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Chicken Little

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To-do list, silver [Nov. 16th, 2008|08:40 am]
Chicken Little
Today:

Clean the apartment: Including but not limited to
Polishing furniture
Cleaning floors
Laundry
Possibly cleaning the bathrooms
Definitely cleaning the kitchen

Straightening out the crap-closet

Cooking for the week:
Soups (carrot and ginger soup, random-vegetable)
Baking cookies (chocolate chunkers)


Randomness:

Homemade laundry detergent in an aluminum pot cleans silver like no other. I discovered this by accident when I used our silver serving spoon to stir the detergent when I made it. It went in black--literally, black, which is why I used it on the detergent to begin with, thinking that it's not going to get any more tarnished--and came out gleaming and silver. Toothpaste is also a good silver cleaner, but you have to scrub.

ETA:

This is shaping up to be more interesting than the election, and possibly of greater consequence to the country. It's like a soap opera--I can already see the battle lines: The automakers will blame organized labor for preventing them from diverting resources towards research and development. The UAW will blame the automakers for paying their CEOs exorbitant salaries while they only get paltry wages that barely enable them to hang on (why else is Detroit such a shithole?)*. Both factions will point to the greed of the American consumer as the driving force for their complete harebrained lack of foresight against realizing that gas prices go up and down. And Toyota, Honda, and perhaps Hyundai will laugh themselves to the bank--at least, they won't be crying for handouts in Congress.

Obama, FWIW, favors trading money for control--essentially he's for giving the Big Three the money in return for regulating how the companies are run. On the one hand, I can sort of see why--what better way to make sure the companies are actually doing what they said they were going to do? On the other hand, it smacks distinctly of socialism. I dunno, maybe Obama's got what it takes to play that hand well...

*$32/hour isn't half bad, if you ask me but psycho-economics says that if you have money you'll spend it, so even people who make six figures still feel stretched. According to the website, it's adjusted every year to compensate for inflation. I believe union membership includes health insurance and all that fun stuff, but I could be wrong on this point.

Another ETA: I love the handwaving that the Michigan Congressman is doing on Meet the Press when he's confronted with the fact that forcing the automotive industry to invest money in green tech several years ago would have most likely forestalled this crash. At least they would have had the infrastructure in place to switch to making smaller, more fuel-efficient cars when the time came, rather than realizing (just now? really? it was late 2006 that the first signs of the havoc to come were become obvious, and someone who has the acumen to run a multi-million dollar firm really ought to have realized that shit was going to hit fan much, much earlier than me) THIS YEAR that they were going to be in deep trouble.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: thespottedzebra
2008-11-16 04:48 pm (UTC)
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122669746125629365.html
^ speaking of which...I thought this was interesting.
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From: hobomagic
2008-11-16 06:40 pm (UTC)
First of all, UAW employees make more than double what Toyota's American employees make, and more than triple what the average American makes. But the problem with the unions is way more than just the money. They create an extremely complicated series of work rules that make it impossible to fire employees, close down factories that aren't needed, shift resources between different types of cars, or even promote employees who do a good job. Part of the reason Detroit keeps cranking out SUVs is because it would cost more to shut down the SUV factories than it does to make the cars and sell them at a loss.

Second, the reason Detroit doesn't make small cars is because they can't make money on them. A much larger percent of a small car's cost is labor, so the big 3 just get killed in that market. Of all the cars Ford sells, the only one they make any money on is the Mustang. The big 3 were obsessed with SUVs not just because of myopia but because they were the only way they could make money.

Lastly, forcing the big 3 to invest in green technology is a political phrase, nothing more. They already spend a ton of money on that stuff. Less than Toyota, sure, but only because they have less money. Second, green technology is a wonderfully vague term. R&D is expensive because no one is quite sure what will work. For example, we could force the big 3 to invest in hydrogen cars, only to have that technology prove a dead end. The government will almost certainly spend its money on the wrong things simply because no one knows what the right thing is.

The basic fact is that Detroit has been in a death spiral for decades now and it cannot be fixed without fixing the union problem. If you magically fixed the UAW problem tomorrow, Detroit would still be in trouble, but it would have a chance. If you fixed every other problem, but left the unions, they would still be on death row. They need to enter bankruptcy, discharge their obligations, and build up from a blank slate. A bailout will only delay the inevitable.
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[User Picture]From: small_chicken
2008-11-16 07:50 pm (UTC)
1) Yes, I know all about unions. Turning out crappy cars for high wages and all that.

2) The reason Detroit gets killed in the small car market is because they can't make small cars well (see your comment about unions). The ONLY reason that the Big 3 have been able to hang on for as long as they have is because of the stupid "Buy American!" sentiment lingering from WWII. But even so: putting all your eggs in one basket is a stupid strategy.

3) I really don't think it would have been that taxing on the great brains of their R&D to figure out how to improve gas mileage by a few mpgs. Or, say, how to reduce emissions. And I seriously doubt some engineer in Tokyo was the only person to come up with a hybrid engine. The Big 3 were all too willing to invest in fancy-schmancy hi-tech that wouldn't--couldn't--go anywhere, because if it can't actually come on the production line it can't cut into their SUVs. Which, if you ask me, is a piss-poor reason to start up an R&D project. Hydrogen cars? Great. It will never happen. I'd be willing to bet that somewhere in the halls of Toyota's R&D, they've got plans for a hydrogen car, with a "Revisit in 2030" stamp on it.

I agree with you, actually. I'm just incredibly amused by this whole thing--and I can't wait for all the twists and turns to pop up. I only wish I had popcorn so I can sit back and watch this all unfold.

Seriously, I could use a bowl now.
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From: hobomagic
2008-11-16 06:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, and government control of private industry without ownership isn't Socialism, its Fascism. I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation of the history of fascism right now (if you're interested let me know, it's a fun topic) but it was very much about forcing ostensibly private enterprise to contribute to "the common welfare" rather than "selfishly" chasing profits.
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[User Picture]From: small_chicken
2008-11-16 07:55 pm (UTC)
Is it fascism? I could never get clear what made fascism distinct from everything else out there (fascism is forever linked with Hitler in my mind, which is unfortunate because I know he was a dictator).

Besides, I'll betcha in a few days Obama will have some kind of press release saying, "after much consideration la di da no bailout." He's too smart (I hope) to not realize that burning money is a far better use of $10 billion than bailing out the Big 3. At least, you'd have the warmth.
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From: hobomagic
2008-11-18 09:04 pm (UTC)
http://www.mises.org/books/aswegomarching.pdf

An excellent history of Fascism.

More briefly, fascism as originally developed in Italy was very much a sort of 3rd way type ideology. While definitely a right-wing movement, it very much tried to exist as an alternative to both capitalism and socialism. The basic idea was corporatism. Essentially all industries would be organized into tiers of federations. So a steel mill would be part of the regional steel mill association, which would be part of the regional heavy industry group with would be part of the national industry group, which would eventually culminate in some sort of grand industrial council. Labor Unions would be organized separate but roughly parallel institutions. The government would mediate between the pillars of labor and capital in order to centrally plan virtually all economic activity for the nation, the idea being to advance the nation as a collective entity. "Rational" planning would eliminate "destructive" competition, and the whole country would march in lockstep towards greater prosperity, power, or whatever. There was also a lot of rhetoric about building a "new" national identity. New Germany, New Rome, etc. In Portugal the regime called itself the Estado Novo.

It succeeded politically because idea was attractive all sorts of constituencies. Business elites liked it because they thought it meant they would be in charge, and it would eliminate competition. Labor elites and liked it because they thought that they would be in charge, and it would forcibly unionize the whole country. Nationalists liked it because it placed the advancement of the nation as a whole as the highest political purpose. Progressives liked it because they liked the idea of rational planning as opposed to chaotic markets. Politicians liked it because they thought they would be in charge, and it gave them fun new powers to play with.

It also had good enemies. Communists HATED it because it was felt to represent a genuine alternative to capitalism. They knew capitalism was doomed, but Marx had no comfortable predictions about the inevitable demise of fascism. A lot of otherwise reasonable people in Italy and Germany sided with the Fascists because they felt the fascists were the only people who could stop the communists. Ideological capitalists also hated fascism, but in the 1930s, popular opinion was that capitalism was dead or dying, and needed replacing.

Since WWII, there has been a lot of blurring of the line between nationalistic socialism and fascism. Nasser and Nehru Ghandi adopted a lot of fascistic rhetoric about building a new country, but they directly nationalized large portions of industry. A lot of the early New Deal programs were based on what Mussolini was doing in Italy. The NIRA was the worst of it. Had the supreme court not overturned it, it would have cartelized most of the economy and fixed prices. A lot of the labor portions and regulations ended up getting adopted under different acts in later years. America was very much a corporatist place until the late 70s and early 80s, but it was never fascist. Put a gun to my head I'd have to say that fascism is revolutionary nationalism combined with corporatism or socialism.
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