Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 5 things to worry about concerning the government

We all have our concerns, politically speaking. In a current political climate where governmental issues are hitting home, and hitting hard, people are more inclined to have concerns about what's really going on at a Federal level. Here are the top five major political / governmental concerns people should have.

5. The election process: Since the advent of television, the election process has fallen further and further into the realm of farce than the fair and just "best person for the job" process it was intended to be. Instead of US citizens being elected to public office, we're seeing ever-increasing numbers of career politicians trying to lie, cheat, steal, and slander their way to the top. Elections are no longer about the best person for the job, but rather are a popularity contest, based on who can inspire the most people with their speeches and lies, who can slander their opponents the best, and who voters would prefer to have a beer with. With the dumbing down of America (and I won't just say it's been only in recent years - the vast majority of people my own age (I'm in my early 30s) and older that I meet are just as "dumb" as many view the children of today.

For too many years, Americans have had things good. This has created a climate of complacency. In more recent years, we've experienced such economic and political milestones such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cheapest oil prices ever, the lowest unemployment rates this country has ever seen, the highest salaries this country has ever seen... the list goes on. With the exception of the oil shortage is the 1970s (which, as it turns out, was a manufactured shortage - but that's a different blog post for a different time), the US, since the end of WWII, has truly been the most powerful economic power in the world. The US also helped found the UN, providing for a global system of law, and helping to institute a degree of world peace.

All of that has created a climate of complacency among American voters. Instead of voting for the candidate that will truly improve this great country, voters have been more inclined to vote for the one they relate to the most (largely swayed by biased media sources), while those that really could improve the nation end up falling by the wayside. It's only been in the last year and a half, since campaigning for the upcoming November election started, that there's been a slight shift back to voting for the best person for the job. Even still, with the various reports of voter fraud, tampering with voting machines, attempting to keep voters from actually voting (particularly common with minority groups and the elderly), there's little hope this this upcoming election will truly be fair.

4. Lack of trust in the government: Americans don't trust our government anymore. According to a Gallup poll, published on September 26, 2007, American trust in the government is nearing its lowest point since the Watergate scandal, with, on average, less than half of Americans being able to trust the government overall. The only portion of the government that Americans still support is the Judicial Branch, with 69% of Americans stating "a great deal or fair amount of trust" in the Judicial Branch.

I may be completely off-base here, but shouldn't Americans be able to trust a government that truly was "by the people, for the people"? Certainly, there would always be dissenters, but they would be in a small minority. Our government is supposed to represent and act in the interest of the majority of Americans, which, logically, would say Americans should be able to trust the government. With figures as low as they were nearly a year ago (and likely lower now), does that speak of a government that has its citizens at its heart?

3. Political scandals and illegal activity: With all of the evidence and hard fact coming to light about the illegal actions taken by members of our own government (such as the recent ACLU lawsuits against the FISA reforms), shouldn't the average American be screaming for justice? I'm not talking about Elliott Spitzer hiring a high priced call girl. I'm not talking about Bill Clinton getting fellatio from an intern. Issues such as those are private matters, only of concern to the men and their respective wives. I'm talking about blatant disregard for the laws that have governed this country for over two centuries. Why are Kucinich's attempts to impeach Bush not getting more press (more on this further down the list)? Why does nobody seem to care (or even know, for that matter) that McCain was part of the Keating Five - a group of Senators that tried to interfere with the investigation of the corrupt Charles Keating, former CEO of Lincoln Savings, in a scandal that exploded the Savings and Loan Crisis in 1989? Now he's the likely Republican Nominee for President? With a track record like that, I wouldn't be able to hold my job working at an airport (stringent monthly Federal background checks are a criteria for holding the job - any criminal activity in the past 20 years costs me the job), yet this man has a chance to become President? There's something wrong here.

2. The Economy and the War in Iraq: I've grouped these two together, because I feel that they are very closely related. It's no real secret that the faltering economy is directly related to oil prices. The official story is that oil prices are going up because of increasing world demand and instability in the Middle East. Rising oil prices means it costs more to transport goods and to render services (a construction worker has to get to a job site somehow, typically by car/van/truck, and needs oil to get there - the same goes for various goods transported mostly by truck). The increased transportation costs are passed on to the consumer, who in turn pays more for the same goods he/she has always been buying. When talking about an economy of hundreds of billions of dollars, that translates into a lot of extra money people are spending for the same goods that cost 30% or more less, just a year ago. As people cut their spending to afford necessities such as food and fuel, sales of luxury items, such as electronics, vacations, furniture, housing improvements, etc, drop. The decreased sales in these luxury areas lead to layoffs, which leads to a higher unemployment rate, which leads to the same goods further increasing in price as companies try to stay out of bankruptcy during troubled times. After all of this, the cycle starts over, and starts to snowball. Add in the pressure to use ethanol for fuel (most commonly made from corn, even though there are hundreds of other ways [many of them far more efficient] to make ethanol - this is due to Federal farm subsidies for growing corn), and you have an added burden on food prices, as corn, in one form or another, is used in most of the foods we buy today (as an ingredient, cooking oil, feed source, etc).

So, officially, we can trace the entire recession back to high oil prices, but why have oil prices really become so high? World demand is certainly increasing, but not nearly at the rates that oil prices are. We're also actually increasing our crude oil reserves as rates rise, so that can't be it. It must be the instability in the Middle East then. But wait, we don't get that much oil from the Middle East! According to the Energy Information Administration, The US imports 9.17 million barrels of oil per day on average in 2008 (We use roughly 19.6 million barrels per day, so most of our oil is locally produced). We only get 2.5 million barrels per day from the Middle East (I included Libya in the Middle East because, even though it's not technically part of the Middle East, they face much of the same turmoil as the Middle Eastern nations). That means that only 27% of our crude oil comes from the Middle East (mostly from Saudi Arabia, who is supposed to be a US ally). Canada is our largest oil supplier - I bet you didn't know that (Saudi Arabia is second, and Mexico and Venezuela round out third and fourth, respectively). 27% of our crude oil imports coming from a destabilized region still doesn't account for oil prices increasing as they have. There must be another reason. The only two remaining likely culprits are the oil companies and the military. As we all know, the average US consumer is using about 15-20% less fuel on average than we were this time last year. Sales of fuel efficient cars are through the roof, and gas-guzzling SUVs are essentially worthless now. Who is the real culprit? The US Military, as of 2006, uses roughly 1% of all oil consumed in a day in the US. While they are the single largest consumer of oil in the US, that 1% is hardly justification for oil prices jumping as they have.

This only leaves one possible culprit: oil companies. Greedy oil companies and greedy oil producing nations have faked a shortage for increased oil profits before. The oil shortage of the 1970's was completely fabricated by oil companies and oil producing nations looking to get richer. When the American public responded with a national 55 mile per hour speed limit and a deluge of fuel efficient cars, along with a greatly reduced oil consumption, oil prices dropped as those responsible learned that the American public wouldn't stand for it. By the early 1990s, oil prices in the US were the lowest they had ever been, and sales of less fuel efficient cars rose. The 1990s saw the immense popularity of the SUV and a resurgence of muscle cars. It was also an era that gave birth to the ultimate in American indulgence - the Hummer. The original consumer model of the Hummer averaged about 8 miles to the gallon on a good day. But hey, gas was so cheap, who cared? The Hummer quickly rose to become the defining symbol of American excess. Fuel consumption in the US rose quickly, and by the late 1990s, consumption was nearly the highest the US had ever seen.

Apparently, this excessive consumption put an idea into the heads of the oil executives. Prices started slowly rising in 1999 and 2000 - nothing too bold, but significant enough to notice. Then, on September 11, 2001, with the tragic events that cost the lives of 2,974 people, an excuse was born. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the tragedy of 9/11 was the beginning of the "war on terror", and led into the war in Iraq. Whatever story you believe about the events of that day, everyone can agree it is the tragedy that started the chain of events leading to our current political and economic states in motion. In early 2002, we went to war in Iraq. Oil prices kept creeping up, though there was still no reason for it. Here we are, six years later, and oil prices have nearly quadrupled since the pre-9/11 world. Even with all of the other factors (including the before mentioned causes, as well as the oil rig and refinery destruction from Hurricane Katrina and subsequently from Rita as well) figuring into the rise of oil prices, I could possibly understand $75/barrel, and maybe $2.75/gallon at the pump (and that's even being quite liberal with realistic cost increases), but for us to have oil at over $120/barrel, and a national average well over $4/gallon at the pump, someone's been playing with the numbers.

Bottom line is this: the oil companies are raping you, and using the war in Iraq (among other excuses) as their justification to artificially inflate prices.

1. Impeachment of George W. Bush - legitimate or laughable? Back in 1999, the world was witness to the first impeachment trial since Nixon faced impeachment proceedings in 1974. President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached for what? War crimes? High treason? No, nothing so spectacular. He received fellatio from a White House intern, and lied about it under oath. To this day, I'm still at a loss as to why this became a national issue, rather than something President Clinton had to work out with his wife, like any other married couple facing infidelity. President Clinton would have never lied under oath had it not been for a small group of Republican Senators looking for the slightest thing to use to discredit a Democrat. While President Clinton had his shortcomings as a president, he generally did a fairly good job. However, his impeachment hearings made a farce out of the impeachment process. It would forever stain the concept of impeachment.

About a month ago, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D - Ohio) introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush. While the delivery of the articles of impeachment was covered for hours on end on C-Span, the story went virtually unreported in almost every major media outlet in the US. These articles of impeachment included such serious crimes as numerous violations of the Constitution (including the fourth amendment), violations of the Geneva Convention, illegal suspension of Habeas Corpus, violation of Posse Comitatus, and conspiracy to violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These charges are just a little more serious than the fellatio/lying that President Clinton was charged with. If you take the time to read the 65 pages of the original articles of impeachment against President Bush, you'll quickly understand that each of the 35 articles of impeachment are quite valid.

Even with all of that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D - California) took the possibility of impeachment off the table. Why? Something to lose, possibly?

Representative Kucinich was not easily dissuaded, though. At first, he threatened that if his original 35 articles of impeachment were trashed, he'd come back with fifty more. Ultimately, however, he decided that the impeachment was more important than the fight to get the proceedings started, and returned with a single, inclusive, article of impeachment, which was overwhelmingly (238 to 180) voted in favor of sending to a judiciary committee.

Even with this minor victory in Rep. Kucinich's quest to bring justice where justice is due, US media coverage has remained sporadic, at best. It wouldn't be out of line to say that most Americans aren't even aware this is going on. I know my own mother wasn't aware of Rep. Kucinich's actions towards impeachment until I told her. She has since resolved to watch mostly BBC and Sky News for her American and world news, only coming back to the local news stations for local news. European news sources have been following this issue as closely as most Americans follow American Idol. It should also be noted that my mother, while a staunch Republican, voted for Ron Paul in the primaries (favoring his mostly Libertarian views), and is eager to see Bush impeached.

Now, how do the two major political parties in America stand on this (this analysis does not look at the average member of each party, but rather at the core party members, who set the party lines)? The Republicans (which the core party is made up of primarily die-hard neo-conservatives and staunch Bush supporters) are obviously trying to prevent this from happening. In their eyes, George W. Bush can do no wrong, as he is their warrior from God, fighting for ultimate power for the US. (That's a rather dangerous viewpoint, huh?) The Democrats, oddly enough, are rather neutral on the issue. They don't seem to care one way or the other if Bush is actually impeached. Some are even fighting against it, as though they were scared of what might be revealed. There are a few exceptions on the Democrat side however, such as Kucinich and a few other party members supporting impeachment. Obama has made no statements on the issue, for or against, which is troubling, as he's likely to become the next president of the United States, and should be the one to be overwhelmingly fighting to preserve the Constitution and uphold the law.

What sort of chance does the impeachment of George W. Bush have? Honestly, very little. With the makeup of Congress, the political leanings of the Supreme Court Justices, and the lack of media coverage and subsequent ignorance of the majority of the nation regarding this, it's likely that impeachment will slide away quietly before ever coming to fruition. This is a horrific notion for me, as it sends the message to future Presidents that they can get away with anything. In my eyes, the impeachment of President George W. Bush, and more importantly the conviction and punishment of President George W. Bush is an absolute necessity, as it sends the message to other presidential hopefuls that the American public will not stand for a treacherous and treasonous president.

The bottom line is President George W. Bush is a traitor to the United States of America, a war criminal, and has committed acts of such an egregious nature that the only solution is to convict and punish him. It should also be noted here that if an average citizen was charged and convicted of even a single one of Rep. Kucinich's original 35 articles of impeachment, they would be deemed a traitor and sentenced to death.

Americans, your government doesn't want to deal with the issues, and your media doesn't want you to be informed. It is time that we, as Americans, remembered the blood that was spilled in order for us to become a nation free from tyranny. It is time for another revolution. Our government has failed to serve us. It is not only our right, but our duty as Americans, as cited in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence to reclaim control of the government for the people.

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