The Lady Speaks

Feeding America?

This is part two of my series on how the wasteful, destructive agriculture polices of the last 8-12 years — also known as “Make Money By Not Feeding America” — has affected the cost of the food we purchase. Part One is here.

In Part One, I spoke of wheat and how in the rush to grow corn for ethanol, it’s being pushed aside – which drives up prices at the mills, which then drives up the price at the retail level.

Today: Corn.

In the rush to find cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels for our vehicles, ethanol was latched onto by the Bush administration. As a result nearly a quarter of all corn grown is being diverted from human and animal food stocks and heading for ethanol plants.

As we see with wheat, prices are going up. In this case, the price rise is first seen as the price-per-bushel – the amount the corn farmer is paid. That drives up costs at the farm and farm-factory level – where it’s used as feedstock cattle and poultry. Then prices rise again at the retail level. We’ve seen a huge rise in the cost of eggs, meat, and milk and other dairy products as a result.

Meanwhile…back at the farm, it’s difficult to turn away from devoting your corn to ethanol production with prices per bushel on the rise.

From the Washington Post, via MSNBC: [my emphasis throughout]

Across the country, ethanol plants are swallowing more and more of the nation’s corn crop. This year, about a quarter of U.S. corn will go to feeding ethanol plants instead of poultry or livestock. That has helped farmers like Johnson, but it has boosted demand — and prices — for corn at the same time global grain demand is growing.

And it has linked food and fuel prices just as oil is rising to new records, pulling up the price of anything that can be poured into a gasoline tank. “The price of grain is now directly tied to the price of oil,” says Lester Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute, a Washington research group. “We used to have a grain economy and a fuel economy. But now they’re beginning to fuse.”

Oh, and thank your Democratic Congress too.

Rising food prices have given Congress and the White House a sudden case of legislative indigestion. In 2005, the Republican-led Congress and President Bush backed a bill that required widespread ethanol use in motor fuels. Just four months ago, the Democratic-led Congress passed and Bush signed energy legislation that boosted the mandate for minimum corn-based ethanol use to 15 billion gallons, about 10 percent of motor fuel, by 2015. It was one of the most popular parts of the bill, appealing to farm-state lawmakers and to those worried about energy security and eager to substitute a home-grown energy source for a portion of U.S. petroleum imports. To help things along, motor-fuel blenders receive a 51 cent subsidy for every gallon of corn-based ethanol used through the end of 2010; this year, production could reach 8 billion gallons.

There’s just one problem…well, several problems:

Although ethanol was once promoted as a way to slow climate change, a study published in Science magazine Feb. 29 concluded that greenhouse-gas emissions from corn and even cellulosic ethanol “exceed or match those from fossil fuels and therefore produce no greenhouse benefits.” By encouraging an expansion of acreage, the study added, the use of U.S. cropland for ethanol could make climate conditions dramatically worse. And the runoff from increased use of fertilizers on expanded acreage would compound damage to waterways all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Development specialists have also joined the fray. “While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day,” World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said in a recent speech.

And, the future for food prices isn’t looking too good:

Two leading oil pipeline companies are exploring the feasibility of building a $3 billion ethanol pipeline, the first of its kind, to link Iowa and other parts of the Midwest with motor-fuel markets in the East. It would carry 3.65 billion gallons a year and give another industry a vested interest in maintaining high ethanol output. Because of this domestic demand, Iowa’s exports of corn are expected to shrink to less than half of current levels in the next couple of years. Nationwide, corn stockpiles are dwindling.

[snip]

… Iowa produces more eggs, 13.5 billion, than any other state. And chickens, like capons, mostly eat corn feed. The Charles City ethanol plant alone consumes three-quarters as much corn as the entire Iowa egg industry.

[snip]

“We don’t have to make fuel out of corn and soybeans, but we do have to feed animals,” says Kevin Vinchattle, executive director of the Iowa Egg Council. “We’re going to be right there bidding for feedstocks and making sure that we have the highest-quality feed available. We just don’t have an alternative.”

What we really need in this country is a responsible, sustainable, non-destructive, non-wasteful agriculture policy. We absolutely do need to support our family farmers. But, we should only support those family farmers who are contributing to the feeding of America.

It is time to end the subsidies to corporate entities that run factory farms, the owners of said corporate entities, and those whose product is going for any use other than feed or food.

What we also need is a responsible energy plan, because — thanks to the ethanol boom – the two are intertwined.

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April 30, 2008 Posted by | America, Business, Congress, Farming, Global Warming, Government, Life, Made in the USA, Planet Earth | 3 Comments

If You Mess with Farming, You Screw Us All

So, you go into any grocery store, bakery, dessert shop and think, “Holy hell. This stuff’s getting expensive! WTF?”

Naturally, we assume fuel prices have done it all, but part of the price increase is decades of wasteful, destructive agriculture policies. Wheat prices are soaring (yayz for the commodities brokers!) and the number of acres devoted to wheat has dropped by 24 million — or just over 25% since 1981.

From the Washington Post, via MSNBC

U.S. farmers are expected to plant about 64 million acres of wheat this year, down from a high of 88 million in 1981. In Kansas, wheat acreage has declined by a third since the mid-1980s, and nationwide, there is now less wheat in grain bins than at any time since World War II — only about enough to supply the world for four days. This occurs as developing countries with some of the poorest populations are rapidly increasing their wheat imports.

[snip]

U.S. wheat yields per acre have increased little in two decades, partly because commercial seed companies have all but abandoned investments in improved varieties, preferring to focus on the more profitable corn and soybeans. Subtle warming changes in the climate and the recent availability of new plant varieties that thrive in cold, dry conditions have pushed the corn belt north and west.

[snip]

In 1996, Congress gave a strong nudge to these changes by passing legislation allowing wheat growers for the first time to switch to other crops and still collect government subsidies. The result is that farmers received federal wheat payments last year on 15 million acres more than were planted. [my emphasis]

Oh goody. So, Americans – in the form of taxes – are paying farmers not to produce wheat and we’re paying through the nose whenever we buy wheat products because we’re paying farmers not to produce wheat. Lovely.

And this isn’t a problem for America only. Developing nations count on us to supply them with cheap wheat to cushion their own production. Except that other wheat-producing nations are stopping exports in order to conserve their harvests for their citizens. Add in the falling value of the dollar:

The U.S. government stopped holding large stocks of wheat in the 1980s, but the United States, nearly alone among wheat producers, allows countries to shop here even when others have shut off exports.

This free-trade policy resulted in a run on the 2007 U.S. wheat crop this year by foreign buyers taking advantage of the favorable dollar exchange rate to stock up, even as Ukraine, Argentina and Kazakhstan blocked exports.

Those of you who feel smug about driving your ethanol-fueled vehicle? Stop.

The ethanol boom, in particular, is providing strong incentives to keep former wheat acres in corn. Within a year, Braaten will be able to truck his corn to three modern ethanol refineries, one already built and two others near completion. These huge distilleries will need corn from an area about the size of Rhode Island, and many of the acres will come at the expense of such traditional crops as wheat and sugar beets.

And, of course, corn seeds are a money maker for the corporations.

These seeds are protected by patents and licensing agreements, requiring farmers to buy a new batch each year. That produces strong financial incentives for the companies .

[snip]

Even then, there is no assurance that farmers will buy the seed year after year. That is because of the nature of the wheat plant, an unusually complex organism originating in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Unlike hybrid corn, which loses its productivity after the first year, seeds from improved wheat varieties can be saved and replanted for several years without significant loss of yield.

But in the end, under the rule of the Bush Corpos, feeding America is just another way to make a fortune. Unless, of course, you’re the farmer.

Unfortunately for America, few will notice there’s a problem until they’re standing in breadlines.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | America, Business, Farming, Government, Made in the USA, Politics | 1 Comment

Theme Songs for Hillary

Lambert at Corrente says:

Since Barack Obama likes Jay-Z so much, and songs like “99 Problems (But a Bitch Ain’t One)” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” I think it’s only fair that we help her pick out some theme music.

He and the commenters list their choices, including Aretha Franklin’s Respect and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

My choices are:

I Am Woman by Helen Reddy

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves by the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin

or – my personal favorite – This One’s For the Girls by Martina McBride.

So, what songs would you choose for Hillary’s campaign?

April 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Women are Human

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women’s rights…. And women’s rights are human rights.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
September 5, 1995
Fourth World Conference on Women

That is all.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | America, Government, Politics | 1 Comment

My Vote

I have been on the fence for some time now as to which candidate I would support in the upcoming primary. My preferred candidate, John Edwards, left the race before Super Tuesday. Those who were left didn’t impress me much.

So I kept reading, kept studying. I listened to the opinions of those I trust, asked myself what “features” I want in a candidate, and was bombarded with blogs voicing one opinion or the other.

As time has gone by, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated by the sexism and misogyny directed at our first viable female Presidential candidate. While I didn’t agree with many of her positions, and certainly was angry about several of her Senate votes – notably the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment – I was just as disappointed by Barack Obama.

Actually, I’ve been more disappointed by Obama. Hillary only had to convince me she wasn’t as bad as I thought. Obama convinced me almost from the very beginning of his Presidential campaign, but – over the past 16 months or so – his lack of concrete policy details, and his supporters’ eagerness to revile Hillary Clinton in sexist and misogynistic language as well as accuse her of nearly every evil, short of actually calling her the Anti-Christ, turned me away and kept me away.

In the beginning, I was thrilled by his candidacy. I read The Audacity of Hope. I paid attention to what he was saying, and I tried to see exactly where he stood on issues that concern me.

And that might have been the problem. My paying attention, that is. Because the more Barack Obama spoke, the less inclined to vote for him I became. He has some great soundbites, slogans, and ear-worms, but very little to offer, other than the now-ubiquitous Hope and Change.

Hope and Change alone aren’t going to restore America’s image around the world. Hope and Change alone aren’t going to end the war in Iraq. Hope and Change alone aren’t going to insure the uninsured or make healthcare costs more affordable. Hope and Change alone aren’t going to reduce emissions and slow global warming. Hope and Change alone aren’t going to provide desperately-needed jobs. Hope and Change alone aren’t going to protect human rights. Hope and Change alone aren’t going to stop foreclosures. Hope and Change alone aren’t going to strengthen the dollar, reduce the trade deficit, or pay off America’s trillion-dollar debts.

I want a detailed plan that tells me how a candidate is going to deal with the very serious problems facing America. I don’t have to agree with the nitty-gritty so much as I want to see what a candidate considers important, and I want to see what their goals are, and what steps they want to take to accomplish them.

I want to know that a great deal of what I consider important – as a mother, as a woman, as a Pennsylvanian, as a citizen of the US – is also important to my candidate.

So.

Here we are a week before the Pennsylvania primary, and I’m not going to flip a coin or write in John Edwards. Both of which I’d considered, right up until Obama told a bunch of rich donors that we in small-town America are bitter and cling to our “guns, religion, and antipathy” due to the failures of our government.

[Hell, yes, I was insulted, and my choices became one fewer: Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. Certainly my vote isn’t going to the guy who said frustration with our government leads small-town people to guns, God, and hatred. Perhaps said frustration doesn’t lead to said clinging in larger, more urban settings? Except, of course, that wouldn’t explain the amount of violence, megachurches, and gang warfare one finds in the average American city.]

But in the last two hours, my decision became clear.

What happened in two hours, you ask? Only that I read this via eRiposte at The Left Coaster: Hillary Clinton’s speech to the Newspaper Association of America.

In particular, the portion of the speech in which she talks about what she will do in her first 100 days as President: [all emphasis mine]

But the question before us is deeper than how the next president will restore our government and our Constitution. The question is how the next president will employ our government. I am here and I am running for president because I have seen the promise of America and I do understand the promise of the presidency and on day one I will bring my hard won experience, whatever strength and knowledge I posses to fulfill that promise. I will start by trying to live up to the model described by Teddy Roosevelt – “All that in me lies to do will be done to make my work a success.” And I plan to hit the ground running starting on day one and throughout my first 100 days.

During that time I will call on congress to send to my desk the bills the president vetoed, from supporting stem cell research to expanding Children’s Health Care and I will sign them, allowing scientists to better explore the promise of new cures for disease- diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and so much else. And we will provide health insurance for millions more of our children as a down payment on achieving health care for all Americans with no exceptions.

My administration will call together meeting of mortgage lenders, banks, community organizations and regulators to negotiate an immediate freeze on foreclosures, because so many Americans are hurting and the projection is that more than 2 million families will be foreclosed on this year. I will call for a timeout on new trade agreements and review all existing trade agreements and I will call on Canada and Mexico to work with me to renegotiate NAFTA.

My budget to congress will restore fiscal sanity while cutting taxes for middle class families to the tune of 100 billion dollars a year, ending tax breaks for oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies, Wall Street and others to the tune of 55 billion dollars a year.

I will work with Congress to introduce a comprehensive immigration bill.

My administration convene a summit within 100 days to negotiate a new climate change treaty to replace Kyoto and one that includes China, India and other rapidly developing and very big green house gas emitting nations. I will work with the Congress to submit a comprehensive energy bill that will move us toward ending our dependence on foreign oil and increasing the percentage of renewable fuels we use to produce electricity.

I will overturn the global gag rule to allow nongovernmental organizations to practice free speech and use other funding sources to provide women with access to the full range of reproductive health care around the world.

I will call a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and demand that the Pentagon draw up plans to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq responsibly and carefully starting within 60 days of my inauguration. I will reach out to the rest of the world and ask distinguished Americans of both parties to be emissaries on our behalf traveling across the globe telling both governments and people that the united states is willing once again to work with you to try to find common ground on our problems from global warming to global terrorism to global epidemics.

I will sign executive orders ending the war on science, ordering the closure of Guantanamo, reversing many of the anti-labor provisions that President Bush adopted and looking very clearly at what we have to do to rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class in our country.

In short, starting from day one, the Bush-Cheney era will be over in name and in practice. We are fortunate in our country that we get to overturn our government peacefully and thoroughly. The question is the path we select at such an important juncture. I know this campaign has gone on a long time, but elections do end and when the campaigns conclude and the banners are town down and the speeches are finally finished, all that’s left is the choice we have made.

Come election day, I will be casting my vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

April 17, 2008 Posted by | America, Clinton, Election '08, Government, Pennsylvania, Politics, Women | 6 Comments

Random Thoughts

Two things running through my head this morning:

First up: the Obama gaffe, non-gaffe, truth-telling, or whatever it’s being called now.

It’s been rather disheartening this weekend to see so many left-wing blogs telling me, “It’s true! Small-town rural people are just racist, homophobic, xenophobic ignorants who turn to their guns or their gods rather than voting for someone who just wants to help them.”

Or, even more fun, the “if you’re not bitter, you’re not paying attention and aren’t doing enough” group.

Spare me.

Spin it how you want. Tell me his “inflection” in the video makes a difference. Tell me all about how we white, rural, working-class, voters do vote against our own interests. It doesn’t change my opinion of what he said.

Yes, I did read the entire statement, not just the paragraph posted in Obama Insults Pennsylvanians. And I read it again. And yes, I still believe he was, in effect, calling us low-class white trash who won’t vote for him because we’re too bitter about our economic status to vote for anyone who isn’t whiter than snow and doesn’t run on a “Guns, Gods, and Gays” platform.

I still believe that he was trying to explain to a bunch of rich donors just why he wasn’t doing as well as expected here, and his explanation to them is, “See these blue-collar folks are just too bitter and too dumb to understand that I’m all about Change and Hope© and they seem to actually want policies and positions and information. They don’t understand, because they’re dumb, rural, white trash, that I’m all about Change and Hope© and part of that is not saying anything that isn’t about Change and Hope©.”

But, apparently, to say so – to believe that this candidate insulted my state and my fellow Pennsylvanians – is also a white trash, homo- and xenophobic, racist belief.

Wow.

I have to say I feel a little less welcome in a few of my favorite blogs today, after reading all the “It’s true and people who are insulted are just too dumb and too bitter to understand it” comments from people who do not live in rural Pennsylvania.

Gee, thanks, for helping me see the light. It’s good to know just how many blogs and their commenters actually believe they are better than those of us living in small-town America because they’re more “enlightened,” more “sophisticated,” or just plain smarter than we bigoted trash.

I should point out that in 2000, PA was one of only 20 states (plus DC) that went for Gore. In 2004, we were one of only 19 states (plus DC) that went for Kerry.

Second: the Bush-approved-torture non-flap:

Yep, I am well aware of what happened Friday, that our President – a man who stood before us twice and vowed to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” – admitted that he approved torture.

And, I am well aware that the MSM has more or less ignored the same in order to cover the “blow to the Obama campaign.”

Why haven’t I said anything? Well, for one, because there are far smarter people who know far more about this who have already said everything. Short of cribbing all of Emptywheel’s posts on the subject, what I have to say on it amounts to this:

“Son of a bitch! He admitted, on television, that his legal team created justifications for torture, that members of his Cabinet (Cheney, Ashcroft, Rice, etc) knew and approved of said tortures, that he knew and approved said tortures, that human beings were tortured as a result — in contravention of the Geneva Convention and American law.

There is now absolutely zero doubt that he, members of his Cabinet, and his legal eagles are as guilty of crimes against humanity as any Nazi prosecuted at Nuremberg.

And the response from America was… *crickets*

The fucking media ignores it because Obama can’t keep his foot from his mouth.

Heckova job, BushCo!”

That is my response.

I could have made a post of it but, as always, Digby says it better:

I thought I was long past the point of being shocked at anything the Bush administration did. They suspended the constitution after 9/11 and set forth a series of legal opinions that said the president can do anything he deems necessary to “protect the country.” Once you truly absorb that fact, it’s hard to be emotionally affected by anything else you learn.

But I was wrong. This shocks me. The president of the United States casually admits on television that he approved of his national security team personally deciding which specific torture techniques should be used against prisoners:

[snip]

The vice president, national security advisor and members of the president’s cabinet sat around the white house “choreographing” the torture and the president approved it. I have to say that even in my most vivid imaginings about this torture scheme it didn’t occur to me that the highest levels of the cabinet were personally involved (except Cheney and Rumsfeld, of course) much less that we would reach a point where the president of the United States would shrug his shoulders and say he approved.

April 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Obama Insults Pennsylvanians

Hmm… now I’m sure the fact that this speech was given in a large city had nothing to do with anything. It’s not like he was telling city folks how backwards we small-town folks are. And we probably shouldn’t get the idea that he tells his hip, urban audiences one thing and tells us small-town, traditional audiences another. Right?

Surely he’s not so stupid as to tell those of us living in small towns in Pennsylvania — people who will be going to the polls in ten days — that we’re bitter and “clinging” to our guns and our religions and our hatred of the universal “other” simply because we’ve been ignored and/or fucked over by the policies of our federal government in all its various incarnations of the past 30 years. Right?

Certainly, he’s not calling us gun-toting, white-power, hillbilly zealots. Right?

From a transcript at The Page:

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

I’d just like to point out that in the majority of small towns and rural counties, farming was our major industry. Just like many places in the Midwest, family farms were the bedrock of our county, and yes, those “jobs” are mostly gone. Family farms more or less vanished during the late 70’s through mid-80’s thanks to high property taxes, deflated prices/demand for farm products, and less young people interested in running their own farms.

I’d also like to note that places like Levittown are not a “small towns” except when compared to Philly or Pittsburgh. Levittown, one town in Bucks County, has a population of 53,966. [2000] Bucks County itself has a population of 621,342. [2005]

The entire population of Bradford County (the largest county in PA by area) is just 62,537. [2005]

Small town? How about Wyalusing [pop. 549] or Towanda [pop. 2,902 ] or Troy [pop. 1,482] or Sayre [pop. 5,585]? [2006, estimated]

These would be small towns.

These would be places which are part of what’s known collectively as the “T-zone” or “Pennsyltucky. Places where we “cling” to our guns, our religions, our traditions.

We don’t all “cling” to the hatred of the universal “other” – although, as I noted in Is the Election Over Yet?, there are some who do. (And wouldn’t vote for you even if you were lily-white, since they’re old, liberal-and-kid-hating Republicans who think El Pollo Loco is doing a smash-up job of “protecting” our country.)

However, it might be important, Mr. Obama, for you to learn some the history of our state. There is far more to Pennsylvania’s history than Ben Franklin, the Declaration of Independence, and Washington’s trip across the Delaware.

From the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission:

In April 1681, Penn made his cousin William Markham deputy governor of the province and sent him to take control. In England, Penn drew up the First Frame of Government, his proposed constitution for Pennsylvania. Penn’s preface to First Frame of Government has become famous as a summation of his governmental ideals. […] This first Assembly united the Delaware counties with Pennsylvania, adopted a naturalization act and, on December 7, [1682] adopted the Great Law, a humanitarian code which became the fundamental basis of Pennsylvania law and which guaranteed liberty of conscience.

[snip]

Despite Quaker opposition to slavery, about 4,000 slaves were brought to Pennsylvania by 1730, most of them owned by English, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish colonists. The census of 1790 showed that the number of African-Americans had increased to about 10,000, of whom about 6,300 had received their freedom. The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was the first emancipation statute in the United States.

[snip]

Philadelphia was known in colonial times as the “Athens of America” because of its rich cultural life. Because of the liberality of Penn’s principles and the freedom of expression that prevailed, the province was noted for the variety and strength of its intellectual and educational institutions and interests.

As for clinging to our religions, indeed most do, whatever their personal choices. Christians, Jews, Muslims, pagans, atheists, Buddhists, agnostics … even Zen Humanistic Pagans like myself.

You see, Mr. Obama, our state had a rich history of welcoming all religions and allowing for the free expression of the same even before the American Revolution.

Again, from the PHMC:

Quakers held their first meeting at Upland (now Chester) in 1675, and came to Pennsylvania in great numbers after William Penn received his Charter. Most numerous in the southeastern counties, the Quakers gradually declined in number but retained considerable influence.

The Pennsylvania Germans belonged largely to the Lutheran and Reformed churches, but there were also several smaller sects: Mennonites, Amish, German Baptist Brethren or “Dunkers,” Schwenkfelders, and Moravians. Although the Lutheran Church was established by the Swedes on Tinicum Island in 1643, it only began its growth to become the largest of the Protestant denominations in Pennsylvania upon the arrival of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg in 1742. The Reformed Church owed its expansion to Michael Schlatter, who arrived in 1746. The Moravians did notable missionary work among the Indians.

The Church of England held services in Philadelphia as early as 1695. The first Catholic congregation was organized in Philadelphia in 1720, and the first chapel was erected in 1733; Pennsylvania had the second largest Catholic population among the colonies. The Scotch brought Presbyterianism; its first congregation was organized in Philadelphia in 1698. Scotch-Irish immigrants swelled its numbers. Methodism began late in the colonial period. St. George’s Church, built in Philadelphia in 1769, is the oldest Methodist building in America. There was a significant Jewish population in colonial Pennsylvania. Its Mikveh Israel Congregation was established in Philadelphia in 1740.

So.

Now that your foot is planted firmly in your mouth, and you’ve managed to insult a good majority of our population…

Why should we vote for you?

UPDATE: 3:12pm

Hillary Clinton responds:

“That’s not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They’re working hard every day for a better future for themseves and their children.” “Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, and your families.”

From Tennessee Guerilla Women:

What bothers me is the tiresome suggestion that antipathy, or an aversion to those who are different, is a trait owned by working class or poor folks. If hard economic times create antipathy, then poor people must be bigots. There is nothing new about this claim. There is a longstanding ‘upper class’ practice of attributing all of the negative traits of Homo sapiens to ‘lower class’ folks. Whites have done the same to Blacks. Men have certainly done the same to women.

Barack Obama made these remarks about “lower class” folks while he was among his “upper class” donors in San Francisco. Coming from a man who boasts of being the unity candidate, it is stunning to hear such a starkly “us vs. them” analysis. Alas, fear and distrust of those who are different from us is a human trait that is found among all economic classes.

From Riverdaughter:

I think I would call this a gaffe. It certainly seems like a campaign that is coming apart. It smells of desperation. Nahhh, I take that back. It’s more like stupidity. In any case, don’t look at it. It isn’t polite to stare. […]

Not to worry. Obama’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models with PhDs in Architecture will speak sloooowly to the village elders and lead them out of their ignorance into the fulfillment of enlightenment and Hope™.

From BDBlue at Corrente:

Yes, Mayhill Flower, it really is a mystery why Obama has not connected better with those working class voters in Pennsylvania. They must be racists. It’s the only explanation.

And let me say that I’m glad at least Obama realizes that Pennsylvanians and other working class voters have been screwed over repeatedly. But that’s not much comfort from a campaign that’s about politics and not policy.

April 12, 2008 Posted by | America, Politics | 9 Comments

What I Learned from Petraeus

In Part II of the Dog and Pony show held at the House Armed Services Committee, we learned that freedom and democracy are pretty hard to force down the throats of an occupied people.

September 2007 – Violence is up; we must stay.

April 2008 – Violence was down, but it seems to be going up again; we must stay.

September 2007 – There have been improvements, but we must stay to see the surge through.

April 2008 – The surge brought improvements, and some troops have left, but we must “pause” the draw-downs – which will leave more troops in Iraq than there was before the surge – and stay to see it through.

Hmmm…. Anyone else reminded of the theme song from the Shari Lewis/Lambchop show?

This is the song that never ends
Yes, it goes on and on, my friends
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue singing it
Forever just because
This the song that never ends …”

I also learned that “victory” in Iraq will consist of a country “at peace with itself and its neighbors”, able to defend itself, with a “reasonably representative” government that can care for its citizens.

Yeah, mull that over for a bit. Not one country in the Middle East could meet those standards, and neither could the US. Canada, maybe.

So the shorter Petraeus: We’re never leaving.

In other news: El Pollo Loco will announce a reduction in combat tour lengths, to twelve months.

This change will not go into effect until August, and will not apply to troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Bush, Congress, Iraq, Middle East, Pentagon, US Military, War, White House, World Peace | 1 Comment

Is the Election Over Yet?

I currently reside in Hell. This used to be small-town Pennsylvania, but the demons of election season have taken over, and we’re all suffering and tormented.

Radio stations are putting song-breaks between the campaign commercials. It’s gotten so bad, I’m thinking I should get cable, where a show’s advertisers get a little cranky if said show doesn’t appear.

I can’t go out in public without hearing about the election, the candidates, the false email rumors (Barack Obama EATS old people; pass it on! Hillary Clinton is behind a rash of DOGNAPPINGS! Pass it on! John McCain is THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS OZ! Pass it on!)

We here in Pennsylvania, especially in Bradford County are thrilled that our votes will count in selecting the Democratic nominee. I can’t say for sure, but I think the last time Pennsylvania had an active role in a Presidential election might have been around 1800. Add on top of that the hot contest for State Senate – with the almost-universally well-liked commissioner, Doug McLinko, on the Republican ticket, and two mostly unknowns (one of whom doesn’t even live in our district) – and all I can say is, thank heavens they don’t serve alcohol at the polling places!

Here’s a few comments I’ve overheard over the last few weeks. (Eavesdropping isn’t nice, unless you’re doing it to gather political information, right?)

These aren’t quite verbatim quotes, except in the case of the fourth one (believe me, that one’s with me till I die) and I’m totally guessing on the ages, but I believe caught the essence of their statements:

That stupid bitch is ruining this race. — From a 30-ish woman wearing an Obama ’08 pin

That black guy hasn’t ever done anything while he’s been in the Senate or before that in Illinois when he was…whatever the hell he was there. What makes anyone think he will do anything as President? — from an older man wearing a McCain pin

You keep saying he’s going to change things. I just want to know how. — from a 40-ish woman to an Obama supporter

“I don’t want no n*****r or no woman running this country.” — 75-ish male

I’m just sick of men telling us how much they’re going to change. You got an old man running and a young man running, and there isn’t two hairs of difference between them. Men have run this country since it’s founding, and just look at the messes they’ve made. — 70-ish female

Everyone talks about Hillary’s plans, but no one mentions that she wants to let Mexicans take over the country, or make abortions and birth control as easy to get as a soda. I got an email about it last week, and I tell you, it scared the daylights out of me! — 60-ish female

What the hell kind of message is “hope”? I got hope that my kid will get into a good college, and I got hope that I’ll be able to help him pay for it. I hope my job won’t get packed off to India or China. I hope that I won’t be eating cat food or living on the streets when I’m too old to work. I hope my kids don’t get sick because we can’t afford the copays or the medicine. Hope, I got. What I don’t have is a government that’s going to help anyone except the rich, and I don’t see that changing if he’s president. — 40-ish male

I think it would be better for the whole party if Hillary dropped out. She’s a cold, calculating, bitch and the longer she stays in, the more likely McCain is to win. — 20-ish male

George Bush has fucked us over for almost 8 years. McCain is apparently running on a platform that consists of being ‘crazier than Bush.’ I can’t imagine why anyone is voting for him. Of course, no one knows what Obama’s platform is. — high school student

Anyone who says they aren’t voting for Obama is a racist. Period. — 30-ish male

I don’t like Hillary. I definitely don’t like Obama. I loathe John McCain. — 40-ish female

I’m trying to talk my mom into voting for Hillary. We finally get a woman with strength and smarts who’s a real candidate for President, and she wants to throw her vote away on some guy who’s already dropped out? I don’t get it. — my daughter, on the phone to a friend

One thing I find rather depressing is just how prejudiced some of the McCain supporters in Pennsylvania are. These seem like nice old guys and gals, right up until they open their mouths. One can only assume they mainline Fox News and complain about the rotten kids walking across their lawn and worry that the next terrorist attack will wipe out Bradford County.

The Hillary supporters tend to mention her plans and policy positions. Her healthcare plan gets a lot of mentions. Around here, about 20% of the people are uninsured, and most of them are working Americans.

A common complaint from undecided Democrats is that Obama supporters tend to talk about the need for hope and change, but never really say how he intends to change anything.

And, as always, the DC pundits and Beltway types are pissing us all off with their complete lack of understanding about the actual issues that are in play here.

Personally, we’d love to have some of these media people show up in our rural county. It’d be an education and a half for most of them. But then again, what am I thinking? We can’t ask these oh-so-special people to care what blue-collar workers and farmers think. That might make them think they were wrong, and we know Bush’s cheerleaders are never wrong….

April 9, 2008 Posted by | America, Bradford County PA, Economy, Election '08, Government, Life, Pennsylvania, Voting | 1 Comment

Spring Cleaning

You might have noticed a few changes to the sidebar. Or not.

I’m in the process of organizing the blogroll into something a little more… organized, instead of having everything scrambled together. I’m creating new catagories, moving things around a bit, and adding a few … a lot of great sites that I’ve had bookmarked for awhile, but just haven’t had time to add to the blogroll.

A few links have been deleted, but only to dead sites. No purges here, I promise. However, things will change rather often as I try out new names and new combinations.

Since I’m also going to a cousin’s baby shower today, this may turn into a couple-day project.

April 6, 2008 Posted by | Announcements | Leave a comment