Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Vesco vanishes one last time The fugitive financier and the prototype for all republican cheaters to come reportedly died in Cuba last November of lung cancer. He ran afoul of the law in the wake of Watergate for illegal contributions to the Nixon '72 campaign (best acronym ever: CREEP) and skipped the country with two hundred million in ill-gotten gains. He remained on the lam for the rest of his life. Forbes repeatedly listed him as one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, and his occupation as "felon."

Desperately seeking relevancy, the lame-duck moron who has squatted in the oval for the past seven-plus years is offering all manner of proposals that have less chance of actually hapening than a snowball has in hell. The rhetoric and strong-arm tactics ramp up as he tries to influence a congress controlled by Democrats who seem to be finding a semblance of a spine as they face an electorate that is outraged in the extreme for not putting his ass in check over a year ago. His aides say he is acting on "principle."

The Microsoft-Yahoo! deal may not be dead, afterall Insiders say that Microsoft may increase their bid to the mid-30's in an effort to reach a deal before they launch a hostile takeover. Nah, it's over-- A Microsoft spokesman said Saturday that the software giant is walking away from its offer to buy out online pioneer Yahoo Inc. Microsoft raised its offer by $5 billion to $33 a share, but Yahoo wanted $37 a share, a person familiar with the company's thinking said. Or is it?

Do you own a 2008 Toyota Highlander? If so, contact the dealer where you bought it to see if it is one of the 90K that are being recalled for a seatbelt defect. Certain rear-facing child safety seats prevent the belts in the third-row seating from latching securely. Even if you don't have little kids and you own one of these things, get the belt fixed because the next person to own it might.

Sometimes, I find it hard to believe that we still have "horse racing" in this country: Big Brown backed up his trainer's boasts with an explosive finishing kick and won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, a commanding victory turned somber by the fatal breakdown of the filly Eight Belles on horse racing's biggest day. The cheers for the winner's 4¾-length victory were cut short when Eight Belles, the runner-up, collapsed while galloping out near the second turn. She broke her two front ankles and was euthanized on the track minutes later. "When we passed the wire I stood up. She started galloping funny. I tried to pull her up. That's when she went down," said her distraught jockey, Gabriel Saez.

I don't recall there ever being a "rice" shortage: Southeast Asia nations meeting in Bali agreed on Saturday to cooperate over the rice market, but stopped short of concrete measures to deal with rocketing prices of the region's staple. The issue of food security has hijacked the weekend meeting of trade ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the Indonesian resort island. "The ministers affirmed that access to adequate and reliable supply of rice and stable prices are fundamental to the region's economic and social well being," said the association's statement. I'm kind of young, of course, and this inexperience causes me, irregardless of whether we're talking about a NAFTA Superhighway, to think these people need to abandon astrology and start managing their commodities better.

When the economy does start to really tank, consumer electronics are going to tank along with it, I'm sorry to say: Despite the as-yet undeclared recession in the United States and the economic downturn in many other countries, [Jürgen] Boyny painted a generally optimistic picture of the global consumer electronics market. In the brick-and-mortar retail stores in the 194 countries Boyny follows, he reported a 14 percent annual growth in spending for both 2006 and 2007. His 2008 projections are a bit less bullish with a growth of about 8 percent. Mobile phones will make up about 25 percent of the 2008 consumer electronics market, he said. Flat-panel TVs will account for about 19 percent with desktop and laptop PCs accounting for about 17 percent and digital cameras slightly less than 6 percent. Growth in the United States and Western Europe will be 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively, but look to China (22 percent), the Middle East (20 percent), Russia (20 percent) and South America (17 percent) for the biggest growth. And that makes sense to me--the dollar needs to rebound if we're going to get out of the crapper.

Yeah, about that whole "ownership" society we heard so much about: In the midst of the subprime crisis, there's an important question that analysts and policymakers have neglected: Did so many people need to own homes in the first place? The dream of home ownership has long been part of the American experience, but, as the federal government steps in to artificially support borrowers and lenders with tax credits that encourage more spending or with public spending that keeps over-indebted borrowers in unaffordable homes, we ought to consider whether it's time to wake up from that dream. Indeed, we ought to consider what role the federal government has played in creating this mess. By stimulating home ownership while failing to account for the reasons home ownership is valuable to society, Washington has simply sought to buy our votes with our own debt. As the subprime crisis accelerates and threatens to spread through prime and near-prime markets, policymakers face a watershed moment. To keep us from an economic nightmare, they need to replace the dream of home ownership with policies that actually increase wealth -- not just the illusion of it. Follow the link to read more--it's a great question.

When you want some answers, all you have to do is look to Bill Moyers: [Reverend Jeremiah] Wright’s offensive opinions and inflammatory appearances are judged differently (than John Hagee, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham). He doesn’t fire a shot in anger, put a noose around anyone’s neck, call for insurrection, or plant a bomb in a church with children in Sunday school. What he does is to speak his mind in a language and style that unsettle some people, and says some things so outlandish and ill-advised that he finally leaves Obama no choice but to end their friendship. We are often exposed us to the corroding acid of the politics of personal destruction, but I’ve never seen anything like this–this wrenching break between pastor and parishioner–before our very eyes. Both men no doubt will carry the grief to their graves. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the non-stop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race. It is the price we are paying for failing to heed the great historian Jacob Burckhardt, who said “beware the terrible simplifiers”. And never forget--Billy Graham is on tape, speaking to Richard Nixon, in a way that should forever close the book on this subject. The Nixon/Graham tape is like DNA on a cotton swab from the mouth of a man involved in a paternity suit. The genetic code of the present mysterious and bastard government is in that taped exchange between the holy man and the strung out commander-in-chief. The Billy Graham on that tape is the same man who saved minor George’s soul. He’s the same man who preaches that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. Jews to Billy Graham are not saved – Muslims are not saved – the ONLY way to God, according to the revered reverend, is by accepting, as George has done, Jesus Christ as your personal savior. So tell me again--who's full of hate?

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