2009 GINANDTACOS.COM COCKSUCKER OF THE YEAR: MICHELLE BACHMANN

Posted in Rants on December 31st, 2009 by Ed

Minnesota is a nice state. Really, it is. I feel compelled to mention this only because for the second year in a row a Minnesotan has emerged from a crowded field to claim the coveted CotY.

2009Back in 2006 I had to make a decision: either this award would go to Joe Lieberman every single year, in which case I might as well just name it the Lieberman Trophy, or I could recognize that Joe Lieberman is and forever shall be the biggest cock-chugger on the face of the Earth and move on to other deserving candidates. There's little doubt that Joe earned it in 2009 like he earns it every year, but for the sake of variety let's just say he has won a lifetime achievement award and move on. It's not like Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann didn't do enough to wrestle the Golden Dildo from Holy Joe's withered, duplicitous mouth.

Michelle Bachmann is the new It Girl of Teabagging – the combination sex symbol / Great Conservative Leader for people who think Sarah Palin is a bit soft and a little too book-smart. Bachmann, like her good friend President Obama, leapt from the state senate to national prominence with astonishing speed, and for good reason. Picture the average Bush-era Republican – Jim DeMint or someone like that – only absolutely barking mad. Picture some sort of teabagger Voltron assembled from a collection of lesser teabaggers. Imagine if a crowd of teabaggers was boiled, their vapors collected and distilled into a single, pure vessel of all the world's batshittery. Michelle stands apart, not only because she is so utterly and unabashedly bonkers but because she actually believes the kind of crap D-list talk radio personalities cynically spout in the quest for ratings. Mark Twain once said that we should picture the intelligence of the average American, and then remember that half of them aren't even that smart. Michelle Bachmann is the official Representative of that bottom half.


"I am fucking insane."

Like all great specimens of pure Bircherite insanity, Bachmann forces us to ask repeatedly, "Is this idiot for real?" It is a reasonable question inasmuch as it is difficult for most people to believe that any one political figure could be so stunningly wrong on every single issue without fail. Bachmann achieves that special, comical level of stupidity that seems to go out of its way to distort reality on those rare instances in which she has any contact with reality at all. There are a lot of wingnuts but none of them are able to go Peak Wingnut across the entire issue spectrum quite like Michelle. Seriously, just pick an issue, any issue, and you can guarantee that Michelle will hop in the Wingnutmobile and mash the accelerator to the floor. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and stamina to churn out that kind of these-go-to-11 insanity every damn day.

Evolution? Need to teach it in public schools. Pell Grants? Not on Michelle's watch. The Pope? Michelle's church teaches that ol' Benedict is the antichrist (as is Obama, so I guess there can be two). Light bulbs? Light bulbs??? Yep, she voted against phasing out incandescents in favor of CFs. ANWR? Drill that motherfucker. Congress itself? Why, it's crawling with people of questionable loyalty to the United States. Where's McCarthy when you need him? Paranoid internet conspiracy theories about a "one world" currency? It's a very important issue to Congresswoman Bachmann. The Census? Nothing but a giant conspiracy by ACORN to get your personal information. Cap and trade? Minnesotans need to be "armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back." After all, "having a revolution every now and then is a good thing." AmeriCorps? A front for mandatory service and "re-education camps for young people." (hilarious side note: her son, who hates her, joined AmeriCorps). Tim Pawlenty? Marxist. Gays and lesbians? Why, they're recruiting your children! Health care reform? Well…

This cannot pass. What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass.

Umm…

Yeah. As bizarre as this sort of rant might seem, it's really just par for Bachmann's crazy, crazy course. It's hard to point to a single moment at which Michelle unhinged her jaw like a snake and swallowed the massive phallus of indignity to claim this year's award as her own, although any one of her continuous calls for armed revolution might fit the bill. Bachmann's award-winning year is more about reliability; no matter what issue becomes salient or what events transpire we can rely on her to represent the lunatic fringe. You can set your watch by her consistent, surreal insanity. And that counts for something in my book.

Perhaps the real cocksucker is an America that would elect and idolize someone so transparently bonkers. But awards of this magnitude don't go to vaguely defined groups, they go to individuals who go above and beyond the call of duty in their chosen field. Michelle Bachmann's field is being a cocksucker, an insane one at that. Her David Icke-like worldview and that vacant, ten-thousand yard cult leader stare she does so well really help her stand out in a world so rife with cocksuckers. Congratulations, 2009 CotY Michelle Bachmann. You are an asshole nonpareil.

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FINGER-POINTING

Posted in Rants on December 30th, 2009 by Ed

Bill Kristol wins the award for the first wingnut pundit to trot out the "I can't believe we're going to try the Northwest 253 suspect in a regular court" trope.

This is precisely the problem. This guy has been lawyered up. We don't know anything. One reason we don't know anything — he's not being treated like an enemy combatant. He's not being interrogated. We're not finding out everything we could know about Awlaki. This is an ongoing attack — enemy attempt to attack the United States, and we're treating it as a one-off law enforcement case.

In other words, if he isn't whisked off to a metal shipping container at Bagram AFB, sleep deprived, and repeatedly beaten for a couple of days we are somehow missing the point. Just think of what a valuable opportunity to get utterly useless "information" out of an abused captive we are ignoring. If you beat this asshole long enough he will tell you he's Osama bin Laden, but that's the kind of riveting intel that makes prosecuting a war on terror the AEI Way so fulfilling.

I've previously asked the question about why the right are so afraid to try these people in civil courts. Part of it has to do with this sense that we are coddling people by doing anything less than putting a bag over their heads and chaining them to a concrete floor for a few months. Part of it has to do with their Jack Bauer whack-off fantasies about ticking time-bombs and the value of making suspects talk. And part of it – neatly evidenced by Kristol's "lawyered up" comment – is the persistent fear that somehow the civil courts will find these people not guilty despite the mountains of evidence against them.

A portion of the American public operates under the belief that the justice system consists mostly of stone-cold guilty defendants being found not guilty on technicalities. With the help of the hated lawyers, criminal after criminal is released back onto the streets because some cop forgot to cross the T on a piece of paperwork. Does this happen? Yes, certainly it does. But how common is this outcome? And how common is it in a case such as this one in which the guilt of the accused is proven beyond any shadow of a doubt before the trial begins?

We are quite comfortable with a justice system that puts innocent (black) people behind bars or on death row but the prospect of a guilty person going free is so heinous that, in this example, whisking them off to the gulag to ensure an appropriately draconian level of punishment is preferable. It is infuriating on some level to think that there is a chance, however remote, that a suspect whose guilt is nearly certain can walk away from a courtroom unscathed. But from where do "technicalities" arise? Mostly from law enforcement. Nothing paves the road to acquittal with gold quite as well as shitty police work. Moral outrage is always directed at "the system" for letting criminals walk when if anything it should be directed at the people who decided to barge into a home without a search warrant or ignoring someone's request for counsel during an interrogation. No, cops are not machines and they can't be expected to be perfect but when they disregard the law and resort to end-justified means they offer the loopholes that we so greatly fear will be abused by the guilty.

What are the odds that this dipshit will be found not guilty by an American jury? I'd bet it's somewhere around a million to one, but I'd wager even more that if it does happen, the FBI and other agencies responsible for investigating the case and detaining the suspect will be to blame. Not that Bill Kristol and his ilk are interested in assigning blame to Our Heroes who wear the badge.

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STARING CONTEST

Posted in Rants on December 29th, 2009 by Ed

The key to anything financial – investing, opening a business, playing blackjack in Vegas – is to determine in advance exactly how much money one is willing to lose and adhering to that decision fastidiously. This wisdom is accepted across all ideologies. It is important because pride takes over once failure sets in, and individuals are apt to hold out hope for a successful turnaround well past the point of reason. You've seen people in casinos pour more and more money into "turning around" a bad night and recouping losses. We've seen successful businesspeople open a new retail outlet or create a new brand that fails; unwilling to wear the shame of failure they pour resources into it until, inevitably, the entire business empire collapses. You've seen investors (or perhaps you were that investor) ride a stock down to zero while desperately insisting that a turnaround is imminent. Without limiting your losses, they tend to be…well, unlimited.

So…about Fox Business Network. On one hand you have to be impressed with Rupert Murdoch's sheer willingness to shovel good money after bad. On the other we have to start questioning the one part of his persona that has heretofore been unquestioned – his business acumen. Say what we will about the man, he is a businessman and he knows how to make money (mostly by identifying the lowest common denominator, undercutting it by 50%, and making it louder). Until now, that is. Because FBN can't possibly be making enough money to pay my rent let alone its overhead.

How bad is it? Well…

True story: 2009 was a terrific year for ginandtacos.com. I started the year happily averaging 800-1000 hits daily and ended it close to 3500. Or as I prefer to call it, 10% of the daily nationwide audience of Fox Business Network. Seriously. They are averaging fewer than the 35,000 daily viewers necessary to be included in Nielsen ratings. So a network owned by one of the world's most powerful media entities, with daily operating costs that surely run to tens of thousands of dollars if not more, is achieving a grand total of ten times – at most – the audience of gin-and-frickin'-tacos. Total operating cost: $9 month. Eat it, Rupert.

It turns out that people interested in financial media are out to make money, not to hear cheerleading for a single ideological viewpoint. They want to know how to make a buck off Obama & Co., not to hear extended harangues about why everything he does is Evil. And I don't think the people in charge have the slightest idea of how little the intended audience wants to hear financial advice from idiots like S.E. Cupp, Sean Hannity, Jenna Lee, and Neil Cavuto. Their lineup makes Jim Cramer look like Keynes and Megan McArdle look like…someone who should probably be on FBN.

Is it going to drag down the entire NewsCorp empire? Doubtful. Its interests are diverse and many of them are very profitable. But at this point FBN is little more than an a vanity press for Murdoch. It is an expensive hobby, the kind into which we pour vast sums of money simply because we enjoy it, not because it makes any financial sense to do so. Most old white guys golf, buy Porsches, or collect rare something-or-others. Either FBN is Murdoch's version of a stamp collection or the amount of money he is comfortable losing on this "investment" was not determined in advance, hence we are watching pride and stubbornness take over.

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THE BOMBER WILL ALWAYS GET THROUGH

Posted in Rants on December 28th, 2009 by Ed

Stanley Baldwin, a leading British conservative of the early 20th Century and three-term Prime Minister, understood far earlier and better than his contemporaries how industrialization was changing the nature of war and conflict. The new development of the inter-War era, of course, was the airplane. Aviation moved the battlefield away from trenches and into cities. It de-compartmentalized nations, blurring the distinction between civilian and military and allowing for the first time the prospect of total war and the potential for total defeat. With the power to level cities and turn entire nations into rubble, aviation ensured that nations, not armies, would be defeated in future wars.

Baldwin understood this, and World War II was a graphic example of the ability of air power to turn defeat into total destruction. Accordingly, nations preoccupied themselves during the inter-War era with devising ways to defend against aerial bombing. France, Britain, Russia, Germany, and the other European nations with a millennium-long history of starting wars with one another every decade or so concocted intricate and expensive schemes to defend their skies. It was all folly, Baldwin warned. People should not develop a false sense of security based on military might and seemingly impregnable defenses. "I think it is well also for the man in the street to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through." No matter how extensive the preparations or how fearsome one's military might be, enough of an attacking force will survive to inflict significant damage.

The PM's saying was relevant throughout the Cold War – didn't someone make perhaps the greatest film of all time about this very problem? – and it is even more so today despite the rapid obsolescence of nation-state conflicts. I thought about the Rt. Hon. Mr. Baldwin's words extensively on Christmas Day, the day on which, despite the dramatic increase in airport security since 2001, yet another person managed to carry an explosive on an airplane and come perilously close to using it for its intended purpose.

The reaction to the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 has been predictably stupid – public shaming of the TSA (despite the fact that the flight originated far outside TSA jurisdiction), idiotic partisan fingerpointing (apparently this would never have happened if Bush was President, or Obama deserves blame for the failure of security policies instituted by his predecessor), and pointless speculation. Useless, all of it. The facts about airport security, like border security or air defenses, are deceptively simple. Someone will always get through.

I certainly think that airport security could be improved, and ironically I posted on the TSA's laziness on the morning of the incident. But let's not kid ourselves. All the metal detectors and X-ray machines and explosives detection equipment on the world won't stop people who want to blow up airplanes from blowing up airplanes. This is not to say that security is futile; certainly it can reduce the number of incidents. What it does very well is catch the complete knuckleheads – people with guns in their carry-ons or laughably bad fake identification. You know as well as I do, however, that someone with reasonable intelligence who commits him- or herself to the goal of blowing up an airplane can find a way to do it. No matter how good the security, people will find a way to defeat it. Maybe not a lot of people, but enough to spread the lingering fear that it can happen anytime. That's the goal of terrorism. That's why it's called "terrorism."

The gaps in our security are apparent to anyone who spends appreciable time in airports and cares to be observant while standing listlessly in a security checkpoint queue. But not even another dramatic improvement in security – "Total Body Imaging" scanners, for example – can eliminate the specter of terrorism. For the past eight years much of America has operated under the delusion that terrorism can be Defeated, that there will be a moment at which it stands on the deck of the USS Missouri and signs an instrument of surrender in deference to our military might. It is a pipe dream. There are six billion people on this planet and there is no way to prevent a small handful of them from deciding that it will be a good or useful idea to blow up a 747. And as long as the intent exists, that intent will occasionally intersect with means. I'm going to keep flying, as the odds of being on a plane when a terrorist blows it up are infinitely smaller than my chances of drowning in my bathtub (which are a comparatively terrifying 1 in 700,000). But while I'm at it I'll refrain from expecting airport security from stopping everyone or elected officials from magically "ending" terrorism. The bomber will always get through and punish someone – someone else, we all silently hope whenever we step on an airplane.

NPF: SPITE TAKES NO HOLIDAY

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 25th, 2009 by Ed

1. The interchange from I-74 into the new Indianapolis Airport is called the Ronald Reagan Parkway. Appropriately, I found driving on it wildly overrated and not very bright.

2. I am responding to every "Merry Christmas" I get from strangers today with "That's not funny, man. My brother died that way." Hilarity ensues.

3. As much as I am a fan of people not working, it is disconcerting to see the TSA people standing around to the extent that no one noticed the 24 oz. bottle of sports drink in my carry-on. Thank god we have the war in Iraq to make us safer; these people certainly aren't.

BECAUSE WE WOULDN'T WANT TO BE LIKE FRANCE

Posted in Rants on December 24th, 2009 by Ed

You're not working right now. Perhaps you're bodily at your place of business or otherwise on the clock, but you're probably not doing anything that could reasonably be interpreted as work. I suppose that's always true if you're reading this site (which, to the best of my knowledge, is neither required nor condoned by your boss) but today it applies more broadly. If you're like most Americans your end-of-year break consists of a day off for Christmas and that's pretty much it, forcing us all to go through the motions of pretending to work on the 24th.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that creating a buffer zone around Christian religious holidays is desirable. Here's the thing – like all sane people, I don't like working. We work too goddamn much in this country, and whether it's for Christmas or Zoroastrian New Year it would be nice if our ruling class would grant us a few days to see our families or, you know, enjoy our lives.

As most of us are painfully aware, employers are not required to provide paid vacation in this country. And contrary to popular belief, they are not required to give you time off, either paid or unpaid, for Federal holidays. There are only 10 such days, and only about half of them regularly result in days off for most of us – Christmas, MLK, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. Unless one works for the government, Washington's Birthday is unlikely to result in an opportunity to sleep in.

This situation is, to the amazement of some Americans, uncommon in comparison to other Western democracies.

It truly is depressing to see how we stack up to our cousins across the Atlantic or to the south. We're a nation of people working harder and harder for less and less, and the merest suggestion that we should do anything other than work 9 hour days without pause until we drop dead is met with cries of socialism and accusations of malingering.

So that's why you're sitting bored at your desk thinking frantically of ways to kill time on this most pointless of "work" days. Rather than simply giving people a few days off around this time of year we respond to deep-seated protestant guilt and conditioning by making everyone show up and go through the motions. A waste of everybody's f-ing time, that's what it is. This charade makes some Americans feel more industrious and more productive; the reality of a workforce standing around water coolers, taking two-hour lunches, and dicking around on the internet for eight hours calls into question the basis of our disdain for the "lazy" nations around the world who don't follow our shining example and live joyless, pointless lives.

IRRATIONAL EXUBERANCE

Posted in Rants on December 23rd, 2009 by Ed

Men and women in the military are like adorable little puppies to the media and corporate America. They are the imagery of last resort for deflecting criticism or of first resort for shameless pandering. "I know our corporate practices border on sociopathy, but just look at this picture of our brave soldiers!" is the unspoken message in a lot of advertising. Especially Wal-Mart advertising.

That commercial has nothing to do with Wal-Mart. It tells you nothing about its products, services, prices, or policies. It's just sentimental pap, a cheap effort to bypass logic and score points on an emotional level. After all, you Support the Troopstm, right? So does Wal-Mart!

At an NHL game with my dad on Tuesday evening (Blackhawks-Sharks; holy crap is Joe Thornton impressive in person) the action was interrupted with a Jumbo-tron shot of Sergeant So-and-So of the United States Army, today's "Salute to the Armed Forces Featured Guest, brought to you by Boeing" (seriously). Responding like dogs to meat, the crowd applauded. Then they cheered a little as the camera zoomed in. By the time his face filled the screen the crowd of 21,000 was on its feet cheering wildly. The enthusiastic standing ovation lasted a full 30 seconds. I sat, chin in hand, slightly disgusted by the spectacle. Yes, I understand the concepts of jingoism, Pavlovian response, and Supporting the Troopstm. But I couldn't help but wonder what exactly these people were cheering.

Were they thanking him for making us all safer, for a job well done? Given the dubious success of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our continued vulnerability to terrorist attacks I'm skeptical. Do people think he is deserving of a round of applause for joining the military? Perhaps, although many people make that decision – or have it made for them – with less than noble intentions. No, I think I witnessed a lot of guilt and a very predictable social desirability effect.

Isn't that what over-the-top Supporting the Troopstm is really all about – guilt? The guiltier one feels for swallowing the pre-Iraq bullshit without an iota of critical thinking, the more likely one is to plaster the SUV with yellow ribbons and talk loudly and frequently about one's undying respect for Our Brave Men and Women Overseas (patent pending). Once one person stands up in a crowd and lets loose an enthusiastic show of Supporttm, others are bound to follow. Who will risk remaining in his or her seat and being easily identified as someone who fails to Support the Troopstm with sufficient vigor?

Like people who make a very public show of praying, donating to charity, or helping friends and neighbors, people who go overboard with their troops-supporting are a toxic cocktail of guilt, shame, vanity, and attention-seeking. What offers more Supporttm, jumping to one's feet and madly applauding an image on a Jumbo-tron or doing something tangible to help a member of the armed forces? I bet the 21,000 people in that stadium are more generous with their applause than they are with care packages, USO donations, letters to lonely enlisted people, and engagement with political issues like the treatment afforded to veterans when active duty comes to an end. Which is more Supportivetm, having an "America, Fuck Yeah!" moment in an effort to one-up the Patriot seated next to you at a hockey game or working toward a political means of bringing the armed forces home and out of harm's way?

I did not participate, which is sad because I honestly believe that Sgt. So-and-So deserves a thank you and a pat on the back. I just get nauseous at the idea of playing along with a crowd of people whose knee-jerk psychological response to images of the military is to explode into cheers or tears to fulfill social expectations or assuage guilt – the intense, persistent guilt of knowing that one is responsible for putting soldiers in danger and is in fact doing nothing to actually support them.

REUNION TOUR

Posted in Quick Hits on December 22nd, 2009 by Ed

Tuesday's entry has been precluded by the fact that the long-awaited (by me, anyway) reunion of Ed and former ginandtacos/current Rortybomb contributor Mike K. extended beyond 3 AM. Nothing I could say right now would be relevant, coherent, or true. As much as it pains me to blow off a day of writing, I regret nothing.

THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Posted in Rants on December 21st, 2009 by Ed

Someone who wanted to be one heartbeat away from the presidency – and who fully intends to run for the top spot directly in 2012 – wrote the following:

Arrogant&Naive2say man overpwers nature. … Earth saw clmate chnge4 ions;will cont 2 c chnges.R duty2responsbly devlop resorces4humankind/not pollute&destroy;but cant alter naturl chng

As you no doubt can guess, this message is from the Gov. Quitter's "Twitter" feed. Yes, Sarah Palin is stupid but this type of communication is all too common on Twitter (if you want to gouge your eyes out, try taking a glance at some famous athletes' Twitter posts – it's about what you'd expect, only 1000 times worse). And that is why Twitter is going to be the final nail in the coffin of whatever remains of our collective writing skills.

I have a 6 year-old cell phone. It's ancient by the standards of cell phone technology. I send text messages on a plain numeric keypad; no fancy QWERTY keyboard for me. And I never fail to take the time to write out each word and use punctuation. The marginal cost of doing so is about 20% of whatever time you'd spend writing unreadable gibberish that sounds like a hyperactive tween emailing her friends about Twilight. And for people who have newfangled phones with keyboards it can't take any additional effort at all to write like a literate English speaker. Argue all you want – there is no justification for this level of stupidity. Unless one's typing skills are 4 WPM, it simply does not take any more time to type "will continue to see changes" in place of "will cont 2 c chnges."

Look again at Palin's message. When did it become acceptable to communicate like this? What kind of idiot would make such a thing public? Maybe other public figures avoid being this blatantly retarded but it doesn't take much time in the Twitterverse to understand that "ur" is a perfectly acceptable substitute for "your," punctuation is optional and may be used at random, and numbers may substitute for words or portions thereof.

If you think this doesn't matter and I'm just being a crank, let's wait a few more years until we can see the results of long-term studies of the effects of text messaging among adolescents on their adult writing skills. We can barely write as it is, and now the world is being swept by a medium that encourages, if not openly demands, illiterate drivel as an acceptable substitute for English. I'm not the first person to point at technological developments and say "This is the harbinger of our doom! The end is nigh!" and the track record of people who so claim is not good. But the effect these new forms of communication are having on our ability to use the old ones correctly is real and significant.

Take a stand. Do your part, however small, to send the message (see what I did there?) that this kind of shit is not acceptable. Let your acquaintances know that typing something on a cell phone is not a blanket excuse to sound retarded. I don't care if you're texting, emailing, tweeting, blogging, writing a letter, or scratching an SOS into the side of a coconut shell, there. is. no. excuse. for talking like this. None. Our time is not so precious that the millisecond saved by replacing "for" with "4" can be justified. It takes just a few moments more to say something correctly than to say it incorrectly. And if something isn't worth a few seconds to say correctly I would question whether it is worth saying at all.

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NPF: ED DRIVES TINY CAR, HILARITY ENSUES

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 18th, 2009 by Ed

Early Thursday morning I flew back to my beloved Indiana in preparation for the graduation ceremony on Saturday morning. Not wanting to be a burden to friends and family the entire time I am in Bloomington, Chicago, and points inbetween I rented a car.

Upon confirming my reservation for a "compact" with the esteemed gentleman from Alamo, he proceeded to solicit additional money from me with promises of a larger vehicle in return. "Kind sir," I replied, "try not your snake-oil salesman's tactics and cheap conjurer's tricks on me! I wish only for the mode of conveyance stated, and at the price agreed upon!" Since I normally drive a 10 year old Nissan Sentra the idea of needing a larger vechile for just a few days seemed silly. Chastened, the would-be huckster directed me to a row of identical Chevrolet Aveos.

I hesitated.

"Perchance I have been too rash, honored salesman," said I, trembling in awe at the sheer shittiness of the alleged automobiles before me. But my inner Polack won in the end and rather than shelling out an additional $50 for the 10-day rental I figured, how bad can this Korean chariot (via the Kingdom of Detroit) be?

I learned an important lesson today. Do not ask questions if you are not prepared for the answer.

Now, if nothing else about this scenario amuses you, just enjoy the physical comedy of someone who is 6'4" and essentially all limb tucking his knees to his chin in this:

The effect is not unlike seeing the Yeti seated on a roller skate.

Upon first entering the vehicle one recoils and asks, "Can there be any gray plastic left in the world after GM is done making Aveo interiors?" The entire world must suffer shortages of molded Chinese gray plastic every time GM/Daewoo fires up the production lines for another exercise in futility. "Oh well, I am not interested in its beauty; it need only convey me from kingdom to kingdom for a few days."

Having been happily off the GM wagon for many years, a lifetime of corner-cutting manufacturing techniques nonetheless came flooding back to me the instant I attempted to accelerate. Getting to highway speed is a leisurely, contemplative process, and the vehicle no doubt possesses the loudest engine I have ever heard that is less than 8 cylinders, not powering a lawn mower or air compressor, and not attached to the wing of an airplane. But since said engine is so tiny, the tone is ear-splitting but pathetic, like an enormous dragon with emphysema trying to roar. I can best compare it to driving an oversized Dustbuster, or perhaps a cross between Fran Drescher and Soundwave.

The ancient four-speed transmission reminded me of why GM has not moved to equip all of its vehicles with five-speeds like other manufacturers. Indeed, why attempt the five-speed before having mastered four? After a quick inspection to see if the transmission was filled with grape Smuckers, I ascertained that the curious performance quirks I experienced are inherent to the design.

Last but not least I was reminded of my favorite memory of years of driving Pontiacs. I like to call it the "GM shakes," the terrifying sense that the vehicle is about to disintegrate into 1000 pieces as you approach 70 mph. I suppose 70 mph is pretty fast, although not unreasonable. In a GM car, however, 70 mph sounds and feels like one is in the cockpit of the Apollo capsule atop a Saturn V rocket – just as the boosters kick in. In the Aveo, 70 mph inspired me to make sure that my will is up to date. The combination of plastic bodywork, cheap tires, and brittle third-world steel frame may appeal to younger buyers, though, because it always feels like you're going really fast in an Aveo. Even at 35 mph the cacophony of tire, wind, and engine noise sounds like an alcohol-fueled rocket car blasting across the Bonneville salt flats en route to the land speed record.

Upon arrival at my destination I immediately called the director of marketing at GM and proposed two slogans: "Aveo: American Trabant" and "The New Chevy Aveo: isn't it marginally better than walking?" Both struck him as genius. I was paid a handsome six-figure sum, part of which I used to purchase this Aveo from Alamo and have it compacted into a tiny cube, which I then set on fire.