Thursday, April 23, 2009

Detroit to Rachel – Ouch That One Hurt!

Ok – Let me set this up right. I’m a huge Rachel Maddow fan. I enjoyed her radio program, and often quote her and credit her insightful interviews on my show (i.e. this is not an Alec Baldwin thing). I respect intelligent, likeable women like Rachel who have been able to break the male political host opinion barrier as she has done. Kudos.

But I gotta say….On my show over the last two days we’ve had this raging dispute among listeners as to whether there will be enough media oxygen to allow both the prosecutions of Bush administration officials for violations on torture and passing cap-and-trade (a/k/a climate change a/k/a the biggest preventable future threat to humanity) legislation, or whether we should time them with a little more political calculation. We could have a good (and rightfully deserved) bloodletting now, which will make us all feel better, but Obama’s capital reserves will surely pay a price that any stress test could readily detect, and we’ll spend all our energy bailing out the Dems in a partisan food fight while watching our dream of finally passing cap and trade (READ: kiss green jobs, oil independence and a rescued planet bye-bye).

We were essentially debating tipping points in media coverage. Tonight I got my answer. I live in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press headlines in the local paper TODAY included these gems.

  • “GM to furlough all US plants for 9 weeks.” Sales down 49% in Q1. Won’t make June 1st debt payment. Thousands to lose wages and rely on state unemployment (which is already well over 12%).

(Note to the US: Michigan has been in a technical recession for eight years, not one like the rest of the country).

  • “Anxiety over Chrysler’s fate runs high. Health care, plant closings, pay concerns as April 30th deadline draws near.”
  • After repeated “Let’em go bankrupt” rants from cable TV pundits, and polls show 75% of Americans don’t seem to care if their companies fail .
  • “Governor Granholm: Bailed out banks suffocating. Chrysler: Who knew that bailing out the banks would mean that they would kill the auto industry,” said Granholm.
  • “Cash-for-Clunkers plans run into competing legislation.” (Turns out that even though the Big 3, the UAW and environmentalists are all behind this bill, “foreign automakers are strongly opposed” and it’s holding up because they want US tax dollars to help them even though they’ve been subsidized for decades by their own governments.)

So, an industry that created the middle class and is now desperately trying to re-invent itself is being held hostage by banks that care only about liquidating an industry, an event that will have enormous shockwaves on the economy. And people, good, decent hard-working people, and businesses have pulled together in a time of crisis in this, the most favored of punching bag cities to pull through together.

(When GM could no longer afford to sponsor the Detroit Tigers Fountain for $2 million dollars, Little Caesar’s Pizza and Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who had offers from foreign car companies, declined and has donated the sponsorship to all Big Three automakers in a show of solidarity for the love of a city that apparently the whole country reviles.)

We’re now eight days and counting from the Katrina-like slow motion collapse of a state – and real human suffering will be a consequence. (Chrysler’s deadline is May 1st, but we all know the domino effect with suppliers and the other Big Two.)

So after a good 40 minutes on Rachel Maddow’s show on the torture memo reporting (courtesy of our beloved Carl Levin), I was beyond shocked that the next story was devoted to ridiculing the perfect 0-16 record of the Detroit Lion’s football team and the fact that the team had changed its mascot design a bit to “be scarier.”

Not eight days until auto Armageddon, no rallying cry to maintain the manufacturing base in our country, no concern for the legacy of the autoworkers who lost their lives to form unions to give us a middle class and became the arsenal of democracy during World War II, the same retired folks who stand to lose the lion’s share of their pension and health care. Hell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger was here this week and said he believed that Detroit was not far behind in building the advanced technology to meet even California’s emission standards and deserved the government’s help to get there.

But just eight days from collapse, we got ripped because our football team totally sucks. Ouch, my friend Rachel. There are real people here who are hurting in ways the rest of the country hasn’t yet seen (and we don’t want them to). That was a kick in the gut to a player down on the field. I’m sure you didn’t intend it that way, but someone from Detroit had to say “ouch.”

And I can’t help but think my point about media oxygen and tipping points just may have some merit.


e said...

I love your show, all the way from Ski and Skinner on WLS sat. afternoons;but, and here I take an unpopular stance: why do we want the automotive factories to continue to build cars that are sitting in inventory,unsold?
Our assembly technology has outpaced our demand,that is the real problem.
Autos last much longer, and newer models do not have any major advantage yet.
The union that built our middle class has been replaced by robotic assembly lines;that is our problem.
Just look at how many cell phones are stashed in drawers,not because they were broken.
So I believe that the old business model must be changed, and not scrapped, but I do not know how to transition this.

vomamike said...

Hello Nancy. I'm going to give Rachel a pass on the Lions snark. But you are right, people just do not realize how disasterous losing the Big 3 will be. I guess you need to 'scream' louder!! While not a big fan of Ed Schultz, he seems to be zeroing in on the plight of the auto workers. He has come into his own on TV. I understand the stratagy of holding off on the torture issue, but can't we do both. Will that much "capital" be spent persuing this issue - even if it is on the back burner, that it will destroy all the good President Obama is trying to achieve?? If so, our country is in a whole lot of hurt. You raise some very good points, but this torture issue is one big burr under my saddle. If it was up to me, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Rice, Gonzolez, Rove and about a dozen others, would be rotting away in jail. Guess we can't have our cake and eat it too!

vomamike said...

Good point Eli. Damn with all the green technology coming on line, can't we get the big 3 to diversify and build wind turbines, solar panels, etc?? Are they stuck JUST building cars? hell, during WW2 they converted well enough to war machines.

Reggie said...


I happen to agree with you about the timing of any torture investigations by the Obama administration. The GOP wants to constantly chip away at the presidents approval numbers, they'd most certainly make a torture investigation appear politically motivated. The Grand Old Party chiefs will tell anyone listening that our president is taking his eyes off of fixing the economy and he's breaking his pledge to not look backwards but to look ahead, it's a constant negative drip that would seep it's way into the public consciousness.

Most people suffer from a perception problem where global climate change is concerned, sadly we're only prone to act once we can actually feel and see effects in our own backyards. I believe that there's a commonly held belief that the government and scientists will fix the climate change problem, it's ( climate change ) something most people can't fully wrap their minds around, but they can when it comes to exacting a pound of flesh RIGHT NOW.

cosmosis said...


I agree with your comment about Rachel. I too watched with complete bewilderment her spending time talking about a logo. It was the first time I had the sense that she was one of those east coast elites. I like her program a lot. Disappointing.

Jane said...

Am I the only one that disagrees with Nancy here? Rachel didn't do anything wrong. She has earned her credibility and her show is great.

We must prosecute those who issued orders to torture. We'll never get back, if we don't.

ojosrojos said...

I listened to the frustration coming through loud and clear on your show today. You're right that the country is gonna feel the pain of the death of the auto industry. Expecting some love when people are ready to kill something is unrealistic. Like the newspaper industry the auto industry has done little to help itself. Spending years re-inventing, re-structuring, and re-tooling itself only to go back to the same old make a fast buck instead of a smart buck plan is as dead as Detroit. The public is sick and tired of bailing out greedy, short-sighted corporations and idiot CEOs. It doesn't matter if american made cars could be the best in the world, the time for making good has come and gone. The public doesn't want to have anything to do with a losing proposition. Consequently, they have also bought into the scapegoating of the UAW workers helping themselves to big wages while building cars nobody wants or can afford to operate. Americans are too busy scrapping for the next paycheck to give a rats ass about Detroit's plight. The torture memos provide a topic they can judge. Unless you can offer some strategy, working plan or one helluva pep talk, no one outside of Detroit is going to listen to your lamentation of the auto makers. I'm surprised that Obama has stuck his neck out so far for this doomed industry. I'm sure Republicans can't wait till they can blame him and the Dems for the it's demise. They will ride that wave all the way to the beach. So will the unions.
Detroit's a loser, Nancy. I only hope that Obama's presidency and policies aren't dragged down with it or we're all losers.

e said...

just remember that service vehicles,like ambulances,fire trucks,and every sanitation vehicle, are also made by these same manufacturers.
Allowing them to collapse would have untold consequences, through out every facet of our daily lives.
Smart remodeling along thoughtful lines, that is what we need; "the best and the brightest", like Roosevelt said

SharonRB said...

To Jane:

If you paid attention to what Nancy said, she wasn't criticizing Rachel's show -- she said she loves it and watches all the time. What she's saying is that to make fun of the Lions while millions of people may lose their jobs is misplaced and mistimed derision. The attention that should be paid to Detroit is the plight of the autos, NOT the Lions new logo.

She also never said we shouldn't prosecute, only that the timing is off if we want to pass health care and climate change legislation. Waiting until the fall wouldn't be so bad if it meant getting these two important things passed. The cat's out of the bag now, though, and the media will be obssessed 24/7, taking attention away from other important issues.