Bailing out Motown?

Common sense from Dave Winer

Reading the news it’s not clear if we’re going to give Detroit the money to keep them going for a while longer. Pretty sure we can’t afford not to, and of course they’ll be coming back for more next year, and that’s probably a good thing, cause it’s time to make some changes. We need to own them for a while so they start working for us not continuing to feed our oil habit and keeping their buddies at Exxon-Mobil’s profits high.

And they have to retire their fleet of corporate jets. And all their execs take pay cuts down to less than $1 million per year. If they choose to quit, so be it and good riddance. And since we’re going to own them, a new rule — no more commuting from Seattle to work in Detroit for the CEOs. We’re bailing them out not because we think they’ve done anything remotely like a good job, we’re doing it so that we don’t have to feed and house their remaining employees and bail out their suppliers when they go bankrupt. We’re doing it to save our country, not to save the auto industry as its currently configured, which is rotten and dangerously short-sighted.

I just got a briefing from Frontline, a show that aired just before the election called Heat, about global warming. Lots of interesting stuff in there, all of which must be taken, of course, with a grain of salt. But if you believe them, Detroit had a Prius before Toyota, funded by the government, but it never went into production. The Prius was a response by Toyota to a US initiative to increase gas mileage. Detroit took our money but never shipped the damn car. Now they’re rebooting their effort to produce a hybrid, and get this — they’re starting from scratch. The bastards threw away the R&D we paid for. So much for trusting them with our money. Can’t do it.

“But”, he goes on,

But we also can’t jump off the cliff. We’ll have Hoovervilles in every shopping mall. When you go to the supermarket the shelves will be empty. It’s already happening at some local retailers. When the economy fails, distributors go out of business, then the manufacturers the distributors stiffed, and all of a sudden even if you have money in the bank you can’t find food to buy. You turn up the thermostat and there’s no heat. Old people and children and people with chronic diseases die when we get there. Perhaps you have some people like that in your family. Perhaps you’re one of those people?

If you’ve ever been to the Third World, or parts of the US that are the Third World like the South Bronx and New Orleans and (I’m told) parts of Detroit — you owe it to yourself to find out what that’s like. Because if you’re stupid enough to think that letting Detroit fall off the cliff somehow won’t take you and your family with it, you need to get educated, fast.

Hmmm… Makes me wonder why people want to be President. Same thought occured to me when I read this piece in the Economist about what to do about Guantanamo. The magazine imagines what an email to the president-elect might be saying to him:

“Then there are those 80 or so really hard men. President Bush wanted to try them, and could never get the law right. So now you have to deal with them. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad has “confessed” he was the brains behind 9/11. God knows what the Pakistanis or the Agency did to him in prison. But we can’t just let him go, and we can’t just let him rot, so you have to give him and his accomplices their day in court. The first big question for you is: what kind of court? You don’t like Bush’s military commissions. But if you set up special security courts with special, meaning laxer, standards of procedure and evidence, they will be called kangaroo courts too. And if you opt for regular criminal trials or courts-martial you run the risk that they will throw out evidence extracted by waterboard. Dare you let a 9/11 mastermind walk free?

Worse yet, there’s a group the Agency is sure are dedicated terrorists but on whom we have nothing that can stand up in any sort of court. The human-rights purists say you must bite the bullet and set these unconvictables free in America. But if you follow their advice it won’t just be Republicans who will say you are putting the republic in danger. You’d theoretically have a let-out if you could let these guys go and keep them under surveillance. But the Feds claim they can’t guarantee fail-safe, indefinite 24-hour monitoring of a group this size. Can we afford to take that risk?

Safer would be to move them to the mainland, where they would be held under some kind of preventive detention devised by your legal team. We can call this “temporary”, but our base will bleat that you have closed Guantánamo only by creating a new prison where America continues to detain people convicted of no crime. And they’ll have a point. Over to you.”