08 December 2008

Praying for Cars

Photo: Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times
I don't really know what to say about this. It's bloody hilarious and horribly sad at the same time.

Detroit churches praying for 'God's Bailout'. Praying that the Big Three carmakers will get their money from Washington. I've been sitting here trying to think about something witty to write about this and I realised that it can't get any funnier.

The New York Times has the article here. Beneath the god crap there is a worry that the companies will go under and people will lose their jobs. I realise that and I understand it.

A couple of days ago, my dad sent me this link to a film about Ford's massive car factory in Brazil. They can't build factories like that in America and they never will be able to. So there is a need to be worried. But praying that god will make the politicians pay up?

Living in a largely secular country this story is odd. Only 7% of Copenhageners go to a church and no politician would dream of mentioning god in their work. As a humanist I prefer to place my hope firmly in the lap of Homo Sapiens. Oh... and in the bicycle.

There is a qualified workforce in the [fading] automobile industry who could switch to making wind turbines and solar energy and other sustainable products. A pipe dream? Perhaps.

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Jack for the link.


workbike said...

What I find odd is the assumption that God will support the status quo and give us the easiest option.

amsterdamize said...

so the Big Three were granted a $ 15 billion short term bail out. Now, who will these believers blame when (not if) the bail out fails to deliver? 'God' or the politicians?

And the story continues...

Ned C said...

Writing from Detroit I have to say it's really scary. The future looks rather bleak, especially if GM goes down, they have been central to the redevelopment of Detroit's long neglected downtown which as of late has been turning back into a much livelier place. And yet as I was shopping there last week I noticed that several news businesses were shuttered, the Opera has cancelled at least one of its productions, and several construction projects appear stalled.

The situation in some neighbourhoods is even worse, with large numbers of foreclosures, utility shut-offs, and collapsing real estate prices.

Wind mills, solar panels, all nice and they could be made here. I just don't I see it happening any time soon. They right wing Republicans still have enough power in the US Congress to shut down funds for either the auto company bridge loans or, and her perhaps even more-so, funds to retool for green technologies. Too many on the right don't even believe that a fossil fuel shortage and climate crisis don't even exist, and too many are also eager to see the UAW and trade unionism destroyed on principle.

As for our friends on the left, many of the greener than thou persuasion are eager to see Detroit punished for its past sins and aren't likely to be of much help, some have offered to support loans on the condition that the Detroit auto makers be forced to meet fuel efficiency standards on an accelerated timetable. Unfortunately unless the taxes on gasoline are raised or oil soars back to over $100 a barrel their new fuel efficient models are likely to sit on dealer lots while gas guzzling BMWs and Toyota trucks get a free ride. Too many Americans have a real love for big, powerful, and impractical vehicles and the lifestyles that go with them. A practical vehicle, a practical house in a convenient walkable neighbourhood isn't the American Dream: It's a sign of failure! Bigger is Better! Or so it was while the credit bubble lasted. Now the automakers can't get loans to retool, soon may no't have have enough cash to meet their payrolls and very little prospect of getting commercial credit.

Detroit lost half of its population since I was born, before I was born the Detroit Street Railway system, once one of the most extensive in North America, was dismantled and replaced by an underfunded bus system. The development of new freeways destroyed historic ethnic neighbourhoods, facilitated the flight of wealthier Whites, and later wealthier Blacks to the suburbs along with business and industry leaving the core city with a broken tax base, a failed school system, and staggering crime rates. The auto companies certainly had a hand in undoing the city that made them. A fine example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. But if they collapse during the coming year I really fear that Detroit really will die as a city, her cultural institutions disbanded, the population devastated and driven out. A third world border town. There is no other industry that in the short term can replace the auto industry here. I don't have that much faith in my fellow Americans, and I certainly don't in Capitalism. If you lived in this city Mikael you may not be on your knees praying but you'd certainly understand why some people were.


Kevin Love said...

Given the harm done by cars, I think an exorcism may be more appropriate.

More seriously, the governments of Ontario and Canada are also talking about a bailout. I just wrote to my MP and MPP saying I was dead opposed to such an idea.

I want the car companies to go bankrupt and the warranties of the existing cars to be worthless. Perhaps that will result in a few of them being taken off the road.

lehommeaulevelo said...

That Plant in Brazil is Stabbing the American Workers in the Back. It is Outsourcing their Jobs overseas. If these Companies get a Big Bailout from the American Government then that is Paying them to get Rid of their own American Workers. If they Import these Work Practices from Brazil into the US Then there will be another Revolution against the Government like the one in 1776 against the British.This is the unnacceptable rather Nasty side of Capitalism,get the Job done at the cheapest Rate possible.

Adrienne Johnson said...

My heart goes out to all the people who are caught up in this fiasco. What many people do not realize is that places like Detroit are 'company towns'. If you go into a factory you will find many, many people who are the grandchildren of the original factory workers. These are jobs that people stay in for the whole lives and this is what they were brought up to expect from their lives. All of their future is wrapped up in these companies- their retirement funds, their pensions, their health care... so when Kevin Love hopes all the companies collapse, what I don't think he realizes is the enormous human toll this will take.

Things must change, but they can change without so many being left out in the cold. If GM decided today to start making solar panels, it wouldn't start happening tomorrow. All of those factories need the new equipment required to make those things, and all the people need to be trained in how to use those new machines, and there needs to be a market for it...

Wishing for the collapse of what has been the mainstay of hundreds of thousands of people's lives for decades is not productive.

Bail outs are an enigma. Who knows if they will work or not? The whole world is off center and there is no one answer to any of it. And if they fail, we will find a way to move on, but remember, if they fail even people in Europe will feel the pinch of it. None of us are immune.

Kevin Love said...

Adrienne Johnson wrote:
"...when Kevin Love hopes all the companies collapse, what I don't think he realizes is the enormous human toll this will take."

Kevin's comment:
Perhaps Adrienne fails to realize the horrendous human toll inflicted by the auto industry. Among other things, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, has reported that car pollution kills 440 people in Toronto every year and injures another 1,700 so seriously that they have to be hospitalized.

Dr. McKeown's report really should come as a surprise to nobody; the deadly effects of cars have been known for a long time.

What I really want is justice to be executed against everyone in the auto industry whose greed caused so much death and misery. They should pay for their greed and violence that killed and injured so many innocent people.

A downpayment of justice is for all of them to be bankrupt and unemployed.

Dr. McKeown's report may be found on the official City of Toronto web site at:


I strongly disapprove of greed and violence. Behaviour that kills and injures other people needs to be strongly punished.

njh said...

Then there will be another Revolution against the Government like the one in 1776 against the British.

I doubt it, Americans in the last 50 years have shown themselves spineless when it comes to resisting corruption within their own government. I would be surprised if the average American even cares about the issue enough to write a letter.

spiderleggreen said...

Why is it God is always on our side, not the their side? This is that "get God working for me" religion which gives Religion a bad name. I think it sad what Detroit is going though, but the auto industry's karma is coming around. Years of making a quick buck at the expense of everybody else has it's price.

Adrienne Johnson said...

We are all responsible for the state of things in the US, Canada, Somalia, Georgia.... You are using a computer that polluted the environment in it's creation, and even if you 'recycle' it, it will cause more 'e-pollution' that is poisoning the water of hundreds of thousands of Africans, as we speak. I am sitting in a home that was built before anyone gave a thought to clear cutting. We all contribute, and the retired folks who will lose everything they have worked their whole lives for will pay the biggest part of this. Every industry is made up of people we never see or think about. They take the brunt of this, while we spew hatred at the CEO's.

There is so much more to this than shutting down the evil empire. This is about millions of people being forced to learn how to live differently, all of a sudden. The fall out of this will be so damaging and far reaching that the least we can do is leave the rhetoric and bile out of it and remember that there are people who will have their lives destroyed by all of this- regular, blue collar people with kids and homes and bills.

As to American's being spineless',
it is very easy to say things like that to people you can not see. There are those who do nothing, and those who fight in every nation.

Shall we get back to talking about bikes and how to get more people on them?

njh said...

As to American's being spineless',
it is very easy to say things like that to people you can not see. There are those who do nothing, and those who fight in every nation.

I say that to them all the time, to their face. They get huffy, they cite the constitution, they wave their guns about. But at the end of the day, do nothing. You too will do nothing.

Shall we get back to talking about bikes and how to get more people on them?

Certainly, the easiest way is to get them out of cars, which is what Zakkaliciousness was talking about.

As an example of how bizarre people's perceptions are here in the US, I have a friend who is morbidly obese. They keep trying diets and telling me about them. I said I have one diet which has been 100% successful: sell the car. But rather than that money making option they paid to have a gastric bypass. (They live less than 5 miles from their work, in flat San Jose)

Christopher Johnson said...

It is surprising that you refer to God is such a disparaging way. Especially since it seems that you have adopted some of His values and project an image of one who investigates things more thoroughly than the news media.

Anonymous said...

Can't get "any funnier"? You're right but it is also so sad that a country hooked on using 6000 lbs of steel, rubber and plastic to move a 270 lb man a few miles refuses to admit the obvious.

It has gone so lopsided here in America that we now have our future in the hands of people who are all "Praying for a Miracle". Sunday mass on freeways will be next? We need balance in our thinking and transportation systems, not ordained results.

PS. We're all about to become shareholders in Losers-R-Us.

lehommeaulevelo said...

The American Car makers should have seen this coming Years ago and Diversified into Small Cars,like their main Competitors at the time the Japanese. But no they continued to make Gas Guzzliing Big Junkers. The same thing happened with the British Car Industry in the 1960ties,they continued to make the same style of Heavy Cars and the Japanese and Europeans overtook them.
They should have been gradually making smaller Cars 10 to 15 Years ago and also other Products like Electrical Appliances, Televisions Kettles Coffee Pots and also Bicycles.

But no they never saw the Writing on the Wall in spite of the different Oil Crises since the 1950ties Arab Israeli Wars and Oil Strikes etc since then, and now the Recession.
They took it for Granted that their Lifestyle in America would not change. That they would always have a Plentiful supply of Oil to fill those Giant Automobiles and that the People would somehow be always able to afford them.
How quickly they have forgotten about the Depression back in the 1930ties.
I hear that more and more People are getting out on their Bikes in the States now, a bit of De ja vous back to the bad Old Days.

Todd Scott said...

Zakkaliciousness wrote: "Praying that the Big Three carmakers will get their money from Washington."

No, they were not praying for that and the article very clearly stated that. They were praying that "Detroiters would make it through these tough times."

Detroit is fighting to survive. We're a leader in unemployment, job losses, and foreclosures.

So what were you saying about this not getting any funnier?

With love from Detroit, the "arsenal of democracy"

Anonymous said...

There is just so much wrong with the theology here that I don't even know where to begin to comment.

Yes, the people of Detroit are worried about their jobs; they are worried that if the Big Three collapse the economic picture there will be even bleaker than it is now. Nevertheless, to pray for a specific political solution is very, very bad theology; faith /= magic--God is not the Genie of the Lamp to grant your every wish.

Anonymous said...

This may be of interest:


Anonymous said...

I love that the video about the Ford plant refers to the many so-called other companies that are working in the same factory. Those other companies all used to have the same name, Ford. In Indiana the Ford Motor Company used to operate a steering gear plant. They spun it and several other plants off and renamed them Visteon. The same thing was done with many of Ford's other operations. They are all still owned by the same people. It's just a shell game played by the ultra wealthy to guarantee that they stay wealthy and the rest of us stay poor.

Todd Scott said...

The Detroit church referenced in the NYT article is giving away 250 brand new bicycles to children from financially struggling families this weekend. They've given away more than 2,800 bikes to financially struggling families over the last 5 years.

"For many people, one of their fondest childhood memories was to receive a brand new bicycle on Christmas morning," says GGT's Senior Pastor Bishop Charles H. Ellis III. "We want to do something to help those youngsters whose families who are hit hard by this economy and could face having little or nothing under the tree on Christmas Day."

Anonymous said...

A link for Todd's comment;


When in the last five years have you given away more than 2,800 bikes?