March 2, 2010

Ford Outsells Government Motors; Toyota’s Drop Held to Single-Digits

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:59 pm

BloombergAnalystsPredix0210CarSalesFrom MarketWatch, in news that varied greatly from what at least one analyst interviewed by Bloomberg expected (seen at right; Update — I noticed somewhere that the analyst was presenting a composite prediction of several industry-watchers):

Ford said it sold 142,285 cars and trucks in its home market in February, a 43.1% surge that puts the company back atop the mass automotive market it built more than century ago.

…. Meanwhile, GM handed in an 11.5% rise to 141,951 cars and trucks that was driven by strong demand for cars not burdened with Pontiac, Hummer, Saab or Saturn nameplates. Excluding the brands that GM is shedding, sales jumped 32%.

…. Toyota’s month was not as bad as analysts had expected, as sales fell 8.7% to 100,027 units from 109,583 a year ago. The Prius hybrid was one bright spot, with sales jumping 10.2% to 7,968 vehicles from a year ago.

The Bloomberg analysts’ ridiculous miss on Toyota, which sold about 25% more cars than predicted, may indicate that what is from all appearances a government-media campaign to hurt the company isn’t succeeding to the desired degree. Good.

As I wrote last summer, Ford owes the American Family Association a big thank-you note for shaking the company back to reality at just the right time about 18 months earlier:

Luckily for Ford, it did what it had to in order to end their AFA boycott in early 2008 — just in time for it to refocus on its business while rivals General Motors and Chrysler slid into bankruptcy and government bailouts.

Sobering thought: If that hadn’t occurred, Obama’s car czars might now be running the entire domestic auto industry. Yikes.

_________________________________________

UPDATE 1: The composite prediction above also missed the mark badly on Chrysler, which, at 84,449 vehicles, actually beat February 2009 by 1%. UPDATE 1A: That’s the first year-over-year gain at Chrysler in 26 months and follows February 2008′s -14% and February 2009′s -44%. That’s a 52% decline over two years.

UPDATE 2, March 3: The Wall Street Journal’s sales table shows Ford with fewer sales than GM because it separately lists Volvo’s 4,461 vehicles elsewhere in the table. The detail (PDF) behind Ford’s official announcement shows 142,285.

UPDATE 3, March 3: GM was so (not) thrilled with its February results that it the Politburo — er, Chairman Ed Whitacre and the board — shook up its management team yet again.

That the announcement’s title (“GM Announces New North American Leadership Team”) is misleading is proven by the last portion of its actual URL (“0302_exec_reorg” — i.e., yet another rearrangement of deck chairs).

Lucid Links (030210, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 9:59 am

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal (“How Milton Friedman Saved Chile”) comments on what could be the basis for a Positivity post (bold is mine):

Milton Friedman has been dead for more than three years. But his spirit was surely hovering protectively over Chile in the early morning hours of Saturday. Thanks largely to him, the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse.

… Saturday’s earthquake in Chile measured 8.8. That’s nearly 500 times more powerful than Haiti’s, or about one million Hiroshimas. Yet Chile’s reported death toll—711 as of this writing—was a tiny fraction of the 230,000 believed to have perished in Haiti.

Chileans of all classes … (had) the wherewithal first to survive the quake, and now to build their lives anew.

This is thanks largely to the Friedman-inspired free-market implementation in that country by those who were dubbed “the Chicago Boys” that began in the mid-1970s.

Stephens also notes the hypocrisy behind criticism of Friedman for assisting the Pinochet government, which returned the country to democratic rule in 1990 — “Friedman himself couldn’t decide whether to be amused or annoyed by the obloquies; he later wryly noted that he had given communist dictatorships the same advice he gave Pinochet, without raising leftist hackles.”

Of course not. Leftist repression is carried out by those who are “power to the people” heroes. During the mid- and late-1970s, when Pinochet’s repression was at its worst, the left was celebrating the loss of South Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh’s repression and pretending that Pol Pot’s slaughter of millions in Cambodia was unrelated, while maintaining perfect comfort with the European Iron Curtain status quo. They condoned a massacre 1,000 times worse than Pinochet’s far-too-brutal repression, and thus have no moral standing whatsoever.

Additionally, Chile returned to democracy through elections. How’s that working out in Vietnam?

_________________________________________________________

Excuses, excuses — “White House economic adviser Larry Summers said on Monday winter blizzards were likely to distort U.S. February jobless figures.”

_________________________________________________________

Actually, Summers may be sandbagging, as this comparison of February 2010 and 2009 federal receipts shows:

DailyTreasStmtTotals0210v0209

February year-over-year collections from withholdings are only down about 2.3%. That’s the lowest difference in a long, long time. That would seem to indicate that employment is up, or conceivably that those currently employed are working a lot more hours. The Social Security earnings limit hasn’t changed, and the withholding tax credit is the same, so they’re not factors. The only other influences I can think of on the withheld number that might negate the guess that employment is looking better would be high withholdings from retirement distributions, withholdings from bonuses paid to company owners and CEOs, or rules changes that would force payroll tax deposits to be more timely — but I wouldn’t think that any of these are big factors.

The corporate receipts jump of about $10 billion is also a surprise. As a commenter at another post pointed out, no previous year back to about 2002 has been anywhere near February 2010′s $14.35 billion. A person I spoke with at the Treasury Department told me that there were a number of “unexpected payments” relating to “settlements” and “revaluations” that occurred in February, and that they were essentially one-time events.

Positivity: The Pope is STILL right about AIDS in Africa

Filed under: Health Care,Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 7:23 am

From Denver, Colorado, a passionate, fact-based defense of the Pope’s position on AIDS prevention (direct YouTube link YouTube link):

Mar 1, 2010 / 05:11 pm

Denver youth minister encourages abstinence in fight against AIDS

Nearly a year after the Holy Father visited Africa and sparked controversy over the ineffectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, the facts continue to speak in favor of the Pope, a Denver youth and young adult minister told CNA.

Benedict XVI’s March 2009 remarks on condoms were made to a French reporter as he explained the Church’s two-pronged approach to fighting AIDS. At one point in his response, the Pontiff stressed that AIDS cannot be overcome by advertising slogans and distributing condoms and argued that they “worsen the problem.” The media responded with an avalanche of over 4,000 articles on the subject, calling Benedict a “threat to public health,” and saying that the Catholic Church should “enter the 21st century.”

Harry Knox, a member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships added to the criticism accusing the Pope of “hurting people in the name of Jesus.”

Then last month, when Knox was asked if he still stood by his statement, despite growing evidence that the Pope was right, he replied in the affirmative, stating that “scientific evidence shows otherwise.”

“The Pope is right,” argued Chris Stefanick, director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries for the Archdiocese of Denver. “And the fact that people like Harry Knox are critiquing the Pope and continuing to throw condoms at the AIDS epidemic globally, and its not working, shows you who has personal dogmas that are more important to them than human lives.”

Stefanick’s statement also referred to Rebecca Hodes of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign who said of Pope Benedict, “his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

But, Stefanick argued, the facts are behind Benedict XVI. To prove his point, Stefanick compared the African nations of Botswana and Uganda. Botswana promoted condom use from the beginning. Uganda, a primarily Catholic country, encouraged abstinence.

“In Botswana, Cameroon, and Kenya – they saw AIDS prevalence rise alongside condom distribution until they both leveled out,” noted Stefanick. “In Botswana today, where condoms are available nearly everywhere, one in six people is HIV positive or living with AIDS.”

In Uganda, where abstinence is strongly promoted, the prevalence of AIDS has dropped and now affects less than six percent of the population. Stefanick quoted BBC News who stated that Uganda has done extremely well in fighting AIDS because, in many parts of the country, its prevalence “was at least three times higher in the early 90s.”

Stefanick also cited a similar comparison, made between Thailand and the Philippines, where AIDS broke out at the same time. Thailand’s approach promoted the distribution of condoms while the highly Catholic Philippines promoted abstinence. Twenty years after the outbreak, the prevalence of AIDS in Thailand is 50 times higher than in the Philippines.

“According to the British Medical Journal, which is not a Catholic publication mind you, ‘the greater the percentage of Catholics in any country, the lower the level of HIV. If the Catholic Church is promoting a message about HIV in those countries it seems to be working,’” said Stefanick. …

Go here for the rest of the story.