Saturday, August 02, 2008

Tyson Foods drops Labor Day for Muslim holiday

August 1, 2008, The Tennessean, SHELBYVILLE — Workers at the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Shelbyville will no longer have a paid day off on Labor Day but will instead be granted the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. (link)


I don't care. Now, I might be upset if they were taking away Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or July the 4th, but Labor Day? After all, the only reason we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September was to take the steam out the movement by the anarchist, socialist, and Communist, which recognize May 1 as Labor Day. We can do without Labor Day. Anyway, this does not take it away from anyone except the employees of the Tyson chicken plant in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

We have already combined Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday and Jefferson's Birthday into Presidents' Day. When Martin Luther King's Day became an official holiday, that pretty much killed Columbus Day. Anyway, celebrating a European white guy for discovering a couple continents that were inhabited by the noble, indigenous peoples of the Americas was no longer politically correct, so Columbus Day had to go. If we are going to substitute a holiday, Labor Day is about all we have left.

Shelbyville is a town located about 50 miles south of Nashville. If you have heard of Shelbyille it is probably because it is the headquarters of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Shelbyville has a population of 16,105 according to the 2000 census. I don't know how many Somalis live there, but apparently, quite a few. Tyson Foods is one of the area's largest employers and the Tyson plant, which processes chickens, employs 1200 people, 700 of whom are Muslim Somalis. Up until a couple of years ago, Tyson employed many illegal, Mexican immigrants. A raid, and subsequently a law suit resulting in Tyson promising not to "knowingly" hire illegals anymore, replaced the Mexicans by Somalis. It seems that it is hard to find Americans who want to pluck chickens for low wages.

The new five-year labor contract with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union still gives the employees eight paid holidays, but the employees will no longer get Labor Day as a holiday. Instead employees will get Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. This year the day falls on October 1, but it does not fall on the same day every year.

Eid al-Fitr, which means "Festival of the Breaking of the Fast" in Arabic, is one of the Muslim's most important holidays. It is marked by the performance of communal prayer at daybreak. It is a time of official receptions and visits with friends, giving of gifts, wearing of new clothes, and visiting the graves of relatives. It is about as important to Muslims as Christmas is important to Christians.

If I was ever a refugee in a strange land, I would hope my employer would let me have Christmas off. I suspect that the xenophobes will go ballistic over this. I suspect they will be vowing to boycott Tyson chicken.

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"The One"

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Volkswagen or Ford

The recent acquisition of Budweiser by a Belgium Company has resulted in a lot of conversation about the virtue of drinking American beer and buying American products. In the local coverage of the issue, live from Bobby’s Idle Hour Lounge, Todd Milsap, son of country music legend Ronnie Milsap said, "I'm not hip with it. I drink Budweiser, and I don't do foreign beers. I won't even drive a foreign car."

Last week Volkswagen announced they had chosen Chattanooga, Tennessee as the site of their new, one billion dollar, Volkswagen plant. The plant will employee about 2,000 people and will produce about 150,000 cars a year.

Today, there was an article in the paper about the future of Ford Motor Company. Ford recently reported their worst quarterly loss in history. It seems that Americans concerned about high gas prices are not purchasing as many SUV’s and pick-up trucks as the market had previously demaned, so Ford is looking at importing some of its European models to America. Ford plans to construct new plants in America, equipped to build some of its European cars. Two of its models will be built elsewhere: The Ford Fiesta Subcompact will be built in Mexico and imported to the U.S., and the Ford Transit Connect will be built in Turkey.

So, I have a question for Todd Milsap and all you other “buy America” proponents. I am confused and so could you please explain the following: Which is the more "American" car: the Volkswagen built in Chattanooga, Tennessee or the Ford Transit Connect built in Turkey?

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eminent domain vs. property rights

City is being used for private profit

By COUNCILMAN MICHAEL CRADDOCK, The Tennessean, July 31, 2008

Twenty-three Music Circle E. is a very small parcel of real estate that is owned by Mrs. Joy Ford, a country music songwriter and producer. Her name is on the deed.

I am sure that as I write this article, Mrs. Ford feels like her world is crumbling around her. After all, she is being forced to defend her private property rights against the 800-pound gorilla commonly known as the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. (link)

It's not always about money; it is about respect for ownership

Our View, The Tennessean, July 31, 2008

Nashville's Music Row was once a place where individualism was valued.

Large record labels have always been an important part of the Row, it's true, but they co-existed with small publishers and other cottage industries, all taking their chances at success.
The Row, and Nashville as a whole, could lose that reputation if the Metro Development and Housing Authority is allowed to seize a small-business owner's property to be handed over to a large commercial development.

In June, MDHA sought Circuit Court approval to declare Joy Ford's building at 23 Music Circle E. "blighted," which would enable the agency to claim the property under a redevelopment district set up in 1999. (link)

Comment: The entire Opinion Page of today's Tennessean is devoted to this topic. At the same link as listed above, you can also find the article "Such districts save Nashville from decay" by MDHA's Phil Ryan, and "Lionstone project will bring jobs, revenue city needs" by Lionstone's Doug McKinnon. Both make the case in defense of condemnation.

I am pleased and pleasantly surprised to see The Tennessean take such a bold stand for private, property rights. Often The Tennessean seems to me to be wishy-washy and moderately liberal, sort of the local version of USA Today. In this case however, The Tennessean has taken a strong position and one with which I happen to agree. In their editorial, they stated "There are limits to what urban redevelopment should do, and taking someone's property against their will for purposes that are not expressly for the public good is simply going too far." Congratulations to The Tennessean!

Congratulations, also, to Councilman Michael Craddock for showing leadership on this issue.

The fight is not over. Maybe justice will prevail. What can we do to help?

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The House of Representative Apologizes for Slavery

The House of Representatives today formally apologized to African-Americans “on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow.” (link) The resolutions says that Africans forced into slavery "were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage" and that black Americans today continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws that fostered discrimination and segregation.

If I were in the Congress, I would have went along with this resolution and mumbled an "aye", not that I think it does any good or really means much but it does no harm. The vote was by voice vote so no one in the Congress can be disproved it they say they voted for it or against it or say they simply didn’t vote. Congress is routinely passing resolution that commemorate this or that or recognize people for their accomplishments, or express a sentiment of the House on some topic, so one more resolution expressing the will of the House of Representatives will do no harm.

What does it really mean? It is an apology to “African-Americans” “on behalf of the people of the United States.” Well, African Americans are some of the “people of the United States” so African-Americans who are the descendants of slaves are included in the apology to African Americans. How logical is that?

What if you are the descendant of immigrants who were not even here during the era of slavery? What if your ancestors never owned slaves and maybe were abolitionist, or died fighting against slavery, or marched for civil rights? It doesn’t matter; Congress just apologized for slavery on your behalf.

I would like to have seen the bill expanded to include an apology for other sins against African-Americans. The Congress should have apologized for the “fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery, and Jim Crow, and the welfare enslavement, dependency and destruction of the Black community caused by the Great Society and other welfare enactments.” I could have enthusiastically supported such a resolution.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Taxpayers On Hook To Bail Out Fannie, Freddie

by John McCain

Americans should be outraged at the latest sweetheart deal in Washington. Congress will put U.S. taxpayers on the hook for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's a tribute to what these two institutions -- which most Americans have never heard of -- have bought with more than $170-million worth of lobbyists in the past decade.

With combined obligations of roughly $5-trillion, the rapid failure of Fannie and Freddie would be a threat to mortgage markets and financial markets as a whole. Because of that threat, I support taking the unfortunate but necessary steps needed to keep the financial troubles at these two companies from further squeezing American families. But let us not forget that the threat that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to financial markets is a tribute to crony capitalism that reflects the power of the Washington establishment.

Fannie and Freddie buy home loans from lending institutions and reissue them as marketable securities -- creating a liquid market for mortgage debt that lowers borrowing costs for prospective homeowners. The two institutions have easy access to borrow at low interest rates because they were originally government agencies and continue to be viewed as being backed by the government. The irony is that by bailing them out, Congress is about to make that perception a reality, even though government backing is no longer needed for their original mission. There are lots of banks, savings and loans, and other financial institutions that can do this job.

Fannie and Freddie are the poster children for a lack of transparency and accountability. Fannie Mae employees deliberately manipulated financial reports to trigger bonuses for senior executives. Freddie Mac manipulated its earnings by $5-billion. They've misled us about their accounting, and now they are endangering financial markets. More than two years ago, I said: "If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose." Fannie and Freddie's lobbyists succeeded; Congress failed to act. They've stayed in business, grown, and profited mightily by showering money on lobbyists and favors on the Washington establishment. Now the bill has come due.

What should be done? We are stuck with the reality that they have grown so large that we must support Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through the current rough spell. But if a dime of taxpayer money ends up being directly invested, the management and the board should immediately be replaced, multimillion dollar salaries should be cut, and bonuses and other compensation should be eliminated. They should cease all lobbying activities and drop all payments to outside lobbyists. And taxpayers should be first in line for any repayments.

Even with those terms, sticking Main Street Americans with Wall Street's bill is a shame on Washington. If elected, I'll continue my crusade for the right reform of the institutions: making them go away. I will get real regulation that limits their ability to borrow, shrinks their size until they are no longer a threat to our economy, and privatizes and eliminates their links to the government.

It's time to get America on the right track by creating the jobs that will build a strong foundation under our housing markets. We need to address the high cost of gasoline and other energy sources, and transform health care to be cheaper, higher quality and built around the needs of patients. But most of all, we need to reform Washington and wrest control from the special interests that have created this problem.

I have wrestled with trying to come to terms with my position on the question of the bailouts. As a housing counselor, I see first-hand the problems in the mortgage industry. The fact that lenders were making loans that should never have been made was not a surprise to anyone who works in the field. I saw it coming and knew it was lunacy.

I see very few pundits who support the bailouts. Many progressives oppose it as a bailout for the rich. However, in truth, there is no way to bail out the homeowners with bad loans that does not also bail out the lenders, unless the government assumes extraordinary power and essentially nationalized the financial sector of the economy. Such action would destroy our economy and result in untold misery. Only the most radical of socialist and the most financially illiterate would advocate such a move.

Many conservatives oppose the bailouts because they believe that in a market economy the government should not protect companies against failure. If the tax payers bail-out these financial giants, they argue, the prospect of failure will be removed and the evaluation of risk will be skewed in making future, financial decisions. In theory, I agree with the free market absolutist, however, as a pragmatist I believe we cannot allow these financial giants to fail. A failure of these giants could lead to a meltdown in the economy and a depression on the magnitude of the Great Depression. The responsible thing to do is stop the economy from a slide into chaos.

I agree with John McCain. We should go ahead and grant these investments and make loans available, should they become necessary. However, strings should come attached; their influence should be curtailed, and a policy should be pursed that, overtime, privatizes these financial giants.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Music Row land grab should be condemned

photo by Jeanne Reasonover/The Tennnessean
Joy Ford pictured above, owner of Country International Records, explains how the city closed a public alley which means her property can no longer accommodate artist tour buses.
by Gail Kerr, The Tennessean, Sunday July 27, 2008

City officials have closed her alley. Her property is barricaded on three sides. But inside the little brown brick building on Music Row, songwriters are still making music under Joy Ford's tutorage.

The Metro Development and Housing Agency is trying to take Ford's business and land. Not for a road or a bridge or some essential service. For a 225,000-square-foot office and retail high-rise for a private out-of-state developer. (link)

The city is out to take Joy Ford's property. They have offered her large sums of money, they closed the alley that accesses the back of her property and they have started condemnation proceedings. It is an outrage.

This is an excellent article by Gail Kerr. It not only explains the current circumstances surrounding the effort to take away Joy Ford's property but gives a brief summary of other past cases of government abuse of property owners in Nashville. The article also provides some local flavor. Despite the role of the multinational corporate interest in the music business, there are still many cottage industry players like Joy Ford. Unfortunately, the city fathers are ready to kick the Joy Fords to the curb, take their property, and turn it over to the big developers.

Nashville is still a small town, despite being a big city, so someone will probably send this post to Gail Kerr of the Tennnessean and to Phil Ryan of MDHA. I have known both Gail and Phil for many years, both from the days I was a member of the Metro Council and from my roll in the non-profit housing sector. If anyone is reading this who knows Joy Ford, please send her a copy.

Dear Gail,
This is an excellent article. I always read you columns and enjoy them immensely. I am somewhat critical of the quality of the Tennessean and think that it, like many newspapers across the country, has consistently gotten worse over the years. I think you, however, have emerged as a great writer. I am pleased to see you cover this story. You bring a human element to it. Please continue the coverage and don't let the story die. I give you my "amen."

Dear Phil,
I know you are not a bad person and you are only doing your job, but you disappoint me. I am generally proud of the work that MDHA does. We have had one of the nations few successful HOPE VI programs. We have well-managed public housing. We have had a lot of success in expanding homeownership and affordable housing. Down down development has been impressive. I am especially pleased with the development in the gulch. A lot of the credit for the impressive development of Nashville goes to you and you have a difficult job. However, Phil, you are the bad guy in this. It is simply wrong to take another's property just because you have a better use for it. This little piece of property is not charming, but it is not "blighted." That a big development would increase the tax base is insufficient justification for taking what is not yours. Please back off. Let the development of this area be delayed a few years. Let the development wrap around Ms Fords property. Why? Because as Joy Ford says, "This is America."

Dear Joy,
I don't know you, but I feel like I do. Hang in there. If you have a fund set up to help you with your legal fees, let me know. I will make a small contribution and post the information on this blog. Also, do you have a petition we can sign. Should I contact my Councilman? Please keep me informed. What can I do to help?

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Better Planet: Nuke Power is Earth's Friend

It’s time to replace coal power with wind and, yes, nuclear.

by William Sweet, Discover

Using coal to make electricity accounts for about a third of America’s carbon emissions. As a result, tackling emissions from coal-fired power plants represents our best opportunity to make sharp reductions in greenhouse gases.

Fortunately, we already have the technology to do that. Unfortunately, right now the United States is addicted to coal, a cheap, abundant power source. Burning coal produces more than half the country’s electricity, despite its immense human and environmental costs. Particulates and other air pollutants from coal-fired power plants cause somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 premature deaths in the United States each year. Fifty tons of mercury—one-third of all domestic mercury emissions—are pumped into the atmosphere annually from coal plants. In addition, the extraction of coal, from West Virginia to Wyoming, devastates the physical environment, and its processing and combustion produce gigantic volumes of waste.

For the last decade, coal-burning utilities have been fighting a rearguard action, resisting costly antipollution measures required by environmental legislation. At the same time, they have been holding out the prospect of “clean coal”—in which carbon is captured and stored as coal is burned. But clean-coal technologies have yet to be demonstrated on a large scale commercially, and by the admission of even the president’s own climate-technology task force, clean coal doesn’t have any prospect of making a big dent in the climate problem in the next 15 to 20 years.

By comparison, nuclear and wind power are proven technologies that emit no carbon and whose environmental risks and costs are thoroughly understood and which can make an immediate difference for the better. (link)

For those of us who accept the science of global warming and think we must find a way to curtail greenhouse emissions, we have reason to be disheartening. Meaningless, ineffective measures such as higher CAFE standards and ethanol mandates have been passed which do next to nothing to solve the problem. Our President for the last 8 years has shown no leadership on the issue and has silenced those who wanted to warn us of the seriousness of the issue. Cynical Democratic leaders advocate combating global warming and advocate lower gas prices in the same sentence. A terribly flawed Cap and Trade bill, which would have transferred vast amounts of wealth, perhaps destroyed our economy and done virtually nothing to curtail greenhouse emissions, was wisely defeated but promises to be brought up again next year. "Green" has become a chic identity, a lifestyle, and a fashion statement but not a call for action.

Yet, the solution is at hand, if only there was the political will. The three most important things we could do are (1) pass a carbon tax, (2) embrace nuclear energy, and (3) promote wind power. By most accounts we have 10 to 15 years to solve the problem but time is running out.

Wind power alone, the most popular of the options, will not solve this problem. Nuclear energy is a major part of the solution, yet is opposed by most environmentalist and we lack political leaders who will advocate for it.

New nuclear power plants are much safer than the generation of power plants of the past. Opponents of nuclear energy always trot out Chernobyl as a reason not to build nuclear power plants, when Chernobyl was a plant that would never have been approved anywhere except Russia. The problem of nuclear waste disposal is exaggerated and is offered as another reason not to pursue nuclear energy. Many opponents of nuclear power cite nuclear proliferation as a reason to oppose nuclear energy. Does anybody honestly think that whether Tehran or Pyongyang produces atomic bombs depends on how many reactors the United States decides to build in the next 10 to 20 years?

The best friend global warming ever had may be the environmentalist. However, they are wasting valuable time and energy preaching the virtues of properly inflating your tires and turning down thermostats, while standing in the way of real solutions. The environment is too important to be left up to environmentalist. Those of us who take the challenge of global warming seriously must not let the environmentalist stand in the way of policies that can save the planet. It is time to go nuclear.

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