ISIS is Israeli Secret Intelligence Service

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rixmann Companies: Tales From The Darkside


The Chaska man apparently had tried to sell crack cocaine to
Duane Viggo Sorensen and two others, said Capt. James Steward
of the Anoka County Sheriff's office.

Star Tribune
Last update: March 18, 2008 - 11:13 PM

Police have arrested a Chaska man in the beating death of a
62-year-old man who had been staying at a Fridley inn.

Duane Viggo Sorensen was unresponsive and bleeding from the
mouth when police arrived shortly after midnight on Thursday.

He died that afternoon at Unity Hospital in Fridley, said Capt.
James Stewart of the Anoka County Sheriff's office.

He said the suspect, who was arrested Monday night, apparently
had tried to sell crack cocaine to Sorensen and two others
staying at the LivINN Suites at 5201 Central Ave. in Fridley.

The suspect was booked on second-degree murder and aggravated
robbery. Charges may be filed today against him and a 26-year-old
Columbia Heights woman arrested for helping him avoid arrest,
Stewart said.

He said the suspect came to the room where Sorensen, another man
and a woman had been drinking heavily. A fight broke out, Sorensen
was knocked out and the woman punched in the face. The suspect
stole some items and left. Sorensen died from blunt force injuries,
Stewart said.


APRIL 14, 2008


11. Approve Hotel/Motel License for LivINN Suites.

Richard Pribyl, Finance Director, stated the current hotel license period expires as of April 30, 2008. The LivINN Suites have been licensed in the Fridley location since 2003.

They have four locations across the United States, Maplewood, Burnsville, Sharonville (Ohio). The Fridley location has 134 rooms, renting on a daily and long-term basis.

This particular situation is due to the high number of police calls
for service at this location.

The Public Safety Department has voiced concerns regarding the renewal of this license. In the last two years, police calls to this location were 122 in 2007 and 131 in 2006.

Due to the nature of the calls for service, staff is recommending
the license renewal with the following provisions:

1. That LivINN Suites participate in the 2008 Action Plan prepared
by the Fridley Police Department; and

2. That LivINN Suites appear before the Fridley City Council on November 17, 2008, for possible revocation of their license.

Don Abbott, Director of Public Safety, stated the Police had concerns with LivINN Suites when it first acquired the Kelly Inn property in 2003.

At that time, staff met with hotel management representatives and discussed concerns and developed plans to reduce those concerns.

Those steps included among other things that hotel management
would conduct background checks of incoming guests, there would
be credit card charges for rooms only, and there would be no stays
for a period of less than 24 hours.

Over the past several years, the Police Department has responded
to calls for service and monitored activities.

Based on police reports, officers’ observations, surveillance,
and comments, the Police Department believes that drugs and
prostitution are both regularly present at the LivINN Suites.

Calls for service history have been increasing during the last two years from the past five years. He presented them with the numbers.

In 2007, there were 9 robbery and serious assaults, 10 other assaults 17 drug-related (mentioned or a factor) and 2 prostitution-related (mentioned in the report related to the call).

Those were some of the most concerning calls. While in the
beginning of 2008, the calls seemed to be somewhat diminished,
they also had some very serious calls.

So they have had 26 calls from January 1 to March 31.

Those include one homicide where a person was charged with
murder, and a stabbing which occurred in the back parking lot,
which was non-fatal and believed to be related to drugs.

They had four other drug-related incidents so far the first quarter
of this year.

Chief Abbott stated overall the hotel is managed at this time in such a way as to allow conditions that conflict with the values of the City of Fridley and the expectations our community holds for its business operators.

He referenced Values First sign setting forth the values the City
of Fridley which are responsibility, non-violence, self-control,
citizenship, integrity, respect, and caring.

By Anne Culver Sun Focus
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 3:16 PM CDT

A Fridley hotel under scrutiny lately for its increasing number of police calls, often related to drugs or prostitution, was recently the scene of an incident involving a wanted criminal allegedly armed with a handgun.

According to Fridley Police Chief Don Abbott, at around 10 p.m. June 4, two bail bonds officers and three Fridley police officers arrived at LivINN Suites to arrest a man believed to be visiting a registered guest at the hotel.

The 31-year-old suspect, described as "a friend of a friend" of the guest, has outstanding felony warrants for narcotics, terroristic threats and a no contact order, Abbott said.

When the officers and one bail bonds officer knocked on the door
of the hotel room, the suspect allegedly jumped out the back of
the unit. The second bail bonds officer, who had been staked out
near the back of the room, began pursuing the suspect.

The suspect allegedly flashed a handgun at the unarmed bonds officer in an attempt to stop the chase, and then fled east from the hotel up the hill along 52nd Avenue.

A two-and-a-half-hour police search followed, which encompassed the neighborhood east of the hotel and south of 694, between Central Avenue and Matterhorn Drive. The suspect was not located and is still being sought.

This incident came less than two months after the Fridley City
Council passed a resolution allowing LivINN Suites to keep its
license provided the hotel stay in compliance with an "action
plan" set by Fridley Police.

While the recent episode might have added to the City Council's skepticism about the property, Abbott said it does not reflect the hotel's current situation.

"We have seen improvement over the last two months," he told
the council at its June 9 meeting. Police calls from LivINN Suites
are down since last year, from 16 to 11 during the period of April
15 to June 9, he said.

From Jan. 1 through April 14 of this year, an average of three calls was received each week, Abbott said, compared to 3.5 weekly during the same time period last year.

He added that reports of assault, drug activity and prostitution have declined in the last year.

"There has been a reduction in serious calls (aside from the June 4 incident)."

Perhaps most importantly, Abbott said, "We haven't seen a spillover of any violent conduct into the (surrounding) neighborhood."


To: William W. Burns, City Manager
From: Public Safety Director Don Abbott
Date: November 13, 2008
Re: Revocation Hearing for LivInn Suites

At the April 14, 2008 City Council meeting the City of Fridley Police and Finance Departments voiced some concerns regarding the renewal of the LivInn Suites hotel license.

The hotel was experiencing a high number of police calls for service. Due to the nature of the calls for service, council renewed the license with the following provisions:

1) LivInn Suites will participate in an Action Plan during 2008 that was prepared by the Fridley Police Department.

2) The LivInn Suites will appear before the Fridley City Council on November 17, 2008 for possible revocation of their 2008 license.

Following the April 14, 2008 City Council meeting, Captain Weierke and Lieutenant Monsrud met with management staff of LivInn Suites to present a six-month Action Plan and the expectations of the City.

Meetings were held with managers on five more occasions to review calls for service and compliance with the Action Plan.

Over the past six months there have been 58 calls for service to LivInn Suites; some of which were police initiated. The calls for service have remained unchanged.

By Bonjovifreak Ontario
Mar 15, 2009 | Trip type: Family

I'll start by saying that we booked through Hotwire, and maybe that's
why we seemed to get the worst room we have ever stayed in.

It started when we opened the door to the room and were greeted
by the most disgusting stench of cigarette smoke. The room was
old and outdated, and not very clean.

When we went to the desk to request a room change, we were told
that the room was supposed to be non-smoking, and there were no
other rooms with two beds available that night. I was about ready to
leave altogether. I would've just slept in the van if not for our young

The "kitchenette" consisted of a microwave and bar fridge which did
not work. The heater/air conditioning unit did not work either, as
the room was stiffling hot, and would not cool down. We were able
to connect to the wireless connection but the internet did not work.

And then, imagine our surprise when one of our kids sent one of his
cars under the bed and we went to retrieve it, we found a cigarette
butt under the bed. So much for a non-smoking room.

The box spring was not covered with a bed skirt and was stained and
dirty with what looked like cigarette stains, and the part underneath
the bed was all tattered and torn.

The bathroom had a new shower curtain rod put in and the holes
from the old one were patched up over top of the wall paper that
was on the walls. It didn't look like they cared about the look
of the room.

There were stains all over the wallpaper in other areas. Altogether,
it was absolutely gross, we will NEVER ever stay there again, and
will try to forget that we ever did.

APRIL 13, 2009


10. Consideration of Hotel/Motel License for LivINN Suites,
Located at 5201 Central Avenue N.E. (Ward 1).

Richard Pribyl, Finance Director, stated the current hotel license
period for LivINN Suites expires on April 30. Our license period
runs from May 1 to April 30 of each and every year.

LivINN Suites has been licensed at this location since 2003. They
have four locations: Fridley, Maplewood, Burnsville, and Sharonville,
Ohio. The Fridley LivINN Suites is 134 rooms on record renting on a
daily or long-term basis.

Due to a high number of police calls for service, the Police
Department voiced concerns concerning the renewal of this
license last year.


Mr. Pribyl talked about the calls for service history. Calls for service have decreased in frequency and severity.

LivINN Suites management and staff complied with the conditions placed on their 2008 license renewal by Council and complied with every request made by staff during this past year.

Due to the continuing elevated number of calls for service, staff is
recommending a license renewal with the stipulated provisions as follows:

1. The City expects continued reduction in the number of calls for police service and further reduction in the seriousness of incidents.

2. LivINN Suites will not accept cash payments for any room rental. All room stays will be charged to a credit card. Currently, overnight rentals may be paid in cash and backed up by credit card on file.

3. LivINN Suites will comply with the registration requirements of
Minnesota Statute Chapter 327. Hotel staff will gather all personal
identification information on each guest and provide that in a format
that allows Police to check registered guests for wants and warrants.

4. LivINN Suites will review websites and other media commonly
used by prostitutes to advertise and compare their photos and
other features against their current guests.

5. The City expects continued cooperation from LivINN Suites staff.

6. Staff will meet with LivINN staff on a quarterly basis.

7. Staff will provide a report to Council on a quarterly basis based
on those meetings.

8. Any significant changes in the operation of the business or in
the overall order, peace, and safety at the location could result
in immediate action by the City at that point in time.

9. Any serious crime may result in immediate license action by
the City.

Mr. Pribyl presented a review of the types of calls that occurred in 2007 and 2008. In 2009,there have been 28 calls for service in the first quarter.

We made comparisons between the Fridley LivINN Suites with 134
rooms with some other hotels, such Holiday Inn Express in Coon
Rapids, the Quality Inn which was actually the Comfort Inn until
a couple of weeks ago, the Hampton Inn in Lino Lakes, the Super
8 in Brooklyn Center, the Comfort Inn in Brooklyn Center, and the
Comfort Inn in Brooklyn Center.

Staff is recommending approval of the hotel license for LivINN Suites with the nine conditions previously identified.

Councilmember Bolkcom asked if the increase in the number of civil disputes, public assists and warrant arrests is because we were more active in that area from 2007 to 2008.

Don Abbott, Public Safety Director, replied that is correct. Both of
those categories would be the results of additional police attention
to the property.

We estimate, in viewing all of the reports, that approximately 15
of the total reports occurring last year were the results of police
self-initiated activity.

Councilmember Bolkcom stated she remembered reading in one
of the recent police reports something related to prostitution.
She asked if that could have been caught before it happened.

Chief Abbott stated that one incident occurred just a matter of
weeks ago and was reported by the hotel staff. They made two arrests.

By Lovetotravel60604 Illinois
Jun 23, 2009 | Trip type: Business

My trip at LivINN was a complete nightmare the staff was really rude. I asked to speak with a manager and she was even worse. I will never recomend this hotel.

By Pathe3 Illinois
Aug 5, 2009 | Trip type: Business, Solo travel

Many of the other great reviews for this motel leave me astounded.

When I was there in March 2008, this establishment must have been
hosting a gangster convention. I checked into this motel about 2PM
on a sunny day.

On entering the parking lot I saw what appeared to be a lady of the
night and her pimp standing by the doorway.

When I entered the building, I saw many gangster types walking around the lobby smoking and joking around while some were playing card games at the tables.

Although slightly nervous, I went to the front desk and the individual on duty checked me in and said I should park out back and enter the room from the back door.

I drove to the back of the motel and saw more unsavory types
hanging around the parking lot. Some of them were throwing
rocks at the windows.

My car was full of travel gear and I got a load and entered the
back door, but the doorway was blocked by kids throwing dice
and gambling for candy.

When I got to my room I found out that it was completely enclosed
within the motel with no outside window. The room was dark with
all the furnishings were in black.

I immediately went to the front desk and asked for a refund. I received the refund and while going back to my car, I saw several people peering inside it.

They quickly left as I approached the car and I drove to the Budget Host Inn in Fridley, which was another disaster.

While in Fridley, I constantly heard news reports of shootings,
stabbings, and other crimes. Needless to say, I decided to leave
the next day and didn't bother showing up for a job interview that
I traveled to Fridley for.


One of the men was critically hurt during the fight early
Saturday. A third was arrested.

Featured Comment

Sounds like a nice hotel..... stay away from. And for the police to visit more often.

Star Tribune
Last update: March 20, 2010 - 9:45 PM

Two men were stabbed, one of them critically, during a fight early Saturday in a Fridley hotel room.

Police were called at 3 a.m. to LivINN Suites, 5201 Central Av. NE.

The two injured men were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where one was listed in critical condition, while the second was stable. A third man was arrested, authorities said.


By Busylife47 Big Lake, Minnesota
Sep 28, 2010 | Trip type: Couples

The only good thing to say is it was clean. Nasty front desk staff, nasty GM, poor, poor maintenance.

We asked four times for our air to get fixed (right in front of the maintenance person). They said it would get done, NEVER WAS!!

Asked for extra towels was told "didn't have any" When you ask the
front desk for anything they seem as if we where making them go
out of their way to help us.

The General Manager Rick was no better. Nice cleaning staff though.



Reported By: Expotera (Fridley Minnesota United States of America)
Rixmann Properties Wayne Rixmann: Deadbeat Employer Burnsville, Minnesota

Rixmann Properties
181 South River Ridge Circle
Burnsville Minnesota 55337
United States of America
Phone: (952) 646-3771
Web Address:

Report: #670341

Category: Employers

Submitted: Friday, December 10, 2010

Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010

Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry
Labor Standards Division
433 Lafayette Road N.
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155

Wayne Rixmann
Rixmann Properties
181 South River Ridge Circle
Burnsville, Minnesota 55337

October 08, 2010

Dear Employer:

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, Labor Standards Division, has received a claim for unpaid final wages from a former employee of your company.

Mr. Tony Whitcomb was terminated by your company, Rixmann Properties, on August 31, 2010. Mr. Whitcomb is claiming unpaid final wages totaling, $100,000.00 for the period of time covering March 01, 2008 through August 31, 2010.

Minnesota Statutes 181.13 (enclosed) requires an employer to pay all wages due a separated employee upon demand; otherwise, penalties could total an additional 15 days of wages to the separated employee.

Please forward a check made payable to Mr. Whitcomb in the amount of $100,000.00 to this office within (10) days of receipt of this letter.

Please contact the undersigned Investigator within that same time period.

Your immediate attention to this matter may relieve you of penalties as outlined in the Statutes.


John Stiffin
Labor Investigator
Labor Standards Division

Copy: Minnesota Statutes 181.13


BBB Reliability Report for LivINN Hotels BBB Rating F

BBB Accreditation

This business is not a BBB Accredited Business.

BBB Rating for LivINN Hotels

Based on BBB files, LivINN Hotels has a BBB Rating of
F on a scale from A+ to F.

Factors that lowered this business' rating include:

2 complaints filed against business that were not resolved.

Failure to respond to one complaint filed against business.

BBB has not received a response from business and/or has
not been able to verify information received from business.
BBB does not have sufficient background information on this business.

BBB made at least two requests for background information
from the business. BBB has not received a response from
the business and/or has not been able to verify information
received from business.

Factors that raised this business' rating include:

Complaint volume filed with BBB for business of this size.

Customer Complaint History for LivINN Hotels

When considering complaint information, please take into account the company's size and volume of transactions, and understand that the nature of complaints and a firm's responses to them are often more important than the number of complaints.

BBB processed a total of 4 complaints about LivINN Hotels in the
last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total of 4
complaints closed in 36 months, 0 were closed in the last year.

These complaints concerned :

+ 1 regarding Billing or Collection Issues
+ 2 regarding Refund or Exchange Issues
+ 1 regarding Service Issues

These complaints were closed as:

+ 1 No Response
+ 1 Administratively Closed
+ 2 Unresolved

If you choose to do business with LivINN Hotels, please let them
know that you contacted BBB for a BBB Reliability Report.

ID: 96006062
Report as of December 20, 2010 11:05
Copyright© 2010 Better Business Bureau

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We want to say thank you, Tony

from Joe Biden
to Tony Whitcomb
date Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 12:35 PM
subject We want to say thank you, Tony

Tony --

I've been in Washington for almost 40 years.

I've seen a lot of Congresses come and go. But I can't remember a group of lawmakers who accomplished more than the folks who just wrapped up their work.

With their help, we repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and ratified the START arms control treaty. We passed a new law to rein in the abuses on Wall Street and protect consumers. We reformed the health care system and passed the Recovery Act to get our economy growing again.

But do you know why all that happened? Because people like you rolled up your sleeves, dug deep, and decided to make a difference. We had a dedicated group of lawmakers -- no doubt -- but they were supported every step of the way by folks from all across this country who were ready for change. People like you.

I know how much that means to me. And I can't even begin tell you how much it means to the President.

So here's the deal: President Obama wants to send you a note to express how grateful we are for all you did.

Would you like to receive one?

Two years ago, we were staring into an abyss. The financial crisis was the worst this country has faced since the Great Depression.

But this Congress passed the largest set of tax cuts for the middle class since President Reagan, the largest education reform since President Johnson, the largest infrastructure investment since President Eisenhower, and the largest clean-energy bill ever.

Now -- even though we still have a ways to go -- the economy is growing again.

Prior to this Congress, lawmakers had talked about reforming health care for almost a century. But with the President leading the way, these folks went out, and -- with you at their side -- they did it. Now 32 million more Americans will have access to health coverage.

When we came into office, just about the entire country had come
to realize that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was wrong. More than 14,000
brave men and women had been discharged simply because of who
they were. With your help, we struck down that law and made this
country a more just place.

Every lawmaker who worked to accomplish these things will talk about their votes -- and the role they played in this progress -- for years. The President and I take great pride in those achievements. But each one belongs to you. You believed in them, you fought for them, and we're darn grateful.

So let the President send you a note to show our appreciation.

Sign up here:

Thank you -- for everything,


Friday, December 24, 2010

Expotera's Night Before Christmas

By Expotera
December 24, 2010

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through
the White House,

Not one honest creature was stirring, not even a
computer mouse.

The Wall Street bailouts and stock options, were all hung
by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Bill Gates and Jon DeVaan soon would be there.

The children of these software pirates were nestled all snug
in their beds,

While visions of stealing other people's intellectual properties
danced in their heads.

And Mama Obama in her 'kerchief, and Barack in White Sox's
baseball cap,

Had just settled down in Hawaii, at taxpayers expense, for a
short Christmas nap.

When out on the White House lawn there arose such a clatter,

Vice President Joe, sprang from his bed to see what was the

Away to Microsoft Windows, Barack, flew in like a flash,

When he tore open the shutters, Bill and Jon, threw him lots and
lots of cash.

The money of all of the small donors and all of the other new-fallen
campaign dough,

Gave absolutely nothing in return to the middle class or to the poor
folks down below.

When, what to our wondering Expotera eyes should recently appear,

But illegal campaign contributions, eight hundred and thirty four thousand dollars, all donated in just one year.

With a slight change to the spelling of his last name, so lively and
so quick,

Expotera and the American People, knew in a moment, it must be
a straw donors trick.

More rapid than American eagles, The President's connivers they came,

And Barack, he whistled, and he shouted, and he called them by name;

"Now, Bill ! Now, Jon! Now, Robert! Now, Ron! Stuart and Steve!

Piss On, the Middle class! On the Poor! On Expotera, and even
on Christmas eve!

To the top 1% of the country! To the top of the White House Presidential wall!

Now dash away with all of the taxpayers money! Dash away!
Dash away with it all!

So up to the White House-top the connivers they flew,

On private jets full of good old boys, and with President
Obama too.

And then in a twinkling, the American People, heard on
all of there foreclosed roofs,

The prancing and pawing of each little Wall Street Bankers,
bailed out, cloven hoofs.

As Expotera drew an incredible idea, which could help in
turning the slumping American economy around,

Down the chimney Barack, Bill, Jon, and their fellow connivers,
came with a bound.

They were all dressed in expensive, finely tailored suits, from
their head to their foot,

But their souls, as well as their reputations, were all tarnished
with ashes and soot.

A bundle of the taxpayers money they had flung on their backs,

And they looked like Potomac peddlers, just opening their democrat
majority campaign pacs.

Their eyes -- how they twinkled! Their personal bank accounts how merry!

Their lies to the American People were like roses, but the truth was
like a losing John Kerry!

From President Obama's droll little mouth, "Hope and Change" was
drawn up like a bow,

But as the American People would sadly learn much later, his many
little lies were as white as snow.

On the campaign stump he held tight to his teleprompter and to his
pre-rehearsed script,

In 2008 Jon DeVaan made multiple illegal campaign contributions
and Expotera provided the FBI, with this very invaluable tip.

Now Microsoft, the Obama Administration and the American People,
are all not very happy,

Because Windows 7 still has flaws, President Obama hasn't done his
job and the American economy is still really, really, crappy.

Expotera is now being fully attacked and retaliated against because
we dared to speak truth to power,

Our company is still being held hostage to this day and the plutocrat
owned American media continues to hide and cower.

With the turning of the proverbial blind eye and with a bounty now
placed on a Corporate Whistleblowers head,

Barack, Bill , Jon, and their fellow connivers, all now wish Expotera,
as well as Tony Whitcomb, both dead.

The FBI has not spoken a word and the American People continue to
remain out of work,

Senator Obama promised to fix the economy, but President Obama
has turned out to be a real jerk.

So silence me if you can because until the day I die, I am going
to continue speaking the truth,

Some of you who are now reading this may disagree with me and
may even find me to be uncouth.

But the truth now needs to be spoken and I will leave it up to God,
to judge me in the end,

Because deliberately keeping Expotera from the American People,
and from the entire rest of the world, is a far, far, greater sin.

So until some additional help arrives Expotera and Tony Whitcomb,
shall continue to remain out of sight,

"Merry Christmas to all of my fellow American Citizens and to All
of the Citizens around the World, a very blessed, and good-night."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tony, "share our progress??"

from Barack Obama
to Tony Whitcomb
date Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 1:59 PM
subject Tony, share our progress

Tony --

This time of year, Americans around the country are taking
the time to exchange heartfelt messages with friends and
loved ones, reflecting on the past year.

They write of achievements and setbacks, of births, graduations, promotions, and moves.

These messages allow us to overcome the miles that separate
us. And they allow us to continue one of the most basic American
traditions that has held folks close for centuries -- the simple
sharing of stories.

And as families gather around holiday tables this season, we also have the opportunity to share the stories of the change this movement has achieved together.

It is a narrative woven by individuals across America -- in big cities and small towns, hospitals and classrooms, in auto manufacturing plants and auto supply stores.

These are stories of rebuilding, and of innovation. Stories of
communities breathing new life into old roads and bridges, of
local plants harnessing alternative fuel into new energy. Stories of
small businesses getting up, dusting themselves off, and beginning to grow again.

Stories of soldiers who served multiple tours of duty in Iraq now
coming home -- and enjoying the holidays this year in the company
of loved ones.

These are stories of progress.

They unite us, and they are ours to share.

We've pulled many of them together in one place, PROGRESS. You
can see what our reforms have meant to Americans in every state
-- block by block, community by community.

Click here to read about stories of progress in your area -- and
share them with your friends and family.

The reforms that we fought long and hard for are not talking points.

And their effects don't change based on the whims of politicians in Washington. They are achievements that have a real and meaningful impact on the lives of Americans around the country. They are achievements that would not have been possible without you.

PROGRESS localizes them -- and brings them to life.

It tells of how a green technology business in Phoenix, Arizona,
is using a grant through the Recovery Act's Transportation
Electrification program to bring the first electric-drive vehicles
and charging stations to cities around the country.

It tells how, thanks to closing the "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage, a diabetic woman in Burlington, Vermont will no longer have to choose between purchasing her monthly groceries or the insulin she needs to survive.

It tells about how 63,000 Minnesota residents' jobs were saved or created by the Recovery Act.

And about how, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 18,400 small businesses in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District are now eligible for health care tax credits -- and how 9,700 residents in Minnesota's 5th with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage.

There are thousands more stories like these.

In the coming days, as we gather with our loved ones at dinner
tables around the nation, let's pass them on. Let's celebrate the
spirit of service and responsibility that brought them to fruition.

And let's steady ourselves with the resolve to continue pressing forward. Because the coming year will hold new challenges -- battles that have yet to be fought, and stories of progress that have yet to be written.

Take a look at the progress we've made in your area -- and share
the stories you read with your friends and family:

Happy holidays, and God bless,


Monday, December 20, 2010

Political Corruption

Political corruption affects us all. We elect politicians and political parties expecting them to act in the public interest.

By electing them we give them access to public resources and the power to take decisions that impact on our lives.

Given this privileged position, immense damage can be inflicted by politicians or parties acting out of greed, or in the service of those who bankroll their ascent to power.

It is not surprising that people the world over are demanding
absolute probity of their political leaders: citizens in three out
of four countries polled by Transparency International and Gallup
International singled out political parties as the institution they
perceived as most corrupt.

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things bought and sold are legislators.
~ P. J. O'Rourke American Political Satirist, Author and Journalist

Political Corruption - Overview

Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain.

Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption.

Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not
directly involved with the government.

An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption
only if the act is directly related to their official duties.

Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement.

While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, it is not restricted to these activities.

The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending
on the country or jurisdiction.

For instance, certain political funding practices that are legal in
one place may be illegal in another.

In some cases, government officials have broad or poorly defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions.

Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion
US dollars annually.[1]

A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a
kleptocracy, literally meaning "rule by thieves".

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products
of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi Pre-Eminent Political Leader of India

What is Political Corruption?

Political corruption can be defined both with reference to the main actors involved, namely persons at the highest levels of the political system, and the purpose of the corrupt behaviour, namely to sustain the hold on power.

Hence, political corruption can be for private and group enrichment, and for power preservation purposes. Often these two forms of political corruption are connected.

Some of the larger and more serious political corruption scandals include both processes - accumulation on the one hand and the misuse of extracted or public money for political purposes on the other.

The latter process is somewhat under-researched and
underestimated, since much of the focus in the literature
has been on accumulation.

Political corruption in the form of accumulation or extraction occurs when government officials use and abuse their hold on power to extract from the private sector, from government revenues, and from the economy at large.

These processes of accumulation have been called extraction,
embezzlement, rent-seeking, plunder and even kleptocracy
("rule by thieves"), depending on the extent and context.

Extraction takes place mainly in the form of soliciting bribes in
procurement and government projects, in privatisation processes
and in taxation.

Military procurement is known to be particularly affected by
extractive political corruption worldwide, because of the
involvement of top-level politicians, national interests and secrecy.

The other process, when extracted resources (and public money)
are used for power preservation and power extension purposes,
usually takes the form of favouritism and patronage politics.

It includes a favouritist and politically motivated distribution of financial and material inducements, benefits, advantages, and spoils.

Techniques include money and material favours to build political loyalty and political support. Power-holders can pay off rivals and opposition and secure a parliamentary majority.

By giving preferences to private companies they can get party and campaign funds, and by paying off the governmental institutions of checks and control they can stop investigations and audits and gain judicial impunity.

Furthermore, by buying loyal decisions from election commissions and by buying votes they can secure their re-election.

Political corruption takes place at the highest levels of the political system, and can thus be distinguished from administrative or bureaucratic corruption.

Bureaucratic corruption takes place at the implementation end of politics, for instance in government services like education and health.

Political corruption takes place at the formulation end of politics, where decisions on the distribution of the nation's wealth and the rules of the game are made.

Political corruption is usually also distinguished from business and private sector corruption.

This is only a matter of academic classification, however, since the bribes offered by private companies, domestic and international, are frequent and significant corruption drivers. Our focus here, however, is not on the supply side of corrupt transactions, but on the demand side.

Most definitions of corruption also emphasise the demand (state) side, for instance in stating that corruption is "abuse of public authority and power for private benefit".

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have
come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
~ Ronald Reagan 40th U.S. President

Political Corruption - Definition

In broad terms, political corruption is the misuse of public office for private gain. All forms of government are susceptible in practice to political corruption.

Degrees of corruption vary greatly, from minor uses of influence and patronage to do and return favours, to institutionalised bribery and beyond.

The end-point of political corruption is kleptocracy, literally rule by thieves, where even the external pretence of honesty is abandoned.

Corruption arises in both political and bureaucratic offices and can
be petty or grand, organized or unorganized.

Though corruption often facilitates criminal activities such as drug
trafficking, money laundering, and prostitution, it is not restricted
to these activities.

For purposes of understanding the problem and devising remedies,
it is important to keep crime and corruption analytically distinct.

Conditions favorable for Corruption

Concentration of decision-making power: non-democratic regimes
Lack of government transparency in decision-making
Large amounts of public capital involved in a project
Self-interested closed cliques and "old-boy" networks
Weak rule of law
Poorly-paid government officials
An apathetic and uninterested, or gullible and easily led demos
that does not scrutinise the political process sufficiently

Negative Effects


Corruption poses a serious development challenge. In the political realm, it undermines democracy and good governance by subverting formal processes.

Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces
accountability and representation in policymaking; corruption
in the judiciary suspends the rule of law; and corruption in
public administration results in the unequal provision of services.

More generally, corruption erodes the institutional capacity of
government as procedures are disregarded, resources are
siphoned off, and officials are hired or promoted without
regard to performance.

At the same time, corruption undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.

The Economy

Corruption also undermines economic development by generating considerable distortions and inefficiency.

In the private sector, corruption increases the cost of business through the price of illicit payments themselves, the management cost of negotiating with officials, and the risk of breached agreements or detection.

Although some claim corruption reduces costs by cutting red tape,
an emerging consensus holds that the availability of bribes induces
officials to contrive new rules and delays.

Where corruption inflates the cost of business, it also distorts the playing field, shielding firms with connections from competition and thereby sustaining inefficient firms.

Corruption also generates economic distortions in the public sector
by diverting public investment into capital projects where bribes and
kickbacks are more plentiful.

Officials may increase the technical complexity of public sector projects to conceal such dealings, thus further distorting investment.

Corruption also lowers compliance with construction, environmental, or other regulations; reduces the quality of government services and infrastructure; and increases budgetary pressures on government.

General National Welfare

Political corruption is widespread in many countries, and represents
a major obstacle to the well-being of the citizens of those countries.

Political corruption means that government policies tend to benefit the givers of the bribes, not the country.

Even in countries where national politics is relatively honest, political corruption is often found in regional politics.

Types of Abuse

Political corruption encompasses abuses by government officials
such as embezzlement and nepotism, as well as abuses linking
public and private actors such as bribery, extortion, influence
peddling, and fraud.

Bribery: Bribe-Takers and Bribe-Givers

Corruption needs two parties to be corrupt: the bribe giver and the bribe taker.

In some countries the culture of corruption extends to every aspect of public life, making it more or less impossible to stay in business without giving bribes.

The most common bribe-giving countries are not in general the
same as the most common bribe-taking countries.

The 12 least corrupt countries, according to the Transparency International perception survey, 2001, are (in alphabetical order):

Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland

According to the same survey, the 12 most corrupt countries are (in alphabetical order):

Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cameroon, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine

However, the value of that survey is disputed, since it is based on the subjective perceptions of the polled individuals.

"Campaign Contributions" and Soft Money

It is easy to prove corruption, but difficult to prove its absence. For this reason, there are often rumours about many politicians.

Politicians are placed in apparently compromising positions because of their need to solicit financial contributions for their campaigns.

Often, they then appear to be acting in the interests of those parties that fund them, giving rise to talk of political corruption.

Supporters of politicians assert that it is entirely coincidental that many politicians appear to be acting in the interests of those who fund them.

Cynics wonder why these organizations fund politicians at all, if
they get nothing for their money?

It should be noted that firms, especially large ones, often fund all major parties.

An argument exists that politicians should receive public funding, possibly on the basis of the number of votes received, in order to reduce the risk of political corruption through campaign contributions.

"The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference."
~ Bess Myerson First Jewish Winner Miss America Pageant 1945

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is America The Sick Man of The Globe?

Special Report: Is America The Sick Man of The Globe?

By Nick Carey – Thu Dec 16, 8:42 am ET

SAGINAW, Michigan (Reuters) – Not long ago, if you wanted steak for lunch at the Texan Restaurant, less than two minutes drive from the Nexteer Automotive assembly plant, you had to be in the door by 11 o'clock in the morning. If you arrived any later, you joined a long line with other laggards and waited for a table to open up.

With noon fast approaching on a recent day, however, only a handful of customers sat in one of the restaurant's two sections and the other was closed.

Asked how the decline in the U.S. auto industry has affected the local economy, Tammy Maynard, a waitress here since 1988, waved a hand around at the empty tables and said: "You're looking at it, sugar."

Regulars and retirees keep the restaurant in business, while workers at the nearby auto supplier plant buy steak at the beginning of the month when they get paid -- if they come at all -- and then dine on specials over the next four weeks.

"I just keep praying every day that we've hit the bottom and that things are going to get better," Maynard said, "because it doesn't seem like it could get any worse."

The U.S. government may have bailed out General Motors, the
country's largest automaker, but it hasn't begun to tackle the
broader problems that led to the city's implosion. Doing so,
experts say, would require the kind of political will that has
not been in great evidence in the country recently.

To the few remaining auto workers left in a city half the size it was in 1960, the America they knew growing up is long gone and things can only get worse.

"We have made concession after concession on wages and benefits and there is no end in sight," said Dean Parm, a worker and union committeeman at Nexteer Automotive, whose hourly wages have been cut to around $17 an hour from $28. "It feels like we're dinosaurs. And we're on the verge of extinction."

This is the point of the story where many Americans typically glaze
over because they see Michigan as a long-standing financial basket
case of a state thanks to the shrinking U.S. auto industry. But the
problem is that the broad decline of the manufacturing sector that
has been underway in this country for decades now may threaten
not just the long-term health of the economy but also the living standards of all but the wealthiest Americans.

"The whole country is now seeing the story that Michigan has been living with for a long time," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. "We have kicked the can so far down the road that now all we have is a cliff to fall off."

"The recession merely revealed a reality that has been with us
for a long time. We faced a growing gap in education and skills
that we tried to fill with debt and credit, which gave us the
illusion of growth."

After World War Two, unskilled blue-collar jobs in manufacturing -- typified and in many ways defined by the auto sector -- became America's easy path to the middle class. As U.S. manufacturing declined, starting in the 1980s Congress and successive administrations focused instead on the financial sector and relied on debt -- its own and that of the U.S. consumer -- to foster economic growth.

At the same time, U.S. companies faced a growing competitive challenge, largely from Asia -- both in terms of manufacturing prowess and lower wages and legacy costs -- that hastened the nation's exodus from the sector.

That in turn created lop-sided trade imbalances, with the U.S. invariably in the red. The U.S. trade deficit with China, for instance -- a nation that tightly controls its imports -- hit a record of $268 billion in 2008 and could reach $270 billion this year.

At the other end of the spectrum, deregulation and a laissez-faire attitude toward financial institutions culminated in the housing "boom" that former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (who failed to win reelection in November) has aptly described as a "Roman orgy" of debt.

The subsequent downturn, the deepest and longest since the 1930s, merely exposed the extent of the hollowing out of America's manufacturing sector. By one estimate, since 2003 up to 20,000 manufacturing plants have shut down. The trend is leaving the country with a legion of unskilled workers stuck on long-term unemployment benefits.

"Over the past 20 years we have simply borrowed more money in
order to prosper," said Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of
the world's biggest bond fund manager PIMCO. "We forgot that
the more stable and safe way to go is to make things."

"Now we're paying the price."


America now faces "structural" unemployment. Which means unless the world's largest economy changes in a fundamental way, millions of unskilled workers will remain jobless and economic growth will be sluggish, at best

"The financial sector and America's wealthiest classes can help grow the economy, but not enough to bring down unemployment," said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Research in New York.

None of this means a death spiral is inevitable. A growing number
of economists and investors like PIMCO's Gross say a fix exists:
a comprehensive overhaul of America's education system and retraining programs for the unskilled.

Some point to the example of how Germany's manufacturing has rebounded a decade after the country was derided as the "sick man of Europe," though they add the German experience shows reform is a long, hard road.

America is now the "sick man of the globe," says John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo. "The good news is the illness is not terminal."

But fixing America's education system for jobs of the future plus retraining unskilled workers would require bipartisan consensus, a long-term commitment by America's political class and funding to make it happen. In today's bitterly divided Washington, that is a tough sell.

In the recent midterm elections Democrats were pummeled less
than two years after President Barack Obama's triumphal arrival
in Washington and American voters remain in a volatile mood.

Steven Schier, a politics professor at Carleton College in Minnesota, said unless the job mess is repaired more wild swings lie ahead.

"It's entirely possible we're going to see voters flip the switch every two years until both Republicans and Democrats get the message," he said.

Besides ensuring national paralysis, such swings would be bad for investors and financial markets, which abhor political risk. Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital, who predicted the housing-fueled crash (and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate this year), is among the skeptics who fear that Washington isn't owning up to the problem.

Schiff said he favors ending long-term unemployment benefits
because he says they prevent Americans from taking low-paid
jobs. "Nobody wants to tell the truth and say that lower
paying jobs are here to stay," he said. "One way or another,
America is going to be poorer. Basically, we're doomed."


Olen Ham lived through the rise of organized labor alongside
American manufacturing and has witnessed its painful decline.
Born in rural Arkansas in 1917, his family moved to Michigan,
where the auto industry beckoned.

"They were hiring every hick and hillbilly they could find, so off we went," said Ham, now 93 and living at his daughter's house in Grand Blanc, Michigan.

In 1914 Ford Motor Co founder Henry Ford had instituted a daily wage of $5 for workers -- more than doubling their wages -- to reduce turnover and enable workers to afford the cars they made.

In his 1922 book "My Life and Work" Ford, who was staunchly anti-union, dismissed the notion this was an act of charity. "We wanted to pay these wages so that the business would be on a lasting foundation," he wrote. "A low wage business is always insecure."

In 1936 Ham found work at a General Motors plant in Flint straight
out of high school, where he started out "pushing a broom" in the
foundry at 52 cents an hour. "It was hotter than Hades with no
ventilation," Ham said. "You had to use the bathroom quick
because if you were away from your spot too long you'd be fired."

Paid holidays, pensions, healthcare and other benefits were
nonexistent. Amid the Great Depression's high unemployment
and declining standards of living, the National Labor Relations
Act of 1935 made it easier for private sector unions to exist.

Founded in 1935, the United Auto Workers union targeted GM
first, arguing that if the biggest automaker had to accept a
union, the others would follow suit.

In December 1936 the "sitdown" strike began in two plants in Flint then spread to others. The strike got its name because workers occupying the plants sat on seats destined for the cars they made.

Ham is one of the last surviving "sitdowners."

Events took a violent turn when the police attempted to storm one plant with tear gas and guns. Eventually Michigan Governor Frank Murphy called in the National Guard to keep the peace. He ordered GM and the UAW to negotiate and the strike ended in February 1937, resulting in the union's first, one-page contract with GM.

Within weeks, Olen Ham's hourly wage doubled to $1.04. "The other automakers were forced to follow suit on pay and benefits, as was the rest of the manufacturing sector," he said. "We built the middle class in this country."

Ham retired more than 30 years ago and in his lifetime has owned
more than 25 GM cars (the latest is a 2008 Chevy HHR). He looks
hurt when asked if he ever bought a used car, responding "I only
buy new cars."

He owns an RV, which he still drives, and he and one of his sons
(who retired from Boeing) bought a small airplane between them.
Like millions of other Americans, Ham made it into the middle
class with a high school education and few skills.


Manufacturing as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product
(GDP) peaked in 1953 at 28.3 percent. By 2009 it was 11 percent.

Employment in manufacturing continued a roller coaster ride for
a couple more decades, peaking in 1979 at just over 14.5 million
workers. But by 1979 the oil shocks began to threaten the middle-
class status of manufacturing workers.

The 1970s stand as a "bookend to the New Deal era: that which
was built in the thirties and forties -- politically, economically
and culturally -- was beginning to crumble," writes Jefferson
Cowie in his book "Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days
of the Working Class."

From the 1980s onward, manufacturing jobs and the sector's
contribution to U.S. GDP declined, a process accelerated by
productivity enhancements and increasing competition from
lower-cost markets. Now there are just over 8 million
manufacturing workers in a population of 300 million.

"The post-World War Two paradigm that allowed unskilled workers to go straight from high school into the middle class died in the 1980s," Mesirow's Swonk said.

Instead of seeking a solution to the sector's woes America's political class sought a different way out, she added. "We decided as a nation to issue debt and focus on the financial sector to counter what was becoming a major structural issue in the 1980s," Swonk said.

That decision would have far-reaching implications for the structure of the U.S. economy.

While manufacturing's contribution to U.S. GDP had declined since 1953, the financial sector's steadily increased. The two sectors crossed paths but once -- in 1986 during President Ronald Reagan's second term in office -- with finance on its way up and American manufacturing on history's down escalator.

"This mess has been a long, long time coming," PIMCO's Bill Gross said. "We should have been getting people out of the unemployment line, re-educating and retraining them for the future. We failed to do that."


The consequences of what happened when, as Swonk says, credit
in America went "from being a privilege to a right" are well documented.

Thanks to low interest rates and the spurious promise that property prices could only go up, U.S. consumers in the first decade of the 21st century bought into the property market hook, line and sinker in order to profit and afford a better lifestyle.

They also drew down home equity in order to fund that lifestyle, spending money they did not have.

This is a phenomenon John Hoffecker of restructuring advisory firm AlixPartners LP refers to as "pulling forward" purchases. In just one example, Hoffecker said his firm estimated that U.S. consumers pulled forward 17 million car purchases from 2001 to 2007.

Based on average vehicle transaction prices over the past year provided by automotive information web site, that gives a ballpark figure of around half a trillion dollars ($504 billion).

When the real estate boom began to show signs of unraveling in 2006, lenders used ever more exotic products to get people into homes they could not afford, such as stated-income or "liar" loans where the borrower merely stated how much they earned without verification.

It is interesting to note that on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's web site the definition of a Ponzi scheme (a type of fraud also known as a pyramid scheme) includes the following line: "Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk."

"With little or no legitimate earnings, the schemes require a consistent flow of money from new investors to continue," the web site says. "Ponzi schemes tend to collapse when it becomes difficult to recruit new investors or when a large number of investors ask to cash out."

The crumbling housing market brought the U.S. financial system to the brink of collapse in 2008, requiring an unpopular bailout by the government and emergency action by the U.S. Federal Reserve to prop it up.

"Obviously the last two years have made it clear that finance has its limits," PIMCO's Gross said. "We have seen the end of the magic era of finance as opposed to making things."


For more than two decades, Jon Clark has been buying and selling machinery, primarily generators, from defunct American manufacturing plants.

When a manufacturing plant dies, for a while it becomes a hive of activity as a "multibillion dollar industry" strips it of equipment to be "rebuilt, recycle and reused elsewhere."

Based in Texas, the 63-year-old originally hails from Liberal, Kansas ("I'm the most conservative thing ever to come out of Liberal") and says after years of seeing a consistent number of plants shutting down, he was urged in 2003 to open a bimonthly publication that would document those closures in the United States and Canada.

"We figured we could have maybe anywhere up to 25 plant closings around the country per issue," Clark said. "It turns out we grossly underestimated the scale of the closures."

Since then Plant Closing News (PCN), as the publication was named, has regularly featured 75 or more plant closings per issue, or 150 per month. Clark said PCN has seen around 10,000 plant closings since 2003, which is "probably not even half the real total."

The machinery that comes out of those plants often ends up being shipped to developing countries, representing a gradual hollowing out of America's manufacturing capacity.

"The only thing that doesn't get recycled or reused is the people," Clark said. "What do you do with someone who is 50 years old who has been doing the same thing for 30 years? We treat people now like disposable resources and just like that we throw them away."

"All of a sudden we decided that it was more economically viable to shut all these plants down," he added. "I'm sorry, but I think we've taken this too far."

"The golden rule used to be do unto others as you would have them do unto you," said the born-again Christian. "Now the rule is he who has the gold, makes the rules."


In downtown Saginaw, a few miles from the fading sign in the Texan Restaurant's parking lot there is a handful of architecturally impressive but mostly dead high-rise buildings, a reminder of the high tide of manufacturing-based prosperity that crested here in the 1960s and has receded ever since.

Spray-painted on one building are the words "All gone to look for America," a riff on Paul Simon's song "America": "Michigan seems like a dream to me now, it took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw, I've gone to look for America."

The Great Recession took a chunk out of America that is unlikely to come back.

Manufacturing generates just over a tenth of America's economic output and employs less than 9 percent of the workforce.

Yet it accounted for more than 26 percent of the 8.4 million layoffs in the downturn, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

There are pockets of strength in the sector, including construction and mining equipment makers like Caterpillar Inc or the world's largest farm equipment maker Deere & Co.

But executives in those areas have been candid about the fact that fresh improvements in productivity during the downturn mean many of the 2.2 million manufacturing workers who lost their jobs will not be rehired. And much of the hiring they plan to do will be overseas to serve developing markets.

For instance, construction, quarrying and shipping machinery maker Terex Corp laid off 35 percent of its global workforce during the recession. Back in May Terex CEO Ron DeFeo said frankly, "we're trying not to hire anyone back."

During the real estate bonanza of the past decade construction, primarily residential, provided a temporary safe haven for unskilled workers as homebuilders fell over themselves to meet the demand for new housing stock.

The foreclosure mess brought most residential construction to a halt. Employment in the sector has fallen to 5.6 million from a high of 7.7 million in 2006.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 6.3 million vacant homes on the market for sale or rent. David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, said that the "more normal" level should be around 4 million.

Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America, says apart from a few potential bright spots such as North Dakota and the Appalachians where natural resource stories may fuel residential housing projects, the housing glut means little job creation can be expected.

"It does seem like we have enough housing stock to last us quite a while," he said.

Incidentally, the housing mess also hurt labor mobility. According to real estate website, in the third quarter nearly 1 in 4 single-family homes in America had negative equity, with the home worth less than the mortgage.

"Labor mobility has always been a difference between America and Europe, and has worked in America's favor," said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates. "The housing market has now become a constraint on the labor market."

Despite government stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate has
not been below 9 percent since April 2009 and now stands at
9.8 percent.

A review of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted for Reuters
by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University
found the rate of blue-collar workers who are unemployed or underemployed hit 19.5 percent in the third quarter (compared with 15.1 percent for all occupations), up from 7.2 percent in the same period in the year 2000.

"For blue collar workers it is a depression," said Andrew Sum, the center's director. "Why are people having such a hard time? The answer is their jobs don't exist any more, they have nowhere to go."

Though Wall Street has posted hefty profits this year and the
economy officially grew at 2.5 percent in the third quarter,
that has not created many jobs.

"We're not very far from the level where the economy is not self-sustaining," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a rare television interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Dec 5. "It's very close to the border. It takes about 2.5 percent growth just to keep unemployment stable and that's about what we're getting."

In November the long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) hit 6.3 million, or 41.9 percent of the total of 15.1 million.

As part of a deal to extend tax cuts implemented by President George W. Bush, President Obama and the resurgent Republican Party agreed on a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, without that extension more than 6 million people would have lost their benefits by the end of 2011.

Gluskin Sheff's Rosenberg says the problem is extending
unemployment benefits alone means in 13 months those
same workers will merely need them extended again.

"The last thing America needs is a class of permanently unemployed people," he said. "They will lose their drive and lose their ability to gain and maintain future employment."


Brian Bovee used to make $28 an hour back when auto steering supplier Nexteer Automotive was part of GM -- before it was spun off to Delphi Corp in 1999.

Bovee, 42, saw his wage cut to $17.55 well before the company
was returned to GM's ownership in 2009 as part of Delphi's
restructuring. "I've looked back through old UAW contracts
and I'm now making what I would have made in the 1980s," he
said. "Once you give up pay or benefits, they never come back.
They've sent us back 30 years."

Bovee is at Dean Parm's house in Saginaw along with co-workers Steven Deets and Jeannie Castell. They have agreed to talk despite expressing concerns about retribution by the UAW or Nexteer, which was recently sold to a Chinese investment group backed by Beijing's municipal government.

Prior to the sale, workers at the plant rejected a new contract that would have new workers starting at $12 an hour, then approved it 10 days later under what workers describe as scare tactics by the UAW (a shareholder in GM since its bankruptcy) and Nexteer.

Deets makes $16.28 an hour working by the plant's furnace which reaches temperatures of 1,600 degree Fahrenheit (870 degrees Celsius) and he takes as much overtime as he can.

"Overtime is the only way to get by," he said, with barely contained frustration. "But it gets very tiring very quickly."

A widely accepted definition holds that wages of about $20 an hour -- $41,600 a year -- is the minimum needed for a family of four to obtain middle-class rank in America.

UAW members have traditionally bought the cars they made thanks to their middle-class wages. Now there are many small, used Asian brand cars in the parking lot at Nexteer because they are more fuel efficient and low-paid workers can afford them.

Unlike during the Great Depression, the latest downturn has weakened America's manufacturing sector unions. A sign of that weakness has been the growth of the two-tier wage system, whereby newer workers make far less than their more senior co-workers.

That two-tier system is already firmly entrenched at manufacturers like Caterpillar and has recently been adopted at others such as Harley Davidson. It has also become part of the landscape at the Big Three automakers. The number of lower-wage workers has grown in the wake of the government-led bankruptcy and restructuring of GM and Chrysler during the downturn.

The UAW is down to about 400,000 members from its glory days
of nearly 1.5 million workers in 1979. Despite the decline,
union president Bob King insists the two-tier system had been
necessary to help U.S. automakers survive and he was bullish
ahead of contract talks with the automakers in 2011.

"We are obviously in a really positive environment," he said. "There is a lot more stability in the industry and... the relationships -- the UAW and the employers -- I think is excellent."

It is difficult to find rank-and-file UAW members who share King's enthusiasm.

Janet Townsend has worked at GM for 34 years and has been through 21 plant closings.

Employees at the plant where she works in Indianapolis recently rejected a contract that they say the UAW negotiated without their consent which would have halved their wages to $14 an hour as part of a deal to sell the facility to an investor. The plant will close in 2012.

"I am beginning to think I don't need a union," Townsend said. "Why do I need a union to get me a job paying $14 an hour? I can find a job like that myself."

Her colleague Rondo Jabbar described the attempted deal as class warfare. "All I have left is my pay and my benefits," he said. "I'm the one who's worried about gas at $3. Not the rich executives at GM."

Up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Marc Amante, 61, is just holding on for retirement. As a journeyman and machine repairman at GM Component Holdings LLC (like Nexteer, formerly part of Delphi), he is a skilled tradesman and still commands a wage of $34 an hour.

He owns nine cars, has paid for his two children's university education and bought his daughter a house. But he says those days are over and he is glad he will retire before skilled trades workers have their wages slashed.

"I'm really happy I've made it to the end of my career and I feel really sorry for those behind me," he said. "Because I don't see any way for them to make it into the middle class." Even more, he laments the fact that GM has apparently abandoned the old practice of attaching apprentices to old hands like him.

"They have never taken my skillset and transferred my 40 years of experience to the next generation," he said. "When I walk out the door all that experience goes with me."

Although Bob King says he hopes the UAW can address the two-tier wage system at contract talks in 2015, retired activist Gregg Shotwell describes it as a "prepaid funeral arrangement" for the union because it has pitted workers against each other.

"To have solidarity and a functioning union everyone has to be in the same boat," he said. "But if one group has first-class tickets and the other is sitting in steerage, you're doomed."

Thomas Stallkamp, an industrial partner at private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings, says the two-tier system has enabled U.S. automakers to become globally competitive and is here to stay.

But he frets about the long-term implications.

"If it benefits employment and manufacturing comes back, it's a very positive benefit," he said. "If it doesn't result in a resurgence in U.S. manufacturing that will be very bad because all we will have done is lowered the standard of living for lots of people."

"I don't see any other answer than wage reduction because we're in a global market," he added. "But I also feel very strongly that we need to make things in this country."

"We can't all flip hamburgers at McDonald's."

According to the Census Bureau, income inequality has reached the highest level since it began tracking household income in 1967.

"The aggregate (GDP) numbers are biased by a relatively small number of immensely wealthy people making unbelievable amounts of money," UniCredit's Bandholz said. "When you build a house if you don't place enough emphasis on solid foundations, the result is a structure that is unstable."

"Unless this structural problem is fixed we will continue to see sluggish economic growth of around 2 to 2.5 percent," he added.

(For a special report on income inequality see: )


Economists like Bandholz say America could learn from the experience of Germany over the past decade.

By the time Germany passed its Agenda 2010 reform package
in 2003, the country had been suffering from double-digit
unemployment and mostly anemic growth for a decade. The
reforms included draconian cuts in pensions and unemployment
benefits, increased labor flexibility and wage cuts.

Harm Bandholz's Munich-based colleague Andreas Rees is UniCredit's chief German economist and says that the country's road to recovery from being the "sick man of Europe" has been anything but easy.

"The road to higher GDP growth was long and hard," he said. "It involved cutting wage costs for about 10 years and consumer expenditures have simply been a disaster."

"We've been through massive uncertainty and for many Germans it was a really painful period."

The reforms also resulted in the formation of the new Left socialist party, altering Germany's political landscape.

But thanks to the country's more flexible work force and "also
partly good luck" in the form of demand from China for quality
manufactured products, Rees said the "reforms have clearly paid off."

Driven by its manufacturing sector, the German economy is expected to grow by anywhere up to 3.7 percent in 2010, while unemployment fell to an 18-year low of 7.5 percent in October.

Rees said he is upbeat about future consumer spending. But even seven years after reforms began, Rees said they are not over.

"The next step that the government was supposed to take was to
improve the qualifications of the work force," he said. "We have
a serious lack of skilled workers, but now that things are looking
alright German politicians do not appear to be in a hurry to follow
through on this."

"This is not a positive development. But we have come a long way."


America is now seen at a similar crossroads to Germany a decade ago.

Wells Fargo's Silvia said the first thing the country needs is an
"honest conversation" about the fact that unskilled manufacturing
work will be done wherever labor is cheapest.

"America cannot compete when it comes to low-skilled, low-cost labor," he said. "Those jobs are few and far between and the idea that we can bring back those American jobs that have gone is not realistic."

Silvia argues America needs to retrain and retool its unskilled, unemployed workers for jobs of the future.

"The type of workers that are needed in manufacturing has
changed dramatically, where workers frequently operate laptops,"
he said. "The people who run American companies are smart. If
we provide workers with skills, the jobs will come."

Gluskin Sheff's Rosenberg says that if he were in charge "I'd have a shovel in the hands of the long-term unemployed from 8am to noon and from 1pm to 5pm I'd have them studying algebra, physics and geometry."

In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey released Dec 7, American 15-year-olds performed below the OECD average in mathematics (Chinese students in Shanghai topped the rankings) and just average in science and reading.

One third of American college students require remedial
mathematics classes because they have not taken those
classes at the high school level. A sound knowledge of
mathematics is apparently exactly what America's children need.

Achieve, a Washington-based bipartisan education reform organization, says math-intensive science and engineering jobs are growing three times faster than overall job growth. Through 2016, professional occupations will add more new jobs -- at least five million -- than any other sector, and within that category, computer and mathematical occupations will grow the fastest.

But education reform and retraining jobless workers for skilled jobs of the future will be painful, last many years and require long-term thinking that PIMCO's Bill Gross says is lacking thanks to America's unending election cycle.

"The problem we have is that our politicians are focused only on the next 12 to 24 months."

Another factor that does not favor reform is that it would cost money. Christopher Koch, state superintendent of Education at the Illinois Board of Education, says school districts are not keen on having the federal government leading the charge on education reform. But the government could play a supporting role by providing research into best practices and funding to help cash-strapped states overhaul their school districts systems.

"I confess I am not optimistic that funding will be forthcoming from Washington given the current political environment," he said.

America's fiscal mess was a major focus of conservatives during the midterm elections. Cutting the size of the government, reducing spending and lower taxes were rallying cries of the Tea Party movement, which helped Republicans win the House of Representatives.

The new conservative members of Congress rail against increases
in spending of any variety and some even advocate defunding the
Department of Education.

Mesirow's Swonk says rather than acknowledge the depths of the country's problems or the cost of fixing them, Democrats and Republicans have retreated into "faith-based ideological views of economics that do not reflect reality."

"We're still a nation in denial," she said. "If we had a 10-year deficit reduction plan we could include spending on necessary reforms.

But America's political class is not willing to do that because the incoming Congress has decided gridlock is good and our politicians keep lying to us by telling us we can get out of this without pain."

"So we're going to get a double whammy of adding insult to injury by not focusing on a pro-growth fiscal policy and creating a very wealthy class of people," she added.

"What we've chosen as a country is the hard way, which means more heartache and hunger lie ahead."


After serving a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, Nick Waun struggled to find work back home in Michigan, in part because he said many private firms are reluctant to hire Reservists who can be called up for duty.

But then an aunt who worked at the GM plant in Lake Orion managed to get him a job in the body shop there.

"I was extremely, ex-treme-ly lucky," he said, with heavy emphasis on every syllable, "to get hired at the plant."

Waun's luck continued when he was bumped up from a second-tier wage to $28 an hour, enabling him to pay for part-time college tuition in combination with GI Bill funding (he is studying economics and pre-law).

His luck ran out when the plant closed down in 2009 during the recession. He managed to hold onto his small car, but "lost about everything else from a year of being unemployed" and had to move in with his father in Lapeer, Michigan, when he lost his apartment.

In October the UAW and GM negotiated a deal whereby the automaker would make a small car, the Chevrolet Aveo, at the plant. But 40 percent of the workers would have to work for $14 an hour, including Waun because he has no seniority, a plan that angered many workers because they did not get to vote on the new contract.

The only option for Waun to keep making $28 an hour was to take a job at a GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, a four-and-a-half hour drive away from home. At first he slept in his car there until he could get an apartment.

Speaking during a visit home to Lapeer, he said he hopes to study law and get out of the auto industry because he has no doubt the second-tier wage will continue to spread and will catch up with him eventually if he does not.

"I'm just trying to stay one step ahead of the decline," he said. "I'll keep moving if it means I can hang onto a job paying $28 an hour. It's the only way I'll be able to pay for a law degree and get out."

"If I end up being shoved down to a $14 an hour job, I'll be stuck there for the rest of my life," he added.

(Additional reporting by David Bailey, James Kelleher, Ed Stoddard, Emily Kaiser and Rebecca Cook; Editing by Jim Impoco and Claudia Parsons)

Sunday, December 12, 2010


per·se·ver·ance noun

Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness


“Stay the course, light a star,
Change the world where ever you are.”
~ Richard Le Gallienne English Author

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”
~ Charles H. Spurgeon English Preacher

“For all things difficult to acquire, the intelligent man
works with perseverance.”
~ Lao Tzu Chinese Taoist Philosopher, Founder of Taoism

"As a means to success, determination has this advantage over talent - that it does not have to be recognized by others."
~ Robert Brault American Free Lance Writer

“Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished
by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.”

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
~ Calvin Coolidge 30th President of the United States

"Saints are sinners who kept on going."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson Scottish Novelist, Poet, Essayist

"The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground."
~ Anonymous

"The man who is swimming against the stream knows the
strength of it."
~ Woodrow Wilson 28th President of the United States

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is
what makes it permanent."
~ Marilyn vos Savant American Author, Lecturer, Playwright

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in
moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge
and controversy."
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. American Clergyman, Nobel Prize Winner

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all
obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this,
that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”
~Thomas Carlyle Scottish Historian, Essayist

"When the world says, Give up,
Hope whispers, Try it one more time."
~ Anonymous

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
~ Albert Einstein Theoretical Physicist, Nobel Prize Winner

"Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in
your heart you were meant to do."
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr. American Author

"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven
into practice with courageous patience."
~ Admiral Hyman Rickover Four-Star Admiral, United States Navy

“You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice
will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will
ever make.”
~ Gorden B. Hinkley Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have
perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must
believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing,
at whatever cost, must be attained.”
~ Marie Curie French Physicist, twice winner of the Nobel Prize

"It always seems impossible until its done.”
~ Nelson Mandela President of South Africa, Nobel Prize Winner

"There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth;
not going all the way, and not starting."
~ Buddhist Proverb

"To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it."
~ Mother Teresa Founder Missionaries of Charity, Nobel Prize Winner

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change
the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Mead American Anthropologist

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."
~ Dale Carnegie American Writer, Lecturer

“There is no greater challenge than to have someone relying upon you; no greater satisfaction than to vindicate his expectation.”
~ Kingman Brewster American Diplomat, President of Yale University

Monday, December 6, 2010

Self Dramatization or Self Loathing?

from Tony Whitcomb
to James Hufferd
date Mon, Dec 6, 2010 at 8:17 PM
subject Self Dramatization or Self Loathing?

Dear Dr. Hufferd,

Seasons greetings and a very sincere thank you, for the recent
posting of your ever so thoughtful, as well as quite thought
provoking, comments on my blog, in regards to, 'The Binding
of Expotera" dated, December 04, 2010.

Dr. Hufferd, I personally, as well as professionally, have nothing but
the utmost respect for you, as both a highly respected Researcher
and Bestselling Author.

But as a well respected member and group leader of the, "911 Truth Commission" hasn't the terms, "Self Dramatization" and "Adolescent Posturing" also been used by some of your biggest detractors and harshest critics, to personally describe you and your colleagues, and all of your combined and might I add extremely patriotic efforts, on behalf of the, "911 Truth Commission" as well as on the behalf of the, American People?

Dr. Huffered, the definition of, "Self Dramatization" is:

"The exaggerating one's own qualities, role, situation, etc.,
for dramatic effect or as an attention-getting device."

And Dr. Huffered, the definition of, "Self Loathing" is:

"An extreme dislike of oneself, or being angry at oneself
and the term is also used to designate a dislike or hatred
of a group to which one belongs."

Dr. Hufferd below for both your and the readers of my blog's
independent and thoughtful reviews, is a copy of the comments
you just recently posted on December 04, 2010, in regards to
both Expotera and I, as well as a copy of an e-mail you personally
sent to me back on May 28, 2010, which is also in regards to both
Expotera and I, as well.

You see Dr. Hufferd, based on your May 28, 2010 e-mail to me,
one could honestly, as well as objectively conclude, that you and
I, are both part of a small designated group of Americans, who
are currently being privately retaliated against and publicly
labeled, by Corporate America and by our Government, as,
"Self Dramatist" because of the passion, intensity, dedication,
commitment and attention, each of us is now bringing to our two
respective American, as well as International, worthy causes, by
openly questioning authority and by daring to speak truth to power.

But now based on your December 04, 2010 comments in regards
to, "The Binding of Expotera" I now openly question, as well as
openly wonder, Dr. Hufferd, were your most recent extremely
sarcastic, comments towards me and towards my very public
fight for Expotera, an open form of, "Self Loathing" on your
part, based on the honest opinions expressed in your May 28,
2010 e-mail, which I believe clearly show we are indeed members
of the same designated group of brave, as well as outspoken
Americans, or were your most recent comments based on something
far more corrupt and/or sinister here and does the world really
need any more of such corporate and/or political posturing?


Tony E. Whitcomb
Founder/CEO Expotera

James Hufferd said...

You are indeed a master of self-dramatization. If they ever decide
to award a Nobel Prize for that, you are my nominee! The question
is though: Does the world really need any more of such adolescent

December 4, 2010 7:17 PM

from James Hufferd
to Tony Whitcomb
date Fri, May 28, 2010 at 12:12 AM
subject Re: An American's Creed

Mr. Whitcomb,

It looks to me like you had a wonderful idea to start a matrix
company that associates desiring small businesses with online
components, or with the totality online, can join to provide a
shared but separate online presence to benefit mutually from
offered features beyond their individual capacities.

It seems to me that such an practical association can work and
be viable.

It's also interesting, but I don't find it particularly surprising, that
some associates, or members, could become pirates and attempt
to co-opt the organization.

Also, your example of Republicans trying to take over the operations of the federal government from a minority position seems apropos. Remember how Newt Gingrich tried to take over by shutting down the government?

Attempted thievery is rampant among those without the imagination to create anything.

Look how the big Wall Street stock options firms spin other people's and firm's actual contributions into huge, completely non-essential dividends for themselves!

And, what actual value do health insurance companies add to health care delivery for consumers? Answer: none! They just take!

I hope the law adequately protects you from these parasites you have attracted -- if so, I suppose you can feel complimented that they find your creation attractive enough to want to take it over!

I wish you well, and may your endeavor be well-rewarded!!

James Hufferd, Ph.D.
Researcher and Author

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Binding of Expotera

In the book of Genesis 22:1-24 there is a story told in which God, ask Abraham, to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah and this story is called, "The Binding of Isaac."

According to the narration, Abraham sets out to obey God's command without questioning.

After Isaac is bound to an altar, the Angel of God stops Abraham at the last minute, saying that, "now I know you fear God."

At this point, Abraham sees a ram caught in some nearby bushes and he sacrifices the ram, in place of his son, Isaac.

In the Jewish faith, it is considered to be very great, "Mitzvah" to be willing to give up one's life, or to surrender one's life in martyrdom, and it is also considered to be, "Unremarkable" in the annals of Jewish history.

On April 11, 2008, God, asked me, "the last boy in line" to sacrifice
my only son named, Expotera, to Him, and like Abraham before me,
I have now set out to obey God's command without questioning.

On April 11, 2008, I bound my only son, Expotera, to a makeshift
corporate altar, and like Abraham, I am now fully prepared to
sacrifice my only son, Expotera, to God, upon his Angel's, or
upon His, holy and divine command.

Like Abraham before me, I am now willing to do this to fully prove to God, and to his Angel, that I, Tony Edward Whitcomb, only fear Him, and I only worship Him, and I shall never, ever, fear, place, and/or worship, any false idols, here on His, earth and never before Him!!

It is both said, as well as it is written, that Abraham's faith in God,
was thought to be at such a magnitude, that he felt reassured that
if God, would allow him to perform the task which he'd requested,
God, would be able to resurrect the slain Isaac, in order that His,
prophecy might be fulfilled.

Such faith in God's word and in his promise lead this particular
Old Testament passage to be regarded by many Christians as
an incredibly significant and a exemplary one.

Let it be both humbly said, as well as humbly written by me here today, that my faith in God, is at such a magnitude, that I feel very reassured that if God, would allow me to perform the task which he has now requested of me, God, would be able to resurrect the slain Expotera, in order for his prophecy for Expotera, might be fulfilled.

I now wish to salute, the peace, love, wisdom, strength, faith, hope and divinity, that dwells deep inside of each of you, that now knows about, "The Binding of Expotera" and may God, continue to bless and keep each and everyone of you, and may God, please bless Expotera, as I continue to humbly pray for his binding, to come to God's end:

Dear Heavenly Father,

"Yea though I currently walk through the valley of the shawdow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me; Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever, Amen."

The Last Boy in Line