Thursday, November 13, 2008

Will Bush Destroy The Country?

I know what you're thinking. Hasn't he already? Embroiled in a costly and stagnant war, with our economy on life support and a major city still as mangled as the day it was hit by a hurricane, our country is in deep trouble. But, sadly, it could get worse, and there's a good chance that president Bush will make it so, despite his limited time remaining in office.

Lost amid the hubbub over Obama's cabinet appointments has been a call by Obama and his newly-selected chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, for Bush to authorize a bailout plan for the auto industry. Bush has already helped out his pals on Wall Street, but so far, he's seemed reluctant to help an industry that is just as integral to the American economy's success. With unemployment already at a level not seen since just after 9/11, the economy cannot afford more job losses.

Time magazine reports:
It's now clear that GM can't survive as an ongoing entity without massive federal assistance. The company is burning through more than $2 billion each month. It has $16 billion left. As if they were aboard a dirigible losing altitude, GM's bosses have been frantically throwing all manner of stuff overboard — retiree health-care benefits, people, assets, new car design — to conserve $5 billion. That will get it through the year.
The system — the domestic auto plants and their interconnected group of suppliers — is far bigger than GM. It includes 54 North American manufacturing plants and at least 4,000 so-called Tier 1 suppliers — firms that feed parts and subassemblies directly to those plants. That includes mom-and-pop outfits but also a dozen or so large companies such as Lear, Johnson Controls and GM's former captive Delphi. Beyond those are thousands of the suppliers' suppliers.

Although the Detroit Three directly employed about 240,000 people last year, according to the industry-allied Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Mich., the multiplier effect is large, which is typical in manufacturing. Throw in the partsmakers and other suppliers, and you have an additional 974,000 jobs. Together, says CAR, these 1.2 million workers spend enough to keep 1.7 million more people employed. That gets you to 2.9 million jobs tied to the Detroit Three... Shut down Detroit, and the national unemployment rate heads toward 10% in a hurry.
We saw what happened when the government chose to let one big banking firm, Lehman Brothers, fail. The entire financial community fell down with it. Now it seems Bush is content to do the same with the auto industry. Except the workers laid off by this collapse won't be as well off as those let go by Wall Street.
So far, the President has offered only to speed through Congress an already approved $25 billion loan to help Detroit create new fuel-efficient models. But GM needs an additional $10 billion simply to pay its bills next year and $15 billion more to close plants, compensate redundant workers and dump some of its lesser-performing brands.
Bush was apparently angry that details of his conversation with Barack Obama were released to the press. One of those details was that Obama had urged him to support an auto-industy bailout. Of course, Bush had other ideas in mind...
The president stressed that his main priority for any postelection action out of Congress is approval of a long-stalled free trade agreement with Colombia. -Jennifer Loven, AP White House Correspondent
Yes, Bush is worried about Columbia, while Rome burns.

It may just be the cynic in me, but it seems to me that the Republicans have little to gain by supporting a bailout of the auto industry. They already took heat in this year's election for supporting the bailout of Wall Street. And by allowing GM and others to go under, they assure that Barack Obama begins his first year as President in a very, very deep hole that's nearly impossible to climb out from. By doing nothing, the Republicans can let Obama and a Democratic congress take the heat for a dead economy in the next election. Meanwhile, if they do approve a bailout and it fails, then the Republican base, already pissed at large government spending, will have all the incentive they need to vote their incumbents out of office.

Already, the Republicans are showing signs that they could care less about 2.9 million jobs.
AP - House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said Thursday he would oppose an auto industry bailout. "Spending billions of additional federal tax dollars with no promises to reform the root causes crippling automakers' competitiveness around the world is neither fair to taxpayers nor sound fiscal policy," Boehner said.
If Bush uses his veto power to kill a bailout bill, it's hard not to figure he's doing so in order to deliberately hurt the country for the immediate future, creating a toxic environment for the next party in charge.

Given what we've seen so far, I can't say I'd be surprised.
Hoaxer Fools Bloggers, MSNBC

The Times has an article about a blogger who fooled a lot of people into thinking he was the source for the "Palin doesn't know Africa is a country" story. Worse, it seems he's fooled major news organizations before.

Shows that you can't trust blogs, really. Except this one, of course.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Changing Landscape

While the whole world focuses on President (elect) Obama, and speculates on what changes he will bring to this country, the new president of the Maldives has just announced concrete plans to change some things about his tiny island nation.

He wants to change the size of it.

Much of the Maldives is a mere 3 feet above sea level, which means that if a polar bear living in the Arctic Circle accidentally spills his glass bottle of Coca Cola into the ocean, the nation will be inundated with floods.

Polar Bear on Coke
The Real Cause Of Global Warming

Unlike previous rulers seeking to expand their territory, President Mohamed Nasheed is looking to make a purchase, not an invasion.

From the BBC:
Mr Nasheed's plan is to create a "sovereign wealth fund" using tourism revenues to buy land so that future generations will have somewhere to rebuild their lives if they have to leave.

He wants somewhere within the region, where the culture is similar - possibly India or Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately for Mohammed, it's unlikely that India or Sri Lanka is looking to sell. India's so against giving up territory that they're fighting tooth and nuke with Pakistan over a tiny remote mountainous region, and Sri Lanka is a pretty tiny nation to begin with.

Is there any nation in desperate need of cash that can grant the Maldivians a bigger homeland? Yes.

The U.S.A.

Let's face it. We're going through a recession. We owe so much money to China that George W. Bush has agreed to wash president Hu Jintao's car every other weekend. The national debt is climbing everyday, thanks to an endless war. At the rate we're burning up money, it won't be long before we become like Worm in the movie Rounders, depending on Matt Damon to win big in a poker game and save our ass.

And the U.S. has plenty of worthless properties in the South Pacific:

Northern Mariana Islands
The Northern Mariana Islands are not too far from the Maldives, and it's highest peak is 3,166 feet above sea level, high enough to avoid drowning in the event of a global meltdown. Plus, Maldivian men would be happy-- the islands boast the lowest male to female sex ratio in the world: an average of 76 men to every 100 women (according to wikipedia).

But yeah, those islands have people that might not be happy joining the Maldives. So what about Jarvis Island? It once held the town of Millersville, which was abandoned during the second world war. Sure, its a bleak place with no fresh water, but this bargain-bin island may be just what the Maldives ordered:

Jarvis Island
Jarvis Even Comes With Its Own Bird-Doo-Lined Walking Path!!

Perhaps the Maldivians want a place with more history? Look no further than Palmyra Atoll, which boasts the Pacific's largest collection of unexploded World War II ordinance. It was also home to a notorious murder on the high seas. It's also got a lovely bunch of coconuts, so the inhabitants won't starve:

Palmyra Atoll
One Of The Least A-Bombed Atolls In The Pacific!

But I'm sure that after all these years on an island, some Maldivians might be cravin a little mainland. That's why I propose something a bit radical:

Sell Alaska.

Let's face it. Sure, it's a beautiful place, but how many of us will ever visit it? Yeah, it's got oil, but we can work out a deal when the Maldivians make the purchase. Alaska is like the appendix of America, a fine but superfluous part of our country that has the potential at any given moment to flare-up and spew poisonous Sarah Palin into our 49 other states.

We bought Alaska for $7,200,000 back in 1867. Accounting for inflation, rising land values, and significant because-the-Maldives-is-desperate markup, I think we can easily get 7 BILLION.

Gov. Sarah Palin
Motivated Seller?

Yes, the Maldivians would have to get used to the cold, but hey, when your nation is about to be under the sea with Sebastian the Crab, you have to make trade-offs.

Think about it, President Nasheed. You could use the land, and we could use the money. Make an offer.

And remember, as broker, I take 20%.

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