Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Chicago Daily-HeraldA Carol Stream firefighter's long journey back to normal

It would be far too easy for Jerrod Goebel to just forget the past year.

Forget it ever happened. Forget about the pain. Forget the physical therapy that helped him learn to walk again.

And forget all the little details of a yearlong recovery from a car accident that killed his wife.

It would be far too easy for the Carol Stream firefighter to forget why he wanted to be a firefighter in the first place.

"It's going to be on my mind a long time," Goebel, 26, said in his Lisle home, a modest ranch at the end of a street overlooking the Reagan Tollway.

Jerrod Goebel, seriously injured in a car crash that killed his wife, returned to the Carol Stream Fire Protection District last week.


Just two weeks into his first full-time job as a firefighter, Goebel lay comatose in intensive care as family members prepared to bury his wife. He'd just completed eight days of department orientation and was to begin his first shift as a Carol Stream firefighter last Memorial Day.

Goebel had no insurance and an uncertain chance for survival, but his colleagues mobilized to keep his job safe.

Fellow firefighters donated sick days and covered his shifts. They took turns traveling to Rockford Memorial Hospital to keep vigil at his bedside. They organized fundraisers, took up collections and sold raffle tickets, ultimately raising $15,000 for his medical expenses and donating 720 sick hours.


To be sure, Goebel's challenge isn't over. He will likely never retrieve memories of the week leading up to the accident.

The efforts of his colleagues at the fire department ensured he would qualify for the department's insurance plan. They covered his shifts during the first month after the crash so he could qualify for insurance because he needed to be on the job for a month to do so.

There's days the world seems like a pretty terrible place, then you realize 1) you don't have it that bad, and 2) there really a lot of great people out there who will go the extra mile to help someone.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Party of the Corporations

CNN - Coming Soon:The Web Toll

Welcome to the brave new Web, brought to you by Verizon, Bell South, AT&T and the other telecommunications giants (including PopSci and CNN.com's parent company, Time Warner) that are now lobbying Congress to block laws that would prevent a two-tiered Internet, with a fast lane for Web sites able to afford it and a slow lane for everyone else.

Specifically, such companies want to charge Web sites for the speedy delivery of streaming video, television, movies and other high-bandwidth data to their customers. If they get their way (Congress may vote on the matter before the year is out), the days of wide-open cyberspace are numbered.

The Republicans keep selling out their base (or at least the 99.99% that are not well connected CEOs). We may not have all the bucks, but we can still put their sorry butts back on the street. I didn't sign up for the K Street agenda. If we have to endure a few years of Democrats to purge the "for sale to highest bidder" Republicans so be it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Driven over by Miss Daisy

CNN: Homeless men die and 2 women get rich

The ties between two elderly women and a homeless man killed in a hit-and-run were strong enough to raise police suspicions five years ago, but it took a second death with eerie similarities for police to make arrests.

Helen Golay, 75, and Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, were charged last week with eight counts of federal mail fraud for collecting more than $2 million from policies they held on the two homeless men, Paul Vados and Kenneth McDavid.

Cha-ching, or the Sound of Betrayal

Washington Post Richard A. Viguerie:Bush's Base Betrayal

As long as Democrats controlled Congress or the White House, Republicans could tell conservatives they deserved support because of what they would do, someday. Now we know what they do when they have control. Their agenda comes from Big Business, not from grass-roots conservatives.

There's the heart of the matter. The Republican Party (and the Democratic Party for that matter) consists of several factions with their own interests. You can hold such a thing together over the long haul only if the factions see their interests advancing. In the Republican Party, the Pro-Lifers aren't happy with stealth judges and Arlen Spector's chairing of the judiciary committee, the Small Government types aren't pleased with the growth of government, and the law and order Republicans aren't thrilled with the Border and the Botched Response to Katrina (not that they let the locals off the hook).

Friday, May 19, 2006

What irritates me about the administration's response to immigration

In the last 30 days the president has suddenly discovered the merits of border enforcement. Catch and release has been curtailed and now we are sending the national guard to the border (albeit in an a pretty inefficient way that will hurt readiness out of proportion with the improvement it will make to border security). Why has he gotten religion? Are we to believe it took 5 years after 9/11 for "the decider" to decide border security is important? It looks to me like posturing to give the "conservatives" cover to sign off on an amnesty bill. I'm not convinced that the president isn't going to "lose his religion" once he's gotten his way on amnesty. The president wants a legacy, fine. Build a fence, secure the border, crack down on employers, and come back in 2008 with a secure border and "earned legalization" *cough*amnesty*cough* might be OK.

The second thing is the amnesty and guest worker programs are bass-ackwards. We give lawbreakers citizenship, and law abiders temporary work visas. I'd rather see the number of legal immigrants from Mexico increased rather than an amnesty or guest worker program. Right now we allow 50,000 legal unskilled workers to immigrate from Mexico. Rather than 250,000-400,000 guest workers and 50,000 legal immigrants, why not just increase legal immigration to 300,000. Simultaneously step up immigration enforcement (deporting illegal workers) and make the law abiders the winners and the law breakers the losers. That will do more to stop the human tragedy on the border than a hundred amnesties.

The other thing I would like to see is substantial penalties for employers who use illegals so they can violate workplace safety and minimum wage laws. Give the DOJ a few thousand green cards to give away to witnesses and make the vultures pay.

This ain't your father's free trade

Morgan Stanley Economic Digest 5/19/06; Stephen Roach: A Tale of Two Asias

All this raises a profound question for the rest of the world: If India is to services as China is to manufacturing, what role does that leave for the high-cost developed world? Down the road, if India also succeeds in pushing into manufacturing while China makes successful forays into services, the same question becomes all the more threatening to the world’s major industrial economies. Protectionism is the biggest risk in all this. IT-enabled globalization is pushing economic development into manufacturing and services at a breakneck pace. Moreover, IT-enabled connectivity has increasingly transformed once non-tradable services into tradables -- and has moved rapidly up the value chain and occupational hierarchy in doing so. The result is a mounting sense of economic insecurity in the developed world that has become a lightning rod for political action that, unfortunately, has unleashed an increasingly worrisome protectionist backlash.

This is not the experience that orthodox economics understands. The win-win theory of globalization -- workers in poor countries get rich through trade but then turn around and buy things made by rich countries -- just isn’t working. That’s because both the speed and scope of an IT-enabled globalization has broken the mold of the classic theory of comparative advantage. In days of yore, it was fine -- albeit painful -- for rich countries to give up market share in tradable manufactured products. That’s because highly-educated knowledge workers could seek refuge and shelter in nontradable services. However, with nontradables becoming tradable and with educational attainment and skillsets rising rapidly in the developing world, the security of the old way has all but vanished. Sadly, that provides both the justification and the opening for protectionists.

Of course with unregulated illegal immigration many of the "last resort" low end nontradables have become tradable as well. The high rollers are going to have to choose, do they want a managed pullback from the imbalances they have created or a messy unmanaged one (which judging from history, will be quite destructive and also quite ineffective at redistribution).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ewwww, just ewwww

TTAC:The Mitsubishi Freightliner

Mitsubishi Motors is on the ropes. US sales are in the basement. Aside from the new Eclipse and the niche-market EVO, they haven't got a winning product in sight. A line of forgettable sedans and me-too SUVs does not a viable car company make. DaimlerChrysler’s decision to pull the plug on future financial aid doesn’t bode well either. In fact, Mitsubishi is knocking on the door of bankruptcy. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s time for them to build a “real” pickup truck: a Mitsubishi Freightliner.

..... To make the grade and mint some money, Mitsubishi needs a full-size competitor to the Ford Super Duty.

Despite its connection to DaimlerChrysler, Freightliner isn't doing so well. Demand for their medium and heavy trucks has been soft for some time. Their foray into vans, the re-badged Mercedes Sprinter, is aimed at a narrow market niche-- a niche that's even narrower now that there's a Dodge-badged Sprinter. But Freightliner’s reputation as a maker of tough trucks is undiminished. Their Century Class trucks set new standards for comfort and luxury in heavy truck cabs. Freightliner’s Sterling (formerly Ford) trucks are probably the most efficient and durable medium and heavy trucks on the planet.

Mitsubishi and Freightliner should pool their resources and build a new, heavy-duty, full-size pickup truck, designed to compete head-to-head with Ford’s Super Duty. Freightliner has the design and engineering capabilities to create the truck. The Mitsubishi version could be sized and optioned like a Ford F250HD and F350, and the Freightliner version could cover the F350 and F450 range. Make sure it’s big enough, has all the truck amenities and a really aggressive front end, and buyers will flock to the showrooms. A real Freightliner for the price of Dodge imitation? Hard to resist.

Freightliner doesn’t make engines, and Mitsubishi doesn’t have an engine suitable for a large truck. As we’ve discussed here before, there are plenty of first-rate American parts makers who can feed aspiring automakers suitable components. Freightliner is a major customer of Cummins. The new Mitsubishi Freightliner could run on the same Cummins diesel engine used in the Dodge Ram. Alternatively, Navistar (International) has developed a new 4.5-liter V6 diesel for Ford’s F250-- that The Blue Oval abandoned. Navistar has the engine and the plants to build it, but no customers.


Freightliner and Mitsubishi each have a suitable marketing channel for the truck. Freightliner could offer the product to fleet buyers who need a pickup to complement their semis and/or delivery trucks. Buyers could have the truck financed and serviced by the truck professionals at any Freightliner outlet, where employees know the commercial truck business inside out. No more hanging out at the Ford dealer waiting for mechanics to finish changing the oil on a minivan before getting to your work truck. Freightliner could also market a truck chassis in this class to motor home and ambulance builders; a market that’s currently locked-up by Ford.

Obviously, Mitsubishi’s distribution channel caters to the average consumer. Since most pickup trucks are sold for personal use, a Mitsubishi dealership would be a logical place to offer a Freightliner pickup truck for the masses. The presence of an attractive full-size truck would act as a halo vehicle, bringing buyers into the showroom (most for the first time) to see Mitsu’s other offerings. A premium truck would also have a premium margin for both dealer and manufacturer, something both companies need desperately.

The US automotive market is in flux. Only those companies willing to consider new ways of doing business are going to survive. Will Mitsubishi and Freightliner see the next decade? That could very well depend on whether or not they realize that a problem shared is a problem halved.

Just don't write about something you don't understand, K?

Freightliner has growing sales right now. Now sales will fall off a cliff in about six months for the same reason that they are surging now. New 2007 emissions rules that will make trucks $5-10K more expensive and add new technology. New Technology means something new to break (and of course something new you have to teach your mechanics how to fix). The trucking industry is still undergoing therapy and suffers nightmares from the last emissions change in October 2002. The clever folks at the EPA moved the emissions deadlines up via litigation forcing the 2004 engines to be released 18 months early. The result was lots of breakdowns and a big drop in fuel economy. So fleets, having been trained by the previous cycle (thank you EPA), are buying new trucks now while they are cheaper and less likely to break down. We go through another round of this 2010.

I'm not an expert on pickups or the pickup market, but I would imagine a DCX honcho asking "why are we going to spend all this money to compete with our own product?"

OK, Freightliner doesn't make an engine technically. But corporate cousin Detroit Diesel does (and those engines are by and large only available in DCX products (Freightliner, Sterling, Western Star, Thomas Built bus). Detroit Diesel also markets and distributes Mercedes Benz engines in the US. Just because it doesn't say Freightliner on the rocker cover doesn't mean it's not a proprietary product.

Once again though, why would DCX spend money to build another Cummins powered pickup? As far as International goes, ha ha ha. See, Detroit Diesel was an independent company. Made/makes a great fleet motor, the Series 60 which at one time had an overwhelming market share lead and was available to all manufacturers. DCX wanted to rule the world though and so they bought Detroit Diesel and made it a proprietary option. This succeeded in forcing several large trucking companies to switch brands to stay with the Fuel Sipping Series 60. So DCX and Navistar are not best buddies. Navistar International has a proprietary engine family in the light and medium duty spaces and will have one in the heavy space in 2007. Add to that they are fighting tooth and nail for the medium market on the strength of their integrated powertrains. The last thing either company is going to do is source an engine from one another.

You really don't want to take your pickup to a heavy duty diesel shop. The shop rates are much, much higher. Also, instead of waiting behind a minivan you'll be behind a truck that has to be halfway across the truck by morning. Dealers are going to take care of their bread and butter first.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What a Jackass....I mean donkey

Sen. Clinton apologizes to Chelsea for work comment

NEW YORK (AP) -- After telling an audience that young people today "think work is a four-letter word," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she apologized to her daughter.

"I said, 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to convey the impression that you don't work hard,"' Clinton said Sunday in a commencement address at Long Island University. "I just want to set the bar high, because we are in a competition for the future."


The senator said that her daughter, Chelsea, phoned to complain after learning about the comments. The 26-year-old was hired in 2003 by McKinsey & Co. as a consultant, reportedly for a six-figure salary. She received a master's degree from Oxford University after graduating from Stanford University in 2001.

First, as my wife said when I told her about the article, work *is* a four letter work. It's in the dictionary, look it up.

I'm glad that Thanksgiving will be a little more harmonious at the Clinton home, but the young people she really owes an apology to are the young people who are busting their ass every day at a crappy job to feed their families. You know, the 99.9% who aren't politically connected enough to land a 6 figure job straight out of grad school. Why doesn't she find some single moms trying to support themselves on a Wal-Mart wage and let them know what she thinks of their work ethic.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ever heard of a "hacker"?

CCJ:Is that really your driver?

Qualcomm recently announced it soon will release a Web-based vehicle security and driver management tool called Vehicle Command Control (VCC) that will integrate with the Magtec product through its OmniTracs platform. A dispatcher at the office would be able to use the VCC to manage driver authentication codes and truck identifications, change codes over the air and even disable a moving vehicle, if necessary.

Is it just me or does making an internet based tool that can disable a commercial vehicle have some risk? I mean, it's great that we can shut down a hijacked truck loaded with hazmat, but it seems this would have the potential for mischief. Say Mr. Islamo-hacker decides to shut down all of a fleets tankers, 99% of them might stop safely, but if one is rearended on the Dan Ryan it could cause significant mayhem. I'm sure that precautions will be taken, it's just that the consequences of a lapse are a lot more severe than some hacker text on a web page.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Day Without Illegal Immigrants

CNN - Dobbs: Radical groups taking control of immigrant movement

Supporters of the boycott have made no secret of their determination to try to shut down schools, businesses and entire cities. Much of Los Angeles' Seventh Street produce market, which supplies thousands of local restaurants and markets, is closed today. Many meat-packing companies like Cargill and Tyson are also closing many of their plants.

"The meat packers are confirming what we know," says University of Maryland economics professor Peter Morici, "and that is that this large group of illegal aliens in the United States is lowering the wage rate of semiskilled workers, people who are high school dropouts or high school graduates with minimal training."

In fact, a meat-packing job paid $19 an hour in 1980, but today that same job pays closer to $9 an hour, according to the Labor Department. That's entirely consistent with what we've been reporting -- that illegal aliens depress wages for U.S. workers by as much as $200 billion a year in addition to placing a tremendous burden on hospitals, schools and other social services.

Well, the good thing about the protests is we have a clear indication of which businesses are using illegal immigrants. Now if the INS was serious about enforcing the law the rest'd be simple.