I’ll say this for living in America’s most-loathed city (suck it, New York! we rool!) — local-media coverage of the auto-industry crisis is a cut above. You can’t really feed slogans and warmed-over talk radio calls to an informed audience, and so we’re spared “but if they’d only make cars people want, none of this would be happening.” For the most part.
My favorite of these is: America doesn’t want SUVs. Ha. Now they don’t. They don’t want them when gas is $4 a gallon. But until gas got that high, they wanted lots of them. Did everyone sleep through the ’90s and the first half of this decade? People not only wanted SUVs, they wanted them in all sizes, shapes and colors. They wanted big ones (Suburbans). They wanted little ones (Escapes). They wanted their Japanese brands tricked out to look more SUV-like (hello, Honda CRX). They wanted fancy-schmancy luxury SUVs (Escalade, Navigator). They wanted cheap ones for the entry-level market (Hyundai, Kia). Did O.J. Simpson flee in an Accord? I must have missed that.
Even now, they still want so-called crossovers, SUVs that drive and handle more like cars — Buick Enclave, Ford Edge, etc. You can pick many, many fights with the U.S. auto industry and make many, many good arguments against the government helping them, but you can’t change the facts to suit your prejudices, and the fact is, the Big Three invented the SUV, and for a very long time, the SUV was very, very good to the Big Three. So please shut up about that.
(On some right-wing blog I can’t remember, I heard the most stupido argument of all: The companies didn’t want to make SUVs, but were forced to by their onerous UAW contracts, which required them to make the highest-profit-margin vehicles possible. These people really live in their own fantasy world. I don’t want to wake them up. They’re like sleeping babies.)
Here’s the other thing you don’t hear so much here: Those greedy autoworkers. How dare they want stuff like health insurance and pensions. We really are crabs in a bucket, aren’t we? Again, go ahead and make informed remarks about certain work forces having to face the reality of higher co-pays and cost-sharing. But unless you’re willing to give up your own company-paid health insurance in solidarity, kindly shut up about it. Non-union GM retirees lost their health-care bennies earlier this year — replaced by a whole $300/month subsidy to buy private insurance in that marvelous free market, and good luck with that if you’re a cancer survivor or have heart disease. Spare a kind thought for them, eh?
What we’re seeing in Detroit is the death of the well-paid working class, and if that makes you happy, go be happy about it. Asshole.
Anyway, speaking of cars nobody wants:
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Gleaming new Mercedes cars roll one by one out of a huge container ship here and onto a pier. Ordinarily the cars would be loaded on trucks within hours, destined for dealerships around the country. But these are not ordinary times.
For now, the port itself is the destination. Unwelcome by dealers and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars are being warehoused on increasingly crowded port property.
And for the first time, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Nissan have each asked to lease space from the port for these orphan vehicles. They are turning dozens of acres of the nation’s second-largest container port into a parking lot, creating a vivid picture of a paralyzed auto business and an economy in peril.
But…but…people want Toyotas! How can this be happening?
It is more unusual to see a lot at the California port filled with thousands of unsold Mercedeses, most of them gathering dirt on the plastic white film that protects their hoods and trunks. Some appeared to have been stashed at the port for several months.
Last week, Mercedes delivered around 1,000 more cars to Long Beach on the Grus, a 580-foot container ship.
“A year ago, I was looking into buying one of these for my wife,” said Kurt Garland, the terminal manager overseeing the unloading of the white, silver and black sports cars, sport utility vehicles and sedans. “Now I’m not. I’m saving money, paying bills, hunkering down.”
Oh, the poor economy is to blame. Not those Mercedes SUVs nobody wants.
(Yesterday I wrote on my Facebook status that I felt “amorphous anger.” I’m starting to see why.)
So let’s lighten up, a bit, shall we? I hope somewhere out there in the ranks of working screenwriters, someone is crafting a script about pirates, and not the ones in the Caribbean. If you can’t get a movie out of Somali hijackers, rocket-propelled grenades, hijacked Saudi oil tankers and the Indian Navy (!!!They have one??!!), you’re not worth your union dues. Or you’re just not reading the newspapers. (I heard on NPR the other day that all the coastal fishing villages in Somalia have become pirate dens, and that all the women want a pirate boyfriend. Well, duh.)
My Great Books discussion group meets in three hours, and I still have a few pages of the reading material to get through (“The Man Who Would Be King,” if you’re interested), so let’s wrap it up with just a bit of bloggage:
One of the reasons I sometimes curse Roy Edroso is, he got me hooked on reading Rod Dreher, and a more entertaining correspondent of Wingnuttia you will not find. What I like about him is his lack of filters; so much of what he writes seems to come directly from an id-well in his brain, and so you’ll sometimes see, in the space of 36 hours, a plea for us to be kinder to one another (“because we’re all carrying a great burden”) and then a denunciation of a bride who wants her wedding dress to show a special tattoo as a slut. It’s so amusing.
Anyway, lately he’s all het up about the Prop 8 backlash in California. “Gay mob assaults peaceful Christians,” he shrieked on Monday, embedding a video clip that showed the reaction when a group of Christians went into the Castro, the most famous gay neighborhood in the whole frickin’ country, to try to pray the gay away. Astonishingly, it wasn’t friendly. I know, I’m as shocked as you are.
The next day, he called for all of us to “stand by the Mormons,” because “a friend” tells him:
Things are pretty grim. On the ground pastors are worried, and for my Mormon friends it is very bad. No LDS person in their right mind who is not a man of courage would announce his church affiliation without knowing it to be safe.
Safe? From what? Disapproval? An argument? I must have missed the invasion of Salt Lake City by the drag-queen army. Even his Beliefnet commenters were unimpressed:
Yeah, it’s like Darfur out there what with all the pogroms and midnight roundups and mass executions of the Mormons out there.
Oh, well. On to Rudyard Kipling. I’m calling it the white woman’s burden.