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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Autos

Late-night's best: The Kardashian$, Twitter, Home Depot, bankrupt Borders and a 1 HP Lamborghini

A $500,000 Lamborghini

As The Ticket's 58,900-plus Twitter followers here and 6,500 Facebook fans here know, we regularly share our daily picks of the late-night jokes of interest, usually before broadcast each night. Feel free to pass them on to friends using the share buttons above.

Here's the regular Monday morning collection from the previous week:

Leno: This week is the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs. Our partner Mexicans had a moment of silence and then hours of laughter.
Farmville on Facebook
Conan: President Obama met with Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, today. The good news is he can create new jobs. The bad news is, they're all in Farmville.

Leno: So Facebook is thinking of buying Twitter for $10 billion to combine the two companies into the biggest waste of time the world has ever seen.

"SNL": Current TV. If you're not familiar with Current TV, it's a channel founded by Al Gore. If you are familiar with Current TV, congratulations on being Al Gore.

Conan: Reports today that last year the Kardashian sisters made....

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The deadly dangers of DUI now involve drugs more, as well as alcohol

a Fatal Car Crash

A disturbing dose of news out of the White House this week, largely overlooked.

With so much attention paid to the scandalous WikiLeaks security breach, the politics summit among congressional leaders suddenly celebrating civility and a new poll revealing an obnoxious 10% of Americans have already finished all their Christmas shopping, we almost missed this one.

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

 

 

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Joe Biden update: The guy's getting old, bless him

Saturday was Joe Biden's birthday. He completed his 68th year.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Vice President.Democrat vice president Joe Biden

That makes Biden fully 19 years older than his boss again.

By the time Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, rolls around, JB will be about to start Year 71, almost the advanced age that so totally disqualified John McCain from being in position to become the nation's chief executive. But, of course, being a Republican, different rules apply there.

Joe, as we call him, says that Barack, as he calls the president of the United States, has already asked him to be on the Democratic ticket next time. And that's probably true -- today. Today is also about 20 months before the party's convention in Scranton or somewhere.

So there's a lot of time for Barack to change Joe's mind.

Tomorrow Joe is taking Barack with him to Kokomo to talk more economy at an automotive transmission plant belonging to Chrysler, which hopes next year to pull the same kind of IPO on investors as GM just did.

It's Thanksgiving week and more than 40 million Americans will....

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Obama's new stimulus plan: Spending $700+ billion hasn't worked, so maybe another $50 billion will

Democrats Joe Biden and Barack Obama enjoy a good laugh

Because the administration's $787-billion economic stimulus package hasn't stimulated much except enthusiasm among voters terrified of deficits and federal spending, President Obama has proposed spending $50 billion more the same way.

The Chicagoan's latest plan, coming just eight weeks before the first midterm election verdict on his Democratic Party's complete control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives the last 20 months, would involve pouring the money into roads, railroads and airport runways.

But this president doesn't deal with mere potholes. Describing his grand new plan, he said:

"Over the next six years, we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads – enough to circle the world six times. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways -– enough to stretch coast to coast. We’re going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next generation air-traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays for American travelers."

The lawyer made the proposal (full text below, as usual) in a 39-minute speech at a....

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As Gulf oil flow continues, Obama slides away from BP

LoneRangerTonto

There's an old story about the Lone Ranger and his Native American partner, Tonto, riding along in the Wild West when suddenly they are surrounded by thousands of angry Indians on the warpath. "Well, Tonto," says the masked white man in the white hat, "It looks like we've come to the end of the trail."

To which the once-trusty Tonto replies, "What you mean 'we,' kemo sabay?"

Now that the worst oil spill in American history is likely to continue for months, numerous signs now indicate the Obama administration is also switching sides -- away from a crisis response partnership with BP toward that of a suddenly aggressive prosecutorial arm of an angry....

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Schwarzenegger's 'swift action' on Maria Shriver's illegal car cellphone use: Get her a driver

That's one way to stop Maria Shriver from talking on the phone while driving -- hire an escort.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to take "swift action" on Wednesday after TMZ published pictures of his wife violating the California law prohibiting hand-held cellphone use while behind-the-wheel. And he did terminate the violation, in a savvy, edict-free husbandly fashion.

Today, TMZ comes up with video of Shriver riding shotgun in an SUV after leaving a bakery.

Who can argue with the solution? By putting somebody else behind the wheel, Shriver can legally gab on her phone all she wants. (Assuming the person she's talking with isn't her driver.)

It's not exactly the definitive answer for everyone with a cellphone-driving habit to hire someone to taxi them around.

We guess the rest of us will just have to buy one of those silly-looking Bluetooth headsets (which TMZ seems to imply Shriver also got) or abstain from traffic talks.

-- Mark Milian

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Video credit: TMZ

New poll finds Americans not buying Obama's light-at-the-end-of-the-recession talk (Updated)

Two candidates vie for the Connecticut seat of Chris Dodd

In recent days both Democrat Vice President Joe Biden and the other fellow have begun to make the argument in public that from the point of view of the secure White House, they can somehow see the current dumpster economy smelling better, light at the end of the tunnel, the dawn of a new economic era just over the horizon.

This is based largely on scattered economic stats indicating that things are not so much really getting better; they're just not getting bad as much as before. Back in those awful winter days when new blood and Aretha Franklin's hat arrived with such promise and the new team inherited a terrible situation from you-know-who and his evil partner, you-know-him.

Also Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, who also still has a fulltime job and newly-renewed contract, sees the recession as virtually over.

(UPDATE: Friday, 1 p.m. Newly-released figures indicate California's August unemployment rate jumped to 12.2%, the highest in modern record-keeping.)

But a new poll indicates it's gonna take a whole lot more than repeated rhetoric to....

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Czar wars: After axing Van Jones, conservatives sharpen knives in hunt for more Obama blood [Updated]

Green jobs czar Van Jones left the Obama administration over the weekend.

The one-time Marxist who had said a bad word about Republicans in February and signed a 9/11 conspiracy petition in 2001 resigned at midnight Saturday, in the middle of a holiday weekend. [Updated 2:30 p.m.: Jones was also a co-founder of Color of Change, which later launched an ad boycott of Glenn Beck's program. But Fox News insists that Beck's venom against Jones was not payback; the anchor had been ferreting out the more unsavory footnotes in Jones' vita before the boycott began, a publicist told us.]

Now Georgia Republican Jack Kingston, in one of those you-can't-make-this-stuff-up moments, is threatening to put all 34 Obama administration czars -- in every area from science to diversity -- under a microscope. In a recent op-ed on his website, Kingston argued:

In its day, czarist Russia had just 18 czars in 300 years. In just seven months, President Obama has nearly doubled that number. At this rate, we’ll have 272 czars by 2012. Who are these people and why are they necessary? Why do we need an Energy Czar and a Secretary of Energy? Why do we need a TARP Czar and a Secretary of Treasury? Why was a 31 year old with no background in the auto industry and who drives a foreign car appointed as the Auto Recovery Czar? What qualifies a college professor to set executive salaries?

To remedy the situation, Kingston has introduced H.R. 3226, the Czar Accountability and Reform Act, which would bar all funds to presidential envoys not confirmed by the Senate.

Other conservatives, smelling blood in the water, are sharpening their knives. Already, Fox's Beck has alerted his Twitter followers to "find everything you can on Cass Sunstein (the regulatory czar), Mark Lloyd (FCC diversity czar), and Carol Browner (energy czar)."

Sustein, a Harvard Law professor, is being castigated by the right for his support of animals. Lloyd is being portrayed as a disciple of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Browner, who served in the Clinton White House, is now seen as a socialist.

MSNBC's Keith Obermann, incensed by his Fox counterpart's efforts to root out scandal about the Obama czars, has responded by asking viewers to "send every bit of direct you can find" on Glenn Beck, his radio producer Stu Burguiere and Roger Ailes, the brainchild behind Fox News.

Maybe the czar wars will be good for cable television, but are they good for democracy?

Let us know what you think.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Obama's briefing for today's NASCAR event [updated]

Jimmie Johnson's No 48 NASCAR

(UPDATE: 1:32 p.m. The president's remarks at the NASCAR ceremony have been added at the end of this item.)

Because the Harvard-trained Obama crowd is a presidential administration so transparently and fundamentally of the people, they're having the latest NASCAR champion over this afternoon for a late summer, pre-vacation photo op.

Also several drivers from last year's final chase and former champions. A nice photogenic change from healthcare reform town hall yada yadas appealing to a crowd of voters that hasn't been all that supportive of Barack Obama.

Yes, it was pushed back from early August because of important business. And, yes, it's months after the victorious fact. But news from real America can be delayed penetrating the Beltway. NASCAR Champion Jimmie JohnsonToday's main championship guest is Jimmy Johnson.

Some brief briefing points for the basketball-loving president:

First of all, it's Jimmie Johnson (photo left). He's from Southern California, grew up racing dirt bikes, broke a lot of bones, took some time off and then returned to racing, this time inside cars that go some 200 miles an hour.

No, the cars don't have bumpers and the headlights are absent too. No keys necessary; it's a switch. The doors don't open; you climb through the window. But don't ask for a ride. Only one seat. Yes, the cars only go left, like some politicians.

It's not the greenest of sports. Millions of arugula-shunning Americans are NASCAR fans and they have the brightly colored clothing to prove it. Unlike politics, NASCAR drivers and fans wear their financial sponsors' names and colors outwardly -- and proudly.

They sit out there absorbing all those unhealthy UV rays. They're eating ribs and burgers and drinking almost-cold beer, listening to high-powered racing machines at way above OSHA-approved decibel levels and watching them spew exhaust fumes and tire smoke into the Al Goreless track atmosphere.

Sometimes these expensive machines get tangled up with each other (see video). Real reality TV without a script.

Non-fans think that's all there is to racing. But they weren't watching Jimmie protect his lead with a 3,400-pound car while nursing a rapidly emptying fuel tank at Michigan last Sunday.

Some people think a baseball manager kicking dirt at an umpire is an athletic....

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Obama visits Elkhart, Ind. (population: out of work)

Obamax-large 

President Obama visited Elkhart, Ind., today, a city with one of the fastest rising unemployment rates in the nation, to dole out fresh dollars from Washington and make the case that his $787-billion stimulus package is working.

Unemployment in the Elkhart-Goshen metropolitan area, 4.8% at the end of 2007, had rocketed up to 18.9% by March. That's when manufacturing employment in the area, which centers on the slumping recreational vehicle industry, hit an 18-year low of 44,900 jobs. Obama conceded, "Elkhart has been hit with a perfect storm of economic troubles."

Speaking at a Navistar plant in nearby Wakarusa, Obama said that, thanks to a $39-million government grant, the factory that once made Monaco Coach RVs will now be able to build battery-powered vehicles, part of what he called a green innovation agenda.

"I don't want to have to import a hybrid car, I want to build one here," he said. "I want the technologies to be developed here in America."

As the president made his second trip in six months to Elkhart, Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu were also on the road, bringing news of battery technology grants to Detroit and Charlotte, N.C. Other Cabinet officials too were fanning out across the country, announcing $2.4 billion in competitive grants to promote the green economy.

"If we want to reduce our dependence on oil, put Americans back to work and reassert our manufacturing sector as one of the greatest in the world, we must produce the advanced, efficient vehicles of the future," the president said. "We have to harness the potential — the innovative and creative spirit that's waiting all across America."

It was vintage Obama, the Obama of hope, evocative of his speeches on the campaign trail last year.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Jason Reed / Reuters

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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