The Detroit News says there was a big party in Tripoli, yesterday…

Libya celebrates Gadhafi coup's 40th anniversary

Tripoli, Libya-- Libya staged a lavish spectacle Tuesday, parading white-robed horsemen and gold-turbaned dancers as jets streaked overhead to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi to power in the oil-rich nation. The four-day festivities were designed to highlight the volatile leader's acceptance on the world stage, but were overshadowed by new controversies about the recent return of the only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

You’ve got to love the delightfully neutral use of the word “brought” in that paragraph. As if a military coup is just a force of nature and Gadhafi got to become the self-proclaimed "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution" because he was some innocent by-stander who was just in the right place at the right time. (To be fair, upon seizing supreme power, the then “captain” Gadhafi only promoted himself to the rank of “colonel,” and declined to seize the stars of a general. He said this was appropriate because Libya is “ruled by the people.” Thank goodness for humble despots.)

A more local angle on this event is Gadhafi’s other role as an international man of business. You see, he was into Bailout Nation WAY before it was cool.

Early 1979 was the last time Chrysler teetered on the brink of insolvency – that time asking (and eventually winning) $1.5 billion in bailout loan guarantees from the U.S. taxpayer. In this most recent go-round the bankruptcy bailout wheel, ChryCo was pushed into becoming a subsidiary of the supposedly stronger Fiat.

But Fiat has had an interesting government bailout history of its own, according to a 2001 story from the Malta Financial and Business Times, and it happened right before Chrysler got into trouble the first time.

By the mid-1980s, Gaddafi had become a liability for his European investment partners. Chief among them was Fiat SpA in Italy. Gaddafi had spent US$415 million in 1976 for almost 10 per cent of the struggling carmaker, after Chairman Giovanni Agnelli visited Libya to propose the investment, Mr Huwej explains.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan blocked Fiat, which by then had two Libyans on its board representing a stake that had grown to 14 per cent from bidding on US government contracts. The same year, Libya agreed to leave, for a price. Fiat's parent and investors had paid $3.1 billion to buy out Libya’s stake in the carmaker…

That’s a nice 647 percent profit betting on the auto industry for 10 years. Inflation adjusted, if he’d just buried the $415 million in an investment vehicle that pegged to inflation, it would have been worth only $802 million by 1986. Since the “volatile leader” is used to supreme authority and is now reputedly gaining “acceptance on the world stage,” maybe his next act could be as our auto czar.