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November 30, 2008

Mr. Ford Exec: take a pay cut and buy a clue

“I’m okay where I am,” a Ford executive said when asked if he would take a salary reduction to help the financial state of the company as he stood before government representatives recently.

Screw you, Mr. Ford Executive.

That guy made a reported $9.3 million dollars last year. Yeah, I bet he is ok. But what about the guy making less than $20 an hour, working on the line, trying to support a family? What about the guy at B.F. Goodrich who is looking at a bleak Christmas? That guy has been laid off two weeks and is looking at another six weeks off. Not enough work to do when the automotive industry is failing. What about the woman working at Autoliv or Mahle Clevite?

And then we hear that executives who, if they gave up their salaries, might make a significant impact on their own economic situation flew corporate jets to Washington (further waste and mismanagement) to beg for the hard-earned tax dollars of US citizens. Frankly, folks, we’re the ones getting screwed. And why didn’t they just drive their quality, American-made vehicles to Washington? Wouldn’t that have made a point? Some of those same executives, I hear, also commute via private planes to work. I’m certain that isn’t the only example of waste, poor judgment and idiocracy.

The Chrysler, GM and Ford proposed bailout has more than a few people steaming and for so many reasons.

I will preface this by saying I drive two American-made vehicles. My one non-US vehicle is almost as old as I am and I drive that one because it is “greener” than my other options at this point. I have many family members who make a living off the automotive industry and I know that the financial viability of their jobs is crucial. I'm also well aware of the many local people who'se lives are depending on the success of the industry. Still, I’m grossly disgusted with the people at the top of that food chain and we all should be since the future of those companies rests largely in their hands -- the same people who have mismanaged those companies to a degree I cannot fathom and they continue to show questionable judgment are standing before the government asking for a bailout package. I’m getting the idea that a bailout package is almost easier to ask for than a loan is these days, but I digress. I recently got one of those mass view emails with some guy’s idea about how if we bailed out the people of the United States by sending each of them several hundred thousand dollars – all of our problems would take care of themselves. If you look closely at the numbers, that suggestion isn’t even realistic, but he makes an interesting point anyway.

The real concern is this: if you and I wouldn’t give our business partners even $10,000 without some sort of oversight or accountability, why are we considering giving billions of dollars to the banking and automotive industries without any concrete expectations? Furthermore, if you and I were to borrow any amount of money -- we'd be paying it back..with interest!

Meanwhile, a foreign company is setting up shop in Greenfield, Indiana, and looking to open 1,000 jobs building their cars – cars people are apparently still buying. Is it time for domestic car manufacturers to look at their products and make some serious decisions?

Maybe the real answer is for our automotive manufacturers to take a closer look at their products and the 21st century buyer and make some difficult decisions. Is it time to scale back the lines of vehicles offered? Maybe it is time to cut a few brands loose? Maybe it is time to begin mass producing vehicles people want? For example, there is currently a growing waiting list for the Chevy Volt, an all-electric concept car that still hasn’t really materialized...yet there’s a growing web-based network of individuals waiting with pocketbooks ready for them – I know, I’m one of those people.

Obviously, there’s still a viable market for vehicles if foreign companies are doing well enough to build plants in our state and hire new employees. Maybe instead of asking for bailout money, the automotive industry needs to take notes, make a plan and get busy fixing themselves.

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November 11, 2008

It's time to support him, respect him and move on

It will soon be a week since the election and I’ve held my tongue, assuming the two factions – those in distress and those celebrating – would eventually mellow. But, some recent comments and activities have led me to believe they may not…in the immediate future at least.

Eight years ago, we got a new president in what ended up being a very, very close election. The popular vote ended up 47.9% for George Bush to 48.4% for Al Gore but Bush won because he’d captured 271 electoral votes over Gore’s 266 electoral votes. It was an unusual situation where the people of the United States wanted someone different for president than who was actually put in office. Remember the hanging chads? Dimpled chads? Pregnant chads? Questions of impropriety? After all of that, people still came together and whether they truly wanted to or not, supported the presidency as the institution that governs this country.

Four years later, there was again controversy in the race between Bush and John Kerry regarding the legitimacy of votes in Ohio. Bush again prevailed with 286 electoral votes over 251 for Kerry. The percentage of the popular vote was 50.7% to 48.3% in favor of Bush. Again, a very close race and many then didn’t feel it was fair.

Throughout the past eight years, an attitude has prevailed that even if you disagree with the president or didn’t like him for whatever reason, it would be unpatriotic to say anything against him out loud. It would also be disrespectful and people wouldn’t stand for it.

On November 4, Barack Obama claimed 374 electoral votes over John McCain’s 163. The popular vote was also undisputable, with Obama capturing 53% of the popular vote to 46% garnered by McCain. Not even close. A lot of people were hoping it would be a close election and issues of voting credibility in certain areas could be called into question, but in an election that clearly decided, a few hanging chads or “dead” voters weren’t going to change the outcome.

In the past few days, I’ve heard some of the most ridiculous stuff. People are saying they are seriously contemplating moving to other countries because they just can’t deal with a Democratic president/a black president/someone who isn’t just like them/someone who has a different philosophical point of view in office. I’ve seen photographs of flags being flown upside down and heard people saying disrespectful things about their president-elect. If people even two years ago had been saying and doing these same things against President Bush, it would be a big deal – and you’d be labeled unpatriotic, a traitor, un-American, you name it.

I think we can look at it in this way: it’s very similar to the grieving process. People are grieving because they didn’t get their way this time. First, they were in shock – the people who couldn’t sleep election night or function the next day. Right now, a lot are in the anger stage – flying their flags upside down, saying nasty things, acting out, rallying support from others in the anger stage. Soon, there will be bargaining and depression. Eventually, we’ll reach acceptance. For the sake of our country, I hope we can get to acceptance sooner rather than later, but as in the grieving process, none of us has the power or authority to demand that another person cope in a certain timeframe.

Yes, we have a right in this democracy to disagree with your leaders. Yes, we have a right to protest. Yes, we have a right to do a lot of different things – including move to another country or act out in some sizeable way – but is THAT in the best interest of improving our economy, making life better for our people or any number of other things we could be doing?

Our country has been through a lot in recent weeks, months and years, with the war and the economy. We have reasons to be grieving and our outlook is not good right now. But, it is imperative that we look closely at ourselves, measure our commitment to being Americans and our faith in not only our leader, but our fellow citizens who made a decision to put him there. A winner was declared without question, so out of respect for the presidency, out of respect for who the American people chose, out of respect for this country that is made up of different people, races, nationalities, religions and political points of view, let’s be patriotic, American and move on!

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November 05, 2008

The Suitcase


(Talk of the Town photo by Jennifer Zartman Romano) Barack Obama greets crowds of supporters in Northeast Indiana during primary campaigning. Obama visited Columbia City's Oak Pointe for a Town Hall meeting on May 1, 2008, above.



This morning on “The View,” Whoopie Goldberg made a statement that I think sums up a lot of what can be accomplished by Barack Obama’s presidential victory. She said, “I feel like I can put my suitcase down.”

That suitcase might represent a lot of different concepts to different people, but it is my personal hope that the suitcase represents the baggage and limitations of racism. The fact that millions of people came together yesterday, some of whom who never felt moved to react politically or to visit a voting booth, and chose to elect an African-American man to the highest position of authority in this country, is inspiring.

Last night, African-American men and women, through the lens of cameras, on the lawn in Chicago or in front of their computer or television screen, saw clearly that their dreams are possible. The barriers that truly do exist and others that are merely perceived can be overcome. A young black girl or boy can strive to become something other than a professional athlete or a rap star – someone they can identify with has become a lawyer, a senator, a community organizer and a president. They can see that hard work, striving against adversity and high ideals can get you through. They can now see that the issues they once held before them as the reason they could not achieve can be reasons why they will overcome. They can see that the bi-racial child of a teen mother, a boy who grew up without a father and who was largely raised by his grandparents, can achieve something that prior to last night was mostly reserved for those of wealth and privilege.

Today, hearts hardened by racism may have been lifted. Perhaps those convinced that the limitations of racism would keep them downtrodden can at last stand up and realize they alone are in control of their destiny. Perhaps those who’ve lived their lives convinced that certain races are beneath them might realize we are all equal. Perhaps those standing somewhere in the middle can become a bridge to pull us all together.

Tomorrow, I’m hopeful we can all put down our suitcases – suitcases filled with the limitations in our lives, with overt and passive racism, with disappointment or with preconceived notions we have, fear, uncertainty and anxiety about the unknown. By sitting that baggage down, we may be unburdened by the weighty feelings we carry that were given to us by those who came before us or from our own unfortunate experience. In doing that, we might begin to have real dialogue with one another, address our grievances, agree to disagree about some issues and begin to move forward as one nation under God.

Of great importance is the understanding that Barack Obama’s victory would not have been possible were it not for people of many races and circumstances who walked together in the streets of communities across the nation and who walked alone into the voting booth to choose him. It was not the appeal of one divided group of people who made it happen, but rather a collective effort of many who see in him something that they believe can bring forth good and positive things. In a lot of ways, the good and positive things have already begun.

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