Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Day D.C. Stood Still: Auto-Bailout Crashes

The world premier of “The Day D.C. Stood Still” opened yesterday in the global market and the horrifying ending sent chills down the collective spines of the automotive industry. Meanwhile several accounts of an unidentified flying cloud of uncertainty (UFCO) looming over Wall Street (see pic) were reported by unsuspecting taxpayers just before Congress slammed the door on the Big-3.

(Spoiler Alert: The following synopsis of yesterday’s event not only reveals the plot’s climax, but also provides insights and hints about the end of planet earth in its current ozone-trapped form.)

The UFCO eventually landed on the front lawn of Corporate Hill as a human chain of curiosity gathered around the object and joined hands, as if preparing to pay homage to the residents of Whoville by singing Christmas carols or bracing themselves for their worst fears to emerge from the spaceship’s door.

No singing commenced nor did Vice President Cheney manifest from the UFCO; rather the crowd was greeted by the Big 3’s highest-paid lobbyist, Klaatu -- an alien messenger of peace and part-time freelance lobbyist for companies on the verge of apocalyptic doom. Klaatu was shadowed by GORT (see pic) – his robot sidekick, who by the way had a striking resemblance to Cheney.
At this point the capitol city’s remaining three National Guardsmen, who have not yet been sent over to Iraq or Afghanistan to protect our oil interests, pulled up in repossessed Army jeeps, panicked and opened fire on Klaatu. The bullets missed their mark but did destroy a gift of gratitude Klaatu had brought for Congress and the American people – a mechanism that would end all need for oil, thus forever ending America’s dependency on oil.

Klaatu, who is well versed in earthly scripture, forgave the guardsmen for shooting at him and -demanded to meet with both chambers of Corporate Hill, claiming that a failure to bail out the Big 3 would not only lead to the end of America, but to planet earth and the intergalactic community as well. Congressmen were suspicious of Klaatu’s message, not to mention messenger himself, and wanted a sampling of the monetary messiah’s powers.

Klaatu agreed to the request and used his powers to halt anything in D.C. that depended on electricity and/or gasoline extracted from oil – consequently stalling all cars and shutting down the power of all the buildings in the area. The gesture evoked pandemonium and sent the city into a panicked frenzy as D.C. bureaucrats began flipping over SUVs, luxury cars and anything that did not get over 30 miles per gallon.

The house heeded Klaatu’s warnings and passed a bailout bill, but the Senate, despite the ensuing chaos, rejected the final version of the bailout bill – the GOP scapegoating the United Auto Workers union members for the cause of the bill’s peril.

Meanwhile, the police put a bounty on Klaatu’s head, citing his intergalactic ties to Jabba the Hut – a notorious hedge-fund con-alien -- were responsible for the economic crisis, the Big 3’s executive decisions that drove their companies into the red, the failed bailout bill and the ensuing pandemonium created by the latter.

Klaatu, in an attempt to return to his hybrid UFCO, was gunned down by D.C.’s finest and pronounced D.O.S. (Dead on the Spot) by first responders. At this point, Klaatu’s sidekick GORT stepped into the scene, picked up the fallen Klaatu, and carried him back to the UFCO, where he was resurrected by the Almighty Spirit after GORT spoke the sacred command in his robotic voice:

GORT: “Klaatu barada nikto…”

Upon his resurrection and soon-to-be departure, Klaatu stood on the edge of his UFCO and left the gathering crowd, bloodied and tattered-clothed D.C. bureaucrats, congressmen, automotive executives, taxpayers, and media, with the following message:
I am leaving soon and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The Universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression and dependency on oil and ignorance can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all – or no one is secure.
This does not mean giving up any freedom except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your car companies have acted irresponsibly and so have your elected officials, despite being chosen by you. But you are not exempt from your irresponsibly, for it is you who have demanded the gas-guzzling cars, SUVs and Hummers that have nearly destroyed your planet.

Sure, I came here on behalf of the Big 3, but I am leaving on behalf of peace. I came here to give you the facts and a way to help end your addictions to oil, greed, and video games. Granted it is no concern of ours, the United Planets, how you run your own planet – but if you threaten to extend your ignorance and violence, this little planet of your will be reduced to a burned-out cinder.

(Producer’s Note: Although the first run of “The Day D.C. Stood Still” ran $14 billion in the red, producers are looking to tap funds from the previous $700 billion bailout appropriated for the banking industries. Stay tuned for the blockbuster sequel coming soon to a bankrupt theater near you.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dear American People: Please Excuse General Motors for Driving its Company into the Ground

Simply put: General Motors and Congress are in a bit of a political pickle. And by pickle I don’t mean the classic Vlasic Pickle, which was faced with the prospect of bankruptcy in 2001 until it was bought out by Heinz, Inc., rather the pickles you find glued with ketchup to the bathroom walls in McDonalds.

On the verge of bankruptcy, General Motors, along with the other two heads of the three-headed monster Ford and Chrysler, has thrown itself on the congressional floors, begging for mercy, forgiveness and a multi-billion dollar bailout --- or corporate subsidy? Your call, dear taxpayer:

Heads: Bridge loan

Tails: Corporate welfare*

*Current odds-on favorite in Vegas

As GM executives continue to beg Congress, dispensing empty but-this-time-will-be-different promises, it is hard for me to sympathize for GM’s man-made plight. Or in GM’s case, what they did make but did not put into mass production: electric cars.

After watching the documentary film “Who Killed the Electric Car?” last year, I couldn’t help but think that GM’s alleged role in sabotaging efforts to launch and market the line of EV1 electric cars would come back to bite them in their Hummers.

However, the film concludes that GM did not act alone in the assassination of the EV1. The documentary found all of the following guilty in helping bring down the electric car: consumers, oil companies, car companies, the California Air Resources Board, hydrogen fuel cell and the government – namely our beloved Congress, which is now taking the holier-than-thou pedestal because it holds the taxpayers’ purse-strings.

Who Killed the Electric Car?: Round up the Usual Suspects

In the meantime, GM is doing everything in its limited power to improve its public image including leaving their corporate jets double-parked at home and promising to forgo executive salaries. But they have yet to take full responsibility for their role in driving the company six feet under…

Stop the Press: GM took out a full-page advertisement out in Automotive News Monday, not only confessing to its blunders but apologizing to the American people as well?

Say it isn’t so, Taxpayer.

A letter entitled “GM's Commitment to the American People,” appeared in the ad and explains why GM needs $18 million and how it plans to turn the company around.

"While we're still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you," GM said in the magazine ad. "At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We have proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pick-up trucks and SUVs. And, we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today's globally competitive industry."

Well, that should take care of everything. I’m sold. I wonder how much that full-paged apology cost them?

However, some lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R – Iowa, want the Wall Street executives to serve up some Japanese-style apologies to the American people.

“I am talking about scenes I've seen on television where in belly-up corporations the CEOs go before the board of directors, before the public, before the stockholders and bow deeply and apologize for their mismanagement,” he said in a statement in October. “Something like that happening among Wall Street executives would go a long way toward satisfying my constituents and many Americans that help might be needed and would more gracefully be given by the taxpayers of this county.”

I say take it one step further and turn their public apologies into a marketable game show, say a season of “The Running Executive” (an offshoot of Stephen King’s novel “The Running Man”). All of the executives from the Big-3 will be unleashed in D.C., which is filled with anyone who has lost their job from these companies and the object is to make it to Capitol Hill – alive. The first one to make it alive will receive the lions’ share of the profit generated from the television show.

However, we at Political Fallout –- a no-profit organization – are a little more civilized than this. That said, we would like to resurrect “Please Excuse the Excuses: The War on Excuses”:

Dear American People,

Please excuse the executives at General Motors for, among many other unfortunate mishaps, driving our automobile company into the ground. We really did have your best intention in mind when we killed the electric car, the EV1, and put all of the shareholders eggs in the Hummer basket. At the time, we had hoped the visibility of the military Humvees in Iraq would increase the demand for our civilian version back home.

We thought the Hummer would be synonymous with the American Dream, wherein every child would grow up wanting to be behind the wheel of a vehicle the size of a mobile home. Besides, our constituents, the United States Congress, assured us the war in Iraq would end quickly, thus freeing up the vast oil reserves bubbling beneath the Iraqi soil and yearning to feed a customized Hummer.

Blessed with hindsight and a new awareness that the intelligence procured by our marketing division was faulty, we now realize the EV1 could have been the wave of the future. Our minds must have been muddled, which is only natural given the quickening of global warming back in the day. Boy, that came out of left field, huh?

We admit that we are not perfect, nor are our line of automobiles, which is why most Americans prefer to buy foreign cars, but we do want to somehow make it up to you.

If you just give us another chance, say to the tune of $18 billion for starters, we promise to turn our company around and close the gap on our foreign competitors.

This letter was not easy for us to write, that is why we paid an entry-level employee in our public relations department to do it -- who by the way will be unemployed if we don’t get the bailout.

Finally, please don’t let Congress know we sent you this letter. We have already had to do a lot of groveling in front of these folks, not to mention we had to carpool in a hybrid all the way to D.C. as part of our penance for being so greedy and ungrateful.

Sincerely (we really do mean it this time),

General Motors Executives

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How Much for that Vacant Illinois Senate Seat in the Window?

Foiled by the FBI, my big chance to break into politics the old-fashioned way – buy a seat outright as opposed to the current one-lobbyist-at-a-time method – swiftly came to an end with the arrest of Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich – who attempted "to sell the U.S. Senate seat" that President-elect Barack Obama recently vacated.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich caught on camera upon emerging from underground Chicago garage after "shooting the breeze" with "Deepthroat II".

Looks like politics-as-usual in Chi-town, eh?

I was waiting to bid on Obama’s abandoned seat on eBay. Maybe, to help appease potential bidders, the Feds will put the wiretap taps of Blagojevich dropping an f-bomb on the president-elect?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Register, Inc. Downsizes Soul: Throws Cartoonist Duffy under the Bus

Brian Duffy, the former staff editorial cartoonist for the Des Moines Register, helped me fall in love with irony while growing up in Des Moines.

In grade school, Amelia Bedelia, a fictitious maid for a well-to-do family, introduced me to the power of word-play through her literal interpretations of idioms. (It wasn’t until later that I learned that some folks who read certain texts literally can be very dangerous when unleashed on the campaign trail: “Woof, woof. Who let the literalists out?”)

The evil Mrs. Dann introduced me to irony the hard way in junior high when she confiscated my personal copy of Jim Morrison’s biography, “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” in the middle of our “Fahrenheit 451” unit. She seized the book in front of the entire class, noting that it was pure filth because of an explicit masturbation scene early on in the book. (Thank Mr. Mojo Risin she didn’t skim ahead any further.) Needless to say I failed the exam, because I couldn’t quite grasp the underlying mixed-messages of censorship. That, or a hormonal malotav cocktail exploded in my brain during the exam. (Hmmm…if only I had learned of an alternative outlet beforehand.)

My tough-love initiation into the world in irony was all it took. I had become an irony addict at age 15 and it was editorial cartoonists, namely Duffy, who helped stoke my addiction. I couldn’t go 24 hours without an irony fix , and I knew I could depend on Duffy’s daily cartoon in the Register to keep me from jonesin’. Believe me you, irony withdrawals are not a pretty sight.

Duffy is synonymous with the Register, and now, after 25 years of creating cartoons for the Gannett-owned corporate news dispensary, the Register fired Duffy, along with 70 other employees.

I realize the economy is on the verge of bottoming out and the newsprint industry is facing possible extinction with the recent boon of online news, but this does not excuse flushing one’s sense of dignity down with it.

It’s bad enough that Duffy was fired, but what is worse is how he was fired, which Duffy laments upon in an interview with WHO-TV:

Brian Duffy on WHO-TV

I’ve been told that this is the modus operandi regarding protocol for firing people in some corporations. I find this disturbing and reminiscent of Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” who, after 34 years of sales service was stripped of his salary, reduced to working on commission only and inevitably fired for “lack of profit.”

Upon his firing, Willy says, “You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away, a man is not a piece of fruit.”

Unfortunately, in the corporate takeover of the Register, Gannett had no qualms with squeezing the juice out of the orange before tossing the peel aside – or at least escorting it out of the building to preempt any possible pen-wielding altercations.

Fortunately for Duffy, he is a top-notch cartoonist and the Register cannot take that away from him He is syndicated in 400 newspapers and should have no problem peddling his artistic wares elsewhere.

I, for one, will always remember Duffy’s satiric insight, his influence on me during my irony formative years and hope all the best for him.

In the meantime, Duffy left us with his final cartoon under the Register’s corporate thumb, which pretty much says it all – without saying it all of course.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

SNL resurrects Hillary Clinton: “Secretary of State is better than being governor of Alaska”

Just when you thought it was safe to watch Saturday Night Live again…

(Jaws theme here)


No: the Clintons.

With Hillary’s Secretary of State nomination, the Clintons, much to the joy of SNL and satirists alike, will be around for another eight years or so.