Saturday, March 15, 2014

Single key, key to surviving 1.6 million GM deathtraps

Every day we get new, unsettling information about General Motors "Heavy Keychain Recall". Yesterday we learned that GM may have known about the defective ignition switch since 2001, not 2004, as previously reported. The infamous switch, which could, when jostled by a heavy keychain, shut off the motor, disable the breaking system and turn o...ff the airbags; a triple whammy when driving at highway speed if there ever was one. There have been dozens of accidents and at least 12 deaths, though many others may not have been reported as such due to lack of analyzable evidence at the scene. Today, we learn that GM is urging drivers of these defective cars, now being recalled for fixes that won't even start till next month, to keep just the single key on its keychain. GM conducted two internal investigations during the last ten years regarding the defect and closed them both. Instead of recalling the cars to prevent death and injury as required by their membership in the human race, higher ups at GM decided to stay mum, only advising dealers to provide a minimal fix if an owner complained. That allowed GM to pay for less than 500 such repairs. Now Uncle Sam has opened a potential criminal investigation why GM officials ignored that devastating safety defect for so long. GM finally recalled the 1.6 million cars; started offering loaners to affected drives and, get this, a $500 rebate to buy a new GM car.

Get your popcorn and peanuts, sit back, and watch this GM car wreck unfold over the next several years. It's gonna cost GM more billions than if it would have done the responsible thing in the first place. A few GM big shots may even hear a jail house door shut behind them before this one is finished. And the next time you see a million dollar PR commercial showing GM touting its manufacturing acumen, remember that at GM, as with many companies with defective ethics, Job One is profits.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Peter Breen: Just another IRS hatemonger

Peter Breen is running in the Republican Primary next Tuesday to replace Sandy Pihos as my Illinois Representative in the 48th District. Breen is Vice President and Senior Counsel for the Thomas More Society, which he claims, is a champion of First Amendment Rights.  In a post last month, "Breen last person I'd see about First Amendment rights", I took issue with Breen's wrapping himself and his candidacy in a phony mantle of First Amendment defender, pointing out Breen's Thomas More Society simply promotes opposition to gay marriage, the "right" of anti abortion fanatics to harass traumatized women entering abortion clinics, and the "right" of these same fanatics to shove their religious beliefs down our throats putting religious settings in the public square. I concluded with my title that if I had a First Amendment issue, Breen would be the last person I'd see for advice.

This month Breen raised the stakes in his phony First Amendment defender issue with his latest campaign mailer. Above his movie star handsome visage he has an even bigger photo of the Gipper himself, Ronald Reagan, next to the enigmatic title "WWRRD?". That is explained underneath as "What Would Ronald Reagan Do?" Then he imagines the Gipper would, like Breen, jump into the "Demonize the IRS" camp we know so well from our IRS hatemongering Congressman Peter Roskam. Breen tops even Roskam by linking the IRS to the trampling (his term) of First Amendment rights of anti abortion activists. Bunk. Breen makes this scurrilous charge simply because he believes it will play well in a Primary where the most bigoted and know-nothing Republicans are most energized to vote. If Breen was really concerned about the sanctity of life, he wouldn't invoke the Patron Saint of Tea Party Republicans, Ronald Reagan, who began the decline of the Middle Class in 1981, with his tax cuts, union busting, outsourcing frenzy, and his support for anti leftist forces throughout Central America responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths.

Breen's mailer claims "In the Boy Scouts, we were always taught to leave a place better than we found it". When it comes to providing good governance in the 48th...Peter Breen should just leave.

The radio in the corner


When radio was King
When radio was King
I first saw this 1941 Zenith counsel radio Model 12S568E, Serial Number A158327, in 1973, in the house of Casey and Maria Moauro, grandparents of my wife, Mary. It was shoved into a dark corner of their basement, didn't work, with a rotted cord and a parched, faded wood cabinet. But I sensed that underneath lurked the spirit of a dormant old time radio with vacuum tubes seeking to rekindle their orange glow. Years went by. I often expressed my admiration for this antique to Grandma Maria. After Casey died in 1985, she lived alone in that house till 1996, when at age 95, it was time to move in with a family member. "You take the radio", she told me. "You're the only one who showed any interest in it". So I did. Several years passed and now I had the radio in a dark corner of my basement, still silent and decaying. One day in February, 1999, I heard of a old fashioned TV repair joint in Chicago that repaired vacuum tube radios. On a lark I took a not very optimistic 30 mile drive where I encountered George, a repairman older than the radio, who said he'd give it a shot. Two weeks later I paid $200 to retrieve a now functioning AM and Short Wave radio whose cabinet had also been lovingly brought back to life. Back home the 8 inch speaker produced a sound that could fill an auditorium and I had many an interesting evening showing and playing this beauty to visitors. Exactly fifteen years went by when one day in February of this year, the radio fell silent once again. I retrieved the February, 1999, repair ticket and called the shop. It was still in business and amazingly, George, now in his eighties, was still at his work bench, repairing an occasional antique radio. A week after dropping it off George called. "Get your radio", he intoned. "How much?" I asked. "Just the $48 inspection charge. It had a corroded contact - an easy fix".

Now Zenith Radio Model 12S568E, Serial Number A158327, made in Chicagoland, once again sits in an prominent corner of our dining room. It takes about 20 seconds for the vacuum tubes, with a load pop, to project their orange glow, filling the house with an incredible sound. Though Zenith doesn't make electronics in the US anymore, when my 1941 Zenith springs to life, I'm reminded of their famous motto: "The quality goes in, before the name goes on".

Monday, March 10, 2014

Roskam support o Keystone XL antithesis of environmental sanity

In his March 6, Glen Ellyn Suburban Life op ed (Time to move forward with Keystone XL) my Congressman Peter Roskam's latest promotion of the XL Keystone Pipeline is further evidence of his radical approach to the environmental crisis endangering the planet, including all seven billion of us trapped in the carbon hothouse Roskam promotes. Here we are in 2014, with a Congressman squarely in the camp of the global warming deniers who scoff at the 97% of scientists clamoring for all countries to address our fossil fuel obsession spelling our doom. All you'll find at is Drill, Baby, Drill. It is laughable Roskam would cite an Obama administration State Department report green lighting Keystone when he  dismisses and denigrates virtually every Obama administration missive on policy ranging from the Affordable Health Care Act, need to raise the minimum wage, green jobs creation programs, immigration reform, violence against women legislation, extending jobless benefits to long term unemployed, and others.

Since when is the State Department the last word on the environment? Many studies by responsible environmental agencies detail the precise opposite of State's alleged Keystone benign ness. Oil Change International, a US based environmental group, argues that none of the future energy use scenarios in the State Department study would put the U.S. on a path to meeting stated climate goals. "The State Department is assuming failure in meeting our climate goals," said Steve Kretzmann, the group's executive director. "They're not modeling a climate-safe world." The Carbon Tracker Initiative is a nonprofit that focuses on how carbon budgets interact with financial markets. It disputes State's sanguine outlook about Keystone XL, arguing it will cause the US to fail to meet its goal of cutting carbon emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, the goal the US established during international climate negotiations. But leave it to Roskam's Congressional colleague Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Senator and Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, to speak sanity to Roskam's delusional denial of the climate crisis. "Keystone isn't any normal pipeline. It would pump tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fuels on Earth. Adding more tar sands oil to our energy mix would accelerate climate change, put our health at risk for generations, and tarnish our international reputation. Beyond Keystone's costs to our economy and health is the real cost of failing to lead the charge on climate change. Last year, President Obama's Climate Action Plan set the goal of galvanizing international action to significantly reduce emissions. That means doing the hard work of convincing the international community to cut carbon pollution. Allowing Keystone to pollute our air and harm our businesses and communities for generations would only discourage the sort of action the President called for."

Congressman Roskam's shallow nostrums pooh-poohing the despoiling of America with the dirtiest fossil fuel extant are not conservative. His is a radical vision whose time has past...even as Roskam strives to pass the sixteen terms of his predecessor in Illinois's Sixth. Maybe it time for Peter Roskam to step aside for a 21st century vision on the greatest crisis we face. Surely, the billionaire Koch Brothers have a fat lobbying job available for a man of great influence...and myopia.