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Reasons not to watch the Democratic National Convention

25 Aug

Even if you’ve got time to kill, don’t waste it watching the Democratic National Convention.  That is, unless you want to see five nights of self-congratulatory flagellation.   Yes, the Democrats did manage to nominate an electable candidate, as they have since 2000.  But as we all know, they’ve done it before with nothing to show for it. 

On tap is five nights of unearned back-slapping and speechifying.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but the platform most Democrats ran on in the last mid-term election was to stand up to W. Bush and end the war in Iraq.  Yet, they kept voting for funding, and our troops are still there getting bombed and shot.  And in case you haven’t noticed at your local gas station, the Enron loophole is alive and well.  This is the party that is supposedly looking out for working and middle class Americans.  In the words of Charlie Brown, “Good Grief.”

It is almost beside the point, but any entertainment the Convention can supply can be trumped elsewhere on cable, with less boredom and more enjoyment.

Better bad acting than at the DNC

Melrose Place: Better bad acting than at the DNC

  • If you’re looking for melodramatic bad acting, go find some reruns of Melrose Place on the Soap Network.  Skip Hillary and Barack arm-in-arm, smiling and acting like they’re great friends, mutually thrilled to have finally unified their party.  Without Aaron Spelling to direct them, that bit could be one of the most painful events in recent television history.
  •  Democratic party officials and politicians will be full of vitriol, fire, and outrage this week.  Of course, it’s easy to stand up and bellow when you’re surrounded by ardent, nerdy supporters.  Remember, these are the same folks who let Rove, Cheney, and Bush push them around for the last eight years while barely making a peep.  Watch the Wizard of Oz and see if the mighty Wizard doesn’t remind you of the Democrats–especially after Dorothy pulls back the curtain.
  • When you were in high school, didn’t you find the student government people to be just a  bit pompous and full of themselves?  As if they were actually doing something other than putting on dances and making sure students paid their class dues?  Granted, some kids were normal teens trying to pad their college apps, but the ones who took it seriously–you might recognize them at the convention foaming at the mouth and thrusting Obama-Biden signs high into the air.  Do you really want to spend five nights with these folks?  Get a grip with some kids who have real issues–check out Season One of Friday Night Lights.  Not a Student Council geek to be found. 
  • Democrats will spar over the party’s platform, as if it matters.  As soon as everyone is elected, the politicians will go back to their primary job function–getting reelected.  Outside of a few issues such as health care and hopefully ending the war, no one will give a rat’s ass about “minor” aspects of what is supposedly the party’s agenda.  If you want to see staged, fixed, and meaningless fighting, The Hangover recommends the WWE‘s Monday Night Raw or Friday’s Smackdown.  In addition, the wrestling Divas are much hotter than the political wonkettes.  The Hangover will take Eve and Victoria over Nancy Pelosi and Rielle Hunter any day. 
  • If you actually want to gain respect for your Senators and Representatives, skip the Convention and watch C-Span.  Anyone that can stay awake while serving through a session of Congress deserves some degree of adulation.
  • Finally, if you want to see what’s at the heart of American politics, get your hands on Robert Altman’s Nashville.  The film is set at a political convention, and it will entertain, educate, and challenge more than this week’s pitiful Demo-fest.   

Gas Tax Holiday In The Sun

9 May

In the last few weeks, John McCain proposed a Memorial Day to Labor Day suspension of the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon.   This would theoretically bring relief to the average citizen now paying $3.60 a gallon and up.  This is part of McCain’s economic plan, as well.  Theoretically, people will take the four bucks they’ll be saving on a “fill up” and pump those big dollars back into the economy.  Maybe he thinks there will be a direct response and the food industry will prosper by those savings being spent on the Twinkies, Funny Bones, and Ring Dings that stock the shelves of our local Quickie Marts and Gas Stations.  As the gas tax funds the maintenance and building of roads, perhaps McCain also hopes that saved consumer dollars might be spent in the rubber industry, when consumers replace tires blown out in unaddressed potholes. 

Democratic response to the proposal has been mixed.  The elitist Obama has the audacity to take a “big picture” view and call the proposal an “election year gimmick” that doesn’t address the real problem of oil dependency and gas usage.   He stands in the way of every American’s right to immediate junk food gratification.  No metaphor, there.

Hillary Clinton has taken the McCain Proposal one step further.  She would agree to the holiday if the lost revenues were regained through a windfall profits tax on the oil companies.  Now there’s an idea the Hangover can get behind:  Taxing those who are gauging consumers and enjoying record profits.  However, one would have to be quite naive to assume that this tax wouldn’t be passed right back to the consumer.  Exxon, Chevron, and the others probably have their creative staffs already fabricating an early summer crisis to blame for a can’t-be-helped 18.5 cent jump in gas prices on June 1st.

Brian Faler of Bloomberg reported that “more than 200 economists, including four Nobel prize winners signed a letter rejecting proposals”by Clinton and McCain.  Reasons include the possibility of raising oil and gas usage at a time when we should be trying to lessen it, and that the increased usage would benefit oil companies while increasing the federal budget deficit.  We’ve got big problems, and saving four dollars a fill up over three months isn’t going to make a dent. 

At least this is the first step, no matter how small, in a direction that this country is going to have to take: Strict Government Regulation of the Oil Industry.   Oil is a limited resource and we don’t have much of the world’s supply controlled domestically.  It’s clear that the American oil industry will act in their own best interest, which is not the same as the country’s best interest (Do voters yet regret not having pointed that out to Bush and Cheney?).  Exxon made 40.6 billion in 2007, Chevron 18.7.  Meanwhile, a greater percentage of people’s incomes are going to heat their homes and drive their cars; gas prices are raising costs in every sector of the economy, and supply is lessening.  These simple facts should make it obvious that the US cannot continue operating within its current oil industry model. 

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 established the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to oversee the civilian aspects of the nuclear power industry:

 This Act is the fundamental U.S. law on both the civilian and the military uses of nuclear materials. On the civilian side, it provides for both the development and the regulation of the uses of nuclear materials and facilities in the United States, declaring the policy that “the development, use, and control of atomic energy shall be directed so as to promote world peace, improve the general welfare, increase the standard of living, and strengthen free competition in private enterprise.” The Act requires that civilian uses of nuclear materials and facilities be licensed, and it empowers the NRC to establish by rule or order, and to enforce, such standards to govern these uses as “the Commission may deem necessary or desirable in order to protect health and safety and minimize danger to life or property.”

The red text highlights the reasoning behind the Act.  The US is now at the point where oil needs to be considered in the same light as nuclear power.  Conditions in America and around the world (Hello, Iraq) indictate that world peace, the general welfare, the standard of living, and free enterprise all feel Big Oil’s foot on their throat.  It’s time to act–and 18.4 cents a gallon for three months just isn’t going to get it done. 

(Hey, regulation isn’t so bad.  We could always skip it and go right to nationalization.  The 155 billion in profits these companies made last year would look pretty good in federal coffers right now.)

Bitter, Yes. And Why Not?

17 Apr

There’s no doubt that last night’s Democratic debate left small town, suburban, and even city-dwelling Americans bitter. The Obama-Clinton entanglement was a “he said this, she said that–what does it all mean” painfest.   Watching candidates backpedal and rationalize only served to neglect the real issues facing the country.  Most of this nonsense stemmed from Obama’s comments made at a fundraiser last week in which he stated:

“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The real problem here is that Obama is absolutely correct.  Middle class and working people are bitter and they have plenty of reasons to be: NAFTA, Iraq (including the WMD bullshit that hoodwinked us into going there), Enron, gas prices, record oil company profits, the mortgage and financial crises, federal response to Katrina, rising college costs, stagnant incomes, the shift from a manufacturing to service economy, the response to 9/11–meaning a free Osama Bin Laden, etc…   While one can blame George W. for a host of these issues, a Democratic congress resulting from the 2006 midterms did nothing to slow down the war.  In fact, the President was able to launch a “surge” and increase American presence.  

There isn’t a gun in Hangover headquarters, coincidentally located in small town America.  The Hangover doesn’t take “the opiate of the masses.”  We don’t have anything against immigrants (our grandparents being “off the boat” themselves).  However, free trade has scuttled the American manufacturing economy as Ross Perot predicted.  That is frustrating.  If you can’t tell, the Hangover is also fairly cynical, if not disgusted.  But as explained above, we have our reasons.

However, the bitter and apathetic have no one to blame but themselves.  Hello, Ohio!  John Kerry lost the presidency in 2004 because the people of Ohio were more concerned with the prospect of having homosexuals get married than the economic conditions crippling their state.  The Hangover, being  one for common sense, would consider a good job more important than the possibility of gay neighbors “enjoying” marital bliss.  While married gay neighbors might invite you over for dinner every now and then, they won’t provide you with a weekly paycheck so that you can eat on those other nights and make payments on your Honda.

As a result of his remarks, the McCain and Clinton camps are now trying to attach the “elitist” label to Obama.  He should be grateful, whether it is true or not.  (This with the Clinton’s out-earning the Obama’s by 16 million dollars in 2007).  The tag marks Obama as a thinker and an intellectual.  It’s clear that America could use an infusion of brains at its highest level.  Our folksy, horse-riding, jean-wearing, down-to-earth President has been more terrifying than terrific.  At the least, the label distances Obama from Clinton (coat tail-riding policy wonk) and McCain (war-hawking maverick).   Obama speaks well and sometimes advances ideas beyond the standard political rhetoric.  When one candidate is making up stories of a commando entrance into Bosnia and the other is confusing Iraq and Iran, eloquence should be considered a positive.    

Perhaps it is time again for America to have an elitist President.  Our last, FDR, wasn’t so bad, was he?   All Obama has to do is convince America that education, intelligence, and thoughtfulness are actually good qualities.  Even the guy who mows your lawn, pours your drink, or defends your tax fraud case should be able to see that. 

Hillary Clinton’s Hide and Seek

14 Mar

Hillary Clinton has been playing hide and seek throughout this campaign.  Today Senator Orrin Hatch found her crouched behind a facade of words in the health care discussion.

Hillaryclinton.com states: 

“Nobody has worked harder or longer to improve health care than Hillary Clinton. From her time in Arkansas when she improved rural health care to her successful effort to create the SCHIP Children’s Health Insurance program which now covers six million children, Hillary has the strength and experience to ensure that every man, woman and child in America has quality, affordable health care.”

However, in today’s Boston Globe the co-author of the amendment that created SHCIP, Senator Orrin Hatch, said:

“We all care about children. But does she deserve credit for SCHIP?  No–Teddy (Kennedy) does, but she doesn’t.”

There are those that acknowledge that Hillary may have done some behind the scenes lobbying for SCHIP.  However, to call that a “successful effort to create the SCHIP Children’s Health Insurance Program” is to stretch the truth from Pasadena to Pluto.  Hopefully, someone in the Obama camp will point this out to voters in Pennsylvania and perhaps even Michigan, should the chance arise.  

Of course, documents and records that could enlighten voters on the actual roles Hillary Clinton played as First Lady remain under review by the Bill Clinton Library Archives.  How convenient.  Could it be that while Hillary gives the impression that she was politicking side-by-side with her husband, she was actually writing guest lists and planning menus?  It probably doesn’t matter.  For in the phraseology of the Clinton campaign, if Hillary were choosing China patterns for a state dinner, she would have actually been “developing avenues of international trade.” 

As readers of The Hangover know, language can be a dangerous thing. 

Clinton versus Obama: Will There Be Blood?

8 Mar

The Clinton-Obama battle has turned nasty.  First, Hillary launched her “It’s 3:00 am, who do you want answering the bat phone?” ad.  Then came her speech in which she deemed herself and John McCain foreign policy veterans, but implied that Obama wouldn’t know Afghanistan from Argentina.  A Clinton spokesman also compared him to Ken Starr.  The haymakers are coming fast and furious.

Obama tried to remain civilized–and lost three out of four primaries.  He reminded America that while he came out against the war from the start, Hillary voted along with Bush and McCain at every opportunity, which doesn’t exactly show a great deal of acumen in international relations.  However, this isn’t about logic anymore.

Obama refused to trade hair pulls, elbows, and eye gouges with the Clinton campaign.  But one of his staffers, Harvard professor Samantha Power, let loose to a Scottish journalist, referring to Hillary as “a monster.”  It’s not an unfair characterization.  After all, she could star in her own version of The Thing That Couldn’t Die.   She could also play the lead in dramatic renditions of “The Little Train That Could” and “The Guest Who Wouldn’t Leave.”  Give her credit.  If she’s going down, she’s going down swinging.

Of course, the Clinton campaign was shocked and outraged (although The Hangover doubts they were surprised) by Samantha Power’s comments.  The Clinton camp demanded action and Power resigned from the Obama team.   Obama has acknowledged that the election has taken a vicious turn, but stated that he would not be drawn “into a knife fight.”  That’s too bad, because by avoiding the blood, he puts his campaign in jeopardy. 

It’s noble that Obama wants to keep on message:  hope and change.  It’s honorable that he wants a clean, dignified campaign.  But a look at recent history suggests that those ready to claw and scratch usually emerge the winners.

In 2000, Al Gore acted like a gentleman from start to finish, even after it was clear that Florida had been stolen.  Where did that lead us?  Into 9/11 and ultimately Afgahnistan and Iraq.  If Gore had fought–ungainly and looking like a sore loser–and won, we don’t know how different things might be today.  Let’s face it, they couldn’t be worse.

In the 2004 election, “swiftboating” became a verb.  John Kerry was besieged by false accusations.  Fact:  He was a decorated veteran, one of the few Ivy Leaguers to actually see action in Viet Nam.  By not fighting back, he allowed himself and his campaign to appear weak.  He had an opponent who didn’t even show up for significant stretches of his National Guard duty.  Kerry should have hammered W. Bush on that every chance he got.  We heard barely a peep about it from the Kerry campaign.  That turned out bad, too.

The public shouldn’t be surprised that at least one side of the Democratic battle has turned ferocious.  The Clinton team is savvy and cutthroat.  They aren’t concerned with a Democrat winning the nomination; their mission is to get Hillary the nod.  It’s politics.   And after losing for much of the campaign, they don’t care how they get there.   That makes them dangerous and more than viable.

In her apology to Hillary Clinton, Power stated,  “Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign.”   In those words lie the problem:  If Obama hopes to hang on, he’s going to have change “the spirit, tenor, and purpose” of his campaign.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way it is.  If he believes his Presidency is what this country needs, his number one priority needs to be winning–no matter what it takes.  He’s got plenty of ammunition.  If he doesn’t start using it, he’ll be sitting in the Senate next year wondering what the hell just happened. 

John McCain’s Straight Talk Translated by The Hangover

5 Mar

Last night John McCain claimed his place as the Republican Party’s nominee for President.   His acceptance speech contained the bones of what will become his platform.  There was plenty of McCain’s vaunted “straight talk” in the address.  However, it is unwise to take any politician’s words at face value.  As yet another public service, The Hangover reveals the subtext buried in the language.

McCain:  “Presidential candidates are judged on their records, their character and the whole of their life experiences.”

Translation:  I am a veteran, a POW.  I’ve given a lot to my country.  Remember that.  But please forget my involvement with the Keating Five, where I peddled influence up to my ears.  Oh, and this current flap with  Vicki Iseman, it’s nothing.  And although I speak out against corporate lobbyists, it’s okay that I allow them to work on and for my campaign.  No future conflicts of interest could possibly come from that.  Honest.  Cross my heart.  

McCain:  “Our campaign must be, and will be more than another tired debate of false promises, empty sound-bites, or useless arguments from the past that address not a single American’s concerns for their family’s security.”

Translation:  Obama is a wimp.   All talk, no action.  I may be seventy-two but I could take him in a bar fight.  Clinton?  Don’t make me laugh.  She’s riding her husband’s coattails for all they’re worth.   

McCain:  “It is of little use to Americans for their candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of these struggles by re-litigating decisions of the past. I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime as I criticized the failed tactics that were employed for too long to establish the conditions that will allow us to leave that country with our country’s interests secure and our honor intact.”

Translation:  I’m a little confused myself.  I guess it’s okay to re-litigate by talking about the war now that the surge I supported is working (just don’t ask me to define “working”).  But if anyone else wants to talk about how and why we got in the war, no, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  At least I think that’s what I think. 

McCain:  “The next President must lead an effort to restructure our military, our intelligence, our diplomacy and all relevant branches of government to combat Islamic extremism, encourage the vast majority of moderates to win the battle for the soul of Islam, and meet the many other rising challenges in this changing world.”

Translation:  First, I’m going to have your tax dollars sent directly to the Pentagon.  Second, now that we’re getting good at determining how other people should govern themselves, why not dictate their religions?  Yeah, that’ll work. 

McCain:  “We will campaign in favor of seizing the opportunities presented by the growth of free markets throughout the world, helping displaced workers acquire new and lasting employment and educating our children to prepare them for the new economic realities by giving parents choices about their children’s education they do not have now.”

Translation:  Corporate profits will stay high as we ship our manufacturing jobs overseas where workers can be paid $10 a week instead of $10 an hour.  We will build more and more fast food restaurants here each year, providing jobs for those formerly employed in factories.  Education will reflect the global economy.  We will train our children to make Mexican food for Taco Bell, Italian food for The Olive Garden, and Canadian cooking for Bugaboo Creek.  Training courses for McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s will, of course, remain highly competitive.    

McCain:  “I will leave it to my opponent to claim that they can keep companies and jobs from going overseas by making it harder for them to do business here at home. We will campaign to strengthen job growth in America by helping businesses become more competitive with lower taxes and less regulation.”

Translation:  It’s just too complicated to give tax breaks to companies who keep jobs in America and tax those corporations who export them.  And we’ve seen how effective deregulation can be.  Remember the S and L successes from the Reagan years?  Enron?  The current mortgage boom?  What?  I got that backwards.  Shit.  Strike those last remarks, please.  

McCain:  “I will leave it to my opponent to propose returning to the failed, big government mandates of the sixties and seventies to address problems such as the lack of health care insurance for some Americans. I will campaign to make health care more accessible to more Americans with reforms that will bring down costs in the health care industry down without ruining the quality of the world’s best medical care.”

Translation:  No one is going to get anything done with health care.  That lobby funnels too much money into Washington,  so I can just say this now and then forget about it.  And there’s no way I can ruin France’s health care system, which is actually rated the best by the World Health Organization.   

McCain:  “And I will campaign to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil with an energy policy that encourages American industry and technology to make our country safer, cleaner and more prosperous by leading the world in the use, development and discovery of alternative sources of energy.”

Translation:  I will campaign to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.  It’s a great way to stick it to Bush and his cronies for their cheap shots that scuttled my 2000 presidential bid.  Screw those oil guys.   

Unhealthy Debate

22 Feb

Last night’s Democratic presidential debate didn’t create much excitement.  But one exchange did bring The Hangover’s seatback to a full upright position.  It is excerpted below.  (The full transcript is available at CNN.com.  ) I have whittled down some of the exposition, but the lines remaining are unaffected and not taken out of context in any way:

CLINTON:   But then we’ve got to do the hard work of not just bringing the country together, but overcoming a lot of the entrenched opposition to the very ideas that both of us believe in, and for some of us have been fighting for, for a very long time. You know, when I took on…

When I took on universal health care back in ’93 and ’94, it was against a firestorm of special interest opposition. I was more than happy to do that, because I believe passionately in getting quality affordable health care to every American.

I don’t want to leave anybody out. I see the results of leaving people out. I am tired of health insurance companies deciding who will live or die in America.

(These are noble sentiments and the fact is true:  President and First Lady Clinton did try to reform health care in ’93 and ’94.  TH)

OBAMA then discusses aspects of his plan and then gets to this:

OBAMA:  One last point I want to make on the health care front. I admire the fact that Senator Clinton tried to bring about health care reform back in 1993. She deserves credit for that.

(APPLAUSE)

But I said before…

(Here is where The Hangover sat up straight, waiting for:  “when she took on health care fifteen years ago, she got her ass kicked and nothing got done, which is why we are still debating it today.” TH)   

….I think she did it in the wrong way, because it wasn’t just the fact that the insurance companies, the drug companies were battling here, and no doubt they were. It was also that Senator Clinton and the administration went behind closed doors, excluded the participation even of Democratic members of Congress who had slightly different ideas than the ones that Senator Clinton had put forward.

Hillary’s positing of herself as a champion health care refromer has been has been driving The Hangover to the Glenlivet.  She fell short.  Hillarycare did not even make it to the Senate floor for a vote.  (There are a variety of reasons for this, which are discussed substanatively and factually in this post at The Health Care Blog.)  While Hillary does deserve credit for the attempt, credit doesn’t provide coverage to those who need it.

One can only hope that Hillary learned from her first go-round.  In her husband’s second term she assisted Senators’ Kennedy and Hatch with the enacting of SCHIP, a program which provided health insurance to qualifying families through Medicaid.  Clinton’s current plan is also significantly different than her ’93 version and theoretically (hopefully, at least), her political approach would be modified when bringing it before Congress.  However, being an experienced  health care reformer does not make Hillary a successful  health care reformer.  The Hangover wishes she would note the difference.