Thursday, March 27, 2008

BUSTED!


Aníbal Acevedo hasn't said this yet, but I bet he will in just a few minutes: "This is all some vast conspiracy against me."

So I wake up this morning, readying for a trip, and what's on the news but the fact that our illustrious governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, has been slapped with some twenty-odd criminal counts of violating federal campaign finance laws, and he is currently negotiating how to turn himself in to the Justice Department! Many of the charges appear to stem from shady fund-raising dealings in Philadelphia during the early years of this decade, but apparently there's also a ton of charges pertaining to the illegal use of these and other funds up until very recently. All of this would appear to represent the culmination of the PDP's goal of achieving a level of corruption equal to or greater than that of the PNP. Congratulations, you did it! Way to keep those eyes on the prize!

And me about to hop a plane. Bastards! Expect to hear more about this from me soon, and sorry for the absence. The last few weeks have been tempestuous here at the Hacienda.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Crap Presidents: Tippecanoe and Tyler Also


Above: Political campaigns sure were cooler in 1840, when your campaign could essentially be "I likes to gets DRUNK!"


As you might have noticed in the past seven years, sometimes somebody becomes President and the whole thing just doesn’t really work out. In order to commemorate this rather painful historical truism, I hereby inaugurate the a new running series, The George W. Bush Crap Presidents Series. Our first installment is a double shot: the ninth and tenth Presidents, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler.

Tyler’s rise to the Presidency marked the first time an afterthought held that lofty office. If you’re at all familiar with Tyler, you’ll know that he is the “Tyler” in the famous 19th century political slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” “Tippecanoe,” of course, refers to William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate who won the Presidency in 1840 based on a campaign which celebrated his military accomplishments, his (fabricated) desire to lead a simple, rustic life in the countryside, and love of alcohol, which, with a few tweaks, has essentially become the way that the Republican party always sells its candidates, who all mysteriously buy ranches in the western U.S. the year before they run for President, ranches full of deadly, deadly brush that just demands to be cleared.


Left: Tyler wore the same outfit to clear brush that he wore to give his eternally long speeches in freezing weather.


Harrison, a Crap President if ever there was one, is remembered—when he is remembered at all—for delivering the longest inauguration speech ever, clocking in at nearly two hours. Here is an excerpt:
It was the beautiful remark of a distinguished English writer that ‘in the Roman senate Octavius had a party and Anthony a party, but the Commonwealth had none.’ Yet the senate continued to meet in the temple of liberty to talk of the sacredness and beauty of the Commonwealth and gaze at the statues of the elder Brutus and of the Curtii and Decii, and the people assembled in the forum, not, as in the days of Camillus and the Scipios, to cast their free votes for annual magistrates or pass upon the acts of the senate, but to receive from the hands of the leaders of the respective parties their share of the spoils and to shout for one or the other, as those collected in Gaul or Egypt and the lesser Asia would furnish the larger dividend. The spirit of liberty had fled, and, avoiding the abodes of civilized man, had sought protection in the wilds of Scythia or Scandinavia…

It is safe to assume that Liberty was probably not the only one thinking of fleeing on that cold and wet early March day. Deadly stuff, this speech (literally, it would turn out). As broad as the 68 year old Harrison demonstrated his command of the classics to be, he also demonstrated a rather shocking lapse in judgment in deciding to deliver his endless speech without wearing an overcoat. Sparing the young nation any further pontification on the evils of partisanship in the classical-era Mediterranean, Harrison contracted pneumonia and died within the month.

His successor John Tyler had an undistinguished, crap Presidency, a time that was marked primarily by the creation of a variety of other political parties, almost all of which had “Hating President Tyler” as some part of their platform. He spent most of his presidency fighting Henry Clay over banking policy and almost botching the annexation of Texas. Though he had run with Harrison on the Whig ticket, Tyler had been a Democratic Republican (first a Jacksonian, and later an anti-Jacksonian), and after becoming President he pissed off his party by pretty much vetoing everything they wanted to do. They responded by kicking him out of the party, and his entire Cabinet (except for Secretary of State Daniel Webster) quit. Webster would also quit later, a shrewd move considering what would happen to his successor.


Left: John Tyler, looking like the winner he was.


Tyler also seems to have been a terrible guy to know, as it seems that if you had any sort of association with him, you were apt to drop dead at any moment. On Harrison’s death, Tyler became the first Vice President to become President due to the death of a President, and spent his term losing the battle to keep those around him alive. His wife, Letitia Tyler, became the first First Lady to die mid-term when she passed away in 1842. Then, in 1844, Tyler, members of his Cabinet, his new fiancée Julia Gardiner, and others participated in a ceremony aboard the USS Princeton, where a cannon backfired and killed his new Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, his Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, and his fiancée’s father, David Gardiner. Julia married him anyway, and years later he would die and leave her a penniless widow. Though everyone around him died, Tyler managed to have many children who lived to adulthood, and he had a horse named “The General” that lived for 20 years.

Tyler was the first President to have a veto overridden by Congress (which they did as a “fuck you” on his last full day in office). Congress also tried to impeach Tyler, but I guess his aptitude for failure was contagious, and they were not able to. Belonging to no party, and apparently liked by no one except the woman who married him in spite of his indirect role in the death of her father, Tyler did not run for another term. After his presidency, Tyler went on to serve in Congress—the Confederate Congress.

William Henry Harrison and John Tyler demonstrate that you can be a crap President without shoddily planning disastrous wars or by having evil Vice Presidents (Tyler didn’t even have a Vice President). The best thing that you can say about the Harrison presidency is that his grandson (another Crap President candidate) would later become President, and the best thing that you can say about Tyler’s time in office is that he didn’t cause the Irish Potato Famine. Unless he did, which would not be at all surprising.

So the next time you send a text message you shouldn’t have sent, or leave your DNA all over a crime scene, or pay thousands of dollars to a prostitute to cross state lines, don’t beat yourself up about it—just remember that you are, in your own special way, honoring the legacy our most Crap Presidents.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pedro Rosselló, We Hardly Knew Ye


Above: Pedro Rosselló


This past Sunday, Puerto Rico had its gubernatorial primary for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP), which was won by popular young candidate Luis Fortuño, who has the distinction of possibly being the first Puerto Rican to be both a) a Republican and b) a dead ringer for Milhouse from The Simpsons. Other parties had primaries as well, but the other leading party, the pro-Commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PDP), did not hold a gubernatorial primary, apparently being satisfied to run Governor Aníbal Acevedo out there to get slaughtered in the fall. I imagine they must simply want to be rid of him one way or the other, be it through his inevitable loss in November or his possible incarceration for campaign finance violations.


Luis Fortuño: Res ispa loquitur.


The big story, however, is not so much that Fortuño won, but rather that former Governor Pedro Rosselló lost. Rosselló, a former tennis prodigy and noted pediatric surgeon, became governor in 1992, a post he held for two terms that were marked by noticeable public works initiatives and almost mind-boggling corruption within his inner circle. He opted against running for a third term in 2000, and retired to Virginia. His exile would be short-lived, however, since in 2003, inspired by the Warren G. Harding-esque ineptitude of the Sila Calderón administration and the prospect of running against Aníbal “Please God Let It Be Over” Acevedo, Rosselló returned to Puerto Rico.


Left: Aníbal Acevedo (believe it or not, this is what he looks like after plastic surgery paid for with suspicious funds).


In his absence, the leadership of the NPP had been taken over by Carlos Pesquera, a seemingly even-keeled guy who had headed up the Urban Train project. However, at some point in the summer of 2002, Pesquera lost his marbles. Here’s how it happened: news got out that the Office of Women’s Affairs, a state government agency, had chosen to display a Puerto Rican flag in its lobby, but not a U.S. flag. Somehow, Pesquera got it into his head that the best way to solve this problem was to gather up a mob, march them down from the Capitol building to the Office of Women’s Affairs while blasting country music (the strangest detail in this entire sordid fiasco), start a riot outside the office, and then break through the office’s glass doors carrying an American flag in order to plant it.


Left: Carlos Pesquera thought he could claim the Office of Women's Affairs for the USA by planting the flag in the lobby.


On a personal note, I was working in San Juan that day, and let me tell you, it made it hard to get lunch. After that clusterfuck, it wasn’t too hard for Rosselló to dispatch Pesquera (who, by the way, was caught on several video cameras in his incitement to riot and breaking and entering, and yet beat the charges without even going to trial by having even more of his followers cause tremendous traffic jams outside the courthouse, which is only blocks away from the Hacienda). Having thrown Pesquera under the bus, Rosselló immediately launched a new campaign to retake the governorship. His efforts came up short, and he lost a hotly contested election that the Puerto Rico Supreme Court wound up deciding.

And then he went crazy.

Having lost the governorship, he decided that he needed to be in the Puerto Rico Senate. Mind you, he did not run for Senate. However, Victor Loubriel, the guy in his party who won the Senate seat for the region where Rosselló lived, was made an offer which he opted not to refuse, quit two days after being inaugurated, and, voilá, Rosselló was in the Senate.

But just being the newest dude in the Senate was not enough for Rosselló. Although a Senate president had already been chosen—Kenneth McClintock, whom everybody here calls ‘MaClinton’—Rosselló and his followers decided that, since he was the president of his party, then he should naturally also be president of the Senate. McClintock was having none of it, however, and he refused to budge. Rosselló then did the democratic thing and had McClintock and his allies all thrown out of the party, which was still not enough to dislodge McClintock, whose hold on that seat was a strong as the moustache he used to sport was creepy.


Left: Kenneth McClintock: Not even Tom Selleck would tell you that that shit looks cool.


While this was all going on, more instances of impropriety on Rosselló’s part came to light. As if it weren’t enough that over thirty members of his administration—including several of his cabinet secretaries and his personal assistant—wound up serving time in prison for a veritable potpourri of corruption charges, the news surfaced that the government pension that Rosselló was receiving was about 40% higher than it should have been, because records of some of his early government work had been falsified: apparently, during one summer where he was supposedly working for the government as a student, he was actually in the U.S. playing in a bunch of tennis tournaments, and enrolled in classes at Notre Dame. Some other guy got sent to jail over this kerfuffle, and though Rosselló was ordered to pay back $80,000 of wrongfully-awarded pension funds, his supporters raised the money and paid it themselves. Rosselló was prosecuted in the matter, but beat the charges. Soon thereafter, he wrote a book called “The Triumvirate of Terror,” where he charges the PDP, the Federal government, and the Ferré family (owners of El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper), all of whom he compares to Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, with conspiring to bring him and the statehood movement down.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s economy went straight into the toilet, leading to a government shutdown for two weeks, which our illustrious governor Acevedo decided to solve by eliminating the excise tax, replacing it with a 7% sales tax, which after a year he decided hadn’t worked, and now wants to scale back down to 2.5% while bringing back the excise tax. Acevedo is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for campaign finance violations, and is pretty much hated by just about everyone who’s ever had anything to do with him.

2007 rolled around and it was time for Rosselló to gear up for another gubernatorial run, but this upstart Fortuño had the gall to run against him. A protracted primary campaign took place, which Rosselló “did not participate in.” Let me explain. Initially, he promised that he would not be running for governor. Then he decided to do so. But then he said he wouldn’t campaign for it. Except he did: he hit just about every town and municipality in Puerto Rico, holding rallies and marches and all sorts of events, except that he claimed that he was not campaigning, but instead was just appearing at the events as the president of the party. He refused to debate Fortuño, claiming that he didn’t debate members of his own party, and as far as I can tell, his only campaign promise was to set up “reconciliation commissions” wherein political officials who had committed acts of corruption would be given amnesty for them so long as they confessed to their actions and expressed contrition, claiming that this idea was inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that South Africa set up to deal with the legacy of apartheid. Because as anyone will tell you, when greedy assholes steal taxpayer dollars, that is exactly the same as apartheid.

Rosselló's campaign slogan was “Esto lo arregla Rosselló”, which translates roughly to “This mess? Rosselló can fix that shit.”

Fortuño whipped his ass 60-40, and now theoretically Rosselló will retire from politics, sparing the island from an Acevedo-Rosselló election, which would probably have resulted in mass suicides. Rosselló will be missed by fans of colossal trainwrecks and authoritarian tendencies the world over, and when Fortuño annihilates Acevedo in the fall, Acevedo will be missed by, uh, no one.


Also, as a bonus, it now looks like this guy, whose name is Tomás Rivera Schatz and who frequently sports what is essentially a Hitler moustache, will be elected to the legislature in the fall, and will probably hold a leadership position.

And here you are thinking that the Obama/Clinton race was interesting. Ha!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Poorly Thought-Out



Above: Miguel Tejada

I know this isn't dispositive evidence or anything, but don't you think that if you were trying to convince everyone (including the Department of Justice) that you didn't use steroids, maybe you wouldn't go around advertising how you're such a super awesome runner that you need them to strap a parachute to you to make it challenging?

This reminded me of some article about Barry Bonds' workout regime back before all the stuff about the BALCO indictment broke, and it said that part of his training involved swinging a particularly heavy bat (even heavier than normal heavy bats, which are apparently standard in baseball training), which the author warned readers not to try at home, as doing so would break the average person's wrists.

Seriously.