So after writing last night’s entry, I spent too much time today thinking of dumb style rules that should have been changed for the sake of clarity. A few years ago the New Yorker — which probably has an ironclad style rule insisting that their The always takes a capital T — ran a really good story on a family whose household income was right at the national median, but were, for all intents and purposes, working poor. It was really about how people with no critical-thinking defenses fall for things like those “a diamond is forever” and “priceless” TV ads and spend themselves into a lifetime of debt when, on paper, they should be doing OK.
Anyway, this family gave the writer full access to their finances, and there were long sections accounting for every penny that came into the house and back out again. And all of it was rendered in what I assume was New Yorker style at the time, i.e., it was all spelled out.
So, “the family earned thirty-four thousand seven hundred sixty two dollars last year, of which five thousand eight hundred forty nine dollars went to federal taxes, one thousand three hundred ninety one to state taxes and seven hundred twelve to miscellaneous local taxes. …The mortgage payment on their three-bedroom home is six hundred forty three dollars and seventy-two cents monthly, plus an electric bill of…”
My eyes were glazing over after about a page of this. And it went on for pages and pages. It was a really good story but man, it took a commitment.
Just goes to show you, even in the bigs they make bad calls.
Like you didn’t know that.
Speaking of bad calls, speaking of a bad moon risin’, things are looking grim here in the Mitten State. I spent much of the weekend reading about the Delphi bankruptcy, and nothing I read made me feel better. When a business with 175,000 employees teeters on the brink, no one feels good. What makes this worse is the salt-in-wound news that, oh by the way, the bosses’ landing pad was just made softer and fluffier:
With reports circulating that Delphi Corp. could file for bankruptcy as early as today, the company promised about 21 of its top executives Friday that they’d get more money if they are fired or laid off. The Troy-based maker of almost every part you’ll find on a car, from brakes to satellite radio receivers, wants to encourage those leaders to stick with the company, even if it files for bankruptcy.
The workers, I remind you, are being asked to cut their pay from the $26-an-hour range to around $10. A Freep columnist put it this way:
People trying to understand what’s happening at Delphi Corp. need only remember that we live in a competitive world.
To compete with stingy auto suppliers overseas, Delphi needs to pay its hourly workers less.
To compete with corporations at home, Michigan’s fourth-largest company needs to pay its top managers more.
He went on to suggest that at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before top executives at Michigan’s largest public companies are unable to walk through their factories or walk their dogs beyond the perimeters policed by their invisible security fences without protection.
A friend of mine is harsher: He thinks within two years we’ll see physical assaults by blue collars upon white collars, and won’t that be a jolly old time. I hope he’s wrong. I also hope I am recognized as a penniless writer, and blameless in all of this.
But it is going to be the proverbial long cold winter.
Most days I think Christopher Hitchens is just an old sot, but he can still bang ’em out of the park when he needs to. On Harriet Miers and the alleged lack of a religious test:
Of the nomination of Harriet Miers, by contrast, it can be said that only her religion has been considered by her conservative fans to be worth mentioning. What else is there to say, in any case, about a middling bureaucrat and yes-woman than that she attends some mediocre place of worship? One could happily make a case that more random civilians, and fewer fucking lawyers, should be on the court. But the only other thing to say about Miers is that she is a fucking lawyer. Her own opinion of herself is somewhat higher: She does not attribute her presence among us to the laws of biology but chooses to regard herself as having a personal and unmediated relationship with the alleged Jesus of Nazareth, who is further alleged to be the son of God. Such modesty! On this basis, the president and his people have felt able to issue assurances of her OK-ness. So, as far as I can determine, she was set, and has passed, a religious test: that of being an “Evangelical” Christian.
Ooh, look. Terrorism: Three explosive devices found in a courtyard between two Georgia Tech dormitories on the East Campus Monday morning were part of a “terrorist act,” an Atlanta police official said.
One of the devices exploded, injuring the custodian who found them inside a plastic bag. Two others were detonated by a bomb squad.
The custodian suffered ringing to the ears and was treated at a local hospital. The events led to a temporary evacuation Monday morning.
Under Georgia state law, a terroristic act is described as the release of a “hazardous substance,” specifically for “the purpose of causing the evacuation of a building” with “reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror.”
The custodian found the three devices about 9 a.m. in a plastic-type garbage bag, Moss said. When he picked up the bag, one exploded, as it was designed to do when handled. The explosives were made up of chemicals placed inside plastic bottles and could have seriously injured someone, officials said.
Somewhere on campus, the Delta Zoo boys are hiding under their beds. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate these were toilet-cleaner-and-aluminum-foil bombs and the perpetrators were not exactly al-Qaeda. Could be wrong. We’ll see.
ashley said on October 10, 2005 at 10:49 pm
“He thinks within two years we’ll see physical assaults by blue collars upon white collars”.
Well, if it does happen, remember to aim high. Middle management ain’t the problem.
Viva Che. Viva la revolucion.
brian stouder said on October 10, 2005 at 11:14 pm
“Viva Che. Viva la revolucion.”
Never bet against the Pinkertons
mary said on October 11, 2005 at 12:16 am
I’m with you on Christopher Hitchens. Sometimes I wonder why he gets published. He is no friend of the religious right, though. His right wingedness, or at least his pro Iraq war stance has a lot to do his belief that Israel must continue to exist. Whatever speaking in tongues false morality babble comes along with the politicians who also support the war, he does challenge.
Still don’t know exactly what to think of him. Imagine if he sobered up.
alex said on October 11, 2005 at 12:25 am
I couldn’t quite believe it, many years ago, when I toured the Glessner house on South Prairie Avenue in Chicago. Fortress-like toward the street with few windows, it was oriented toward the back and quite a lovely house. It was designed this way because industrialist Glessner feared angry mobs in the night. (It also had hidden passageways inside the walls for the servants so that the servants couldn’t be seen. I guess they feared seeing the rabble outside the windows just as much as they did inside the house.)
South Prairie, and also Astor Street on the near north side, lost their status really fast. As the labor movement heated up, the fat cats headed out to Lake Forest, one county north. Middle management were the lines of defense in nearer-by Winnetka and Glencoe.
Maybe the trend toward gated communities isn’t just about the piss factor. They’re the norm in places like Venezuela and elsewhere that never had a middle class; just the handful of fabulously wealthy and the masses who’d love to have a piece of their hide unlike American proles who’d swoon for some signed curio on e-Bay.
Alas, the GOP has a great deal more political capital to squander before the middle class is reduced to the lifestyle of the average Venezuelan and starts resorting to “terrorism,” which as we have seen is pretty much anything government wants to define it as. In fact, I know a schoolteacher who got called on the carpet over “bomb-making materials” and this was pre-9/11, pre-Timothy McVeigh, even!
Yes, he was a choral director and he kept dry ice in a freezer in his classroom, apparently not under lock and key. They used dry ice for special effects in choir competitions. (It’s not just about singing anymore. It’s about boobs and booty-shaking and smoke and mirrors, the dry ice standing in for the smoke, of course.) On one choral field trip, a parent/chaperone regaled the kiddies with his memories of putting dry ice and water inside liter soft drink bottles and whacking them on things. They made quite an explosion. The following week, one of the kids tried it on the side of the school. A SWAT team showed up. And my friend the teacher nearly lost his job.
And on another field trip a thirteen-year-old gal rode on the lap of an eighteen-year-old guy. All the kids on the bus were evidently privy to the fact that penetration was taking place while the adult chaperones were out of the loop. When confronted, the girl said, “Yeah, I fucked him, so fucking what?” The guy denied it. The teacher, who wasn’t even on the bus, was again threatened with firing.
Scum floats to the top and shit rolls downhill, two axioms I always used to hear in the biz world. Look out. Lotsa logs rolling these days.
ashley said on October 11, 2005 at 3:04 am
“Never bet against the Pinkertons”
Painfully insightful, Brian.
Joe Kobiela said on October 11, 2005 at 9:25 am
While I can not hold you responible for poor management, My stock went down 34% yesterday, and I know it is hard to do, but if I remenber right you drive a VOLVO, It might have helped us in a small way if you could have bought a car or truck, ASSEMBLED in the good old USA.
Just a thought from a factory rat.
Nance said on October 11, 2005 at 9:52 am
I don’t drive a Volvo anymore. I sold it 2.5 years ago and besides, I bought it used. It had 175,000 miles when I got it, way more than 200K when I sold it. And then I bought something worse — a VOLKSWAGEN.
I fell for that “buy American — it’s patriotic” thing once. In 1979, I bought a Mercury Capri. Six years later, it was old and all but done in with 85,000 miles. The Honda that replaced it was going strong at 165,000 when I sold it to buy the Volvo.
A big, big fromage from GM addressed our fellowship class. He said GM’s employee health-care benefits add at least $2,000 to the cost of every vehicle, and the weak dollar made them even less competitive against imports. He pretty much admitted that single-payer health care was in GM’s best long-term interests. And yet, we’ve seen evidence that this country’s pro-GOP, pro-Rush working class will rise up and decry it as “Hillary care,” the way they did in 1993.
The situation is obviously far more complicated than that. I’m certainly paying for buying an import now — my dealer is a 40-minute drive from my house, provides less customer service than Vorderman’s and is more interested in the Buick half of his inventory. But you simply cannot hang the woes of the auto industry on customers who wanted better cars and declined to see buying American models as patriotic.
Our Subaru was assembled in Indiana.
Sorry about your stock. I hold GM corporate bonds, which my financial adviser told me were safe up to the point that GM declares bankruptcy, which we had a good chuckle over. Not laughing anymore.
brian stouder said on October 11, 2005 at 12:52 pm
I think that whole discussion of enforced �style� is quite interesting. In a newspaper or magazine, it would be somewhat grating to see inconsistent references and colloquilisms (hope I spelled that right!) scattered all around. The New Yorker penchant for spelling out numbers would get old, though. (pet peeve: when you�re 11 paragraphs into a story, and a person�s last name is referenced without any further clue about who they are � forcing you to scan backwards until you find the first [and only other] reference to that person in paragraph 2�or worse � when there is no other reference! [presumeably because it got edited out])
I remember thinking that a style rule at People magazine was that French words and phrases must inserted liberally all through each issue, in italics. (and how many people who grab a copy of that at the supermarket drop conversational French into their daily lives?)
Applying the house �style� rules to a piece written by a wordsmith (such as Leonard) is somewhat like Ashcroft putting the blue curtain over the nude statue of justice (or whoever she was) at the DoJ – good for a laugh, but ultimately counter-productive.
reader said on October 11, 2005 at 1:01 pm
A local radio talk show host thinks within five years GM and possibly Ford will declare bankruptcy. Thanks in part to liberals who cry about jobs but then buy their Saabs. Buy American folks!
mary said on October 11, 2005 at 1:07 pm
I used to know someone who was a proofreader at People. She said she got her job because she knew how to spell, “Mastroianni.”
brian stouder said on October 11, 2005 at 2:52 pm
“Thanks in part to liberals who cry about jobs but then buy their Saabs.”
Aside from the fact that GM owns Saab (or at least did), good ol’ American manufacturers like GE haven’t helped matters, when they move production overseas.
Say – wanna test your American civic pride (pardon the Honda pun)? try this quiz – 30 questions, multiple choice (I scored a 28 – but to be honest 2 or 3 of those points were ‘educated guesses’)
Cynthia said on October 11, 2005 at 3:11 pm
Christoper Hitchens’ “right-wingedness?” Are you kidding me? I don’t think you, Mary, or Nancy know too much about this guy. I’ve read many, many of his extensive writings and have heard and seen him speak many times on TV.
First, he’s a bona fide atheist with a capital A. He has stated on many occasions his abhorrence for ALL religions. The religious right is just one example of his disdain.
Second, his pro Iraq war status has nothing to do with Israel’s right to exist. It has everything to do with Islamofascism (a term he is credited with coining, but I’m not sure that is correct)a concept he recognized very early when the Iranians called for the execution of Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses.
Up until 9/11 he was writing for The Nation, the most left-wing magazine in the U.S. He broke with them when his liberal friends failed to recognize the threat that Islamofascism presents to western civilization. His pro Iraq war sentiments evolved as a direct result of his sentiment for the Kurds and how they were massacred by Sadam Hussein. His basic belief that people should be free and not terrorized by pshycotic dictators or fundamentalists is what liberalism is all about. Isn’t it?
Last, I’ve heard this charactization of Hitchens as being a drunk several times. He readily admits he enjoys a drink. Does that make him a drunk? Everytime I’ve seen him in appearances he is lucid and erudite. His writing output is phenomenal and he obviously reads extensively. Not the mark of a brain awash in alcohol. Unless you have some real evidence of alcoholism, Mary, you should refrain from making cheap shots. It says a lot about you but not about Hitchens.
Obviously, I admire Hitchens although my little diatribe here doesn’t nearly do him justice. I suggest you check him out further for yourself.
alex said on October 11, 2005 at 3:22 pm
I’ve already bought all the “American” vehicles I ever intend to buy. If GM and Ford go bankrupt it will serve them right for screwing the American public all these years with their subpar products. I’ve owned more than my fair share of them and speak from experience.
These days I drive a Toyota truck, made in Indiana by the way. Absolutely love it. Wanted to find one used and couldn’t–people don’t let them go very often, and when they do they cost almost as much as new. Also loved the other foreign brands I’ve owned to date, which include Honda and VW.
Sure, it’d be a terrible loss for American workers if Ford and GM folded, but that’s rather unlikely. A more realistic scenario is that all of their jobs will be exported to China in the next five years.
vince said on October 11, 2005 at 4:10 pm
I did buy American!
I bought a Subaru.
I support a lot more Americans that way than by buying a Chrysler made in Mexico. Every bit of output from the Indiana Subaru plant feeds into the U.S. gross domestic product.
Every time I rent a car I get an American-American car. Usually GM. Usually with so many design flaws I am amazed Detroit has not learned a few things.
How can so many large American designed cars have less leg room in the front seat than a Japanese sporty model?
Why can’t GM design fully adjustable vents that don’t blow in your face?
Why can’t you open outside vents without turning on the fan?
Why does the center console have to be so far to the left you get leg cramps with your gas pedal leg?
Do you really need an emergency brake lever so long it grinds into your thigh?
Why don’t American seatbacks come up to an erect posture position as Hondas, Toyotas and Subarus do?
C’mon. Ergonomic designs aren’t rocket science.
I’ve qualified for a GM Employee discount for a decade thanks to a brother-in-law in Detroit. But I’ve never used it because I haven’t found a single model that fit me as a driver, (and I’m not particularly oddly shaped, I promise) got decent mileage and didn’t look like either a tank, a giant sneaker or a turtle.
mary said on October 11, 2005 at 4:24 pm
Sorry, but from the people I know who know Mr. Hitchens personally, I hear he does like his liquor a lot. And often.
Secondly, when he switched sides, deciding his former lefty buddies were not anti-Iraq enough for him, he decided they were wrong on quite a few other topics as well. I read a lot of his stuff, and I’ve seen him on television a lot. I stand by my statements. Just as there is no one more anti smoking than an ex smoker, there is no right winger like an ex lefty.
And he is pro-Israel.
Cynthia said on October 11, 2005 at 5:06 pm
Well, Mary, you have not convinced me. Liking alcohol, even a lot of alcohol and often, does not make one an alcoholic. I reserve my judgements on that type of behavior from personal observations and not hearsay.
I did not say that Hitchens doesn’t support Israel. I said it was not his reason for supporting the war in Iraq. I do agree that he and his Nation buddies went their separate ways over more than Iraq. I did not mean to imply that it was the only reason. A refusal by too many of his “liberal” friends to recognize that America was not at fault or “asking for it” contributed greatly to his falling out with them.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I am not clever with words like the rest of you writers so my case for liking Hitchens may seem feeble but it is sincere. Certainly he can defend himself a lot better than I. I think he is one helluva a smart guy, gets the big picture and writes extremely well.
Nance said on October 11, 2005 at 5:16 pm
My problem with him — and with many of the so-called ex-lefties, who saw the Truth after 9/11 — is how narrowly they define the Truth. It’s their truth, period. I’m pro-Israel, but maybe for a different set of reasons than the right wing, so therefore I’m not pro-Israel enough. 9/11 horrified me, but because I fail to make the connection with Iraq I’m a pants-wetting liberal. I want to understand why these folks hate us so much, therefore I simply do not understand the nature of Evil.
And if I don’t think the term “Islamofascist” is very useful, that it doesn’t seem to link a fundamentalist like Osama with a secular tyrant like Saddam, I Just Don’t Get It.
I am very grateful for Hitchens writing about Mother Teresa. I’m not all the way on board with him on that, but it revealed a few things about the nature of her work that I’d not known before.
And he’s still an interesting read most of the time. Being fond of his liquor may have dulled his edge, but it’s still plenty sharp.
Nance said on October 11, 2005 at 5:18 pm
And for the record, Vince is not oddly shaped, and I can swear an affidavit on that.
Cynthia said on October 11, 2005 at 5:56 pm
There’s a lot I’d like to say about your post, but, alas, that (not a)writer thing sours me on pounding the keys like you guys like to do.
I just want to address one thing you said and that is your question about why they hate us so much. They don’t just hate us; they hate all non-fundamentalists whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. Look at the way they are slaughtering Shia Iraqis right now. You have to go to the source – Osama and his merry men. They stated right from the outset, and on several occasions since, that they want to re-establish the Caliphate, i.e. a return to medieval supremacy. They say this over and over again but I don’t think the MSM reports much of it. At the very least they gloss right over it. So it’s not just us, it’s western civilization.
I know that sounds way to dramatic, apocalyptic for some people but that’s basically what’s going on here. Don’t worry, I’m not one of these psycho chicken little people who run around saying the end is near. I’m just a normal housewife in Florida who tries to look at this from the big picture perspective.
Iraq is just one step to getting Mideasterners to start agitating for democracy like Iraq is going to have. Everybody wants to live in freedom. The debate is whether we should have militarily forced regime change in Iraq. I don’t see how it could have been done otherwise.
That’s how I see things, anyway. And in case you think I’m some right-winger who worships at the feet of GWB, I’m not. There’s a lot I don’t like about Bush but I think he’s right on this terrorism thing. I’m a registered independent because I detest huge elements of both parties, plus I’m a capital A atheist up there with Hitchens.
Reminds me, I agree with you 100% about Hitchens and Mother Theresa. That was really eye-opening. Hitchens thinks Henry Kissinger should be prosecuted for war crimes. I find that equally endearing.
Jeez, just reviewed. A lot of key pounding.
Joe Kobiela said on October 11, 2005 at 9:53 pm
Just a reminder, when you buy that suburu that is made in Indiana, the profit goes overseas, we can argue all day over buying American, but like it or not this economy runs on the auto industrie. Nafta which buy the way was signed into law by Slick Willie has been a disaster. And yes there is a problem Nancy with health care in this country, but why should the auto industrie have to fix it. If you are sick or hurt in this country you can go to any emergancy room and get treatment. I may be wrong but I think by law they have to treat you. Do’s anyone know anyone who has been refused e.r. treatment? I havent.
Off to work soon in my 1998 Tauras with 156,000 miles on it with no problems, Yes we can still build a good car.
Claire said on October 11, 2005 at 10:49 pm
Hey Brian, I enjoyed taking that quiz, thanks. Alas, I scored a 23…not too bad, but need a bit of brushing up.
Cynthia, I thought you presented your stance very well. Please continue to post! I find it interesting and enlightening to read varying opinons and perspectives.
basset said on October 11, 2005 at 10:55 pm
“Yes we can still build a good car.”
Maybe Joe helped build my F150 pickup, the one that coughed out big wads of oil smoke even when it was new and had the whole engine replaced at 17,000 miles… or the Dodge I traded the Ford for, which needed some major transmission components (new torque converter, for the motorheads among us) changed out at 6,000 before it’d shift gears properly.
We had a Volvo too, bought it used and it was running like a top when it was wrecked at 140,000.
Bought a Toyota Camry, built in Kentucky, earlier this year. Never a bit of trouble.
I come from a blue-collar home, my father was a union man and I was one myself for awhile, but even I realize that the way labor was done in the past ain’t workin’. I hope Joe works at Toyota, or at Nissan in Tennessee, because if he’s with GM it’s not looking good, and no amount of anger is going to help.
ashley said on October 12, 2005 at 12:28 am
Thanks Brian, woo hoo, a 29!
I own 3 cars. At the time, they were all American: Chrysler. Now, of course, they’re Daimler/Chryslers, headquartered in Germany.
The LeBaron was assembled in Mexico, and the Voyager and Intrepid were built in Canada.
My father was in the car bidness for 25 years, and I’m as loyal a guy as you will find; but the problem is that there are no American auto manufacturers, only multinationals that happen to build here. And by here, I may mean Canada or Mexico.
Connie said on October 12, 2005 at 7:29 am
29 for me, brag brag. And guys, my husband is from Flint. Some things just are in the blood. We buy American, that’s just the way it is. Our 93 Ford 150 has 75,000 miles, my Chevy Lumina with 125,000 miles on it has been handed down to my teenager, and I am driving a 2 year old Dodge minivan. And last weekend I spent $123 on gas for all 3.
And how about some details or a link to the details about Hitchens and Mother Teresa. I haven’t a clue.
brian stouder said on October 12, 2005 at 10:36 am
well now, you have to say which one you missed!
I didn’t know Ike was a Texan, and I guessed incorrectly on the number of proposed-but-never-approved ammendments to the Constitution….
Nance said on October 12, 2005 at 11:11 am
Those were the same two I missed. The rest of the quiz was disgracefully easy — I think Kate could get a C-plus, and she’s in third grade.
ashley said on October 12, 2005 at 1:47 pm
Believe it or don’t, I missed “Which of these amendments is a ratified and current amendment?”. I said “Equality of rights regardless of Gender”…even though they mean sex.
Good thing they didn’t have Jefferson Davis as an option for “Who was president during the civil war”. ;^)
Connie said on October 12, 2005 at 6:22 pm
Ashley, you must be much younger than I if you have forgotten the great failure of the Equal Rights Amendment. I remember when organizations wouldn’t hold conferences in states that hadn’t ratified. And I missed the year of the latest amendment. Made some excellent guesses along the way. I didn’t know where Ike was born, but I knew where the 3 others were and it wasn’t Texas.
ashley said on October 13, 2005 at 12:32 am
I’m 41, and I think that it was the late-night BS propaganda against the income tax that made me think that it didn’t exist. Sigh.