Thursday, August 14, 2008

Random Observations on News Items

First, I can't wait until the Olympics are over. I won't watch some grand pageant from human rights abuser China, yet everywhere I try to watch or read news, it seems to be all Olympics all the time. Yawn.

So, celebrity chef Julia Child (follow previous link to a very fun short video of her!) was, it turns out, a spy. How cool is that! My daughter really wants to be a spy. She also really wants to be a chef! It's just too bad she's too young to know who Child was. Maybe I'll find get film footage somewhere and show it to her. I don't know if she'll really watch though. I seem to be becoming less cool in her eyes every week.

In England, a man has been banned from his girlfriend's apartment because they were too noisy during sex. I have a friend in the Pacific Northwest, where his home, like most homes there, does not have air conditioning. One summer evening, he was making love to a new acquaintance who turned out to be very loud. Having taken a break and resumed their love making, they heard his next door neighborhood yell up to the second story window, "All right, enough already, huh? Some of us have kids out here." He had forgotten that the window was open! Oops.

NBC News just reported what we all already knew. A study out today says that shit is getting really expensive. I knew potatoes shouldn't be $4 a bag! It turns out that the price of potatoes has risen 20%, bananas 20%, and rice a whopping 35%. A chain of dollar stores in California is going to start charging more than a dollar for the items it sells (I remember when the "dollar show" near me had to raise its movie ticket prices to $2.50. After that, we never could figure out what to call it - "...the dollar show...the used-to-be-dollar-show...the $2.50 show..."). The report says prices have increased at the highest rate in 17 years while wages have increased at their lowest rate in 18 years. Wages have fallen 3%. Seventeen percent of the homes on the market are there because the owner is going through foreclosure.

But, hey, what the fuck, let's just keep focusing on politics as playtime because that's what the media wants to do - and what the Republican party needs us to do. They have no ideas. They offer working Americans nothing except perhaps many more years of military enlistment as a career option. No help with health care. No end to George Bush's war. No restoration of our shredded Constitution. No plan to pay down the national debt so our leaders could openly criticize China's human rights record, which they should be doing right now but can't because we are now the world's biggest debtor nation and our national credit card has "Bank of the People's Republic of China" imprinted on it.

No, they offer more offshore drilling leases to the oil companies, even though the oil companies already hold leases on lots of federal land on which they aren't bothering to drill (meaning this isn't about drilling but rather about land-grabbing) and there are hundreds of wells in the Gulf off the Louisiana coast that are perfectly viable but are currently capped; even though it would take decades to drill enough new oil sources to affect prices; even though continuing to find new sources to feed our current addiction will do nothing to solve the climate crisis; even though if the oil companies do get their new leases, the American steel industry has been so thoroughly decimated that our country now lacks the means to build new oil rigs promptly anyway; and even though, as a Baton Rouge caller to the Ed Schultz show pointed out the other day, those of us here in Louisiana already know that offshore oil drilling jobs are definitely not McJobs. The work is brutally tough. Country singer Trace Adkins, who was an ordinary blue-collar Louisiana boy before becoming an "overnight" success in his forties, has talked about working offshore and actually sweating black from the oil. A taste of what the life is like from his song "Missing You:"

An hour into my shift
I'm covered from head to toe
Drilling oil from the bottom
Of the Gulf of Mexico
Sun's on the rise
Sweat rolling black down my face
Work until I can't move
Another back-breaking typical day

I've weathered waterspouts and hurricanes
Hailstorms and driving rain
And missing you
I've worked through broken drills
And busted hands
Weeks without seeing dry land
And missing you
I'll work as hard as any man
But until I'm home with you again
The toughest thing out here
That I go through is
Missing you

I lay down on my bed
And stare at the picture of you
Barefoot on the beach
Looking at me the way you do
I fall asleep with your letter in my hands
Dream about you until
That ol' whistle starts screaming again

(repeat chorus)
Ill work as hard as any man
But until I'm home with you again
The toughest thing out here
That I go through is
Missing you

Yeah, so let's just go find a bunch more people to work on those rigs, right away! It is dangerous and difficult. Injury rates are so high that some Louisiana attorneys just specialize in such cases. It requires weeks at a time away from home and is notoriously destructive to family life. Still, people (men? I think it's all men) take those jobs because they pay well and that was the Schultz caller's main point - these are highly skilled jobs. If there were to suddenly be a bunch of new oil rigs, where would the oil companies suddenly find enough qualified offshore workers to get them going? This is not a field in which an employer just goes to Manpower and hires a crew of day laborers! So, it would take time to find lots more workers, time to get the steel industry able to build the rigs, time for new refineries to be ready, and years for the oil from new sources to hit the market and possibly affect the prices. And this is an energy policy?

But the games continue in the political arena. From Senator Kerry came the following email today:

The Liars Are Back:

Pick up the New York Times this morning and read the headline: "Book on Obama Hopes to Repeat Anti-Kerry Feat."

Yes, Jerome Corsi, the right wing fringe author who made his bones smearing the Catholic Church and lying about my military record, is back atop the best seller list with an anti-Obama book chock full of lies.

If your blood isn't boiling yet, read this: "This is a fact: Today Barack Obama is subject to what is probably the greatest concentrated attacks of smears, lies and innuendo in the lifetime of anyone who reads these words."

Those are the words of Brent Budowsky in Editor and Publisher. He knows what he's talking about.

And it's not just Barack: up and down the ticket and all across the country, the rightwing smear machine is ramping up attacks on Democrats.

We've seen this movie before. The Republicans, without ideas, start running a negative campaign filled with personal attacks and misleading ads. The attacks get condemned, but they get lots of attention and get played on TV endlessly.

Kerry then goes on to say that he is starting a new website:

We're launching a new website that empowers you to fight back across the country in ways no campaign has attempted. It's called, and we can use all the help you can give.

By signing up, you'll stay on top of what the rightwing is doing and help fight for the truth. And you can report smears when you see them to keep us on track on what the smear machine is up to at every moment. You will be our eyes and ears.

We know the game, we've learned some things, and we have a fired up movement of activists like no party has had in decades, all networked together with great Internet tools.

So sign up to help. This is a massive undertaking, so we need your help to pull it off....

You can't just play defense against smears, pointing out how they aren't true. You've got to play offense, too, exposing the whole cynical game for what it is: an attempt to keep us from talking about the real issues and ultimately changing our country for the better.

The Republicans have nothing to run on, no ideas to push, no solutions for America. They'll run a campaign of laughable gimmicks and outright distortions and lies. But we can fight back with the truth - and the truth can win this time.

Let's do it.


John Kerry

See Senator Kerry confront Senator Kyl on live television, demanding to know what the hell the Paris Hilton celebrity attack ad has to do with anything important:

The AP tells us about the new book by "swiftboater" Corsi:

Jermone Corsi's anti-Obama book, "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," claims the Illinois senator is a dangerous, radical candidate for president. The book is a compilation of all the innuendo and false rumors against Obama — that he was raised a Muslim, attended a radical, black church and secretly has a "black rage" hidden beneath the surface....

Corsi's book is off to a swift start and is No. 1 on The New York Times' hardcover nonfiction best-seller list, even though Obama's campaign would argue the book should be listed as fiction.

Obama's campaign says the book is full of factual inaccuracies that include the wrong date for the Obamas' marriage. Corsi also writes that Obama left much of his family background out of his autobiographies — his father's polygamy and alcoholism, his sister's birth in Indonesia and that his then-fiance Michelle accompanied him on a visit to Kenya — but the campaign points out page numbers from "Dreams From My Father" where Obama discussed all those things.

In "The Obama Nation" — the title is a twist on the word abomination — Corsi catalogs various allegations that have haunted Obama on right-wing blogs and anonymous e-mails.

Corsi suggests, without a shred of proof, that Obama may be using drugs today. Obama has acknowledged using marijuana and cocaine as a teenager but says he quit when he went to college and hasn't used drugs since.

Corsi makes an issue of the fact that, before he quit smoking cigarettes, Obama didn't want it widely known that he smoked. "If Obama takes pains to hide his smoking from us, what else does he take pains to hide?" Corsi asks in the book.

He smoked cigarettes? Oh my god. I wonder what's really in that Nicorette gum he's been chomping on the campaign trail! Maybe it's really some halucenogenic!

Corsi also dwells on Obama's mother marrying Obama's African father and later marrying someone from Indonesia — whom Corsi describes as "a second man of color to be her mate." The Obama campaign says the description is one of many examples of Corsi's "offensive language" in the book....

Before I comment further, I probably should admit that my mother has been married - at different times, of course - to three different white men! Three of them - can you believe it? And my father has been married - at different times, of course - to three different white women. I really hope people of color aren't offended by that! Oh, and there was alcoholism and abuse involved in some of those marriages too - just tring to be totally honest. I hope no people of color get the wrong idea. There are some white men who are decent husbands and fathers. Just because my white father beat my mother, was a drunk, dressed in drag and kidnapped me, psychologically tortured his children, was unfaithful, and refused to ever pay a dime of child support for the three children he fathered doesn't mean all white men are like that. I promise - some are pretty decent, you know, especially if genuine economic opportunities are available to them.

He accuses Obama of wanting to weaken the military even though Obama's campaign calls for adding 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Corsi defended raising the issue of drugs without any evidence.

"I don't need more," he said. "I'm putting this question forward. I'm putting the evidence forward. Voters can make up their own minds."

Corsi writes for World Net Daily, a conservative Web site whose lead headline Thursday was "Astonishing photo claims: Dead Bigfoot stored on ice." In a series of Web posts several years ago, Corsi said Pope John Paul II was senile and unconcerned about sexual molestation of boys, referred to Islam is "a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion" and suggested Kerry was secretly Jewish.

Corsi apologized for the remarks and now says he didn't mean them and was simply trying to provoke discussion.

"Obama Nation" is published by Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster that is run by Mary Matalin, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Corsi readily acknowledges the political goal of his book. He considers Obama a "radical leftist" who should not be elected president. Corsi said he has no plans to work against Obama with groups comparable to 2004's Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but said he would be willing to consider it....

Hey, man, you say "radical leftist" like it's a bad thing!

Here is camp Obama's forty page rebuttal in pdf format.

For a minute, I thought it couldn't be true that this trash is number one on the New York Times bestseller list, but it is.

Did I mention that potatoes are $4 a bag, that the price of rice is up 35%, that 17% of all homes for sale are there because of foreclosure, and that wages are down 3%? Oh, and it now takes $50 to fill up my little Hyundai.

Play on.

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