As I was flipping through some midday news, I saw a report that the average gas price is expected to reach $4.50/gal before finally coming down in October.  Sadly, this price has nothing to do with supply and demand.  Environmentalists will use it as a call-to-arms that everyone should buy fuel efficient cars with money they don’t have while conservatives will say that it’s time to drill off shore as quickly as possible.  However, both these calls assume that the price of gas is so high because we’re running out or because of the current turmoil in the Middle East.

But that’s simply not the case.  It’s oil speculation now and it was oil speculation in 2008.  As Matt Taibbi explains in his must-read (albeit wholly depressing) book Griftopia, the price of oil is being driven up by greedy speculators (e.g. Goldman Sachs, Barack Obama’s single largest campaign contributor in 2008).  How does this work?  By screwing with the commodities market.  Here’s a helpful analogy of how it’s gone horribly wrong:

To use an example frequently offered by [Mike Masters of Masters Capital Management], imagine if someone continually showed up at car dealerships and asked to buy $500,000 worth of cars.  This mystery person doesn’t care how many cars, mind you, he just wants a half million bucks’ worth.  Eventually, someone is going to sell that guy one car for $500,000. Put enough of those people out there visiting car dealerships, your car market is going to get very weird very quickly.  Soon enough, the people who are coming into the dealership looking to buy cars they actually plan on driving are going to find they’ve been priced out of the market. [p. 143]

Also keep in mind that the price of oil drives up the price of food.  If companies have to pay more to put fuel in their trucks, they’re going to pass the loss onto the consumer.

So what does our fearful leader do in the face of obvious and well-documented fraud?  He pulls a classic Obama and hedges with the appearance of doing something without actually doing anything.  The website Transport Topics reports:

The U.S. Justice Department is “putting together a team whose job it is to root out any cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, and that includes the role of traders and speculators,” President Barack Obama said Thursday in Reno, Nevada.

Oh good.  Another commission to look into something that we already know.  Obama’s defenders will argue that this is the same “prudence” he’s always exercised, but it’s really a stalling tactic.  Obama didn’t say “We’re going to prosecute speculators” or anything that would give the hint that he’s an active rather than a re-active president.  Instead, they’ll “root out any cases of fraud or manipulation”, whatever the hell that means.  And while the Justice Department continues its stellar record of not prosecuting serious corporate criminals in any meaningful way, the administration will hope that the price of oil will decline and our collective amnesia will take over.

I write all this so that every time you go to fill up your car, you’ll look at the price and know that it’s not real.  That it has nothing to do with our lack of energy alternatives or worldwide demand or that we’re not drilling enough in our own backyard.  It’s a scam and it’s a scam we may as well get to used to because Obama has shown he has no real interest in holding anyone responsible for anything.

On a related note, we just passed the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill that destroyed the Gulf of Mexico.  Here’s a visual reminder of that enduring catastrophe.  We have passed ZERO new laws to handle such a spill in the future (although deepwater drilling permits have been issued despite “not fabulous” safety standards).  Sad fact: Reuters reports that “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

Friday, April 22nd, 2011 politics, stupid No Comments

The Conflictinator at Work

Would you like to combine your dismay with our national news media with our nation’s outdated and alarmist approach to gender roles?  Then you’ll love the misery provided by last night’s opening segment of The Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Toemageddon 2011 – This Little Piggy Went to Hell
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 criticism, politics, stupid, television No Comments

The Piñata of Benevolence

While I usually find Bill Maher too obnoxious, his “New Rule” on shows like Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss is worth watching:

Sunday, March 13th, 2011 humor, politics, television No Comments

Obama Goes to the Bank

I had the foolish hope that when Rahm Emmanuel and Larry Summers announced they were exiting the Obama administration, that the tenor might change and Obama might hire some outsiders who would be willing to say “Wow.  This is really fucked up.  Banks are running this place and you’re losing the goodwill of the American people by being their butt-boy.”

Of course, Obama is a weak man who lacks confidence in actually changing the system.  So who is his new chief of staff?  William Daley, whose current job is a bank executive at JP Morgan Chase.  So why does Daley get the job?  Because he’s seen as a guy who can get Obama a second term.  Good luck with that.

And who is Obama’s new head of the White House Economic Council?  Gene Sperling, who previously worked as a consultant for Goldman Sachs.  But hey, he held this post during the Clinton years, and as we all know, it’s 1996.

It’s clear that Obama’s real agenda isn’t changing the way Washington works.  He’s hiring Clinton guys (also in the mix is Jacob Lew, who was the old director of the OMB and now is the new director of the OMB) who jerk off to the same idiotic philosophy that the free market is always right except when it’s wrong and then government has a responsibility to save it.  Did Clinton preside over an era of economic growth?  Kind of.  It was a bubble economy spurred by equity scams followed by the dot-com scams.  It was artificial growth and Clinton let Glass-Steagal, a law that prevented too-big-to-fail banks from existing, be repealed.  And all of these “new” councilors Obama has are the same kind of morally-corrupt nitwits who will ask the banks to pretty-please let the nation kind of survive.

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 politics, stupid No Comments

The Math

Last night was the final episode of The Daily Show for 2010 and host Jon Stewart made one more effort to call attention to the 9/11 First Responders bill that had stalled in the Senate.  The bill would provide $7 billion to cover the health care costs incurred by the first responders who rushed to Ground Zero on 9/11 and were rewarded for their heroism with diseases and the crippling financial burden that comes when you make the unforgivable mistake of getting sick in America.  It was a moving, heartbreaking piece and if I have one complaint, it would be that the Daily Show didn’t offer any way viewers could donate money directly to these 9/11 first responders.

Of course, direct donations wouldn’t be necessary if Congress, and namely Republican senators, acted responsibly.  I could shoot an e-mail to my senators, but the thing about the GOP is that they’re very good at not thinking for themselves.  They are a lockstep voting group and the Senators from Georgia, Mr. Chambliss and Mr. Isakson, have never made headlines because they don’t make waves.  They don’t introduce important legislation and they don’t question the party leadership.  And e-mails or letters or phone calls from me won’t make a difference because I’m not part of their calculus.  I’m one liberal voter.  I didn’t vote for either of them and most likely never will.  I don’t have huge sums of money to donate to their campaigns so a letter from me asking them to do right by 9/11 first responders isn’t going to change their minds.  A mind has to exist in order for it to be changed.

I know I go after President Obama a lot on this blog, but that’s because I have expectations of him.  I thought there was greatness in him but with each passing day, I suspect that greatness only extended to winning the 2008 election.  I don’t begrudge him his pragmatism, but I do begrudge him that pragmatism when it’s used in pursuit of upholding a broken status quo.  Being successful at keeping things rotten isn’t much reason to celebrate, and a President who thinks that one year of unemployment benefits in exchange for two years of tax cuts isn’t good at math and is even worse at politics.

But I don’t say much about Republicans on this blog because at this point it’s a given that they’re evil.  You can’t vote against a 9/11 First Responders bill in good conscience.  There are many issues where I’m willing to concede that an opposing viewpoint isn’t evil, but simply misguided or just really stupid.  This is not one of those issues.  Voting against 9/11 first responders is evil.  This is saying money, money that the GOP has no problem giving away to millionaires and billionaires, isn’t worth giving to people who risked their lives on 9/11 and are now dying slow and painful deaths as a result.  The fact that this bill hasn’t passed already doesn’t offend the GOP.  The thought of working on Christmas offends them, but letting heroes die when you have the power to help them?  Not keeping any Republicans up at night.  And if it sounds like I’m demonizing Republicans, it’s only because I find their actions demonic.

What’s disheartening is that if a bill such as this can’t pass the U.S. Senate, then what can?  Bills that help the wealthy and leave the rest of us with the scraps, apparently.  Republicans have chosen to do evil and media organizations that treat actions such as these as worthwhile positions allow evil to exist as a perfectly valid viewpoint.  News organizations are so scared of being labeled partisan, that they won’t say, “9/11 first responders are dying in agony because Republicans are blocking the bill on the basis of not wanting Democrats to win.”  And as long as people don’t know about it, then that’s wonderful because if they did, they would be fucking outraged.  If people can get upset about a non-mosque that’s not located next door to Ground Zero, imagine what they would do if they found out 9/11 first responders were being left to die in poverty?

I applaude Jon Stewart for calling attention to this bill.  I think this, far more than the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, is the best thing he’s done with his influence this year.  The Rally was a nice evolution of his satire and media critique, but this is a fight with a clear right and a clear wrong and I thank Mr. Stewart and everyone at The Daily Show for willing to set aside some laughs to pick up an important cause.

If you live in a state represented by a heartless Republican, but still want to help, you can donate to the FealGood Foundation.  You may not have corporate backers and a warchest filled with millions of dollars, but you’ll have actually made a positive difference in the world, which is more than I can say for anyone who voted against the 9/11 First Responders bill.

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 politics No Comments

Time to Change the Rules

Raising taxes for only the wealthy and repealing Don’t Ask , Don’t Tell are both highly popular among the American people.  Both propositions passed the House of Representative.  They both received a majority of votes in the Senate.  Both were defeated because of parliamentary nonsense that have allowed the minority party to wield a disproportionate level of power.  This has been the way of the Senate for the last two years.  It will continue to be this way unless Obama makes it his cause to change the rules of this dysfunctional chamber.

Obama blathers on and on about needing to change the way Washington works.  Well, this is the way it currently works.  Change it.  He can’t succeed if the Senate stays the way it is.  And while lashing out at his progressive base might be a nice way to vent, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re not the ones setting up roadblocks in his agenda.  We’re not the ones who have sworn to defeat him and make him a one-term president.

Unfortunately, I’m sure he’ll fail this task just as he’s failed so many others.  John Boehner and the House of Representative will set the agenda for the next two years and Obama will make sure that their agenda passes with minor (if any) Democratic adjustments, because to this President it’s more important to do things rather than do good things.

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

Obama Didn’t Ask, But I’ll Tell Him He Failed on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

So Obama was already 0 for 1 in this lame duck session by capitulating on the tax cuts (and according to Paul Krugman, he’s most likely created his own political defeat in 2012 because he doesn’t know how calendars work), and now it looks like he’s failed on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Obama hemmed and hawed about how he couldn’t let the courts make this decision.  It had to be done through Congress.  Well, this is what happens when you put it in the hands of your Congress–nothing.  Harry Reid’s leadership in the Senate has been about as effective as a wet fart and Obama has shown once again that he’s not willing to lead on tough issues.  What could have been a victory on a social issue and the closing of a sorry chapter from the Clinton administration has now become yet another of Obama’s many defeats.

So now that DADT repeal has failed to pass in Congress, what is Obama going to do about it?  I’m sure he’ll have plenty of lip service.  It’s a shame he doesn’t have a fraction of the dedication of the proud gay and lesbian Americans who want to openly go into military service.

Of course, I can’t lay all the blame at Obama’s feet.  Republicans are evil.  They just are.  It’s institutional bigotry and there’s no good reason why gays can’t openly serve.  We’ve done studies.  The leaders of the military say they can make it happen.  And yet we still can’t repeal an evil law that hurts our defensive capabilities.  Disgusting.

Once again, we see that it doesn’t matter if you vote Democrat because the Republicans always win.

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

Special Comment: “We’re Very Sorry.”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 brilliant, politics, television No Comments

So Much for Obama

Well, Obama caved on tax cuts.  The Republicans saw that taking hostages worked and they’ll be sure to do it again.  At first, I was willing to let Obama’s capitulation slide because he did get unemployment benefits and strongly-needed economic stimulus out of the deal.  But Republicans got a two-year extension of benefits for the wealthy while the poor only got 13 months of benefits.  When that clock runs out in January 2012, do you think they’ll re-up?  And when the tax breaks run out at the end of 2012, will anyone believe Obama when he says that this time, he’ll make sure the wealthy don’t send us further into debt?

Earlier this year, my dad told me that he agreed with Christopher Hitchens’ assessment that Obama was a weak man.  I thought that was a strong insult.  Disappointing?  Sure.  But weak?  There’s no beating that character flaw.  Irritating naivety I can stomach, but weakness from a leader is unacceptable.  But as the year has gone on, I’ve come to agree with that assessment.  Where does Obama stand on the issues?  Wherever Republicans tell him to.  For a guy who ran such a smart campaign, he’s run an awfully stupid White House.

The line from Obama that really irked me was this:

“So, sympathetic as I am with those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do.”

Really?  What problem did you solve, you gigantic chump?  One problem resurfaces in 13 months, the other surfaces in two years.  You’ve made no explanation of how you plan to pay for either.  I don’t mind compromises.  I mind weak compromises like the one you just made.  This is a president who doesn’t understand that sometimes in order to solve a problem, you need to fight.

The other big issue I was looking at during this lame duck session is the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  However, since the Republicans have made clear that they don’t want to repeal it, it won’t happen.  Maybe Obama can get one of his “compromises” and the result will be that bisexuals will get to serve openly in ten years.

Obama’s a failed President.  The midterms should have been a wake-up call, but he’s made it clear he’ll never wake up.  I thought I was getting a real Democratic President who could forge a new path after the disastrous Bush administration.  I was wrong.

Monday, December 6th, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments

Obama’s Crucible

As Congress enters its lame duck session, I’m finally at my last straw with Obama.  It’s not that news about him likely caving to Republican demands about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is unexpected.  It’s that it’s so stupid he should cave to it.  I thought I elected a savvy politician, but it looks like Obama’s not only weak, but really stupid.  This White House is terrible at negotiating and they’re too inept to realize when they hold leverage.

The Republicans are threatening to be Republicans and block all legislation if Obama doesn’t cave on the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.  The “compromise” is punting for two years, letting the deficit pile up while rich people get a bonus that doesn’t help the country.  The smart political play is to let the tax cuts expire and then introduce the Obama Tax Cuts, which are the same except they don’t apply to rich people.  Then Republicans are on the defensive about why they’re holding up tax cuts for the American people.

The counter-argument is that Obama needs Republicans to not block all the other important legislation and that caving on the tax cuts will allow other pressing issues like New START, DADT, etc. to come the floor.  But that just lets Republicans know that taking Obama’s agenda hostage works.  And there’s no guarantee that once Obama gives Republicans what they want, they’ll honor their end of the agreement.

If one thing has become painfully clear over the past few years, it’s that the Senate is broken and if Obama really wanted to be a leader he would make reforming it his issue.  But Obama looks like he wants to be anything but a leader.  He wants to be the good, old-fashioned community organizer who gets everybody into the room so they can come to a sensible agreement.  That’s cute and I don’t mind that he tried doing it at the start of his Presidency.  But it’s been almost two years and he needs to wake the fuck up.  Politics is a blood sport and he’s almost been exsanguinated.

Things are only going to get more difficult with a Republican-controlled House, so it’s time to make a stand.  It’s time to rally the congresspeople who have nothing to lose and to use some actual political savvy to get somethings accomplished.  I’m basically looking for two things out of this lame duck session:

1) Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

2) No tax cuts extended for the top wage earners.

If Obama fails on both of these counts, then the 2012 election will be a question of how repulsive does the Republican candidate have to be to make me give Obama a second term of uselessness.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 politics, stupid No Comments