Thursday, December 18, 2008

Roger Cohen reminds me...

Wait, first I gotta get this out of the way:

The first time I went down to Rio in 1986, I flew business class. I was working for The Wall Street Journal. When I got back, I handed my expenses to Eric Morgenthaler, then the bureau chief in Miami.

He had a glass office. I watched him, before he called me in and asked why I’d flown business. Overnight flight, I said, interview with a minister the next morning, blah, blah, blah.

“The Wall Street Journal,” Morgenthaler said with a certain class and solemnity, “flies first class.”

This was apparently a truism as evident as, “You need eggs to make an omelet,” or, “Nobody likes wet socks.”

I flew business class in '79, for a job interview with Hughes in LA.

Cohen wants this to sound like it was some extreme extravagance to fly business class for business then, and even more absurd for the WSJ to fly first class, but it wasn't.

It was the standard to which companies upheld and treated their employees.

Sometimes ya gotta say those things.

OK, back to the regularly scheduled Buddhist/American blog:

The whole financial crisis is about the death of responsibility: the buck stopped nowhere. Everyone profited from toxic paper. Bernard Madoff, he of the alleged multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, is only the latest example.

Irresponsibility has also characterized Detroit. I don’t see how you restore responsibility with a bailout. Obama has a deeper task than changing the economy; he has to change the culture.

Rather than adopting European subsidies, put billions toward more inspiring European examples: a high-speed railroad network or universal health care.

Here's your take-away, which Roger Cohen hasn't seemed to articulate:

  • American policy both domestic and foreign was put into place to manufacture and sell petroleum.

  • Americans put this policy into place. Americans did not put into place policies that made high speed rail possible, nor livable cities without cars, nor other alternative ways of living that did not rely on petroleum to make living easier.

  • The automobile industry, its employees, its unions, its management, its dealers and customers represents a subset of this group of Americans who put this policy into place.

  • Americans - all Americans have only themselves to blame and all Americans will have problems if we don't have industry (profitably) serve us rather than the other way around.

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