News digest #1

It’s a potpourri of stuff tonight. A bunch of stuff that piqued my interest in the last week, mostly culled from CNS News and AgapePress via www.gopusa.com. Basically, GOPUSA is a sort of internet newspaper with conservative news and commentary. And it’s upfront about it – the tagline states “Bringing the conservative message to America.”

News item: ADF battles Georgia county’s ‘Christmas’ ban in schools. ADF is the Alliance Defense Fund.

Money phrase: ADF attorney David Cortman says Jackson County officials have completely eradicated Christmas from the public school system.

“Teachers are not allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas’ [and] they’re not allowed to wear any pins or angels or crosses or clothing that has any religious connotation or affiliation,” Cortman explains. “They can’t have a Christmas party — they have to call it a ‘winter party.’ They can’t sing religious songs. In fact … they actually censored the word ‘God’ from the song.”

Now I cited this because there was a comment I left on Crallspace where he talked about the “so-called war on Christmas.” Just more proof that anything Christian in schools is being eliminated. Tyranny of the minority.

Here’s a link to that story, by Jim Brown of AgapePress.

News item: Kyoto Protocol declared ‘dead’ at UN climate conference.

Money phrases: “Kyoto is absolutely dead,” said David Ridenour, vice president of the D.C.-based conservative group, National Center for Public Policy Research.

Ridenour, who questions the alarmist scientific basis behind Kyoto, accused the industrialized nations that ratified the protocol of hypocrisy, for only verbally supporting the emission reduction goals.

“They’re hypocrites, those countries who say ‘we have to have the [Kyoto emission] targets, but we are not going to meet them.’ You have 11 out of 15 of the E.U. (European Union) nations that had increases in CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions. So whether they admit it or not, Kyoto is dead,” Ridenour said.

Not surprisingly, seeing their dreams go up in smoke, environmentalists deny this:

“Kyoto is alive and well, thank you very much,” said Catherine Pearce, the international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth International.

“These kinds of comments just come from the United States actually and it’s driven by the White House who actually wants to see this process die,” Pearce told Cybercast News Service.

And:

“Kyoto is alive and kicking. This conference is proof of that,” said Kaisa Kosonen, the energy campaigner for the European-based Nordic division of Greenpeace.

“I still have high hopes,” Kosonen added, while warning that the U.S. was playing a destructive role at the conference.

“The U.S. has done its best to sabotage everything. [But] you have to differentiate the Bush administration from the United States,” she said, noting the many U.S.-based groups in attendance critical of the Bush administration’s climate policies.

All you need to know about the Kyoto Protocol is that 11 of the 15 EU countries increased their emissions, and the goal of Kyoto was to restore the pollutants to 1990 levels. Ain’t gonna happen, unless all industry and progress in Europe cease. Even our Senate knew this was a turkey, which is why they rejected it on the order of 97-0.

The link to the story, by Marc Morano of CNS News, is here.

And if you don’t believe the whole global warming scare isn’t just a ploy to extract wealth from the industrialized countries to the forces of global governance, read this.

News item: ‘Are you better off this holiday?’, Democrats ask.

Money phrase: (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi promises that a Democrat-controlled House will offer a “real energy plan that focuses on lowering high energy costs and developing new, cleaner technologies like hybrids, conservation, and renewable resources.”

She said Democrats will offer a “real prescription drug benefit that lowers out-of-pocket expenses and guarantees benefits, not one written by the pharmaceutical companies,” and she said Democrats will challenge the Bush administration’s “incompetent and dishonest foreign policy.”

Pelosi notes that Democrats need only 15 seats to regain a majority in the House: “Then the People’s House will be a place that is truly befitting of the holiday spirit — where we care for all people, and do the things necessary to make us stronger today and in future generations.”

Oh, such fun with this one!

Nancy, your idea of lowering high energy costs would be a freeze on gas prices and windfall profit taxes on oil companies. Then, when supplies dry up and there’s long gas lines because the oil companies can’t make money on their product, you’ll blame them for creating shortages in the market. Not only that, oil supplies that are tappable and refinable sit unused because of moratoriums on additional exploration (such as in ANWR) and the building of new refineries.

High energy costs are cyclical in some respects as markets fluctuate and stabilize. This also covers some of the “new, cleaner technologies” – if not for the governmental subsidies on some of those, they would never see the light of day. Just naturally build a market for it – if it’s as good as advertised, entrepreneurs will come. Oh yeah, Democrats don’t believe in personal initiative, just engorged government.

Bloated government will also be their “solution” to the “problem” of prescription drug access. I think it was a huge mistake to add prescription drug benefits to Medicare. The system of private insurance and subsidies by drug companies to poorer patients wasn’t broken, so no “fix” was necessary. Again, the Democrats’ solution will likely either drive up taxpayer costs or drive down pharmaceutical company profits, with a lack of new research being one possible effect.

Incompetent and dishonest foreign policy? That’s code for pulling out of Iraq. Nancy, I know it and you know it, quit bullshitting us and just say it. It’s easy, you can even do this in San Francisco, where they’ll cheer and throw flowers at you. Just walk to a microphone, get the network news cameras rolling, and say, “I want us to abandon our Iraqi mission and let the insurgents retake the country. Let Saddam Hussein reclaim what was rightfully his until we took it by force. In fact, we owe him compensation for killing both of his sons.”

We know you want to, grow a pair and do it.

And I liked the fact that the word “Christmas” did not once escape her lips. She’s into the “holiday” spirit as well, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

She did say one true thing. Read the phrase again, “Then the People’s House will be a place that is truly befitting of the holiday spirit — where we care for all people, and do the things necessary to make us stronger today and in future generations.”

The People’s House? Is that like the People’s Republic of China, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (what we know as North Korea)?

Where we care for all people? Is that to read, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”?

By “us” does she mean Americans, or the Democrat party? We already had a president or two who came up with hundreds of government programs that maybe were well-meant at the time but have become like a pack of rats – ugly, pesky, and damn hard to kill off one at a time. They’ve already trumped up charges to get rid of the exterminator that’s in Washington, and a renewal of the Democrat-controlled Congress will be like giving fresh garbage to those rats who are always looking for the easy meal.

Here’s a link to that story by Susan Jones of CNS News.

I hate it when this happens. I had one more item in mind, but the link doesn’t work. Oh well, it’s a blog post for another day. This item bears some relation to the environmentalist items I led off with, but on a personal level. So I suppose I’ll stop here with this post, I have another post to write tonight since something VERY interesting came in the mail for me today.

Late edit (12:20 a.m.) The second post will keep until tomorrow, or actually, later today.

Caveat emptor, part 2

It seems to me that sometimes we as consumers have become way too driven by price. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but cheap needs to be good too.

I was talking to a friend of mine last night about where she works. The company she works for is a rather large, publicly traded company that manufactures various items for the healthcare field. One thing she’s had to do is watch as component production is being sent away from Ohio to factories in Mexico and China (mainly China.)

Now, I’m as much a free trader as anyone. I do think having free trade will help everyone in the long run. But one of her complaints about the factory in China is that they do not produce the quality of items needed to manufacture the items they assemble here in the U.S. So there’s a percentage of the items that have to be rejected. The problem she noted is that you just can’t get money back from China (for their rejected product)…what they offered is a slightly larger production for the same price. So basically you’ll get more crappy items from them in the hopes that the increase in sheer numbers will make enough product that meets standards.

It’s a problem that I see becoming worse, not just her company specifically, but in general. Her company is already suffering as their sales projections are down to what they were three years ago. The company’s stock is taking a beating too – in an era of rising prices and the Dow flirting with an all-time high, their shares are down almost 35% from their 52-week high. While they manufacture a product that should be very popular, I wonder perhaps if people have noticed the lack of quality in their product and begun to shy away from it.

I’ll set aside my mistrust of China as a trading partner for the moment to argue along another avenue. Consider the true cost of cheap and unskilled labor. Unskilled labor is fine for making and doing many simple things. But when you have a product that depends both on stability of structure and electronic components working properly, perhaps a little higher skill level is demanded.

We talked about her looking for a new car. One that she’s not going to consider was one that she drove for awhile, and that was a Kia. She just didn’t think Korean cars were made as well, but there were design elements she did like in them. I also have some experience with Kia, but my car was a Ford Festiva (which Kia actually made under the Ford name.) For the first 50,000 miles we loved that car – in fact my wife and I bought another one used as a second car when my old Chevy Sprint gave out. She drove the white one (an ’89) we bought used and I drove the red one (an ’88) that we bought new.

But the last 49,500 miles I had that Festiva were really hard on it. Three times the plastic door handles broke. The mechanism holding the driver’s side mirror in place broke after I bumped it one too many times walking by. The gasketing on the sunroof got loose and soon the handle broke. Brakes and muffler rusted out. I will say that the engine and transmission were fairly decent in it but it got to a point where the car wouldn’t start on damp and cool days. Plenty of those on Ohio.

I understand that it was a relatively inexpensive car. But one would think that a company wanted to have a product that was made inexpensively, but well. (By the way, we traded the other Festiva in for a Jeep Cherokee. Bought it new in 1994, my stepdaughter finally totaled it a year ago. Not her fault, it was the deer’s. The Jeep was falling apart as well, but the car was over 160,000 miles.)

It seems to me that sometimes we as consumers have become way too driven by price. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but cheap needs to be good too. How many of you have had a product made by a company that you associated with quality and you end up throwing it out after two years because it’s stopped working? And how many times was it “Made in China”? Sometimes you don’t have a lot of choice, but do you ever stop and think why that is?

Let’s go back and examine the case of my friend. Somewhere along the line, the buyers and beancounters at her company found that it was cheaper for a plant in China to make their components and ship them across the Pacific than it was to make them in Ohio or even another state. Obviously, it was a price-driven thing. But it seems like the quality of the work suffers. Honestly, a worker in China is most likely not very educated or skilled with the exception of making whatever widgets the state-backed factory is putting out.

More importantly, what incentive does this factory have to create a quality product? They know that a Chinese worker is going to take his meager wages and not complain, for fear that either another willing worker will come along, or worse, he might be sent to a labor camp and work at the point of a gun. So it’s obvious that they can supply Americans with all the cheap products they’ll ever want to buy (and do, like it or not.) All Americans seem to want is a cheap product – almost so cheap that they don’t care about tossing it out a couple years later, then buying yet another one and the cycle starts over. It used to be called “planned obsolescence”, now it’s called “modern life.”

So where are the craftsmen? Unfortunately, they don’t seem to exist here either. The work ethic isn’t being handed down from generation to generation like it once was. Seeing a man who loves his craft is more and more rare. Seeing a man who has no compunction with putting in an honest day’s effort and working hard to move up the ladder of success is rarer still. Today’s workplace is more in line with the Dilbert Principle.

Now, I’m not tooting my own horn here, but I do take some pride in my work. It’s discouraging to me to see a contractor mess it up. It really pisses me off when it’s my fault, like I forgot a dimension someplace. We do look out for each other’s work at my company, but sometimes there’s things overlooked. I do get lectured from time to time about checking over stuff and not guessing or using “standard” details. So I learn a bit every so often.

I just wish that people would do more of that in the stuff they buy. Not just big ticket items like cars, but some of the little stuff. Your TV should last more than 5 years. That digital camera you buy for $99 – if it doesn’t work in a year, you can go out and buy a new one, just pay attention to who made it and where it was made. Don’t repeat the same mistakes if you can.

Ford used to say “Quality is Job 1.” It seems like a hollow slogan sometimes when yet another of their cars is recalled. The other thing I noticed in the news lately is that when Saturns were first made, they were considered one of the better quality cars in America, and their plant was noted for its culture and not being like every other car plant. But GM recently decided to pull the plug on one of the plant’s assembly lines anyway.

My last observation is this. Once again, imagine the Chinese factory. It runs constantly, belching out who-knows-what types of pollutants, unencumbered by such things as safety regulations and minimum wage laws. Obviously, the American factory that is shuttered won’t pollute, nor will they see any workers injured on the job. But their minimum wage is now zero as they have closed due to foreign competition – a Chinese factory that can’t match theirs in the quality of work, but kills them in price.

But if we could free ourselves from the shackles of excessive regulation and put an attitude back in the American people that values quality as much as price, perhaps we can find an entrepreneur willing to work hard and get his hands dirty in restoring a valuable company name. Maybe we can get back workers who give a damn about the things they make, won’t accept any less than the best, and are genuinely pissed off when they find out what they made was defective. But making an honest mistake would be grounds for the company to be more careful with the products they make, not grounds for a lawsuit-happy trial lawyer to encourage a few people who claim to be harmed by the product to make their attempt at winning life’s lottery and extorting millions out of the company (of course, the shyster gets his cut too!)

Recently, some unions dropped out of the AFL-CIO and formed what they termed the “Change to Win Coalition.” I hope one of the changes that they make is being a little more willing to work with corporations on getting some of the onerous regulations the labor movement has sponsored and created off the books so we can change to win. I know we can compete with the cheap Chinese if Americans can promise quality and prove why it’s better to be good than cheap.

Print this.

It’s simply common sense, isn’t it?

I love it when people respond to my letters to the editor in the Daily Times here. This is what the poor uninformed chap wrote:

Support Gilchrest in his ANWR stance

Rush Limbaugh has been urging his listeners to put the pressure on Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md. 1st, and other Republication moderates who refused to vote for the budget reconciliation bill on Nov. 9 as long as it contained a provision opening the ANWR to oil drilling.

As a swing voter and environmentalist who visted Kaktovic and Arctic Village in 1996, I am happy to support a Republican congressman who recognizes the importance of a pristine area to the health of the ecosystem of the entire north slope and Brooks Range.

Contrary to a recent Daily Times letter to the editor, the coastal plain is not “barren,” but a great birthing ground for the nearly 200 wildlife species, including polar bears, musk oxen and caribou and more than 135 species of birds.

Granted, we are in an energy crunch and the price of gasoline and heating fuel has been rising. But drilling in the ANWR will not put oil in the pipelines for at least a decade, and will not produce enough to appreciably lower prices on the world market.

Opening the ANWR for drilling is a Bush plum for Young, Stevens and Murkowski, and the voters of Alaska who receive a monthly check from the oil bonanza fund — a fund that may soon be depleted.

Americans are being asked to sell a portion of their birthright for a mess of potage.

Gilchrest needs Delmarva’s support for his courageous stand on this sensitive issue. Conserve the environment — and turn off the radio when Limbaugh comes on. Let Rush know we can take care of our own.

Bill Horne

Salisbury

So this is what I wrote back. We’ll see if they have the guts to print it.

To the Editor:

Because Bill Horne’s letter of December 2 is the answer to mine, this is my counter to his.

It’s a very shortsighted position that he and Congressman Gilchrest agree on. While it’s admirable that he’s caring for the caribou and other wildlife species that inhabit the North Slope area, he’s forgetting the human costs that not having a dependable source of energy will extract on our economy. It’s a shame that we have waited this long to begin the exploration process on the North Slope because had we began when it was first proposed, the initial gallons of gasoline could have already been in our tanks.

The wildlife of the North Slope has been present there for untold generations while they were sitting thousands of feet above millions of barrels of oil. The wildlife of the North Slope will be there generations hence whether we drill for oil or not. Don’t let Mr. Horne convince you otherwise when the area that is to be used for actual oil exploration is to ANWR as Salisbury is to the state of Maryland. And even if there is the small chance of an oil-related accident that would create an environmental issue, nature has a very good way of cleaning itself up. We need only look at what the dire predictions that were aired in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill and the Iraqi-induced oil fires in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War have produced in reality, very little long-term effect.

I’m perfectly aware that someday we’re going to exhaust our oil supplies and we’ll need the ingenuity still present in the American people to solve the problem, much as we’ve solved problems in every field of science. But if the resources are there, they are accessible, and the benefits of using them outweigh the unlikely risks to wildlife to extract them, then I believe it’s time to go ahead and do so.

Mr. Horne and Congressman Gilchrest may feel they have a position that benefits all in the long term, but I strongly disagree. It’s long past time to start working on a real energy program that uses American resources and knowledge to cut down our dependence on foreign supplies. Drilling in ANWR is a necessary step in the right direction.

As for Rush Limbaugh, it’s nice to know he agrees with me on the subject.

Michael Swartz
Salisbury

It’s simply common sense, isn’t it? Ask yourself – what is more important and higher on the plane of existence – caribou or humans?

I liked another Daily Times letter I saw today, so I feel no need to respond – I’ll reprint it here instead.

It has been said, “We use the past to judge the present and to predict the future.” There is no other way. Of course “hindsight is 20-20.” If we knew what tomorrow would bring we would all be rich, but we don’t know.

Using the past as a guide we know what to expect from our associations. Often we would refuse to believe what our senses tell us. When we do, we usually suffer the consequences of our foolishness. Still, it is human nature to hope for the best. In our day, (I’m 76), we have witnessed the atrocities of Adolph Hitler, Stalin and others who desired world domination. More recently, Saddam Hussein.

I can judge by his past deeds that the world was a dangerous place with him in power. He was not the same as Osama bin Laden, but they were cut, as it were, from the same cloth. Hate, murder, intimidation and domination were their methods to achieve their aim, and still are.

On 9-11, the world was really no different from what it is today. Threats existed, but that’s all they were, threats. When we lost thousands of innocent lives to the vicious radical suicidal attacks on the World Trade Center we were suddenly in shock. We looked for someone to blame. Why us? We look especially at our leaders. What would we do?

Going back again to draw on the past, the date 1915; the Lucitania (sic) was sunk by a German U-Boat. Our president had, up till then, been reluctant to get into the war that was raging in Europe. Again, after that attack, America came together as only a committed and determined people can and we were victorious; again. Without our participation it is not difficult to see where we, and the world, would be today.

The same conditions existed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Again, America came together to stand as a free people who refused to be cowered into submission by a terrorist attack. The past is a wonderful teacher. Today, we stand as a free people and witness the atrocities of terrorists who would cower us into submission and deny us the right to defend ourselves from the truth, justice and freedom that we so rightly desire; even that our forefathers died for.

To that end, we have again dispersed our young men to fight and die to defend our interest in other lands. Today, our troops are in the process of helping and training a people that has suffered from the tyranny of ruthless men. Helping them to stand on their feet so they can defend themselves while defending the freedoms of others; us in particular.

Where Iraq was a war of defending our interest, it has become a political whipping boy. I think it is disgraceful upon Americans as a people not to support the engagement that we are involved in and see it through to the finish so that our men have not died in vain. To do otherwise will only allow more attacks upon Americans as a people (upon our homeland) which will surely come, as it has in other lands. It has been promised to us, and I believe it will come unless we settle this thing now.

As the words of the song state: “I’ll gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today. Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.”

S. Lee Smith Jr.

Salisbury

Stand up and cheer for this man! That’s proof of the saying “age begets wisdom.”

Now I know that a lot of people don’t support our being in Iraq, most of them seemingly populate the partisan media. Sometimes I wish I could go out, knock them upside the head, and scream, “Don’t you understand! The jihadists want to kill us, kill our way of life, kill our great nation, all for the sake of building up a caliphate that would plunge us back into the Dark Ages! Listen to me, damn it! OUR side is the side of right. If they win, do you honestly think you’ll have a job? You’ll be the first to be stoned as the useful idiots.”

So spare me the bullshit as you snivel, “Well, I support the troops but I don’t support their mission…” You’re with us or against us. Black or white. Bitch all you want, Dan, about me being a so-called right-wing tool, but I’m right on this one.

And yes, my site is now officially capitalist. Since I listen to and read the stuff and I think it’s cool, more people should get it. Oh, and speaking of cool stuff, go listen to “Snowblind” by Black Sabbath and tell me that’s not the coolest drum song ever. Just mash those cymbals, Bill. (They just played it on the radio.)

All right, my ranting is through for tonight. It was a passionate post, wasn’t it?