ThinkFast: May 9, 2008


As gas and crude oil costs jumped to record highs yesterday, USA Today has released a survey showing that these increasing costs are pushing “Americans to drive less for the first time in nearly three decades, squeezing family budgets and causing major shifts in driving habits.” Seventy-one percent say gas prices are a “financial hardship,” up from 47 percent in March 2004.

The American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil’s main lobbying group, “has embarked on a multiyear, multimedia, multimillion-dollar campaign” to convince voters that “rising energy prices are not the producers’ fault and that government efforts to punish the industry, especially with higher taxes, would only make pricing problems worse.”

The Senate Democrats unveiled the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008, a bill to address the root causes of high gas prices. Major oil companies “are getting away with murder” and “gouging” consumers as the price of oil continues to soar, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) said.

Two months after “the Pentagon announced in March that Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood would become the senior American officer based in Pakistan,” the military “has quietly canceled the assignment. General Hood, a 33-year Army veteran, “was excoriated in the Pakistani news media for one of his previous jobs: commander of the United States prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”

Hezbollah fighters seized control of rival pro-government strongholds in Beirut on Friday as gunbattles rocked the Lebanese capital for a third day, propelling the nation dangerously close to all-out civil war.” Hezbollah has also forced the shutdown of all media forced the shutdown of all media belonging to the family of parliamentary leader Saad Hariri.

The number of soldiers forced to remain in the Army involuntarily “has risen sharply since the Pentagon extended combat tours last year,” Army officials said yesterday. The program, known as “stop-loss,” is meant to prevent soldiers from leaving the Army “immediately before a combat tour or in the middle of a deployment,” but it is considered by many to be “a backdoor draft.”

Credit card delinquency rates in the United States are growing as expenses have risen and options for borrowing have narrowed,” according to Moody’s Investors Service. Delinquencies “hit 4.53 percent in February, a four-year high.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, is coming under scrutiny for his “ties to the mortgage industry and the Alabama real estate market, and the generous campaign donations he receives from financial services companies.” Critics say that these interests have “distorted his perspective and led him to delay critical legislative remedies.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pushed a land deal that benefited a longtime supporter “who has raised more than $100,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee.” McCain embraced the land swap in 2003 after a rancher hired lobbyists that included at least three former McCain staffers and “an Arizona insider who was a major McCain donor and is now bundling campaign checks.”

And finally: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is 62 years old, and rumors of him coloring his hair “have abounded for years.” The Politico’s Anne Schroeder now has the proof. (More proof here.)

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.