Friday, December 12, 2008

2008-12-13 Roundup

I've got 83 Firefox Windows of interesting stuff I need to clear out. So here goes. No, I didn't count the windows. Firefox has an add-in for nearly everything.

I'll start with a huge THANK YOU to Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R). While I'd rather taxpayers not bailout or subsidize or loan money to any private entity and take a risk of losing my tax money what he did manage to do was highlight the absolute fact that the UAW isn't one bit concerned about saving the auto industry. It's only concerned about saving their own benefits. Why their membership continues to believe that they can kill a company and still stay on the payroll is beyond me. It's an alternative planet than Planet Reality where workers who've been fired still receive FULL compensation four (4) years after being fired. Fox Business has the video of Sen. Corker explaining why the bailout failed. Those three words were 'a date certain'.

You want a clue about how many chains are on that UAW anchor to free enterprise? Check out this 22 lb, 2,215 page Year 2007 agreement with Ford. Will workman's comp cover you if you throw your back out putting it on the table to read?

The UAW is so upset that they didn't get what they wanted that they've nearly initiated another 'War of Northern Aggression'.

Festering animosity between the United Auto Workers and Southern senators who torpedoed the auto industry bailout bill erupted into full-fledged name calling Friday as union officials accused the lawmakers of trying to break the union on behalf of foreign automakers. AP via Yahoo News
Unfortunately for them, the south of 2008 isn't the south of 1860.

Educational transition
: The Obama's are sending their girls to the very exclusive Sidwell Friends school in the DC area. Ben Cunningham points out that the PTA meetings could be very interesting considering the number of well placed DC insiders with children also attending. I'm wondering if Sunshine Laws might be violated with a group like this. But I won't worry too much about that considering the ever vigilent national press is also very well represented in this parent group. Here's the full Washington Post article.

Further the Obama's will be homeless for their first couple of weeks in DC. Apparently, historic protocol for the incoming presidential family is to stay across the street from the White House at Blair House beginning 5 days before the inauguration. However, the Obama's want to get the girls settled in time for the new school term. They're trying to avoid, I assume, the mobility issues that so many DC students (and students in Nashville) experience when they're homeless. What is curious to me is why they just don't cut out the middle move and ask George and Laura Bush to move out of the White House immediately to accommodate the girl's schooling schedule.

Clarksville is planning ahead...but based on what? From the Cheatham County School Board Watchdog:
"Commissioner Wood and McCannless stated at previous board workshops that due to huge residential developments in Pleasant View there needed to be a NEW high school built. (Interesting enough is that all these new families would only have HS students - don't you think?)"
They also have an on-line poll going on now. If you're in Cheatham County you might want to stop by their blog.

iTunes U: Dr. Tim Webb of the Tennessee Department of Education introduces folks to their Electronic Learning Center.

According to their press release:
"Students currently can access curriculum-based lessons in language arts, and study skills, with math to be added this month. Educators can view training sessions on Tennessee’s new academic standards, School-wide Positive Behavior, reading and other teaching resources. Additional podcasts will be developed and added on an ongoing basis."
Pity they've linked these podcasts to iTunes instead of just linking to the video files and letting folks pick their own media player. There is one that's an 8 minute primer about Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) which parents might appreciate but it took a couple of attempts for it download. And the production is basically a PowerPoint presentation with audio. I would have expected better. Maybe the others are.

Certified ≠ effective: There are several pieces that crossed my browser this week about teacher quality and effectiveness.
"...between 2003 and 2007 students in states with a real alternative pathway to teaching gained more on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a federal standardized test) than did students in other states. (snip)

The study undermines the arguments from colleges of education and teachers unions, which say that traditional certification, which they control, is the only process that can produce quality teachers. The findings hold up even after controlling for race, ethnicity, free-lunch eligibility, class size and per-pupil state spending. (snip)
President-elect Barack Obama has expressed guarded support for education reforms like merit pay and charter schools. Yet he chose Linda Darling-Hammond to head the education policy team for his transition. Ms. Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford, is a union favorite and vocal supporter of traditional certification. She's also been a fierce critic of Teach for America and other successful alternative certification programs.
Via the Wall Street Journal (Hat Tip: Rep. Stacey Campfield)
More from the study authors at the Hoover Institute.

Unfriendly Feds: Ben Cunningham points out how unfriendly the Federal government is toward 'undocumented students'. Seems the State of California will give an illegal immigrant in-state tuition but not legal citizen from, oh, say, Nevada. The Federal Appeals Court has said that has to stop. Documented students are looking for tuition refunds.

Speaking of unfriendly. Councilman Eric Crafton has had a lot of irrational and over the top heat directed his way for initiating a charter amendment in Nashville which would require our city's official business to be done in English. Some have suggested that he should be removed from office. However, they may want to rethink that when he's also sponsoring a change to the Metro Water fees which have prevented some of the very local restaurants that these same Goo Goos insist are essential to the vitality of their neighborhoods (and their community organizing efforts--they gotta meet somewhere). Seems the fees are so huge it's a financial strain on even seasoned restaurateurs and are preventing the next new round hot spots from opening. I don't want citizens footing the bill for these risky endeavors but we don't need to make it impossible to even attempt the effort either. Next hearing on the bill is this Tuesday evening.

Rude Guests: One more comment on this charter amendment. How is it that a Honduran immigrant comes here to escape her own bad government and then demands the right to derail our electoral system? CM Crafton has this absolutely right:
She alleges this would be hard for her to communicate, yet she knows enough about our constitution that she knows what unconstitutional is. She knows enough she can hire an attorney and file a complaint.” via City Paper
I'm of the mind she was actually a recruited pawn however, it's galling that any non-citizen should have any standing to keep legal citizens from voting on any issue. If she truly wants to reform any political system---she and her recruiters should start with the Honduran one. This isn't a battle about English, this is a battle against our republican form of government by folks who would rather we submit to rules and regs by unelected officials rather than the vote of the people.

BlagObama: Does anyone seriously believe that Illinois Governor Blagojevich didn't ask his outgoing Senator Barack Obama if he had an opinion on who should replace him? No. Most of us would consider it a dereliction of duty if Blagojevich didn't ask or Obama didn't suggest. The sin isn't in the asking or suggesting. It's in offering it to the highest bidder.

Tennessee makes another Pork Report. This time Sen. Tom Coburn reveals it (page 22) not the TCPR. Apparently, there's an airplane shaped gas station in Knoxville---
It is an airplane that cannot fly and a gas station that has not pumped gas for nearly half a century, but the Powell Airplane Filling Station has just landed a $9,000 federal grant.(95) It is an old airplane‐shaped building that once served as a gas station, liquor store and used car lot, though is now an eyesore on the side of a busy highway. A few local residents have rallied around the old filling station in hopes of turning the tiny airplane into leased office space. Tom Milligan, who has been instrumental in the effort, said, “I was coming up through here one day and I seen they had two bulldozers on the front and I thought they was fixin' to wreck the place. [I] knew we were going to have to have quite a lot of money to fix it.”(96) Rock Bernard, another local resident, added, “If you ask 100 people in Knoxville, I bet 80 will know where it's at.”(97)
I think the $9,000 would have been better spent on grammar lessons. Apparently, Matthew Lesko is right---you can get government money for just about anything. Better yet, gents, use your own money.

Last minute Christmas Shopping at Terry Frank's place. If you truly want to shop local and green check out her one of a kind 'Tennessee Treasures' gift ideas. My favorite is this 'Flip Your Lid'.

I'm down to just 67 tabs and there are cookies to be baked. More later.


N.S. Allen said...

Okay, I officially despise Bob Corker.

I mean, I'm not surprised by the fact that he's staunchly anti-union. That's upsetting, especially since I almost certainly owe my family's financial stability and my past and present education to my father having a good, union job, but it's not shocking.

I'm not even that horrified by the fact that Sen. Corker would let his ire for unions extend into a crisis as serious as this one. Anyone who thinks that any of the Big Three can go into bankruptcy without huge, economic repercussions is ideologically and politically blindfolded, but I sort of expect that from senators from TN.

What's utterly reprehensible, though, are the falsehoods and distortions that Corker and his allies are spreading about the UAW. Not only were they already planning to spin this as the union's fault before negotiations broke down, but the over-inflated estimates of UAW benefits are out-dated and misleading to begin with, not accounting for recent changes to UAW's contract and to the Big Three's vast employee base.

You just have to look at what happened during the actual negotiations - the union effectively offered just about everything the Republicans wanted, to take effect when their contract was set to be renegotiated - to see that Corker's plan was never about saving the Big Three. It was about extorting so much from people who didn't want to lose their jobs that the union effectively wouldn't exist anymore - and, if that failed, to use it as a political bludgeon against Democrats.

Given the whole vast economic crisis thing going on, that's way past politically scummy. Really, there are only two possibilities. Either Corker's playing crass, political chicken with our nation's economy for the sake of some cheap points at the expense of American workers, or he really thinks that the Big Three can fail without horrible results for our nation as a whole.

In either case, he's not worthy to come within ten inches of a Senate seat.

Kay Brooks said...

I'm sure your father is very proud of you.

"When their contract was set to be renegotiated" in 2011. That's that 'date certain part' that the UAW wouldn't' agree to. Maybe it'd be 2011 or maybe it would take another year to negotiate. In the meantime these companies could go belly up with taxpayers on the hook for a HUGE amount of cash.

Yup, huge economic repercussions are the natural result of living beyond your means and being greedy. It's time to suck it up. Adding more debt and risky investments isn't going to solve the problem.

Additionally how dare anyone who is receiving 4 years of full compensation for not working demand I fork over one dime of our family's budget for their welfare.

N.S. Allen said...

1. If UAW insisted that all concessions be made part of the contract renegotiation process itself, everyone's mis-reporting the issue, at least as far as I can see. All the media reports that I've seen say something like this: the union " push any concessions back to 2011, when UAW's the contract...expires."

There's a big difference in saying that concessions will take effect when a new contract is negotiated and saying that they'll take effect when the present contract expires. The latter is a fixed date - it's just not the certain date that Corker insisted upon. (If the former is the case, I can't find a legitimate media source that reports it as such.)

Now, we can debate the merits of '09 vs. '11, just as we can debate the merits of the union's concessions themselves. But, ultimately, all the union asked for was for its present contract to be honored. Corker refused to make that small compromise. That's not good policy; that's a stubborn refusal to actually negotiate.

Also, even if the concessions were to go along with the new contract, rather than the end of the old, there's no reason to believe that the UAW wouldn't rush to get the new one set up. They've already opened the contract up early for concessions, and they'd already agreed to the cuts Corker wanted. Given that the survival of all their jobs would depend on them following through, what incentive would they have to then stall on the new contract? Absolutely none.

(And, as a result of Corker's "negotiations," we've probably gotten the worst of all possible worlds - a bailout that will be doled out by the feds, rather than set up by the legislature. The odds are that no one will be happy with that.)

2. As far as the "living beyond our means" bit - this isn't a question of just making the economic "villains" of the current crisis suffer. If we let the Big Three fail, companies that depend on them will, in turn, collapse, causing a ripple effect of unemployment and deepened recession. That, in turn, would result in more corporations failing, which would repeat the cycle - eventually, across the globe.

We're not bailing out the Big Three because they deserve it. We're not even bailing them out because their workers are important to us. We're doing it because, if we don't, we're looking at a global, economic depression. Not a few people sucking it up - a lot of people starving.

And, in fact, just preventing the Three's failure from taking place during the current recession would be of great benefit, even if they are later forced to drastically change or file bankruptcy.

3. You know, you're right. It's not fair at all that your dimes might go towards a bailout that you didn't help necessitate. Really, the vast majority of things that our government spends money on are unfair to someone, and they could all get up in arms and ask the government how it could dare spend their dimes like that. Sometimes, I'm sure, they'd be in the right.

This isn't one of those times. Again, we're talking about the stability of the global economy, here. It's more important than your dimes or your outrage. And the odds are very, very good that, if we don't have a bailout, you'll be seeing your dimes draining away fruitlessly, instead of being spent for the sake of our nation's security.

Personally, I'd be willing to cope with a little - or a lot - of unfairness, to avoid that.

Kay Brooks said...

"But, ultimately, all the union asked for was for its present contract to be honored."

You don't get it do you? The big three are financially unable to honor the contracts they made with the UAW. You can't get blood out of a turnip. The UAW and the car makers are responsible for making bad decisions that are causing them to go out of business.

Yes, I understand this means it will impact other people and their jobs--from other manufacturers to the Quickie-Mart around the corner.

I maintain it's better to take this financial hit NOW rather than later when it will only be worse. Unemployment is just 7% or so. During The Great Depression it was 25%.

I also realize that what is most likely happen is someone with cash will acquire the assets of these companies and will turn around and start making cars...cheaper cars that the rest of us might be able to afford if our tax money isn't being confiscated to prop up folks who can get away with being unproductive for 4!!! years.

Therine said...

Kay Brooks telling someone they don't get it? Ah, the irony...

Seriously, N.S., I don't know why you bother trying to debate here. I mean, if you enjoy it, then by all means, go for it. But it seems to me about as productive as banging one's head against a wall.

Ms. Brooks, I read your blog because I find it incredibly amusing. What I don't find so amusing is that N.S. consistently produces well-thought out, articulate arguments, and you insist upon treating him with contempt. I don't know if you choose to over-simplify his points or simply fail to understand them, but honestly, it's not helping your case at all. It's you who "doesn't get it", not him.

Eric said...

"It was about extorting so much from people..."

Indeed it was. Extorting from the American taxpayer.

I have owned American cars for almost 25 years (and still own two of them). I have paid the 67% markup on dealer parts. I have even occasionally paid the $80/hour dealer labor rate for some repair work I can't perform myself. I have dealt with the frustration of "discontinued" parts on an 8-year old vehicle. I also have pointed out to foreign car-owning friends that the foreign dealers too have a long row of repair bays full of broken, malfunctioning, "high quality" imports - just like everyone else.

The reality is that your family's financial stability and education are owed to end-user customers like me. If we don't buy cars and parts, it really doesn't matter if you make them or not. UAW workers have exorbitant benefits (and in some cases salaries) that no one else in private industry has. The rest of the working world (except government employees) have done without those benefits in order to stay in business. Now the UAW expects taxpayers (customers) to do with even less so they can continue with their lavish benefits. No thanks. I have paid for enough of those UAW benefits as a customer. At least I received something in return in the past in the form of an automobile or repair parts. This is just theft.

Sen. Corker represents Tennesseans. Not Ohio or Michigan UAW. For once, he actually acted like it.

Kay Brooks said...

If NS feels I'm treating him with contempt, he'll get my sincere apology. I never intended contempt.

As to his well thought out and articulate posts...well, obviously you're a supporter of him and his viewpoints. I'm a busy mom with a 'get to the point' attitude and life experience that tells me an abundance of words in well crafted language should be viewed warily. Life is rarely that complicated.

Regardless, I'm glad you find my little blog amusing. Keep reading. I financially benefit from the page views and since we don't have good union jobs here that will pay for 4 years of nonproductivity...I have to keep the posts and views coming.

Kay Brooks said...

You're are right, Eric. It's theft.

This industry---and the others---must survive or fail on their merits. Not because they've financially lined the pockets of politicians. I never intended my tax dollars to by the mortgage or auto industry. Like you said, Eric, we already paid by buying the car and repair parts.

Throw in the tremendous loss in people's retirement funds because these businesses and politicians didn't consider the long term implications of living within their means and you've got theft upon theft.

We're in for a bumpy ride, to quote Bette Davis, but I'd rather ride it out now than let it continue to compound and become a roller coaster.