Tuesday, September 25, 2007

UAW strikes General Motors: Assembly-line workers make $28 an hour in base wages, but GM says benefits, including those for retirees, overtime and night-shift differentials raise the total hourly compensation to $73. The Center for Automotive Research estimates that Toyota pays U.S. workers $45 an hour in wages and benefits.

Workers at GM's plant in Janesville, Wis., started picketing outside the massive facility a few minutes after 10, halting work on assembly lines that build large sport-utility vehicles like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban.

"If they think I'm going to take a wage cut and pay more for health care, they're dreaming," said Dave Van Fossen, a 48-year-old worker at the plant. "My utilities just went up 14 percent and everything else is going up. Why would I accept a pay cut?"

Someone might want to say that unskilled workers making $28 per hour along with benefits really aren't in a position to strike. They might be right, but does General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner really deserve the millions of dollars a year that he makes?

No one, not Wagoner nor Van Fossen, truly deserves the money they make, of course. Value is determined subjectively by the party that pays and the party that is paid. Nothing and no one is objectively worth a particular amount. Wagoner, like Paris Hilton or Rex Grossman, makes as much money as someone is willing to pay him. It may be myopic and it may be socially irresponsible of them to do so, they do so out of self-interest.

Workers at General Motors, in trying to extract as much money as possible from modest skills, are really no different than anyone else in a free market. They are playing the same game as those in upper classes by the same rules. They do not deserve anything but what General Motors is willing to pay, and whatever General Motors is willing to pay is what they deserve.

Friday, September 21, 2007

100 isn't Steelers' defense's favorite number: The last 100-yard game against Pittsburgh was James' 124-yard effort for Indianapolis in a Monday night game on Nov. 28, 2005, or 27 games ago counting the playoffs. The regular-season streak is 23 games.

Dating from Johnson's 123-yard game for Cincinnati in the Steelers' 28-17 victory in Game 4 of the 2004 season, Pittsburgh has allowed only one 100-yard runner in 52 games -- or the equivalent of more than three NFL regular seasons.

Pittsburgh has a very stingy defense this year, having allowed 10 points all year (fewest in the league) and 222 yards per game (3rd-fewest). Now, the Steelers have always had an absurdly good run defense, but this doesn't always translate into defensive success. The 2002 Steelers allowed just 85 rushing yards per game, which was the best in the league.

The pass defense, by contrast, was as effective and as mobile as the Maginot Line. So bad was that pass defense that teams couldn't believe their luck: the Browns went down to defeat in the playoffs that year because they refused to throw the ball at the end of the game despite gaining over 400 passing yards. Last year's 21st-ranked secondary may again be the weakest link on a team that won a Super Bowl just two years ago and has outscored opponents 60-10 so far this year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Clinton unveils health plan, rivals attack: "She takes her inspiration from European bureaucracies ... it's a European-style socialized medicine plan," Romney said in New York City.

Elsewhere, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki categorically denounced the prospect of peace in Iraq as a sign of "Canadian-style stability". Paraphrasing Michele Mekel from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, the sort of low-level civil war in which Iraq is currently mired is "more palatable to [Iraqis] based on our values system, rather than socialist plan such as Canada's, for example."

Simply saying that something is European, Canadian or socialist does not mean it is a bad thing. In fact it's actually a good thing. Besides, America already has a socialized military, education system, justice system, highway system, and so on. All this, presumably, was the result of adopting cowardly European ways. More seriously, limited state-provided health care has been around for over four decades in America, though it might comfort Romney and others to know that poor people still suffer in America.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's still early (seven quarters don't even get you a toonie), but last year's best team on paper is now playing as though made of paper. After escaping with a 14-3 win over the hapless Bears last week, the San Diego Chargers are playing arguably the worst game played by any team this week. The Patriots may have been disciplined for using a camera to steal plays, but the Chargers can use a camera for a number of purposes, such as finding their way to the line of scrimmage or finding Patriots tight end Ben Watson. Watson scored the first touchdown when the Chargers mistook him for the herculean Ed Hochuli and allowed him to leisurely stroll unmolested while putting the referee in man coverage.

Rivers is making the game into an ordinary rout through garbage time gains, having just cut the Patriots lead to 31-14, but it is difficult to comprehend how a team that went 14-2 last year found itself down 24-0 in the last minute of the half, on the verge of falling behind by 31. It was here that I realized that San Diego had replaced the anemic Marty Schottenheimer with the still-feebler Norv Turner. If Schottenheimer never saw a big game he couldn't lose, Turner has never seen a big game. Turner has a career record of 59-82 and presided over such powerhouse teams as the 1995 Redskins (6-10) and the 2004 Oakland Raiders (5-11). It takes a lot to overcome the immense talent found in San Diego, but Norv Turner is the right man for the job.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's unfortunate, at times, to live in a democracy. All sorts of asinine, inchoate views are accepted and encouraged, such as those of Toronto Star readers. In response to the rape of two female students at York University, Andrea Hannen of St. Catherines suggests that "a practical, cost-effective solution is to expand the current legal provisions that allow Canadian citizens with no criminal record and who undergo the same training as the police to own and use firearms for self-defence purposes." Apparently, Ms. Hannen thinks, giving handguns to as many Canadians as possible will make our country a safer place. She goes on to claim that this putative "solution" has been highly effective everywhere it has been tried, the United States of America notwithstanding. Currently, of course, crime in Canada is out of control, in particular non-homeless on non-homeless crime.

Perhaps more troublesome is Mike Duynhoven's recommendation that Canadians need to "stop denying that violent crime is on the rise." It's almost as though Mr. Duynhoven has never opened a newspaper in his life. Or, alternatively, he has only opened newspapers in his life, and ones like the Toronto Sun at that. Statistics canada reports that violent crime declined by nearly 10 percent between 1994 and 2004 and has stable since, with the exception of robbery.

Sometimes in a democracy, it's not who's right that wins, but whoever can hysterically shout the loudest.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Gatorade Pledges $240 Million In Thirst Aid To Underquenched Nations

"Subsistence-level peasant populations need to drink at least 16 ounces of fluid prior to, 8 ounces during, and 24 ounces immediately after engaging in heavy menial labor," a multilingual wall chart included in the thirst-aid package read in part. "Why? Because the more you slave away for your cruel overlords, the more vital minerals and fluids your body loses. These have to be replaced quickly, with a rehydrating agent that contains glucose and sodium, so you can keep your edge–and keep from being beaten."

Of course, here we are seven years later and chronic glycogen depletion still plagues much of the Third World. In fact, 25,000 people die each and every day from having absolutely nothing to eat. Unfortunately, this isn't the sort of danger that governments like to deal with.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Patriots' Rodney Harrison to be suspended 4 games, reportedly for HGH use: FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Rodney Harrison, the frequently fined strong safety who solidified the New England Patriots' defense through back-to-back Super Bowl victories, will miss the first four games of the NFL season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

This is softer than the Patriots' defense in last season's AFC championship game. There are no words to describe how feeble of a penalty this is, and how feeble and corrupt the NFL is when it comes to dealing with cheating. If Harrison was a sprinter or competed in an Olympic sport, he would have been banned for two years. In the NFL, the same offense earns you a one-month ban, a comical non-response.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I don't think blindly approving of military action against Kyrgyzstan, a country the size of Nebraska, is entirely an American problem. I have quite a few teachers and students from my high school on record in supporting the American invasion of Elbonia but opposing UN aid to the Bulungian government in combating an insurrection. I earnestly discussed with many residents of Brampton the prospect of the Boli and the Desh, the two founding nations of Bolividesh, living side-by-side in harmony.

Even if hyper-trendy presidential hopeful Barack Obama will bypass our Prime Minister in his dealings with our country, I have a hard time attributing much weight to particular facts. The language spoken in Rwanda is Kinyarwanda and it is located in that other Great Lakes region of the world. Kampala is the capital of Uganda and located at approximately 3500 feet elevation, roughly the same as Calgary. There are two countries by the name of Congo, and a war in one of them killed a thousand times as many people as 9/11. Burkina Faso was once called Upper Volta and Idaho is a made-up name. The highest point in flat-as-a-pancake Saskatchewan is higher than the highest point in Ontario.

I thoroughly relish, with an admitted undercurrent of morbid curiosity, discussions such as the one in the video. I am constantly and always amazed at the fact that people can not know where Fredericton is, the year in which Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas or that Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Papua New Guinea are all different countries.

Nevertheless, such meticulous knowledge of a gazetteer hardly translates to meaningful political knowledge if we are to talk about Obama. Obama, if he were to ever call our head of state, would no doubt be informed at some point in the process that her or his title is Prime Minister. Similarly, if you were to be quizzed as to the names of all the countries in the world with the word 'Guinea' in their names, you could do a handy job of coming up with the four such states. Whether or not your country ought to go to war with another country actually has very little to do with where exactly the second country is located on the globe.

There is not much utility in knowing particular facts, which is why we no longer bother in teaching them to children or adults. The answer to the plaintive "when are we ever going to need to know this?" is, of course, never, at least not until 'this' attains a certain geopolitical significance. Only once we acknowledge a value to knowledge for the sake of knowledge do we become entitled to guffaw at the laughable ignorance of those who don't know who Kofi Annan is, that North Korea and Australia are located on the same island, or that Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein are the only doubly-landlocked countries in the world.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Marketing Sprint Begins When the Race for the Gold Ends: Gay, the polite, soft-spoken sprinter from Kentucky, won the 200 meters Thursday, to add to the gold he won in the 100 earlier this week. He ran it in 19.76 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson’s meet record of 19.79, to become only the third man to win both the 100 and the 200 at the world championships. He also has a chance for a third gold, in Saturday’s 4x100 relay.

But Gay did not celebrate his feat as he crossed the finish line Thursday ahead of Usain Bolt of Jamaica. After eight races in six days and an unrelenting news media spotlight for the first time in his career, he was too exhausted to even hold up his arms.

“It has been extremely hard, but it’s fun at the same time,” Gay, 25, said. “When I go to McDonald’s and kids and fans want my autograph, it’s great. I don’t get that at home.”

It's good to see such an amazing athlete confess his fondness for McDonald's. Before my last race, which was one of the best I've ever run, the last thing I ate was a small bag of Lay's barbecue chips. I celebrated afterwards with three cans of Pepsi.