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Dick Cheney Wheeling Out of Office

20 Jan

 

"I knew I should have let the butler take the box from Halliburton."

Cheney: "I knew I should have let the butler take the box from Halliburton."

Dick Cheney will be in a wheelchair as he leaves office today, due to pulling a muscle in his back while moving boxes into his new home in McClean, Virginia.

That Halliburton gold must be heavy.

The George W. Bush Years: Retrospective and Legacy

12 Jan

Most of those analyzing George W Bush’s years as President will offer a legacy of questionable decisions, confusing policy, and abject failure.  But the evaluation of any administration should be rooted in actual results.   A historical comparison reveals that the Bush years might not be the disaster they seem.

I, George W

Both conservative and liberal media have hammered aspects of George W Bush’s reign, including the war in Iraq, economic disparity, unwarranted firing of federal judges, increasing national debt, the failure to capture Osama Bin Laden, etc..,.   The list could continue until my hands cramped.  However, if the W. Bush presidency is looked at through the prism of the Roman Emperor Claudius (10BC-54AD), the subject of Robert Graves’ seminal historical novels I, Claudius  and Claudius the God, one realizes that Bush may deserve more credit than he is generally given.

Parallels between Claudius and George W are evident.  Claudius was a stammering, afflicted member of a royal family who considered him unsuitable for governing.  George W also possesses a certain lack of grace with spoken language.  And while Claudius was left to study history (a laughable undertaking for a “royal”) at the outskirts of his family, George W founded several oil exploration companies, all funded by family and friends, all of which lost money.  Bush persevered, however, and was elected Governor of Texas.  He then won the presidency in an unlikely manner, as it was his opponent who had garnered the most votes.  In his ascension, Claudius was named Emperor by Palace Guards just hours after Caligula, the sitting Emperor, was stabbed to death.  It helped that Claudius was the last surviving member of the ruling line. 

Claudius, however, had little desire to be Emperor.  He hoped for a restoration of the Roman Republic over the dictatorship that his family had engineered two generations earlier.  According to Graves, Claudius had a plan to insure that restoration.  He would govern so poorly that the Roman Senate would have no choice but to rise and re-establish the Republic.  Instead, Claudius found an assemblage who for the most part did not care how they were governed as long as there was money to be made and food to eat.  Although Claudius ultimately failed to reinstate the Republic, his attempt was a noble one.   

George W implemented a similar strategy.  His head-scratching, imperial governing was no accident.  Instead of letting corporate interests and the moneyed elite rule in perpetuity, Bush hoped to incite the average American to reclaim the rights and powers that the Founding Fathers had bestowed him.  Every move was designed to force the masses into action.  Perhaps because of the incessant heat or a mediocre educational system, Florida wasn’t able to help George W achieve his goal in ‘04.  But after four more years of effort, Bush seems to have succeeded. We are only days away from the Obama Administration.

Clearly, George W took it upon himself to return our Democratic Republic to the people.  It is the only way that his actions make sense:  Reading The Pet Goatto school children for seven minutes after finding out the country was under attack; misleading the country into an unneeded and unwanted war; positing the executive branch above the legislative and judicial; practically ignoring one of our greatest cities in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  If not to cultivate outrage and force the American public into responsible action, then why?  George W went into his Presidency with a plan and he executed it well.  The citizenry demanded change. Mission accomplished, indeed.    

(This post contains updated content from a previous Hangover post.  Enjoy the encore presentation.)

Common Sense Election Anaylsis

5 Nov

There are a number of reasons that Barack Obama won the Presidency yesterday, receiving more votes than any candidate in history.  Most of them are fairly obvious. 

  • George W. Bush was a really bad president.  Certainly, John McCain suffered from his party and policy affiliations with the current President, just as the majority of people suffered under his administration–unless, of course, you were in the top 1% of income earners, worked for or invested in Big Oil, or were on the Board at Halliburton or Blackwater.
  • John McCain was a lousy campaigner.  McCain’s best moments of the entire election cycle were his QVC skit on Saturday Night Live, his Monday Night Football Interview with Chris Berman, and his concession speech.  His best debate line, “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago,” would have hit harder than a wet sponge if he hadn’t spent the last six months trying to maintain his Party’s base by highlighting his belief in Bush policies. 
  • Barack Obama really connected with the people.  He was a great speaker.  He had a clear message which he delivered with charisma, focus, and detail.  It worked.
  • The Republicans failed to scare the electorate as they did in 2004.  They were unable to generate a polarizing social issue such as “gay marriage” which carried Ohio for Bush in 2004.  In fact, due to the economic collapse, more Americans were frightened of losing their jobs and homes than they were by lame Republican attempts to portray Obama as a socialist, Muslim, terrorist, or–holy cow–a liberal. 
  • Religion, a huge component of Bush’s 2000 victory, became less of an issue.  After eight years of Bush-Cheney international and economic disaster, maybe the good Christian voters began to realize that God wasn’t actually a Republican diety. 
  • Obama ran a clean campaign, and after two elections of Bush-Rove tactics, it appears that a more positive message resonated with voters.  As CBS News reported:  “Nearly every TV ad McCain ran last week was negative, compared to just 34 percent of those by Obama, according to an analysis by the Wisconsin Advertising Project released on Wednesday. “
  • When a candidate moves from who-they-really-are to who-they-think-they-need-to-be-to-get-elected, they lose.  Reagan was an ultra-conservative.  Bill Clinton was a centrist.  George W Bush was a God-fearing jughead.  Obama is a liberal (Apparently, not such a bad thing these days).  The 2000 John McCain didn’t court the Religious Right, employed an independent, critical thought process, and wouldn’t have stood for the type of negative campaigning that Bush-Rove used to sink McCain’s 2000 bid.  That all changed in 2008, and the results speak for themselves. 

Other Election Highlights:

  • Last night, the Fox News Channel crew looked and acted like a bunch of six year-olds who raced down the stairs only to find coal in their stockings.  Boo hoo.   Waaaaaaaaw.
  • Ben Affleck’s Keith Olbermann skit on SNL (perhaps the best episode of SNL since the glory days of the Belushi era).
  • The Hangover finally voted for a Presidential Candidate who won.  (It’s the first time since 1980, and that was a mistake.  Hey, I was a binge-drinking teenager at the time.)
  • The Hangover is still trying to remove John Edwards’ populist hook from his mouth, firmly planted during the primary season.  Only a true douche bag could have campaigned “for-the-people” while knowing that an affair with the biggest coke slut of the 1980’s was waiting to come tumbling out of the closet.  What if his message (which was a good one) had caught on?
  • Anne Curry delivers good news:  anytime, anyplace, but especially on MSNBC’s election night dressed in all black:
anne-curry3

Maybe the mainstream media isn't so bad, after all.

Red State Voting Guide

29 Oct

In what has been a divided country, the “Red States” have had the pleasure of delivering not one but two Geroge W Bush Presidencies to the nation.  Those victories have been attributed to Karl Rove’s 2000 annexation of the Relgious Right  (Bush, a god-fearing, down-home, let’s-have-a-beer-with-him rancher, was one of ‘them’) and 2004’s gay marriage fear tactics.  Luckily, the 2008 election is without Bush and Rove, and voters are actually in the position of having to consider substantive issues.  This would, indeed, constitute progress.  The Hangover wishes to ease the fear of Red State voters.  Even if forced to vote on policy, there are still plenty of good reasons to remain in your comfort zone and cast your ballot for the Republican, John McCain.  

The two main areas to consider are Iraq and the Economy. 

IRAQ

As one might guess, the former Navy man and POW is a bit of a hawk.

A January McCain Q and A with reporters:

Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years — ” (cut off by McCain)

McCain: “Make it a hundred.”

Q: “Is that …” (cut off)

McCain: “We’ve been in South Korea … we’ve been in Japan for 60 years.  We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or so.  That would be fine with me.  As long as Americans …”

Q: [tries to say something]

McCain: “As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Queada is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.

August 2008

McCain:  “Victory in Iraq is finally in sight.”

Apparently, Senator McCain can see a long way into the future.  That’s a real bonus for a President.

Result:  If you think that the war that has cost 4188 American lives (with only 30,000-plus wounded) and a long term American presence in Iraq is a good idea, you can feel good about voting for John McCain. 

Bonus reason:  McCain claims to know how to “get Osama bin Laden.”  It’s too bad he’s been too busy campaigning for the last seven years to tell George W. how to get that done.

 

THE ECONOMY

Free Trade:

There’s little doubt that American companies have been exporting manufacturing jobs to our NAFTA partners and third world nations.  It’s more profitable to produce products in places with slave wage pay scales and little if any environmental restriction.  But while the American manufacturing base has lost jobs, the service industry has grown and will continue to do so.  

McCain’s views on free trade are readily apparent:

McCAIN: “I am a free trader.”  (10-15-2008)

McCain from the National Politcal Awareness Test 2004

Q: Do you support the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support continued U.S. membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO)?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support the trade embargo against Cuba?

A: Yes.

Q: Should trade agreements include provisions to address environmental concerns and to protect workers’ rights?

A: No.

Result:  If you’re happy to give up that exhausting manufacturing job at Ford, GE, or any other factory in the area formerly known as the Industrial Heartland, you’re in luck with John McCain.  Give him your vote.

Bonus Reason:  You’ll likely be able to enjoy a career at Burger King, Wendy’s, or dare-to-dream Applebee’s.  You might get to meet Ronald McDonald.

Deregulation

Deregulation has brought us the Savings and Loan Scandal of the ’80’s and ’90’s, astronomical gas prices, Enron and the like, and the current financial crisis.   

In a 2003 interview with CNN:

John McCain: I am a deregulator. I believe in deregulation.”

In April, 2008

McCain:  “I am for less government, less regulation.”

September 21, 2008

Q: In 1999, you were one of the senators who helped pass deregulation of Wall Street. Do you regret that now?

McCAIN: “No. I think the deregulation was probably helpful to the growth of our economy.”

Result:  If you believe, as John McCain does, that big business knows what’s best for the country and will operate their businesses in an ethical manner that will benefit all of us, then feel good about casting your vote for John McCain.  After all, what are the odds that we taxpayers will have to pony up another 700 billion to bailout the financial industries, 153 billion for the Savings and Loans, 25 billion to the automakers, or a measly 400 million to AIG? 

Bonus Reason:  If we keep getting to bail out all these industries, maybe we’ll be able to claim the capital  losses on our own taxes.

Low Gas Prices? Don’t Get Used To It.

23 Oct

Gas prices have dropped from a national average of $4.10 on July 16th to $2.78 today.   Joe Six-Pack (or the Plumber) is probably pretty happy about that.  $2.78 is also just about what a gallon cost last year at this time.  What happened in the interim to drive prices up over that four dollar mark?  Were the world’s oil reserves running dry without OPEC realizing it?  Did everyone in America buy a Hummer and go joyriding?  Don’t think so.  And what drove the prices back down?   Were previously untapped reserves discovered under Jed Camplett’s Bevery Hills Mansion?  Was a well drilled under every moose track in Sarah Palin’s Alaskan wilderness?  Did John McCain drill offshore wells faster than Wilt Chamberlain tapped stewardesses?  Not likely.   

However, there are several factors that can explain the astronomically rising prices:

During the Oil and OPEC friendly Bush administration, Oil Companies enjoyed record profits.  It’s a wonderful example of cronyism establishing a friendly business environment.   As Antonia Juhasz of the Asia Times notes:

What does $133 billion in profits buy an industry? It bought the oil industry at least eight years of a US “oiligarchy”: a government ruled by a small number of oil interests. The oil industry spent more money to get the George W Bush administration into office in 2000 than it has spent on any election before or since. In return it received, for the first time in American history, a president, vice president, and secretary of state who are all former oil company officials.

What this means is that you and I and everyone else in the United States has been–and will continue to be–manipulated.  A survey of the past six years finds that in the election years of 2002, 2004, 2006, and now 2008, gas prices have taken a significant dip in the months of October and November.  

It’s unlikely that this is coincidence or a result of Americans driving less because they enjoy walking in the crisp fall air.  It’s simply government-aided capitalism (Does that sound familiar?) at its finest.

Gas prices rose unitl the citizenry became aggravated to the point (apparently just short of $5 a gallon) where our legislators were forced to actually do their jobs.   Bills like the PUMP Act and the Close the Enron Loophole Act were introduced.   Gas prices started their slide.  Now the American public is quick to forget they were shelling out $4 a gallon this summer and are happy to fork over $2.78 (only 30% more than two years ago!).   Let’s hope that the legislation doesn’t disappear along with the peoples’ agitation. 

Of course, to maintain the status quo, President W Bush and his oil sidekicks know that it’s best to keep the masses pacified, especially in an election year.  The Republicans can’t have Obama ranting and raving about gas prices can they?  People might actually be reminded to listen when they go to fill up at the local Quickie Mart. 

So, not so mysteriously, gas prices have receded.  In the words of Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten:  “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

Have no fear, by New Years 2009 the price of a gallon of gas will be closer to $4.00 than our peaceful $2.78.     It is supply and demand.  The American people have a great supply of money and the oil companies will once again demand it.  Common sense tells us that the final month of 2008 may be Big Oil’s last chance before they ride off into the sunset with the Bush gang.  Then again, they give money to Senators and Representatives and the Democratic candidate, too.

The Maverick, John McCain, Not Even America’s Best

7 Oct

“John McCain is a maverick.”  Americans have heard that thousands–if not millions–of times over the last few months. We’ll hear it some more, too, as election day approaches.   While McCain contends this “maverick” status will make him a good president, The Hangover remains dubious.  The truth is, McCain isn’t even the best Maverick the United States has to offer.  Therefore, as a public service, The Hangover offers its list of:

Best American Mavericks:

America's best maverick: Bret Maverick

1)  Bret Maverick as played by James Garner

The television show “Maverick” aired from 1957-1962, with Garner playing Bret Maverick from ’57 to ’60.  The show was a comedy-action-western featuring three Maverick brothers and one nephew, all card-playing sharps who dressed well, cracked jokes, and then did good–often reluctantly.  The Museum of Broadcast Communications termed the show “a subversive Western with a dark sense of humor.”  The show can still occasionally be seen on the Encore Western channel. 

Only one or two of the Maverick clan were  featured in an episode, with Garner’s Bret being the lead during the shows creative and ratings peaks.  Garner’s charisma, timing, and acting were impeccable.  Bret Maverick’s ability to carry the day against even more underhanded and over-sized foes made him an icon.  While the typical western character wore jeans and flannel, Bret Maverick operated in his fine gambler’s suit.  He would outsmart his adversaries more often than he’d outslug them, but he was adept at both.  He won chips and broke hearts, including his own.  He always intended to act in his own self interest, but rarely did.  Bret Maverick is the mark against which all Mavericks should be measured. 

2) Mark Cuban

Cuban made his fortume as a technology entrepreneur during the Internet boom of the ’80’s and ’90’s by being a maverick in his field.  He’s currently rated the 161st richest American, not bad for a kid from a working class family.  But Cuban is not only a business maverick, he owns Mavericks–the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA.  He also writes a maverick blog:  http://blogmaverick.com/.  While the Dallas Mavericks have yet to win the NBA title under Cuban’s stewardship, the team is always in the playoffs and made the finals in 2006.  As a real maverick, Cuban is often fined by the league for speaking out, speaking truth, and sharing his opinion, whether it is in his best interest or not.  If only our politicians talked as honestly and straight as Cuban.

3)  Raul Malo

Malo is the former lead singer of the Mavericks, a smooth Latin-tinged roots-country band that broke out in 2000.   While the music itself was excellent, the band’s focal point was Malo’s lush, deep vocals.  Rolling Stone described Malo’s voice “on par with the best of ’em:  Sinatra, George Jones, and Orbison.”  That explains why he continues to grow as an artist in a fine solo career.  This singer-Maverick is among the greatest of all time.

4)  The Ford Maverick     

A better maverick than John McCain

The Ford Maverick: A better maverick than John McCain

The Ford Maverick was a compact car built by Ford from 1969-1977.   With a price tag of $1995, it’s first year sales eclipsed records set by the Mustang in 1965.   Despite being labeled a compact, it’s sporty flourishes gave the car personality and a certain level of muscular elan.  It also proved to be dependable and fuel-efficient transportation during the fuel crisis of the 1970’s.  The Maverick rarely let down its owners and, in fact, The Hangover learned to drive behind the wheel of a ’76 four-door model.  This car was one great maverick. 

 

5)  Bart Maverick as played by Jack Kelly

Kelly’s role as Bart Maverick spanned the length of the entire Maverick series.  And while Kelly was not quite the force that Garner was, he was a model of comic, wry consistency.  The characters of Bret and Bart were not so different, both winners at cards, love, and the high life.  They were distinguished mainly by Bart’s gray hat (Bret wore black).   Episodes where both brothers co-starred are classics. 

6) Dirk Nowitzki

Nowitzki is the face and star of the NBA’s and Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks,  His lifetime stats reveal greatness.  As the leader of the Mavericks, over the last ten years he’s averaged 36.5 minutes per game, 22.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.  In this years playoffs, he raised his game when it mattered the most with 26.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game.  A real maverick comes through when it counts. Unfortunately, Nowitzki is a citizen of Germany and must be disqualified.

Other Notable Mavericks:

17)  Roger Moore as Beau Maverick.  Beau Maverick was a cousin of Bart and Bret.  Moore, despite being his usual suave self in the role, is also English and disqualified. 

38) Sarah Palin.  The Hangover is unsure how being a hockey Mom, potential book banner, religious zealot, and mainstream Republican make one a maverick.  But seeing as she hit Alaskan energy companies with a windfall profits tax–which actually put money in the pockets of regular Alaskans–she deserves recognition. 

53)  Robert Colbert as Brent Maverick.   Colbert starred in some episodes of the 1961 season, a poor man’s Bret or Bart.  Hence his position down the list.

72) John McCain.  Proclaiming (or having your running mate do so) oneself a maverick does not make it so.  What has McCain done to earn this status?  Co-write legislation that makes sense with Ted Kennedy?  Kennedy’s written legalisation with countless other Senators.  McCain did institute campaign finance reform; unfortunately it was a package that was more “gums” than “teeth.”  Special interest money keeps rolling into candidates’ pockets including McCain’s and Obama’s.  If McCain wanted to be a real Maverick:  he wouldn’t take that special interest money; seven of his tops aides wouldn’t be former lobbyists; and he wouldn’t have voted with George W. Bush 95% of the time.   

99)  Bret Maverick as played by Mel Gibson. Gibson lacked the charisma, self-deprecation, and nuance that made James Garner such as great Maverick. Not even a cameo by Garner could save this debacle. Australian mavericks must have been disheartened by Gibson’s performance.

278) Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as played by Tom Cruise.  This highly clichéd character in the highly clichéd Hollywood blockbuster Top Gun produced a highly clichéd and therefore low-rated maverick.

Debate Hero: Sarah Palin or Marge Gunderson

3 Oct

In the 2008 Presidential election, the Republicans have cast themselves as Main Street, ready to take on the Ivory Towers in a WWE steel cage match.   This someone-you’d-like-to-have-a-beer-with, regular-person-as-your-fearless-leader strategy worked for them in the last two contests, and in the down home-speak now preferred by the GOP:  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  No surprise there.

But last night’s debate left the Hangover wondering why Palin was doing her best impression of Marge Gunderson, Frances McDormand’s steadfast policewoman from the film Fargo.   Palin incessantly reminded us that John McCain is a maverick and that her experience as mayor of Wasilla (population 9780) qualifies her to be Vice President.  In-between, she dropped more Fargo-isms than we could count—in case we didn’t know that she really was just an above-average average American at heart. 

If you watched, you were treated to such figures of speech as (complete with that northern, folksy accent):

“you betcha”     “back ya up”     “a heckuva lot”     “goin’ on”   “tap into ’em”  “bless their hearts”  “comin'”        “bringin'”          “sayin”      “hockey game”      “hockey mom”    “Joe Six-pack”   “darn right”     “change is comin”     “doggone it”    “there ya go again”      “work with ya”    

Vice President Gunderson??

Vice President Gunderson??

It turns out that Palin may have more talent than we’ve given her credit for.   Sarah does Gunderson/McDormand better than Tina Fey does Sarah.  And that’s saying something. 

With all that’s going on in the country right now, it’s time to give the American people a break.  If the Republicans are going to shove this hometown schtick down our throats with Palin, the least they could do is give her Steve Buscemi as a campaign sidekick.  Then the farce would be complete.