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The Winds of November

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Message Kenneth Anderson
Suddenly, Americans have a less dim view of George Bush. That doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement but for Bush, this is some positive news. Recent polls are placing his approval rating at 42% up from a dismal 29% just a few months ago. So, what happened? Are things measurably better now? No. New Orleans is still a disaster area, Iraq continues to worsen, with reports that US forces have now lost control of the crucial al-Anbar province, while murder and mayhem continue to abound. The budget is a black hole of debt, trade deficits are at an all time high, 3 million manufacturing jobs are still gone. There is one thing, though, that has lately been helping ease the American trauma. Gasoline prices are sliding. Yeah, we're a fickle bunch and easily bought off.

Previously, the relationship between Bush's approval rating and the price of gasoline has been noted. Many have speculated as too whether oil companies have been tweaking the price of oil just before the election thereby currying favour for the Bush and the GOP. This is not quite correct. While oil companies can dump oil futures, world market prices are really set on a much larger stage, like war in the Middle East. However, oil companies do have very tight control in the pricing of gasoline in the US, which is much more affecting of the average American consumer. They also know that, as good and loyal companions of the Republicans both in the White House and Congress, the price of gas is the ticket they know they really can punch to assuage American concerns about the "direction of the country." And Americans appear to be easily bought.

The most recent segment of the Bush Index/Gasoline Price index clearly demonstrates the strongly correlation between gas prices and the Bush approval rating and lately gas prices have been good to George Bush.

The price of domestic gas is only marginally related to the price of oil, and oil companies generally recognize that the price of gas in the US simply could not track the price of oil on world markets. For example, while the price of a barrel of oil has more than tripled since 2002, the price of gasoline currently sits at less the double -- and dropping -- what it was in 2002 (after the wild spike that followed Katrina). Clearly there is mitigation of gas pricing by oil companies in the US. And they can do this because company profits are mostly realised by the price of oil on world markets, not the price of gasoline in the US, which is only one of many byproducts, albeit the biggest one. It costs no more now to get the oil out of the ground than it did mere months ago, but the market price of oil has soared and this is where the massive profits are realised.

Apropos of this and right on cue, George Bush has just given us a "heads up" on his party's prospects in November. Over at the White House agitprop outlet, The Weekly Standard, Bush even tells us what is going to happen in November and why.
In the midterm election on November 7, Bush predicted Democrats won't win either the House or the Senate. "I believe these elections will come down to two things: one, firm belief that in order to win the war on terror there must be a comprehensive strategy that recognizes this war is being fought on more than one front, and, two, the economy." Bush said the price of gasoline, which has been falling rapidly, is one of the "interesting indicators" that the press should watch carefully. "Just giving you a heads up," he added.
This has to be one of the few times I agree with the President. Of note is the conceit herein that by "economy" Bush really means the price of gasoline. He doesn't really care about the economy, per se, but he at least knows that high gas prices cause instant ire and doubtful election prospects. Already we've got the press firmly pressing the idea that oil prices and gas prices will continue to drop and given the trading game's penchant for determining prices, not based on supply and demand so much as on gossip and herd mentality, why it's a near self-fulfilling prophesy that the price of oil will indeed come down. November, here we come.

We see a classic fascistic symbiosis here, not unlike what we saw with the recent Disney/ABC media hit on Democrats. While Republicans in control of the White House and Congress continue to wage war and threaten more of it, which keeps prices high -- very high -- the oil companies do their part to help the GOP come this November by briefly lowering gas prices in the run up to the election. This is a theory, of course. It is not at all clear just how well Bush approval ratings translate into the approval of individual members of Congress. People seem to be pretty ticked off with Congress, even more so than Bush. But this will be just one factor of many that the GOP will rely on to sway voters and preserve GOP majorities. They've also got the media saddled against them -- one look at the front page of Media Matters is all that's needed to see that -- the fear factor, also helped by the media, name-calling (media), corrupt election officials in swing states and their friends at Diebold, committed as they are to delivering elections to the GOP. This is not to say that the GOP are simply calling in a few corporate markers and hoping for the best. Apart from the voting day shock troops, Republicans at the state and national level have been busy with any number of measures designed to keep themselves at the helm of what appears to be a seriously listing ship of state.

Republicans in various key states have put in place measures specifically designed to disenfranchise Democrat-voting demographics. Republicans at the federal level are set to introduce the same kind of measure, the so-called Hyde bill, HR 4844, that would require a national voter ID card. It would cost a $100. Who is that going to affect? These kinds of measures are specifically designed to make it harder to vote, not easier.

This is a Republican game plan that is taught early on. As Jeff Horwitz so alarmingly enlightened us (well, not too many of us), at the uber right-wing Morton Blackwell Leadership Institute, the now chairman of the College Republicans, Paul Gourley, once explained things to up and coming Karl Rove wannabes on just how Republicans run elections.
"Can anyone tell me," asks Gourley, a veteran mock electioneer, "why you don't want the polling place in the cafeteria?"

Stephen, a shy antiabortion activist sitting toward the rear of the class, raises his hand: "Because you want to suppress the vote?"

"Stephen has the right answer!"
Assuredly, a prerequisite to life with the GOP is a firm grounding in voter suppression tactics. And the current crop of old-timers in Congress are assembling the blockades to the voting booths at this moment.

I really wonder if the Democrats have the vaguest notion of what they're up against. It's not like they haven't been warned. I'm sure a few know, like Conyers. But we have all seen how his own party treats an infidel questioning the status quo. Like ... well ... an infidel. But do they understand the treatment they receive in the media? Do they know why that is happening? Again, I'm sure a few might, but in general, they spend too much time constantly on their heals, reeling from the latest media-broadcast GOP gut punch.

All of this is to indicate, as I've opined before, that the Dems will be extremely lucky to take either the House or the Senate. The only way for that to happen is massive voter turn-out. With various voter suppression tactics already locked and loaded, and it being an "off" election year, one thing the Dems will not get is a large turnout.


The country is slipping down the turd hole. Republicans, with the aid of their corporate boosters, are rigging the system to keep control of a country they clearly have no control of, not in any meaningful sense of traditional governance, anyway. Sure, they're enriching their friends with every conceivable tax break, while defense contractors slurp up billions for nothing and oil companies enjoy free leases on public land. Jobs are flying across the Pacific, while the economy here starts to shake as the housing bubble, which has been the engine of economic "growth" for the last five years, begins to deflate and the national debt ratchets ever upward. This can't keep going. Though Grover Norquist might think things are just grand right now (he still thinks taxes are too high, but that will always be the case as long as there are taxes at all), economic reality doesn't really care what any of these Republican think tank twits think. The problem for this country is that the Republicans of today, led as inably as they are by the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove and guided by various versions of Norquist, appear to simply believe that none of their profligate behaviour will have a consequence, that America simply is and always will be. And while mere existence may not be threatened, everything else about the American condition is. My, how innocent that blowjob looks now.

If this current version of the Republican party remains in control of Congress, and I see nothing on the horizon that would indicate otherwise, the spiral must surely continue. They appear to be wholly disinclined to even recognise that we have serious problems let alone attempt to fix any of them. Now, I am not saying that having a bunch of niggling Democrats in charge is going bring things to heel either. Lord no. But at least they don't seem to embrace the level of graft, corruption and deadly cronyism that now govern the will of the GOP.

People ask whether we can endure two more years of Bush, as though, once he's gone, things will suddenly get all better. It is a sillly view of our current political climate that doesn't understand that Republicans do not intend to have control wrested from them. I've got news for them....
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An astronomer who has worked on a number of NASA projects, Ken lives in Baltimore, where he devotes his scientific training to observations and inferences about current affairs, politics and the media. He authors Shockfront and The Bonehead (more...)
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