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Ford CEO’s foresight may save the company

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When’s the last time you read an inspiring story about a U.S. automaker?

Today’s New York Times has one.

Turns out that Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, saw a crisis coming back in 2006.   He led the company into sweeping—and, no doubt, highly controversial—transformation:

clipped from www.nytimes.com

On Nov. 29, 2006, the Ford Motor Company made a surprising pitch to the nation’s biggest banks. In a packed ballroom at a New York hotel, Ford’s chief executive, Alan R. Mulally, said he would mortgage all the company’s assets for billions of dollars in loans to finance an overhaul of the troubled automaker.[…]
Although the economy was healthy then, Mr. Mulally said the money would give Ford “a cushion to protect for a recession or other unexpected event.” […]
[T]he $23.6 billion in loans it received turned out to be Ford’s saving grace […]
Ford, because of the money it borrowed in the private sector nearly three years ago, is in far better shape than its two crosstown rivals. The loans have kept it independent, and on a course to survive the worst new-vehicle market in nearly 30 years. […]
“It was a defining moment for us,” Mr. Mulally said in an interview. “But they never would have been willing to lend us the money if we weren’t on a different path.”  Ford has accelerated along that path, pursuing a top-to-bottom transformation into smaller cars, fewer brands, and a leaner cost structure. […]
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Ford Motor Company

Image via Wikipedia

Pretty courageous, seems to me. There’s lots more to the story – follow the link for many more intriguing details – but the upshot is that Ford today gets to say things like this:

“From Day One, we had no desire to access the government money,” […]

“Ninety-seven percent of the people know that Ford is not taking taxpayer money to create a viable company,” Mr. Mulally said. “This is America. This is about making products people want and being self sufficient.” […]

Think this CEO deserves a bonus?  He’s no saint, and he gets paid way too much money, and no one knows for sure yet if Ford can survive plunging car sales.

But at least he’s doing his job.

N.B.: The leave a comment button has moved to the top of each post.
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Immigration insights

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Michael and Katerina at Evangelical Catholicism have a useful roundup of Catholic views on immigration, as well as some others (generously, including one of mine), for a May 1 observation. They write:

Katerina and MichaelOn this day, May 1st, which is Labor Day for most Latin American countries, many in this country will flock to the streets to demand a humane and comprehensive immigration reform from Congress. Let us condemn deportation and other actions that violate human dignity. Let us pray for a humanization of the people behind the numbers and the statistics, for people to understand the difference between the violation of a civil law and a criminal law, and for a consistent ethic of human life.

I find this very right-on, and reflective of the nature of Jesus: Caring for people is more important than minding the rules. The words at EC take the debate to a nobler level. I think you’ll be inspired by what you read there.


Related Posts: Christ in the Migrant , Reclaiming America from illegal immigrants [cartoon], We want you to feel like you belong [news], “Christian” values, Jesus’ preference for the poor [sermon], We Are Citizens of Another Nation [sermon]
Tags: , , , , , , Monte Asbury

Written by Monte

May 3, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Homosexuality: a theologically conservative—and inclusive—view

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It’s almost a truism that Christian conservatives see homosexuality as evil.

J. Kenneth GriderBut consider this courageous 1999 paper of the late Dr. J. Kenneth Grider, long regarded as a voice of conservatism among theologians of the Church of the Nazarene* (and of Wesleyans generally).  You just might be surprised.

I’ve reproduced the first two pages to give you the feel of it, followed by a link to the entire 45-page .pdf. And I’ll guess that there are some insights here you haven’t heard before.

He begins with a question of compassion . . .

Grider p1

Grider p2

Click below for the paper in its entirety. Intriguing reading!

Wesleyans and Homosexuality by J. Kenneth Grider

Care to share your thoughts?


*I should probably note the obvious: Dr. Grider spoke (as do I!) for himself and not for the Church of the Nazarene, the WTS, ONU, or NTS.

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Why hold back on Iran? Here’s why.

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A good friend of mine asks an important question regarding President Obama’s low-key response to the Iranian election crisis:

…if things go back to normal isn’t all of the bloodshed-the woman bleeding out in the street for all to see in streaming video-all for nothing? […]

I am trying to be a lover of peace…but it is so hard when people are being killed at the hand of a dictator and watching the most influential man in the free world be silent.

I’m truly glad he asked.  Here is my response:

Barack Obama

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1. Though perhaps not well covered by all news sources, Obama has been far from silent. Here are excerpts from his statement on Saturday:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

See the whole statement at Obama statement on Iran violence.

2. Those who understand Iran well are begging the USA not to go further than that. Even conservative Morning Joe agrees:

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 19:  Former Congressman J...

SCARBOROUGH: All we would do is undermine those people in the street, who the second that they are attached to the United States of America, the country after all that’s been known in Iran as the great Satan since 1979, we will undermine their cause … It’s so shortsighted I find it stunning. […]

What would John McCain and Lindsey Graham specifically have the president say? All of those people that are emailing in and telling me that I’m being liberal? Oh really? I’m being liberal? No I think it’s called restraint. Showing a little bit of restraint. Looking at the battlefield in front of you and not just running up Pickett’s Charge and getting gunned down. If you want to feel good about yourself — and you can only feel good about yourself by screaming about the evils of Iran — fine do that. But our leaders in Washington don’t need to do that because people will be routed in the street the second they are identified with the United States of America.

3. Here’s the core issue: American support is the kiss of death for reform movements in countries like Iran. Ever since the CIA took down the Iranian democracy in 1953, the parties in power now have seen anything American as a threat to national security. If the President says one word that can be construed to suggest that the USA is behind the reformers, the Iranian government will believe it has a national security reason for radical, brutal action against them. It will give them an excuse to a) annihilate the movement (the killing could become far worse than it is now), and b) ignore the reformer’s issues and write them off as foreign-inspired nonsense.

Here’s how the President said it on CBS’s Early Show yesterday:

In an interview with CBS’ Early Show this morning, Obama responded similarly to Scarborough, saying the U.S. has to guard against being used as a scapegoat by the Iranian regime:

“The last thing that I want to do,” the president said, “is to have the United States be a foil for — those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That’s what they do. That’s what we’ve already seen. We shouldn’t be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the — Iranian people are seeking to — let their voices be heard.”

McCain and Graham are growing increasingly isolated, as Republicans in Congress and conservatives in the media endorse Obama’s measured response.

4. It’s a deadly game. Obama could win himself a lot of public support by really giving it to Iran. But, thank God, he knows the world well enough to resist the temptation to do that.

For some reason, American foreign policy has often been tone-deaf, and almost intentionally so. Those who ridicule Obama for the hugely positive receptions he gets in Europe often say, “Who cares what other nations think?” And that becomes an excuse for deep ignorance of the impact of our actions on other nations. We get starry-eyed about our own goodness, and our foreign policy becomes one of doing what feels good to us.

As a result, we often make situations worse rather than better. In this case, understanding Iran means walking more softly rather than letting it all hang out. Here are some historical reasons why:

5. The Bush Administration accidentally torpedoed the reform movement in 2005. A reformer, either Rafsanjani, was the president before Ahmadinejad. He offered to open up relations with the USA, and to try to work together on Iraq, even writing a letter to Bush to propose it.

Bush, ever un-aware of the impact of his actions, saw Iran as an enemy and snubbed the letter (not even responding, I believe). Iranians knew it, blamed their President for having no clout with the West, and replaced the reform-minded President with hard-liner Ahmadinejad. Bye-bye reform, thank you USA.

6. And that is typical of the history of US policy toward Iran. Heavy-handed moves toward control, starting even prior to 1953 (in a move to force Iran to sell us oil at, perhaps, 10% of its value), are what Iranians expect from us. “Here they go again” is what they guard against. We’ve made that bed, and now we lie in it, having virtually disabled ourselves.

uk66.jpeg

Image by Stephen Downes via Flickr

We see America as good. They see America as the country that robbed them of democracy and set up a corrupt puppet dictatorship and trained merciless, dreaded secret police who killed thousands, and is likely waiting for a chance to do it again.  Freedom and democracy, to the revolutionaries of just 30 years ago, meant getting rid of US influence.

The only way to improve that is to allow Iranians to make their own way until they can trust the USA again. It will take a long time and a lot of patience, for we’ve spent half a century degrading ourselves there.  But I think we might be surprised what a little worldwide credibility could accomplish.

Thanks for asking!

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A dramatic graph: income growth by income quintile

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Here’s another great find by the Freakonomics blog.

Dark bars, below, represent income growth across the economic spectrum from 1947-1973.  The least grew the most (br-r-ravo!), and the middle and upper classes did pretty well, too.

The light bars tell a more troubling story.  In recent times (73-05), the smallest incomes grew (as a percentage) the least.  In fact, without exception, the more income a quintile received, the greater was the percent of increase in that quintile’s paycheck. The least (thus), benefited least. The first, the most.

Put another way:  the economy disproportionately rewarded high-income people.  And it hasn’t always been this way.

clipped from freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com

Economic Growth Across the Income Distribution

Yes, we already know the facts — income inequality has been increasing since the 1970’s. But it can be easy to lose sight of just how important this has been. This presentation of the data — by Claudia Goldin and my former thesis advisor Larry Katz, really hits home:

INSERT DESCRIPTION
Note: The figure plots the annual percentage growth rate in mean real family income by quintile and for the top 5 percent of families for 1947 to 1973 and 1973 to 2005. Incomes are converted to constant dollars using the Consumer Price Index Research Series (CPI-U-RS). The income concept used is the official U.S. Census Bureau measure of pre-tax, post-transfer money income.
Read the full Goldin and Katz posting, over at VoxEU, for a deeper understanding of why. (Hint: It’s education.)
[T]hese data remind us that for most of the distribution there hasn’t been much income growth.

Seeing it in graphic form is startling, eh?

Follow the link to the original article to explore the thesis that this all springs from education issues.

Thought-provoking! What’s your take?

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