the blog to an independent server. Being limited to the standard WordPress themes just doesn’t give me the ability to change things around to the way I would like to present the blog. Thus, some exploring is being done.

At the moment, I have a test blog (which may be the place) set up at Tom’s Place. I’m experimenting, so the site will change from time to time as I try things out. And yes, some of the themes that I’m trying look a lot like the Common Sense blog. Please stop by on occasion & let me know what you think, and if you can connect to the site.

On the way to work this morning, I heard this on the radio. Excerpts from the Detroit News:

General Motors Corp. will roll out retirement incentives to nearly two-thirds of its 72,000 hourly workers and may have to further cut U.S. production in 2008, which could mean eliminating shifts or closing plants, the company announced Thursday.

It was unclear how many workers GM hopes to clear out, but CEO Rick Wagoner said 46,000 blue-collar workers will get incentives to retire, setting the stage for another dramatic reduction to GM’s work force. More than 5,000 workers received offers earlier this month. The second phase of the buyouts will be rolled out in February.

Wagoner told Wall Street analysts gathered at a Dearborn conference that even after those workers are gone, anemic U.S. auto sales may force cuts at assembly, powertrain and stamping plants throughout the country.

U.S. industry sales are 1 million lower than when GM crafted its 2005 turnaround plan that called for closing 12 factories. GM later added another plant, in Massena, N.Y., to the closing list. With all but a few of those plants now closed, GM still has too much factory capacity given the demand for its cars and trucks.

Gettelfinger said plant closings are not under discussion. “We’ve gotten the strongest plant commitments we ever had and we intend to enforce those,” he said.

GM, as part of the UAW contract, promised to keep products flowing to dozens of U.S. factories for years to come, but the job guarantees are contingent upon having enough consumer demand for cars and trucks. The deal also doesn’t restrict GM from cutting shifts or reducing the line speed at factories.

By the end of 2012, Wagoner said he wants to cut structural costs as a percentage of revenue to 23 percent from 34 percent in 2005.

Of course, the UAW is crying “FOUL!!” But you know, read the contract that was signed and ratified by the membership, and you had to know that this had to be coming.

Cutting costs is necessary, but cutting too deep is dangerous.  What seems to be the short term solution to a cash crunch and bad decisions is to sharpen and swing the ax, but it seems that the worker and not the managers making the bad decisions are the ones typically bearing the brunt of the cuts.

Yes, I know that deadwood would need to be cut from the corporate tree for the tree to continue growing. But cut too much, and the tree will die.  Cut in the wrong place, and the result is the same.  Is this going to be too much? Only time will tell.

I know that there are rumors that there is going to be another round of retirement packages at my work even before the above announcement was made by “that” company down the road. But nothing has been confirmed nor denied by my management.

What this does do is land another blow on the already shaky Michigan economy. Michigan (and the auto companies) certainly didn’t need this news, especially on the week right before the North American International Auto Show. All this just makes you think that GM is all show but no substance. If anything, the timing couldn’t be worse for GM for an announcement of this nature.

The Michigan Primary did nothing but muddle the front runners of the Republican Party. And in some respects, that seems to sum up the candidates thus far in this silly season.

Romney finally got his first place with McCain in second. Huckabee in third, and everyone else far down the line. And none of the candidates really seem to have what it takes for a decisive primary for that needed knock-out blow.

For the Democrats of Michigan, they certainly didn’t have much of a choice, and they certainly are not going to get a voice in their own party’s selection of a Presidential candidate. HRC was the only candidate on the ballot – and the DNC is probably going to pull Michigan’s delegates because the Michigan Democratic Party pushed the Primary date ahead without the blessing of the DNC. But even then, HRC didn’t have a great showing even running unopposed. From RealClearPolitics.com:

As for the Democratic side – the big story is Hillary Clinton losing the African American vote to “uncommitted.” The exit poll pegged African Americans going against Clinton, 68% to 30%. It appears that opposition by African Americans induced a split in Wayne County (where Detroit is), 50% to Hillary, 45% to uncommitted.

Next is South Carolina and Florida where Fred Thompson is expected to make his last stand with a strong showing.  HRC, Obama, and Edwards are going to do battle in these Southern states, and Edwards should(?) have a stronger showing.  Will this happen? Who knows? Hint – Pay no attention to the Pollster behind the curtain – they don’t know a damn thing.  Just send in the clowns…never mind…they’re here…

There are many pundits, experts, and politicians bemoaning the demise of the heavy industry of this country. There are many reasons for this, but here are a few on my short list.

Fair Trade or Free Trade?

There is no such thing. NAFTA did this country a huge disservice. Many companies relocated factories to Mexico (which then moved to China). With China as a most favored nation to trade with, the pressure is even higher on US industry to make products faster and cheaper. The only recent chink in China is lead paint used in toys. But this is most likely the tip of this iceberg.

Subsidization of Industry

What country does not subsidize its industry? The United States, which believes in free market. Just about every other country subsidizes or otherwise supports the industry of that country. Of course, their population usually pays higher taxes…

Lower Labor Costs

Much has been made about lower labor costs in other countries. When there is a lower standard of living, what else would you expect? Live in a rat hole with almost nothing to eat, $5 a day buys a feast for the family, and you get the picture. Of course, a certain amount of corporate greed is involved, but that is a whole different subject (or is it?)

Corporate Greed

There, I’ve said it. Long term planning of today’s corporate world is anywhere from 2 or 3 years in the future. The quick buck to satisfy an ever impatient stockholder (and corporate bonuses) is an overwhelming mandate of the corporate executive.

Differing Standards

I saw the below video, and was reminded of an incident from several years ago.

The company I worked for at the time built two machines for a Korean automotive company. They came in to the plant to buy off the machines, took one look at the equipment, and told us that they wanted us to take the safety guards off. Of course, we told them “no,” stating that the guards were for the safety of the operators. They replied, “We have many operators.”

Let us also not forget the differences in environmental standards & regulations that industries in foreign countries do not have to worry about. Here, in the United States, everyone from Aunt Martha, the EPA, and the Sierra Club have to sign off that undue numbers of earthworms wont be displaced by the building of a new plant.

An Indifferent Government

I have noticed that every election cycle the political parties court the labor vote. The rest of the time the politicians ignore or screw over the unions and the citizens of this country. And like idiots, we do not hold the politicians accountable for such self-destructive actions that undermine the security of this country. It is no longer America First, but me first.

A Biased Media

I’ve have also noticed that the media of this country has gone out of its way to portray the United States as inferior to the rest of the world. We are to blame for the ills of the world. And by the way, foreign made products are cheaper and just as well made as domestic made goods.

The Squeezed Consumer

The consumer, buying into the hype and needing to stretch the family finances, will buy the cheaper goods, especially if the products get good ratings. Pity…but then, look at how many goods, products, and components are made in foreign countries. Computers to sneakers to cars to clothing are made in foreign countries from China to Malaysia to Taiwan.

Hostile Countries

It doesn’t matter what country calls itself our ally, that country will put itself first. Economic warfare is bloodless, but no less effective. Dumping of cheap steel on this country killed the steel industry. Japan dumping cars at a loss to the consumer leveraged market share in the 1980s, and continues to this day. The economic fallout is tremendous, and cuts into the capabilities of this country to manufacture goods without reliance on foreign sources.

“But it’s a Global Economy!”

Yes, it is, but you don’t have to cut your own country’s throat to compete.

All I’m looking for is for our government to act on the behalf of this country and this country only. To many of the other countries of the world, the United States is a source of foreign aid, and there is little or no allegiance. We are also the apparent defacto policeman of the world – if someone gets in trouble, they don’t call the UN, they call the US. This country cannot afford to ignore the economic reality of industries relocating offshore. Yes, it may be attractive in the short run, but devastating in the long run.

Given that the Polls called for HRC to ride to a close victory in Iowa and the reality is that she finished third, does anyone believe polls? I don’t.

Polls are opinions – period. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that opinions change, and that polling questions can be slanted to get the answer the pollster wants. Which is where the media excels at…

The Media, up to Iowa, has been trying to elect HRC long before any other Democratic candidate. Except that HRC keeps shooting herself in the foot with her own stupidity and non-committal statements on issues. People are not fooled (except those that have partaken of the Clinton-branded Kool-Aid).

Now there is a chink in the Clinton machine where there is a very real possibility that someone else can earn the Democratic nomination for President. I believe that the politics are going to turn very ugly after the New Hampshire Primary. If it is close like the pundits are calling, or if Obama stomps all over HRC like Iowa, look out!! HRC’s campaign will pull out all the stops and go negative on everyone.

Obama, to his credit, has been running a remarkably clean campaign. One does wonder if he has the political will to fight the eventual Clinton-lead firestorm with one of his own. Personally, I would like to see him stay clean and show the world that an HRC lead White House will be nothing more than the same drama as when Bill was there.

But even then, can the Democrats pull it all together for the remaining primaries? As long as HRC remains a divisive factor, I don’t think so. If anything, they are on the verge of self-destruction.

Iowa was also a surprise for the Republicans. Huckabee won big, Guiliani tanked, and who knows where this is going to go from here.

The reality is that I’m not impressed with any of the candidates this election cycle, Democratic or Republican. While I’m leaning toward the Republican side of the ticket, none of the candidates really thrill me – each of them has their pluses, but their minuses turn me off. And the polls are all over the place on a daily basis.

And yet we the voters, while we should have the choice of the best and the brightest to lead us, don’t. I see that we have people that are spending millions of dollars campaigning for a job that pays $400,000 a year. Where is the financial sense in that, and if the politicians are crazy enough to spend all that money to get elected, are they going to do to spend your tax dollars in a responsible manner? Not likely.

Besides, I somewhat feel held hostage to the two main political parties. For instance, primaries are for the political parties to select their best candidate. And yet we the people subsidize this effort. After all, it’s state government workers of each party manning the voting machinery. But nowhere is there a primary for a third, fourth, or fifth party. Yes, there are the usual candidates for the Green and Libertarian parties, but no one ever seems to hear about them or their stance on the issues. And even then, they are often portrayed as being nut-job wackos by the Media.

A few quotes from The Quotations Page:

Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. – Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914)

When the political columnists say ‘Every thinking man’ they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to ‘Every intelligent voter’ they mean everybody who is going to vote for them. – Franklin P. Adams (1881 – 1960)

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. – John Kenneth Galbraith (1908 – 2006)

The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’, meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’, meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’. – Larry Hardiman

The problem with political jokes is they get elected. – Henry Cate VII

Most people assume the fights are going to be the left versus the right, but it always is the reasonable versus the jerks. – Jimmy Wales

No, I don’t trust the politicians to have the general population’s best interests at heart. They’re in it for themselves and whoever will support them. After all –

…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.

My wife won first place in an Olympic Weightlifting competition!!

This was her second match (the first was back in October), and she did very well, securing a gold medal for her age and weight class.

I didn’t participate in this one – injuries again. Damn bursitis… If she gets too far ahead of me, I’ll never catch back up. Oh well…

But I’m proud of her, and happy that she has found a hobby (?) that she finds rewarding in more ways than one.