Friday, May 29, 2009

The Chevy Tomorrow

Struggling automobile manufacturers are desperately trying to come up with new cars to save themselves from economic extinction. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, the question becomes what will today’s failing auto industry produce to meet our perceived needs? Check out these upcoming models for 2011:

The Chevy Tomorrow
It’s tomorrow’s car today - the brand new Chevy Tomorrow. Borrowing from the historically successful Camarro, the Tomorrow is a high-performance sports car. But it’s also an environmentally-friendly hybrid vehicle that combines a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine with a solar-assisted turbine. On sunny days, you’ll be able to motor for hours with fuel efficiency in the 70 m.p.g. range. Not intended for sale in Seattle, Boston or most of Canada.

The Chrysler Micro-van
A worthy successor to the popular minivan, the Chrysler Micro-van combines the roominess of a subcompact car with the flexibility of a small pickup truck. This tiny vehicle features a one-driver cab with a flatbed able to carry up to six children strapped in to a standing position. Perfect for those short daily trips to school, home and soccer practise. Comes with an optional flat screen TV to keep the young ones in the back from questioning their immobile positioning.

The Ford Potemkim
Just because the economy has tanked is no reason to deny people the luxury cars they desire. Maybe few people can now fork out 60 or 70K for a fancy car. But lots of folks will be able to cough up 8 or 10 thousand for a brand new Ford Potemkin. The Potemkin features the latest in aerodynamic styling and interior luxuries. What it lacks in the way of an engine and a transmission, it more than makes up for in appearance. Not for driving, the Potemkin is the driveway car that tells the neighbors that you’ve still got it.

The Dodge Non-Charger Electric
Forget about the restrictions of plug-in car batteries and the limited mileage between charge-ups. The Dodge Non-Charger Electric gives you the freedom of a gasoline engine without the gas. That’s because it runs on a sixteen-pack of double-A batteries. That’s right; just plug in the pack and away you go. After that, it’s as simple as one-two-three. Remove the pack, toss it out the window and plug in a new pack. And with 35 cubic feet in the back seat and another 23 cubic feet of storage space in the trunk, it’ll be days before you have to replace your battery supply.

The Buick Bitumen
Oil supplies are dwindling. So what’s a consumer to do? Look to America’s most plentiful source of power: coal. And now you can be the first in your neighborhood to drive a vehicle powered by nothing but coal. The Buick Bitumen features a steam engine fired by a modern, clean-coal-burning furnace. So long as you’ve got a passenger and a shovel, you’ll be waving goodbye to gas stations in your continuous search for that elusive next coal station.

The Lada Chernobyl
Looking to leapfrog the western automotive industry, the Russian government has underwritten Lada’s new entry into the modern motoring era: the Chernobyl. It’s the world’s first commercially viable, nuclear-powered family sedan. Using the same safe and reliable technology that powered the Soviet Union’s nuclear reactors and submarines for decades, Lada has produced a car that will run for as long as you need on just one fill up. Once Lada has ironed out the bugs in its internal child radiation shields and its spent nuclear fuel rods disposal program, it’s hoping to help the entire world "Go nuclear!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marx My Words

In a surprising press release, the American Association of Cultural Paleontologists today announced that it has identified dozens of thriving Marxists in educational institutions on both coasts. Thought to be extinct, it turns out that these longsuffering academics were still present in small groups and were simply dormant.

It appears that the once abundant Marxists went into deep decline around about the time of the Reagan era. With the beginning of the new millennium, they seemed destined to disappear altogether. As the engine of capitalism operated at full throttle, the remaining Marxists one by one dropped off the academic radar.

As late as 2005, there were still sporadic reports of the occasional Marxist being spotted at a regional community college or a Manhattan book reading. Some researchers even claimed to have seen the odd aging Marxist lecturing at an Ivy League school but those reports were never confirmed.

Despite being placed on AACP’s endangered species list, the disappearance of Marxists seemed to progress at a geometric pace. Given the general decline of all things left and liberal, it was not unexpected that the Marxist would soon go the way of the dodo, the Great Auk and the Maoist.

"We had all but given up on ever finding a surviving Marxist," said AACP President Fred Engels. "Without an economic recession to feed on or groups of supportive, ego-stroking students to fill their classes, it seemed highly unlikely that any would still have been around."

Well, it turns out that Engels and his lot were wrong. With the advent of the current world economic crisis, cultural paleontologists on both coasts started receiving odd reports about errant professors and lecturers referencing phrases like "the means of production", "the material dialectic" and "the enlightened proletariat."

"Once these reports started trickling in," said Engels. "We started to get our hopes up that the Marxists were not extinct but were still alive on both the east and west coasts and even in select pockets in the American mid-west."

The wishes of Engels and his colleagues have been realized beyond their wildest dreams. Not only is the Marxist not extinct, it turns out that there are dozens of small herds or communities of them in a number of institutions of higher learning.

"What we hadn’t considered," said Engels. "Was that the Marxists - rather than die off - could temporarily change their stripes and survive using only their wits and tenure."

It turns out that, once under threat, the Marxists adopted a very low profile. Chameleon-like, those who survived changed their outer protective covering and appeared to most outside observers as harmless philosophers, socialists or liberals.

"Our mistake was to extrapolate from the evidential record," said Engels. "And assume that just because researchers could no longer find a single academic paper produced by a Marxist that they were no longer extant."

Now that their surrounding environment has become more nurturing, many of the surviving Marxists have begun to thrive. Marxist papers, theses and even op-ed pieces have started to occasionally appear in different locations and some observers are, much to their surprise, reporting the return of Marxist courses and texts. A sure sign of the Marxist’s return to health is their renewed mating cry of "Revolution now! Death to capitalism! Revolution now!"

"It’s truly a zoological miracle," said Engels. "Who would have thought that we would see Marxists not only surviving but potentially repopulating their herds to historical levels?"

"But we must not be sanguine about the future fate of the Marxist," Engels continued. "Even the slightest economic recovery or open, democratic discussion could threaten their continued existence. That’s why we’re proposing setting up protective havens like the one started at Berkeley to ensure that the elimination of Marxists is never again a possibility."

There Might Not Always Be An England

U. S. President Barack Obama has shocked the British Empire from Carlisle to Canterbury by announcing that there might not always be an England.

The proclamation by America’s new president came at the end of yesterday’s press conference and was initially missed by all of the reporters in attendance.

"Frankly, I didn’t really notice," said longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas. "There were so many more important announcements that this one basically fell through the cracks."

In fact, a full twenty-four hours passed before Obama’s statement was spotted on CNN by an 82-year old pensioner in Clotted-cream-sur-la-mer. Once the news was relayed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he immediately telephoned President Obama and demanded an explanation.

Obama told Brown that, as far as he knew, England was on the verge of being subsumed within the European Union and was slated to be renamed Monarchyland to better reflect its primary industry as a quaint tourist destination.

Brown conceded that Obama was correct but still registered his annoyance at having his country’s impotence publicly broadcast.

"It’s one thing to say that England is on the downslope," said the PM. "But there was really no need to say that there might not always be an England. That’s just bloody rude."

Obama reportedly apologized and corrected himself by issuing a White House press release stating that there’ll always be an England so long as there are British upper class twits who take offense at the obvious.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Trouble With Trillions

Now that President Obama has unveiled his $3.5 trillion budget, it’s time for Americans to come to terms with this staggering number. After all, if we are to experience trillion dollar deficits for years to come, it behooves us to master the new math.

Now a million is pretty easy. It’s "1" followed by six zeros, a number that is big but easily understandable. Athletes and movie stars make millions of dollars a year and many houses are now worth more than that.

A billion is a little more difficult to comprehend but still within the realm of human comprehension. It’s a thousand millions or "1" followed by nine zeros. It’s really big but still on the outer fringes of our understanding. It’s a thousand monster homes, a hundred star athletes’ salaries or a minor government spending initiative.

A trillion, on the other hand, is beyond our everyday experience. A "1" with twelve zeros? What exactly does that mean? Someone could tell you that it’s 1012 but does that really help?

If you started counting one a second, it would take you 31,546 years to get to a trillion. If you had to eat or sleep, of course, it would take you even longer. And if you tried to say each number in full, you’d probably never finish.

So how are we going to be able to wrap our heads around this mathematical puzzle? If trillions are here to stay, it’s time we finally tried to get a handle on them.

It’s one thing to say that the U. S. federal budget is $3.5 trillion. It’s quite another thing to understand how much that really is. Remember, even Carl Sagan only claimed billions and billions of stars in a galaxy, not trillions.

One approach would be to break a trillion down into smaller, understandable units. For example, one trillion equals about 4,000 Alex Rodriguezs or 400 Oprahs. Or it’s roughly twenty Bill Gates or ten Warren Buffets. Or it’s the GDP of Mexico, India or Australia.

That way, President Obama could speak to us in a language we could all understand. Instead of announcing a two trillion dollar deficit next year, he could say that we’ll be down about forty Bill Gates, two South Koreas or a million General Motors. That’s not entirely satisfactory but it does at least give us a vague idea of where we’re heading.

As for Obama, he’s got his own numerical problems. At the rate things are going, he may soon no longer be speaking in trillions. Instead he may have to start using quadrillions or, heaven forbid, even quintillions.

To avoid a national nervous breakdown, I suggest that the President just quietly change his counting method to the old British system. That’s where a billion is a million million or what we call a trillion.

Thus, Obama could talk about a deficit in the billions of dollar and we’d never know how bad things really were. Unless, of course, he starts calling them billiards which might clue some of us into the fact that he’s using a different system. Either that or he’s doing his budgetary calculations on The White House pool table.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Torture If Necessary

In another example of Barack Obama’s Midas touch, it appears that an auspicious confluence of events may help him out of several jams at once. Although not yet official, a leaked report from The White House suggests a neat solution to the apparently disparate problems of torture, Dick Cheney and the financial crisis.

Saddled with these different problems by the Bush administration, Obama has found himself treading a fine line on these issues. Should he condemn torture outright and, if so, prosecute those who ordered and engaged in it? At the same time, what is he to do with those financial executives who brought down the economy with their selfish and irresponsible behavior? And finally, what the heck should he do with Dick Cheney?

The report proposes a simple answer to all these questions, namely redefine torture and don’t close the prison at Guantanamo Bay quite yet. A senior White House official agreed to comment off the record.

"As far as I understand it," said the anonymous source. "We’re going to restate our position that we in America don’t torture, at least when it comes to foreign combatants. We will, however, make limited exceptions for those who previously authorized torture and those who have screwed with our economy."

In furtherance of this goal, the Administration plans to keep the Guantanamo facility open just a little longer in order to accommodate two new classes of detainee, namely financial wrongdoers and Dick Cheney. As part of the ongoing attempts to right the economy, torture will be permitted insofar as it is necessary to determine how to unravel toxic assets and to get guys like Bernie Madoff to say ‘I’m sorry.’

As for Dick Cheney, no special regulations will be required as Mr. Cheney has consistently agreed that waterboarding and the like do not constitute torture. Thus, he should have no objection to various intensive interrogation techniques. These will not be employed for any information gathering purposes but simply for the enjoyment of the American public.

"We see this as a win-win-win situation," said the White House source. "We don’t have to mothball Guantanamo, we can finally understand how mortgage derivatives work and we get to hear Dick Cheney scream."

As a final cherry on the bureaucratic cake, the as-yet-unreleased report suggests another possible advantage to the nascent proposal. If the Administration can soon officially restore relations with Cuba, once Guantanamo has served its purpose, it can be returned to the Cuban government complete with its new prisoners.

No word yet on whether American auto executives and former U. S. presidents will be packing their bags soon for an unexpected Caribbean vacation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Judge Not

President Obama is faced with a tough decision in choosing a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. On the one hand, he wants to avoid a partisan battle in the Senate. On the other hand, he needs to please his liberal base.

Perhaps it’s time the President started to think outside the box and considered one of these fine candidates:

Martha Stewart
If Mr. Obama is looking for another female to sit on the bench, he could do worse than pick this doyenne of domesticity. Known as a stickler for detail, Ms. Stewart is a strict constructionist in some regards but remains very liberal when it comes to matters financial. And her hands-on experience with America’s financial and penal systems gives her a leg up on many other candidates. As Martha herself might say of her potential candidacy: "It’s a good thing."

Michael Jackson
At first blush, the choice of The Gloved One as the next Supreme Court justice might seem unusual. But if President Obama is looking to show solidarity with both his Caucasian and African-American constituencies, Mr. Jackson could be the perfect choice. The self-styled King of Pop not only has extensive trial experience, he is also a big believer in "original intent" and is reportedly looking for a career change.

Tom Cruise
Given the wide variety of views held by Mr. Cruise, his appointment could serve to satisfy all philosophical camps. Libertarians should be pleased with his positions on psychiatry and the media while traditional conservatives should feel at home with his take on the origins of life. And liberal leaning members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will undoubtedly be thrilled to welcome a Hollywood mega-star to their hearings, even if he’s not Halle Berry or Angelina Jolie.

Simon Cowell
If the musical Brit takes out American citizenship, he could be a surefire addition to the top court. Whereas some current justices tend to sugarcoat their judgments, Mr. Cowell pulls no punches and tells it like it is 24/7. At the very least, his musical opinions would likely bring a quick end to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s atrocious piano recitals and Antonin Scalia’s annoying whistling from the bench.

Judge Judy
Who better to fill the shoes of the low-key Souter than a tough-minded, straight-shooting female jurist like Judge Judy? Known for her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach to the law, she’s sure to please liberals and conservatives alike. With her bare bones, no-precedent citing, summary judgment style, Judge Judy may be the breath of judicial fresh air the Court desperately needs.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

American Inquisition

Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush Administration.....
- N. Y. Times - April 21, 2009

.....[Simon Cowell] was considering leaving his judging job on "Idol" after one more season.
- N. Y. Times - April 21, 2009

May 31, 2011

RYAN SEACREST: Welcome back to the final episode of the first season of "American Inquisition", the show where you the viewers get to decide who will be punished for allegations of torture. As you know, earlier this year, we travelled the country from Wyoming to Texas to Washington to audition contestants for the show. We found lots of great candidates for the title of America’s Top Torturer and, after eight weeks of competition, we’ve narrowed the field down to three finalists. Each of the remaining contestants will be given a final chance to explain their actions, our judging panel will give you their thoughts and then America will get to vote. Once again, our panel consists of Dr. Winston Salem, professor of constitutional law at the Manhattan Correspondence School of Law; Vitam Neeram, special United Nations envoy for the Geneva Conventions and, of course, the creator and producer of "American Inquisition", Simon Cowell.

SIMON COWELL: Thank you, Ryan. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s been a great first season and I couldn’t be happier with our final three contestants. When Barack Obama approached me to create this show, I was sceptical at first that we would be able to find enough talented individuals in America to face up to charges of torture. But, as you now know, we had no shortage of candidates and I think that tonight we’re seeing the cream of the crop.

RYAN SEACREST: So let’s not delay any further. Our first finalist is George from Dallas, Texas. Last week, George received more votes than any other contestant including several Justice Department lawyers and a former Secretary of Defense. George, I understand you’ll be performing an exculpatory piece first made famous by the late, great Ronald Reagan called "I Don’t Remember." Whenever you’re ready.

GEORGE: I don’t remember.


SIMON COWELL: I knew when you came out on that stage tonight that we were going to hear something extraordinary. And you didn’t disappoint. George, you are a little tiger.

RYAN SEACREST: Next up is Dick from Cheyenne, Wyoming. It says here you’ll be performing "Torture yes, but look at the results we got." Dick, go ahead.

DICK: I don’t know why the hell I’m still here. I told that s.o.b. Obama not to release those memos but he didn’t listen to me. And now I’ve got to put up with this nonsense again. Anyway, maybe it’s torture and maybe it’s not. Does it really matter? Look at the results we got. Check out these classified memos detailing all the juicy info we got from those guys. How many terrorist attacks have there been in America since 9/11? That’s right - none. I rest my case.

RYAN SEACREST: Let’s turn it over to our judges. Simon?

SIMON COWELL: That was brilliant, Dick. Not only did you do a bang up job on your selected excuse, you also managed to throw in the "no more attacks" rationalization. You can’t disprove a negative and I think you may have just bought yourself immunity.

RYAN SEACREST: Finally, please welcome back the third of our three finalists, Alberto from Washington, D. C. who’ll be performing the same piece he did at his audition - "Waterboarding is not torture." Let’s hear it, Alberto.

ALBERTO: Waterboarding is not torture. How can it be? There are no physical bruises and no scars. Look, we even waterboarded those two guys 266 times. How can it possibly be torture if they’re still alive after that many times?

RYAN SEACREST: Judges, what do you think of Alberto’s performance?

SIMON COWELL: Alberto, that was simply horrible. In fact, about the only thing worse you could have come up with would have been "I was just following orders." I think you’ve hung yourself out to dry, in a manner of speaking."

RYAN SEACREST: There you have it, America. Our three finalists have offered up their excuses and now it’s time for you to vote. The 1-800 lines will be open right after the show. Vote for who you think should be America’s Top Torturer. Next week we’ll announce the winner and his punishment. But don’t worry. According to our lawyers, whatever the punishment is, it will not be torture.