Tag Archives: government

Stick a fork in (the) US, Democracy is Cooked

22 Jan

With the Supreme Court ruling that the government cannot regulate or limit political spending by corporations, a bullet has been put through the head of a suffering democracy.   It was a mercy killing.  For years now, Americans have been pathetically clinging to the idea that their votes meant something.  Well, they don’t have to worry about that anymore.  Thanks to the Supreme Court, it’s now all special interests, all the time.  

It would be a mistake, however, to say that Americans’ votes will be worthless.  In a political version of American Idol, we will be given the honor of deciding which corporate-sponsored politician will be able to become a highly respected, suit-and-tie-wearing marionette.  And then we will live happily ever after, basking in the illusion of democracy. 

In the decision’s simplest terms, Exxon, Citibank, Pfizer, General Electric, etc..,. will now be able to gush money toward any candidate they feel deserving, meaning one who will support their interests.  Sure, you may be outraged that a Canadian can pay $5 for medication that costs you $40.  You might even be so incensed that you exercise your right as an American citizen and call your Senator, urging them to support lower cost prescription drugs.  But who do you think they are going to listen to:  you or the lobbyist from Johnson and Johnson who just dropped $500,000 into the making of a campaign advertisement supporting that Senator? Good luck with that.

If you want to see how this money-in-politics dynamic works on a small scale, read what The Hangover learned while talking to Susan Collins’ office.  Or if you would really like to be educated on the topic, check out Who Rules America?by G. William Domhoff.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said:  

“The end of democracy, and the defeat of the American revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of the lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”

Consider the revolution over.

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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.)

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 World of Commander McCain

27 Sep

In September 26th’s Presidential Debate, Republican hopeful John McCain often touted his vast experience in both domestic and foreign affairs.  McCain entered politics in 1981, when he retired from the Navy.  According to his talking points, the Senator was heavily involved in many of the most critical American political actions of the past 25-plus years.  And if that’s the case (who would doubt this man of honor?), why haven’t things turned out better for the United States?

Early on in the debate, McCain stated, ” We Republicans came to power to change government, and government changed us.”  He later added, It (meaning the money laden system of politics in Washington) corrupts people.”   This is one arena where McCain knows of which he speaks.  He was one of the infamous Keating Five:  A group of Senators found wielding influence for Charles Keating, director of the corrupt Lincoln Savings and Loan (There’s that deregulation, greed, and collapse formula again).  After receiving more than $100, 000 of Keating’s ill-earned dollars in campaign funds, as well as stays at Keating’s Bahamian vacation home, McCain attended hearings with federal regulators on behalf of Keating.  In the words of the Seattle Times, this placed McCain (and the entire group) “under an ethical cloud for years.”  It also led to McCain being found guilty by the Senate Ethics Committee of “using poor judgement” in acting on Keating’s behalf.  The incident does prove that McCain can work across the aisle–the other four members of the Keating Five were Democrats.  The Hangover is puzzled as to why that wasn’t featured in McCain’s considerable self portrait last night.

McCain did manage to mention that he’s been to Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Georgia (the country) and New Hampshire (the state).  He also boasted of meeting with Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Misha Saakashvili, and General Patraeus.  He looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and saw “a K, a G and a B”  Perhaps McCain was drunk at the time.  Just about the only thing McCain hasn’t done is kept track of how many houses he owns.

Through connections in Washington DC, The Hangover has gained access to a video of McCain actually taking on terrorists in New York City.  Only great modesty must have prevented McCain from sharing these exploits with the American People:

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 to Watch the Republican National Convention

1 Sep

The Republican National Convention should provide compelling television viewing this week.  Nothing’s more engaging than a bunch of aged, rich white guys (and one hot Governor Babe) telling the rest of the country what’s good for them. 

Eschew your usual shows and HBO movies and tune in because:

  • There is a battle of “larger forces” playing out right before our eyes.  It’s Karma and Nature versus The Bible Thumpers and Big Business.  This will be a battle more epic than Midway, more psychotic than Apocalypse Now, and more futile than The Alamo.  That’s right:  The Republican Administration totally disregarded and ignored post-Katrina New Orleans and now Hurricane Gustav has risen from a Globally-Warmed Atlantic to remind everyone how inept Republicans as a group can be.   Gustav will undercut and shadow what should have been the Republican spotlight.  Republican spin will be off the charts on Bill Simmon’s Unintentional Comedy Scale
  • Due to US Open tennis coverage, WWE broadcasts will be limited this week.  That means fewer spandex-clad lady wrestlers gracing the airwaves.  In a move to counter this crisis, John McCain has provided the country with Sarah Palin.  Thank you, Candidate McCain.
Vice President Palin is no wrestler in spandex, but she's not bad.

Candidate Palin: No master of the flying dropkick, but not bad.

  • If Weird Science is more your thing, you can hope that Sarah Palin gets to address the Convention on education.  She believes that creationism should be taught alongside evolution:   

                       “Teach both.  You know, don’t be afraid of information…Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools.  I am a proponent of teaching both.  And you know, I say this too as a daughter of a science teacher.” 

Perhaps she’ll get the chance to clarify if she’d like the Easter Bunny taught along with photosynthesis every spring.  And maybe she can mandate that Santa and his reindeer be discussed with NASA and rockets when the kids are learning about space flight. 

(It also makes me wonder how good a science teacher her father was.  And it’s hard to miss that Palin’s pose on Vogue echoes that of Kelly LeBrock’s on the Weird Science poster.)

  • If you enjoy the Psychic Hotline infomercials, you might spend your evenings this week flipping between the Weather Channel and the Convention.   Who can tell us which would screw up the country worse?  Another four years of Republican leadership or Hurricane Gustav.  See the reality play out against the possibilities.   
  • If you’re missing ’70’s reruns, you can find a couple much odder than Oscar and Felix:  It’s John and Sarah.  He’s a cranky, ninety-something former POW.  She’s a librarian-hot, forty-ish former Alaskan sportscaster.  Can two crazy Republicans share an Oval Office without driving the rest of the country crazy? 

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.)