Monday, 23 March 2009

CONDOMS: HOW WE ARE SCREWING THE AMERICAN WORKER

Ken Berwitz

From Mike McGraw of the Kansas City Star:

Stimulus? U.S. to buy Chinese condoms, ending Alabama jobs

By Mike McGraw | Kansas City Star

At a time when the federal government is spending billions of stimulus dollars to stem the tide of U.S. layoffs, should that same government put even more Americans out of work by buying cheaper foreign products?

In this case, Chinese condoms.

That's the dilemma for the folks at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has distributed an estimated 10 billion U.S.-made AIDS-preventing condoms in poor countries around the world.

But not anymore.

In a move expected to cost 300 American jobs, the government is switching to cheaper off-shore condoms, including some made in China.

The switch comes despite implied assurances over the years that the agency would continue to buy American whenever possible.

"Of course, we considered how many U.S. jobs would be affected by this move, said a USAID official who spoke on the condition that he would not be named. But he said the reasons for the change included lower prices (2 cents versus more than 5 cents for U.S.-made condoms) and the fact that Congress dropped buy American language in a recent appropriations bill.

Besides, he said, the sole U.S. supplier an Alabama company called Alatech had previous delivery problems under the program.

It's clear that Alatech's problems over the years, which apparently have been resolved, may have driven U.S. officials to seek much less expensive foreign-made condoms in the first place.

But that's cold comfort to Fannie Thomas, who has been making AIDS-preventing condoms in southeastern Alabama for nearly 40 years in the small town of Eufaula.

We pay taxes down here, too, and with all this stimulus money going to save jobs, it seems to me like they (the U.S. government) should share this contract so they can save jobs here in America, Thomas said.

Thomas and others at the Alatech plant said there arent many alternatives for them if it closes down, which is a likely result of the contracting switch.

In fact, the government is close to accepting condoms from two offshore companies: Unidus Corp., which makes condoms in South Korea, and Qingdao Double Butterfly Group, which makes them in China.

I had two really funny lines ready to go here.  But I am not going to put them up because, while the subject matter may seem funny, the issues are not.

Hundreds of US jobs are going to be lost because a US agency can buy condoms cheaper from China than it can from the US.  Maybe it would be a good idea to think about why.

Here are a couple of reasons:

-The workers are being paid a living wage.  

-The condom manufacturer has to abide by a dizzying array of regulations and procedures that China doesn't even think about.  They include OSHA, workman's comp, accounting costs, regulations on everything from EPA standards for the factory to packaging, to who knows what else, along with accounting issues, legal issues, etc. etc, etc. etc. etc.

What's really happening here is a microcosm of why we no longer have a manufacturing base in the USA.  Manufacturers have endless rules and regulations, ranging from benign to insane, that drive up the cost of goods we produce.  Then they are expected to compete against countries like China with no regulations and slave-labor wages.  No wonder the domestic jobs vanish.

It's bad enough we can't sell to the rest of the world because of this.  Do we have to screw our own workers? 

Yeah, condoms cost less from China.  So let's even the playing field.  We'll eliminate all the regulations and pay the workers $14.17 a day without benefits, (that's the 2007 average for urban Chinese employees -- rural workers get less).  Now we can compete in price.

Is that ok with the US Agency for International Development?  Because it sure as hell isn't ok with me.

Either change the rules to make us more competitive, or pay the difference and buy from Alabama, so that a few hundred of our own people can earn a decent living and work in a decent environment.  OK?


A LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA

Ken Berwitz

From my west coast pal Russ:

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for helping my neighbors with their mortgage payments. You know the
one's down the street who in the good times refinanced their house several times
and bought SUV's, ATV's, RV"s, a pool, a big screen, two WaveRunners and a Harley. 
But I was wondering, since I am paying my mortgage AND theirs, could you arrange for
me to borrow the Harley now and then?

Richard Ford, Queen Creek

P.S. They also need help with their credit cards, when do you want me to start making
those payments?

P.P.S. I almost forgot - they didn't file their income tax return this year. Should I go ahead
and file for them or will you be appointing them to cabinet posts?

.


GOVERNOR PATERSON AND THE SECRET TAX HIKES

Ken Berwitz

Governor Dimwi...er, David Paterson, the Governor-by-accident of New York, is lying about his intention to tax "the rich".  Why not?  He lies about everything else.

Here are the particulars, from Fred Dicker of the New York Post:

GOV PLOTS SECRET TAX HIKE ON RICH

Last updated: 5:28 am
March 23, 2009
Posted: 1:41 am
March 23, 2009

GOV. PATERSON and legislative Democrats have secretly agreed on an $8 billion, two- year tax hike on individuals making more than $500,000 a year that will "sunset" around the time he plans to run for election in 2010, legislative sources told The Post.

Also under intense discussion yesterday as lawmakers rushed to complete a budget by April 1 is a proposal to raise the state's 4 percent sales tax to 4.5 percent the total of which would jump to close to 10 percent in parts of the state with the addition of local sales taxes.

The sales-tax hike, too, would sunset at the end of next year or in early 2011, legislative Democrats said.

While Paterson has repeatedly claimed he was against a "millionaires' tax" on the very wealthy and hasn't backed a sales-tax hike, the sources said he was privately backing both.

The current top tax rate is 6.85 percent for all incomes over $25,000 a year. Sources could not say yesterday what the rate would rise to for incomes over $500,000.

"Paterson has told everyone he really wants the taxes, but he wants it to appear to the public that he's against them," a senior legislative official said.

"Then, next year, when he's running, he'll say we can afford to phase them out so he can claim that he's a tax cutter."

Billions in other tax hikes proposed by Paterson in December, including huge increases in levies on insurance policies and health services, have been left in the budget for the fiscal year beginning April 1.

The budget, which is meant to close a multibillion-dollar deficit made less severe by billions of dollars in last-minute federal stimulus aid, is also expected to cut several major state programs, including Medicaid, deeper than many have expected.

The proposed cuts have angered many Democratic lawmakers, as well as the powerful unions that regularly bankroll their campaigns.

Democrats who control the Legislature and the governor's office for the first time since the late 1930s plan to ram the budget through with virtually no debate or scrutiny using special "messages of necessity" issued by Paterson that will circumvent the legally required three-day waiting period designed to give lawmakers, and the public, time to review proposed new laws, several sources said.

As lieutenant governor and Senate minority leader, Paterson strongly opposed using the "messages" to cut off debate.

A Paterson spokesman yesterday refused to say whether the governor would use the procedure to ram through the budget.

The budget plan, meanwhile, is expected to shift longstanding state commitments from wealthy, Republican-oriented Long Island school districts to poorer districts in New York City and upstate, potentially angering suburban Senate Democrats whose votes will be vital for the budget to pass.

What a lying dope.  I won't call him a lying snake because I consider a snake devious and competent.  I do not have any reason to believe Governor Paterson is competent, certainly not enough to successfully be devious.

The idea itself is very salable to voters.  Hey, they're RICH, get the money from THEM.  We hate those rich SOB's anyway.  So they'll only eat caviar 350 days a year instead of all 365.

The reality is a bit different.  The more you tax people, the more you drive them out of the place where they are being taxed.  The more you tax people, the more you incent them to shelter and/or hide the money you draw taxes from. 

You can do the math and figure out approximately what a tax increase will yield all you want.  But that number is never realized, because the higher the tax, the more ways people people find - legal and otherwise - to avoid paying it.

There is a point where government is spending so much that even the greatest amount of taxes it can scare up will not cover the expenses.  New York has blown past that point.

Here's a novel idea that might work:  Spend less. 

Let me say that again.  Spend less.

Can you hear me, Governor Paterson?


THE OBAMA SMIRK

Ken Berwitz

The Obama smirk. 

We saw it whenever he was challenged throughout the election campaign and now we're seeing it whenever he is challenged as President.  So there it was, when Steve Kroft asked him about the financial mess we're in and what, if anything, his policies will do to alleviate it.

Did you see the movie "American Gangster", starring Denzel Washington as drug kingpin Frank Lucas?   He used that exact same smirk when he softly, deliberately, insinuatingly said, "my man....".  The two are so identical that I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Obama deliberately copied it.

The Lucas character meant it as an understated threat.  Barack Obama, I think, means it as a deflection.  Something to intrigue, warm and delight us so that we don't notice him ducking the question.

But it doesn't do any of those things to me.  To me, it drips with arrogance and contempt.  And I suspect increasing numbers of people who voted for him would tell you the same thing. 

Here is an excerpt from the article by Craig Gordon and Jonathan Martin of www.politico.com which describes his interview.  Please be sure to look at the accompanying video:

Kroft to Obama: Are you punch-drunk?

  

 President Barack Obama said he believes the global financial system remains at risk of implosion with the failure of Citigroup or AIG, which could touch off an even more destructive recession and potentially depression.

His remarks came in a60 Minutes interview in which he was pressed by Steve Kroft for laughing and chuckling several times while discussing the perilous state of the worlds economy.

You're sitting here. And you're you are laughing. You are laughing about some of these problems. Are people going to look at this and say, I mean, he's sitting there just making jokes about money How do you deal with I mean: explain. . . Kroft asked at one point.

Are you punch-drunk? Kroft said.

No, no. There's gotta be a little gallows humor to get you through the day, Obama said, with a laugh.

How telling is that smirk?  What does it say about Mr. Obama?  What does it say to you?  

Well, whatever it says, I hope you enjoy it.  Because you'll have it for almost four more years, maybe eight.

steve schneider imagine if that was george bush..... todays headlines would be that the present economic conditions are a joke to the president. an interesting line in the interview was that the least of obamas problems are in iraq. too bad kroft didn't push that issue....no some credit may have gone to former pres. bush and that can't happen. steve (03/23/09)


THE NEW HAVEN REGISTER AND CHRIS DUDD

Ken Berwitz

Do you like editorials that are blunt and to the point?

Try this one on for size.  It comes to us from the New Haven Register, and is about Chris Dudd, a senator the Register has had plenty of good words to say about in the past.

EDITORIAL: Dodd lied about AIG bonuses

Friday, March 20, 2009 6:23 AM EDT

Were not going to mince words. Chris Dodd is a lying weasel. It is hard enough to swallow that the senator had no idea that he got preferential treatment on his home mortgages that saved him thousands of dollars. Or that, simply out of friendship, a wealthy New York man, who was later convicted in a huge stock swindle, picked up much of the cost of a condo Dodd bought in Washington; or that the stock swindlers business partner out of a love of Ireland did the same for Dodd when the senator bought a waterfront house in Ireland.

Now, Dodd flat-out has lied about his role in legislation that is allowing employees of American International Group to receive $400 million in bonuses despite receiving $173 billion in taxpayer money to keep the failed financial giant alive.

We praised Dodd on March 9 for authoring an amendment to the $787 billion stimulus bill that barred the top executives and highest-paid workers at companies that took government bailout money from receiving bonuses. Sharply down in opinion polls, Dodd was riding the wave of public anger at Wall Streets greed.

What Dodd did not reveal at the time was that there was a provision in his amendment that exempted any bonuses, including AIGs, in contracts dated prior to Feb. 11. The exemption was cited by Obama administration officials as the reason they were powerless to stop AIGs payment of the bonuses.

CNN, the cable television news channel, Tuesday asked Dodd about the loophole. Dodd told CNN it was not in the bill when it left the Senate. "I cant point a finger at someone who offered a change at all," Dodd said. Asked if he later determined how the loophole was added, Dodd said, "I really dont know."

Wednesday, Dodd was forced to admit to CNN that he was responsible for the loophole after the Treasury Department said it had asked Dodd for the change. Dodd had the good grace to apologize for his Tuesday lie; but, he tried to shift some responsibility to his staff, claiming it, not he, had spoken with Treasury officials.

Dodd claims he was unaware of the AIG bonuses when he changed the language of his amendment to allow them. Dodd, however, is more than familiar with AIG. Its Financial Products unit, which helped drive AIG to the brink of bankruptcy, has headquarters in Wilton. As a member and now chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over AIGs industry, Dodd has received more campaign money, $281,038, from AIG than any other member of Congress.

Dodds lie about the bonus loophole should haunt him next year when he seeks re-election. He has broken a bond with voters who expect honesty from their elected officials.

I welcome The Register to the real world of Chris Dudd.  Calling him a lying weasel is hitting the nail on the head.  Because that's what he is, and has been for some time.

Now grow old waiting for the Boston Globe to do the same for Dudd's counterpart in the house of representatives, Barney Fudd. 

Fudd and Dudd are not only liars, they are, arguably, the two most culpable members of congress when it comes to the collapse of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac.

The good news is that there is a very real chance Dudd will be gone from the senate after the next election (in 2010).  The bad news is that Fudd will continue in the house forever.  He owns Newton, MA lock, stock and liberal sensibilities. 

George Bush has a better chance of being asked to head moveon.org than Barney Fudd has of being called to account for his disastrous dishonesty and incompetence.  I'm sure Newtonians are proud as peacocks.


THE GLOBAL WARMING MYTH

Ken Berwitz

John Hinderaker, at www.powerlineblog.com, offers us the latest in what has become a torrent of evidence suggesting that man-made global warming is a myth.  I'm posting his commentary without the half dozen or so supporting charts.  You can see them all by clicking below:

Dispelling the Global Warming Myth

Earlier this month, the Heartland Institute sponsored the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change in New York. The Conference differed from most such events in that it was devoted to science, not politics or propaganda. Heartland has now made the materials presented at the conference available online, here. You can review the agenda, watch videos of the keynote presentations, read transcripts of some of the speeches, and see the Power Points that were presented by the speakers. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

SEE THE KEY GLOBAL CLIMATE CHARTS BY CLICKING HERE

Due to the efforts of Heartland and others, the public is beginning to catch on to the cosmic scam that Al Gore, James Hansen and others--mostly not scientists--have been perpetrating. Meanwhile, the Obama administration, seemingly determined to inflict the maximum possible damage on the economy in the shortest time, is trying to ram a cap-and-trade carbon tax through Congress before opposition can be mobilized. It's easier to do that, of course, when you know that Congressmen won't read the statute before they vote on it. So our only hope is an informed citizenry.

Is man-made global warming a scam?  Mr. Hinderaker thinks so.  I'm not 100% convinced but I'm close, and getting closer.

How about you?


TIMOTHY GEITHNER: LIAR AND FRAUD

Ken Berwitz

Timothy Geithner is a liar, a fraud and has no business being anywhere near Treasury, let alone heading it.

I've already blogged about his absolute lie regarding when he knew of AIG's retention bonuses -- complete with video of him being TOLD about them in so many words by a Democratic senator, during a ways and means committee hearing, a week and a half before Geithner claims he first knew about them.

That alone should be enough to have him removed.

But the article in today's Wall Street Journal, by Michael E. Phillips and Sudeep Reddy, so completely blows the lid off of Geithner's lies that his continuation in this position is untenable.  He must go and he must go now.  Today.

Here are excerpts from the article:

MARCH 23, 2009

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