August 19, 2019 / by 


Getting Their Kicks: The American-Saudi Go Around Come-Around

Despite a decent amount of negativity roiling around the socio-political scene lately, on a fine Saturday night right here in the ole USA, this gives me a lot of heart somehow:

Then, with a scream of revving engines, it begins: a yellow Corvette and a red Mitsubishi go head to head, racing down the road at terrifying speeds, just inches apart. Shouts go up from the sidelines, and another pair of racers shoot down the road, and another.

This may be the most popular sport of Saudi youth, an obsessive, semilegal competition that dominates weekend nights here.

For Saudi Arabia’s vast and underemployed generation of young people, these reckless night battles are a kind of collective scream of frustration, a rare outlet for exuberance in an ultraconservative country where the sexes are rigorously segregated and most public entertainment is illegal. They are, almost literally, bored out of their minds.

“Why do they do it?” … “Because they have nothing else to do. Because they are empty.”

Despite all the shrieking of teh military-industrial class, the iron curtain fell and the cold war subsided because of information, lifestyle and ethos penetration into the supposed enemy. Thing was, they were not the enemy, they were people just like us. And so the walls came down. The Rolling Stones, Beatles and Beach Boys had as much, if not far more, to do with the victory as military might (not to mention the start of the internet and satellite teevee).

The United States government and tunnel visioned world press were too slow to figure out what was really up the first time, and lo and behold, they are biting off on the same steel fisted bunk again. It is cultural progression that is softening the underbelly of yet another clash of the civilizations. Who’d a thunk it? Who will realize it?

Then the car leaps forward, accelerating furiously, and breaks into a sudden skid, spinning around, nearly colliding with a concrete barrier and leaving thick black marks on the pavement. A stifling smell of burnt rubber hangs in the air.

It is not the bombs. It is La Bamba.

Louisiana Gubernatorial Sitcom

Graphic by Twolf
Graphic by Twolf

I tell you what, those Republicans may not have squat for rational ideas, but they sure have some humor. Heck, it was less than two days ago we were watching Crockett and Tubbs Steele and Boner in "DC Vice". Fear not intrepid viewers, these jokers are bringin da funny all over. Our latest episode involves that wacky character Urkel Jindal, Governor of Louisiana. From Yahoo/Politico:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Friday that he will decline stimulus money specifically targeted at expanding state unemployment insurance coverage, becoming the first state executive to officially refuse any part of the federal government’s payout to states.

In a statement, Jindal, who is slated to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s message to Congress on Tuesday, expressed concern that expanding unemployment insurance coverage would lead to increased unemployment insurance taxes later on.

Wow, the fine folks in Louisiana must find this hilarious since most governors are constantly scrapping to get their states funding they are in dire need of. And, as you may have heard, there are needs in Louisiana, part of Katrina ground central. Too bad they no longer have Dollar Bill Jefferson around to keep that stimulus money on ice.

What the hell though, life must be a hoot in a state run by a guy named Piyush who changed his name to Bobby because he identified with a character on the Brady Bunch. Personally, I don’t get it. He looks like Urkel to me.

[Awesome graphic by Twolf!]

Down On The Border: State Of War In Mexico

Via Laura Rozen comes reference to a chilling piece by Sam Quinones in Foreign Policy on the drug smuggling violence that has escalated to a total state of war rivaling levels in Iraq.

There are so many hot spots for attention these days – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gitmo, not to mention the ops that are being run on US citizens by their own government as a result of the Bush/Cheney decision to gin up a military rationale for surveillance domestically – that it is easy to forget what is going on just across the border. Easy, at least, until you take in Sam Quinones’ tale:

That week in Monterrey, newspapers reported, Mexico clocked 167 drug-related murders. When I lived there, they didn’t have to measure murder by the week. There were only about a thousand drug-related killings annually. The Mexico I returned to in 2008 would end that year with a body count of more than 5,300 dead. That’s almost double the death toll from the year before—and more than all the U.S. troops killed in Iraq since that war began.

But it wasn’t just the amount of killing that shocked me. When I lived in Mexico, the occasional gang member would turn up executed, maybe with duct-taped hands, rolled in a carpet, and dropped in an alley. But Mexico’s newspapers itemized a different kind of slaughter last August: Twenty-four of the week’s 167 dead were cops, 21 were decapitated, and 30 showed signs of torture. Campesinos found a pile of 12 more headless bodies in the Yucatán. Four more decapitated corpses were found in Tijuana, the same city where barrels of acid containing human remains were later placed in front of a seafood restaurant. A couple of weeks later, someone threw two hand grenades into an Independence Day celebration in Morelia, killing eight and injuring dozens more. And at any time, you could find YouTube videos of Mexican gangs executing their rivals—an eerie reminder of, and possibly a lesson learned from, al Qaeda in Iraq.

This is neither new nor isolated. When I was younger, I used to go down to Tijuana, it was a great time. It really was easy and fun; what Chinatown was to LA, Tijuana was to San Diego. No longer is even the formerly relatively civil Tijuana docile and appropriate for casual strolling about. Long ago, back in the sixties, on our way back to Kentucky to visit my grandparents during summers, we used to cross over into Juarez. Juarez was always a little scarier than Tijuana or Puerto Penasco, but, still, it was cool. That all changed in Juarez as far back as the late 70s and early 80s; then it became off of most people’s travel itinerary. Now it is all a war zone.

With war raging between Mexico’s narcogangs, and with plenty of cash available from drug sales to Americans—$25 billion a year, by one reliable estimate—cartel gunmen began to grow discontented with the limited selection of arms found in the thousands of gun stores along the southern U.S. border. Instead, they have sought out—and acquired—the world’s fiercest weaponry. Today, hillbilly pistoleros are showing signs of becoming modern paramilitaries.

Mexico’s gangs had the means and motive to create upheaval, and in Mexico’s failure to reform into a modern state, especially at local levels, the cartels found their opportunity. Mexico has traditionally starved its cities. They have weak taxing power. Their mayors can’t be reelected. Constant turnover breeds incompetence, improvisation, and corruption. Local cops are poorly paid, trained, and equipped. They have to ration bullets and gas and are easily given to bribery. Their morale stinks. So what should be the first line of defense against criminal gangs is instead anemic and easily compromised. Mexico has been left handicapped, and gangs that would have been stomped out locally in a more effective state have been able to grow into a powerful force that now attacks the Mexican state itself.

Hillbilly pistoleros indeed. Lou Dobbs on CNN may be, and in fact clearly is, a raving belligerent maniac regarding Mexico and brown people, but that doesn’t mean there is no problem on the other side of the border, and it doesn’t mean that it is not bleeding in to this side. It is a problem, and it is here; trust me, the next part hits right in my city, Phoenix.

Americans watch this upheaval with curious detachment. One warning sign is Phoenix. This city has replaced Miami as the prime gateway for illegal drugs entering the United States. Cartel chaos in Mexico is pushing bad elements north along with the dope—enforcers without work and footloose to freelance.

Phoenix—the snowbird getaway, the land of yellow cardigans and emerald fairways—is now awash in kidnappings—366 in 2008 alone, up from 96 a decade ago. Most committing these crimes hail from Sinaloa, several hundred miles south. In one alarming incident, a gang of Mexican nationals, dressed in Phoenix police uniforms and using high-powered weapons and military tactics, stormed a drug dealer’s house in a barrage of gunfire, killing him and taking his dope.

I wish I could say that Quinones has overstated this; he has not. So far, the infiltrating drug gangs, when I did major drug cases we called them "Sinaloa Cowboys", seem to mostly prey on their own rivals and have not really started taking from the general population of Phoenix. But the fear of expansion is palpable, and is exactly what the execrable Sheriff Joe Arpaio feeds off of to pull his anti-Hispanic oppressive raids and policing publicity stunts. The sad, but predictable, part is that, of course, Arpaio is so busy running stunts with the media (he even has his own Fox reality show now) that he doesn’t even come close to lifting a finger against the real violence. That is left to the Phoenix Police Department while he preens around.

You don’t have to watch or listen to Lou Dobbs, no sentient being should have to do that lately, but do not discount the seriousness of the violence; and it is growing. Is it epidemic yet? No, not there yet, not on this side of the border anyway. However, among all the other things on our, and President Obama’s, plates, this one needs to be added to the list before it does metastasize out of control. Please go read Sam Quinones’ entire piece, it deserves that.

Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American Icon

[As I indicated yesterday in the post "Why American Industry (And Its Future) Matters", we have the privilege of having author William J. Holstein today at Emptywheel and Firedoglake. Mr. Holstein has a long and rich history as a journalist and author. Most importantly for today, he has plunged into the history and ethos of General Motors and produced an incredible work detailing just how critical General Motors, the American auto industry, and American industry itself is to the United States economy and way of life.

As Michael Fitzgerald observed at, "Holstein is using GM as a symbol for whether it makes sense for the U.S. to bother with manufacturing. That might sound odd for a country that for now probably remains the world’s largest manufacturing economy. But Holstein argues that our political and financial leaders don’t get manufacturing, and don’t think it’s important. This is the crux of the Main Street vs. Wall Street debate, and it is shaping up as the core fight of economic policy over the next few years: do we get a justifiable return if we invest in making things, or should we focus on information-driven innovation?"

I think that is right. Since we cannot layout the entire book in the intro here, Bill and I decided to focus on the emerging technology, and specifically battery/electric technology, and the new product lines, that GM is producing. With that said, what follows are prepared remarks in that regard by Bill Holstein. Take a look, and then join us in discussion. I am looking forward to the best and brightest that inhabit our little corner of the world participating in and driving this. Oh, and visit Bill anytime at his blog Also, I heartily recommend purchasing his book, it is a fascinating look into a critical issue of our time, not to mention a great read. – bmaz]

By: William J. Holstein:

It’s time to cut through all the nonsense about General Motors “not making cars that Amrericans want to buy.” The truth is that GM has seized design and performance leadership over its longtime nemesis, Toyota. Toyota’s cars these days resemble appliances, i.e. refrigerators on wheels. They don’t break, but they hardly inspire.

In terms of their physical appearance, GM vehicles have real attitude. The new CTS has a very bold and aggressive front end that designer John Manoogian came up with at the last moment. He and his team decided to take the V-shape that used to stop at the bumpers and let it plunge below the bumpers toward the ground. They also inserted grilles on the right front panels merely for decorative purposes. That nearly drove the engineers crazy because of the challenge of stamping a piece of sheet metal with an odd hole in the middle of it. But they did it. At first, the competition could not believe that GM had figured out how to achieve that.

GM’s design revival started in the late 1990s with the new creased look of the Cadillac. But it accelerated with the arrival of Bob Lutz in 2001. Lutz is the quintessential “car guy” and he took responsibility for product development. He acknowledges, and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner acknowledges, that design got lost at GM for at least two decades. The flamboyant designers of the 1940s and 1950s faded away and were replaced by engineers and bean-counters who relied on “clinics,” or panel sessions with consumers, to decide what the market wanted. This was a disastrous way to design cars—consumers can only respond to what they see on the road. They can’t anticipate the new and exciting.

Lutz helped allow the designers, led by Ed Welburn, to once again take risks and insist that the engineers and metal stampers and accountants let designers pursue their dreams. Designers have to play. They have to tinker. They have to reach into history to identify the themes and motifs that turn Americans on. That’s exactly what GM’s designers are doing these days. For my book, I walked through GM design studios in the United States, Germany and China. They are filled with young people from all over the world who are excited about working for GM. That could never have been said 10 years ago.

Not enough Americans understand why General Motors’ effort to develop the Chevrolet Volt with a lithium ion battery is so important. Here’s why:

Alliance Bernstein estimates that lithium ion batteries could be a $150 billion a year industry by 2030. It is a new industry waiting to be born. It’s a perfect example of the so-called “green industries” that President Obama says he wants to see in America.

But right now, the Americans are lagging behind Japan, China, South Korea and the French in developing these batteries that are considered more efficient and longer-lasting than previous generations of batteries, such as the nickel metal hydride battery that is in the Toyota Prius.

GM has invested $1 billion so far in this battery project and has tapped LG Chem, a unit of the LG group of South Korea, to develop a particular variety of the lithium ion batter. LG will make the battery cells in Korea and bring them to Michigan where they will be packagd into systems that can actually be built into the Volt.

It’s true that the Volt will be relatively expensive when it comes out by the end of 2010—somewhere in the $35,000 to $40,000 range. But what GM hopes to do is introduce the lithium ion battery into other models and into other geographic markets like China so that it can drive down the costs. It’s much like gearing up the semiconductor or flat panel display industries. Once you can achieve scale, you can drive costs way down.

If GM can get momentum with the lithium ion battery, it’s likely that more and more of the “value added” elements of making the batteries will end up on American soil. This is great from many different perspectives—it creates jobs, it eases our dependence on foreign energy sources and it will diminish emissions. In fact, if you operate the Volt for only 40 miles, there will be zero emissions. That’s because the Volt will go 40 miles between charges. If you go further, a gasoline turbine kicks in to recharge the battery. At that point, the driver would be consuming gasoline and emitting carbon dioxide. But 78 percent of Americans drive 40 or fewer miles each day. So most people who own a Volt will not be emitting anything during the course of their daily lives.

That’s different from the way the Prius works. It has a gasoline engine and a battery-powered engine. When you accelerate the vehicle, the gas engine is doing the work. But when you are idle, or when you are coasting or braking, the battery takes over. But it is not possible to operate the Prius in the battery-only mode for any extended period of time. This difference in how the Volt is equipped is another part of the breakthrough that GM is on the verge of achieving.

This is another element of why GM is important to America’s future. If the government forces GM into bankruptcy or other downward spirals, the Volt program almost certainly would be delayed—and with them, America’s hopes for being a player in the lithium ion future.

So let’s dispense with this myth that “GM only makes gas-guzzling SUVs.” GM is back in the car design business, and back in style.

Toyota Sings The Mercury Blues

As the Republicans in Congress, most notably the Senate, fixate on emasculating the stimulus package, stripping it and the country of hope for success in heading off the economic death spiral we are witnessing, I want to return to another recent example of the un-American activities and bent of the Republican Caucus of legislative geniuses. I refer to this same group’s actions and illogic in relation to the American Auto manufacturer bridge loan issue that roiled little more than a month ago and still percolates near the surface of our economic woes.

Remember how Richard Shelby, Bob Corker and a pack of GOP loons made their bones by preening against the American auto industry and trying to cram American autoworker and union wages down to, and below, the level of foreign transplant wages? Of course you do because you remember the big Republican "Lizard Lie" on the myth of the $73/hr wage rate. It was all predicated on the supposed superiority of the foreign automakers. The Republicans literally were willing to make the American auto industry grovel and beg, and even talk about killing them outright, based on their claims of the superiority of the foreign automakers.

So how are those vaunted foreign automakers, that are so much more brilliant and perfect than GM and the other American manufacturers, doing these days? Well let’s check in on Toyota, which along with Honda is the supposed gold standard to the lizard brained GOP. From the New York Times:

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, said Friday that it expected to suffer a loss this year, thanks to rapidly declining sales around the world, especially in the United States. The company is expecting its first full-year operating loss since 1937 — 350 billion yen ($3.9 billion) — more than double its previous forecast.

The company’s 2008 fiscal year ends on March 31.

It widened its forecast for an operating loss on its main automotive business to 450 billion yen, or $5 billion, attributing the larger loss to both steep declines in global auto sales and strong gains by the Japanese currency, the yen, which lowers the yen-denominated value of overseas earnings.

Ouch; not so good.

So, times are bad for even the precious to the GOP Toyota, just like GM. So what kind of implications does this news portend for Toyota’s short and long term future? Ah, glad you asked:

“Toyota is going to get worse before it gets better,” said Tairiku Sakaguchi, an auto analyst at Shinko Securities in Tokyo. “The question is how quickly they can move to deal with inventory, excess production capacity and other problems.”

On Friday, Toyota said it was pressing forward with an overhaul guided by a special Emergency Profit Improvement Committee, which the company established in November.

Besides cutting costs by 10 percent, the company said it was canceling or postponing the construction of plants worldwide. It has already put off opening its plant in Blue Springs, Miss., that had been scheduled to begin production in 2010. Toyota executives said the factory would not be scrapped.

Well, well, well; basically the same issues that GM and, to a lesser extent, Ford are facing domestically. Go figure. Despite all the subsidies that states like those of Shelby (Alabama) and Corker (Tennessee) have spoon fed to foreign makers, despite all the effective subsidies in Toyota’s home market from protectionist Japanese policies, and despite all their supposed superior brilliance and efficiency, it turns out they are …. in the same damn boat. Again, go figure.

I know they are busy trying to destroy the American economy like they have tried to do to American auto manufacturing, but if they could take a few moments out for comment, I wonder what real men of genius like Bob Corker and Richard Shelby have to say now about their opinions on the relative worth of the American auto industry?

Rick Warren and Invoking Teh Inauguration

As you may have noticed, a small war has erupted at the mothership over the nature of the invocation at Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009. Specifically, whether or not it is appropriate for Obama to have Rick Warren participate. The general FDL position is that it is not appropriate to have Warren participate because he is a discriminatory bigot, to the LGBT community, and others.

I agree wholeheartedly with this position. But I have a more fundamental question.

Why is any of this, Warren, Lowery, or any other religious figure, an official part of the inauguration? If a religious aspect is desired for private parties later etc., fine, but why should overt religion be sanctioned as part of the official initiation of a Presidency? No matter how it is configured, it is going to be offensive to many groups inherently; i.e. those whose religions are snubbed, and those such as the LGBT community, for instance in relation to Warren. Probably some groups somewhere will be similarly put off by Joe Lowery; and, of course, the non-believers and/or atheists don’t like any of it.

"America" should not have a preacher. If individuals wish to consider religion vis a vis their government, that is most excellent, but it should be and by individual choice only. God is not for a nation to possess, nor claim the mantle of; that is the province of the individuals in the nation to do, or not do, on their own.

Why is this part of the official inauguration? There is no need to have the new government sanctioned by religion from the get go. The new President, President Obama, will serve and represent all Americans, of all stripes, colors and beliefs; excluding and alienating so many at the outset seems antithetical to the spirit, even if not the letter, of Constitutional separation of church and state, equal protection and inclusion.

Invoke the spirit of the Constitution instead of of having an invocation at the Inauguration.

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet

George Bush has joined the malodorous southern Republicans in their heinous attempt to drive US automakers into bankruptcy. From the Washington Post:

An "orderly" bankruptcy may be the best way of handling the struggling U.S. auto industry, President Bush indicated today as he spoke before the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. However, he said he hasn’t decided what action he will take, the Associated Press reports.

Perino said: "The president is not going to allow a disorderly collapse of the companies. A disorderly collapse would be something very chaotic that is a shock to the system."

Bush and the American auto killers are flat out determined to drive the country to ruin and kill the last remaining hard industry the nation has, it appears. And they are able to do so because so much of the country is ill informed to completely uninformed about the real nature of American auto.

In the previous post, Marcy described how Bill Ford schooled Larry King on the truth about Ford Motor Company and the backup credit line they wish to have available should it be necessary. Well, now I am here do a little edifying about General Motors.

Remember all that bashing administered by Richard Shelby, Bob Corker, Jim DeMint and so many other union busting types about "the failed business model", the "backwards out of date products", and the failure to transform to a company for the future? It is hard to tell whether this is a knowing lie or just rank ignorance. Time to school the foreign coddling, un-American, Dixie union and industry busters; a southern man doesn’t need them around anyhow.

First off, that plan for a profitable and sustainable future with progressive products that the Congress keeps demanding? It is already in progress; and, hey Republican nimrods, it has been for almost four years, since 2005. The following information bits are excerpted from various GM information releases forwarded to me by a senior executive at General Motors headquarters.

As to the need to shift from huge SUVs and large trucks and towards efficient cars and smaller crossover vehicles, GM is already doing that:

Eleven of our last 13 new or major launches in the U.S. were cars or crossovers.

Take the Chevy Malibu, for example, which has won 29 industry awards so far, including the 2008 North American Car of the Year. And consumers are reacting with enthusiasm… as the Malibu is turning on dealer lots faster than any other midsize car, with retail sales up 125 percent this year.

The Malibu is a great example of our commitment to product excellence, and our ability to achieve it, in consumer’s eyes. You’ll see more of this in our future new car launches.

Going forward, GM’s focus on cars and crossovers will accelerate. In fact, 18 of our next 19 new product launches in the U.S. will be cars or crossovers.

As to the efficiency of integrating globally:

The GM Board of Directors approved an all-new next-generation Chevrolet compact-car program.

This car will represent the first U.S. application of our global architecture strategy… an initiative we undertook several years ago, and which will pay major dividends as we fully leverage our expansive car development capability in Europe, Korea, and other locations, to accelerate the shift in our U.S. product portfolio.

This next-generation compact car will be pure Chevrolet in design and performance… it’ll be better equipped than today’s compact car… achieve benchmark safety and quality levels… and most importantly, have a 1.4 liter turbo engine that, when mated with a manual transmission, offers a 9 mile-per-gallon fuel economy improvement over Chevy’s entry in this segment today.

Production will begin in mid-2010, in our Lordstown, Ohio, plant, subject to final negotiations with state and local authorities.

As to integrated production of new engines and power plants for the future:

The GM Board also approved an investment to produce a highly efficient, small-displacement engine module in the U.S. This 1.0- to 1.4-liter engine achieves a superb balance between fuel efficiency and power, and will be the mainstream engine for the next-generation Chevy compact car I just talked about.

This engine is tentatively planned to be produced in Flint, Michigan – again, subject to satisfactory negotiations with local and state authorities.

This new engine module in the U.S. is another good example of the benefits we’re seeing from our global approach to running the business.

When you combine these recent Board actions with what we’ve recently announced, or are already doing… such as:

10 variants of our new six-speed transmission by 2010, which will allow us to produce more than 2 million units annually in the U.S….

expansion of our hybrid offerings to eight vehicles by year-end 2008, more than any other manufacturer… and then to over 20 hybrid vehicles by 2012…

our strategic alliances with two leading cellulosic ethanol startups to help jumpstart much needed growth in biofuels…

delivery of 81 of the 100 Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell SUVs we’re placing with customers to create the world’s largest fuel-cell test fleet…

The Chevy Volt is a game changing vehicle that stands to serve as a benchmark in the transformation of American automobile manufacturing, not to mention the way that American think about their cars. Jane Hamsher has described beautifully what the Volt is, and can mean, as well as what the bull headed ignorant talk of bankruptcy will mean to the project, namely likely death and capture by foreign interests of the technology and market lead. The Volt is not some pie in the sky concept, it is a reality and is at the forefront of GM’s vision for the future:

In other words, the Chevy Volt is a go… and we believe it is the biggest step yet in our industry’s move away from its historic, virtually complete reliance on petroleum to power vehicles.

What we’re saying with this approval is that the GM management and Board believe the technical goals of the Volt are not only achievable, but achievable generally within the time frame we previously outlined.

We intend to show the production version of the Chevy Volt publicly in the near future, and we remain focused on our target of getting the Volt into Chevrolet showrooms by the end of 2010. We are preliminarily planning to produce the Volt at our Detroit/Hamtramck plant, subject to successful discussions with state and local governments.

And, last, but certainly not least, actions to consolidate production, cut costs, streamline factories, become more modern and environmentally sound and otherwise plan for a progressive future:

On the other side of the mix equation, we need to address the rapid industry shift away from trucks and SUVs. Today, we are announcing our plan to, over time, cease production at four GM truck assembly plants:

Our Oshawa, Canada, Truck Assembly facility, where we build the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups – with the timing likely to be 2009.

Moraine, Ohio, where we build the Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, and Saab 9-7 – at the end of the current model run in 2010, or sooner if market demand dictates.

Janesville, Wisconsin, where we build the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Chevy, GMC, and Isuzu medium duty trucks. The medium duty truck line will cease operation by the end of 2009, and the SUV lines will discontinue production in 2010, or sooner if market demand remains weak.

And Toluca, Mexico, where we build Chevrolet Kodiak medium duty trucks -by the end of this year.

In addition to these assembly plant moves, we will consolidate the related stamping and powertrain capacity, consistent with the lower market demand for trucks and SUVs. We will communicate the affected plants as these plans are finalized.

With today’s announcements, we will be reducing our truck annual assembly capacity by over 700,000 units, and our total GM North America capacity to 3.7 million units by 2010.

We expect that these actions, along with the recently announced shift reductions at two other U.S. truck plants, Pontiac and Flint, will result in an additional GM North America structural cost savings of over $1 billion, on a running-rate basis, by 2010.

This is on top of the approximately $5 billion in savings by 2011 that we announced earlier this year… and also, of course, in addition to the $9 billion cost reduction accomplished over the 2006-2007 period in North America.

In short, all of the things that Washington has been screaming is wrong with Detroit, and specifically General Motors, have either been dealt with, or are in that process as we speak. The constant refrain from Washington is a load of bull to mask their desired to bust unions and, apparently, drive the United States into the severest depression possible. Oh, and relinquish our manufacturing base to foreign interests and make us completely dependent on the the funny money financial services fraud sector that we see collapsing in front of our eyes currently.

It is looking like forty two Senators and George Bush may kill General Motors, and the American automotive industry (including the suppliers, distributors and dealers down the line). This will be an unmitigated disaster for America and its economy. And the entire stated basis for it is a blatant lie.

Okay, Okay, Invade Michigan. But You Can’t Have the Coaches Back.

John Cole has found a solution to the Big 2.5’s woes–and frankly, it sounds a whole lot smarter than Bob Corker’s plan to require two corporations to revoke the pensions of a bunch of blue collar retirees. And he’s right–the Republicans are gonna love this plan.

His solution? Invade Michigan, make it safe for democracy again.

We need to invade Michigan and rebuild the state from the ground up. We will be greeted as liberators, we have clear supply lines, and we can easily rebuild the auto industry with the kind of money we spend on other countries we invade. Hell, our new Secretary of State, Hillary of Clinton, spent the better part of the past year fighting for the rights of average folks from Michigan, so think of the good will we have with the public. This is very doable. Just tell Congress we will give KBR no-bid contracts to fix Detroit.

Thing is, I’m a little suspicious of John’s motives. You see, John’s from West Virginia, and he’s a sports fan. 

I just have this awful feeling that John’s great plan is really a plot to come to Michigan and steal back the two coaches we stole from West Virginia, hoops coach John Beilein and football coach Rich Rodriguez. Sure sure, Rodriguez hasn’t yet worked out like we’d like. But Michigan’s basketball victory over Duke is one of the only good things that has happened to Michigan of late (I mean, think of the Lions!!), and I’m just not willing to give Beilein back.

So, fine. If you must, invade Michigan. Please bring bales of cash, just like they did in Iraq.

But you can’t have our sports coaches.

Still in Turkey Coma Open Thread

I should say "back in turkey coma" since I just had a hot turkey sandwich and feel a giant nap coming on.

The turkey, btw, was absolutely superb–those crazies who think turkey doesn’t taste good are like Sunday school teachers who poo poo sex because, well, let’s just say they were never really credible experts about the subject. When I bit into my first bite of white meat last night I was shocked at how rich the taste was.

It took me about an hour to prepare the chestnuts for the stuffing–but the time was worth it. Sadly, even though I started with 12 cups of bread cubes, there is no stuffing left.

And even though, in a fit of distraction, I almost ended up with pumpkin flavored scrambled eggs, the pies were very yummy, too. If you’re not already using Northern Spy apples for your apple pies, you should try it. Just the apples and a generous (okay, very generous) grating of nutmeg and you’ve got the perfect intense flavor and strong tartness to hold up to a buttery pie crust.

Nap time!

Obama’s Success: Must Have Been The Shoes Before Him

America, indeed humanity, stands on the verge of a seminal moment in history. A turning point that inalienably alters our existence in so many ways, writ large and small, that it is hard to grasp. We are about to to inaugurate a black man, Barack Obama, President of the United States; a job that is still, despite all, the singularly most important and powerful position in the world. How did we get to this moment?

It is time to talk about race, and in a positive and constructive manner, not the sinister and tawdry below the surface baiting style so prevalent during much of the McCain/GOP campaign we just, thankfully, concluded. What has led us to the point where Barack Obama is about to give his first inaugral address; what paved the way for that? It just might, at least partially, be the shoes.

Specifically, the shoes worn by transcendental black athletes like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Venus and Serena Williams and Arthur Ashe. Athletes not just dominant in their sport, but in sports that were previously the exclusive province of whites. In the case of Tiger, the Williams sisters and Arthur Ashe, it was their sports; sports that were once, and still remain, not just white, but elite. In Jordan’s case, although in a sport long integrated, basketball, he became literally the face of the league and the most marketable and recognizable persona in advertising in the whole world.

One of the great gifts to sports journalism, really the literary field as a whole, in the last half century was the late Dick Schapp. A truly enlightened and renaissance man. One of the many enduring gifts Schapp left is a weekly sports roundtable discussion every Sunday morning on ESPN, The Sports Reporters. Not just any sports reporters, but giants that, like Schapp, transcend the field of sports with a view of the larger frame of the world. Journalists like Mike Lupica, Mitch Albom and Bob Ryan. On the October 5, 2008 edition of The Sports Reporters John Saunders, who has led the The Sports Reporters since Schapp’s untimely death, gave a fascinating parting shot (It is the approximately last two minutes of the linked podcast, which is very easy to fast forward to).

Saunders’ take was that Obama has had a surprisingly smooth and seamless run for the Presidential roses considering the historical context of black and white racial undertow of tension. Further, that one of the reasons for this is the way that certain black athletes, specifically Tiger Woods and Venus and Serena Willaims have come to be the singular calling cards of their sports, golf and tennis respectively. Saunders posits that the significance is immense because both golf and tennis have been historically not just the domain of whites, although that they have been, but elite and powerful whites. The country club set; power brokers that really run things. Elegant and compelling individuals, Woods and the Williams; black in skin color, magnetic, inspirational and colorless champions in conduct and ethos.

We can all see, and appreciate, the progressive evolution of attitudes on race. We long have celebrated barrier breakers leading the way like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. But Saunders is on to something here. Legendary agents of change are among us today, in their athletic prime, in the form of Tiger, Venus and Serena. Wonderful role models and avatars that have built upon the efforts of their racial predecessors, and are now able to be the leaders of their sports and societal symbols for who they are and what they have done, without the added characterization as "black". Tiger isn’t black; Tiger is just Tiger. Same with the Williams sisters, they are just Venus and Serena. This is a quite remarkable thing actually, something that even Muhammad Ali couldn’t pull off; but Obama has been able to do it. Obama wasn’t a black candidate; Obama was just a candidate. Barack Obama is not a black leader, he is our leader. Period.

Outstanding. It’s about time. This is real and tangible progress being built and expanded right in front of our eyes, and we should appreciate it as such. It is a transcendental and transformative moment.

As cogent as John Saunders’ thoughts were, I would suggest that it should be taken one step further to really fill out this part of the racial progress story. In fairness to John, the parting shots on The Sports Reporters are just that; relatively brief quick takes, so he did not have the luxury of the extended format allowed here. The additional elements I would add are Arthur Ashe and Michael Jordan.

Ashe was really the progenitor of the color neutral athlete transcending his sport and impacting on the social conscience in the broader sense. Indeed, considering that he was operating in a far different and more volatile atmosphere two decades before even Jordan, Arthur Ashe may be the most remarkable of those discussed herein; his commitment to social justice, health and humanitarian issues left a mark on the world as indelible as his tennis was on the court. And as with the others, he did it with dignity and grace in a sport and stage that was exclusive and white.

Michael Jordan became simply the most recognizable and marketable personality in the world. Granted, not in a lily white country club sport such as golf or tennis, but Jordan’s impact became so much more than simply his basketball. Never before had a black attained the iconic status of Michael Jordan, without still being categorized as "black". As with Tiger, Michael was simply Michael. To black and white, to rich and poor, to the powerful and the powerless, he was just Michael. Must have been the shoes.

And the wonderful part is that the shift to color neutrality is not over; it is spreading like wildfire. The one picture above that most will not recognize is that of Lewis Hamilton, the newly crowned Formula One Grand Prix World Champion. This remarkable man, all of age 23, is the spitting image of a young Tiger Woods. If you think what Obama and Tiger have accomplished is earth shattering, picture this: A black youth from England, driving for a German team, winning across the globe and securing his championship in Brazil. Like the others, he is just Lewis. It is a beautiful thing.

We may not be there yet, but the promised land is starting to appear on the horizon. Dr. King may not have lived to see it, but we are getting closer and closer to the day where human beings "will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character". So, in a time where there is so much war, death, hunger and financial despair, let us celebrate and give thanks for that which is remarkable and good in our midst.

Happy Thanksgiving Folks!

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