Archive for Detroit

It’s a good thing we’re not a Socialist country…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2008 by unvarnishedtruth

"Pleeaase, please, please, please money money money pleasepleaseplease..."

…Because as everyone knows, Socialism just doesn’t work.

(That’s why those Socialist countries like France and Germany just can’t compete with us when it comes to things like, err, cars.)



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by unvarnishedtruth


Why the automakers are full of s***…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2008 by unvarnishedtruth

A different kind of car...from a different kind of company?

It’s a new day, GM is promising us.  We’re going to get smaller and leaner, and lure customers away from small foreign imports with our own line of competitive, fuel-efficient cars.  No more gas guzzlers.  No more bloated productions, big bureaucracies, bloated labor costs.  They’ve gotten the message and learned how to compete.  This is a different GM.

No, that isn’t the testimony from yesterday’s trip to Capitol Hill.  It’s what the troubled car company promised more than 25 years ago with the introduction of its Saturn line.  After an initial success GM quickly reverted to its old ways, absorbed the once-independent division into the company mainstream, stopped coming out with new models, and basically turned the Saturn into Just Another Econobox in the ailing General Motors lineup.  Its one success in a quarter of a century, and GM killed it off.  Everything that made Saturn different was wiped away.

Then there was all that research into the EV1.  Yeah, I know it had issues, but every new technology does.  Why spend billions if you’re not interested in change for the long-haul—you know, the kind of change they once again promise they’re advocating now?

Chrysler went to the government begging for money twice.  The first time, under the leadership of Lee Iacocca, they indeed paid their loan back early and came out with a highly successful line of “K” cars.  (I thought they were crap, but mainstream America seemed to dig them.)  But again they reverted to bland and boring and had to beg for more money to build a new technology center about 12 years later and come out with their LH line, which skeptics claimed stood for “Last Hope.”  Once again, after being initially successful the automaker reverted to its old, fat, lazy ways.

And Ford…let’s not even go there.  Let’s just say they haven’t had an exciting product  since the mid-80s, when the Taurus and its other aero-cousins hit the market and redefined what a mainstream sedan could look like.  After that their streak of “innovation” was over faster than Henry Ford could kick Edsel in the balls.

I’d like to know why when they say this time, they really really really really really really really get it, swear to God, cross my heart and hope to die, we should believe them.  Would you believe a child molester who was paroled the fourth or fifth time and says this time he can live across the street from a schoolyard because he’s really really really really really really cured?

If Congress gives them a nickel they’re even bigger fuckwits than I think they are.  Let the three (it seems laughable to even call them The Big Three anymore) go under.  They will take much of Detroit with them, it will decimate the economy, yes.  It’s time we stopped living in denial that this economy can escape decimation.  Otherwise we are just prolonging the agony.

Honest, guys, you have proven again and again that Americans cannot compete.  We can’t manufacture anymore, except in very small, specialized batches, or where we steal a European concept or design (and oftentimes not even then), so let’s stop kidding ourselves.  It’s a lost art, a lost skill.  Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when the best and brightest among us all decided it was cooler to be “in high finance,” pushing around pieces of paper to make them magically more valuable instead of designing and building things and getting our hands a little dirty, instead of learning about math and science and art and all that other nerdy stuff, we sealed our fate for generations to come.  Those generations have now come. The Europeans and Japanese still build things.  They don’t find it demeaning to work on shop room floors.  They don’t believe all the desirable jobs are in upscale office suites where people throw around obscure words and concepts that even they don’t understand, but won’t admit to not understanding, while planning power lunches and golf-course retreats, feeling smug and superior in their “white-collar” education.

Remember that raah-raah economy that started in the 80s?  The greed-is-good, money-money-money fast-moving world extolled by Ronald Reagan and allegedly “fiscally-conservative” Republicans as proof America was the greatest economic powerhouse in the world, “the envy of all other nations,” as George W. Bush freuqently said early in his tenure and rarely say anymore?  Free markets were magic.  They floated in the ether above all criticism.  Anybody who wanted respect and power didn’t dirty his fingers futzing with machinery.  He never suffered more than perhaps an occasional paper cut as he turned bunches of  C+ securities into a basket of “Grade A” funds by “repackaging” them and “adding value” through…through…well, maybe you can explain it to me.  These were the people we respected and aspired to be like, who we wanted our kids to be as we encouraged them to pursue MBAs above all else.  Meanwhile we forgot how to make toasters and press LP records that didn’t pop and click, and later CDs that didn’t skip and stutter.  Did we worry?  No, because we still had those finance guys in power suits running around in glass towers doing things nobody understood, but apparently making lots of money doing it.  People in “other countries” with smaller economies than ours were doing all that manufacturing stuff under our logos and they did it so much better than us and for lower cost and that was not particularly alarming anybody.

This is what happens when you build castles on sand, when you bet a country’s future (and political and social philosophies) on smoke and mirrors.  As the saying goes, greed is good.  Now it’s just going the other way….That’s good, too.

When Repiglicans are right, they’re right…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2008 by unvarnishedtruth

...And Sarah Palin doesn't believe in dinosaurs!

And today they’re right, and the Democrats, most of them, including Obama, are dead wrong.

Hard-core GOPers are wondering exactly what the fuck General Morons and Ford (Found On Road Dead; Fix or Replace Daily) and Chrysler are going to do with another infusion of cash that will be any different from the countless infusions of cash they’ve already blown to hell.

Really, guys, what’s different this time?  Are you going to kill another electric car or Saturn concept after spending tens of billions developing it, in favor of cheap and easy pickups and 4x4s?  Are you going to spend billions of taxpayer dollars lobbying for weaker and weaker mileage and pollution mandates while you cry about the “unfair advantage” the Japanese have over you because…because…I dunno, because they build more efficient, better-made, more interesting and innovative vehicles?

Why should we throw more taxpayer money at you?  Why another dime? When times were good, you said the upside should be unlimited and no one should be penalized (in the form of extra taxes) for being “too successful.”  That was the free market economy at work, plain and simple, and if it benefitted some people disproportionately well that’s Capitalism, red white and blue.  But now the shoe’s on the other foot, and you’re crying to the government with your hand out, ready to accept Socialism.  What happened to that free market philosophy?  Is it a little harder to swallow when it goes against you?

So this Republican reluctance to flush money down the toilet is commendable.  Don’t give me this horseshit about we won’t give the dough to them without “strict oversight.”  Don’t we always hear that, whether the target of taxpayer generosity be savings institutions, insurance brokers, or carmakers.  Exactly what changes?  Not much.

Detroit hasn’t learned to be competitive in 30 years.  When was the last American model people really got excited about?  The kind that overturned conventions and signaled a true fresh start, not just in hype but for real?  The last I recall is the Taurus–back in the mid 80s.  It was, for its time, very innovative (even if much of the “innovation” was stolen from European design) and it sold well, and deservedly so.  But since then the U.S. auto industry, except for heavy trucks and even sometimes there, has laid one egg after another after another.  The biggest laugh it most recently gave me is when it introduced the Ford 500.  I immediately quipped that it was called that because that’s about how many they’ll sell.  Turns out, if you check the stats, I wasn’t far off.

Is it short-sighted and greedy management?  Fat and stupid workers?  Corrupt and power-crazed unions?  Answer: all of the above.  Everyone’s guilty—there’s no hero to this sad and epic saga, though the unions, the workers and the management honchos are all hoping there will be a deus ex-machina in the form of a bailout.  I love the argument industry leaders are giving: the failure of even one of the automakers (no one has the nerve to even call them The Big Three anymore) will disrupt thousands of lives, obliterate satellite businesses, destroy communities, cause massive unemployment.  Funny how they never advanced that argument when they off-shored countless jobs to Mexico and Guam (and got tax-breaks for doing it!), when they took their supersized profits in good times out of the community and often out of the U.S. period.  They did more in the last three decades to destroy community than Congress, by clamping down on bailouts at this point, could ever do.  Suddenly they are concerned about the communities!

They all deserve to go down, all of them.  Don’t tell me hundreds of thousands will be displaced in the country’s rust belt.  They would already have been displaced a quarter century ago if this country were operating on true free market Capitalism like it advertises instead of “soft-Socialism for Big Businesses,” which is the reality (and which Alexis de Tocqueville in many ways warned us about 150 years ago).

Hey, “Big” Three, nobody wants your vehicles!  Your sad sales wouldn’t even be half as good as they are if you subtracted fleet and rental car sales you force feed to dealers at below cost just so your books will look better than they are.  Do you know GM rents parking lots just so it can put up aging cars dealers can’t sell, no matter how much they lower the price?  Those cars are just sitting there rotting away.  Whom do they rent the space from?  Toyota.

Republican Senator Jon Kyl (R, Arizona) said just today: “The business model of the Big Three automakers, all experts have agreed, is a failing model. It’s got to be changed. Just giving them 25 billion dollars doesn’t change anything. It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning.”  Thank you, sir.  I like you more than your senior fellow senator—you know, the unbalanced guy who likes to start every sentence with, “My friends…”

United Auto Workers union chief Ron Gettelfinger today urged Congress not to allow the car makers to slide into bankruptcy protection.  “This industry is in a crisis situation not of its own making,” Gettelfinger said in an interview Sunday with The Wall Street Journal.  Ha, that’s a fucking laugh.

Gettelfinger went on: Without immediate aid at least one of the three leading US auto makers would file for bankruptcy, which also would likely cause the demise of other auto parts suppliers, dealerships and related businesses.

Good! Let’s get this show over with and get over the pain so we can get on with strategies for either rebuilding what little industry we have or finding something else to do with the real estate.  How will postponing the death with more chemotherapy make the patient any healthier, the pain any less intense when the end comes?

It’s bad enough we bailed out the big money lenders.  Instead this Christian nation should have done to the banks what Christ did when he entered Herod’s Temple–overturned those institutions violently and let the debris scatter where it may.

That’s true free market Capitalism, folks.  Remember, as the chicken-hawk draft-dodgers like to say loudest, freedom isn’t free.  It comes at a price.  That means free markets too.  Decisions have consequences.  Or, to put it more simply, what goes up, must come down.  Often with a big thud.

Happy landing.