The Auto Nation is Down

You all did love cars once, not without cause. What cause withholds you now?

Few countries have embraced any industry with the fervor America used to have for its automobiles. Cars weren’t just a product, they were part of our culture, our very identities. In my youth our neighbors were Chevy people like us, or Ford people or something else, the Other, and everybody knew who everybody was. Getting your driver’s license and your first car, which often happened on the same day, were major, unforgettable milestones in your life. Families celebrated the arrival of a new car as if it were a new baby — with gloating tours of the neighborhood, distribution of pictures, and so on.

In 2009, when a chain reaction started by the financialization of subprime loans for real estate threatened to destroy the world’s economy, America declared that the auto industry was too big and too important to fail, and rescued it just before it did, with massive infusions of imaginary government cash. General Motors and Chrysler tiptoed back out of bankruptcy, and the whole industry tiptoed back from the brink of the abyss. Continue reading

In Defense of Sean Spicer

Like a stopped clock, even Sean Spicer can be right once in a while. Probably not twice a day. (Caricature by DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

Sean Spicer is an idiot, of course, in service to a numbskull, and deserves ridicule for much of what he says from his White House podium. But not everything. Piling on — assuming your opponents are always and everywhere wrong about everything — is as ugly when progressives and Democrats do it as when conservatives and Republicans do. Spicer is being pilloried for making a statement the other day that was true and important and deserves consideration. As despicable as Adolf Hitler was,  Spicer said, he “didn’t…sink to using chemical weapons.”

Here, breathe into this paper bag. Settle down. Hear me out. Continue reading

Oil Company Carnage Continues

deepwater-horizon

When an oil well like Deepwater Horizon explodes, the images are unforgettable. When the entire industry starts to collapse, it’s hard to see and to remember.

In a recent essay I proposed the existence of a new human subspecies – homo sapiens ephemera — that is smart (thus sapiens) but severely afflicted by attention deficit disorder and long-term memory loss. Thus ephemera may understand, for example, the connection between a burning fuse at his feet and an imminent explosion, but almost immediately forgets it, goes on to something else, and is surprised by the blast. Nowhere is this behavior more evident than in the U.S. oil patch, whose collapse, predicted here and elsewhere for years, is now described by none other than Moody’s Investors Service, quoted in Bloomberg News as “catastrophic” and perhaps “the worst bust of any industry this century.”

Continue reading