Kevin Drum

Auto Bailout Watch

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 2:39 PM EST

AUTO BAILOUT WATCH....The French government plans to bail out Renault and Peugeot-Citroen to the tune of $7-8 billion or so. By the time this is all over, will there be a car company in the world that hasn't hoovered up a few billion taxpayer dollars?

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Quote of the Day - 01.20.09

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 2:06 PM EST

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Barack Obama, signing the papers to put himself on the government payroll:

"I'm a lefty. Get used to it."

That's for my sister. Though, honestly, after 20 years of lefties in the past 28 years there's not much to get used to, is there?

Inauguration 6

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 1:58 PM EST

INAUGURATION 6....I know this isn't quite in keeping with our shiny new postpartisan spirit, but watching Marine Executive One take off almost brought tears to my eyes.

Inauguration 5

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 1:28 PM EST

INAUGURATION 5....Light glints off Barack Obama's lapel pin as he delivers his inaugural address.

Inauguration 3

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 12:50 PM EST

INAUGURATION 3....In Washington DC, Barack Obama takes the stage. In Irvine, California, I watch on my TV.

Inauguration 2

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 12:42 PM EST

INAUGURATION 2....From Josh Marshall:

As some of you have seen, Vice President Cheney is getting pushed around today in a wheelchair. Thankfully, it's no serious medical issue. He hurt his back lugging books while moving out of the old digs. But it's iconic. There's no escaping the symbolism of the tired and enfeebled old guard hobbling off the stage. On so many fronts the stage setting, the unpredictable coincidences, perhaps just the fates seem to be conspiring to give us a dose of hyper-reality, not just the truth of the moment but a scaffolding of trappings and symbolic exclamation points to make sure we're paying attention.

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Feeling It

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 12:13 PM EST

FEELING IT....Even though Barack Obama is a liberal, Jonah Goldberg says today that conservatives ought to celebrate the election of our first African-American president. "Any political movement that is joyless about what this represents risks succumbing to bitter political crankery," he warns. Then he gets down to cases:

For instance, you will not soon see a German chancellor of Turkish descent. Nor will a child of North African immigrants soon take the reins of power in France. It will be a long time before a Pakistani or Indian last name appears on the mailbox at 10 Downing St. And yet these countries bubble over with haughty finger-waggers eager to lecture backward and provincial America about race and tolerance. Why not enjoy rubbing Barack Obama in their faces?

Can you feel the joy?

Fiat and Chrysler

| Mon Jan. 19, 2009 10:57 PM EST

FIAT AND CHRYSLER....Today's news reports say that Fiat is planning to establish a "partnership" with Chrysler:

Under terms of a pact that is being hammered out, Fiat is likely to take a 35% stake in Chrysler by the middle of this year. It would have the option of increasing that to as much as 55%, these people said.

Fiat wouldn't immediately put cash into Chrysler, but would obtain its stake mainly in exchange for covering the cost of retooling a Chrysler plant to produce one or more Fiat models to be sold in the U.S., these people said. Fiat would also provide engine and transmission technology to help Chrysler introduce new, fuel-efficient small cars, they said.

My first thought when I read this was, how did Chrysler manage to find someone dumb enough to want a stake in their company? But then I read a little more closely. Fiat isn't actually buying anything. Chrysler is apparently going to fork over a 35% stake to them in return for Fiat taking over one of its factories. It's true that that 35% stake is probably worth nothing, but unless I'm reading this wrong, Fiat is basically getting the use of a Chrysler plant for free. I guess that's not a bad deal for them.

And for Chrysler? Beats me. It's hard to believe they're really all that desperate for Fiat's engine and transmission technology, but maybe it's worth it to them just to save themselves the cost of shuttering a plant. Or something. But in any case, nobody would be dumb enough to actually invest in Chrysler, would they?

Waiting for Obama

| Mon Jan. 19, 2009 4:00 PM EST

WAITING FOR OBAMA....I'm waiting. You're waiting. The country is waiting. The world is waiting.

International Trade Update

| Mon Jan. 19, 2009 2:25 PM EST

INTERNATIONAL TRADE UPDATE....The LA Times reports on the employment level of nonunion dockworkers ("casuals") at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach:

In December 2006, the last month in what became the peak year for business at the harbor, hundreds of casuals were needed every workday for jobs that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union couldn't fill. On one such day, casuals filled more than 2,000 positions over three shifts, lashing and unlashing cargo containers, driving yard equipment or assisting in clerks' offices.

In December 2008, casuals were needed just four days, and only 95 found work on the best of those days.

This is a bellwether for the collapse in international trade. Via Megan McArdle, the Telegraph reports that business is so bad that at some ports shipping charges have dropped to zero:

Shipping journal Lloyd's List said brokers in Singapore are now waiving fees for containers travelling from South China, charging only for the minimal "bunker" costs. Container fees from North Asia have dropped $200, taking them below operating cost.

....Korea's exports fell 30pc in January compared to a year earlier. Exports have slumped 42pc in Taiwan and 27pc in Japan, according to the most recent monthly data. Even China has now started to see an outright contraction in shipments, led by steel, electronics and textiles.

A report by ING yesterday said shipping activity at US ports has suddenly dived. Outbound traffic from Long Beach and Los Angeles, America's two top ports, has fallen by 18pc year-on-year, a far more serious decline than anything seen in recent recessions.

If you have anything large you need to have shipped from Singapore to here, I guess now would a good time to do it.