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The Biz Roundup March 30

Here’s another radical socialist idea from Obama: treat the automakers as if they were businesses and expect them to behave as such. How far to the left can this administration go?

Therefore, [Obama] said, he is offering GM and Chrysler “a limited period of time to work with creditors, unions and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional tax dollars.”

If GM is unable to restructure and Chrysler cannot strike a deal with Fiat, they might need to use the bankruptcy code “as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger . . .”

To reassure car buyers, he said, the U.S. government starting today “will stand behind” GM and Chrysler warranties. That means that a new car warranty for a GM or Chrysler vehicle “will be safer than it’s ever been,” he said.

(“Obama Is Stern With Automakers,” Washington Post, March 30) If you take a business plan to a bank and they don’t like, no loan. If you take a business plan to investors and they don’t like it, no investment. If lenders or investors lose confidence in the CEO, they demand a change of guard or the money spigot dries up. Common sense, right? This is the first time I’ve ever seen government treat a business like a business. Where does Obama get crazy Marxist ideas like this, eh?


China is really determined to push the dollar as the reserve currency of choice and, in the process, goad Michelle Bachmann into armed insurrection.

China, which is pushing to end the dominance of the dollar as a worldwide reserve, has agreed a Rmb70bn ($10.24bn, £7.18bn, €7.76bn) currency swap with Argentina that will allow it to receive renminbi instead of dollars for its exports to the Latin American country. . . .

Beijing has signed Rmb650bn ($95bn, €72bn, £67bn) of deals since December with Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Belarus, Indonesia and, now, Argentina in an attempt to unblock trade financing that has been severely curtailed by the crisis.

China has suggested replacing the dollar with an enhanced version of the International Monetary Fund’s unit of account, the special drawing right or SDR. The dollar’s future as the world’s reserve currency will be on the G20 agenda.

Economists say the SDR plan is unfeasible for now but see Beijing’s currency swap deals as pieces in a jigsaw designed to promote wider international use of the renminbi, starting with making it more acceptable for trade and aiming at establishing it as a reserve currency in Asia, something that would also enhance China’s political clout.

(“China and Argentina in currency swap,” Financial Times, March 30) Despite the patriotic red-blooded efforts of financial wizards like Sean Hannity and Michelle Bachmann, moving more renminbi into foreign reserves around the world will help push the world economy out of recession, lower the cost of importing/exporting for many third-world countries, and move us one step closer to using something closer to a special drawing right, which will probably mean fairer trade throughout the world.


I once proposed this as a joke in an argument with someone of conservative stripes, but it was supposed to be a wild and crazy example that could never, ever be adopted . . .

The government is backing a project to install a “communication box” in new cars to track the whereabouts of drivers anywhere in Europe, the Guardian can reveal.

Under the proposals, vehicles will emit a constant “heartbeat” revealing their location, speed and direction of travel. . . .

However, privacy campaigners warned last night that a European-wide car tracking system would create a system of almost total road surveillance. . . .

The system allows cars to “talk” to one another and the road. A “communication box” behind the dashboard ensures that cars send out “heartbeat” messages every 500 milliseconds through mobile cellular and wireless local area networks, short-range microwave or infrared.

The messages will be picked up by other cars in the vicinity, allowing vehicles to warn each other if they are forced to break hard or swerve to avoid a hazard.

The data is also picked up by detectors at the roadside and mobile phone towers. That enables the road to communicate with cars, allowing for “intelligent” traffic lights to turn green when cars are approaching or gantries on the motorway to announce changes to speed limits. . . .

Simon Davies, director of the watchdog Privacy International, said: “The problem is not what the data tells the state, but what happens with interlocking information it already has. If you correlate car tracking data with mobile phone data, which can also track people, there is the potential for an almost infallible surveillance system.”

(“Big Brother is watching: surveillance box to track drivers is backed,” The Guardian, March 30) Now think of this from a marketing perspective. We’re steadily moving to “dynamic” billboards that are in essence giant TVs that can post any number of billboard ads every day. Now align a car monitoring database with a consumer database — voila! Billboards with ads targetted to the majority of drivers passing that moment. Or, if you’re the only person on the road — a personalized billboard. Wouldn’t that creep you out? At what point, do you think, are people going to notice that all this personalized and efficient stuff really means they’ve totally lost their privacy? Their right to be, well, anonymous and unknown?

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