Sign Of The Times

The number of young people considering a military career has significantly increased for the first time in about five years, buoyed by more positive news out of Iraq.

Military officials predict interest will rise even further because of the worsening economy.

The percentage of young people who said they would probably join the military increased from 9% to 11% in the first half of this year, according to a Pentagon-sponsored survey. The poll questioned 3,304 young people ages 16 to 21.

“We have … a lot more people coming to us now,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Benes, a recruiter at the Mount Clemens, Mich., recruiting station.

When economic times are tough the military gets the benefits……I think Obama wanted to strengthen the military, then he will get his wish.  Keep in mind. “an used weapon is a useless weapon” to quote some general from days past.

Is Obama Still Against The War?

Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama’s national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.

The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.

The activists — key members of the coalition that propelled Obama to the White House — fear he is drifting from the antiwar moorings of his once-longshot presidential candidacy. Obama has eased the rigid timetable he had set for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and he appears to be leaning toward the center in his candidates to fill key national security posts.

Kevin Martin, executive director of the group Peace Action, said that although Obama had campaigned as an agent of change, the president-elect is “a fairly centrist guy” who appears to be choosing from the Democratic foreign policy establishment — “and nobody from outside it.”

“So, in the short term, we’re going to be disappointed,” he said. “They may turn out to be all pro-war, or at least people who were pro-war in the beginning.”

Martin said that his group was concerned about Gates and Clinton as well as Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s choice for White House chief of staff. He also said his group was trying to mobilize its grass-roots supporters with e-mail alerts, but recognized that it must approach the subject delicately because of public euphoria over Obama’s historic victory.

CAFTA Not What Was Promised–Part 1

From a report issued by the Council On Hemispheric Affairs:

I will turn it into a four part series:
Critics argue that for over a decade, the United States has been striving to create commercial inroads into Latin America by way of bilateral free trade agreements that benefit US economic interests to the detriment of those of Latin America. A recent example of this trend was the passage of the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a pact designed to promote trade and foreign investment between the U.S. and its Caribbean Basin neighbors. The agreement was signed in 2004 by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Most DR-CAFTA countries finalized the deal a few years later; El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua implemented the agreement in 2006, and the Dominican Republic followed in 2007.

When it was being negotiated, advocates of DR-CAFTA repeatedly assured skeptics that the agreement was a “win-win” situation, arguing that it would economically benefit all countries involved. The White House issued a statement proclaiming that “expanded trade opportunities will improve life in Central America and the Dominican Republic.” The World Bank concurred, reporting that “the treaty holds the potential of increasing trade and investment in the region, which in turn is key to lifting economic growth and improving the welfare of the people of Central America and the DR, including those living in poverty.” Similarly, El Salvador Ambassador Rene León enthusiastically stated that “people are expecting from DR-CAFTA better living conditions, more economic opportunities, and more social equity.” It was argued that DR-CAFTA would expand Central America’s export market, create jobs in textile production and other manufacturing industries, and lower the prices of consumer goods. However, two years have now passed since some Central American countries implemented DR-CAFTA’s mandates, and governments, farmers, and workers across the region are beginning to suffer the consequences of an unfair deal.

The Long Good-bye For Mr. Stevens

Alaska’s Republican Senator Ted Stevens has lost his bid for a seventh term in office after a knife-edge race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

The Democratic candidate led the Senate’s longest-serving Republican by 3,724 after Tuesday’s count, with only 2,500 overseas votes to be tallied

Mr Stevens, 85, was seen almost as an institution in his state, our correspondent says, to the extent that the airport in Anchorage was named after him.

But the Senate race in Alaska was plunged into controversy when Mr Stevens, 85, was convicted last month of lying about gifts he had received from an oil company.

His defeat means the Senate will have its first Democratic representative from Alaska for 30 years.

Say good bye to yet another corrupt official, to anothewr Republican.

Lieberman Gets Pee-Pee Spanked

Okay, I am a day late…brain farts are dangerous…..

Senator Joe Lieberman, who angered many Democrats by publicly and enthusiastically backing Republican John McCain for president, kept his committee chairmanship yesterday after Senate Democrats declared that punishment was less important than unity.

They voted 42 to 13 by secret ballot that Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, should not be stripped of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security panel, but they condemned statements he made during the campaign criticizing President-elect Barack Obama.

Other senators, however, wanted there to be consequences and argued that party loyalty was a requirement for leadership. Independent Bernie Sanders and Democrat Pat Leahy, Vermont’s two senators, spoke against allowing Lieberman to keep the Homeland Security and Government Affairs post, the Associated Press reported. And two members of Connecticut’s Democratic state central committee said they’ll still ask it Dec. 17 to consider censuring Lieberman and asking him to resign from the party, the AP said.

Reid said he still doesn’t understand why Lieberman did what he did, but also realizes that his vote has been crucial to pushing through important legislation. While Lieberman broke with Democrats over the Iraq war and was reelected in 2006 as an independent after losing the primary to an antiwar candidate, he has been caucusing with them on most other issues, in some cases providing the 51st and majority vote. During the campaign, however, he became one of McCain’s most visible cheerleaders, and even spoke at the Republican National Convention.

If I were Lieberman I would learn to play nice or he may be sitting ALL hearings.

Is Detroit Out Of Gas?

This is an article written by Peter Colcanis for the Progress Report:

The Big Three automakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) have cut more than 100,000 jobs in the United States alone since 2005. Yet together they are still losing about $2 billion a month. GM’s share price has fallen 78 percent this year, Ford’s is at its lowest level since 1985, and Chrysler, now private, is by its own admission on the verge of collapse.

For much of the 20th century Ford and GM (founded in 1908) and Chrysler (founded in 1925) were the largest automobile makers not just in the US but in the world. Over the course of the past 40 years, though, the top management of the Big Three, in cahoots with their counterparts in the UAW (AKA “Big Labor”) have succeeded brilliantly in destroying the Detroit-centered auto-industrial complex, and, in so doing, large parts of the upper Midwest as well.

However, the crisis is not general but specific to some companies and to some parts of the United States. One part of the industry, dominated by the Big Three and the UAW, is located in the Rust Belt. The other component, foreign-owned and nonunionized, is centered in the Sun Belt and in nonmetropolitan (and often anti-union) parts of the Rust Belt. The former is sounding its death rattle, while the latter — dominated by Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Hyundai — is quite dynamic.

The “US” auto industry until recently has been doing well. Total car and truck sales between 1996 and 2006 were at record levels, and the industry as a whole employed almost as many workers in 2006 as it had in 1990. The output came from non-union plants in places such as Vance, Ala. (Mercedes-Benz), Lincoln, Ala. (Honda), Greenville, S.C. (BMW), Georgetown, Ky. (Toyota), etc, while unionized auto plants in places such as Flint, Mich.; St. Louis; Kokomo, Ind.; and Lansing and Hamtramck, Mich., closed their doors.

How and why did the Big Three get in the position they are in today? For starters, corporate smugness, complacency — the Big Three, by and large, stopped innovating in the 1950s — and insularity. As automotive journalist Brock Yates noted long ago, the “Detroit mind,” as he called it, is as rigid and conformist as any in corporate America. Big Three execs have never felt comfortable with small, fuel-efficient cars, preferring instead vehicles like the Chevy “Subdivision.”

Under Detroit pressure, the federal government caved in on tariffs and quotas on imports in the 1980s and set the bar low on fleet fuel standards and in recent years offered tax advantages for super-size SUVs. Today various members of the Michigan congressional delegation are promoting sundry bailout measures, trying desperately at the 11th hour to reward a halfcentury of ineptitude and greed.

The unions did not help the situation when they opposed shop-floor innovations and resisted flexible work rules. Enjoying protective tariffs, they were confident, as were the “suits” in management, that they could just pass on the costs of high wages and exorbitant “benes” to American consumers who’d remain loyal to inferior products.

How About The Anti-Tobacco Programs?

U.S. states have not lived up to their commitment to devote a major portion of their huge legal settlement with the tobacco industry a decade ago on anti-smoking efforts, health advocacy groups said on Tuesday.

In the 10 years since the landmark deal, the states have received $79.2 billion of the settlement and another $124.3 billion from tobacco taxes, but have spent only about 3 percent of it — $6.5 billion — on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the groups said in a report.

The deal, which restricted cigarette advertising practices, requires tobacco companies to make annual payments to the states in perpetuity, with total payments estimated at $246 billion over the first 25 years.

The report was issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

No state currently is funding tobacco prevention programs at the levels recommended by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and only nine are funding such efforts at even half the recommended level, according to the report.

In November 1998, 46 states settled their lawsuits against the major tobacco companies to recover tobacco-related healthcare costs, joining four states — Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Minnesota — that had reached earlier, individual settlements.

And as of yet, most of the cash has not been spent where it was suppose to be. That in return should be a lawsuit challenging the lawsuit.