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Are Oil Prices Returning To Their Pre-Bush Trajectory?

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, January 19, 2015
 

A number of “concern trolls” on the Right and on Wall Street have been desperate to find ways to paint the recent plunge in oil prices as a BAD thing worthy of “serious concern” (remember when they WANTED to bring down the price of oil with their 2008 “Drill here. Drill now!” campaign rhetoric and Newt’s promise of $2.50/gal gas by approving Keystone?) A lot of amateur-economists talked about the “popping of the tech bubble” in 2000 as some sort of devastating aberration. Something “no one saw coming” and could have been sustained if only it had been handled properly. Poppycock. I was there. What happened to the tech boom of the late ’90’s was not a “popping of the tech bubble” but a CORRECTION (prepping for “Y2K” was the biggest contributor, which we knew would be over by 2000.) The tech bubble didn’t devastate the U.S. economy in 2000 the way it was following the Market Crash of 2008. Likewise, this recent drop in oil prices should not be seen as a “crash” but a “correction”. Before George W. Bush became president in 2001… and on til the invasion of Iraq in 2003… the per-barrel price of oil remained pretty much where it had been for the past two decades… below $30/barrel. It took the invasion of Iraq to drive it into the stratosphere. And now that the economy is finally starting to shake off the last vestiges of the Bush years, oil prices should be seen as simply returning to that slow-rise to $30 trajectory it started in the early 80’s.
 

Oil price per balled, 1981-Present

 

The above graph is a chart of the annual price of oil since 1981. That yellow line shows roughly the trajectory upon which oil prices were rising in that time (going back to 1977 prior to the Iran/Hostage Crisis, see teaser-graph at start of post for more detail), bouncing around the mid-$20’s during most of that time. 1990 & 2000 fall right on that line, and if oil prices had continued on this same trajectory unabated by the Bush-II years, the natural price of oil would be closer to $35/barrel today.

As I pointed out recently (and frequently in the past), the price of gasoline was WELL below $2/gal prior to the invasion of Iraq. In 2000, long-haul truckers threatened to go on strike when the price of diesel hit a crushing $1.89/gal, demanding that the White House do something to stop the sudden rise in gas prices. Candidate George Bush declared that if he were elected president, he’d tell OPEC to “open up the spigots” [ibid] to get prices down (gas prices were never lower during the entire Bush presidency than they were that day.) Two weeks before the invasion of Iraq, the price oil was $29/barrel and Dick Cheney suggested that one of the consequences of invading Iraq and “removing Saddam Hussein” might be oil “as low as $15/barrel”.
 

Percentage change in oil prices, 1981 to Present
Percentage change in oil prices, 1981 to Present

 

As you can see from the above graph, this recent plunge in the price of oil is certainly not the first nor the largest. That honor goes to the Reagan Administration, whom I believe Republicans give high marks to. The decline in 1998 was also not the forebearer of economic catastrophe. Only the plunge of 2008… which took place AFTER the economic crash that year… was a sign that something was wrong. And NOT ONCE in any of those cases did the steep decline in the price of oil provoke a severe economic downturn. In fact, the opposite is true. Ronald Reagan’s second term saw economic growth. The plunge of 1998 saw the start of explosive growth in the tech sector that fueled the Clinton Jobs Machine. And now in 2015, the economy is on the rebound, creating more than 200,000 jobs a month for the past three months (with 12 of the last 36 months seeing >200K jobs created.)

Oil companies were incredibly successful for decades with oil prices around $30/barrel, and are hardly “struggling” today because oil prices recently (momentarily) fell to $45/barrel last week. Before the Bush presidency, I remember being upset when gas hit $1.49/gal in the Summer of 2000. Today, locally, I can find gasoline for $1.89/gal, getting very close to that $1.50/gal price I fretted over in 2000, and right on par where I’d expect it to be today if prices had continued to rise at the same rate. The idea that sub-$50 oil would be some sort of economic disaster for the oil companies is nonsense. They became addicted to the outrageous profits of the last decade that made companies like Exxon/Mobil “the most profitable corporation on the face of the Earth”, and now they want to convince you that $3/gal gas should be the norm.

It’s nonsense of course. The current decline in gasoline prices is NOT a harbinger of economic devastation to come. Oil companies did just fine with oil close to $25/barrel for decades, and will do so again if necessary.



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Filed in Economy, myth busting, Seems Obvious to Me, War January 19th, 2015 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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When Your Only Tool for Peace is a Military Hammer…

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, January 12, 2015
 

This past week saw the bloody attack on French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” and a nearby Jewish deli by three Muslim extremists (trained by ISIS… or was it AQAP? No one seems to be sure) out to “avenge The Prophet!” for being depicted in a cartoon (question: If no one if allowed to draw “The Prophet”, how do you know that’s a cartoon of Him? How do you know what He looks like?). First, may I just point out for the record that if your “Prophet’s” ego is so frickin’ fragile that he demands you murder innocents in cold blood that dare insult him, maybe you need a new prophet. How thin-skinned can you get? Whatever. But I also couldn’t help but notice all the Muslim clerics that then came out and publicly denounced these acts of terror. (I found myself wondering when was the last time American Christian leaders came out en masse and publicly denounced the bombing of a Planned Parenthood or threats against immigrant children?) But the REAL question is WHY is the Muslim Community so outraged? Why is the Middle East still in flames after more than a decade of war? And most importantly, what to do about it? American psychologist Abraham Maslow famously wrote, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” When it comes to fighting Terrorism, the only tool in the American arsenal is apparently the Military Hammer (and remember Pentagon Hammers don’t come cheap.) I was never a fan of Dennis Kucinich (mostly b/c when he wasn’t running for president, he was nowhere to be found), but one idea of his stuck with me: creating a Cabinet-Level position of “Secretary of Peace”. Someone whose job it would be to solve crises via non-military means. Not unlike JFK’s “Peace Corp” concept but on a much larger scale (something with a multi-billion dollar budget… magnitudes cheaper than the Pentagon’s budget, yet more effective.) Clearly, “bombing” our enemies isn’t getting the job done. It’s time for a change in strategy.

So what exactly would a “Secretary of Peace” do? Consider this idea: “Infrastructure”. Pay locals to build schools & hospitals in regions threatened by ISIS or Al Qaeda. Trust me, people will like you a lot more when you build a new electric power-plant in their town that doesn’t leave them without electricity 18 hours a day. They’re going to be protective of it, and if ISIS or Al Qaeda tries to destroy it, who do you think they’re going to side with? And if the enemy DOES destroy it, you build it again. Pretty soon, they’re going to get pretty damned tired of building the same school over and over again. When a single Cruise Missile goes for about a million a pop, you can build infrastructure for a faction the cost of destroying it, with a far greater payoff in return… spending less money on guns, bombs, bullets, missiles, armored vehicles, dead & injured soldiers, fighting generations FOR generations… it all adds up. And money saved abroad can be spent on infrastructure here at home.

“War by the rich is called ‘war’. War by the poor is called ‘terrorism.” – unknown

People who live in a constant state of hopelessness and see no future for themselves are more willing to fight because they believe they have nothing to lose. Right now, we are fighting people that see death as their only route to a better “life”. Their real lives are Hell. Tell me, does war make that better or worse? A man that believes he has nothing to lose will die to protect what little he has. Give them something to live for. Give them reason to NOT want to fight.

In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned us of “the Military Industrial Complex”, which is shorthand for corporations that have turned War into big business. They have a strong financial incentive to ensure America stays in a perpetual state of war. So how about we give them a strong financial incentive for peace? Use these same military contractors to build infrastructure… both here & abroad? Definitely no shortage of need after decades of war around the globe.

Ike was right. JFK was right. Everyone to come after was wrong. Thomas Jefferson warned of the danger of “standing armies”… a permanent military whose only function is to fight wars and isn’t going to sit around twiddling its thumbs waiting for the next war to start. We’ve made “war” a business in this country. Maybe it’s time to try the same with “peace”?
 



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Filed in Middle East, National Security, Religion, Terrorism, War January 12th, 2015 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Republicans Vow First Order of Business Will Be A Pointless Exercise in Showing Who’s Boss by Approving KXL

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, January 5, 2015
 

As I noted a few weeks ago, I’m still surprised by the number of people that just don’t remember that gas was WELL below $2/gallon before… not just before George W. Bush… but two years into the Bush presidency before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They just couldn’t fathom gas prices ever being as low as we’re seeing it today (close to $2/gallon.) In fact, in 2003, oil hit just $35/barrel the week before the invasion of Iraq after hovering around $29/barrel for years. (I’ve linked to this video of mine numerous times of how one economist predicted what the invasion of Iraq might bring… if not UNDER-ESTIMATING the costs, two weeks before the invasion. In the background you can see gas prices were still around $1.79/gallon in the North-East.) It took a second war and a President/Congress completely unwilling to regulate oil speculators to drive oil prices up to nearly $150/barrel and gas over $4/gallon, laying the groundwork for the ensuing global economic collapse. During the 2012 Presidential race, Newt Gingrich… struggling for a coherent message (“moonbases” just wasn’t packing them in)… settled on promising “$2.50/gallon gasoline by the end of his first term in office” (2016) by “approving the Keystone XL Pipeline” and drilling for oil in every backyard in America (interesting side-note: Mitt Romney vowed to bring Unemployment “below 6.5% by the end of [his] first term”). Yet in two years… not four… the price of gasoline is well below $2.50/gal nationally and can even be found for under $2/gal in many states (one local Exxon station near me here in Houston is selling Regular Unleaded for $1.89/gal.) And it all happened without approving the freaking pipeline. Fantastical promises of “1 million new jobs” were quickly/easily debunked. Most of the construction is already complete. The pipe itself has already been made/purchased. The company benefiting isn’t even American and the vast majority of the “oil” is already earmarked for export overseas, having little to no impact on domestic gas prices. And the process of converting greasy Canadian sludge into “oil” requires a per-barrel price-point nearly $20/barrel higher than it is now, making the entire project a money LOSER. Even if approved, “Trans-Canada” would likely not pursue it for years til the next Republican president drives oil prices back into the stratosphere. But as OPEC has now proven, all they have to do to eliminate the competition is to make the pipeline too costly to operate by simply pumping more oil. One might think that all this might convince even Republicans that completing the Keystone XL pipeline is an exercise in futility, but you’d be wrong. Undeterred, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared that “the FIRST vote of the new Congress will be to approve the Keystone XL pipeline” (with WY Senator John Barrasso on “Meet the Press” yesterday citing those “42,000 jobs” as to why it is needed.) Whether either senator knows that that’s “42,000 low paying temp jobs stretched out over two years“, I couldn’t say. Nor do I think it would make a difference. No, Senate Republicans have already admitted that their true reason for making passage of the Keystone XL such a high priority is that it is “a test” [ibid] of political will in Washington. They’ve convinced enough brainless Right-wingers that approving the KXL is “a no-brainer” and that an Obama veto would be nothing more than a challenge to their authority… nay… “the will of the American people” that voted them into office this past year. And THAT is what this vote is all about. It’s not about “creating (imaginary) jobs” or “reducing gas prices”, it’s just more childish gamesmanship by the GOP in a pointless flexing of political muscle.

You might remember that just this past November, just days after the election, in a desperate/futile/pointless/asinine attempt to save DINO Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) Senate seat in a runoff election, Congress voted on whether or not to approve the KXL. The bill failed to reach the 60-vote super-majority threshold necessary to overcome a Democratic filibuster. Landrieu did so poorly in the runoff election that it is doubtful passage of the bill would have affected the outcome of the election anyway. With the added seats in the Senate this year, Republican’s probably have the support of enough brain-dead Democrats to overcome a Democratic filibuster should it come up for a vote again, but NOWHERE NEAR the 67-vote Super-majority they’d need to override a presidential veto, making the entire exercise pointless & futile… IF passing the now irrelevant pipeline were indeed the point (which it isn’t.) It’s all about petty power-starved Republicans trying to show Americans “who’s boss”. They’ve built up this insane reality that exists only in their fevered imaginations where Americans hate President Obama and disagree with him on ever major issue. It’s a world in which Keystone means “jobs, jobs, jobs” and gas under $2.50 a gallon. It’s a world in which Sen. Ted Cruz can declare with a straight face that “Americans are suffering because of ObamaCare” and that “Benghazi” is the greatest political scandal since “Monica Lewinski”.

Republicans see no downside to creating “jobs” regardless of cost… so long as it is a Conservative-friendly industry (be it oil or bombs). They’ll give away Billions in tax incentives to oil companies and spend yet billions more in environmental cleanup in exchange for just 42,000 low-wage jobs (roughly $600K for every $20K/year job.) But tell them how investing in green technology produced a a $5-BILLION ROI, and all you’ll hear is snarky jokes about “Solyndra” (a $300 million loss).

Of course, all this political gamesmanship has nothing to do with “jobs” (last year, unemployment fell at its fastest rate in 30 years) or “bringing down oil prices” (oil now below $54/barrel with gas at $2.20/gallon, a full 1/3rd lower than it was one year ago) and everything to do with Republicans trying to show Obama “who’s boss”.
 



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Filed in Election, Energy Independence, General, Greed, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Partisanship, Politics, Right-Wing Insanity January 5th, 2015 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Mugsy’s Annual Predictions for 2015

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 29, 2014
 

This is arguably my favorite posting duty of the year, where I get to ridicule the so-called “psychics”, blast Conservative prognosticators, a look back at my own routinely successful record of predicting (averaging around 60%), followed by my own predictions for the coming year. Sure, I’ve had my good years (75% in 2008) and my bad (20% for 2007), but even on my worst day, I don’t suck at predicting as much as most (all?) Republicans. They say, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, which explains why Republicans are just so Godawful at predicting. They lack ANY ability to learn from history and can’t see beyond their immediate goals (eg: invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam without an exit strategy, wildly unrealistic expectations of the result, and zero preparation for the aftermath.) I can understand why the predictors keep predicting as long as there’s money to be made and people continue to trust their predictions despite a track-record of failure, but what I can’t understand is why people keep asking these notoriously bad pundits FOR their predictions. I swear I’ve owned hamsters that were better at predicting what happens next than some of the most famous Republican pundits. Case in point:

Bill Kristol (former Chief of Staff to Dan Quayle… which tells you all you need to know) is so routinely horribly bad at predicting, The Rachel Maddow Show actually did an entire segment on it last January (though they omitted his most famous wrong prediction:

“And on this issue of the Shia in Iraq, I think there’s been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America that, you know, somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.” – Bill Kristol defending the decision to invade Iraq to ABC’s Terry Moran, April 1, 2003.

…”almost no evidence of that”… except maybe A THOUSAND YEARS of civil war. Iraq was only “secular” because Saddam knew it was the only way to control religious infighting. What did I say about Republicans and their knowledge of history? (Iraq was currently secular, ergo it has always been secular.)

The so-called “professional psychics” are so routinely bad, it’s almost no fun beating up on them anymore. This list of predictions for 2014 by some of the most famous in their field was so abysmally wrong that it’s easier just to read it than dissect it. Among my favorites: Vladimir Putin wins Nobel prize for his part in Syria and “A tornado destroys most of Kansas City” (KC Kansas or KC Missouri? …like it matters.)

Last year, I made a point of recording “Fox news Sunday’s” Predictions for 2014 on their year-end show. Host Chris Wallace joked that the segment comes under the heading “Often in Error but Never in Doubt”… which sums up Conservatism perfectly. Have you ever seen a group so sure of themselves despite being so consistently wrong about everything? Republicans are SO sure their beliefs are right that their predictions are “predictably” pro Right wing with absolutely no foothold in reality. (I skipped their predictions on “entertainment” and “sports”… which were just as wrong… focusing instead on their political & economic predictions:

Fox’s “Power Panel” makes their predictions for 2014: (4:10)

To summarize:

It’s no surprise Fox chose not to (no do they ever) replay their previous years’ predictions yesterday heading into this years’ segment.

The only one bullish on the economy was DINO Joe Liebermann, correctly predicting a strong economy for 2014, “over 3% GDP growth”, “the DOW will break 18,000″ (it did) “and the S&P will break 2,000″ (it did). But even he predicted “unemployment will [only] go down to 6.5%”. Last month, unemployment fell to just 5.8% following ten consecutive months of 200,000+ job growth… the first time that’s happened since the LAST time a Democrat occupied the White House.

Last week, this was the news on the economy (Dec 23, 2014):
 

ABC News: 2014 Ends With Record Economic Growth (1:56)

 

Remember that date because I promise you Republicans will be taking credit for the improved economy next year despite the fact it was a huge success BEFORE they ever took control of Congress.

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Chuck Todd summed up the Obama economic record for 2014 with these figures:
 

2014: Year of the Economic Comeback (1:10)

By contrast, here is a compilation of news reports on the economy after six years of President Bush and Conservative control of Congress (5:54):
 

My first attempt at predicting the coming year was 2006 when I went a paltry 2 for 10 (20%) predicting 2007. Learning from my mistakes, in 2007 I went 9 for 12 (75%). 2008 went 11 for 15 (73%). 2009: just 45%, 2010: 68%, 2011: 66%, 2012: 50%. If you’re doing the math, that’s an average accuracy of just under 57%. So, how did I do in 2013 predicting the coming year? I can’t say if tending to my mother in her final days clouded my judgement, but you be the judge:

  1. Wrong: GOP to agree to a “compromise extension” of Unemployment benefits. – It’s easy to forget that just one year ago, the economy was still soft and unemployment was still nearly 7-percenct (finally falling to 6.7% by years end) Senate Republicans knew they could vote “Yes” on an extension because they knew it would never pass the GOP controlled House. House Leader Boehner hemmed & hawed for five months, finally rejecting an extension in mid-May. But by then, it was moot. Three straight months of job growth well over 100K and then two months of job growth over 200K, by then no one was decrying the need to extend unemployment benefits now that the jobs were coming back.
  2.  

  3. Wrong: expect the DOW to close just over the “19,200” mark come years end. – The market grew like gang-busters once again in 2014, but slightly slower than it did in 2013. Breaking 18,000 last week was still a record.
  4.  

  5. Wrong: Supreme Court to rule that states must recognize marriages performed in another state. – While the Supreme Court did overturn bans on same-sex marriage in Oklahoma, Utah & Kansas as unconstitutional, they did not go so far as to rule on any “interstate” recognition of marriage. But that’s primarily because no such case was ever brought before the high court. Based on three rulings of declaring state bans “unconstitutional”, there would be no excuse for defending a ban had such a case come before the court. So while I got this one wrong, I still feel vindicated.
  6.  

  7. Wrong: don’t expect control of either House to change hands – Well… half-wrong anyway, but no points for half credit. I never expected Democrats to just roll over and play dead like they did this year, eschewing the president and his robust economy with record job growth like he was an Ebola victim that crossed the border illegally. Never under-estimate a Democrats ability to not take credit for their success as well as Republicans ability to convince you that’s just warm yellow rain they’ve been showering you with.
  8.  

  9. Wrong: Hillary WILL announce her intention to run for President, as will Chris Christie – The years’ not over with yet as I type this, but I really thought the candidates would declare immediately after the mid-terms. But Hillary is waiting before pasting that target on her back, and enthusiasm for Christie just never grew as Democrats followed “Bridge-Gate” and Republicans still never forgave him for embracing President Obama after Hurricane Sandy.
  10.  

  11. Wrong: expect a reasonably smooth, growing economy in 2014. Expect GDP growth in the 4.0+ range next year. – First half right, but second half just missed the mark. I remember as I wrote that, that 4.0+% growth was probably a tad overly optimistic, but growth of over 3.5% wasn’t that far off the mark. Still not good enough for me to grade my prediction as correct.
  12.  

  13. Wrong: Snowden to move to South America. – As far as anyone is aware, he’s still in Russia, even agreeing to an interview with American television while in Moscow.
  14.  

  15. Right: Regarding Congress raising the Minimum Wage, with a number of states deciding no wait for Congress to act and raise it on their own, but nationally, if the economy continues to improve, forget it. – Ah, finally, a win! I was getting worried there. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama asked Congress to raise the Minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10/hour. Republicans in Congress have vowed to block any vote on raising the Minimum Wage, but as predicted, 21 states voted this year to raise their Minimum Wage on January 1st of 2015.
  16.  

  17. Wrong: The Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia is going to be a mess. – While I could make a case that I got this right (#SochiProblems was a trending hashtag on Twitter during the games following reports of “unfinished hotels” and a hiccup during the opening ceremonies as one of the Olympic rings failed to expand), but nothing like my expectation of events either being relocated or canceled, and threats of violence against the games that I expected. I’m no hack, so mark this one wrong as well.
  18.  

  19. Wrong: Janet Napolitano, hand-picked by Obama to lead a delegation of openly gay athletes to Sochi, was specifically chosen because she herself will come out as gay upon her arrival. – No idea if she is or not, but she certainly didn’t make any such announcement while she was there… not even during an interview with “The Advocate” magazine.
  20.  

  21. Right: I don’t think an unemployment rate of 6.1% (give or take 3/10th of a point) is out of the realm of possibility. – Not only was unemployment of just 6.1% obtainable, but the eventual 5.8% is indeed withing 3/10th of that figure as predicted.
  22.  

  23. Wrong, but with some caveats: a nuclear disarmament deal WILL be struck with Iran. – While Iran never did agree to give up its right to pursue nuclear weapons, I also noted an increase in the global supply of oil resulting in a plunge in the per barrel price (but guessing only around $80/$75, never dreaming we’d see sub-$60 numbers again. Iran is indeed trading its oil through OPEC.
  24.  

  25. Wrong: Ted Cruz announces his intention to run for President. – Sometimes reality wins out over ego. With just 2% support for a presidential run among Conservatives (a number that is likely falling following his end-of-year stunt that has the GOP faithful spitting nails in his direction) support for a Cruz candidacy just never materialized.
  26.  

  27. Right: Supreme Court will rule in-favor of Hobby Lobby. – There was no way on God’s Green Earth that this Conservative-leaning Court was going to rule against the Religious Wrong Right in this country. Had the company arguing its religious rights were being violated been Muslims, Hindu’s or Satanists, you can be damned sure the vote would have gone the other way. But the American Taliban wields great power in this country.
  28.  

  29. Right: no “Election Reform” bill will be taken up in an election year. – Admittedly, this one was pretty easy. Lots of talk about the need for “Election Reform” following the 2012 Election, but rampant voter disenfranchisement laws swept the country (in Red states) this past year, sweeping the GOP back to control both houses of Congress due in part to just 39% voter turnout (which is actually just slightly above average for a mid-term.)
  30.  

  31. Right: a really big hurricane will hit someplace somewhere. – I’ll admit I was half-joking on this one, but monster storms are becoming more & more common as Global Warming becomes a growing problem. Typhoon Nuri, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the North Pacific (smashing a 37 year old record), brushed the East coast of Japan before breaking up in the Bering Sea.
  32.  

  33. Right, with caveats: another “Lone-wolf” gun nut will go on a shooting spree. – In the wake of Sandy Hook and the Colorado shooting sprees, it seemed most likely that another mass shooting would take place again. On May 23 in Isla Vista, CA, another disturbed young man went on a shooting spree killing six people and wounding thirteen others (I actually expected more deaths) before killing himself. Notably though, 2014 was more the “year of cops killing unarmed black men” (and one black child) than it was noted as a year of mass murders by a single gunman.
  34.  

  35. Right… though I’m almost tempted to mark this one wrong: the Syrian conflict will still be raging a year from now. After incorrectly predicting military action against Assad/Syria in 2012 AND 2013, I played things a bit closer to the vest for 2014 to predict only that the conflict would still be ongoing in 2014. And indeed it is. But ironically, Assad’s war on his own people has been disrupted by… of all things… the terrorist group ISIS seeking to take control of the entire region. In an odd and totally bizarre way, ISIS has managed to do what America (nor any coalition nation) has dared attempt: disrupt Syria’s war on its own people by drawing its fire against an even greater threat to their monarchy.

Totaling the damage, 7 of 18 for just 39%. Not my worst but pretty far off the mark. Let’s see if I can’t do better this year.
 

My predictions for 2015:

  1. Early in 2015, in a sweeping and feigned show of “bi-partisanship”, Republicans will quickly approve at least two of President Obama’s cabinet appointees (most notably the new Secretary of Defense) in an attempt to show just “how willing” they are “to work with the president”. They will then quickly return to their obstructionist ways though, passing bill after bill they know President Obama would never sign (additional tax cuts for the highest tax brackets, repealing ObamaCare, etc) and point to the president as “the obstructionist” standing in the way of “what the people want.”
    (Update 1/7/15: Republicans Move To Gut Social Security Benefits on Their First Day in Power)
    (Update 1/9/15: House votes to pass Keystone XL pipeline)
  2.  

  3. Tensions between NYC Mayor DiBlasio and the Right-Wing head of the NY “Policemans Benevolent Association” will reach a boiling point with the Mayor finally chastising Pat Lynch by name for breeding discord between him and the NYPD over his own personal political differences. I’m not sure how much longer New Yorkers will tolerate this nonsense. Mayor DiBlasio won with a majority of the vote. Where are they now and why aren’t they rushing to his defense?
    (Update 1/31/15: New York Mayor Bill De Blasio Says Back-Turning By Police Was ‘Really Inappropriate’) but doesn’t cite Lynch by name.)
  4.  

  5. Hillary will remain the Democratic front-runner all year as her few Democratic challengers fail to ever pose a serious threat to her candidacy. Bernie Sanders will get into the race (as a Democrat so he can take part in the debates) but Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren will not. She said no; she means no. “Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces” is not her style. Expect an endorsement from her late in the year (most likely for Hillary, but Hillary has a nasty habit of throwing her Democratic colleges under the bus, so it is difficult to say for sure.) Support for Bernie may swell after one or two good debate showings and may even help push Hillary to the Left some, but the chances of an admitted “European Socialist”… which translates in the dullard Teabagger ear as “Nazi”… becoming the nominee is about zero.
  6.  

  7. Fans of Ron Paul in 2012 will find Rand Paul a poor substitute and fail to flock to his candidacy as passionately as they did his father.
  8.  

  9. I’m not sure I’m ready to pick the Republican front-runner at this time (my gut says Jeb Bush but I also never expected him to run), but I can tell you that not even Mitt Romney’s ego is big enough to convince him to run again against the likes of Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. There isn’t enough oxygen in the rarefied air that is the GOP-nomination for three egos that big. I’m not even confident there will be a clear GOP front-runner by years end. And remember folks: #Jeb4President, because two Iraq Wars and three Recessions just weren’t enough.
    (Update 1/30/15: Romney Announces He Won’t Run for President in 2016.)
  10.  

  11. ISIS will continue to grow, but not at nearly the same rate. Recent barbaric domestic attacks like the massacre of 145 school children in Pakistan by the Pakistani Taliban in response to the rise of ISIS there will anger weary neighbors tired of all the in-fighting. As fewer people flock to join ISIS, their growth will slow and less territory will be taken/held. I don’t expect ISIS to be significantly larger a year from now than it is today (roughly 31,500 members).
  12.  

  13. We haven’t seen the last of Putin’s trouble-making. Global insecurity raises oil prices. The recent plunge in oil prices has thrown the Russian economy into chaos, yet Putin still enjoys an 80% approval rating among Republicans er Russians because they suffer from the same classic inferiority complex as Conservatives (them against the world). So they rally around their dear leader as he makes mischief in the world trying to drive up oil prices by soughing unrest in Ukraine and the Middle East (and my money is on teenage Russian hackers being behind the hack of Sony Pictures that was blamed on North Korea.)
  14.  

  15. Which leads to North Korea. I suspect evidence will grow that North Korea was not directly responsible for the computer hacking of Sony Pictures late this year, but instead were only approached for “backing” or “support” just prior to the attack by third parties. Any early “sympathy” that might grow for North Korea as evidence suggests the hacking did not originate there will quickly dissolve as evidence suggests they had prior knowledge of… and were complicit in… the hacking attack.
    (Update 1/19/15: NSA confirms NK behind hack attack because they hacked NK’s computers back in 2010.)
  16.  

  17. The GOP will NOT attempt to impeach President Obama in 2015 (no bets on 2016 though). They know the voting public just has no appetite for two attempted impeachments of two Democratic presidencies in just the last eight years and would rightly crucify them for such crass political gamesmanship once again if they tried. An attempt to “sue” president Obama over “Executive Action” is still possible, but if they do (likely) it will be incredibly low-key.
  18.  

  19. Gitmo will still be in operation by years end. Republicans will raise a ruckus as more (already cleared) detainees are released, but for the most part, not much will have changed by years end. President Obama has tried to close it for six years, but with a Republican controlled Congress for his last two, forghedaboudit.
  20.  

  21. And that brings us to Cuba (where Gitmo is located.) I never dared predict a thaw in relations with Cuba this past year, but now that it has happened, expect interest in Cuba as a tourist destination to explode, much to the chagrin of Conservatives, torn between their hatred for the Castros/Communism and their love for the economic opportunities including corporations expanding cruise lines, building hotels and reviving the struggling cruiseline industry.
  22.  

  23. With no elections this year, don’t expect any more states to pass marijuana legalization laws. But as the year comes to a close, expect a push to get it on the 2016 ballot in more states start to take shape. No, Democrats will not make it part of their 2016 platform and no, president Obama will not take any Executive Action… neither pro nor con… regarding the issue.
  24.  

  25. As noted above, Republicans will try to take credit for record economy that we’ve already started to see take shape before they’ve even taken control of Congress. When Republicans held control of both houses during President Clinton’s final six years, even they didn’t try to repeal the tax hike that Democrats passed in 1994 that led to a Balanced Budget and unprecedented economic growth. Nor will they try in 2015 because they know what it would do to the economy.
    (Update 1/7/15: Sen. Mitch McConnell says the economy is improving because Republicans are in charge)
     
  26. I’m stunned oil prices have plummeted so precipitously this past year, and while the decline may continue for a few months more, it has a floor. I’d be stunned if oil fell below $40/barrel in 2015 and if it does, it won’t stay down there for long. Even with Putin out there trying to stir up trouble to get oil prices back up to rescue the Russian economy, expect the price of oil to settle in around $58/barrel give or take around $5… roughly just about where it is right now ($55/barrel).
  27.  

  28. The DOW will continue to rise but not at the same rate, as oil prices stagnate and Republican obstructionism leaves Washington in the doldrums. The DOW should flirt with the 20,000 mark by years end, another record but at a slower rate than 2013 or 2014.

And that’s my predictions for 2015. No big moves on the Environment or Renewable Energy. 2015 just won’t be a “shake things up” kind of year. With Hillary’s “inevitability”, even the Presidential Debates won’t draw a lot of interest. Other than Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and “Medicare” in 1965, can you name anything of significance happening in a year ending in “5” in the last 50 years? My batting average has fallen every year since 2008, so I’m due for some improvement. We’ll see.
 



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Filed in Economy, Election, General, Money, Predictions December 29th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Christmas Hiatus

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 22, 2014
 

M.R.S. is on Christmas Hiatus, but will return next Monday.
 
Trickle Down Economics explained

 



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Filed in Politics December 22nd, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Dear Torture Advocates: Not only does it not work, it makes things worse.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 15, 2014
 

On March 23, 2003… three days into the invasion of Iraq, Private Jessica Lynch was captured by Iraqi forces following an ambush of her convoy. Publicists in the Bush Administration spun an elaborate tail of how “Blood & Guts” Lynch fired her weapon “til she emptied her clip” of ammo (Lynch had actually done no such thing, having been too badly injured to fight back) before she was captured by an enemy the Bush Administration feared was doing “Lord knows what” to her. An elaborate Commando-raid to rescue Lynch was devised, and on April 1st, a nighttime rescue raid on “Saddam (Public) Hospital” was conducted by Navy SEALs and Delta Force commandos that probably could have just walked in the front door in broad daylight. No Iraqi troops or weapons were used to “hold Lynch captive” and by ALL accounts… including Lynch herself… her wounds were cared for, and she was treated humanely by the staff, whom, according the Lynch, one nurse “sang her to sleep” so she wouldn’t be scared.

At it’s peak, the infamous “Abu Ghraib” prison in Iraq, where American troops sadistically tortured Iraqi prisoners, held as many as 3,800 detainees.
 

Former President Bush (41) shedding tears over the humane treatment
of Iraqi prisoners by US forces during the ’91 Gulf War
(2007)

 

It was rather disturbing to hear former Vice President Dick Cheney on “Meet the Press” yesterday cite “9/11″ four (possibly five) times in defending the use of torture, arguing in essence that what WE did “was nothing in comparison to what was done to us on 9/11″… the classic, “yeah, but you…” defense. But shame on Chuck Todd for never pointing out that the vast majority of these tortured prisoners were Iraqi… who had NOTHING to do with 9/11. (BTW: when Todd pointed out that bad intelligence also led to “claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction that didn’t exist”, Cheney did NOT attempt to correct him or even challenge him on the claim like he has in the past. To me, that’s evidence that even Dick Cheney now concedes Iraq never had any WMD’s.)

“It wasn’t torture!” Dr. Karl Rove (yes, I’m being facetious) insisted to host Chris Wallace during Fox “news” Sunday yesterday. “In fact, the techniques were designed specifically NOT to be torture!” The example Rove gave… which I’m certain he thought up all on his own without consulting anyone… was the fact waterboarded prisoners legs “were elevated” (presumably, in Rove’s mind, to allow water to drain from their lungs) to keep them from drowning. In Rove’s fevered imagination, this is PROOF that we were behaving “humanely” and taking strides to NOT torture prisoners by showing concern for their lives. Of course, Rove is an idiot. Someone really should explain BREATHING to him and how difficult it is to do with a nose/mouth full of water. “Elevating the legs” of a waterboarding victim is designed to PROLONG the torture so that they don’t die on you before you’ve extracted the information you think they know. To suggest a technique devised to extend a victims suffering is humane because it prevents them from dying too quickly, is like arguing in favor of dying from Ebola vs a gunshot wound because a gunshot kills you too quick.

When the Iraqi’s denied they were hiding any “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, the Bush Administration called them liars and demanded they allow in UN Weapons Inspectors. When the inspectors failed to confirm what they were certain was true, they took the position that the Inspectors were too dumb to know they were being hoodwinked by Saddam, ordering all allied personnel out of Iraq and invaded anyway. Similarly, when detainees didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear… most notably regarding connections between Iraq and al Qaeda, they tortured them till they told them what they wanted to hear.

Cheney repeatedly argued that “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (an aside: if you have to use an euphemism to avoid calling something what it really is, it’s as good as an admission of guilt. – Mugsy) DID “provide good intel that lead to the capture” of a number of terrorists including OBL (which is a lie) and/or foiling plots. Even if true, the amount of time & money WASTED chasing down thousands of bad/false leads for every one “good” lead is incalculable. Some torture-defenders, when you ask them if torture was “the ONLY way” to obtain this information, most will hem & haw before admitting, “There’s no way to know that”. But we DO know that because, according to the CIA report summary (pdf), all of the high-profile intel successes were obtained BEFORE prisoners were tortured, and in many cases, detainees that were “singing like a tweety-birdsuddenly stopped talking after their minds were destroyed by torture (another valuable asset lost.)

Other torture advocates like to cite the “ticking time bomb” scenario, where there’s no time to wait for “traditional” interrogation techniques to work. But in the VAST majority of (arguably ALL) cases, there was no “time is of the essence” situation that was thwarted by way of information gleaned from torture. Of the TWENTY-SIX innocent detainees who were tortured, one was placed in solitary confinement for 19 months before he was asked a single question.

Not only does torture not work, but it is COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE, producing fewer results in more time at much greater expense. If you truly wished to see America fail, you couldn’t do much worse than to root for the continued use of torture. In 1988/89, the CIA produced two reports on the use of torture on prisoners, stating that “[p]ysical abuse or other degrading treatment was rejected not only because it was wrong, but because it has historically proven to be ineffective.

Downsides of Torture Program:

  1. False leads waste an enormous amount of time & money. How many bad leads did we obtain via torture for every good lead? There’s no way to know if a lead is no good until you investigate it. What better way to harm your captors than to waste their time chasing down false leads that you know they desperately want to believe are true? Very quickly, your enemies will learn the quickest route to ending their suffering is to feed you a really good pile of crap that you’ve been begging for. David Axelrod noted during “Meet the Press” yesterday that, according to the CIA report, “torture produced the intel that Iraq was supposedly connected to 9/11.”
  2.  

  3. Using torture prolongs war as your enemies dig in their heels and refuse to surrender 1) for fear of what might happen to them if they are captured and 2) it gives them the moral high-ground, with physical proof of their enemy’s barbarism. Ask yourself: “Might we still be at war 13+ years later because of those very reasons?” How many American soldiers died needlessly because they kept encountering enemies that would rather “fight to the death” than risk capture & torture?
  4.  

  5. Which naturally, creates more terrorists. No better recruiting poster than to point to the barbarism of your enemy. And to those (like Cheney) who’ll cite “beheadings” by our enemies, THERE WERE NO BEHEADINGS IN IRAQ PRIOR TO THE INVASION. Darth Cheney even had the gall to cite the barbarism of ISIS in defense of torture, but ISIS WOULDN’T EXIST IF HE HADN’T INVADED IRAQ.
  6.  

  7. The more barbaric your tactics, the more barbaric your enemy becomes in response. As noted above, no one was “beheading” Americans before Abu Ghraib.
  8.  

  9. Arguing that your techniques aren’t torture just helps ensure that your own troops are more likely to be tortured should they be captured, only to have your enemies use YOUR OWN DEFINITION of what is or isn’t “torture” against you.
  10.  

  11. As noted above, some prisoners that were cooperative PRIOR to being tortured may suddenly become useless AFTER being tortured… either out of spite or… in some circumstances, due to psychological or physical damage… even death.

 
If torture worked, you wouldn’t have to do it TWICE… let alone 187 times like they did to 9/11 “Mastermind” KSM. Seriously, if the goal of torture is to extract information from your prisoner and they are still able to withhold information from you that requires being tortured AGAIN to extract… and they KNOW they will be tortured again if they don’t reveal everything they know yet don’t reveal it anyway, then it clearly didn’t work.

So, if you’re all in favor of America wasting precious time chasing down false leads, destroying our image as a just & noble society, losing valuable intelligence assets as a direct result of abuse, giving our enemies the moral high-ground, putting our own troops in greater danger should they be captured (and then be left with no leg to stand on when you protest), extending wars so they last for decades fighting an enemy that would rather die than surrender, and aiding the enemy’s ability to recruit additional fighters to their side… then by all means defend the use of torture.

POSTSCRIPT: “Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]… I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.” – George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775



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Filed in Crime, myth busting, National Security, Party of Life, Right-Wing Insanity, Scandals, Terrorism, War December 15th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Plunge in Oil Prices Foretells Looming Economic Disaster. Aribrary pricing can go up easier than it came down.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 8, 2014
 

During the 2000 presidential campaign, after oil climbed a whopping 72cents in one day (yes, that’s sarcasm) to $33.05/barrel, causing gasoline prices to hit an “unthinkable” $1.68/gallon nationally, Interstate “long-haul” truckers across the country threatened to go on strike saying that the soaring price of fuel was putting them out of business. Naturally, the leading candidates, Bush & Gore, were both forced to respond. On June 22nd of that year, George W Bush openly criticized the Clinton Administration for rising gas prices, saying (famously) that if HE were president, he’d tell OPEC to “open up the spigots” to bring down gas [sic] prices. Over the prior two decades, the price of gasoline had not fluctuated by more than a few cents a year until the “dime a gallon” spikes we saw in early 2000. But that stability vanished following G.W.Bush’s ascent to the presidency:

DoE graph of weekly oil prices from 1991 to Present (link)
Weekly gas prices 1991 to present

The range circled in yellow is the relatively flat/stable gasoline prices we had become accustomed to for decades, with a slight dip following 9/11. Gas prices rarely rose more than a couple of pennies per gallon in a month let alone a single day. After becoming president, the price of gasoline under George W Bush remained in the “strike zone”… and by that, I mean quite literally the “over $1.50/gal” price point at which truckers had threatened to strike… for the next three years. The day AFTER 9/11… and for the next two years… oil was still (roughly) only $29/barrel. It took the unwarranted invasion of Iraq and tossing the Middle East into chaos to drive the price of oil into the stratosphere (I’ll let you decide if that was the goal all along.)

The range circled in red is the dramatic plunge in gasoline prices after peaking at just over $4.10/gallon in July of 2008 (reportedly, one journalist asked President Bush at the time what he thought about the price of gas breaking $4/gallon, to which a startled president Bush… who last saw gas prices around $1.68/gal during the 2000 campaign… supposedly said in surprise, “How much???”) Breaking the $4.00 barrier was probably the final straw in the looming collapse of the economy, the bankrupting of the banking industry and the implosion of Wall Street, with the price of gas falling to a national average of just $1.89/per gallon in just seven months. The election of President Obama and the promise of getting out of Iraq was seen as likely to bring some stability to the Middle East (don’t laugh), which in turn would reduce the threat to our oil supply, allowing prices to quickly “rebound” back to the “new normal” of over $2.50/gallon in less than a few months (and over $3.50/gal in the year to follow). Again, as you can see from the graph, gas prices began to flatten out (relatively) until this most recent plunge (circled in green.)

I’ve been writing about the skyrocketing price of oil under Bush for many years now, so one might think I’d be thrilled to death to see the price of oil (and gas) plunge back to Earth… and under a Democratic president no less to really rub it in Republican’s faces. Low gas prices are like a shot of nitrous in the economic gas tank. What Republicans think “tax cuts” do for the economy, falling gas prices actually DO (because the benefits hit the Poor & Middle-Class FAR more directly/substantially.) But sadly, this current plunge has only highlighted a big flashing neon-sign at just how arbitrary oil pricing was to begin with, and how likely this rubberband is poised to snap back in our faces. Not to sound like a “Debbie Downer”, but there is a reason oil prices have been falling so precipitously in recent months and the chance they could shoot back up at almost any time is very real (if not likely)… the consequences of which could get very ugly.

The reason oil prices are falling are manifold. First, the United States, under President Obama, has dramatically increased oil production to a 38 year high. The “Drill here! Drill now!” crowd that vilified Obama during the 2008 & 2012 presidential races has an unexpected ally in President Obama. While touting the need to cut our dependence on fossil fuel and invest in renewable energy, President Obama has disappointingly been very supportive of increased drilling across the country (mercifully, he stood up against the “Keystone XL pipeline”, but have you noticed since the vote failed in the Senate, Republicans aren’t exactly banging the drum on how they’ll hold another vote after they take control of Congress?)

Increased U.S. production has triggered a price-war with OPEC… which represents about 1/3 of all the oil produced in the world… increasing their own production to compete with America. So right now, it’s a fight to see “who blinks first”. Two weeks ago, OPEC voted on whether they should CUT production in an attempt to drive prices back up. In the end, they voted “No” because they knew they would lose Billions in sales as more people purchased American oil. OPEC’s response was that they could withstand the price of oil falling to as low as $50/barrel again… a price not seen since right after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But American oil companies are likely to blink first before allowing oil prices to fall that low again, and would cut their own production to drive prices back up. OPEC would happily cut their own production in turn, the price of oil would skyrocket overnight and the U.S. economy could crash.

And American oil companies have ample incentive to drive prices up. First, when you sell a product billions of people literally can’t do without, you can almost charge whatever you want. And if they want $75 oil again, they wouldn’t break a sweat getting it back up there. And if you’re “TransCanada” and have millions of acres of oily sludge just begging to be turned into a pile of cash if only it were cost-effective to do so (presently, oil needs to be over $75/barrel to make converting tarsands sludge into oil profitable), nothing would make them (or their investors) happier than to see the price of oil shoot back up.

Of course, U.S. oil production can’t remain at this pace forever. Eventually (very soon I believe), production is going to start falling off (either from actual shortages or artificial ones), thus prices will start inching back up and the U.S. economy will falter. Desperate to eschew blame, Republicans… having missed the lesson entirely… will cry, “If only Democrats hadn’t blocked the Keystone pipeline in 2014, it would be built by now (actually, most of it is already built) and the price of oil wouldn’t be so high!”

No, the lesson to be learned here is that now more than ever, while oil prices are low and the economy is growing, we need to be investing in Green Energy now more than ever. Think of it as a “rainy day fund”. You don’t put money in the fund when you’re struggling and need it most, you fill it when times are good and need it least. We shouldn’t allow our… nay The World’s economy to be subject to the whims of the Oil Cartels. They’ve already subjected us to ONE global economic disaster. Do we REALLY wanna try for TWO… especially with so much warning?

POSTSCRIPT: I decided not to report on the recent protests regarding the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and whomever is next because the subject is already being covered thoroughly by others. Rush Limbaugh went on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday to blame “high taxes on cigarettes” for the death of Eric Garner (the “logic” being that the only reason there was a market for him to sell lose cigarettes was because of the high taxes on them, and the city’s dependence on that tax revenue is why “so many” cops descended upon him to the point of taking his life.) Yes Rush, blame the government; blame the victim; just don’t blame the guy with his arm around Garner’s neck… which “wasn’t a choke hold” because the cops told him so.

Limbaugh… the man who sang “Barack the Magic Negro” on his radio show to the same Teanut listeners who carried signs of Obama dressed like a witch doctor while protesting “ObamaCare”… complained bitterly that “people thought electing a black president would move the country past racism” (an irony lost on Limbaugh), but instead President Obama is to blame for an even greater racial divide in this country. He went on to lament that “you can’t criticize Obama without being accused of being a racist.” No Rush, before Obama, closet racists like yourself kept their racism in check. Once they were able to openly use racial code to criticize a black politician under the protective guise of simply “criticizing the president”, that’s when you and your ilk were exposed as the racists asshats we always knew you to be.

 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Greed, Money, Predictions, Seems Obvious to Me December 8th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Ferguson Police Chief vs Prosecutor: Who’s Lying (video)

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 1, 2014
 

A week ago Monday, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced (with a disturbing grin on his face) that the Grand Jury had decided NOT to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown. After a lengthy (and strikingly rare & questionable) ridiculing of the veracity of witnesses for the prosecution (something normally done during a TRIAL not a Grand Jury), McCulloch finally revealed that the Grand Jury had decided not to indict Officer Wilson, upon which he began to lay out the “facts” of the case, in which he clearly was implying that Officer Wilson was aware Brown was a robbery suspect and had received a description of him, stopping him only because he fit the description of said robbery suspect.

However, this is NOT what Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson repeatedly told reporters last August, following the questionable release of a highly prejudicial video of Brown stealing “cigarellos” from a nearby convenience store just minutes before.

Reporters asked Chief Jackson to explain the release of the video, wondering what… if anything… it had to do with the confrontation between Brown and Officer Wilson. Chief Jackson told the reporters that Wilson was “not aware that Brown was a suspect” and only stopped him because “he was walking down the middle of the street”, corroborated by both Officer Wilson and Brown’s friend who was with him at the time.

The reason for McCulloch implying Wilson stopped Brown because he matched the description of a robbery suspect is clear: to imply Wilson had reason to fear for his life from the moment he confronted Brown and was therefore justified in shooting him in self-defense.
 

Prosecutor McCulloch (11/24/2014) vs Chief Jackson (8/15/2014) – 4:17

 



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Filed in Crime, General, Guns & Violence, myth busting, Racism, rewriting history, Scandals, Seems Obvious to Me December 1st, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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A Way To Fix the Immigation System (that no one will ever do.)

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, November 24, 2014
 

In the 1996 movie “Phenomenon”, John Travolta’s character couldn’t figure out for the life of him how a wild rabbit kept finding its way into his garden despite building a fence around it. Suspecting the rabbit was burrowing beneath the fence, he kept burying it deeper & deeper only to discover each morning that his plants were still being eaten. Upon becoming a genius, his character figured out that the rabbit must have been living in the garden all along and burying the fence deeper had only trapped him inside. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge established the “U.S. Border Patrol” in response to two new laws: 1) Prohibition and the need to stop people from smuggling alcohol into the country, and 2) the Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924 that, for the first time, set limits on the number of people that may immigrate to the U.S.. That meant closing our borders. (No, I’m NOT advocating tearing down the border fence.) But just with Travolta’s rabbit, we prevent millions of undocumented immigrants from willingly leaving the country because of just how secure we’ve made our borders. Illegal immigration is a problem of our own creation and there is a sensible and rational solution on how to fix it… and for that very reason (“it’s sensible and rational“)… no one will ever do it: allow free travel across the border through a series of highly secure checkpoints. (Take a handful of sand and squeeze it. The tighter you squeeze, the more sand runs out. That’s what repeatedly tightening our border security is doing today.)

Many people are unaware that the United States only issues a limited number of visas to other countries each year, which people in those countries can then apply for to enter the U.S. legally. Because there is a limited number of visas, the application process can make them far too expensive for the average impoverished Mexican farm-worker to afford, and the visas these countries are given are snatched up quickly by the rich & powerful in those countries. So it angers me tremendously when I hear Teabagger morons like Canadian-born, son of a Cuban-national, Senator Raphael Edward “Ted” Cruz wonder aloud, “Why don’t they go through the process to come here legally?” Because, pinhead, when you’re broke & powerless, your chances of obtaining a legal visa are slightly lower then your chances of winning the lottery.

Since not everyone enters the country on foot across our Southern or Northern borders, we can’t do away with the visa system entirely, but when so much of the American economy actually DEPENDS on immigrant workers, it doesn’t make sense to turn them into criminals once they are here. As radio host Thom Hartmann says on his radio show on a near daily basis: “We don’t have an illegal immigrant problem in this country, we have an illegal EMPLOYER problem.” Thom advocates that if we start throwing some of these criminal employers in jail instead of the workers, maybe they won’t be so quick to offer the jobs that lure them here. That’s certainly true, but with the negative side effect of dramatically reducing the workforce, resulting in artificial shortages that drive prices up.

Many who are here in this country illegally would like nothing more than to go home and see their families, but because of our “rabbit-proof fence”, they know if they leave, it’ll be incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to get back. So the stay, trapped in the U.S., living underground, hiding in the shadows in constant fear of deportation.

The solution is painfully simple: establish a series of high-security border-crossing checkpoints and allow free travel across them. Border-patrol agents can check travelers for all forms of contraband, from drugs to guns, even human smuggling. Border-police will still patrol the fence for drug smugglers, gun-runners, even terrorists, but they won’t have to waste precious time & resources chasing/repelling/deporting construction workers, farmers & maids. Once they are here, they can return home whenever they like without fear of not being able to return. In fact, some people may actually choose to return home to their native country every night after work or on the weekends rather than remain in the U.S. permanently.

President Obama’s controversial move last week to suspend deportation of undocumented parents of American-born children or workers that have been living honest fruitful lives here for years, would be rendered moot.

Another positive resulting from allowing free-travel across the border is a dramatic reduction in “worker abuse”. No more will criminal employers be able to wield the threat of “deportation” over their undocumented workers heads, allowing them to get away with appalling abuses like dangerous working/living conditions, excessively long hours and criminally low wages… which is one more reason you’ll never see this happen. Because empowering workers, possibly even allowing them to unionize, goes against everything Corporate America (and by proxy, the GOP) stands for.

They can now call the police when they are victimized or witness a crime. And (costly) prison space won’t be wasted incarcerating peaceful “law-abiding” immigrants (no longer here “illegally” because they crossed through a legal checkpoint) and can be reserved for the truly criminal.

People who are not American citizens are already not entitled to the benefits of citizenship. They still won’t be able to apply for Food Stamps, get Social Security or qualify for “ObamaCare” subsidies. They WILL however be able to file a 1040 and pay taxes without worry of revealing their presence to the government.

I can’t help but think of the experiment in many states to legalize marijuana. Not only are these states saving millions by not policing/prosecuting/incarcerating many petty drug offenses, but they are actually PROFITING from all the new tax revenue. A double-boost to their economies. Likewise, revising the immigration system this way would save the government Billions wasted policing/prosecuting/incarcerating the vast majority of poor otherwise-honest immigrants, and instead actually PROFITING from the added tax revenue.

Nope. Makes too much sense, and D.C. is where Common Sense & Good Ideas go to die.
 



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Filed in Crime, General, Immigration Reform, National Security, Racism, Seems Obvious to Me November 24th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Keystone XL: Not Just a Potential Environmental Disaster But An Economic One Too.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, November 17, 2014
 

Did you know about 1/2 of the Keystone XL Pipeline has ALREADY BEEN BUILT? The KXL project is a 1,200 mile long pipeline extending from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Houston, Texas near The Houston Ship Channel. The southern legs of the pipeline, one branch from Steele City, KS to the pipeline hub of Cushing, Okla., and the other to two refineries near Springfield, Ill, were constructed between 2011 and earlier this year. in The state of Kansas… which just reelected Governor Sam Brownback despite a record of extraordinary economic malpractice thanks to massive unpaid-for tax cuts strapping the state with a whopping $279 Million dollar budget deficit… gave the Canadian oil company “TransCanada”$15 Million dollar ANNUAL tax cut (ibid first link) to entice them into building the pipeline through their state. That’s like bribing a highway construction crew already knocking on your front door to reroute the freeway through your living room. The tax revenue lost to Brownback’s idiotic tax cut was NOT recovered in tax revenue from new employment. Worse, when that pipeline starts leaking… and it will… the state of Kansas can TRY to get TransCanada to pay for the cleanup, but the imposed fine (if there’s even one at all) won’t cover the actual cost of cleanup or damages. It never does. Who picks up that tab? But “health” and “cleanup” costs are just two of the half-dozen or so economic pitfalls from allowing this pipeline to continue. I already noted the loss of tax revenue in Kansas. Consider that land and the immediate area around it a dead zone for the next 100 years as people decide they don’t want to live near a pipeline (noisy, smelly, dangerous). And the list goes on.

Businesses near the pipeline will soon be forced to relocate as the local population moves away. That translates to fewer jobs and less tax revenue. At the destinations of these pipelines, not only will residents/businesses flee the pipeline itself, but the massive lakes of toxic waste (called: “tailing ponds”) will chase away new residents better than being told their house was the site of a brutal murder/suicide.

Ask anyone from South-East Texas about a place called “Texas City”, and the first thing they’ll mention is how bad it smells. “Texas City” is home to three major oil refineries, only a short hop away from “Port Arthur”… one of Keystone’s three destinations… with its three additional refineries. Trust me, no one lives there unless they have to (employed at the refineries). Not only does the air stink of rotten eggs (sulfur) for miles around, but the air actually burns your eyes and throat after just a few minutes (it is common local knowledge to “roll up your windows” when driving past this section of East Texas.)

I keep hearing supporters of the pipeline say, “It will create jobs!” like it’s a universally accepted statement of fact, and to doubt “that one simple fact” makes you irrational. During last Friday’s episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher”, CNN “Political Contributor” Margret Hoover stated as a fact: “The reality is that the Keystone XL Pipeline will create jobs. Who could be against that?” And MSNBC’s Chris Matthews also repeated the mythical “it will create jobs” claim during “Meet the Press” yesterday. In both cases, NO ONE challenged those assertions. JUST ONCE I’d like to hear someone ask the obvious (bleeping) follow-up: “DOING WHAT?” Seriously. Certainly not in the actual construction of the pipeline itself. As I’ve already pointed out, nearly HALF of the pipeline has already been built. And most of the steel pipe used to construct the pipeline has already been purchased from India. And if you think that Indian steel is stronger than American-made steel with less risk of rupture as 1million barrels a day of liquified dirt SANDBLASTS the walls of that pipe 24/7/365, I have a bird estuary to sell you. No surprise by the lack of pushback on MtP, but one would think that at least on a Left-leaning show like Maher’s, he’d challenge the notion. But he didn’t. Yesterday, ABC’s “ThisWeek” had on the CEO of TransCanda who conceded an AP report that the pipeline would create “just 50 permanent jobs in the U.S.”, but countered that it was still a “job creator” because it would also create “9,000 (low-paying temporary) construction jobs” and “42,000 indirect” jobs (over 2 years)“:
 

CEO of TransCanada, Bill Girling, concedes that the costly pipeline may create only FIFTY permanent jobs in the US and perhaps only 50,000 “temporary” and “indirect” jobs along the construction route over TWO years.

 

Seriously? These are the “jobs, jobs, jobs” Republicans have been promising? We’re risking certain environmental disaster to produce less than half as many jobs as the U.S. economy needs EACH MONTH just to keep up with population growth, over the span of TWO YEARS? Tell me we’re not being ruled by people THAT dumb!

UPDATE: Doing the math, best case scenario of 51,000 temp jobs (9,000 + 42,000) spread out over two years has the same impact as adding just 490 jobs a week for the next two years, or roughly a 0.45% increase in monthly job growth.

While live Facebooking/Tweeting the Sunday News Shows yesterday (click here to follow us on Twitter or here to follow us on Facebook), I found myself in a Twitter “debate” with a “Proud Truther” that thought I wasn’t very bright if I couldn’t figure out all the jobs that could be created from “Construction and maintenance” of the pipeline. Long story short, after I advocated promoting “Green jobs” over the pipeline, he responded with the familiar Republican claim that “government does not create jobs”. This is a common (and painfully stupid) response by Republicans whenever talking about using the government to promote job creation. The “logic” (if you can call it that) goes this way: “If the government creates the job, it costs tax dollars, for a net gain of zero.” And if government were the employer, he might have a point (he’d still be wrong, but at least a defensible argument.)

So I respond back, “Government doesn’t create jobs? That’s demonstrably false. The government creates jobs ALL THE TIME.” May I just point out that this mental midget was arguing with me OVER THE INTERNET… which was a government project and now responsible for hundreds of millions of jobs. Before that, we are STILL reaping the benefits of President Eisenhower’s “Interstate Highway Project” today. And the next time you drive over an eighty year old bridge built under FDR’s WPA (Work Projects Administration), ask yourself how much each of these things has contributed to Commerce in this country?

Remember that “failed” government program that lost millions on “Solyndra“… a GOP punchline for the past six years that Republicans pointed to as an example of “money wasted trying to promote green jobs”? Well, it’s slated to turn a $5 to 6 BILLION dollar profit next year as the majority of companies backed by the program more than out-performed the losses.

Some “reluctant” supporters of constructing the pipeline (and many Republicans, like Sen. John Thune, trying to straddle the fence on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday) like to say, “Construction of the pipeline is inevitable. They are going to sell that oil whether we build the pipeline or not, so we might as well just build it.” Few arguments in favor of the pipeline anger me more than this one. It’s the, “we’re all going to die someday so why not just put a bullet in our brains now?” argument. Former Talk Radio host Ed Schultz made this asinine argument on his radio show last year creating a firestorm. People like myself quickly set him straight and eventually he recanted, but the damage had been done and his show was off the air a few months later.

No. Construction of the pipeline is NOT “inevitable”. Turning tarsand into “oil” is an extremely expensive process, and it is only cost effective with oil between $65-$75/barrel (add this to the mess with ISIS and it’s just one more way the Bush Administration royally screwed this country.) Get the price of oil below $70/barrel and it is no longer cost effective to try to turn that sludge into “oil”. Last week, the price of oil fell below $75/barrel for the first time since 2006. The price of oil the week before the invasion of Iraq? $32/barrel. 

I heard numerous Conservative Commentators yesterday repeat the “common sense” logic that “increasing the supply of oil” (by tapping the Tarsands reserves) will bring down the price of oil. I’ve already detailed in my “Truth About the KXL” report how there isn’t enough oil in the Alberta tarsands (even when added to our our own Bakken shale reserves) to “glut the market”, and that even if there were, OPEC would simply cut production to drive the price back up. So any idea that the tarsands oil will mean lower gas prices is based on nonsense.

For FAR less money… with the side benefits of creating FAR more PERMANENT high-tech green jobs and without the double costs of environmental and economic disaster… we can REDUCE our dependence on oil… the ONLY thing that would actually have an impact on oil prices. I pointed out a couple of years ago that roughly 8% of our electricity is generated by oil-powered turbines. Replace them with windfarms and you DRAMATICALLY reduce the amount of oil this country consumes each year (FAR more than “8 percent”), which in turn would bring oil prices down… quickly. OPEC can’t simply drive prices up by cutting production of a product for which there is already less of a demand. They’ll just drive away customers.

There is no economic future in continuing our dependence on fossil fuels. Green jobs pay better and have an actual future, but our government is about to be dominated by people desperate to protect the Blacksmithing Industry from the invention of the Automobile. Senate Democrats are suddenly willing to hold a vote on Keystone because they think helping Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu agree with her opponent on the pipeline will save her job (bang head on wall repeatedly). Have they learned NOTHING from the beating they took just one week ago? Conceding your opponents position doesn’t win you elections. I can think of no better/safer time to kick Landrieu to the curb as a warning to other Democrats. Keeping this notorious DINO in office doesn’t change the balance of power. She’s about to vote with the Republicans (again) in opposition to President Obama (again), so tell me again why I should waste ONE DIME trying to save her seat in Washington? Keystone is a White Elephant for Democrats. Add to that the economic costs of cleanup and the decimation of local economies from “blight flight” (you like that? I just made it up) and Republican “tax cuts” to attract something any sane group would pay to keep away, and you have a project that is SO bad on SO many levels, it’s almost inconceivable that anyone is taking this idea seriously.
 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Environment, Global Warming, Greed, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Right-Wing Insanity November 17th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • 3 comments | Add/View

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Electorate Votes Big for Progressive Policies (and the people least likely to implement them)

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, November 10, 2014
 

What conclusions can be drawn from an electorate that voted overwhelmingly for Progressive policies in last Tuesday’s election only to also vote for the people LEAST likely to implement them? In EVERY state where raising the Minimum Wage was on the ballot, all Deep-RED states, it won. In EVERY state where marijuana legalization was on the ballot, it won. In EVERY state where increased gun control was on the ballot, it won. And in EVERY state where “personhood” for fertilized eggs was on the ballot, it lost. Yet in many of these same states, Republicans… who are the least likely to support these measures… won big. How does one account for that?

On The Rachel Maddow Show the night after the election, she provided an itemized list of Progressive victories the night before:
 

Howard Dean, who ran the DNC before Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and whose “50 State Strategy” played a huge role in 2006 Democratic sweep of Congress, said the most brilliant thing on “Meet the Press” yesterday:

“The Republican strategy was simply to say, We’re not Obama. And the Democratic strategy was to say, We’re not Obama either. What in the Hell kind of strategy is that?”

In recent weeks, I too have lambasted Democrats for buying into the Republican meme that “President Obama is wildly unpopular” and running away from him and his policies when they should have been defending them. When given the choice between a Party that does nothing but criticize the president vs a Party that concedes their opponents criticism, why on Earth would anyone vote for the same Party as the president? It was beyond stupid. So it was only natural that the GOP candidates would defeat their wishy-washy opponents.

Yet, when it came to ballot issues, the voters STILL expressed a CLEAR preference for Progressive positions. People WANT Progressive government, but they also want stuff to get done. Republicans went out on the campaign trail and told voters that if they want to END GRIDLOCK, they need control of both Houses of Congress. With a metaphorical gun to the electorates’ head, Republicans told voters to, “Elect me before I obstruct again!” NOT ONCE did I hear a Democrat argue the opposite: that giving THEM control of both houses would also end the gridlock in Washington (I find it curious that, despite a 16% approval rating, Control of the House was never in question thanks to Gerrymandering). Republicans already blame President Obama for their own unprecedented obstruction of Congress, but even with control of both houses, President Obama still has his Veto Pen, so if Republicans think they can “repeal ObamaCare” or include the “deportation of 12 Million undocumented workers” in their border-security bill, we’re STILL going to see gridlock in Washington. And if the Tea Party extremists get their way and begin impeachment proceedings, just how much do you expect this Congress to get done?

So what’s going on here? Did voters just not draw a connection between the policies they were voting for and the people they were electing to implement them (FACT: The more educated you are, the more likely you are to vote Democrat), or something more sinister?

I despise Conspiracy Theories, and I think the moment you start arguing “election theft” when you lose, you lose all credibility when you win. “Voter Suppression” efforts were rampant across the country this election, but they account for the record low turnout (just 36.6%) not for the inconsistent way in which people voted. Yes, there were reports of “vote flipping” on “touch screen” based voting machines (built more than a decade before modern touch screen tablet technology and thus painfully due for an update), but machines were found to be flipping votes in both directions, an indication the problem is more a em>calibration issue than one of nefarious intent.

However…

If one WERE to rig voting machines so that GOP candidates in close races ended up winning big, and Democrats with huge leads ended up winning in squeakers, it is conceivable that the people rigging the machines didn’t think to rig the “ballot issues” as well to keep the results looking consistent. If I were the conspiracy-type, such a result would definitely be ringing alarm bells in my mind. But instead, I think the problem had more to do with an electorate that just didn’t link the candidates they were voting for to the issues they supported.

In Colorado, where “Personhood” was on the ballot, that measure lost by a whopping THIRTY-POINTS, and yet they elected an Evangelical senator that ran in support of personhood during the primaries only to flip-flop on the issue come the General Election. It was a reversal no Coloradoan could claim not to know about since his opponent, Tom Udall, ran so many ads on the subject he was branded: “Tom Uterus”. But like so many other Democrats, Udall ran away from President Obama’s record of success in spite of unprecedented GOP obstruction, suggesting there was some validity to the GOP’s claims of Obama being a failure, so when faced with the choice between the Party that has been saying for six years that Obama was a failure vs a Democrat that suddenly appears to be conceding his opponents argument, who are the voters going to vote for?

So what can we expect from the next two years? While I do expect to see a LOT of fighting, I predict most of it will be in-fighting amongst Republicans… the “old guard” Republicans that learned some lessons from the past, and brash Tea Party hotheads like Ted Cruz that will make “the repeal of ObamaCare” amongst his highest priorities (NOTE: Thanks to ObamaCare health insurance premiums are slated to rise at just 7.5% next year), as he openly ridicules his fellow Republicans for an unwillingness to consider impeaching Obama (while I still consider the possibility as quite high, I think there are enough Republicans old enough to remember the brusing 1999 impeachment of President Clinton, how it was widely viewed as “petty & vindictive”, and know that if they tried it again, the Press would crucify them.)

2014 was a case study in how NOT to run an election. This was NOT, repeat NOT, a “wave” election for Republicans. Record low turnout is not a “wave”. Did more people show up to vote Republican because they oppose the President, or did more people opposed to the president simply show up to vote? Clearly from all the Progressive ballot issues that won, voters don’t disapprove of the Democratic agenda. But don’t tell that to all the Republicans they just voted for to enact that agenda. 36.6% is not a “mandate”.
 



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Filed in Election, myth busting, Partisanship, Politics, Predictions, Rants, Seems Obvious to Me, voting November 10th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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One Number Explains Tuesday’s Miserable Election Results: 65 Percent

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Wednesday, November 5, 2014
 

65% say Country is on Wrong Track

One simple number explains the surprising scale of Democratic losses on Tuesday: 65% Percent of those Exit Polled said the country is on “the wrong track”.

o Unemployment is nearly half its 2009 post-Bush peak of 10.0%, down to 5.9% and falling.

o The Deficit is down TWO-THIRDS over what President Obama inherited.

o GDP is up to an amazing 3.5%

o Both the DOW and the S&P are at record highs.

And those exit polled overwhelmingly said the country is “on the wrong track” (only if “wrong track” to you means anything that makes Obama look good). That can ONLY be because Republican turnout was vastly superior to that of Democrats. Only a group of people SO DISCONNECTED from reality as to give this president an absurd SEVEN PERCENT approval rating (and President Bush a 63% approval rating his final year) despite a record like his could claim the country is on “the wrong track” with numbers like that.

Did the number of people believing the economy is on “the wrong track” drive people to vote Republican, or did more Republicans (who already believe the economy is “on the wrong track”) simply turn up to vote in greater numbers? I argue it was the latter.

Even races Democrats were expected to win easily were closer than expected. Many races that should have been close were blowouts. Why? TURNOUT. They had it, we didn’t. It’s that simple.

Nothing moves people to the polls like anger, and the GOP has been stoking Republican anger towards President Obama… who wasn’t even on the ballot… to the point where it moved Conservative voters to the polls in large numbers.

But one thing gnawed at me all last week: With just a 16% approval rating, how come “control of the HOUSE” was never in doubt? Think about it? How does a body with an approval rating lower than sour milk, one in which EVERY SINGLE MEMBER was up for (re)election, not only not have to worry about losing control of the House but actually PICK UP seats? Simple, rampant Gerrymandering, Voter Suppression and cuts to Early Voting locations/hours/days, all of which affect Democrats disproportionally.

Tuesday’s win wasn’t a victory for Republicans, it was a victory for ignorance, theft & apathy.
 



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Filed in Election, Partisanship, Politics, Right-Wing Insanity, voting November 5th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • 3 comments | Add/View