Two of my friends of longest standing (note how I avoid saying two of my "oldest friends") have articles online at counterpunch.org that deserve notice.
Eamonn Fingleton, who has been based in Japan for years and has been both contrarian and right in emphasizing the residual strength of Japanese manufacturing (even as the Japanese financial system collapsed), now has an article about the American media's coverage of Detroit. It is mainly a corrective to the automatic sneer at U.S. automakers that characterizes much political and press commentary about them. The article says:
As press commentators have generally spun it, the Detroit story has been a simplistic morality tale of "incompetent executives," "lazy workers," and "intransigent unions." Detroit in other words has richly deserved its fate and, in the opinion of many of the more callous observers, the sooner it is put out of its misery the better.
The real story is a complex one in which the American auto industry has often been more sinned against than sinning.
To see how well -- or rather how badly -- you understand the background, try this quiz:I don't buy Eamonn's "cancel your subscription" advice, since newspapers are just behind carmakers in their overall distress. But his overall pitch is significant.
1. What was the Detroit companies' share of the Japanese market in 1930? (a) About 90 per cent. (b) About 20 per cent. (c) Less than 4 per cent.
2. How many models do the Detroit corporations currently make with the steering wheel on the right (the standard configuration for Japan)? (a) More than 40. (b) 12. (c) 3.
3. What was the combined share of all foreign makers - American, European, and Japanese - in the Korean car market in the last decade? (a) Less than 2 per cent. (b) Around 15 per cent. (c) More than 70 per cent.
The correct answer in each case is (a).
If you flunked, don't feel bad. Just cancel your newspaper subscription.
Also we have Franklin "Chuck" Spinney, whose name is familiar to anyone who has read or thought about American defense policy over the last generation. Based purely on his study of conflict through the ages, last year Spinney made a call about Obama-McCain campaign tactics that proved far shrewder than that of many political "experts" at the time.
In his new article, he makes a call about President Obama's expanding commitment to Afghanistan that is convincing to me and should be alarming to anyone who reflects on what the U.S. is getting itself into. Both articles very much worth a look.