The (Semi) Daily Impromptu

(The Daily Impromptu is getting front-page treatment today because A) it’s a Friday and B) because I can.)

Doing My Part For Energy Efficiency

A few weeks ago, I ended up trading in my well-worn old car for a nice new Mazda3. (3i four-door sedan with a manual, natch). I agree with Mickey Kaus’ description of the Mazda3:

You feel happy getting in this car, and smart, like you’ve just found a restaurant that serves a delicious steak meal for $5. BMW wishes it could offer an interior this good for $40,000. GM wishes it could offer it for any price.

The first thing you notice about the 3 is just how well constructed it is. The fit and finish is superb. The engine is virtually silent. The sound system is excellent (if a bit heavy on the bass – which is great for Snoop Dogg, but less so for Hilary Hahn). The front sport seating is unbelievably comfortable – practically cradling you from the moment you sit in them. The mechanics of the car are equally excellent. The shifting is smooth and responsive (well, at least as smooth and responsive as it can be for someone who barely knows how to drive a manual at the moment).

And then there’s the gas mileage. With gas over $2.50/gallon, why anyone would want to drive an SUV is beyond me – the 3 is much, much more fun, and filling it up doesn’t involve the sacrifice of any limbs or first-born children at the pump.

Kaus criticizes the 3 as being somewhat less than fun to drive. The steering on the 3 takes some mental adjustments. It’s a very front-heavy car, which does effect the handling. It doesn’t have the feeling of barely controllable power that some cars have, nor is it stiff and plodding. Contrary to Kaus, I like the handling on the 3 – so long as you’re willing to meet it halfway and give it the finesse it needs to handle well, it’s a very fun car to drive – even in the usual stop-and-go city traffic. It has It’s got just the right mix of luxury and sportiness, and at the price, you really can’t go wrong. Plus, the thing is downright sexy, inside and out.

I purchased my 3 from Domaille Mazda over in Rochester, MN, and have nothing but praises for the place. After some very bad experiences with another dealership, it was nice to have a place that offered exactly what I was looking for at a great price and without any hassles.

The 3 is a great car – and at its price its a great value as well.

Failing To Learn From History – Again

The Belmont Club has a chilling walk down memory lane for us all as well as anexpansion of that argument. Wretchard argues that the Gaza disengagement is analogous to the appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s – while Germany did have a legitimate claim to the Rhineland back then, the results of the decision to allow him to take it only fueled the Nazi regime:

The irony is exact. The French Left remained passive in what Churchill called the last moment in which Second World War could have been prevented. Instead it allowed that Hitler had a legitimate grievance and met him with renunciations of militarism and expressions of understanding. For what, they asked, could be more German than the Rhineland? One could have rhetorically asked whether a Nazi Rhineland was the same thing. But then:

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I see the Gaza withdrawal as a sad necessity – Israel couldn’t afford to protect those settlements, and now Gaza can be walled off and left to its own devices. However, there is no doubt that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations that have infected Palestinian society like a malignant cancer are already seeing this as a victory. (Not to mention that the UN is paying for Palestinian propaganda that argues that soon the Palestinians will take the West Bank and Jerusalem. Sharon has to make it very clear that Israel will do what it must to defend itself – which may mean striking out as well as pulling back.

The only time this war will end is as Golda Meir noted – when the Palestinian people love their children more than they hate Jews. Sadly, the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been so steeped in a pernicious ideology of anti-Semitism and terrorism that hope for anything other than a cold peace is just about nil.

16 thoughts on “The (Semi) Daily Impromptu

  1. The Mazda 3 is a nice little car; Mazda is about the only bright spot (other than the new Mustang) in Ford’s lineup these days.

    When it came time to get a new car this spring, I went with an ’04 Toyota Solara… that puppy is an absolute thrill to drive, and easy to handle as the Camry platform it’s based on. I went with the performance package, so fuel efficiency isn’t the greatest in the universe (22/29), but still not bad. It’s worth it for the thrill of being able to 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, laying into the 225 horse Lexus motor humming under that hood… (drool)… even if I feel like I’m being robbed every time I go to the pumps and have to lay down $3 a gallon to fill the tank up.

    Ah, Japanese cars… and to think, people laughed at them only two decades ago… no one is laughing now…

  2. Laughing at Japanese cars two decades ago? I think it was more like three decades ago that Japanese cars were the laughing stock. I remember a late 80’s listing of the highest-quality cars included nine imports in the top-10, and I believe the majority of those nine were Japanese models.

    A couple decades from now, on the other hand, I think the legacy of Japanese automakers in America will be alot of emptied-out auto plants collecting weeds down in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. These plants were financed almost exclusively through corporate welfare giveaways and gobbled up nearly every penny of the scant public budgets of these Southern states. With very little capital investment on the part of Toyota and Honda, their only real costs have been the $9 an hour labor costs of non-union “values voters” who corporate honchos knew would be too gutless for collective bargaining.

    In the short term, this will be a winning formula, but continued trends in automation and globalization are still likely to price American auto plants out of existence. If automation ends up completely dominating automobile manufacturing and reducing the need for human labor down to next to nothing, I suppose it’s conceivable that Alabama and Tennessee could keep their Honda plants if they were willing to use public dollars to finance the very automation technology that will eliminate thousands of jobs….but I expect that would be a tough sell even to “values voters” if jobs end up being reduced. If, on the other hand, automation ends up not eradicating as many manufacturing jobs as is widely speculated, it’s hard to envision a scenario where these Japanese automakers aren’t gonna be able to find a better deal in a globe full of lustful bidders when the freebies and giveaways being showered upon them by Alabama and Tennessee taxpayers starting running dry.

  3. Wow, someone needs to give Mark his medicine…

    The reason why I’m driving a Mazda rather than a Chevy (as I have for years prior) has everything to do with the shitty economics of the unions. The Japanese automakers opened up plants in the South that don’t have the incredibly corrupt UAW breathing down their backs – and in fact the workers at those plants have never wanted to unionize. Why should they? In 2001, the UAW organized a unionization vote in Nissan’s Tennessee plant. The UAW lost that vote nearly 2-1. While Detroit has gone through years of constant downsizing, the job security for those Southern workers is some of the best in the industry.

    In fact, workers at the “transplant” factorys make more than their counterparts in Detriot. In 2002 a transmission installer in Detroit and a transmissing installer in the South both made roughly $24.58/hour. However, the average cost of living is 6-7% less in the South thanks to lower taxes and a more competitive economy. A $60,000 salary there would be the equivalent of $65-67,000 in Detroit. And the Southern workers don’t have to worry about getting laid off when the next round of cutbacks happen thanks to union graft.

    Detroit is following the Democratic playbook of unions economics, and the Japanese are following a competitive system. And guess whose ass is getting kicked in that market…

  4. Hmmmm….every report I’ve read cites non-union auto plants in the South paying less than 50 cents on the dollar what UAW workers make. I’d sure like to see some hard figures vindicating your premise that Alabama auto workers are making $60,000 per year.

    As for southern auto workers not wanting to unionize, nobody can say for sure whether that’s true or not. While union votes have consistently been defeated, who knows what kind of corporate intimidation these workers have had to face before the vote. Under current law, it’s officially illegal to fire someone or penalize them for attempting to unionize, but there are no legal consequences to evading that law….kind of like it’s (wink, wink) “against the law” to knowingly hire illegal aliens in America, but if you do hire illegals, there are no consequences.

    Then again, it’s probably likely that these Southern auto workers do soundly reject unionization and the ability to earn a higher salary for their families. Since these people don’t vote based on economic issues, it’s not surprising that it’s off their radar screen when they cash their paychecks either. I guess as long as they have a few hours in the evening to stand on the steps of the Alabama Supreme Court and yell, “PUT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS BACK!”, they’re satisfied.

    “Guess whose ass is getting kicked in that market?”

    I’d say the taxpayers of Tennessee and Alabama, who have to drive to their barely-above-poverty jobs on unpaved roads because multi-million dollar corporate welfare packages to Japanese automakers have drained the state coffers….all for jobs unlikely to still exist a quarter century from now.

    “job security for the Southern workers is some of the best in the industry.”

    And will likely remain so as long as they’re willing to work for 50 cents on the dollar to UAW members who live in blue states and actually earn incomes high enough to deposit, rather than withdraw, funds from federal tax coffers. Actually, that’s probably not even true. As soon as the taxpayer-funded freebies run out for Toyota and Honda, they’re likely out of there. At the very least, when these plants need a major equipment upgrade and don’t have taxpayers to foot the bill like they did when they constructed the plant, they have a globe full of locations that will foot the bill.

    “The Japanese are following a competitive system”

    True. They’re inciting a competition between states and communities to see who’s most willing to use government money to finance their “private enterprise.” Only to the modern conservative is using government money to finance private enterpise an example of “free market competition”.

  5. Again, you’re living in a fantasy world. The biggest difference between an autoworker in the South and one in Detroit is that the worker in the South doesn’t have to worry about having a job next week.

    Direct comparisons of hourly wages and benefits are difficult. But after a one- to three-year training period, assembly workers at the transplants tend to earn about as much as their UAW counterparts, who received $24.58 an hour in 2002.

    According to the demographics Web site, the cost of living in Montgomery is 7.8-percent less than in Detroit. Put another way, a $60,000 annual income there is worth $65,072 in Detroit — a difference that far exceeds the profit-sharing bonuses UAW members have seen in recent years.

    That — and the lack of layoffs — have made nonunion workers more willing to overlook the significant differences in pensions, health care costs and work rules, which is where the auto companies say the cost-gap arises.

    The UAW rose to power by giving strength and dignity to workers who felt taken advantage of by giant corporations.

    These days, that’s just not the case, said Folsom, the former Alabama governor.

    “There’s not a crying need to unionize when you are making $60,000.”

  6. Maybe the information I have read about wage levels at Southern auto plants has been flawed. This is the first data I’ve seen indicating the non-union Toyota and Honda employees make anything close to what UAW workers make. Even if the numbers are correct, and I have no links to hard to data suggesting the numbers are wrong, these workers are very short-sighted to turn down the union. The only reason Toyota and Honda are willing to pay as much as they do is to deter their employees from seeing a need to join the unions. As the old-line automakers continue to falter and the UAW loses both members and clout, it will become far less imperative for Toyota and Honda to maintain those wage levels.

    Bottom line: there is only reason Southern auto plants are paying $60,000 per year (if indeed the numbers are right and not wildly-inflated wages-plus-benefits figures manipulated by the conservative Detroit Free Press). That reason is that unionized workers in the UAW have fought hard to ensure $65,000 per year salaries for themselves. Whether the non-union Alabama and Tennessee workers know it or not, they are piggybacking on decades worth of gains made by United Auto Workers’ collective bargaining. If the UAW workers weren’t making as much as they were, Toyota and Honda would find more than enough Southerners willing to work at their plants for $25,000 per year. If they were willing to fill the place up with Mexican immigrants, they’d probably be able to suppress wages as low as $12,000 per year. If you’re correct and Detroit and the UAW end up being ground into dust, Tennessee and Alabama autoworkers have zero leverage in stopping Toyota and Honda from following through with huge concessions.

  7. Mexican immigrants? $25K a year labor? Do you know anything about the contemporary auto industry?

    Japanese automobile plants are some of the most automated and high-tech facilities in the world. Now, you’re not going to get trained mechanical and electrical engineers to work for slave wages- they’re going to make a good wage, whether that’s a 60K salary or 65K union pay scale. They aren’t exactly hiring bums off the street… they need a few of those, but the typical auto worker isn’t an uneducated drone these days.

    Not only that, but Toyota and Honda have the highest quality standards in the industry. You can’t maintain them on $9 an hour wages to immigrants…

  8. Nicq, are you seriously suggesting that the factory floors of either Detroit on Montgomery auto plants are wall-to-wall engineers? If so, those plants are entirely different than their American counterparts and are probably not very beneficial to your average Alabama bubba.

    If every Southern auto worker is an engineer, then it’s not difficult to understand why they’re making $60K per year. On the other hand, if the sweating classes have any presence at all at Toyota and Honda plants, I’d be curious to learn what their non-union salaries are in comparison to those in the UAW.

    Personally, I know of four autoworkers in Minnesota and Michigan, all presently working in the “contemporary auto industry”. Of them, only one even graduated high school. Their ability to earn a decent wage is entirely the product of collective bargaining with their union. Without that same luxury, the only workers with any long-term hope of decent salaries in the South (provided the plants stick around once the state-financed freebies run out) are the engineers.

  9. Feh. Workers who don’t have even a high school diploma don’t deserve $9 an hour, let alone $23… I’m a college grad, and I’m struggling to support myself on $10 an hour, with no benefits. If the “bubbas” are earning $9, they should count themselves lucky…

  10. Nicq, you have perfectly depicted the real “class warfare” in this country. Since you’re not satisfied with your own salary, you turn on your neighbors who are also eating a tiny slice of the pie rather than make a concerted effort to enlarge your own slice by taking on the power brokers responsible for cutting the pie. Karl Marx is undoubtedly turning over in his grave as he listens to you and your ilk wish poverty upon others out of some twisted sense of vengeance against the lackluster size of your own paycheck. It’s like the schoolyard bully smacking around the disabled kid to help him feel better about himself.

    If the society you choose to live in is one where working people are seeing constant pay cuts, might I suggest Mexico. Wage rates, adjusted for inflation, have fallen by 25% percent in Mexico since NAFTA was enacted. I’m sure seeing your uneducated neighbors take pay cuts would help your ego deal with your own “struggle to get by.”

  11. Karl Marx should be turning over in his grave… it’s his philosophy that killed over 100 million people…

  12. I should have figured you’d take the easy way out and focus on my ham-handed use of Karl Marx as an example of a dead guy who was concerned about empowering working people rather than cheering for them to take pay cuts. Replace Karl Marx with Cesar Chavez and you no longer have such a convenient distraction from the ruinous worldview demonstrated in your most recent post.

  13. Yes, instead of following the policies that have led the US to be the world’s strongest economy, we’ll “take on the power brokers” by giving more and more control to the state. That worked so well in North Korea… and China (from about 1960 until Deng Xioping’s reforms)… and every other country that’s turned its back on the free market.

    If socialist policies worked so well, why are socialist countries falling farther and farther behind? Even the socialist “paradise” of Sweden has a real unemployment rate of nearly 20%. Germany went from the strongest economy in Europe to having rates of unemployment that hadn’t been seen since the end of World War II.

    And at the same time, countries that embrace market reforms are booming. Ireland is one of the strongest countries in Europe right now thanks to low taxes and fewer economic regulations. Estonia went from being brutalized by Communism to amazing rates of growth.

    Mark lives in his own little socialist fantasy world straight out of the misplaced populism of the 1920s. His worldview and the world as it actually is don’t share the same table – hell, they don’t share the same ZIP code.

  14. Jay, what in God’s name are you talking about? You’re now equating working people NOT receiving a pay cut with socialism? I sure hope that’s front-and-center in the Republican Party platform the next time it’s drafted.

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