Saturday, October 29, 2005

Detroit Mayor's Race turns ugly

I'm surprised it took this long. In this week's Michigan Chronicle there was a full page ad by "Citizens for responsible government" decrying the media "Lynching" of Detroit Mayor Kwame Fitzpatrick by the white suburban press and their puppet, challenger (and front runner) Freeman Hendrix.
The sorry thing is that race baiting has been a staple of Detroit politics since the 70's. Coleman Young had a lengthy track record of this - ranting about how the whites should get out of Detroit and the how the suburbs are out to "get" him, etc. Kwame is hoping these old tricks will help him on a last minute, desperate attempt to not be the first incumbent to lose a Detroit mayoralty race in a long, long, time.
Will it distract voters from Kwame's dismal record as mayor, which highlighted a near bankrupt city, a declining population, crumbling infrastructure, rumours of featherbedding and inappropriate behaviour, and a general hostility to the press? The root of Detroit's problems can be seen as it is ranked the most Liberal city in America? This is what happens to a city where the most liberal of liberals have been ruling unfettered for forty years.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Delphi - This is going to get ugly soon

Based on the initial offer by Delphi (link above) - this is going to be an ugly Christmas here in Southeast Michigan. For now, I am going to assume that this is an opening position and that a settlement will be made before a strike happens.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The wierd stories keep on comoing

Hat tip to the Corner:

Man costumed as feces has case in court to settle

Canadian PressOct. 18, 2005 07:35 AM

VICTORIA, Canada - Mr. Floatie - a brown, smiling lump of feces - will have to take a break from his environmental concerns Tuesday as he heads to British Columbia Supreme Court. The costumed crusader for sewage treatment is being challenged by the city of Victoria because of his nomination as a candidate for the position of mayor in the upcoming municipal election. Mr. Floatie is a high-profile and tireless reminder of Victoria's practice of pumping raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The man inside the costume, James Skwarok, says the city appears to be taking issue with his candidacy because only real persons can run. It's an objection he finds moot. "Of course I'm not a real person, I'm a big piece of poop." The move by the city to keep Mr. Floatie off the throne of power has left him "beyond bummed out. I was fuming." Robert Woodland, Victoria administrator, says the law governing municipal elections clearly states that only people can run for a position. And they must do so under their real name. Woodland says he can personally attest that Mr. Floatie is not a real person. "He is a costume character."
if(ScriptsLoaded) stInit();

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mary Jo Kophechne Could Not Be Reached For Comment

Tell me this story does not warrant a comment or two. HT the Corner:

Sen. Edward Kennedy Helps Rescue Fishermen
The Associated PressMonday, October 17, 2005; 2:24 AM
HYANNIS, Mass. -- U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy attempted to rescue six men who had become trapped by high tide on a jetty off Hyannisport on Sunday. The Massachusetts Democrat eventually left the rescue to Hyannis firefighters, The Cape Cod Times reported Monday.

Kennedy was walking his two dogs on the shore at 11:15 a.m. when he spotted the men cut off from shore by the rising waters. They had been fishing on a jetty that begins at the tip of the Kennedy compound. Tides had risen over the patchy rocks, which made it difficult to walk back to shore. Kennedy and a friend tried to rescue the men using a 13-foot boat but rough waters forced them back. A crew from the Hyannis Fire Department picked them up. The men, in their 20s, were not identified. They were brought to Cape Cod Hospital with mild hypothermia

Monday, October 17, 2005

Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, and Iraq today.

I had a long conversation with a good friend of mine about the parallels between the formation of modern Turkey with what is going on in Iraq. He points out his skepticism and brings up the following observation: In the first years of the Turkey, auditors banned religious headgear (i.e. the Fez). This symbollic move, though pointless to a westerner with a classical liberal outlook, was a tipping point in turning Turkey from a sectarian to a secular civic society. He wishes to see some sort of action by the new Iraqi federal government, which would emphasize the secular authority of the state over the sectarian traditions that linger in that society. Such a move, in his opinion, would undermine the rule of the secular government over the religious factions that have traditionally dominated the country.
I am starting to understand his observation of the parallels between the founding of modern Turkey and the efforts to form a federalist Iraq. Though I'm much more sanguine than my friend on this. It has led me to seek out histories of the formation of Turkey and see what lies in store in Mesopotamia.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More on Delphi - U.S. Auto industry

Detroit Diesel has started to do what Delphi tried to do - increase the contribution from retirees for their health care costs. This is going to go through the industry, and is a necessity for the American auto industry to survive, as the current model is untenable.

This is what happens when you try to project life expectancy, investment returns, health care costs, and interest rates and further than a few years. Defined benefits as we know it are dead. Deal with it.
I see a lot of people complaining about this. How Delphi, GM and all that are breaking their 'promises' to the retirees. First - if you actually believed that these companies would keep their promise, given the history of labour-management relations in this country - you were a fool. The kind of fool who believes that a 20 year old will actually get a social security cheque. Second, if you didn't save any money, and pissed it all away on cars, boats, cottages, well... sorry, you should have thought better. Those of us who are not unionized have to save for our own retirement and pay for our own health care. The alternatives are pay out of pocket or get nothing when the plans go insolvent.

Delphi in Chapter 11

This is getting ugly here. Delphi, the former parts arm for General Motors which was spun off into it's own publically traded company, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This is going to have a large impact on the economy here. First, there are hundreds of smaller parts manufacturers that provide parts for Delphi. Many of them have not been paid in months.

Delphi has long had troubles well before it become as separate company. It had large inflexible unionized workforce, excessively generous benefits, and long-term contracts that handcuffed the company. Add to this rising steel and fuel costs, and a teetering auto industry, and it was the tipping point. Delphi tried to extract consessions from the UAW over retiree benefits, but when the UAW balked, they carried through on their threat and went into bankruptcy.

What is happening at Delphi will be happening at GM soon. The conventional wisdom is that $1,500 of the cost of every GM vehicle goes to covering their health care costs. The problem is that unionized employees and retirees have no co-pay to speak of (unionized employees and retirees pay 7% of their costs, while management pays 27%). With more and more retirees living longer and longer, it is no wonder that the big three are bleeding red ink.

A lot of this was inevitable, and has been brewing for 30 years. Excessively generous labour agreements from the 60's and 70's, when the big three had 90% market share have finally started to impact the company. GM's debt is BB- (anything BBB and above is 'investment grade' while anything below is 'junk'), while Toyota's debt is rated AAA. This is a testament to years of mismanagement.

There is going to be a brawl with the UAW over this, and the other auto makers and suppliers are going to follow suit, as they are in survival mode.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Quote of the Day

"To ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow... For society does not control crime, ever, by forcing the law-abiding to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of criminals. Society controls crime by forcing the criminals to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of the law-abiding." —Jeff Snyder

Friday, October 07, 2005

My solution for Detroit's economic future

Considering we're having a mayoral election in Detroit here between a competent and an incomptent crook. So in light of Katrina, and the troubles facing the auto industry here in the Motor city, here is my recipie for economic development:

  1. As hurricane Katrina illustrated - the U.S. is running perpetually at full refining capacity. There has not been a new refinery built in the U.S. in over 25 years. This has primarily been due to environmental regulations and NIMBY activists.
  2. Katrina showed what happens when a small portion of that capacity is even temporarily taken offline, in terms of $3/gallon gas.
  3. $3/gallon gas is killing the big three, whose profits are derived from larger vehicles with poorer gas mileage. They are at a competitive disadvantage in the smaller, more fuel efficient care segment.
  4. Detroit is dependent on the big three for it's economic survival, and thus $3/gallon gas is not in the interests of Detroit.
  5. Detroit has large segments of its city with abandoned manufacturing properties, which are enviornmentally damaged.
  6. Detroit should use these lands and actively promote the construction of refineries within its boundries. This would utilize land already environmentally damaged, thus not making things worse. It would bring investment dollars for construction and infrastructure of the refineries, create jobs and tax revenues for the city, and help lower the price of gasoline, which helps the industrial base in Detroit.
  7. This is also feasible location wise - if Sarnia, 40 miles up the river is the hub of refinery capacity for Ontario, why can't Detroit be the refninery hub for the rust belt?

I am suprised that neither Kwame Fitzpatrick or Freeman Hendrix have latched on to this idea. If the next mayor of Detroit becomes a champion of such a plan - it is a political and economic winner. Jobs, economic development, and helping the largest employers in the city... whowoulddathunk???

Bankruptcy rule changes - an illustrative example

This story from the Detroit Free Press is a fine illustration of why bankruptcy reform is needed. This passage show why people are making last minute filings to avoid the new rules:

Short has more than $20,000 in credit card and other debt. She has a $700-a-month payment on a 2004 Cadillac Escalade. "I just can't do it on my income," she said.
She once worked as a blackjack dealer at a casino, but she left that job when her grandmother got sick. She does some child care, but is looking for a better-paying job.
"It's hard to find a job. I'm looking, though, really hard." Short has about $38,000 a year in income, including Social Security and a pension. Her husband was a Detroit police officer who was shot and killed while off-duty in 1994. Benjamin Short, 29, an undercover narcotics officer and a seven-year employee of the department, was gunned down in a lounge, caught in the cross fire during an argument of which he was not a part.
How did LaVita Short come up with the $600 needed up front for an attorney?
"I'm not paying my truck note -- I'm desperate," she said.
Short said she already has faced a foreclosure on her Southfield home, where she couldn't afford the $1,600-a-month mortgage payment.

Well there is not much sympathy from me on this. I understand the bad luck in her life, but c'mon - if you can't afford the mortgage - you go out and get the Escalade!?!!?! I have no symapthy for GMAC for making such a stupid loan. More of this is going to happen, but I think that the rule changes, that will affix some degree on individuals for the poor credit decisions they make, are really needed.

Finally! A real choice

Read the election platform for the Freedom Party of Ontario. Wow! I am impressed. Now there is a real alternative to the socialists (NDP), criminal socialists (Liberals), and socialist lite (PCs). A real libertarian alternative.

Thanks to my friends at the Londong Fog for the info!