Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Irrelephants

I don't think Mike Huckabee is going to be earning Deadeye Dick Cheney's endorsement, either:

Days after national Republicans launched a new campaign to broaden the party's outreach, former upstart presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says the GOP is at risk of becoming "irrelevant as the Whigs."

In an interview with the California newspaper The Visalia Times-Delta, Huckabee said the GOP would only further decline in influence should it alienate social conservatives — largely considered the most energetic and loyal faction of the party.

"Throw the social conservatives the pro-life, pro-family people overboard and the Republican party will be as irrelevant as the Whigs," he said in reference to the American political party that largely disbanded in the mid 1800s.

"They'll basically be a party of gray-haired old men sitting around the country club puffing cigars, sipping brandy and wondering whatever happened to the country. That will be the end of the party," he said in the interview published Thursday.

Then again, who the hell said the evangelicals were getting thrown overboard, anyway? What teabag is Huck steeping?

It's just amazing to me that the voices of the GOP at the moment are literally Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney. And Limbaugh is still pimping Sarah Palin.

Yeah, that's the ticket in 2012. Run with that.

Cantor wins the "Douchie" over Cheney, Steele, and Baucus

Runners-up Michael "Empathize on your behind" Steele and Dick "No need to moderate" Cheney had valiant efforts, but the Douchebag of the Week goes to Eric Cantor.

Democratic Senator Max Baucus submitted a late -- and very nearly winning -- entry, laughing at the protestors in his healthcare reform hearing:

And Cheney made a last-minute, Mine-That-Bird-like charge this morning on Deface the Nation, favoring Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell as the kind of Republican that can best lead the party "forward":

But that's less douchebaggery than it is precisely the kind of strategy that brought the GOP to its present state. And that isn't all bad (for anybody but Republicans, naturally).

Congrats, Congressman Cantor. Cowardice and spinelessness carries you to victory.

Belated Sunday Funnies

Friday, May 08, 2009

RIP, Pontiac. So long, Chrysler.

A little late responding to these developments.

It could crash through burning buildings, make a fool of any number of small-town Southern sheriffs, help save the world from giant robots, even take criminals off to jail while engaging in witty repartee with its driver.

In the end, about the only thing a Pontiac automobile couldn't do anymore was persuade enough people to keep buying it.

So General Motors announced this past week that it is killing off the Pontiac brand, maker of muscular, noisy, gas-guzzling V-8-powered vehicles immortalized in song and movies for the way they seemed to shout to every other car on the block: "Out of the way, pipsqueak!"

When Burt Reynolds needed to outrun Jackie Gleason's bumbling Sheriff Buford T. Justice across the South in the 1977 movie "Smokey and the Bandit," he chose a black Pontiac Trans Am. When he needed a car to crash through burning buildings in "Hooper," it was a red Trans Am.

On TV, the star of the hit 1980s series "Knight Rider" wasn't really David Hasselhoff, it was his talking Pontiac. When Jim Garner's private eye Jim Rockford needed to hit the road to solve a crime, he didn't get behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang or a Chevrolet Camaro. He chose a Pontiac Firebird.

And when a bored high school senior from Nashville, Tenn., decided to tune out his physics teacher's lecture one day and check out a copy of Car and Driver magazine, it was a picture of a hot new Pontiac he saw on the cover. By the end of class, John Wilkin had written the 1964 pop classic "GTO."

Soon after, he would become known as Ronny Wilkin, frontman for a Beach Boys-soundalike group called Ronny and the Daytonas, and he would have the country singing: "Little GTO, you're really lookin' fine. Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389. Listen to her tachin' up now, listen to her whine. Come on and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO."

I never owned one, but they were the shiznet among my late '70's generation of speed racer/stoners. A small handful of classmates got killed or very nearly driving TAs and Firebirds into houses, into other cars. I did own a few Chryslers, though, and all of them were excellent cars. One, a '92 Dodge Dynasty, got me safely through Alicia despite going through water so high that its headlights were submerged. My mom owned a Chrysler Concorde that she proclaimed was still her favorite even when she was driving a Lexus.

After months of struggling to stay alive on government loans, Chrysler finally succumbed to bankruptcy (April 30), pinning its future on a top-to-bottom reorganization and plans to build cleaner cars through an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat.

The nation's third-largest car manufacturer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York after a group of creditors defied government pressure to wipe out Chrysler's debt. The company plans to emerge in as little as 30 days as a leaner, more nimble company, probably with Fiat as the majority owner. In return, the federal government agreed to give Chrysler up to $8 billion in additional aid and to back its warranties.

"It's a partnership that will give Chrysler a chance not only to survive, but to thrive in a global auto industry," President Barack Obama said from the White House.

Chrysler said it will close all its plants starting Monday and they will stay closed until the company comes out of bankruptcy. At least three Detroit-area factories sent workers home Thursday after suppliers stopped shipping parts over fears they would not be paid.

The UAW members employed by the company will own 55% of a reborn Chrysler, the US government has an 8 percent stake, Canada 2%, and Fiat the rest. Recall, as the article notes, that BK was crammed down the automaker's throat because of the recalcitrance of a few hedge fund managers that refused to restructure Chrysler's debt:

Four of the largest banks holding 70 percent of Chrysler's debt agreed (last) week to a deal that would give them $2 billion. But a collection of hedge funds refused to budge, saying the deal was unfair and would only return a small fraction of their holdings.

When the hedge funds refused a sweetened offer (April 29), Chrysler and the government resorted to bankruptcy.

Obama chastised the funds for seeking an "unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout."

One lender, OppenheimerFunds Inc., said it rejected the government offer because it "unfairly asked our fund shareholders to make financial sacrifices greater than the sacrifices being made by unsecured creditors."

Later (April 30), one of the hedge funds that had been a holdout issued a statement agreeing to the offer.

"We believe that this is in the best interests of all Chrysler stakeholders, and our own investors and partners," said the statement from Perella Weinberg Partners. The fund said it was working "to encourage broad participation in the settlement."

That wasn't enough however so the company went into receivership. Some call it socialism, of course.

The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company lost $8 billion last year and its sales through March were down 46 percent compared with the same period last year, leading some auto industry analysts to question whether Chrysler can survive even in bankruptcy.

But company executives told reporters Thursday that Chrysler vehicles with Fiat's fuel-efficient technology should reach showrooms in 18 months.

Vice Chairman Jim Press said Chrysler has cut expenses to operate profitably at a lower sales volume, and he said it would be able to take advantage of Fiat's distribution network to sell more vehicles globally.

Also, the company has new products coming out such as the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which debuts in early 2011.

Press said the company predicts that small-car sales will rise dramatically around the time the Fiat products hit the U.S. market.

"The real volume pickup opportunity for smaller cars is going to start to ramp up about two years from now," he said.

I really hope Chrysler makes it, and not because of any political told-you-sos, but because the American economy has very few options -- all of them bitter -- if it doesn't.