Last Tuesday, GM announced it was cutting 30,000 jobs and while this news has been widely anticipated, it sounds a lot worse once announced. In recent years, the Big Three (really the Big Two because Daimler-Chrysler is German owned) have had to deal with among other things, declining market share, massive recalls, high labor costs, and of course, soaring healthcare costs. I want to address three issues in particular, management, healthcare costs, and the jobs bank.
First let me qualify my statements and let readers know that I do market research for the automotive industry.
But the first issue is management because the classic showdown in labor negotiations boils down to management versus the Union. But in defense of the Union, it is management who is responsible for designing these vehicles that the market is not responding to. So why should the Union folk suffer for management’s lack of innovation? Just google the 2006 Ford Explorer’s door handles and read how many customers are disgusted by the lack of utility of such a poorly designed component of the car you use all the time. I remember listening to a podcast on NPR’s Motley Fool and hearing acclaimed management guru Peter Drucker (who recently passed away) talk about how corporations need to understand that they exist for the pleasure of their customers. But back in the day when the Big Three were pushing towards seventy percent market share, I am sure that advice was viewed in reverse. But Rick and Bill should heed that advice now and not focus on so much competing with Toyota but competing with themselves for producing quality vehicles. The rest will come easy.
But easy times have not befallen Unionized workers. Anyone reading anyone’s news know about Delphi’s offer to cut their workers pay by up to 65%. Cuts like that are drastic, especially during the holidays and I empathize with all the UAW members who are facing tough times right now. But here is where I place the blame at the foot of the UAW. My point is simply that these cuts could have been phased in over a number of years. And for the UAW to look up and act surprised that management would ask for such sacrifices I think is disingenuous. I think the ideal goals for the UAW should not be to only defend and fight for their members, but also collaborate with management so that the company as a whole can remain not only profitable, but also competitive. But if you want to keep it real, the Unions have been eating quite well. I am referring to salaries, overtime pay so crazy that overtime becomes a permanent part of you schedule, and a healthcare plan that you make yourself sick just to be sure that it is this good.
Speaking of healthcare, it is painfully obvious that the Big Three are bogged down in part by their healthcare costs, which makes me wonder why there is not a push for a national health care plan. For all the conservatives who are servants of corporations, a nationalized single payer healthcare would do wonders for the economy. Think of it as a tax cut. If a major chunk of insurance was guaranteed by the federal government, then domestic firms could work on this thing called innovation and quality so that our all-American firms (like GM) could regain some of their market share. The American public gets upset at seeing jobs go overseas but Wall Street puts immense pressure on our corporations to lower their costs. Therefore, the benefits of nationalized healthcare are not just limited to the 43 million people without healthcare so what is the problem? Special interests have taken our country’s political landscape by hostage. And the sad fact is that American firms are still ignorant enough to believe that we can grow revenues without cutting costs. We are facing a new “flat” economy (as put by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman so it is best that American corporations take proactive steps to get lean and competitive before they die the death of a thousand cuts. Or end up like GM and end up having to make 30,000 cuts.
Props to Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) for presenting a resolution on getting a timetable to get the troops out of Iraq. Unfortunately, the Republicans changed the spirit of the resolution to say that we should pull out the troop immediately. Of course, this was not Murtha’s intention and it was not passed. But as a decorated Veteran and noted hawkish Democrat, Murtha’s comments has caused an uproar in the political climate concerning this invasion (war is really a misnomer).
But here’s the catch. On Meet the Press, he went on to say that he made a mistake for voting for the war. Even John Edwards penned an article claiming that he regrets his vote to authorize war. But on Meet the Press, I was ashamed by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who distanced themselves from Murtha’s comments. This week, TIME and the mainstream establishment will make sure to paint Murtha as a flip-flopper (Murtha voted for the war) and at the same time, make the push that we should stay in Iraq. But in all honesty, what good will come from our staying in Iraq? Especially when the political will is rapidly declining and almost three years into this war, the public still questions if and how the President misled the country into this war. That is insane people! As Murtha put it, our presence in Iraq is only going to make the situation worse. Bush often says, “as Iraqi stand up we will stand down.” But as nice as this sounds, the future of Iraq and many American lives are in the hands of Iraqis. So if our success is based on what the Iraqis do or don’t do, how can we say whether we are successful or not? This war is out of our hands, literally and figuratively.
In a figurative sense, Bush is going to have to go to Iraq and drive around in an unarmored Humvee with guns blazing just to show that he believes we should stay in Iraq. But seriously, with the 2006 elections fast approaching, we have reached a breaking point in this war. When politicians are able and willing to say “I was wrong,” that is especially poignant. And it is only a matter of time before other Democrats and some Republicans start saying the same thing. And when they do, the Congress will wrest control of this war from this President and find a way out of Iraq so they can keep their seat. Shout out to John Murtha!
An interesting story in the NY Times Sunday about Chinese relations with African nations. As China continues it’s meteoric rise to superpower status, they are taking a different approach than othes have. They are no asserting themselves through war or the threat of war; they are taking a more subtle, intellectual approach. The article talks about “diplomacy courses” that are open to 3rd world officials. The curriculum is distinctly Chinese and overtly anti-American. However, that is not what we will analyze here.
Why do they care about what African leaders think? No else seems to, especially not the Americans or Europeans. The article says that China can better communicate because a quarter-century ago, they we’re also a third world nation. What I like is the fact they are choosing to ally with these countries in the first place. The rules of power demand the creation of strategic alliances in the interests of all parties involved African nations make up a good chunk of the UN. As such, having those voters as friends is good for China. There are benefits politically and economically.
I see this as the first time in a long time that a country has realized the power of the entire continent of Africa. Sure, it may be for selfish reasons, but the act in and of itself is an admission of the benefits of treating these nations as respected equals. If it works like China wants, maybe the Europeans and is in the Western hemisphere will follow suit.
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This morning I volunteered at the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS), cleaning, organizing, and folding clothing donations that had been received. They are intended to be consumed by the over 4000 Katrina survivors now located in Washington state. This experience was a positive one. All of the volunteers were on time, on task, and efficient at completing the goals set for us. I was, however, reminded of two things that bother me about how some serve, or disserve, others.
The first thing has to do with what people gave. Before we started, the young lady who was our coordinator said “if you wouldn’t wear it, we will dispose of it. We we’re giving dignified items, not throwsways.” That seemed obvious enough, but not to all of the donors I guess. Why in the world would you donate used underwear? It at least could be clean, but even that was too much to ask of some. I use this example to represent many people’s approach to service and giving in general. Why do we only give “table scraps?” Is that what we would want? Some say beggars can’t be choosers. I say beggars CAN have dignity. Why do we not give of our best? Why do we only volunteer “throw away” time? Why are those blessed financially so reluctant to give? Anyone who has ever been to a Black Baptist church knows that the pastor has to almost beg for offerings. What’s ironic is the same folks who are so turned off by this may be the same ones who end up spending money on things they don’t ne!
ed. MAYBE those resources could better serve someone who needs them as opposed to your own selfish indulgences?
The second issue is the lack of male participation. It’s pretty disgusting that I was the only male volunteering this day. I have seen this phenomenon since I became active as a youth. In church, there were always more girls participating in the activities. In school, there were always more girls on the honor roll. In college, there were always more girls running organizations and being active in the community? Why is this? Are women more unselfish than men? More caring? Maybe. That is not the problem. The problem is that for whatever reason, men are not compelled to do these things. So you end up with what I saw at the Urban League: me and 14 girls. You explain that ratio to many men, and they’ll say, “what are you complaining about?” maybe I am strange because I notice a void where others see easy access to women. I’ll be that. We must understand that it takes men AND women to help men AND women. Prime example of what more men could have contributed to this specific projec!
t: lifting. It may be a gross generalization to say that men can lift more than women, but it was certainly true on this day. So all of that work went to me. Let’s just say that some extra hands would have been nice.
These things are not said out of contempt. They are observations of a servant who wishes to improve service. To solve problem 1, organizations should stop the policy of accepting anything and be clear on what they will and will not accept upfront. As for problem 2, that can be solved one man at a time. Male volunteers should adopt the buddy system: never volunteer alone. If everyone did that, we would see exponential growth in participation. This is my approach from now on.
Who are you? No seriously, who are you? Before you read on, take a minute to think about how you would answer that question. If you find yourself looking for words that don’t seem that moving, you are not alone. A friend of mine asked me that overwhelming question the other day and I got upset at myself because I didn’t like my textbook answer and I then I came up with something profound. I said, “I don’t know.” Then my friend broke down something she read in a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer entitled, Your Sacred Self that talked about the implications of who we are as individuals.
I thought I would leave a lengthy excerpt for you.
“Who are you?” It is a question that is literally impossible to answer with words, because who we are is formless, and words belong to the world of form. The answer to this question does not come from the physical domain. Each of us is a soul with a body, rather than a body with a soul. Soul cannot be measured or observed with the tools that we use to observe the material world. Perhaps the best way to begin to answer the question is to look at what we are not. …..Just as the colors in this carpet are brought out by light but light is not the color, so is the world caused by you but you are not the world. That which creates sustains the world, you may call it God or providence, but ultimately you are proof that God exits, not the other way around. For before any question about God can be put, you must be there to put it.
Discard these names [i.e., ethnicity, gender, any and all labels] and you will identify with the realm of the spirit rather than the world of ego…The cries of nationalism, tribalism and theism have been the source of wars and of the slaughter of billions of human beings. You know in your heart, as do all who play out this game, that this is a violation of God’s laws, that it is inconsistent with the relationship of all the spiritual masters who have ever walked among us.
…be free by letting go of your personal history….[when you do this] what is left is the invisible, intangible you, which is the heart of the message in this book.
These passages bowled me over as I hope they did the same to you. And I have heard variations of these themes but I realized that I hadn’t quite applied those principles to their full extent. In particular, I am reminded of my textbook response to this perplexing question, “who are you?” I often think of my race (Black) and my gender (male). Then other traits and qualities fall as they may. But is that all I am? Of course not, but why use such limiting adjectives?”
One theory is that we are used to labeling and categorizing everything in our lives so that when a situation presents itself that is indefinable, it is often rejected. Take food for instance. I myself am very picky eater and I remember the first time I had mango and I asked the person offering what it tasted like. He responded, “It tastes like mango.” That reply wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to know which fruit was most similar to mango. Now I know that that story is partly an explanation of my pickiness but it is also an accurate description of how many people approach life. Just think about all the hardened descriptions of a person you would have if you knew their age, race/ethnicity, education, geographical location, and income. But all of those things mean anything!!
And another part of the excerpt I like from the book is freeing yourself from your history. As a Black person, I don’t think I can let go of the pain and suffering of my ancestors and as a result, I often feed off the anger for those who suffered under Black enslavement. But wouldn’t my ancestor want me to remember their stories but live free of that anger? Of course, it just takes a lot of focus and determination on my part.
Personal history also includes the successes and failures we experienced in our own lives. I often find it funny though that no matter what, there is an ideal (or set of ideals) that we often strive for especially when we are young adults. But after I saw the Weatherman with Nicholas Cage, I heard something very profound when he said (and I am paraphrasing); “I always wanted to be respected, strong, honorable and all of these great things but as I got older, I whittled down those things and all that was left was me.” I encourage you to think about who you are because it will undoubtedly help give your life direction and help you realize all the good you have to offer this world. So who are you?
Stay up fam,
I read in the BBC today about Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade urging the 1st world to contribute more substantially to building information technology infrastructures in the 3rd world. He makes a solid and legitimate argument about why it is good for all involved for the entire world to be on a more level footing with regard to tehcnology access. To the individual in DR Congo without internet access, the benefit is another path by which to garner information about any and all things. To the entrepreneur, wider internet access has the benefit of widening the potential customer base for your products. It is indeed a win-win.
Many 1st world countries, however, have third worlds within their own boundaries. This was evidenced in America recently by the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005, which I will not even begin to discuss here. We have 3rd worlds on multiple layers: poverty and economic disenfranchisement, hunger and lack of affordable human services, as well as technological ignorance. It is perhaps unjust to place technological concerns within the same thought as basic human needs. However, as society evolves and technology becomes a ubiquitous piece of 1st and 3rd world life, insufficient technical know-how could lead to discrimination in the other aforementioned arenas. We are already beginning to see signs of this creeping into view. Individuals with little/no computer experience are being overlooked for jobs all over the country. Children with little/no computer training are facing challenges as educations evolves digitally. In the “meritocracy” that is our world (well, I will actually describe how/why that is NOT true later, but I digress for now), these skills will become basic necessities for survival.
It is up to current generations to lay groundwork for future ones. The world must stand with President Wade at the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and unite towards making the Digital Divide extinct. In the mean time, I will continue my own work with the current, younger and older generations, helping them to understand ways in which technology can help them. No complaints without action.
Last night I went to a benefit tennis match featuring Venus and Serena Williams here in Seattle. They played at Key Arena, home of the Seattle SuperSonics and Storm basketball franchises. They played at 7.30 PM to a 3/4 packed house. The crowd was typical of Seattle, all types and colors of individuals came to support, and there were a lot of kids there to enjoy the evening. The cause was the Ronald McDonald House, to which 100% of the ticket sales & concessions went. The evening began with the national anthem by Jon Secada followed by four of his own songs. THAT WAS TERRIBLE. He was followed by a saxaphonist whose claim to fame was he was the first artists signed to Michael Jordan’s recording label. Who knew Michael Jordan had a record label?!?!?! He was OK. Finally, the tennis began. The match was fun, Serena won in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. Venus appeard to have more fun than Serena, though she lost. They both began sluggishly, but the competition got real once they both decided they didn’t want the other one to win.
I bring this event up for a few reasons. First, I was happy to see two of the best tennis players in the world. I’m happy that two of the best tennis players in the world are black women. More importantly, I like seeing professionals involved in community focused activities that leverage their God-given talents. Notice the ommission in the previous sentence; it’s not a typo. Professionals need to be involved in community focused activities. We hear/see/participate in all to often the practice of what we think another individual should be doing. Service work is no different. The same people that spend time not giving of their time complain about celebrities who do the same. The same people who do not donate money to legitimate causes balk at celebrities who don’t give money, or more commonly enough money to suit their tastes. Currently, I am reading “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen (which will be covered in detail as the first book in the coming SuperSpade Books seriese, so stay tuned), and that book drives home the notion of what my friend and mentor G. Harden refers to as “self-defeating attitudes and behaviors.” Individuals who subscribed to the previously stated judgemental notions from their armchair of hypocrisy must understand that it is that spiteful and vagrant mentality that produces individuals who don’t “give enough.”
Examples and applications of this are quite clear. One of these individuals who is doing this complaining let’s say, may have children. Children are great at many things, but they are perhaps best at imitating their maternal and fraternal educators known as mom and dad. As a result, children often have frightening similarities to those that bore them. One of those similarties that gets passed on is often what we have described above: talking about what another individual does or does not do while at the same time remaining idle. It is this attitude of self-perpetuating slothfulness that [in part] contributes to problems that people bring upon themselves. If I complain about something long enough, that’s what I get. People think that it works in the opposite direction, but I don’t believe so. If you complain about people not giving, they are not then inclined to give. Guilt is one of the worst motivators available in our arsenals of persuassion, yet it is one that we readily employ. When was the last time someone tried to guilt you into something? How did it make you feel? Did it compel you to act, or did it strike up feelings of resentment? This works on many levels. I believe my friend and brother Malcolm X, who was in support of reparations (see quote here at the bottom of the page), was not in favor of idle question asking.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The law does not say that for every complaint, there is a response in favor of the complainer. Think about that the next time someone else is not doing “enough” by your standards. Are you?