Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cars, karma and dogma

As the world waits for the rise (or more likely fall) of U.S. automotive manufacturing, Michiganders need a dose of healing and humor. Many Michiganders see their fates as terminally linked to fortunes of the Big Three and practically speaking, they are right. Working families and retirees depend on the Big Three for income and health care. Yet, these two necessities seem privileges in a time of recession, mass layoffs, soaring personal bankruptcies, rising home foreclosures and pervasive economic constriction.

When the wolf is at the door, laugh in his face, flip him off, and move on.

Products from the New Age industry can offer healing and humor. A word of caution and a disclaimer: some consider these serious modalities powerful medicine. Our Michigan does not endorse or guarantee results from any New Age healing methods.

"Are you ready to live an ABUNDANT life?" asks the advert. 'Well, shit yes," you might think. I've been laid off, am behind on my bills and eat Kraft dinner five nights a week, left-over Kraft dinner the other two. Maybe you need an "abundance coach" -- someone who can help you clear karma and limiting beliefs to get back on track with your true purpose.

Limiting beliefs are nasty little snares that trap us in the past or an illusion of powerlessness. Limiting belief number one in Michigan: Michigan's purpose is to manifest a twentieth-century automotive sector in the twenty-first century. While it is true that the current global economic crisis has doomed the Big Three, they created their own reality with wasteful designs, planned obsolescence, overproduction and finally outsourcing. They must change or die.

Limiting belief number two: you personally are responsible for remaining loyal to the Big Three even if it means short changing yourself and your family. You don't have to stay on the ship as it sinks. That's the CEO's job; he’s getting paid huge bonuses to stay aboard. You are not.

Limiting belief number three: Michigan can only thrive with the Big Three intact. There was a time Michigan teemed with lumberjacks. Situations change. You can, too, Michigan.

But if your abundance coach fails to lift you out of the pit, how about trying Divine Intervention Healing. Not just limited to the saints of old, you too can experience spontaneous remission, where the impossible becomes possible. Let’s see...the impossible: General Motors and Ford reinstate generous health care benefits for retirees, consumers have enough money to buy cars and the Big Three commit to a green future.

If that fails, how about consulting with a spirit medium for direct guidance from deceased loved ones or angels and guides? You probably won’t do any worse than recent guidance from your financial advisor and you might find out where Grandma hid the key to the safe deposit box.

In the end maybe you are looking for something more tangible... like a high colonic – an empowering change from the usual because you take it in the behind on your own terms for the sake of purging, cleansing and a refreshing lightness of being.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Prime Minister Gordon Brown against saving Big Three

I'm an anglophile, but Gordon Brown is testing my patience. Give me liberal doses of Monty Python, Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, Yorkshire pudding, paneer makhani, C.S. Lewis, the Rolling Stones, William Byrd, Beowulf, Peter Rabbit, cockles and mussels. But please spare me the advice to let the U.S. auto industry crumble.

At the G20 Summit yesterday British Prime Minster Gordon Brown described bailing out the U.S. auto industry as akin to 1930s style protectionism. Brown said, "The dividing line here is between an open society capable of trading round the world, against a protectionist response that happened in the 1930s and is totally unacceptable."

That's a whopper of an either/or. Either we're an open society presumably like Britain (hey what about all those cameras around London?) or we are stupid protectionists (pitching tea overboard). Has he trotted that past the Chinese, renowned for skewed trade practices, currency manipulation and government subsidized manufacturing? Probably not. Maybe he's just jealous that the United States still has a car industry to protect, while Britain does not...think Jaguar and Land Rover.

In fact, Mr. Brown champions extensive global management, regulation and oversight of finance. He would like to expand the IMF's role in the care and feeding of Mammon. According to the Times, "He wants the IMF to create a council of experts to monitor the markets for danger signs — his much-vaunted early-warning system — and the IMF’s coffers to be boosted by cash-rich states such as Saudi Arabia and China. He is also calling for a clean-up of the banking system, including a network of regulators to scrutinise the world’s biggest banks. "

But who minds the minders and what's Brown willing to trade away to get China and Saudi Arabia to ante up?

Friday, November 14, 2008

GOP to slay auto industry in bid to kill labor unions

Chances dwindle on bailout plan for automakers. So shrieks today's New York Times. Obstructionist Republican forces in Congress, even in this lame duck session, plan to sacrifice heavy manufacturing in the United States to make a point. Think of it as Republican tough love -- destroy manufacturing (and the village it sustains) to save it.

Those big, bad auto companies have only themselves to blame for their predicament, claims Senator Richard Shelby. If they hadn't bent to the demands of unions and the appetites of consumers things would be better for the industry. Shelby wraps it up neat and tidy in a statement, “The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem but their problem.” That is to say, you're on your own, suckers.

It may not be a national problem yet, but if one or all of them go down, it will most certainly become a national problem. Millions of jobs will be lost, devastating entire communities and hurting millions of families and children.

Even if you agree that bowing to consumer-driven SUVmania of the last ten years combined with decades of overly generous compensation for union members weakened automakers' current financial position, it is still lunacy to advocate letting the Big Three go down in flames. These aren't just companies who can't make it, companies with bad business models that deserve to take the consequences of bad decisions. These companies form the core of American manufacturing. The Big Three are in fact thousands of small companies (parts suppliers and related businesses) located across the country employing millions of people.

This manufacturing infrastructure -- the Big Three and the thousands of small companies that supply them located in nearly every state -- can become the foundation of a national green energy economy. And government incentives could move development forward. This could actually be a win-win situation -- a chance for redemption rather than eternal damnation. A critically-ill Big Three could be ready to trade planned obsolescense for sustainability, to see the error of their ways and move ahead into a green future.

But if you are stuck in a punitive paternalism, like the GOP's minions, the only option is total destruction. Sure, that'll teach 'em.

Monday, November 10, 2008

GM no more? No way

Dire news from General Motors late last week...they may run out of cash required to operate early next year. And following that gem, Deutsche Bank torpedoed GM share value by speaking the previously unspeakable. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, "Deutsche Bank said publicly today what many detractors of General Motors Inc. have been thinking for some time — the company is worthless."

Across the blogosphere glib finance types are musing that any company with a failed business plan should not be bailed out. This on the heels of US taxpayers bailing out the failed, paper pushing, speculative financial shadow economy? Puhleeeze.

To spitefully dismantle the Big Three, because they have more value in pieces shed of legacy obligations is stupid, short-sighted and heartless.The auto industry represents the last hope for heavy manufacturing in the United States. This sector could be transformed and retooled to foster new energy and transportation technologies and products.

To posit that automakers are struggling due to a failed business model is also wrong. GM, Ford and Chrysler have spent the last several years implementing brutal restructuring precisely in recognition that their business model needed transforming. What is doing them in today and tomorrow and the next day is the same global credit crisis that plagues all sectors of our economy.

So why then should the Big Three get help? Because they are our best shot at developing a national industrial policy aimed at job creation and the restoration of American manufacturing. They could form the foundation of a new manufacturing sector centered on energy efficiency and green technology. Today's automotive infrastructure was built on the arsenal of democracy that supplied the U.S. during WWII. Tomorrow's green energy economy could be built on today's infrastructure.

This is not a Michigan issue. If the Big Three go down, millions of jobs will be lost across the country in the first year, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

Should one or two or three of the Big Three go down this little recession will become big. This is not a hunch; this is a fact.

So good luck and best wishes to Gov. Granholm as she participates in the Obama Administration transition team. Make us proud, Governor.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes we did, a new voter's landmark day

Jeremy Whiting shares his experience voting in this historic presidential election.

"Yes We Did.

I am an undergraduate student at Wayne State University. Yesterday, I voted for the first time in my life, and what a first time it was. I drove from Detroit back to Ann Arbor, where I am still registered, and stood in a relatively short line before casting my ballot. Although I was only cautiously optimistic, the hope I have seen in the city of Detroit in the past few weeks let me feel a little excited about my vote. (I have to say, I am most definitely an Obama supporter, though I don't consider myself a Democrat.)

Little Obama-Biden signs were sprinkled along most of the on-ramps on I-94, and homemade Obama banners on bedsheets hung from footbridges overhead. High in the late afternoon sky, a sheet of Georgia O'Keefe clouds stretched out, with blue in between. My friend Ben was also in the car, voting for the first time in Ann Arbor, and the two of us couldn't help but be in a good mood. For me it was partially the joy of participating in our government, and partially the banners. I've yet to see any sort of McCain gear that didn't come out of a machine.

Many people in Detroit and the rest of Michigan see Obama as a welcome change. Although he hasn't pandered to auto companies, Detroit and the unions still support him. In my opinion, it's because Barack Obama has been a welcome dose of honesty in a region that needs it badly. Between the Engler/Granholm mess that's been left in Lansing, the Bush-Cheney deception in the White house, and the sad corruption in Detroit city government, Michigan has taken a lot of hits in the honesty department.

Besides that, the fact that those in charge still cling to a car-based economy hurts even more. The Big Three probably won't exist in the way we are used to come next year. We have suffered more than most other states, with one of the worst economies in the nation, something reflected in our biggest city more than anywhere else. So even when Obama came to the city of Detroit early in the election and told the automakers to raise fuel economy without government handouts, Michigan didn't get mad. We all knew Obama was right, and Mitt Romney was wrong. Car jobs aren't coming back. And that was before the economic crap really started hitting the fan.

My polling place, an elementary school, is used by two wards in Ann Arbor. One ward consists of 1960s subdivisions and upper middle class families. The other hugs I-94 and includes co-housing, a sizable African-American community, and some of the only real low-income housing in the city proper. The election workers kept talking about how the lower income ward was voting in record numbers. People who hadn't voted in 20 years but were on the rolls were coming in and when I heard that, I knew they weren't voting for another old white man. I cast my vote with no big issues, no malfunctions, and was on my way back to the D.

When Ben and I got back, we eventually went to a friends' house to watch the results come in. On the way over, even one of the neighborhood bums was talking about the election (albeit after asking for a cigarette).

“Now, I see you all did your duty today, but let me ask you this. Do you really, really, think it's gonna happen?”

We said we hoped so. As he walked with us and talked about bringing the power to the people, I realized that for him, nothing would change no matter who won. But at least if Obama was elected, we would have a president who cared more about telling the people what was really happening than hiding the truth and giving away taxpayer money to corporations. Not to mention, we've been overdue for a black president for a long time.

As the results came in, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of accomplishment. Michigan went for Obama and so did the nation. Standing out on the porch, we could hear fireworks, celebratory gunshots, ecstatic cheers, and the city felt alive. People walking by cheered with us and the liquor store down the street was hopping. Drivers honked as they cruised by.

As we all called friends and family, I knew that I would vote in every election for the rest of my life. Because last night, people who had never voted, and people who hadn't voted in 20 years were the ones who made a difference. If nothing else, the thing I'll remember the most about last night was the feeling of hope I felt watching Obama speak, and the same feeling on the streets of Detroit. Thousands of people flooded them to celebrate, and we were back in the game. Michigan needed this one, and we got it."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Presidential election prediction from University of Illinois

The talented political science and computer science students at the University of Illinois offer their modeling of tomorrow's likely result. Who needs the "media" with its busyness and chatter and compulsion to fill every second of the next 24 hours with punditry and prattle? Not this Illinois alumnae.

Hail to the Orange.

See you at the polls.