Monday, March 30, 2009

Choose Life Plate Becomes Law in Virginia!

Today, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine signed SB 817, the "Choose Life" license plate into law, making Virginia the 24th state to offer the pro-life plate. As many of you know, Senator Richard Stuart (R) drafted the bill and then Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R) amended it on the Senate floor and pushed this legislation through during the last legislative session. It was passed with solid bi-partisan support. It's a huge win for those in the pro-life movement, and also for those who hold dear our First Amendment rights.

In his statement, Governor Kaine (who also happens to be President Obama's hand picked National Chairman of the Democrat Party) said: "Because Virginians -like all Americans - regard freedom of expression among our highest values, courts in the Commonwealth and elsewhere have reviewed license plate programs to ensure that government regulation of plate messages does not discriminate based on the viewpoint expressed by a particular group."

We couldn't agree more - (and that's a first!)

This is a great momentum builder for the Cuccinelli for Attorney General campaign. All across the Commonwealth, thousands of people, many involved in politics for the first time, are joining the Cuccinelli team.

Senator Cuccinelli is the ONLY candidate for Attorney General who has a PROVEN RECORD of getting things done. He has cast thousands of votes and has never wavered from his conservative principals, something that unfortunately has been in vogue in Richmond and Washington for years.

LeBron James Sinks Incredible Shot on "60 Minutes"


LeBron James gave an interview to Steve Kroft, which aired last night on "60 Minutes," and sunk an incredible throwaway shot on his first try.

"The Fox Nation" Goes Live Today

Fox News is launching its new web site, "The Fox Nation" today. Here's an opinion piece by Grover Norquist on the new site...

FOX Nation for America
By Grover Norquist

Founder and President, Americans for Tax Reform

I believe that FOX Nation has the potential to do to the Internet what FOX News did to cable television. That is, be a disruptive, transformative–but also profoundly constructive–media force.

Just as FOX News brought a new vision and voice to the media landscape in the 90s–fair and balanced reporting, plus strong debate and commentary–so FOX Nation will bring still more vision and voice in the decade to come. Only this time, the vision and voice will come from you, the American people. That’s right: Thanks to FOX Nation, all Americans will now have a landmark forum, a watershed opportunity to speak out on the issues they care about, want to learn more about–and do more about.

FOX Nation itself takes no position on issues–although unlike so many other Web portals, FOX Nation does begin with the presumption that America is a special and unique place, a blessed land to be treasured and defended.

So members of the Leave Us Alone Coalition, I predict, are going to love FOX Nation as it fully rolls out in the weeks and months to come. That’s right, conservatives, libertarians, and other believers in limited government have found a new home–at FOX Nation.

The Leave Us Alone Coalition consists of all Americans who want the government to stay out of their lives, confining itself and its power to protecting the vital concerns of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Other than that, we believe, the government–federal, state, and local–should Leave Us Alone. Let us make our livings, let us raise our children, let us run our lives, without the dead hand of statist intervention.

The Leave Us Alone Coalition is not asking the government for others’ money, time, or attention. Instead, we want to control our own money, control our own property, and control our own destiny. That’s the American Way.

And that’s why I am confident that the Leave Us Alone Coalition will appreciate the larger power of FOX Nation. Of course, FOX Nation will only be as good as the American people. Which is to say, FOX Nation, indeed, has the potential to be great.

Across our history, Americans have made use of new tools in their struggle for freedom, just as the government has often used those same tools in its effort to suppress freedom.

But I believe, deep in my heart, that in the long run, freedom is always the victor, because freedom taps into the deepest creative wellsprings of the human spirit. Free people, and people who want to be free, will always fight the hardest. And now free people have yet another tool in FOX Nation.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Notre Dame Shame


President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this May.

In addition to delivering the address, the President will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. In short, one of our nation’s premier Catholic institutions will honor the President, and hold out him as an example to its students as someone worthy of emulation!

Given President Obama’s utterly shameful record on life, how could a Catholic university honor him?

The University could have politely and quietly told the White House that their standing invitation to the President of the United States was not available this year. Better yet, they could have said that while they would welcome his contributions to the public debate over how to solve our economic crisis, his regrettable policies in favor of a culture of death make it impossible for them to welcome him.

Notre Dame has regrettably hosted pro-abortion speakers in the past, but President Obama is a champion of the abortion cause.

Sadly, it is now indisputable that our President has become the world’s leading promoter of abortion, embryo-killing cloning and research, taxpayer-funded abortion, and a vigorous opponent of conscience protections for medical professionals. His campaign promises to find ‘common ground’ have sadly been ignored, or perhaps were simply lies. And this Administration has only just begun.

Is there anything a president could do that would disqualify him or her from delivering such a prestigious address?

If there is such a threshold, Barack Obama has not disqualified himself with Notre Dame officials.

And so we must act.

We have spoken with professors, students, and leaders at Notre Dame over the past 48 hours and have concluded that a massive protest will be practically difficult, and even counterproductive. The University has a right as a private school to prevent all protestors from entering campus, and could legally arrest those who violate this rule. Secondly, a protest could create exactly the wrong impression.

Therefore, we are recommending four courses of action.

1) has partnered with the Cardinal Newman Society, a dynamic organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic higher education in establishing Together our aim is to collect thousands of signatures and present them to University officials. Sign the petition now.

2) Contact Notre Dame and charitably express your outrage. is large enough to have a major impact, and we urge you to contact Notre Dame President Father Jenkins at (574) 631-5000.

3) Join your fellow members in a prayer of reparation on May 17 from 2-4 PM. We encourage you to organize local groups to pray for mercy for the decision by Notre Dame, but also for our nation for continuing to permit the tragedy of abortion.

***If you live in the Midwest, or near Notre Dame University, we invite you to personally join us in prayer at the Grotto on the campus of Notre Dame from 2-4 PM on May 17, where we will be joined by several Notre Dame professors, alumni, and current students. The gathering will be a peaceful and prayerful.

4) Please forward this message to your family and friends. Let them know about Notre Dame's decision to honor the most pro-abortion President in American history. We must not remain silent over this scandal!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Super Soph Chris Wright Leads Dayton Over West Virginia in NCAAs

As predicted earlier this week on the R.C. Blog, the Dayton Flyers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in this year's NCAA tournament with a 68-60 win over West Virginia.

Flyer Sophomore Chris Wright posted a double-double and had several monster dunks against the Mountaineers. He showed why he was one of the top 20 high school players in the nation two years ago as he turned down several big conference superpowers to stay local and play for UD. Next the Flyers face defending National Champion Kansas on Sunday, a rematch of the 1968 NIT championship game in which the Flyers won to capture the title.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

President Barack Obama Makes First Pro-Abortion Judicial Pick in David Hamilton

From LifeNews.Com...

President Barack Obama has nominated his first pro-abortion judicial candidate as he named David Hamilton as his first Appeals Court nominee. Hamilton is a former Clinton nominee whom Obama has appointed to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hamilton was initially appointed by President Clinton to a district judgeship in Indiana in 1994 even though the ABA gave him a “not qualified” rating.

In that position, Hamilton issued a series of rulings over seven years that prevented Indiana from implementing its informed consent law that would give women information about abortion's risks and alternatives.

In fact, the 7th Circuit Court, which overturned Hamilton's rulings and to which Obama has appointed him, issued a statement chiding him for holding up the law.

"For seven years Indiana has been prevented from enforcing a statute materially identical to a law held valid by the Supreme Court in Casey, by this court in Karlin, and by the fifth circuit in Barnes," the appeals judges wrote in their decision.

"No court anywhere in the country (other than one district judge in Indiana [i.e., Hamilton]) has held any similar law invalid in the years since Casey," they added. "[I]t is an abuse of discretion for a district judge to issue a pre-enforcement injunction while the effects of the law (and reasons for those effects) are open to debate."

Although President Obama claims to want to reduce abortions, his appellate court pick prevented a law from going into effect that has been proven to reduce abortions when put in place in other states.Apparently, the president believes preventing women from getting information that would help them avoid abortions is a good thing.“Judge Hamilton has a long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions,” Obama said. “He will be a thoughtful and distinguished addition to the 7th Circuit and I am extremely pleased to put him forward to serve the people of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.”

Prior to becoming a federal judge, Hamilton was the vice president for litigation and a board member of the Indiana branch of the ACLU, a top pro-abortion law firm.

Despite Hamilton's record, the New York Times is leading the media charge to cover up his pro-abortion decision and headlined its article on Obama's selection, “Moderate Is Said to Be Pick for Court."

That drew laughs from National Review writer Ed Whelan.

"It’s far from clear what justifies the article’s characterization of Hamilton as a 'moderate' (or, as the article oddly puts it, as 'represent[ing] some of his state’s traditionally moderate strain' -- how does one represent some of a strain?)," Whelan writes.

"With 'moderates' like Hamilton, imagine what Obama's 'liberal' nominees will look like," Whelan added.

Hamilton's pro-abortion record will likely earn him strong opposition from pro-life advocates and his decisions on other matters will draw pro-family groups into the fray as well.

Whether it will be enough to stop his nomination or prompt pro-life senators to issue a filibuster against him is another question.The Times says the nomination is meant ot send a signal to the public abotu the kind of nominees Obama will put forward. If that is the case, then pro-life advocates can expected hardcore abortion advocates for the Supreme Court and other federal courts.

ACTION: Contact your members of the Senate and express your opposition to Hamilton's nomination. You can find contact information for any senator at

Obama's War on the Private Economy

Another outstanding submission from R.C. Blog's very own, Christian Stockel...

Thoughts from the Right Side
Obama’s War on the Private Economy
RC Blogger -- Christian Stockel
March 19, 2009

Charles Krauthammer authored an outstanding and insightful article in the Washington Post discussing the gap between President Obama's policies and his public statements on the need to get the economy out of a recession. Mr. Krauthammer clearly points out that his stated priorities - universal health care, clean energy, and universal access to college do not address our current challenges in any way shape or form. The issues impacting the banking industry and credit markets will not be addressed by any health care, energy, or education policy – as President Obama has argued. Mr. Krauthammer is correct in the effect of Obama’s current policy; however, I feel that there is a larger narrative that best describes the policies coming out of Washington; there is a deliberate effort to destroy the private economy and replace it with governmental institutions. Yes I am saying it; President Obama wants to establish the United States as the newest member of the club of socialist economies. If there were any doubts that Obama was a far left liberal – they can now be comfortably laid to rest.

If America continues on this path, its private sector economy will be murdered and buried next to Jimmy Hoffa (and yes I am betting someone in the Democrat party knows where he is). Private wealth is being devastated by the lack of a coherent economic policy addressing the real issues affecting the economy. Instead, the Administration has focused its efforts on pushing through a historic expansion of government that will increase the size and scope of government to unprecedented levels. With the economy in free fall and the American people shaken, President Obama has the perfect political environment to foist radical and alien policies on a country built upon the traditions of limited government, free enterprise, and private wealth. He can use his gifted communication skills and political slight of hand to sneak in government run healthcare, appropriate private retirement accounts, and get its hands into the banking system and credit markets with little or no resistance. Using the cover of the current recession President Obama is achieving in a few short weeks what far left radicals have only been able to dream about in coffee shops and universities. One only has to look at the proponents of President Obama's budget: Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, and any one of the traditional Democrat Party constituencies to determine the radical bona-fides of his agenda.

Contrasting his words against his actions and measuring the disconnect between the objectives of his policies and their obvious results, I cannot help but conclude that President Obama wants to damage the private economy to such an extent – through rhetoric or policy – so as to dismantle public confidence in private enterprise and engender within the body politic the sentiments of class warfare and a default reliance on government instead of private initiative. The market has looked at Obama's policy initiatives and reacted accordingly. Share prices for major industrial icons like General Electric, General Motors, and Citibank are in the single digits. The 401K and IRAs of average Americans are plummeting in value leaving them scared and unsure about the future. Obama responds to the precipitous drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average with indifference and tries to refocus the discussion towards “remaking America”. He has done very little to address the core issues impacting the economy or developing a coherent package of policies that would strengthen the private economy. Instead all of his policies, his budgets, and the actions of his Administration have only moved to strengthen the hand of the federal government.

Just in case the private sector economy starts showing signs of life, one can be confident that a Congressional hearing on executive excesses or "mismanagement" will be held to keep private industry in check or President Obama will simply take the credit using whatever twisted logic he can palm off to the press. If a company or an industry gets out of line, it can expect Congressional scrutiny, new regulations, IRS audits, or targeted taxes.

In fact, we see it now with the AIG “bonus scandal”, this very scenario. Despite the fact that the bonus payouts were contracted and announced a year ago before the bailout, Congressional Democrats knew about them, and Senator Dodd put an amendment to the bill - that enabled the government bailout of AIG - that specifically protected bonuses under contract prior to any government aid we are hearing howls out of Congress and threats about taking back “our money”. All the hue and cry is for show. These bonuses are 1/10th of 1 percent of all the TARP funds given to AIG – most of which has been paid to European banks to keep them afloat. All legitimate concerns about the actions of AIG management aside, what we should be worried about is the precedence this situation established for federal intrusion into the economy and private companies.

Let’s review some of the events of March 17, 2009:

Senator Chuck Schumer makes an ominous threat regarding legal contracted bonuses paid to AIG employees – “If Mr. Liddy does nothing we will act and we will take this money back and return it to its rightful owners, the taxpayers," Schumer warned. "So for those of you who are getting these bonuses, be forewarned -- you will not be getting to keep them." If the Senator can specify specific individuals against whom the government will confiscate assets – he can do it to others.

President Obama considers policies making veterans pay for healthcare related to battle injuries using private insurance. This is not only a spit in the eye to our Armed Forces it is also one of many back door ploys to break the private insurance system leaving a government run healthcare system as the only alternative.

Congress pushes the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act that will make every business a hostage of big labor and ensure that the government is party to every negotiation point between a private business and unions. This will go a long way towards slowing the growth of small and medium business – the backbone of the American economy.

Nancy Pelosi has urged the Department of Justice to relaxing anti-trust restrictions on news-media companies – specifically those in her area that are left leaning and supportive of her policies – so they could consolidate and stay in business. This is an obvious move to protect a constituency and support union jobs. This maneuver could also open the door for future government bailouts of media corporations which would result in the government having a hand in the operations of newspapers and media outlets in the same way they are exercising control over AIG.

These are examples from just for one day and signal the things to come. As this Administration continues to implement its policies, we will be hearing and seeing more Congressmen and federal entities getting involved in the day-to-day management decisions of major American corporations or whole industries. If you thought taxes and regulation were a pain, imagine Nancy Pelosi sitting in on your Monday morning planning meetings!

We are witnessing nothing less than an all out war on private industry and capitalism. The United States stands before a crossroad and the decisions made in Washington will determine its future course. One path leads to America’s traditional founding principles; while the other path leads towards an expansive federal government, socialism, and a subservient citizenry.

Given these circumstances, where is the Republican leadership highlighting the Trojan horses hidden in the spending plan passed by Congress? Who is sounding the warning bell about the economic and social impacts of an all encompassing welfare state? Who is pointing out the intellectual and political fraud being committed by the administration? If President Obama's agenda gets passed unchecked, we will have government rationed health care, government managed banks whose primary business will be to enact a left-wing social agenda, and industry held sway to the ever changing political winds of an activist Congress and White House. More importantly, the idea that individuals must look first and foremost to government for their needs will displace the traditional American values of initiative, self-reliance, and individual liberty. Once established, such public sentiment is hard to displace or reverse. The United States will be disfigured into a shadow of European social democracies. The economic and social sclerosis that goes hand-in-hand with EU style socialism will soon follow.

The question before conservatives is this - will we go quietly into that dark future or will we fight? Will we fight and resist every action of this administration to turn us into a failed socialist utopia? Our freedom, our lives, and our property hang in the balance.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

R.C. Blog's NCAA Tournament Predictions

If President Obama can take time away from his busy schedule to do it, why can't I?

First and Second Round Upsets (wins by seeds lower than 9...):
Western Kentucky

Final Four Predictions:
North Carolina

Louisville vs. Pittsburgh for the National Championship

Pittsburgh will be victorious -- 2009 City of Champions!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Detroit's Automakers Went from Kings of the Road to Roadkill


The following is adapted from a speech delivered by Joseph B. White, Senior Editor of the Wall St. Journal, at Hillsdale College on January 26, 2009, at a seminar on the topic, “Cars and Trucks, Markets and Governments,” co-sponsored by the Center for Constructive Alternatives and the Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series. It is reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

I'D LIKE to start by congratulating all of you. You are all now in the auto business, the Sport of Kings-or in our case, presidents and members of Congress. Without your support—and I assume that most of you are fortunate enough to pay taxes—General Motors and Chrysler would very likely be getting measured by the undertakers of the bankruptcy courts. But make no mistake. What has happened to GM is essentially bankruptcy by other means, and that is an extraordinary event in the political and economic history of our country.

GM is an institution that survived in its early years the kind of management turbulence we've come to associate with particularly chaotic Internet startups. But with Alfred P. Sloan in charge, GM settled down to become the very model of the modern corporation. It navigated through the Great Depression, and negotiated the transition from producing tanks and other military materiel during World War II to peacetime production of cars and trucks. It was global before global was cool, as its current chairman used to say. By the mid-1950s the company was the symbol of American industrial power—the largest industrial corporation in the world. It owned more than half the U.S. market. It set the trends in styling and technology, and even when it did not it was such a fast and effective follower that it could fairly easily hold its competitors in their places. And it held the distinction as the world's largest automaker until just a year or so ago.

How does a juggernaut like this become the basket case that we see before us today? I will oversimplify matters and touch on five factors that contributed to the current crisis—a crisis that has been more than 30 years in the making.

First, Detroit underestimated the competition—in more ways than one.

Second, GM mismanaged its relationship with the United Auto Workers, and the UAW in its turn did nothing to encourage GM (or Ford or Chrysler) to defuse the demographic time bomb that has now blown up their collective future.

Third, GM, Ford, and Chrysler handled failure better than success. When they made money, they tended to squander it on ill-conceived diversification schemes. It was when they were in trouble that they often did their most innovative work—the first minivans at Chrysler, the first Ford Taurus, and more recently the Chevy Volt were ideas born out of crisis.

Fourth, GM (and Ford and Chrysler) relied too heavily on a few, gas-hungry truck and SUV lines for all their profits-plus the money they needed to cover losses on many of their car lines. They did this for a good reason: When gas was cheap, big gas-guzzling trucks were exactly what their customers wanted—until they were not.

Fifth, GM refused to accept that to survive it could not remain what it was in the 1950s and 1960s—with multiple brands and a dominant market share. Instead, it used short-term strategies such as zero percent financing to avoid reckoning with the consequences of globalization and its own mistakes.

Competition from Overseas

In hindsight, it's apparent that the gas shocks of the 1970s hit Detroit at a time when they were particularly vulnerable. They were a decadent empire—Rome in the reign of Nero. The pinnacles of the Detroit art were crudely engineered muscle cars. The mainstream products were large, V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive sedans and station wagons. The Detroit marketing and engineering machinery didn't comprehend the appeal of cars like the Volkswagen Beetle or the Datsun 240Z.

But it took the spike in gas prices—and the economic disruptions it caused—to really open the door for the Japanese automakers.

Remember, Toyota and Honda were relative pipsqueaks in those days. They did not have much more going for them in the American market prior to the first Arab oil embargo than Chinese automakers have today, or Korean automakers did 15 years ago. The oil shocks, however, convinced a huge and influential cohort of American consumers to give fuel-efficient Japanese cars a try. Equally important, the oil shocks persuaded some of the most aggressive of America's car dealers to try them.

The Detroit automakers believed the Japanese could be stopped by import quotas. They initially dismissed reports about the high quality of Japanese cars. They later assumed the Japanese could never replicate their low-cost manufacturing systems in America. Plus they believed initially that the low production cost of Japanese cars was the result of automation and unfair trading practices. (Undoubtedly, the cheap yen was a big help.) In any case, they figured that the Japanese would be stuck in a niche of small, economy cars and that the damage could be contained as customers grew out of their small car phase of life.

They were wrong on all counts.

There were Cassandras—plenty of them. At GM, an executive named Alex Mair gave detailed presentations on why Japanese cars were superior to GM's—lighter, more fuel efficient, and less costly to build. He set up a war room at GM's technical center with displays showing how Honda devised low-cost, high-quality engine parts, and how Japanese automakers designed factories that were roughly half the size of a GM plant but produced the same number of vehicles.

Mair would hold up a connecting rod—the piece of metal in an engine that connects the piston to the crankshaft. The one made by GM was bulky and crudely shaped with big tabs on the ends. Workers assembling the engines would grind down those tabs so that the weight of the piston and rod assembly would be balanced. By contrast, the connecting rod made by Honda was smaller, thinner, and almost like a piece of sculpture. It didn't have ugly tabs on the end, because it was designed to be properly balanced right out of the forge. Mair's point was simple: If you pay careful attention to designing an elegant, lightweight connecting rod, then the engine will be lighter and quieter, the car around the engine can be more efficient, the brakes will have less mass to stop, and the engine will feel more responsive because it has less weight to move.

Another person who warned GM early on about the nature of the Japanese challenge was Jim Harbour. In the early 1980s, he took it into his head to try to tell GM's executives just how much more efficient Japanese factories really were, measured by hours of labor per car produced. The productivity gap was startling—the Japanese plants were about twice as efficient. GM's president at the time responded by barring Jim Harbour from company property.

By the late 1980s, GM's chairman, Roger Smith, had figured out that his company had something to learn from the Japanese. He just didn't know what it was. He poured billions into new, heavily automated U.S. factories—including an effort to build an experimental "lights out" factory that had almost no hourly workers. He entered a joint venture with Toyota to reopen an old GM factory in California, called New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., or NUMMI. The idea was that GM managers could go to NUMMI to see up close what the "secret" of Toyota's assembly system was. Smith also launched what he promoted as an entirely new car company, Saturn, which was meant to pioneer both a more cooperative relationship with UAW workers and a new way of selling cars.

None of these was a bad idea. But GM took too long to learn the lessons from these experiments—good or bad. The automation strategy fell on its face because the robots didn't work properly, and the cars they built struck many consumers as blandly styled and of poor quality. NUMMI did give GM managers valuable information about Toyota's manufacturing and management system, which a team of MIT researchers would later call "lean production." But too many of the GM managers who gained knowledge from NUMMI were unable to make an impact on GM's core North American business.

Why? I believe it was because the UAW and GM middle managers quite understandably focused on the fact that Toyota's production system required only about half the workers GM had at a typical factory at the time. That was an equation the union wouldn't accept. The UAW demanded that GM keep paying workers displaced by new technology or other shifts in production strategy, which led to the creation of what became known as the Jobs Bank. That program discouraged GM from closing factories and encouraged efforts to sustain high levels of production even when demand fell.

GM and the UAW

This brings me to the relationship between Detroit management and the UAW.

It is likely that if no Japanese or European manufacturers had built plants in the U.S.—in other words, if imports were still really imports—the Detroit carmakers would not be in their current straits, although we as consumers would probably be paying more for cars and have fewer choices than we do. The fact is that the Detroit Three's post-World War II business strategies were doomed from the day in 1982 when the first Honda Accord rolled off a non-union assembly line in Ohio. After that it soon became clear that the Japanese automakers—and others—could build cars in the U.S. with relatively young, non-union labor forces that quickly learned how to thrive in the efficient production systems those companies operated.

Being new has enormous advantages in a capital-intensive, technology-intensive business like automaking. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and later BMW, Mercedes, and Hyundai, had new factories, often subsidized by the host state, that were designed to use the latest manufacturing processes and technology. And they had new work forces. This was an advantage not because they paid them less per hour—generally non-union autoworkers receive about what UAW men and women earn in GM assembly plants—but because the new, non-union companies didn't have to bear additional costs for health care and pensions for hundreds of thousands of retirees.

Moreover, the new American manufacturers didn't have to compensate workers for the change from the old mass production methods to the new lean production approach. GM did—which is why GM created the Jobs Bank. The idea was that if UAW workers believed they wouldn't be fired if GM got more efficient, then they might embrace the new methods. Of course, we know how that turned out. The Jobs Bank became little more than a welfare system for people who had nothing more to contribute because GM's dropping market share had made their jobs superfluous.

Health care is a similar story. GM's leaders—and the UAW's—knew by the early 1990s that the combination of rising health care costs and the longevity of GM's retired workers threatened the company. But GM management backed away from a confrontation with the UAW over health care in 1993, and in every national contract cycle afterwards until 2005—when the company's nearness to collapse finally became clear to everyone.

In testimony before Congress this December, GM's CEO Rick Wagoner said that GM has spent $103 billion during the past 15 years funding its pension and retiree health-care obligations. That is nearly $7 billion a year—more than GM's capital spending budget for new models this year. Why wasn't Rick Wagoner making this point in 1998, or 1999, or even 2003? Even now, GM doesn't seem willing to treat the situation like the emergency it is. Under the current contract, the UAW will pay for retiree health-care costs using a fund negotiated in last year's contract—but that won't start until 2010. GM is on the hook to contribute $20 billion to that fund over the next several years—unless it can renegotiate that deal under federal supervision.

Quality is Job One

Rick Wagoner told Congress: "Obviously, if we had the $103 billion and could use it for other things, it would enable us to be even farther ahead on technology or newer equipment in our plants, or whatever." Whatever, indeed.

This is a good place to talk about the Detroit mistake that matters most to most people: quality. By quality, I mean both the absence of defects and the appeal of the materials, design, and workmanship built into a car. I believe most people who buy a car also think of how durable and reliable a car is over time when they think of quality.

The failure of the Detroit automakers to keep pace with the new standards of reliability and defect-free assembly set by Toyota and Honda during the 1980s is well known, and still haunts them today. The really bad Detroit cars of the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s launched a cycle that has proven disastrous for all three companies. Poor design and bad reliability records led to customer dissatisfaction, which led to weaker demand for new Detroit cars as well as used ones. Customers were willing to buy Detroit cars—but only if they received a discount in advance for the mechanical problems they assumed they would have.

During the 1990s and the 2000s, a number of the surveys that industry executives accept as reliable guides to new vehicle quality began to show that the best of GM's and Ford's new models were almost as good—and in some cases better—in terms of being free of defects than comparable Toyotas, Hondas, or Nissans. But the Detroit brands still had a problem: They started $2,000 or more behind the best Japanese brands in terms of per-car costs, mainly because of labor and legacy costs, with a big helping of inefficient management thrown in. To overcome that deficit, GM and Ford (and Chrysler) resorted to aggressive cost-cutting and low-bid purchasing strategies with their materials suppliers.

Unfortunately, customers could see the low-bid approach in the design and materials used for Detroit cars. So even though objective measures of defects and things gone wrong showed new Detroit cars getting better and better, customers still demanded deep discounts for both new and used Detroit models. This drove down the resale value of used Detroit cars, which in turn made it harder for the Detroit brands to charge enough for the new vehicles to overcome their cost gap.

GM, Ford, and Chrysler compounded this problem by trying to generate the cash to cover their health care and pension bills by building more cars than the market demanded, and then "selling" them to rental car fleets. When those fleet cars bounced back to used car lots, where they competed with new vehicles that were essentially indistinguishable except for the higher price tag, they helped drive down resale values even more.

So the billions spent on legacy costs are matched by billions more in revenue that the Detroit automakers never saw because of the way they mismanaged supply and demand. This is why the Detroit brands appear to be lagging behind not just in hybrids—and it remains to be seen how durable that market is—but also in terms of the refinement and technology offered in their conventional cars.

What to Build?

The recent spectacle of the Diminished Three CEOs and the UAW president groveling before Congress has us focused now on how Detroit has mishandled adversity. A more important question is why they did so badly when times were good.

Consider GM. In 2000 Rick Wagoner, his senior executive team, and a flock of auto journalists jetted off to a villa in Italy for a seminar on how the GM of the 21st century was going to look. Wagoner and his team talked a lot about how GM was going to gain sales and profit from a "network" of alliances with automakers such as Subaru, Suzuki, Isuzu, and Fiat—automakers into which GM had invested capital. They talked about how they were going to use the Internet to turbocharge the company's performance. And so on. But five years later, all of this was in tatters. Much of the capital GM invested in its alliance partners was lost when the company was forced to sell out at distressed prices. Fiat was the worst of all. GM had to pay Fiat $2 billion to get out of the deal—never mind getting back the $2 billion it had invested up front to buy 20 percent of Fiat Auto. GM said it saved $1 billion a year thanks to the Fiat partnership. Obviously, whatever those gains were, they didn't help GM become profitable.

At least GM didn't use the cash it rolled up during the 1990s boom to buy junkyards, as Ford did. But GM did see an opportunity in the money to be made from selling mortgages, and plunged its GMAC financing operation aggressively into that market. Of course, GM didn't see the crash in subprime mortgages coming, either, and now GMAC is effectively bankrupt.

GM's many critics argue that what they should have done with the money they spent on UAW legacy costs and bad diversification schemes was to develop electric cars and hybrids, instead of continuing to base their U.S. business on the same large, V8 powered, rear-wheel-drive formula they used in the 60s—except that now these vehicles were sold as SUVs instead of muscle cars. And indeed, Detroit did depend too heavily on pickup trucks and SUVs for profits. But they did so for understandable reasons. These were the vehicles that consumers wanted to buy from them. Also, these were the vehicles that government policy encouraged them to build.

When gas was cheap, big gas-guzzling trucks were exactly what GM customers wanted. Consumers didn't want Detroit's imitation Toyota Camrys. Toyota was building more than enough real Camrys down in Kentucky. GM made profits of as much as $8,000 per truck—and lost money on many of its cars. Federal fuel economy rules introduced in 1975 forced GM to shrink its cars so that they could average 27.5 miles per gallon. GM did this poorly. (Remember the Chevy Citation or the Cadillac Cimarron?) But federal laws allowed "light trucks" to meet a lower mileage standard. This kink in federal law allowed GM, Ford, and Chrysler to design innovative products that Americans clamored to buy when gas was cheap: SUVs. When Ford launched the Explorer, and GM later launched the Tahoe and the upgraded Suburban, it was the Japanese companies that were envious. In fact, one reason why Toyota is on its way to a loss for 2008—its first annual loss in 70 years—is that it built too many factories in the U.S. in order to build more SUVs and pickups.

One irony of the current situation is that the only vehicles likely to generate the cash GM and the others need right now to rebuild are the same gas-guzzlers that Washington no longer wants them to build. Even New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has now come to realize that you can't ask Detroit to sell tiny, expensive hybrids when gasoline is under $2 a gallon. We have two contradictory energy policies: The first demands cheap gas at all costs. The second demands that Detroit should substantially increase the average mileage of its cars to 35 or even 40 miles per gallon across the board. How the Obama administration will square this circle, I don't know.

Thinking Anew

So now, where are we? GM has become Government Motors. With the U.S. Treasury standing in for the DuPonts of old, GM is going to try to reinvent itself. One challenge among many for GM in this process will be coming to terms with the reality that the U.S. market is too fractured, and has too many volume manufacturers, for any one of them to expect to control the kind of market share and pricing power GM had in its heyday. Today, according to, there are ten foreign-owned automakers with U.S. factories that assembled 3.9 million cars, pickups, and SUVs in 2007, before auto demand began to collapse. That's more than Ford's and Chrysler's U.S. production combined.

GM's efforts to cling to its 1950s self—with the old Sloanian ladder brands of Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac, plus Saturn, Saab, Hummer, and GMC—have led its management into one dark wood of error after another. Since 2001, GM's marketing strategy has come down to a single idea: zero percent financing. This was the automotive version of the addictive, easy credit that ultimately destroyed the housing market. Cut-rate loans, offered to decreasingly credit-worthy buyers, propped up sales and delayed the day of reckoning. But it didn't delay it long enough. The house of cards began tumbling in 2005, and I would say it has now collapsed fully.

Between 1995 and 2007, GM managed to earn a cumulative total of $13.5 billion. That's three-tenths of one percent of the total revenues during that period of more than $4 trillion—and those are nominal dollars, not adjusted for inflation. Between 1990 and 2007, GM lost a combined total of about $33 billion. The six unprofitable years wiped out the gains from 12 profitable years, and then some. But old habits die hard. Within hours of clinching a $6 billion government bailout last month, GMAC and GM were back to promoting zero-interest loans.

During the 1980s and 1990s, GM's leaders refused—and I believe some still refuse—to accept the reality of the presence of so many new automakers in the U.S. market, more than at any time since the 1920s. This hard truth means the company's U.S. market share going forward isn't going to return to the 40 percent levels of the mid-1980s, or the 30 percent levels of the 1990s, or even the mid-20 percent levels we have seen more recently. One thing to watch as GM tries to restructure now will be what assumptions the company makes about its share of the U.S. market going forward. If they call for anything higher than 15 percent, I would be suspicious.

Since all of you are now part owners of this enterprise, I would urge all of you to pay close attention, since what's about to unfold has no clear precedent in our nation's economic history. The closest parallels I can see are Renault in France, Volkswagen in Germany, and the various state-controlled Chinese automakers. But none of these companies is as large as GM, and none of these companies is exactly a model for what GM should want to become.

As I have tried to suggest, it's hard enough for professional managers and technicians—who have a clear profit motive—to run an enterprise as complex as a global car company. What will be the fate of a quasi-nationalized enterprise whose "board of directors" will now include 535 members of Congress, plus various agencies of the Executive Branch? As a property owner in suburban Detroit, I can only hope for the best.

JOSEPH B. WHITE is a senior editor in the Washington, D.C., bureau of The Wall Street Journal. A graduate of Harvard University, he has worked for the Journal since 1987, and for most of that time he covered the auto industry, serving as Detroit bureau chief from 1998-2007. He writes a weekly column on the car business and the regulatory and social issues that surround it for the Journal's online and print editions, and contributes new-car reviews to SmartMoney magazine. Mr. White is co-author (with Paul Ingrassia) of Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry, and won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 1993.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NYT on Newt...

From the March 1 New York Times' Sunday Magazine...

Click here for the print-ready version of the article (much too long to run in this blog)

It is worth the read. Very well done and only a few cheap shots at Newt and/or Conservatives. I know Newt is not a model of morality nor is he a full-fledged Conservative on all issues, but I have always been a big fan. The man is a genius and can communicate a message on our side better than just about anyone still alive.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hypocrisy and Irony Meet In Congress

Mental Brief from the Right Side -- by R.C. Blogger Christian Stockel
Hypocrisy and Irony Meet In Congress

One cannot complain that the Obama administration does not provide opportunities for entertainment. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was testifying before Rep. Charlie Rangel's Ways & Means Committee. He made a bold promise to Chairman Rangel that the Obama administration intends to propose "a series of legislative and enforcement measures to reduce . . . tax evasion and avoidance." Geithner looked Charlie Rangel straight in the eye and made that statement and neither one burst out laughing. No one even flinched – they both kept straight-faced.

There could be no better example that the United States has fallen down the rabbit hole than this little piece of history. We have a Secretary of the Treasury, a known tax cheat, making that statement to a Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee who is also a known tax cheat.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mark Levin vs. David Frum

Fantastic post by "Hogan" on against the pseudo-Republicans who went after Rush Limbaugh and his speech at CPAC last Saturday... Also, you can listen to an on-air debate between Mark Levin and David Frum by clicking here.

A note to David Frum, Ross Douthat, David Brooks and every other self-important, self-designated savior of the Republican Party… PLEASE STOP.

Please stop telling us what is wrong with… well, US. Seriously, I just cannot take it any more.

It’s like Yankees who come South because it’s generally such a nice place to live and then tell us we’re all a bunch of idiots and that we need to “do it like they used to do it back in Detroit.” Spare me – move back to Detroit and leave me alone.

We all recognize the problems we face as a nation, and as a Party. You want a frigging medal because you, too, can read polls and recognize that we need to sort out the Hispanic-gap, the suburban-soccer-mom-gap, the generational gap, the new-young-christian-gap or any other gap the numbers indicate? No freaking crap, geniuses. We just want to start with principle instead of a craptacularly stupid effort to buy-off their votes.

I can tolerate (while vehemently disagreeing with) your random ideas about traffic jams and ramping up police forces, your gas tax to pay for other tax cuts and a green agenda, your musings about FDR somehow being the model for 21st Century conservatism, and I can even tolerate your boring books that some Republicans read to prove they are “introspective” and thoughtful about the movement.

What makes me want to scream – and I mean a pull-my-hair-out, punch-someone-in-the-face kind of scream – is your self-indulgent, holier-than-thou proclamations about how wrong most of us “conservatives” are simply because you have seen the light after all this time writing for the New York Times, all of 5 minutes working for the Bush Administration, or all this time well, doing very little other than writing a book called Grand New Party and putting yourself out as the savior of a movement you apparently want little to do with.

I do not want – as I suspect most Republicans do not want – to suggest that we cannot have a fine debate about ideas within the movement. We always have. We always will. There is nothing new about that. I do it all the time with a great many smart conservatives. And you three have offered some fine ideas along the way, when not spending your time trying to re-make us.

Yes, we are a big tent… but we are a big tent with principles. Those principles vary a little bit, but there are large, common threads – freedom, personal responsibility, limited government and an appropriate deference to the Almighty are just a few of those principles the VAST majority of conservatives and Republicans I know embrace.

I love being a conservative and am proud to call myself one – so please do us a favor… quit calling yourself conservative, moving the goalposts on us, and then complaining we are on a different field. If you want to have a discussion of ideas, gentlemen, put them out there and we may find common ground. But STOP the condescending babbling about how “bad” we are and recognize that life is too short to go around being pompous and angry in your self-promotion.

p.s. If you are wondering what triggered this particular reaction, it was
this post by David Frum, but it was only because it was the most recent… it could have been any one of hundreds of others…

California Supreme Court Weighs Legality of Gay Marriage Ban

March 5 (Bloomberg) -- The California Supreme Court, which legalized gay marriage in 2008, will consider whether it was unconstitutional for Californians to outlaw same-sex weddings in a ballot measure that sparked protests and calls for boycotts against its supporters.

Gay and civil rights groups and cities including San Francisco and Los Angeles are seeking to overturn the measure, known as Proposition 8, which on Nov. 4 won 52 percent approval of voters to amend the state constitution to ban homosexual nuptials in the nation’s most populous state.

They say Proposition 8 is illegal because it revises the constitution to rob a protected minority of equal rights and court protection. Revisions of the constitution must be handled by state lawmakers, according to lawsuits filed on Nov. 5. Proposition 8 backers said the court can’t reverse what voters have approved. Arguments in the case are scheduled for today in San Francisco.

“The court is always reluctant to overturn a ballot initiative,” said attorney Vikram Amar, who teaches constitutional law at University of California-Davis. “Prop 8 challengers will try to distinguish this initiative from others, that equality is somehow more important than other basic rights.”

The court will also decide whether to invalidate approximately 18,000 marriages performed before Proposition 8 passed. Four out of seven Supreme Court justices voted to legalize gay marriage in May. One of the four voted against hearing lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8. That has led to speculation that there may be four votes against striking down Proposition 8, said Amar. A ruling is due within 90 days.

The ballot measure captured national attention because California was only the second state after Massachusetts to allow gay weddings and because of the backlash against its supporters.

Mormon and Evangelical churches in California were targeted by protesters over their support of the measure. Proposition 8 campaign donors, some of whose names were publicized on Web sites, received critical e-mails or calls to boycott their businesses, according to court records.

California has at least 92,000 same-sex couples, more than any other state, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. The state supreme court ruled in May that homosexual couples have a constitutional right to marry. The ruling struck down laws barring gay weddings, and was reversed by Proposition 8.

“If permitted to stand, Proposition 8 would strike directly at the foundational constitutional principal of equal protection” by establishing “that an unpopular group may be selectively stripped of fundamental rights by a simple majority of voters,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in court filings.

Minter, a 48-year-old transsexual who is married with a daughter, will argue on behalf of gay couples suing to overturn Proposition 8. He was one of the attorneys who successfully argued before the court in May to legalize gay weddings.

Kenneth Starr, the Pepperdine University Law School dean and former U.S. independent counsel who headed an investigation that led to former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, will represent Proposition 8 supporters before the court today. Proposition 8 doesn’t revise the constitution or allow a majority to take rights away from same-sex couples because it leaves intact California’s domestic partner laws, Starr, 62, said in court filings.

Californians “will no doubt continue to debate the issue in terms of inalienable rights, justice, tradition and social welfare,” Starr wrote. “However, the judiciary no longer has a role in determining the definition of marriage.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Final Convention Call for Northern Virginia Conservatives!!!!

All R.C.s are needed as delegates at the Republican State Convention!! The filing deadlines are approaching fast (see below)!!!!!

On Saturday, May 30 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, statewide Republicans will gather to select the party's nominee for Attorney General in the November election.

As fellow R.C.'s, the selection is obvious... State Senator Ken Cuccinelli. He has been a staunch leader of Conservative principles in the state senate during his tenure.

The filing deadlines are rapidly approaching and are determined by your local Republican Party rules, as shown below. You must download, printoff, fill out, and mail or hand deliver the delegate filing form as soon as possible.

You can download your filing forms from these websites:

Fairfax County: -- filing deadline March 7

Prince William County: -- filing deadline March 7

Loudoun County: -- filing deadline March 14

Arlington County: -- filing deadline March 5

Or you can go to the Republican Party of Virginia website, and on theleft hand column, under "2009 State Convention" fill in yourcounty's/city's name and download the filing form.

It's time to stand up and be counted! Hope to see you in Richmond on May 30!!!

Tribute to Paul Harvey

As someone who grew up dreaming of getting on the radio and eventually did it for a short time, I grew up glued to the radio whenever Paul Harvey came on WMAL-AM 630. ABC Radio has a nice tribute site to the man behind "the rest of the story". I did read this past weekend that Mr. Harvey is credited with creating the term "ReaganEconomics"...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Why I'm Not Lining Up for Stimulus Handouts"

From the February 28 Wall St. Journal, here is a fantastic piece from one of the best young Conservatives in our country...

Why I'm Not Lining Up for Stimulus Handouts
We've been down the spending road, and the result is a state budget in terrible shape.

By Scott Walker, Milwaukee

Recently, a firestorm ignited in Wisconsin when I, as Milwaukee County executive, refused to submit a wish list to Gov. Jim Doyle for items in the federal "stimulus" package.

Gov. Doyle -- like other politicians -- had lined up at the federal trough begging for billions in "free money" to cover budget deficits and to fuel new spending. He and others simply couldn't understand and were outraged that I didn't join them, and that I didn't relent even after the president signed the stimulus bill into law.

My explanation is simple. First, this money isn't free. Second, under Gov. Doyle our state has borrowed vast sums of money and avoided making tough budget decisions while expanding government programs. In three biannual budgets since he took office in 2003, new state bonding exceeded new tax revenue collections by $2.1 billion. During good times, the governor had been borrowing money to underwrite expansions of health care, education and environmental programs. If he is bailed out now, the federal stimulus funds will only enable the governor and others to go on spending and even taking on new obligations that will lead to larger deficits down the road. Third, if we grow government rather than private-sector jobs, we will not help the economy. Strong leadership, honest budgeting and tax cuts would do a lot more.

This burst housing bubble that led to the recession was created when millions of people were allowed (or encouraged) to spend borrowed money on homes they couldn't afford and were later forced into foreclosure.

Apparently Washington politicians learned nothing from this process. They rushed to spend $787 billion of borrowed money on new government programs in the name of economic stimulus. But even this loan of taxpayer money -- essentially the largest mortgage in history -- will come due. When it does, our children and grandchildren will pay for this imprudence.

As popular as the federal "stimulus" package is with Washington politicians, it is more popular among state and local politicians who view federal money as a cure for their fiscal woes.

Wisconsin is afflicted with fiscal woes. In every budget he has signed, Gov. Doyle postponed difficult decisions using accounting gimmicks and excessive bonding to pay for ongoing operational costs. The most egregious example is the damage done to the transportation fund over the past six years, which uses state gas taxes and vehicle registration fees to fund road projects. The governor has raided the segregated fund for a total of $1.2 billion to cover ongoing operational costs for government programs. He's partially replaced the raided funds with $865.5 million in bonds.

As a result of borrowing against tomorrow to live for today, the governor left Wisconsin's budget vulnerable. So in the fall of 2008 when recession caused a sharp decline in tax revenue, the state was forced into the red.

Wisconsin now faces an unprecedented $5.75 billion budget deficit, fourth-largest in the nation. Many municipalities also face deficits. My county, however, finished fiscal year 2007 with a $7.9 million surplus and will break even for fiscal year 2008 when the books are closed next month. Why? Because we made tough budget decisions demanded by the taxpayers.

State and local officials who failed to do so are looking to the federal government for a bailout. But what happens when the stimulus money is gone? Is the federal government committed to funding the projects it will now underwrite forever? I'm not willing to bet on it.

The stimulus is a classic bait-and-switch. Once the highways are built and social-service case loads have increased, Wisconsin will be left with the bill to maintain the new roads and services. This will force Wisconsin to raise new taxes. Gov. Doyle and legislative Democrats are already discussing higher taxes on hospitals, retailers, employers and even Internet downloads to feed their spending addiction.

The stimulus is also a bait-and-switch on employment. While the stimulus package might create a few construction jobs, the federal money will run out and those workers will lose their jobs. Even worse, most of the money is actually spent on new government programs and on bailing out failed state and local governments.

For the vast majority of residents of my state, the stimulus funds will not help them pay the mortgage or replenish their depleted retirement savings as they worry about being laid off.

True economic stimulus creates sustainable private-sector jobs. The fastest, most effective way to create them is to reduce taxes and implement regulatory and fiscal policies that encourage job growth and economic investment. History has shown repeatedly from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan that as taxes are cut, consumers spend more and investors put more money in the economy. This, in turn, creates jobs, and grows the economy.

Too many politicians confuse more government spending with economic recovery. I believe that's the wrong approach, and I will not submit a wish list for new government spending. Excessive spending will only lead to higher taxes, and that will drive jobs away when we need them the most.

We need to use these challenging times as an opportunity to streamline government and reduce the tax burden on working families. In 2002, during my first campaign for county executive, I promised to spend taxpayer money as if it were my own. If government -- at all levels -- were to do just that, we could reduce taxes and stimulate the economy. That would put people back to work again. And that is something on my wish list.

Mr. Walker, a Republican, is Milwaukee County executive. is an independent site and is not affiliated with any official web sites, associations, or organizations associated with President Reagan. Any views expressed or content included on this site do not necessarily reflect the views, positions, or opinions of any of the organizations or individuals named, linked, or advertised.

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