More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BARACK SAYS WRIGHT IS "NOT THE MAN I MET 20 YEARS AGO."

Finally we get a quantifiable repudiation of Reverend Jeremiah Wright from Barack Obama, and frankly its about time. After a speech delivered Monday at the National Press Club by the now infamous Rev. Wright, in which he suggested that the US Government has been somehow involved in the spreading of AIDS throughout America's black communities, and continued to assert that the United States potentially attacked itself on September 11, 2001, Obama has now officially cited possible irreparable harm to his relationship with the former pastor of his church, in a press conference held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. During the press conference Barack stated that he wanted to make it clear to voters that he does not support the man, and especially does not support his views. "I have been a member of Trinity Church since 1992. I have known Rev. Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday is not the man I met 20 years ago," Barack Obama said.

The fact that Barack did not do this much sooner still causes some concern for me. To me, it almost seems as though Barack has only now finally come to the conclusion that his association with Wright could potentially damage his nomination by the democratic party for the presidency. I'm still not exactly convinced that this "new" Rev. Wright is a surprise to Barack.

Nonetheless, Barack wants to be president, and he has to make a political move here. He has to secure his democratic nomination. To do that, he must send a clear message to his fellow democrats that he has the ability to maintain focus and challenge McCain on the issues. To be sure, without an absolute, irrefutable disassociation of Rev. Wright by Barack Obama, the entire affair with the insolent reverend would likely have taken center stage in his fight against McCain, and ultimately would have proved to be his undoing.

Democrats know that however popular Barack may be, or even however more popular he may be than Hillary, Barack could not ultimately defeat McCain and win the White House if there was even the slight indication or suggestion that he may secretly share some of the views of his former pastor. He knows that as well.

So for that, Barack may have sealed the deal for his historic nomination. Now only time will tell where we go from here. At least we can put the whole Rev. Wright debacle to bed...for a little while.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ANOTHER PASS FOR REVEREND WRIGHT

Eugene Kane is a black guy here in Milwaukee who writes a regular column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and like most columnists, he is prone to making a controversial statement or two every once in a while.

Okay, so I did say that Mr. Kane is a black guy here in Milwaukee. Allow me to explain the significance of that one minor detail.

Because even though his column this week, "Black or white, we're watching
Pennsylvania," (which I enjoyed reading, I might add) really had more to do with the two democratic candidates and the importance of Pennsylvania in determining who will ultimately win the still undetermined democratic nomination, than to do with color or Barack Obama and the much talked about Reverend Jeremiah Wright debacle, he no less mentioned it. Disturbingly, he gave it a pass.

At least in so many words. Or so, that's how I interpreted it.

Kane recalled a conversation he had very recently with his barber in which the barber told Kane that he thought Obama had no chance at all to win the election.

"You really think white folks will vote for a black guy?" his barber put to him.

Kane says this conversation happened to be weeks after the whole Jeremiah Wright fiasco hit the fan, which, as Kane puts it, "appeared to derail any chances the Illinois senator had of persuading white America to embrace a black guy who went to the kind of church many black people attend to hear black preachers talk the way black folks talk when white folks aren't around."

That's where my trouble starts. Right when he gets to the part to hear black preachers talk the way black folks talk when white folks aren't around.

I won't suggest for a minute that I'm naive enough to believe that many people, when behind closed doors, and in the company of people of their own race, religion, sex or otherwise, will not be more apt to say things in said company that they may also not so eagerly say elsewhere. Like in public forums with cameras on and reporters in the wait. But in no way does that make it right.

Mr. Kane is essentially giving Jeremiah Wright a pass to incite hate and anger in a people. In a culture. He seems to say, hey, we're all racists when we go home at night, so what's the big deal? Get over it already.

Can this guy really be serious? How would the black folks have felt if John McCain had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan? What if white folks would have said it's not that bad and actually most white people do feel this way about blacks? After all, many white Americans are anti-black, right? John McCain supporters could easily have said McCain's just listening to white people talk the way white people talk when black people aren't around. Or stepping away from race a bit, what if McCain were to make a distasteful comment in reference to Mrs. Clinton's breasts in a debate? He's just saying what many men say when there aren't any women around, right? No harm, no foul.

The Ku Klux Klan and Rev. Wright's church are a bit different, I'll concede. The Ku Klux Klan has a terrible history and there are very few white folks I know who subscribe to the violent and misguided-and frankly insane-beliefs of these cuckoos. I certainly count myself in this group of white people who does not support any supremacist group, especially the infamous KKK. And I am in no way suggesting that Rev. Wright would advocate violence toward white people to get his point across. So there are notable differences with my argument. It's not exactly apples to apples.

But hate speech is hate speech, and regardless of whether people talk about things like this behind closed doors or not makes no difference. It in no way makes it right. It doesn't make it okay. Nor does the fact that it is coming from a black guy make it okay just because this is the way, as Kane puts it, most black people talk, and as his comment suggests, feel.

Black or white, America is watching too. I'd like to believe that few of us want to live in a world where racism is acceptable under any circumstance, irregardless of the perspective it is coming from.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

McCAIN TALKS IN MILWAUKEE ABOUT TRADE AND ECONOMICS

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain was here in Milwaukee recently to talk about trade policy and announce his plans for economic reforms, should he become president, before a group of over 300 business people.

Trade will undoubtedly be a hot topic in the upcoming presidential debates between McCain and the democratic nominee, and each side will have to present their case well in order to capture the vote of a growing segment of displaced and unemployed American workers who firmly believe that their jobs were compromised as a result of trade agreements and cheap overseas labor. McCain may have to do more to convince America that his ideas regarding trade will have a positive impact on the economy, and infact provide jobs and improve opportunities for work, as he is a strong proponent of free trade.

The event was hosted by Bucyrus International, a South Milwaukee based mining equipment manufacturing company, during which Bucyrus CEO Tim Sullivan and McCain discussed economic development and Sullivan's belief that renegotiating trade agreements like NAFTA would be "absolutely crazy" for the United States to consider. Both democratic candidates have talked about having another look at NAFTA in particular. Sullivan went on to say that without the trade agreements Bucyrus would have little reason to consider continuing expansions in the Milwaukee area, partly because much of its business comes from abroad, and the agreements help it to be profitable.

Bucyrus has already spent tens of millions of dollars and doubled its workforce after announcing a $150 million expansion plan more than three years ago. "If we don't have free trade," Sullivan told McCain, "the decision that we made to stay here in South Milwaukee and triple the capacity of this plant is lost."

Trade is, by all accounts, a complicated issue, and not all aspects of trade agreements are bad. Bucyrus is one of its success stories. As well, Canada supplies nearly 50% of Wisconsin oil, and through NAFTA we have priority access to it. Through this action we get our oil at a lower price than if we didn't have the agreement in place. Without NAFTA, Canada could effectively sell its oil to the highest bidder and leave us to get our oil elsewhere, probably at a much higher cost. Still, NAFTA and our dealings with China, has clearly disadvantaged the United States. At least under the current terms. For all the good intentions of free trade agreements, it has really provided companies a convenient "out" when it comes to labor. Rather than pay American workers, companies simply shift operations to places like Mexico under the guise of globalization. When a company makes the statement that it can no longer afford to to pay people to work here, in the US, that's an example of what's wrong with the idea that free trade is good for America.

John McCain believes we need to retrain a displaced American workforce and make improvements to the accessibility of higher education. Still, more and more workers feel that they've had their livelihoods literally ripped out from under them. As for those who kept their jobs, many have had to accept lower wages and reduced benefits. Those who are otherwise ill-equipped to adapt to a service-oriented economy wonder how this can be the path to economic prosperity free traders alluded to from the start. And let us not forget that many of these so-called service-oriented jobs typically do not pay near the wages one could earn working in a large factory.

At the end of the day the issue is really more about fair trade than free trade. The playing field is far from level, and it is, in part, this imbalance, as opposed to NAFTA as a whole or trade agreements alone, that have been eating away at good paying American manufacturing jobs. On top of that, our government hasn't gotten nearly tough enough on China, who continues to devalue and manipulate its currency, giving it enourmous cost advantage over US manufacturing firms, and who also enforces stricter import guidelines for Made in the USA goods entering their country.

I agree we shouldn't necessarily scrap the agreements altogether. But it would be absolutely crazy, to borrow a phrase, to not atleast consider bringing the nations back to the negotiating table to try and come up with a better deal for America.

Naturally everyone wants to gain something out of it; Bucyrus wants to avoid steep tariffs on goods it ships to China, the big three automakers want to take advantage of cheaper Mexican labor, factory workers want to earn a liveable wage and produce goods to be sold abroad in their own factories, and the countries we do business with of course want to sell their goods and prosper as well.

But ultimately all sides need to come together and arrive at an agreement that comes somewhere down the middle, and in the process doesn't leave the American worker behind. For this to be successful, the next president has his, or her work cut out for them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

WE NEED POLICE IN SCHOOLS

There is an epidemic of violence brewing across America in its schools, and I think it's well past time to get serious about it and begin installing a police presence in every one of them. Especially in the middle and high schools.

In Baltimore, Maryland a teacher was attacked by a student in her classroom after asking the student to sit down. Rather than help the teacher in distress, the other students simply cheered on the attack. In Waycross, Georgia a group of third grade students plotted to murder their teacher because she had reprimanded one student for standing on a chair. In Cazenova, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison, a student shot and killed his principal because he was angry about being teased by the other students. And of course, who can ever forget the Columbine massacre in Colorado that seemed to be the beginning of a long stream of never ending news stories about kids and guns, and violence in schools.

This is something that we simply must get a grip on. It's a situation fast spiraling out of control. Unless we do something to at least curb the violence now, I fear it's a situation that will only get worse.

Of course, one can argue that we can't overreact. These are just isolated incidents, aren't they? Not every school in America is experiencing violence to the degree reported in these stories, and out of thousands of schools across the nation, these incidents of violence are a tiny fraction. Maybe so. But the fact that it can happen at all is scary enough, however fractional the problem may actually be, to suggest to me that putting police officers in every single public school in America is something well worth our consideration.

Granted, it's a costly undertaking. Taxpayers will, of course, have to flip the bill for it. Municipalities will, no doubt, have to hire additional police officers to fill the need. Special training for officers who deal with children and teenagers may be needed, costing taxpayers yet more. But isn't it a cost worth paying? If we can afford to pay to scatter police officers along our nation's highways in order to catch speeding motorists, we can certainly afford to pay to put a few police officers in our schools to protect our children.

Friday, April 11, 2008

SIRIUS AND XM SHOULD MERGE

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen wants the FCC to block the proposed merger between Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio Holdings, calling it "bad for consumers and bad for competition." All ready the two companies have been given the go-ahead to merge by the US Justice Department, but still need further approval by the FCC to get it done.

What irks me is Van Hollen's assertion that the merging of these two companies will somehow be bad. He cites issues of lack of competition and fears that one satellite radio company holding all the cards can demand whatever it is they [the company] wants and the consumer will have to pay. This is simply not the case.

The fact is that satellite radio is a very small segment of the overall radio market. Even after the merger is complete, the two companies combined will only have 5% of the total share. That's a mere drip in the pan by comparison. Taking the number in fully, you'd have to concede that contrary to Van Hollen's argument, there's a ton of competition to be had. With regular radio still controlling 95% of the radio market, the satellite radio business is going to have to do quite a lot to convince the listening public why it is better for them to pay for something they can essentially get now for free. If the singular satellite radio company gets beside itself and tries to gouge the consumer, the consumers are simply going to walk away.

In addition to that, having two different receivers in the industry just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. By comparison, what if you wanted to listen to two separate local radio stations? Only, you couldn't because your radio receiver was not capable of receiving both signals. You'd either have to have a different radio receiver for each of the two stations you wanted to listen to, or make a choice as to which one you preferred more. How does this present value to the consumer? Yet, this is essentially what we have now with satellite radio. Together, both companies can make the entire satellite radio spectrum available to the listener. And, in my opinion, that's better for everyone.

I think Van Hollen has it flat wrong. Sirius and XM should merge.

Read Jim's January blog on this topic, "Waiting for the Government to Get Sirius."