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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.)

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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.

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.

Deregulation+Capitalism+Socialism =Economic Herpes

24 Sep

Anyone who owns a television, radio, or computer now knows that the taxpayers of the United States are about to become the de-facto owners of one of the world’s largest insurance companies, AIG.  The US is also currently subsidizing the airline, oil, agriculture, banking, and finance industries.  Media talking heads and politicians are claiming this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Back then, FDR bailed out the country by thinking from the bottom up.  Now, our leaders are approaching the problem from the top down.  Which is just the kind of thinking that got us in this mess to begin with, starting with Comrade Reagan’s deregulation of the Savings and Loan industry back in the 1980’s.  A direct line can be drawn from there to the socialism the US is employing today to save our staggering economy. 

Roosevelt’s New Deal dealt with the Great Depression by offering relief and creating jobs for out of work Americans–the regular people, in other words.   Money was given to states and local municipalities to distribute in the form of aid to those same people.  The government also became involved in planning with industrial, agriculture, financial, and transportation sectors of the economy.   What basically became a managed economy survived and prospered.  Roosevelt’s plan worked, as history shows.

But now we are going to take a different approach.   We (as in the American government, spending our tax dollars) are going to pop 700 billion to save the financial industries.  We’ve loaned AIG , a company now under investigation by the FBI, 85 billion.  Even with a change in leadership at Freddie Mac or AIG, it’s “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’   It’s a curious approach–and seemingly un-American, as capitalism should operate as a meritocracy.  If you do well, you profit.  If you lose, you’re out. 

But that all changed in 1980’s when Comrade HW Bush engineered a bailout of a deregulated Savings and Loan Industry.  According to the GAO, that bailout cost half a trillion dollars, of which more than 130 billion was taxpayer funded.   It also provided today’s generation of CEO”s with a blueprint:  “If you run a deregulated industry,  your mission is to haul as much money out of it as you can.  If you cut some corners or take some chances and the wheels come off, so be it.  Your Uncle Sam will make it all better.  The worst that can happen is you get sent to your mansion for a five month time out.”  

A favorite of Republican economists and Presidents, deregulation is at the root of our economic herpes (Let’s face it; our “issues” might be eased, but they’ll always be subject to outbreaks).  Unfortunately, a deregged industry always collapses under the greed of those running it.  Look no further Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, AIG, and the old Savings and Loans. 

Of course, there are exceptions.  Deregulation of energy speculation has made gazillions for the oil companies and their lackeys.  And that sector just keeps chugging along.  It also allows you and me the privilege of paying $4.00 a gallon for gas. 

There’s no doubt that the Republicans are capitalists at heart.  Give them credit:  Their ethos of deregulation and bailout has raised America to new heights.  The United States will soon become the greatest Socialist country on the face of the earth.

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.   

John Edwards Sex Scandal Good News

24 Jul

It was bad enough when The Hangover’s endorsement of John Edwards scuttled his 2008 presidential bid.  Now the National Enquirer is reporting that the former Senator is involved in a sex scandal.  As always, the Hangover is ready to examine the facts.  

The first step is to consider the source.  Exactly when did the National Enquirer become a reputable member of the media?  Perhaps it was when their correspondents started appearing on the Howard Stern show.  It could have been when the NE got its own TV show, Uncovered, in 1999, only to see it get cancelled in 2001.  However, The Hangover has determined the NE became credible when actual newspapers actually started citing the tabloid as a source in their own pathetic attempts to cover Lindsay Lohan’s binge drinking–the single most important and compelling news story of the current century. 

The Facts:  The Enquirer reported that at 9:45 on July 21st Edwards appeared at the Beverly Hilton.  Hmmm.  NE Reporter Alan Butterfield deduced that “he (Edwards) wasn’t carrying anything.”  Suspicious, indeed.  The Enquirer gang then hounded Edwards like a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Jacques Clouseau, and Deputy Dawg.  They reported that when cornered, Edwards looked like a “deer in caught in headlights!”  Not only can the NE reporters investigate, they are brilliant and original writers, too.  How could one not believe them?

And so what if Edwards was having an affair?  He is simply following in the footsteps of all the great Democractic political thinkers of the modern era:  John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Gary Hart, and William J. Clinton.  (Additionally, the incident differentiates Edwards from those Republicans caught in sex scandals, which generally operate under same-sex scenarios; not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  Mr. Obama, The Hangover urges you to heed this fine Democratic lineage and give Mr. Edwards a position in your cabinet.  Make the man your Attorney General. 

The Enquirer’s reporting of the scandal means that the Republicans view him as a threat.  In an Obama administration, Edwards could potentially be the first AG since Robert Kennedy to actually care about working class and poor Americans.  Maybe then the 95% of us who aren’t enjoying George W. Bush’s tax cuts could stop getting screwed.  How ironic.

Enron Strikes Again: The Loophole Chronicles

8 Jul

If you haven’t heard of the Enron Loophole, you’ve at least felt it–in your wallet, while pumping gas or paying your oil bill.   Described in its simplest terms, it’s legislation passed in December of 2000 ( Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000) which deregulated electronic trading of energy futures. Why is this important?  It’s the speculation and future trading of energy that is driving US gas prices toward $5.00 a gallon.   Why is it called the Enron Loophole?  Embedded Enron officials (there is no other way to describe them) in the government pushed through the legislation, strengthened it, benefited from it, and now protect it.

To gain a greater understanding of the Loophole, its creation, and the resulting it’s-the-people-who-always-get-screwed fallout, please watch the following video from Keith Olbermann’s Countdown (If you are a conservative and just reading “Olbermann” sends you into a heaving boil, please suck it up and take deep breaths for the duration.  The bet here is you’ll be glad you saw it.) 

The Hangover has been extremely critical of Republican policies and somewhat critical of the Democrats.  But there is plenty of blame to be dished out for both parties in this instance.  The seeds of deregulation were planted in the waning days of the Clinton administration.  Deregulation was commissioned and intensified in the blatantly corrupt Bush administration.  But as the Countdown report reveals, Congress was fully aware of the effect that the Enron Loophole had on gas and oil prices:  Big oil and Enron cronies make money; the rest of us get screwed.  And for the most part, Congress sits on its collective ass.  As The Hangover has asked before:  Where’s the outrage?   

This scheme has continued and thrived for eight years now.  As Olbermann reports, gas prices have more than doubled, as have heating oil costs.  It’s interesting (not to mention ‘hideous’)  to note that there are  Democrats (aren’t they the ones who are supposed to look out for us regular folk?) in both the Senate and House of Representatives.  However, it cannot be substantiated that more than a few them (Go Dennis Kucinich!) have integrity, conviction, or backbones.  

Although many experts believe an end to this unregulated speculation would drop gas prices to near $2.00 a gallon, Congress has been slow to act.   It is only recently that legislators tried to increase regulation and eliminate the loophole that has its heel on our gas-buying throats.  There was an amendment placed in the Farm Act (HR 2419) that increased energy commodity trading transparency but did not eliminate the loophole.  Companion 2007 “Close the Enron Loophole” bills languish in Senate and House committees.  Tom Allen (D) of Maine and Bart Stupak (D) of Michigan will be introducing the PUMP Act (Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices) later this month.  Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine will be co-sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate.    

But why has it taken so long for our elected representatives to act?  If eliminating the loophole will instantly ease the energy burden on Americans, legislation doing so should have been pushed through Congress with focus and ferocity.  It’s not hyperbole or out-of-the-box thinking to suggest that most Americans would greatly benefit from lower gas and energy costs.

Apparently The Hangover has made another foolish mistake.  It’s not “the people” who run our government.  It’s the corporate lobbyists and policy foundations who dish out the dollars and wield influence in our nation’s capitol.  For the most part, they’re the ones who control legislation, and they’re only looking out for the interests they represent.  If you doubt it, look at the receipt from your last fill-up and consider the following: 

And one more thing:  Former Enron executives hover like buzzards over Washington.  They and their ilk talk to your Senators and Congressmen everyday.  Do you?