Daily Flog: Democrats go shopping for GM; Obama storms White House


After decades in which every day was Christmas for U.S. automakers, they’re now looking for the biggest gift of all: a huge bailout from the federal government.

As if they haven’t been bailed out before with a steady stream of federal money. This morning’s New York Times story by Jackie Calmes does not tell it all. She writes:

Mr. Bush has drawn his line at the automakers’ doors, having already been forced to shelve the free-market principles of his Republican Party to bail out the financial industry over the past two months. But Republicans say he would acquiesce in aid to automakers in return for Congress’s ratification of the Colombia pact and pending trade agreements with Panama and South Korea.

“Free-market principles”? No mention in the Times story of the highways we built at the automakers’ insistence.

The auto industry has long depended on corporate welfare, including the Interstate Highway System, launched by the Eisenhower Administration in 1956. Ninety percent of the cost of interstate highways is paid for with federal funds, on the backs of drivers’ gasoline taxes. We needed all that gasoline because Detroit marketed those big and beautiful — and gas-guzzling — cars to us, while sneering for decades at the more economical models produced by Japanese and German automakers.

Automakers lobbied the White House and Congress 50 years ago to build those highways, which doomed intercity railroad passenger service, not to mention intracity trolleys and streetcars, and which led to the fungal growth of strip malls, which simply hastened white flight to the suburbs, which doomed inner cities by leaving it to poor people to pay the high price of cities’ infrastructure and school systems.

While we built highways for their vehicles, the automakers were more than willing to see mass-transit systems wither — systems that cities are now having to restore or build from scratch.

Back in the ’50s, the British looked at urban congestion and saw too many cars. We looked at urban congestion and saw not enough roads. That’s the analysis by Professor Peter Norton in his 1996 study “Fighting Traffic: U.S. Transportation Policy and Urban Congestion, 1955-1970.”

New president Barack Obama and other Democrats favor the bailout of Detroit, and at this point they have little choice. This is typical of the decisions that the Obama Administration will have to make: It will have to continue the corporate welfare that made our country’s corporations strong. You can only hope that the rest of us get a taste of this largesse, for which we’re footing the bill.

Bush’s handlers, of course, want a tradeoff: Yes, the current regime will bail out Detroit if the Democrats agree to a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

Obama enforcer Rahm Emanuel has already signaled opposition to that tradeoff.

But don’t we already have free trade with Colombia? Its narcotrafficantes send us cocaine, which we convert to crack and sell to poor people, and then we send them cash. That’s how a free market operates, unless the government intervenes.

Will GM survive the year? It says it needs its Christmas present early. And not just a shiny red truck, Uncle Santa. It wants the money to keep building the truck.

Just say maybe to the bailout, and then read on . . .


Salon: ‘The elusive Team Obama’

“It’s proving difficult to peer inside Obama’s still tightly closed Cabinet. But so far his presidential transition has looked deliberate and impressive.”

ZDNet Asia: ‘Italy charges Google officials over taunting video’

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Asks Bush to Provide Help for Automakers’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Palin hopes God will “show her the door” to the White House’

AP: ‘Catholic bishops re-examining message after vote’

“U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, meeting a week after the election, are re-examining how they explain church teaching after President-elect Obama, who supports abortion rights, won a majority of Catholic votes.

“During the campaign, many bishops had spoken out on abortion more forcefully than they had in 2004, telling Catholic politicians and voters that abortion should be the most important consideration in setting policy and deciding which candidate to back.

“Yet, according to exit polls, 54 percent of Catholics chose Obama, who is Protestant, and Vice President-elect Biden, who is Catholic. Biden also thinks abortion should be legal.

“Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, of New York City, said that chairmen of the bishops’ national committees met privately Monday morning to begin looking at the issue. A public discussion was set for Tuesday afternoon, the final open session of the bishops’ fall meeting.”

Reuters: ‘Diarrhea bacteria common in hospitals: survey’

Slate: ‘You Are Now Friends With Barack Obama: Will the White House Web site work as a social network?’

Wall Street Journal: ‘AmEx Plans To Become Bank Firm’


Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Baghdad bombing claims 28, including several schoolgirls’

BBC: ‘Pakistan militants seize Humvees’

Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Massive Chinese stimulus package brings investors back to markets: But bad news still flowing from France, Italy and Japan’


Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Olmert repeats call for pullout from occupied Arab land’

Bloomberg: ‘Revised AIG Terms Begin Treasury Transfusions to “Zombie” Firms’

McClatchy: ‘Baghdad street sweepers clear bodies after bombings’

BBC: ‘Obama and the rest of the world’

“Long before Americans went to the polls, the world had already chosen Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.”

Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Israel cuts off fuel supplies to energy-starved Gaza’

Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Problems at Kuwait’s Gulf Bank ‘totally under control’

“The central bank of Kuwait said on Monday the crisis at the Gulf Bank, which incurred losses from derivatives deals, is ‘totally under control.’ Shares in Kuwait’s second largest lender remain suspended on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange for a third week following the losses, estimated by local media at around $1 billion.”

Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘UN workshop urges Lebanese journalists to try being objective’

“Journalists working for Lebanon’s highly politicized media outlets met in Beirut on Monday for a United Nations-backed workshop designed to encourage the objective reporting of conflict. Lebanon’s media has been criticized in the past for its biased and confessional nature, which has seen news outlets lend their overt support to feuding political factions rather than offer an objective appraisal of events in the country.”

Washington Post: ‘Earbuds May be Hazardous to Your Heart’

McClatchy: ‘Europe expects to flex its muscle at financial summit’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Crying Wolf About the ‘Big One’ Hasn’t Worked, So Let’s Party: Geologists Try a Light Touch and Sign Up Millions for an Earthquake Drill in L.A.’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Citi to Modify Terms for U.S. Mortgages’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Goldman Hits 5½-Year Low Over Worries About Profits’

McClatchy: ‘Rivalry breaks out over Congress’ top energy spot’

Washington Post: ‘Fannie, AIG Struggle After Federal Takeover’