All Things In Their Place Endorses Barack Obama

 Civilizer 

“Screwed the pooch.”  It’s a great phrase that uses fornication with a dog as a vivid, absurd metaphor for dorking something up so bad that everyone who sees you doing it can only shake their heads and look away, disgusted but yet a little bit bemused.  And my friends, you look up “pooch-screwing” in the dictionary, you’ll find that it says “See John McCain presidential campaign, managers of.”

When it looked like the Republicans were going to throw in the electoral towel by nominating either an empty suit, a crazy Christian, or a generally crazy person and admit that 8 years of Bush/Cheney/Rove ruined their brand, they got it together and nominated John McCain.  War hero, experienced and popular Senator, guy with a reputation for not being under the thumb of the GOP leadership.  Going up against Barack Obama, quickly becoming the darling of the Daily Show crowd, the Republicans picked the candidate who basically made the Daily Show with his famously well-humored response to Steve Carell’s ultimate gotcha on the Straight Talk Express back in 1999.

And then they told that guy to go screw off, and introduced the country to A-hole John.  Out of touch, dishonest, pandering.  It’s gone about as well as you would expect.

When John McCain did take the nomination, I was relieved.  Republican that I am, I thought “Thank God.  The party has been one big embarrassment for the past several years, but now I can vote for one of the few guys that wasn’t.”  Not anymore.  Given the conduct of the McCain campaign, I must throw my support to Barack Obama, and for the following reasons:

That IS a pretty sweet state quarter, I have to give her that

1.  Sarah Palin – what a frighteningly stupid move picking this chick was.  Thrust from national anonymity into the spotlight of a presidential campaign, she’s initially fawned over by the media and voters as the much-needed “game changer” that McCain was after.  “Old guy listened to his gut,” everybody said.  “What a maverick,” they said.  She makes a carefully scripted but nevertheless punchy, red-meat fortified speech at the Republican National Convention.  And then, in a series of embarrassing interviews with the mild-mannered Charlie Gibson and former America’s Sweetheart Katie Couric, reveals herself to be a clueless dolt.  And then, in a series of stump speeches that continue to this day, reveals herself to be a strident harpy as well.  She displays all the contemptible failures of character that Tricky Dick Cheney does, but none of the effectiveness and villainous intelligence.  Cheney may have used the Constitution for fish-wrapping paper, but at least he succeeded in preventing another attack on American shores with those methods.  With Palin, we’d have a dirty bomb in Epcot Center inside her ticket’s first 100 days.  It’s telling that the McCain campaign had to fall back, predictably, on loud cries of sexism whenever their anointed loon came under attack – unfortunately, it’s not what’s between her legs that bothers me, it’s what isn’t between her ears.

2.  The recent tone of the McCain campaign – in a word, unbecoming.  Unbecoming the man who denounced the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry and frankly unbecoming our entire country.  How embarrassing it has been, in 2008, to watch video in which our oft-lauded “salt of the earth” Americans who I have often stated make up the backbone of the military, economy, and society of this country, sound like benighted dullards at every turn.  And how troubling it has been to see the McCain campaign pounce on this sad state of affairs.  McCain has been trying to get the bigot toothpaste back in the tube over the past few days, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that he let his shrill toady turn a tenuous connection of Obama’s to Bill Ayers (who, for the record, is a complete asshole that I wouldn’t piss on if he were on fire to put him out) into some sort of insidious partnership cloaked in secrecy.  The McCainanites have stood there as Palin basked in shouts of “kill him” while she let her crowds turn uglier and uglier.  Rep. Lewis was exactly right when he compared the tone of the campaign to the “climate and conditions” created by George Wallace in Alabama.  The campaign isn’t being overtly racist, but has done shamefully little to contain that element at its events.  Fortunately, the McCain attacks aren’t working.

3.  Policy – I am going to sum this argument up with two examples.  First, the quickie:  I was watching TV the other night, and there was an Obama ad and a McCain ad almost back to back, with just another weird Burger King ad between them.  The Obama ad was an explication of the candidate’s health care plan and an argument against McCain’s.  The McCain ad was about Bill Ayers.  The economy is in absolute tatters, there are serious matters at hand, and Obama responds with an issues ad.  McCain responds with a character assassination.  What seems more useful to you? 

Second is offshore drilling.  I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to go over this again for any of you who still think that it’s a good idea (this means you, Aaron Tippin).  You can skip my argument and just go to this tidy little piece from those crazy redwood humpers and polar bear kissers at the Christian Science Monitor, but here we go:

The Minerals Management Service estimates that there are 86 billion barrels of oil in offshore regions.  This estimation keeps going up as the political winds dictate, and just a few years ago the estimate was 45 billion.  But, in the areas that McCain would open up, there are estimated to be around 19 billion.  Let’s be generous and go with the 45, meeting somewhere in the middle.  The United States uses an estimated 20.7 million barrels per day.  That means there is just under 6 years’ worth of oil in them thar oceans.  Six years’ worth, and that’s after the 10 years it will take to extract the oil have passed.

No wonder the Bush Administration’s own analysts have said that offshore drilling will have no significant effect on oil prices through 2030.  It’s just plain stupid, but McCain is all for it.  For me, that kind of poor judgement blows all the goodwill he’d built with me on the surge.

File photo, Arnold Conrad

4.  The Christian Right – McCain had Arnold Conrad introduce him in Iowa a few days ago.  Here is what he said:

I would also pray Lord that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their God — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his [McCain’s] opponent wins for a variety of reasons. And Lord I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you would step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day.  Oh Lord, we just commit this time to you, move among us, make your presence very well felt as we are gathered here today in Jesus’s name I pray.

I can’t stand and cast my vote with these people.  Not if I want to ever respect myself again, anyway.

Warren Buffet: Apparently a Commie

5.  Warren Buffet – No president, no matter what he says, can “fix” this or any economy.  The market forces involved are by and large beyond the scope of presidential authority or ability.  But on the economy, Barack Obama has the endorsement of Warren Buffet.  Warren Buffet is a financial genius.  John McCain has the endorsement of Phil Gramm.  Phil Gramm is not a financial genius.

Lots of reasons that Warren’s endorsement means a lot, but I want all of you who think that because Obama is going to raise taxes on the 5% of Americans earning over $250,000, we’re suddenly socialists and our economy is going to grind to a halt, read this story.  The gist?  The Oracle of Omaha, the ultimate anti-socialist, says “I see nothing wrong with those who have been blessed by this society to give a larger portion of their income to the society than somebody that’s working very, very hard to make ends meet.”  So I guess Warren Buffet’s a pinko now, right, jackasses at Cape Fear BBQ in Fayetteville, North Carolina?

6.  Barack Obama – if you’re able to think critically, you’ve hopefully noticed that I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama for reasons that have a lot more to do with the McCain campaign sucking like a $500 Dyson instead of Obama being a good candidate.  And believe me, I’m well aware that the man is flawed.  He’s slick, for one.  I don’t like slick.  You don’t survive Rev. Wright, Bittergate, Bill Ayers, and the middle name “Hussein” in a presidential election without being slick.  Obama talked around these issues more often than he tackled them head-on, and I wasn’t a fan of that.  And admittedly, he’s very green for the chief executive role, a point that McCain and Co. somehow managed to fumble by talking about the Weather Underground all the time and then nullifying the point by selecting Our Sarah.  And his support for ethanol is just…so…stupid.

But here’s the deal:  ethanol aside, the dude is smart.  B.A. from Columbia, thesis on Soviet nuclear disarmament.  Harvard Law School, magna cum laude.  Senior Lecturer at Chicago School of Law.  A lot of people look at a C.V. like that and say “he thinks he’s better than you.”  Good.  Good.  I freaking hope that the MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD thinks he’s better than me.  I hope that he is better than me.  I hope the President of the United States is smarter than me, more clever than me, braver than me, more well-read than me, more well-traveled than me…just plain more everything than me.  You know that line of conventional wisdom that goes “People want to vote for a guy they can imagine having a beer with”?  That’s some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.  Let me just say this:  if I can imagine kicking back and having a beer with you, then I don’t want you anywhere near the Russians.  They will eat you alive like the simple rube that you are.  I don’t want you anywhere near the tax code.  You won’t think it through.  Jeffrey Fastow won’t pay any taxes because his lobbyist buddies duped you, but you’ll somehow be trying to collect $78,000 from a family dog in Bismark, North Dakota.  I want somebody who is steeped in brainpower, has a bunch of degrees and a bunch of stamps on his passport, and knows how to think around corners.  Barack Obama is that smart.

Also, I think his opposition to Iraq is one of the most overrated aspects of his candidacy, but the guy has it right on Pakistan, which is the real national security threat of the next decade.  Iraq and Afghanistan are obviously must-wins, but Pakistan is the constantly evolving, inscrutable ticking time bomb of international terrorism.  And Obama knows it, he knows the ISI is keeping the tribal areas safe for al-qaeda and the Taliban, and has the stones to say that if we’ve got a bead on a high-value target, and Pakistan won’t take the bastard out, then our Special Forces will.  No kow-towing to our strategic reliance on Pakistan, no letting that country’s intelligence service leverage our relationship to carry out private and nefarious agenda.  Just hey, your sovereignty doesn’t supercede our security.  Deal.  McCain’s big on his surge, and good for him, but he’s given me no indication whatsoever that he has a plan for Pakistan.  And that’s a big miss.

The guy just gets it more than McCain does.  Obama has proven, throughout the course of the campaign, to be more thoughtful, more intelligent, and more thorough than his opponent.  McCain has flirted with self-destruction as Obama continues to draw crowds, donors, and the respect of military leaders, lawmakers, economists, and hell, even aides to John McCain who worked in the Reagan White House.  I hope that a McCain loss, borne of a craven appeal to the racist, the frightened, and the under-educated, burns my party to the ground.  Because it will be rebuilt again, and I hope the people restoring it pay attention to what happened in 2008.  I hope they noticed that a bright, eloquent, educated, intellectual man won the presidency, and that when they’ve got the GOP up and running again, they have the sense to tell the creationists, the pro-lifers who stop caring about the fetus once it’s out of the womb, the protectionists, and the dittoheads to please get off, the country has passed them by.  There’s a big difference, after all, between “elitism” and being elite.  Get that sorted out, and I’m back on board.  Until then, I’m voting Obama/Biden this year. 

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An Open Letter to Barack Obama

 Civilizer

Dear Senator Obama –

Couldn’t help but notice that your “I’m already President” act has continued even after your goodwill tour of Europe and the Middle East has wrapped up – by which I mean you seem to have perfected the old Potomac Two-Step.  And at such a young age for a politician!  That’s impressive.  Did you have somebody from Arthur Murray in your entourage?

But hey Stretch, just wanted to say that your post-primary tendency to dance like Fred Astaire on the issues is wearing on those of us who were either going to vote for you or considering voting for you.  Moving to the center is understandable so I can’t say that I really cared when you moderated yourself on gun control.  Stuff like that, it’s expected, right?  Who cares if you said one thing and then something entirely different once you clinched the nomination.  That’s politics as usual, and that’s ok.  It would be nice if someone ran for office who promised to change politics as usual, but that would certainly be a difficult standard to uphold.  Am I right?

Hell, a certain amount of blatant bobbing and weaving actually makes me feel better about you.  When you were running in the primary, you laid all that hope stuff on pretty thick.  “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”  Remember that?  Clearly it grabbed a lot of those stupid college kids who love speeches but not issues (good luck turning them out in the general, by the way!), but to a free-agent Republican like myself, you were giving off a babe-in-the-woods vibe that worried me a little.  In today’s world, I don’t want a President who’s so interested in telling world leaders he wants to “work together” or “cooperate for the good of everyone.”  I want a President who will smile and shake hands with Russians for the cameras and then behind closed doors tell Vladimir Putin (sorry, Dmitiri Medvedev) that we’re going to help Europe build a pipeline that circumvents Russian control and if anything should, ah, happen to it, then we begin bombing in 10 minutes, as your buddy Reagan once said.

So really, it’s nice to see that you can lie and deceive without compunction.  It’s “cagey.”  And we need a  cagey leader to negotiate with the Iranians.  There’s a reason that George Lucas picked the stubbly stereotype of an Arab trader for the scuzzball shopowner/slaveholder for Watto in The Phantom Menace, you know?  A certain amount of shaking hands with your right while you’ve got a stiletto behind your back in your left makes me feel better about voting for you.

But offshore drilling.  I gotta tell you Senator – it’s this kind of thing that makes an observer like myself wonder if you didn’t learn a few lessons in triangulation after running so hot and heavy against a Clinton like you did, or if you’re just another sackless politician who will say anything to get elected.  I know that gas prices are one of the biggest populist issues of the election.  I know you want to look like you’re doing something about it.  And I know that it appears that you have no coherent plan right now – you were against offshore drilling and that stupid gas tax, which were wise positions, but you didn’t really have anything you supported except ethanol, which is just as stupid.  

But offshore drilling has become the issue on which I draw the line.  Not just because I’m an inveterate tree-hugger.  I’m actually putting aside environmental concerns for a minute.  I draw the line on offshore drilling because it’s such a myopic, idiotic, worthless idea that will not work.  It won’t bring gas prices down in the short term, because it will take a decade to get that oil out of the ocean and refine it.  Can you think of any commodity that trades at a reduced price because it is anticipated that there will be slightly more of it on the market in 10 years?  Remember that announcement that McDonald’s made the other day where they said “A couple farmers in Montana said they’re going to start raising more cows, and those babies should be old enough for slaughter in about 10 years.  So we’re going to go ahead and lower our prices on the Big Mac today.”  No?  You don’t remember it?  That’s because McDONALD’S WOULD NEVER DO THAT.  BECAUSE THAT ISN’T HOW THE MARKET WORKS.

You say you’re willing to do this in order to “compromise” with the Republicans.  So you could get an energy bill passed.  Well I don’t know what kind of simplistic chimps you’ve got running your campaign, but they’ve evidently subscribed to the notion that after years of folding up like a card table for the Republican Congressional majority, it’s imperative that once they get that majority for themselves, they take advantage of it by folding up like a card table for the Republican minority.  Way to make yourself look strong, Senator – it’s an idea you oppose, an idea you know would have a nasty effect on the environment and no effect on gas prices, but you’re going to just go along to get along.  I’ll say this for Hillary – she may have been a strident harpy, but sometimes she was strident about the right thing and didn’t seem inclined to back off.  You, sir, are behaving instead like an Ivy League nancy-boy. 

I’ve seen you hoop, and I noticed that you’re not one to bang underneath.  Apparently this holds true for your governing style.

The Chinese Example: Forget Warming, And Cut Emissions Anyway

 Civilizer

Global warming continues to be this year’s hot complaint.  The greening of America has seeped into retailers, advertiser, and consumers, and all thanks to the rallying cry “Stop Global Warming.”  Al Gore made an alarmist film rife with errors and got a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar for it, because he was trying to “Stop Global Warming.”  You can buy everything from an environmentally friendly light bulb to environmentally friendly floors for your house, so you can help “Stop Global Warming.”  Well I never thought I’d say this, but:

To hell with global warming.  Take a look.

A smog-o-rific satellite image of China

That picture up there is a photograph of China taken from space.  See all that dark gray stuff?  That would be all the stuff that China’s factories belch into the atmosphere.  And it’s a perfect example of why we do have to cut emissions, develop cleaner energy, and more prudent land management strategies, and why global warming has to take a back seat.  The example of China illustrates the situation perfectly.

China, of course, is hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics.  “Hosting” is kind of a funny word, as they seem like the kind of host who welcomes you into their home and then dispatches their German Shepherd to watch you like a hawk and take a bite out of your thigh if you touch the candlesticks.  But in any case, it’s their big event on the world stage.  And they had so badly fouled their air that they had to shut everything down in and around Beijing well ahead of the start of the Games to try and get things athlete-ready.  The air is so bad, the great Haile Gebrselassie has refused to compete in Beijing.  But underneath that nauseating claim are some pretty shocking facts:  Air pollution kills approximately 656,000 Chinese people a year, and water pollution another 95,600.  More people die of pollution-related causes in China than die of cancer in the United States each year, or heart disease.

And how about this, for all you dismal scientists out there:  on a combined basis, air and water pollution cost China 5.8% of its GDP – around $100 billion annually.  And oh yeah – all that smog probably exacerbates global warming. 

Now, I’m not saying that global warming is a liberal con job, or that it doesn’t exist.  The evidence that global warming is happening is pretty hard to refute, and I’ve no doubt that humanity has a hand in it.  But remember, this planet has been going through climactic shifts and cycles since time out of mind.  And also remember that while human activity has a tremendous impact on the planet, our capacity to affect the climate is dwarfed by our capacity to affect conditions on the ground and our own quality of life. 

China is a microcosm of the wider world.  Their most pressing problem isn’t global warming, and it isn’t their most solvable problem, either.  The same goes for the rest of us.  Keep in mind that China shut down the country for several months and their air is still a mess – you think if you buy some different lightbulbs and drive a Prius that you can reverse something like global warming?  Really?  You think if a few enlightened people in pockets of the world straighten up and fly right, it will reverse centuries of industrialized by-product, and the millions of cars on the road?

But let’s look at what would happen in China, and in fact the entire world, if we developed clean, alternative fuels instead of burned oil, gas, and coal – less cancer, cleaner water, healthier watersheds and ecosystems, stable animal populations, and budgets that aren’t as stressed by the health care and/or clean-up costs that come with all that stuff.  But if we push that stuff aside and just keep talking about global warming, then what happens when the skeptics break through?  What happens when they plant enough doubt in enough people’s minds about this whole global warming thing?  After all, no lay people really understand the science behind it – here’s a fun game: find some passionate global warming guy or girl on a college campus and ask them to explain carbon-feedback loops.  See?  They mostly just know what Al Gore put in a movie, and we all know he’s full of shit most of the time.  Wasn’t his wife that crazy chick who tried to ban W.A.S.P.? (Truth be told I wish she’d succeeded there)

Gas prices drop, these stupid things will come right back

I’ll tell you what will happen – people will decide they don’t have to worry anymore.  They’ll buy regular old bulbs again, they’ll stop buying hybrid cars, they won’t worry about recycling that much.  Global warming has at least served one purpose.  It’s woken people up to the fact that we can’t continue to live the way we do without serious consequences to the long-term viability of the planet.

But it’s time to shift the focus.  China isn’t shutting its factories down because of global warming.  They’re doing it because the world is coming to visit this summer, and the Chinese government understands that no one wants to live or compete in the smog, the algae blooms, and the runoff.

So why should the rest of us put up with it anywhere else?

John McCain Just Lost Me

 Civilizer

Un-goddamn-believable.  Of all the sops to offer the conservative base of the GOP whose enthusiasm John McCain has thus far failed to inspire, John McCain goes for broke (morally and logically) with overturning the ban on offshore oil drilling

I always figured that if McCain was going to turn hard right on anything, he’d do it on the economy with a low low taxes lower lower regulation scheme to make all the free marketeers and I-bankers piss themselves with glee.  Or he’d start sending coded messages to the Christian right about making sure he nominates a justice who overturns Roe v. Wade.  I did not think he’d do it on the environment or energy.  Not because I thought he was a passionate tree-hugger or anything, but these two issues are 1) closely intertwined and 2) can be effectively addressed with straightforward policies. 

The economy is a complicated behemoth with a lot of moving parts whose future is chock-full of unforseen consequences and influenced by future events impossible to predict.  Imagine announcing to the nation on Sept. 10, 2001 that you’ve got bipartisan support to balance the budget, maintain present interest rates to cap inflationary pressure, and you’ve got a plan to encourage more participation in the capital markets by everyday Americans so every one can strike it rich.  Economists would raise a host of objections, and other economists would laud the plan, but not a one of them would say “But what if a bunch of religiously-motivated aviation enthusiasts get so tired of being turned down for sex at clubs and bars and decide the only way they’re going to get any tail at all is to fly passenger jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and get at some virgins?”  Not a one would say that.  Offshore drilling as a way to manage America’s energy need is another story.

The challenges facing America in terms of oil are both short- and long-term.  The high price of oil is and has been for some time now putting serious inflationary pressure on an already stressed American economy – you don’t have to be an economist to understand that high oil prices push up the cost of transporting all that stuff you buy, and retailers have to pass that cost on eventually.  Plus, petroleum is the feedstock for any number of industrial and consumer goods, meaning that companies that make the stuff are going to experience pressure on gross margins and have to charge you more to make up the difference.  Short-term, those issues have to be addressed in order to right the American economic ship.

Long-term, we have got to come to grips with the fact that we can’t base our economy around dead dinosaur goop that we suck out of the ground with huge drills.  It’s not foreign oil that we need to end our dependence on, it’s OIL that we need to end our dependence on.  All of it.  Commercial transport like sea freighters, planes, it’ll be a while before those things can be reasonably expected to be manufactured with power plants that don’t burn fossil fuels of some type.  But we can sure as hell do something else for our cars and our energy grid.  And that’s why McCain’s announcement is incredibly, undeniably, harmfully, stupid.

“We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil,” he said on Monday.  “We have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. . . . It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions.”  That moratorium, by the way, is one he supported in 2000.  Just like he supported opposing oil exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the Everglades.  

There’s no delicate way to say it – we’ve got to stop putting off the inevitable with the oil supply with these short-sighted plans to find more of it elsewhere.  Oil was always a finite resource, but with China, southeast Asia, and the Latin American Third World starting to burn gas at an incredible rate, the timetable is far shorter now.  McCain’s plan to overturn the offshore drilling ban fails to both alleviate the short-term oil supply problem and the long-term oil dependence problem.

21 billion barrels sounds like a lot.  Unfortunately, it isn’t.  The Energy Information Administration forecasts that oil consumption in 2008 will 87 million barrels per day, and 92 million by 2010.  If we start drilling and the oil starts flowing by 2010, that’s enough oil for a whopping 228 days of global oil consumption.  Not even a full year.  If we want to keep it all to ourselves so we don’t have to keep funding terrorism in Saudi Arabia, that 21 billion barrels off the American coast is good for about two years and eight months.  Sweet.  So let’s do nearly irreversible damage to a fragile ecosystem so that we can put off a difficult choice for less than three years.  It’s like deciding not to quit smoking because you found a couple cigarettes in your couch cushions and what the fuck, they’re there, you know?       

I was willing to dismiss his harebrained support for that risible “gas tax holiday” idea as a one-off populist appeal his campaign would use to contrast their man with the “out-of-touch” Barack Obama and his elitist contention that America would maybe need the billions of dollars the tax provides for stupid bullshit like highway maintenance.  What hard-working blue collar American worth his or her Richard Petty decal doesn’t like a good pothole, after all?  Gunning your F-150 over one of those babies is what this country is all about!

Unfortunately, McCain has made it clear with this offshore drilling idea that it wasn’t just a one-off.  Rather than having the good sense and political courage to force this country to make some hard choices, to say “I will have the nation’s first post-petroleum presidency,” the senator is acting as an enabler for continued dependence on fossil fuels and failing to stimulate real, substantive government investment in alternatives.  Tax breaks for ethanol might sound nice, but nothing jump-starts real and rapid innovation like urgent need.  You gonna figure out how to break down an oak door faster when you’re just leaving the house for a walk, or when the room you’re in is on fire?

Bad enough the Japanese had to figure out home video for us, they’ve got to show us how to fix our energy problems too?

Shazam! Sunday News Roundup: June 1, 2008

 Captain Marvel

Top Story! -Progress At U.N. Biodiversity Forum

Nearly 200 countries have agreed on measures to protect the world’s most threatened wildlife.  At a Bonn conference they pledged to set up a deep-sea nature reserve and increase by tens of millions of hectares the area of land protected.  The Convention on Biological Diversity meeting also agreed to prepare a firm position on the benefits and drawbacks of biofuels by the next forum in 2010…[click here for more]

Iraq News – Iraqi Military Extends Control In Northern City

The recent successes in quieting violence in Basra and Sadr City appear to be stretching to the long-rebellious Sunni Arab district here in Mosul, raising hopes that the Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control over all three of Iraq’s major cities…[click here for more]

Business News – Merrill’s Fleming Says Banking M&A Activity To Accelerate In Six Months

The financial industry will be reshaped by a “significant pickup” in takeovers when stronger banks emerge as acquirers as soon as the end of this year…[click here for more]

Israel/Palestine News – Israel, Hezbollah Take First Step In Possible Prisoner Swap

Israel deported a Lebanese-born Israeli citizen convicted of spying for the Islamic guerrilla group Hezbollah to Lebanon in what is widely seen as the first stage of a prisoner swap.  At the same time, Hezbollah unexpectedly returned body parts of Israeli soldiers who fell in the Lebanon War two years ago…[click here for more]

South America News – Brazil Reveals ‘Uncontacted’ Amazon tribe

Brazil’s government agreed to release stunning photos of Amazon Indians firing arrows at an airplane so that the world can better understand the threats facing one of the few tribes still living in near-total isolation from civilization, officials said Friday…[click here for more

Shazam! Sunday News Roundup: May 25, 2008

 Captain Marvel

Top Story! – Turkey: “Common Ground” Found In Israel-Syria Talks

A common ground was reached in Israel and Syria talks that were held in Istanbul during the week and the indirect talks between the two countries would continue, the Turkish foreign minister said on Thursday…[click here for more]

Environmental News – EU Agrees To Outlaw “Green Crimes”

After eight years of negotiation, the European Parliament has reached an agreement with member states on legislation that will force national governments to apply criminal sanctions to those causing deliberate or negligent damage to the environment…[click here for more]

U.S. Politics News – Senate Race in Minnesota Shows Power Of Bloggers

On a laptop at a kitchen table in this cheery Twin Cities suburb, headlines ripping into Al Franken, the satirist whose campaign for the United States Senate is seen as one of the most competitive in the nation, are written up day after day for Minnesota Democrats Exposed, a political blog created by a former Republican Party researcher…[click here for more]

Asia News – Burma “Still Uses Child Soldiers”

Burma has been named as the most persistent user of child soldiers, with thousands in its armed forces – some as young as 11, a human rights group says…[click here for more

Business News – Fund Manager Is To Refinance Stalled Auction-Rate Notes

Nuveen Investments, the largest American manager of closed-end funds, said on Wednesday that it had a commitment for up to $1.75 billion in liquidity support to help refinance the troubled auction-rate preferred shares its funds once issued.  But the funds are now struggling. Most of them use leverage to enhance returns, and many of them borrowed that leverage in the auction-rate market, which is now effectively in liquidation…[click here for more]

Sports News – Big Brown Has Hoof Injury, Still Expected To Race

Big Brown’s perfect path has its first bump.  The unbeaten Triple Crown contender has a slight crack on his left front hoof, although trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was confident the injury won’t keep his colt from running in the Belmont Stakes in less than two weeks…[click here for more]

Chrysler: The Dumbest Guys In The Room

 Tree-Hugger Civilizer

Gas just hit $4 a gallon in 2 metropolitan areas in the United States (Chicago and Long Island).  President Bush went over to Saudi Arabia to ask the terror-barons over there to please increase oil production, and they basically gave him the Heisman.  The American economy is likely in a recession and with consumer budgets extremely tight, conservation behavior is actually starting to trickle into the market.  Virtually every car commercial you see today mentions miles per gallon – fuel efficiency is key to capturing market share right now.    

So what does Chrysler do?  Chrysler, they of the dwindling market share, the SUVs nobody wants, and the $6.8 billion quarterly lossThey roll out the Dodge Challenger.

Uninspiring looks aside (what else would you expect from Dodge?), let us run a checklist.  Belts tightening across the country?  This car costs almost $40,000.  Fuel economy a priority among new car buyers?  Well sidle on up to the gas pump, Chester, and I hope you like the view, ’cause you’ll be filling up quite a bit – how about 13 mpg city and 18 highway?  That’s right – Dodge, in this market, just put a 2-door coupe on the road that gets the same gas mileage as their frigging Durango.  A full-size SUV.  What a stroke of brilliance.  Hey Dodge, how about this:  instead of going to all the time and effort to operate factories and produce cars, and then send them to car dealers and have those poor bastards try to sell these things, why don’t you just fill a bunch of shipping containers with money and ship it directly to Japan?

The argument Chrysler has made is that this is a car for enthusiasts who will buy it simply because they want to take it for weekend joyrides, and it isn’t going to be used as a primary commuter car.  That may be true, but I do not care.  Announcing a car like the Challenger in this day and age sends exactly the wrong message – it’s like showing up at a Weight Watchers meeting with a lunchpail full of Baconators.  A car like this, no matter its intended use, makes people associate your entire brand with expensive, impractical gas hogs, and when it comes time for somebody to pick up a new sedan, people will say “Dodge, the Challenger people?  F that, let’s see how the Civic looks these days.”     

I’m telling you what…I’m as much a flag-waver as you’ll find outside of the South, but I will cry no tears for the American auto industry if it dies.