Another One Bites The Dust

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From the WaPo:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota. (Former senator Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."
On the cynical side, this move was done purely to save his own skin. Republicans would otherwise try to unseat him (many are supporting his rival in 2010, a former Republican Congressman Pat Toomey) as not being pure enough of a conservative despite a fairly conservative 3-decades in Congress. His only chance of survival in an increasingly Democratic state is to switch parties now well ahead of the 2010 election, stave-off serious Democratic opposition, and sail back into the Senate. The WaPo agrees. It's definitely a self-serving, self-preservative move.

The other problem for Democrats with this move is that Dems in the Senate get another Liebercrat. That usually serves to dilute their own messages.

The mantra coming from the Right comes from none other than leading neocon wingnut Bill Kristol:
I wonder if today’s Arlen Specter party switch, this time to the president’s party, won’t end up being bad for President Obama and the Democrats. With the likely seating of Al Franken from Minnesota, Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate, giving Obama unambiguous governing majorities in both bodies. He’ll be responsible for everything. GOP obstructionism will go away as an issue, and Democratic defections will become the constant worry and story line. This will make it easier for GOP candidates in 2010 to ask to be elected to help restore some checks and balance in Washington -- and, meanwhile, Specter’s party change won’t likely have made much difference in getting key legislation passed or not. So, losing Specter may help produce greater GOP gains in November 2010, and a brighter Republican future.

Plus, now the Democrats have to put up with him.
So see? Losing Specter is a good thing because certainly, the majority party...the party in majority...must certainly be so wrong about governance that the True Believers will soon be back in power. So they can keep Specter because without him, they can all clap louder. Remember how many Democratic "gaffes" were "good for republicans" during the election? Face it, Kristol. Spray painting gold over shit doesnt make it gold. Specter, a 30-year republican veteran, left because of self-preservation and a larger national movement away from hard-Right Wingnuts. This is bad for Republicans.


The Right Way To Put Orange In Your Beer

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some day, I am going to try and brew a mead. Looking a mead recipes, they are a good deal less complicated than a normal batch of beer, which is also not that complicated. Heat honey, add water, boil, cool, pitch yeast. The only thing that holds me back is the bottle conditioning period, which is somewhere between "when your bottles start collecting a good deal of dust" to "after retirement." Mead just gets better as it ages, and the character of the mead changes depending on the type of honey used (clover, fruit blossoms, etc.).

The beer I tried for this week's review is one that, intentionally or otherwise, looks to bridge a gap between mead and beer. This is Thomas Creek Brewery's (Orange Blossom Pilsner. Despite being brewed in South Carolina, it is subtitled "Florida's Honey Beer. The base beer is a Pilsner, with orange blossom honey added for alcohol and flavor. I've seen, and had, plenty of honey beers in my drinking career, so I am always happy to give them a try. The right kind of honey can add a nice flavor to a beer without affecting the body much, and it usually dries a beer out a bit.

This beer Thomas Creek's OBP poured a crystal-clear golden body with orange hues to it. Light effervescence yielded a thin, pure-white head which dissipated quickly. As I drank it, it did leave white wine-like "legs" down the glass.

Putting the glass to my nose, I did detect some "classic" lighter pilsner aromas: grainy, malty, with a smattering of floral and slightly spicy hops. The beer did have a honey-sweetness on top of it all, but not in such a way as to overpower the pils.

The taste was a decent blend of classic pilsner with noticeable honey sweetness added. It was grainy, slightly earthy and spicy, and sweet (malty and sugary). Interestingly, the lingering aftertaste was oranges. Not citrusy, like so many beers described on this blog, but very specifically orangey. The lightly-tart orange and honey sweetness grew as the beer progressed, along with the pleasant floral notes and mellow maltiness of a pils.

OBP was very light-bodied with moderate carbonation. It is a very quaffable beer, especially for hot summer days on your back deck. I have read some other reviews of this beer, and many of them are highly critical, given that this beer relies on a heavy adjunct (honey) to achieve its flavors and strength. Sure, Miller and those beers use rice and corn as a way to add fermentable sugar without adding color or other flavors. But to compare this beer, which is quite drinkable (though not the greatest beer I have ever tried), with those beers simply on the basis that the brewer used an adjunct is to miss what the brewer was trying to do. It's the South. Huge, black, roasty beers just aren't as popular down there. They grow oranges. They made a marketable, drinkable beer using what is considered the symbol of Florida (outside the stupid alligators). Again, while it's not an earth-shattering beer of immense creativity, I would definitely grab one of these on a sunny afternoon.


Et Tu, Rep. Harman?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It would seem, based on yesterday evening's conversation between NPR's Robert Siegel and Representative Jane Harman (D - California), that Rep. Harman is in a heap of trouble. If you missed the interview, here's a transcript.

Rep. Harman is the Chair of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee, but at the time of the offense in question, during the Bush administration, she was the ranking Democrat on the committee. It appears as though two lobbyists (damn lobbyists...) were accused of espionage, and someone called Harman to ask for lenience. And the National Security Agency recorded (read: wiretapped) the call. According to the article: "...the caller offered political help to Harman in her hopes of becoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee and asked that she call the Justice Department on behalf of the two lobbyists." The WaPo reported that the Fed Prosecutors were considering dropping the charges aginst the lobbyists.

The fun begins:

Robert Siegel: First, do you remember the phone call in question? Who is the other party and is that a fair description of what was discussed?

Rep. Jane Harman: We don't know if there was a phone call. These are three unnamed sources, former and present national security officials, who are allegedly selectively leaking information about a phone call or phone calls that may or may not have taken place. I have to say I am outraged that I may have been wiretapped by my government in 2005 or 2006 while I was ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. [emphasis added]
So...despite deatiled recordings and multiple reports, you aren't sure if this phone call ever existed?? More fun:
Siegel: The New York Times reports today that in a call, the caller offered to get Haim Saban, a big political donor and a supporter of Israel, to tell Nancy Pelosi that he wouldn't donate money if you didn't get the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.

[Harman chuckles.]

Siegel: Any conversation like that, ever?

Harman: Well, how do we know?
What do you mean "how do we know??" You were there, right? Or are you pulling a Reagan?
Siegel: But here are some quotations attributed to the transcript of the wiretap of your conversation that CQ reported. At the end, you say to the caller, "This conversation doesn't exist." But that's after you're quoted as saying that you "would waddle into the matter" — that is, of Rosen and Weissman —if you "think it would make a difference." Can you recall saying that, or is that a fair conversation to have with someone?

Harman: No. I can't recall with any specificity a conversation I may have had...
Yup. Looks like it.

Read the transcript. She is calling for a full, non-redacted release of the transcripts to her office, which she will make public. Mostly, though, she's pissed that there is an investigation on her and nobody told her. Siegel calls her out on the fact that gee, if there's an investigation on you or anyone, do you think they'd let you know?? She essentially deflects, saying that wiretapping members of Congress is bad enough, but really it's the citizens we should worry about. I personnally find it hilarious that she supported wiretapping all of us, but is really pissed that she got wiretapped. Careful what you wish for, Harman.

So here's a big test for Pelosi. Will she dump Harman from her Chair? Should she?


This Week In The News

Monday, April 20, 2009

I figure that we really don't care much here about silly handshakes or the removal of a few inconsequential letters over the President's head at a speech at Georgetown. We'll leave all of that nail-biting and navel-gazing to people worried about handshakes between bitter rivals or Roman letters.

Instead, we'll dive into some news that really matters.

First, Founders Brewing Company has released their long-awaited Cerise Cherry Ale. Each batch, according to Founders, is brewed with as much as 53 gallons of Michigan-grown, Michigan-picked cherries, added at different stages in the brewing process. Says Founders:

More than 9,300 cases of Cerise will be sold this year in Michigan and nearly a dozen other states throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast.

Cerise - which is defined as a "deep, vivid purplish red" color - is one of the most popular taproom beers at Founders. New to the line-up, it replaces the former fruit beer - Rubeus.
Cerise is available in 4-packs or on tap from April through August. 6.5% alc. by vol. 15 IBUs.

Next, a popular Michigan brewer is among the Top 50 in the country! The American Brewers Association announced lists for both Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies (small and independent craft brewers) plus a Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies list. Rankings are based on 2008 sales volume.

Bell's weighed-in at #13 on the Craft Brewer List and #21 on the overall list. When you see the list of competitors for this recognition, you realize just how much beer Bell's sells... The #1 Craft Brewer is the Boston Beer Company, brewer of the Sam Adams line. The #1 Overall Brewer? A-B InBev. No shock.

Bell's did manage to place higher than friendly competitors Great Lakes Brewing Company, Dogfish Head, Rogue and Victory to name just a few. The full list, as well as the criteria the Association uses to determine what is and is not a traditional, independent craft brewer can be found here.

Last week, a small group of us went to go see the documentary Beer Wars. This was a fascinating look at the struggle a small brewer has against the massive brewers, and how current laws and regulations place the small, independent brewers in a stark disadvantage, especially the Three-Tiered distribution system. Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione plays a significant role in the film. No word yet when the DVD will be released, but it can't be far. Take a look at this from CNN:
And finally, Utah legalizes homebrewing! Welcome to the rest of us, Utah. Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. signed into law HB 51, making Utah the 46th state to legalize the world's greatest hobby ever. The only states left where homebrewing is not legal: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma. A quick search of Utah's legislative page showed the bill passed 67 - 2, with 6 absent. Whoever those 2 were suck.



"Assistance of Counsel"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

About a month ago, on March 18, the State of Michigan acknowledged the 45th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants unable to afford their own attorneys or lawyers.

I pale to use Wikipedia much, but they do provide a decent summary of the Gideon case and how he had to defend himself, the Florida courts at the time refusing to appoint him counsel. Copies of his handwritten petition to the SCOTUS is framed in many law firms today.

I bring this up for two reasons: first, there was a great report this morning on NPR about the dismal state of public/indigent defense systems across the U.S.; and second because I have the honor of being able to work on a state-wide revamp of Michigan's public defense system.

To drop a quick opinion here, the 6th amendment in my mind is one of our most important. It is central to our sense of freedom that no matter the circumstances, everybody gets at least one person to stand up for them against "the state." In Michigan, we are arguing that our 6th amendment right is in jeopardy. It's not enough to simply get someone to stand up for you. To honor the amendment right is to provide consistent, competent counsel, and not a hodge-podge of more than 83 different systems of indigent defense.

Enter the Michigan Campaign for Justice. This is a coalition of more than 40 (the number grows by the week) organizations who are banding together to rebuild a competent indigent/public defense system. It's an eclectic coalition involving all ends of the spectrum, from judges and law enforcement to the ACLU and the Citizens for Traditional Values. You know an issue is central to our sense of justice and freedom if the CTV and the ACLU can actually agree!

In June of 2008, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) conducted a year-long study of Michigan's system (results here), sanctioned by the Michigan State Senate via a resolution, and found "...that the state of Michigan fails to provide competent legal representation to those who cannot afford counsel in its criminal courts." Some lowlights:

  • Michigan ranks 44th of the 50 states in public defense funding;
  • Michigan is one of the highest ranking states in corrections spending, and expects to spend well over $2 billion this year;
  • Michigan is one of only seven states that place the entire burden for funding trial-level public defense on its counties as an unfunded mandate;
  • Forty-one of Michigan’s 83 counties currently use a low-bid, flat-fee contract system, deemed by national legal experts to be one of the worst solutions because of the ethical conflicts that it creates;
  • In Detroit, five part-time public defenders spend an average of 32 minutes per case, handling 2,400 to 2,800 cases each, while the national standard for a full-time public defender is only 400 cases per year;
  • District courts throughout the state often fail to provide counsel in misdemeanor cases;
  • Some courts offer to let people get out of jail for time served if they agree not to ask for an attorney;

The study takes into account costs to taxpayers of an inadequate system, as well as socio-economic tolls.

For a bit more detail on Michigan's big bucket of Fail, take a look at the NLADA's report card for Michigan's system. It looks like W's Yale transcripts (cheap shot...sorry...).

At any rate, bills to correct this system are being drafted now. Apparently, Wisconsin and Minnesota have some "model" programs that Michigan is looking into. I am proud to be a part of working on this effort, and I will try to provide some updates and details as we work along trying to restore the crucial right to Michiganians.


Habeas Corpus...Not for all of US.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Though I don't share Mike's complete disappointment with the Obama Administration, I am disgusted at the way he has handled some things. I was very hopeful that he would take a solid stance in regards to civil liberties and Constitutional rights. I was happy that he issued an order that paved the way for the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo.

At that time, I had a cynical fear in the back of my mind that the Administration would just continue the same practices, just in other places, and that the closure was just good PR. It appears that this is at least partially true. I may not agree completely with Talk Left, but they do a great job covering civil liberty issues. They have been covering a case for the past few months where detainees being held in Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, have challenged their status as enemy combatants by filing habeas petitions. The Obama Justice Department stated the same position as the Bush Justice Department and said that they have no right to do this. As many of you probably know, the US Supreme Court held that Guantanamo detainees should be allowed to challenge their unlawful combatant status. It doesn't take a huge stretch to apply this to the Bagram detainees.

The Obama Justice Department took the position that the situation was different and that they were being held in a war zone. While POW's captured as part of an ongoing war are not entitled to a hearing to challenge their captivity, some of the Bagram detainees are claiming that they were not captured in a war zone and were taken elsewhere and transported to the prison site, much as the detainees in Guantanamo. If this is the case, then they are entitled to some level of due process, certainly more than they are getting now. From the Talk Left entry:

The Bagram panels, called Enemy Combatant Review Boards, offer no such guarantees. Reviews are conducted after 90 days and at least annually thereafter, but detainees are not informed of the accusations against them, have no advocate and cannot appear before the board, officials said. "The detainee is not involved at all," one official familiar with the process said.

Fortunately, on April 2nd, a federal judge ruled that the detainees can challenge their confinement in US Court. Here is a link to the decision. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is appealing this decision and insisting that this Bush policy should continue. From the NYT:

Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, which is representing the detainees, condemned the decision in a statement.

“Though he has made many promises regarding the need for our country to rejoin the world community of nations, by filing this appeal, President Obama has taken on the defense of one of the Bush administration’s unlawful policies founded on nothing more than the idea that might makes right,” she said.

I tend to agree with Ms. Foster. I never thought that holding people indefinitely as unlawful combatants was good policy or Constitutional. It was one of many bad Bush policies that I was hopeful that Obama would change and I am disappointed that he feels it is necessary to continue.


Butt Kopf

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A favorite beer style of mine is a doppelbock. Though my last attempt at brewing the style ended in relative disaster (mistakes mistakes mistakes...), that doesn't keep me from wanting to try again, and from tasting a variety of takes on this style in an attempt to create a solid recipe.

There are a couple of examples of this style that I consider untouchable and unattainable, so lovely are they in their perfection. Holy, almost, which is fitting, seeing as they are brewed by monks. In my mind, dudes who pray all day, and brew beer in their free time...well, divine touch and all.

Then there are examples that I find attainable and very drinkable; something that if I could emulate it, I'd be satisfied (though would still strive for that ultimate!). Tommyknocker Brewery's Butthead Doppelbock, despite the name, is one of those beers.Poured into my glass, this beer was a beautiful ruby red and russet brown, with thick tan head that lasted all the way down the glass. Quaff after quaff left rings down the side, marking my progress as I went (which was pretty quick).

The aroma was a bowl of caramel squares. Right there with all that caramel were toasty and bread-dough aromas combined with dried cherries and a hint of citrus hops. A bit of alcohol warmth peeks through at the end.

The taste was every bit as good as the aroma. Big huge malt sweetness and caramel backbone held up very pleasant toast and doughy flavors. The alcohol heat rounded everything out at the end.

Silky and slightly oily on the tongue, medium bodied with a nice dry lager finish, this beer was a solidly-brewed doppelbock that I will definitely come back to. Not the best ever in my fridge (see above), but apart from the name, which is unfortunately corny and too cute by half, this is drinkable and well worth the purchase.


Southern Comfort

My in-laws have finished their yearly snowbird sojourn to Florida. And this year, they brought back some beer (I finally have them trained). They brought back 2 mixed 6-ers of Florida-brewed beers, so there's plenty for me to choose from.

I opened the fridge, reached in, felt around, and randomly grabbed:

Florida Beer Company's Key West Sunset Ale.This is a brewery I have never heard of before, and a quick glance over their repertoire shows a slight variety of beers, including some less-than-common German styles like Kolsch and Altbier. The bulk of their beers, though, seem to be pales, pilsners and the like. Nothing "big" or outrageous, their beers seem to suit a hot-sun-on-the-beach crowd.

And that, in a sentence, sums-up Key West Sunset Ale. Cold, refreshing, basic. Ever tried to drink an Imperial Stout in 90-degree weather with a blazing sun? Hard to do. But this light amber ale? Seems to fit the Florida motif just fine.

Now, I have nothing huge against Florida per se. All the usual stuff about being a massive retirement colony applies, etc. etc. I'm trying to gently say that my first experience with Florida beer is much of what I expected from a state that doesn't have a beer culture as pervasive as the Midwest and the coasts. It was very drinkable. I would drink it on a beach. If it was on tap next to the usual macros, I'd pick this because I like to support local breweries. But in terms of a beer that I seek out and strive to have in my fridge...not so much.

Now I will say that this was a visually appealing beer. I can see why it was called "Sunset," as cliche' as it is, because it poured a beautiful coppery-red color that one would see if one were indeed on Key West or on a cruise ship. It was crystal-clear, effervescent, and yielded a think but long-lasting eggshell-white head; a scant cloud across the setting sun (gag).

The surprisingly fruity aroma yields apricots and citrus with a big malty backbone. For an amber ale, this is really light on the hops to the point on nonexistance save for the vague citrusy aroma.

The taste yields nothing different, even proportionally different, from the aroma. Malty sweet with light dried fruits. A hint of citrus but no real hop bitterness to speak of. Very light-bodied and fizzy. Again, this beer is drinkable but average. Perfect beach beer; cool and refreshing. But if you're looking for a head-turning brew or a classic example of the American Amber Ale style, this ain't it. This is a swimsuit beach party beer. And if that's what you're after while sitting on the shores of the Gulf, the Atlantic, or Lake Michigan, then this beer will do just fine. Beer afficionados will be bored, but lawn-mowers and partygoers will be pleasantly surprised by better tastes than a plain ol' Bud.


Holier than Thou, and a Challenge Accepted

Monday, April 06, 2009

Two topics of recent interest here at Our Lady's University.

First, it seems that I've been hangin' out at the center of the Culture Wars for the last couple of weeks. You may have heard that the President is going to deliver the commencement address here at Notre Dame in May. You may also have heard that (a small but vocal fraction of) the local folks are piiiiiissed about it. Obama is pro-choice, which to the Catholic Church is apparently a sin on the level of sodomizing a puppy while bombing an orphanage (or rooting for Ohio State).

There are a number of calls for the University to recind the offer, and for the University President and other high officials to resign (and presumable to commit hari kiri). But the most shocking call (at least from my perspective) came from a member of the law school faculty. This letter was printed in the student paper last week. Beyond the usual claims that Obama is worse than the Fuhrer, he includes this little gem:

Apart from the "life" issues, our leaders were reckless to commit Notre Dame to Obama in the face of mounting and well-grounded opposition to other Obama policies, including his fiscal deficits and such a stunning expansion of executive power and of federal control over private entities and states that it amounts to a constitutional coup. Unmentioned in the background are the pending lawsuits - not yet decided on the merits by the Supreme Court - that raise serious questions as to Obama's eligibility for the office.

You read that right; a member of the faculty at my school wondered publicly if our President is an American, or if he's somehow secretly Canadian.

So I'm curious, oh Sages of the Internets... Do you think it is inappropriate for a pro-choice politician to be asked to deliver the commencement address at a Catholic University? And why would a just and loving God put that crazy-ass professor on the panel of judges for my Oral Argument last week?

Secondly, a few weeks ago we had a nice discussion about the complexity of modern regulatory structures. It was suggested that it was the duty of all concerned Americans to do whatever we could to become educated. And because I can never seem to shut up, I've opted to put up.

I've accepted a summer position as a research assistant. A professor here at Notre Dame is writing a textbook/casebook/reference on the topic of corporate governance, and I've been hired to help out. My little part of the book is going to (I believe) involve the interrelationship between state and federal governments.

So, after this summer, you will all have to listen to believe my every word on the subject. Right?


Free-market Fundamentalism Revisited

Friday, April 03, 2009

Via Balloon Juice, I just discovered the American News Project (ANP), which seems to be an interesting source of video journalism outside the mainstream media. The résumés of those running ANP demonstrate a high level of experience and qualification.

In the video essay below, ANP took a look at the financial crisis. The story, produced last September, discusses many of the things we have been discussing here at ATK: Deregualtion of the financial sector, trade, economics and "free-market fundamentalism". The interesting thing, is that they don’t just seek answers to the why and how of the crisis and how to fix it, but they discuss how very few people, even the brightest minds, don’t know how to fix it.

It is pretty hard to have an honest understanding about whether or not the Obama administration is doing the right things to fix this crisis, when these types don’t have a clue. I think all a leader can do in this crisis like this is take a shot at fixing the economy based on their judgment, but in the end, it’s a stab in the dark.

It’s fine if someone chooses to criticize the administration’s economic policies, but if one does so while acting as if they know better, they are likely lying. In the end, those who criticize this approach probably have no clue how to fix it either, no matter what their credentials. In other words, we might be screwed.


In a second essay, ANP takes a good look at the possible rise of a populist movement with some historical perspective.


Six Ideas for President Obama to Help the U.S. Auto Industry.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Unless you live under a rock, you know that on Monday President Barack Obama announced the rejection of General Motors and Chrysler’s restructuring plans. In his statement he spoke of the need for government to act as a partner in assisting the auto industry, which seemed to go beyond just billions of dollars in loans.

Because I am sure that President Obama and his staff are a few of ATKs 1.5 million loyal, daily readers, here are a few suggestions for how the U.S. Government can become real partners in job creation and the rejuvenation of the United States auto industry.

Create a trade policy that protects the environment and workers around the world.
Demanding that countries that sell here observe higher standards for employee pay and environmental protection could start to equalize production costs and make the U.S. more competitive. It would start to create world-wide markets for everyone’s products, protect individual rights and raise standards of living. Protecting the planet should not only apply to the United States nor should a lack of environmental protection elsewhere undermine our own environmental policies.

Reduce dealership power.
Do you think the United Autoworkers have too much power over the big-three? The dealerships might be stronger. The domenstic auto industry needs to reduce its number of dealership drastically if it is to imporve profitability. Standing in the way are strong dealership rights in law in each of the 50 states. Case in point, when GM killed off Oldsmobile, it spent over a $1 Billion to dealerships to pay them off. Dealership power is one of the main stumbling blocks to reduce the number of brands. GM can't afford to engineer or market the number of brands it has, nor can each brand be a full line of cars and trucks. If GM wants Pontiac to only be a nitch brand of performance cars, it will have to overcome the whining on the dealerships that results in Pontiac econoboxes and minivans coming to market.

Open markets to U.S. products.
The U.S, has some excellent trading partners. We should support them by buying their products, including cars and trucks. Japan is not one of them. General Motors and Ford are two of the biggest companies in European and Chinese markets, but last year GM sold only 2,000 cars in Japan. Ford is prohibited by Japanese law from buying more than 33% of Mazda. Due to Japanese proetectionism, Japanese companies can subsidize the price of cars and the costs of R&D by increasing prices in their home market. It makes small models sold in both markets more profitable where big-three cars sold only in the U.S. market less profitable. If we cannot sell there, they shouldn't be able to sell here. That's not protectionism, that's sanity.

Replace the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards.
Creating a mileage-boosting plan that doesn’t require car makers to sell small cars at a loss could help us invest in small car efficiency. The American consumer continues to see small cars as a penalty. Until they see them as something more than an economy car, these models will remain unprofitable. CAFE is a failure. It doesn’t help the environment and kills the U.S. auto industry. Raise the gas tax if you seriously want to increase mileage, change consumer behavior, and help the environment. If not, admit it is politically unfeasible and move on.

Standardize safety and emissions requirements with Europe.
Car aficionados in the U.S. often gripe that they cannot buy one of the sweet, tiny diesel cars sold in Europe that get a billion mpg. As it turns out, theses cars don’t meet the United States safety and emission regulations, so they cannot be sold here. Cars in the U.S. have more expensive diesel equipment making diesel options very, very expensive. Cars are bigger and heavier here to comply with our safety standards, which in turn makes our cars less efficient, and also makes them less marketable in Europe.

Create a national health plan that will make the Detroit car maker's health and retirement cost equal to the competition.
Think that only the Big-Three are getting loans from their government? Toyota, Honda and Nissan are set to receive billions from the Japanese government, but their assistance doesn’t end there. The cars built in Japan get an automatic profit advantage because the government is picking up the health care tab and takes care of the Japanese retiree too.
It is time to create a sane national health care policy that will make our companies more profitable. Health care is not just about doctors, it’s about economic development.



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