Tag Archives: Obama

Auto Sales Up: Dealers Should Thank the U.S. Government (But They Won’t)

The New York Times reported this week that “October was the best month for new-vehicle sales in more than two years, outside of the brief period in 2009 helped by government rebates.”

Sales for the auto industry were up 13.4 percent over all from a year ago.  Sales for General Motors rose 4.2 percent, sales for Ford Motor Company were up 19.3 percent, and sales for Chrysler jumped 37 percent.

General Motors’ vice president for sales, Don Johnson, was confident that the American Auto industry has recovered from the economic crisis that left them on the brink of total collapse less than two years ago; “Signs are there that the recovery continues and that it will be sustained,” said Johnson. “We don’t see a big risk at all of a double dip.”

It looks like federal intervention saved the U.S. Auto industry.  You would think that American auto dealers would be grateful — out of patriotism or self-interest or both.

Think again.

Those U.S. flags they like to wave at auto dealerships don’t mean “thank you.”

Instead of thanking the federal government, auto dealers continue to be  some of the largest contributors to far-right, anti-government Republicans, who rail against the very programs that pulled them from the brink of collapse.

This right-wing, anti-government hypocrisy on the part of auto dealers is especially true here in Orange County, where auto dealerships — like Irvine Auto Center — have often served as staging locations for Tea Party rallies, and where our local  car-salesman-in-chief, auto dealer and Congressman John Campbell, continues to blast the federal government for providing the money that kept his family auto dealership alive.

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Birth certificate 2

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Auto Dealers Ending Their Cash for (Political) Clunkers Program

cash-for-clunkers-we-can-helpThe nation’s largest auto dealers association has apparently decided to end its long standing participation in the Cash for (Political) Clunkers program.

An historically dependable source of income for Republicans in the House and Senate, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has long contributed about twice as much to Republican election campaigns than to Democrats.

In 2008, the NADA gave $968,000 to Democrats and $1,892,000 to Republicans ($923,000 to House Democrats and $1,679,500 to House Republicans; $45,000 to Senate Democrats and $212,500 to Senate Republicans).

In 2006, the results were similar – the NADA gave $842,600 to Democrats and $1,978,500 to Republicans ($752,600 to House Democrats and $1,827,000 to House Republicans; $90,000 to Senate Democrats and $151,500 to Senate Republicans).

The ratio was also similar in 2004 – the NADA gave $714,500 to Democrats and $1,888,800 to Republicans ($630,500 to House Democrats and $1,698,800 to House Republicans; $84,000 to Senate Democrats and $190,000 to Senate Republicans).

But for the 2010 election, the Auto Dealers’ political contributions have dramatically shifted gears.

So far, the NADA has given $134,300 to Democrats and only $43,000 to Republicans.  This figure includes $101,800 to House Democrats and $43,000 to House Republicans, and $32,500 to Senate Democrats and nothing at all to Senate Republicans.

The reasons for this unprecedented shift in the Auto Dealers’ political allegiance is pretty obvious: The Republicans have told Detroit and the nation’s auto dealers to drop dead, opposing both the Obama administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry and it’s hugely popular “Cash for Clunkers” program.

Here in Orange County, Republicans in Congress have benefited enormously in the past from the NADA’s political contributions.

In 2008, John Campbell (R-48th CD) – an auto dealer himself — received $10,000 from the NADA, which was the largest amount they gave to individual campaigns that year.  In  2006, the year that he was elected to his first full term, they gave Campbell $20,000, also the largest amount given to any campaign and twice as much as they gave to anyone else.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-46th CD) received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, $5,000 in 2006, and $10,000 in 2004.

Ken Calvert (R-44th CD) also received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, as well as $5,000 in 2006 and $5,000 in 2004.

What did the auto dealers get for their money?

Recently, not much.

On the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, the auto bail out bill, Campbell voted “present” (citing his personal financial interest), while criticizing those who voted in favor.

Calvert voted “No,” calling it the “nationalization of the auto industry,” and Rohrabacher did not bother to vote at all.

On the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) program (the Cash for Clunkers bill), Campbell did vote “Aye” against his party, (apparently no longer concerned about his personal financial stake in the auto dealer business), as did Calvert, but Rohrabacher voted “No,” complaining that the bill is “nothing more than a subsidy to prop up auto manufacturers, many of which have already received billions in taxpayer money.”

As we get closer to the 2010 campaign, we’ll see whether the auto dealers again make the mistake they’ve made in the past of giving cash to these political clunkers.

So far, it seems that they’ve shifted gears and are driving in another political direction.

For Memorial Day, 2009: The Lesson of the Four Chaplains, 1943

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When I was child, my father, a World War II Navy veteran, taught me the story of the four chaplains of the USAT Dorchester.

I thought of the four chaplains during the presidential election when I listened to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell explain why he endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States.

In stating why he could not support the candidacy of John McCain, Powell referred to the death of U.S. Army Corporal Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a 20 year old from Manahawkin, N.J., who was killed in Iraq and to a photograph he had seen of the soldier’s mother pressing her head against his gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery.

The headstone was engraved with the soldier’s name, his military awards (the Purple Heart and Bronze Star), and the Muslim symbol of the crescent and star.

As the New York Times observed, “Powell mentioned Mr. Khan’s death to underscore why he was deeply troubled by Republican personal attacks on Mr. Obama, especially false intimations that he was Muslim. Mr. Obama is a lifelong Christian, not a Muslim, he said. But, he added, ‘The really right answer is, what if he is?’ ‘Is there something wrong with being Muslim in this country? No, that’s not America,’ he said. ‘Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way.’ Mr. Powell said that he had heard senior members of the Republican Party ‘drop this suggestion that he [Obama] is a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.’ ‘Now, John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that within the party we have these kinds of expressions.’”

General Powell probably thought, too, of the four chaplains of the USAT Dorchester.

4_chaplains_pic_main

On the night of February 3, 1943,United States Army Transport ship Dorchester was en route from Newfoundland to England via Greenland, when it was hit by torpedoes from a German submarine.

The Dorchester listed sharply to starboard and began to sink almost immediately into the icy water.  The ship was overcrowded and there were insufficient lifeboats or lifejackets for the 904 men on board.

As the Dorchester sank, the  ship’s four U.S. Army chaplains aided the wounded, helped get the men into lifeboats and then gave up their own lifejackets when the supply ran out.

A survivor later explained:

“As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the four chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.”

As the ship went down, survivors in nearby lifeboats could see the four chaplains – their arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers.

Twenty-seven minutes after the torpedoes hit, the Dorchester was gone.

The four U.S. Army chaplains were:

Lt. George L. Fox, age 42, Methodist.
Lt. Alexander D. Goode, age 32, Jewish.
Lt. John P. Washington, age 34, Roman Catholic.
Lt. Clark V. Poling, age 32, Reformed Church in America.

According to the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, the lesson of their sacrifice is “unity without uniformity” and “selfless service to humanity without regard to race, creed, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.”

My father had a simpler lesson to teach me:  We are all Americans.

In a speech on in Fayetteville, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg, Barack Obama said that “The men and women from Fayetteville and all across America who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats or Republicans or independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag, They have not served a red America or a blue America. They have served the United States of America.”

(This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, on October 19, 2008.)

Biting the Hand that Feeds You: More Republican Hypocrisy

hypocrites_r_us2“And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.”
Edmund Burke, Thoughts and Details on Scarcity

You might think that Orange County’s Republican elected officials would be caught between a rock and hard place in the current economic crisis.

With the local economy in shambles, home values crashing, foreclosures on the rise, unemployment skyrocketing and good jobs scarcer than Republican fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might think that the staunch and total opposition of Orange County Republicans to President Obama’s stimulus efforts would be, at the least, a political embarrassment.

But then you would underestimate the shameless hypocrisy of Orange County’s Republican establishment.

In her most recent online newsletter, Republican Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates (District 5) makes the following incredible claim:

“Orange County Projects Receive Stimulus Funds

A number of significant environmental enhancement and flood management projects in Orange County will receive vital support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the Federal stimulus program.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced more than $50 million will be spent in Orange County on projects selected based on their anticipated economic and environmental return. The projects selected for funding include:

  • $26,550,000 to complete channel improvements on the lower Santa Ana River within Orange County
  • $1,000,000 for mitigation related to the Seven Oaks Dam, which provides flood protection to Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties
  • $17,363,000 to complete plans and specifications and award a construction contract for the environmental restoration of Upper Newport Bay
  • $5,265,000 for needed maintenance for the Santa Ana River, Carbon Canyon Dam, Prado Dam and Fullerton Dam
  • $500,000 for a Dana Point Harbor breakwater study to identify and recommend any repairs to the breakwater/jetties and improve water quality.

The approval of funding for these projects is great news for Orange County. Orange County residents will directly benefit from these improvements and the Federal support is greatly appreciated. Our success is the result of great teamwork involving our County staff, our representatives in Washington and many city and community leaders.”

In informing her constituents of this “great news,” Bates does not mention the fact that all of “our [Republican] representatives in Washington” voted against Obama’s economic stimulus legislation, including these very projects.

Nor does she mention the fact that all of Orange County’s Republican “city and community leaders” have been vocally attacking the stimulus package as an evil socialist plot to destroy capitalism.

And Bates does not mention the fact that every penny of the more than $50 million that she is so grateful that Orange County will receive from the stimulus package will come from — dare we say it – taxes.

What Bates should have said is the “great teamwork involving our Republican County staff, our Republican representatives in Washington and many Republican city and community leaders failed to prevent President Obama and the Democrats from passing the federal stimulus package – and thank God for that.”

Of course, Bates won’t say it.

But the voters in Orange County should.

Shout the Good News! Rick Warren’s Conversion

goya_peterWhen accessing the political apologetics of evangelicals, it is tempting to deal with them on their own terms and question whether their contrition is perfect and sincere enough to remove the stain that their sins have placed on their souls.

In Christian terms, forgiveness for sin requires a deep and sincere change of heart accompanied by sorrow for the wrong committed, and not merely regret for its consequences or an external manifestation of repentance.  You can’t cleanse the soul of sin with an insincere, superficial, or merely pragmatic apology.

In those terms, perhaps Pastor Rick Warren’s statement on the Larry King Show that he is “not an anti-gay or anti-gay marriage activist. Never have been, never will be” fails to meet the requirements for forgiveness and his apology for having misspoken on this issue (as he now claims) should be dismissed as insincere.

If I were fighting evangelical fire with evangelical fire, perhaps I’d say that Rick Warren’s contrition for his anti-gay and anti-gay marriage statements is inadequate and that he still deserves to be damned to progressive Hell.

But I am not an evangelical, and, frankly, I don’t think that the status of Rick Warren’s soul is any of my business.

For that reason, I would approach Rick Warren’s statements on Larry King about gay marriage from a different – and more secular — perspective.

I would note that as the leader of one of the largest evangelical churches in the nation, Rick Warren’s claim that he has “Never…been, never will be” an activist opponent of gay marriage is strikingly good political news for progressives, especially in California where the Prop 8 debate is far from over.

I would note, too, that Rick Warren’s mea culpa could not come at a better time – when the Republican Party, both nationally and in Warren’s home territory of Orange County – is desperately searching for traction in its losing battle against progressives, Democrats, and President Obama.  At the least, Warren is giving a clear signal to Republicans who think they can reverse the political tide by turning politics into a culture war, that he is not going to fight on their side.

Instead, Pastor Rick makes clear that, for him, the social gospel (the fight against AIDS in particular, but also fighting poverty and climate change, and ending the genocide in Darfur) is more important than social conservative issues like gay marriage.

That’s very bad news for Republicans.

So I would celebrate the Good News of Pastor Rick Warren’s awakening – and welcome him with love and open arms.

A Great American Hope: Time to Pardon Jack Johnson

O my Lord
What a morning,
O my Lord,
What a feeling,
When Jack Johnson
Turned Jim Jeffries’
Snow-white face
to the ceiling.

Adaptation of the spiritual “My Lord, What a Morning” by William Waring Cuney, 1910.

While I’m skeptical about their motives, I applaud the efforts of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Representative Peter King (R-NY) to obtain a presidential pardon for the great heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.

Jack Johnson fighting James Jeffries, July 4, 1910

Jack Johnson fighting James Jeffries, July 4, 1910

Arthur John “Jack” Johnson, who died in 1946 at the age of 68, was the first black Heavyweight Champion of the World.

The crime that the pardon would cover is Johnson’s supposed violation of the Mann Act — “transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes.”  Johnson eventually served 10 months in federal prison on the charges, which also destroyed his boxing career.

No one now doubts that Johnson’s Mann Act conviction was thoroughly racist: the women Johnson was convicted of “transporting” were white.

When Johnson started his boxing career at the turn of the last century, boxing was as segregated as the rest of America – there were separate (and far from equal) boxing matches for black and white fighters.

Johnson became World Colored Heavyweight Champion in 1903 and was widely believed to be the best boxer in the world, but he could not get a match with white Heavyweight Champion James J. Jeffries, who refused to face him.

According to Wikipedia, Johnson won the world heavyweight title five years later, on December 26, 1908, “when he fought the Canadian world champion Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia, after following him all over the world, taunting him in the press for a match. The fight lasted fourteen rounds before being stopped by the police in front of over 20,000 spectators. The title was awarded to Johnson on a referee’s decision as a T.K.O, but he had severely beaten the champion. During the fight, Johnson had mocked both Burns and his ringside crew. Every time Burns was about to go down, Johnson would hold him up again, punishing him more.” The film of the match was stopped just before the fight ended, so that it would not show Johnson defeating a white man.

As the most famous black man in America and far ahead of his time in his outspoken defiance of white racism, Johnson was caricatured by the press as subhuman and an ape, and constantly harassed by local police and federal authorities.  The press called for a “Great White Hope” to defeat Johnson and return the heavyweight title to the white race.  Each of these “White Hopes” failed to unseat Johnson.

Heeding the call to defend his race, Jeffries eventually agreed to come out of retirement in 1910 and fight Johnson, explaining “”I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.”  The fight took place on July 4th in Reno, Nevada, before an all-white crowd of more than 20,000, which chanted “kill the nigger” throughout the match.  After being knocked down twice, Jeffries called it quits in the 15th round.  Johnson’s victory over Jeffries led to white race riots across America, leaving at least 23 black men, and two white men, dead.

Johnson was not a “role model” in the Jackie Robinson mode.  Loud, proud, defiant, and eventually very rich, Johnson reveled as much in ostentatiously breaking racial taboos as in his victories in the ring.

White America could not allow him to survive, and so Johnson was destroyed, with the Mann Act as the weapon.  Following his conviction in 1913, Johnson fled the United States and fought in Cuba and Mexico. After his return to America and serving his prison sentence in 1920, Johnson was never able to regain his prowess in the ring.  He lost seven of his last nine fights, retiring in 1938.

He died in a car accident in 1946, after angrily leaving a restaurant in North Carolina that refused to serve him because of his race.

McCain and King are to be praised for joining with filmmaker Ken Burns (who has made a documentary about Johnson called “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” and first sought a pardon for Johnson in 2004) in calling on President Obama to issue a pardon for Johnson.

Still, the politics of their appeal for Johnson should be noted.

In September 2008, both McCain and King sponsored resolutions in their respective congressional bodies urging then-President George W. Bush to pardon Johnson.  Bush did not do so, despite McCain and King’s backing and wide bipartisan support.  According to Ken Burns, President Bush gave him a telephone number to call about the pardon, which turned out to be the telephone number of Karl Rove.

Burns says that Rove told him that a Bush pardon for Johnson “ain’t gonna fly.”

Rove now denies that he ever spoke with Burns about the Johnson pardon.

It is time to put the Bush-Rove years behind us.

It is time to put racism behind us.

It is time for a Great American Hope.

It is time to pardon Jack Johnson.