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Archive for July 2010

Oil, car dealer shenanigans and the unfortunate case of Ms. Sherrod

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Lots of news and news coverage this week.

Day 94 in the Gulf, the cap appears to be at last, though I still don’t understand why fail safe back-up measures were not on standby. The relief wells are nearing the intersection point and now, of course, another problem churning into the fray–Tropical Storm Bonnie. There is clearly a huge black cloud lurking over the Gulf states.

The controversial ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is once again being challenged. Many of the Gulf states rely on the income and jobs provided by big oil drilling. Where it needs to be off the table is along the Atlantic and northwest Pacific coasts unless the past 94 days have taught us nothing.

The auto companies have finally committed to the reality of the need for alternative energy to power cars and trucks. They foot-dragged on this for years in the late 80s and early 90s.  What about infrastructure? If they build them, that will come. DO you think there were gas stations on every corner in the early 20th Century?? There were not!

Some lessons, however, seem forever to remain unlearned. I went to a local car dealer for my 105,000 service on my car this week. The dealer’s service department gave me a $900 estimate for a 90,000 mile check-up–one that I’d had done already a year earlier at another dealer outstate for that amount. The service manual listed the necessary checks for 105,000. You would think the service department would know what was required. The service manager called me two hours later with a new $2,500 for the estimate. I drove my car home with only the air conditioning recharged. Today, it went into a local mechanic. For $300 he will replace the hoses and flush the radiator, even though he says I could probably hold off for another six months. None of the other “problems” pointed out by the service manager could be found by the local guy. Of course, he lives or dies by the quality of his work and his honest business practices.

Mechanics working for car dealerships are paid almost on a commission basis. A particular job is judged to take a specific amount of time and that is what they are paid. If a five-hour job is completed in three hours, the mechanic still earns the five-hour rate. This gives incentive to find more “problems” and add-on charges to the bill. There are a lot of honest mechanics out there, but this way of paying mechanics at many dealerships seems suspect to me.

I was considering buying a 2011 model, but not anymore and certainly not from that dealer.

Then there is Shirley Sherrod, the USDA employee quoted out of context on a video that went viral. First she’s placed on leave, then forced to resign, then the full tape is reviewed and now USDA wants her back. Even the President got involved with a seven minute phone call. Meanwhile, she’s having her 15 minutes (make it about a 48 hour news cycle) of fame with appearances on the morning network news shows, The View and cable. Then the raft of apologies followed, even from some of the right leaning news sites–the same folks that slandered her initially. Bottom line, across the board, journalists (and her bosses) forgot the cardinal rule of good journalism–answering that pesky “why” question. By why, I mean why is someone leaking this? What is the motivation? Good reporters do this. Taking the time to think this through then reviewing the entire tape would have saved everyone a lot of effort and embarrassment and a roller coaster ride for the woman caught in the middle.

The key for reporters is getting it right. Being first and wrong counts for nothing. Pack journalism operating in the 24/7 cycle of the new media landscape makes it more important than ever that fact checking is critically important.

Heading off for some R & R.

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Written by jrnjbb

July 22, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

We the people getting back in charge on the 4th of July

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July 4, 1776, the day that formally began what became the United States of America. Thirteen colonies courageously thumbing its collective nose at the most powerful Empire on earth at that time, England.

The idea that government belonged to the people had been bandied about but never codified as a form of government. The Greeks had experimented with democracy centuries earlier, but in that new era begun on the coast of North America, in stirring words a new nation was formed.

Certainly there were crises, wars and challenges but the country muddled through them.

Now on Day 76 of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, nine years into a war in Afghanistan against an almost mythological Hydra that we largely ignored for part of that time, and several years into what should be termed the 21st Century Depression, the nation faces threatening new challenges, global competitors and a government that seems more responsive to PACS and corporations than we the people. The government is awash in debt and we the people, we the taxpayers will be the ultimate ones to bail us out.

It is unfathomable that American know-how would not have already plugged this leak and that “A Whale,” a Taiwanese super skimmer ship capable of slurping up millions of gallons of gushing oil, would have just arrived on site, and now must patiently wait for Mother Nature (aka Hurricane Alex) to allow it to proceed.

Maybe today, the 76th Day of this disaster, we should forever pledge to wean ourselves from oil and find viable, less destructive alternatives like we’ve done over and over again in the past.

We should pledge to live within our means, from the government on down to the individual.

We should decide if a war on uncompromising terrain is worth the cost in lives and dollars.

And we should take responsibility for our government, learn about candidates and issues that will be on the ballots, and get out and vote with knowledgeably and hold those we elect to account when they succeed or fail to the job we hired them to do. Harking back to the 1960s, that would be real “power to the people.”

We are so blessed to be citizens of this nation and in this century. Let’s not squander our opportunities, let’s become more responsible caretakers of our nation and our planet and recommit to the ideals of 1776.

Written by jrnjbb

July 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized