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Independence Day 2006... and The San Francisco Defense
Click to visit VeggieCooking.com [Posted 4 July 2006]

Well, happy Independence Day to my American readers. After 230 years, seems like it's all over, doesn't it?

Some people question whether we came out ahead being separate from England, with England having national health insurance, better social programs, a better press (just ask Greg Palast), better conversation, better table manners... But comparing the two countries ignores the influence of the American Constitution on history. If the American model of Enlightenment values in government hadn't existed, subsequent revolutions in France, the Americas, and elsewhere may have used older, less "enlightened" models of government. Personal liberties may have been excluded from those new governments, in other words. Freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and all of those other afterthoughts added to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights (in order to make the Constitution popular enough to pass a vote) probably wouldn't have evolved the same way without the American model. The Bill of Rights provided a good model for personal freedom. But today, unfortunately, those rights are under attack by the American government itself. Although all evidence says that George W. Bush was actually the loser in both the 2000 and 2004 elections, he did seize power through political operatives, and has been attacking Americans' rights ever since. He has also been attacking other nations with his wars, causing death and destruction abroad, and attacking the planet through bad environmental policy, causing death and destruction via hurricanes and other environmental disasters. America is in a downward spiral toward tyranny and self-destruction, taking the rest of the world along for the ride.

Just yesterday, a friend told me her daughter was upset that offshore drilling was approved by the Senate, apparently as a follow-up to Congress' approval last month. [Actually, this may have been yet another Congressional vote... I'm having trouble finding info on it in the press to confirm anything about it so far.] I hadn't heard about that yet, as I left work Monday in the midst of yet another heavy thunderstorm. But it sounds like something the Senate would do -- approve offshore drilling just as people are taking a long weekend and not paying attention -- and just after a week of heavy flooding in Washington, DC itself, the same floods reaching from New York to North Carolina. Ignoring global warming and voting against wildlife preservation, Republicans are pushing drilling and many other unpopular pieces of legislation through before November's election, when they'll risk being ousted, even with various vote rigging schemes in place.

Thelma Drake, 17 June 2006 I couldn't help but think of the Sierra Club's plane flown around Virginia Beach a few weeks ago, urging President Bush not to drill off of Virginia's coast. Or of a political debate in Virginia Beach, the debate between incumbent Congresswoman Thelma Drake (Republican) and Phil Kellam (Democrat). Drake, the incumbent, is a very controversial figure, having been exposed by a number of moveon.org ads targeting her monetary dealings with special interests, and possible corruption. She also votes with President Bush almost 100% of the time, basically making her a rubber-stamping stooge for the Bush agenda. When I heard about that particular debate, I just had to drop in to see the woman and get her picture, and so I brought a friend and a camera. When I walked into the over-crowded room, I was greeted by Thelma Drake herself, who'd planted herself at the door to shake peoples' hands. I couldn't help but feel sorry for aging women who seem to think that caking on makeup like a prostitute somehow makes them look younger. Meanwhile, Phil Kellam, her challenger, circulated in the crowd greeting people. Kellam is an elected city official, and my friend also informed me that Kellam is a well-known name around Virginia Beach, a prominent family.

The reason this debate reminds me of offshore drilling is that Drake lost her cool 3 times during the debate, and 2 of those times had to do with drilling for oil (the other had to do with the war on Iraq). Now, let me back up and explain how the debate went. The two candidates gave opening statements, and then the audience was allowed to submit questions on paper. I didn't submit any question, in fact I'd come mostly to get Drake's picture, didn't feel like recording the debate or officially reporting on it, even though I had a couple of recording devices in my bag that could have been used for that purpose. So I didn't get exact quotes because I didn't feel the need to give the two of them quite that much attention. Maybe I should have, but at the time it was a choice I made. And so I can only describe what happened instead of quoting or providing audio recordings. Other people there were taking video tapes, and so maybe a full recording exists somewhere.

Phil Kellam (standing, white shirt, red tie), 17 June 2006

So the debate started, and Phil Kellam managed to come up with a prop -- a white sheet of paper that had the number "98%" printed on it. He'd occasionally wave it around next to Drake's head, saying that Drake agreed with the President 98% of the time. Kellam also elaborated that if you're having a conversation with someone, and you agree with that person 98% percent of the time, then one of you doesn't need to be there. Although that seems like a cute statement, what he's describing is a dictatorship. Drake was basically put into office because she'd be willing to roll over and agree with anything the President wanted -- it's the way the Republican Party does business these days, financing those candidates who can be easily controlled, and using Tom Delay-like tactics to keep them in line. In fact, Drake admitted that she agreed with George W. Bush more often than her own family. It's no secret why.

Wooden flag in Virginia Beach, 2 July 2006 But the 98% sign isn't when Drake lost her cool. No, you had to get to issues of OIL before she lost it. I guess oil is an emotional issue for her. The first question that set Drake off was drilling in the Arctic. Instead of mentioning the pros and cons, or trying to deal with the issue intelligently, Drake started SCREECHING AT THE CROWD that they didn't understand, that we need more energy independence from those people. (I'd hate to think of how she treated her kids, or of how her parents treated her, after seeing what she considers to be socially acceptable behavior.) Of course she neglected to mention that the supply is thought to be only a few months' worth, or that drilling in the caribou's breeding grounds would immediately endanger the species, but I guess life is easy when your only job is to agree with George W. Bush. Bush wants to drill there, so she'll yell at her electorate for him if they get out of line!

Then came an unexpected outburst later in the debate, in the middle of another issue. Drake started screeching again, this time about outside organizations that tried to interfere in her campaign, yelling SAN FRANCISCO at the crowd. San Francisco? THAT'S her defense? She's saying that because the Sierra Club is located in San Francisco, that offshore drilling isn't an issue concerning anyone locally? Other than a SINGLE PERSON in the area I've met who seems to have IQ issues anyway, everyone I've met there seems to be concerned about offshore drilling in Virginia Beach. It could potentially ruin their tourist economy, and no one wants oil washing up on their beaches either, from major or minor spills. I've heard the "San Francisco defense" before, for example on C-Span after Normal Solomon, a brilliant journalist, was speaking. Afterwards, a man with a Southern drawl called in to say that he'd heard a lot of "San Francisco" in what Solomon had said. It was pretty clear just from what had preceded that the man had heard a lot of stuff that he just didn't know, and just couldn't understand. So he wrote off his own ignorance by attacking a person who had made the effort to become acquainted with the facts. In the case of Drake, yelling San Francisco helped her evade another question, but redirecting the question to "San Francisco" made her look uncool, made her look like a demented call girl actually, but it did the job and got her out from under the issue at hand. It also told her constituents concerned with offshore drilling that they could go to hell if they didn't want to see oil rigs at the beach. Thelma Drake just didn't care what they wanted, and anyway what they wanted was "San Francisco."

The third time Drake lost it was at the end of the debate, when the moderators unexpectedly allowed both candidates to ask each other a question. Kellam asked Drake why she agreed with the President so often, and she gave a rambling answer with no substance. Then her turn came for asking Kellam a question, and Drake's facial expressions and voice went into "mean old hag" mode. With a vicious tone, Drake asked Kellam if he thought the War in Iraq was a mistake. Well, Kellam is running in a largely military district, and of course he didn't want to tell people fighting the current wars that they're fighting for dubious reasons. And so he gave some lame answer like it was part of a global war on terror, all of that. That gave Drake the buy-in to Bush's oil wars that she wanted. But the real answer to that question had come earlier in the debate, as different questions had asked about whether the war was worth it, and Kellam had criticized Drake and other Republicans for their claims that even questioning Bush's wars, or the way they were waged, was unpatriotic.

Several times during the debate, I could see tears welling up in Drake's eyes, as it became clear that her positions were unpopular with the crowd through a lack of applause or occasional comments. It occurred to me that Drake just couldn't handle the job of being a politician. She couldn't keep her cool, couldn't handle an opponent who thought for himself, couldn't handle it when the crowd didn't like her positions. It was a sharp contrast to Kellam, an elected city official whose intelligence and strength made him a more likely guess for the real Congressman in the room.

At the end of the debate, Drake jumped up from her seat and left immediately, while Kellam talked to the crowd and then the press. An acquaintance of mine who was closer to the front later said that Drake was heard complaining that Kellam had "packed the debate with his supporters." Well, Kellam did have a rally before the debate, where dozens of people showed up in the park behind the library to greet him. But if Drake were actually popular, wouldn't she have had plenty of interested supporters herself? Well, she didn't. There were about a half dozen people in the rear of the room who'd applaud loudly for her, and that was about it. Maybe she's hoping for the military to support her, but unfortunately for her, a lot of people in the military are fed up with the Iraq War.

Photo by Mike Moore, copyright The Mirror-UK You know, it's easy for Drake to pound her fist on the table (which she did, repeatedly) while getting emotional about the need for more oil through drilling or warfare. The one time I remember Drake being cheerful about anything was when she yelled praise for the bombing that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, despite the fact that dozens of people were killed the following day in Iraq, proving that nothing had really changed with his death. Drake is able to feel warm and fuzzy when people die because she doesn't have to fight the war herself, doesn't have to live it. She's just a war whore. And it's disturbing for a woman to be a war whore, especially an older woman. She's probably a mother, possibly a grandmother or even great-grandmother. Personally, I think it's highly abnormal for a woman, especially a woman in her age group, to be so bloodthirsty. And she's well aware that by giving her unconditional votes over to those wanting war, she's responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Middle East just by going along with it, by giving George W. Bush her vote -- yet another mass murderer of history. She could be any ordinary elderly woman, with her dyed hair, polyester suit, painted smile, and weak handshake, but in fact... she's a killer. That's something she won't tell you, probably won't even admit to herself. I'm reminded of a photo. It was an image that stuck with me from the beginning of the 2003 Iraq War, because the child was so beautiful, and the child also reminded me of my beautiful little niece, Alexandria. Although the two look almost exactly the same, this girl was born in Iraq, and so her legs were blown off in the Iraq War. At the time this photo was taken, bodies like hers were being removed from the back of a flatbed truck, the only mode of transport people could find for so many casualties. Take a good look. This is the legacy of everyone who supports the Iraq War, including Thelma Drake. And on Independence Day, there's an additional question -- is this what the founding fathers had in mind for us? Is this why they entrusted the ability to declare war to Congress, the largest part of the largest branch of government they built, apparently hoping that so many people couldn't all be wrong at the same time? Would they be happy with Congress' vote handing warmaking authority over to the President? Would they be happy about what happened to this little girl? Or was preventing it closer to what they were trying to do... over the course of their entire lives?

Flooding near Reading, Pennsylvania, 1 July 2006 The politics of oil has produced other legacies too. You know, just a week ago, last Tuesday, I went to see Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It turns out that Gore was a student of a scientist who pioneered global warming theory, and so Gore was hearing about it as the theory developed. The film was excellent, by the way, and I'd recommend it to anyone. I was surprised by so much information that I hadn't seen before, particularly the 650,000 year graph of carbon dioxide levels and temperature cycles from an Antarctic ice core. And Gore had compiled footage of various glaciers, lakes, and ice caps around the world that have only recently dwindled and disappeared. Gore mentioned that in addition to these drastic changes, rainfall has been more extreme in some areas, and absent in others, changing long-established weather patterns all over the globe. I remembered that fact as I drove home in torrential rainfall and high winds, hurricane-like weather. In fact, all of last week, heavy flooding soaked New York through North Carolina, including Washington, DC, that bastion of global warming denial. In fact, I just drove home in torrential thunderstorms yesterday, too.

Fireworks at Virginia Beach, 4 July 2006 A friend of mine took her new boyfriend to the film, and later asked why I thought Gore had included footage of his "defeat" in the 2000 elections. I wonder if that was to show the two paths before our nation at that particular moment -- the destruction of the planet with Bush, which is now happening -- or Gore's responsible policy that may have brought us back from the brink. Anyway, the choice was made for us by the Supreme Court, and now the nation is pulverized with regular hurricanes and other severe weather, with only worse prospects in sight. Unfortunately for us, and everyone else, global warming isn't reduced overnight. It takes years of responsible planning and action to reverse even some of the damage. Some people say that we past the point of no return a long time ago. And I wonder if issues other than global warming are related to all of this oil pumped out of the globe. What about the severe earthquakes we've seen in the past few years? What about the earth losing its magnetic field? People say those things are cyclical, but they've been saying that about global warming too, and all of these businessmen come up with their own disinformation campaigns. There's no guarantee that these issues aren't related, and massive earthquakes combined with no magnetic field to deflect cosmic radiation is enough to kill us without the added problem of global warming.

Tire shop in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, 25 June 2006 Now, it is a holiday. Let's take our minds off of all this serious stuff, and think of... pumpkin beer. What a treat. It has a short season near the end of the year, and it seems they never make enough to keep up with demand. You have to watch for it, and then it's gone.

For a while after my October '02 car accident, my chiropractor wanted me to walk at least 20 minutes a day as a form of physical therapy. While the weather was warm I could walk through botanical gardens, but sometimes during the cold weather I'd walk through the downtown mall in Milwaukee (the one with skywalks along Wisconsin Avenue). As luck would have it, while wandering around I found a little bar in the mall's food court that still had pumpkin beer. Needless to say, while their supply lasted, I'd sometimes treat myself to a pumpkin beer after walking. As anyone with back problems can tell you, beer causes the back muscles to relax a little, a mild form of therapy. So the pumpkin beer was a treat with some added benefit for my accident injuries.

One day I noticed another pumpkin beer drinker at the bar, an older white-haired man. I forget what steered the conversation toward the weather, but soon we were talking global warming in Wisconsin, namely how obvious it was to those of us who had lived in the state for more than a couple of years. Wisconsin just wasn't like it used to be. In the 80s when I went to college there, winters could be described in one word -- PAINFUL. You'd bundle up in your winter coat, scarf, mittens, and hat, then run out to the car hoping it would start, and sit there shaking until the engine warmed up enough to give you some heat. All the while, YOU WERE IN PAIN. I remember one year when nearly every car on the block, including mine, died in a cold snap. People went out to try to start their cars for work, and just the act of starting the cars in such low temperatures ruined their engines.

Remnants of flooding in Virginia Beach, Virginia, 2 July 2006 Wisconsin wasn't quite as bad as Minnesota, where legend had it your nostrils would stick together if you didn't have a scarf over your face to pre-warm the air. But Wisconsin was windy and had a "freezing eyeball" effect, where you'd have to let your eye blinks linger a moment to keep your eyeballs defrosted as the weather attempted to turn them into ice cubes. Back in the 80s, I'd just moved to Wisconsin from the east, and had been accustomed to overcast days and frequent rains. That's probably because New York and Pennsylvania were on the EASTERN side of the great lakes. Wisconsin was to the west of Lake Michigan, and just south of Lake Superior. Other than some far northern towns like Superior (across the water from Duluth, Minnesota), there just wasn't much precipitation. Both winters and summers brought day after day of stark blue skies, not a cloud to be seen. After months and then years of nothing but blue, I missed having overcast days, missed having any clouds at all, and especially missed rain. Wisconsin's only weather variety was deadly hot during the summers, and bitter cold in the winters. In the summer, I don't know how anyone could survive without air conditioning, as temperatures were frequently in the 90s and sometimes over 100. In the winter, temperatures were often in the teens and sometimes sub-zero Farenheit. A few days a year were particularly bad, where schools would close just from windchill alone -- serious "frozen eyeball" days indeed.

In the Wisconsin of the 80s, sometime around October or November the ground would freeze solid. If there were muddy tire tracks, those tire tracks were perfectly preserved until Spring -- there was just no thaw until then. Usually the only snow was a thin dusting of powder that blew around in Wisconsin's high winds, rarely sticky enough to make snowballs or snowmen like the east coast. And the snow wouldn't fill in the frozen tire tracks either, because it stayed in its frozen powder state all winter long, blowing here and there in the wind. Lake Michigan would freeze over, and ice breakers would come through to keep shipping lines open, at least when the ice was thin enough for ice breakers. Finally Spring would bring a few days of reasonable temperatures, before Wisconsin's deadly hot summer kicked in.

Remnants of flooding in Virginia Beach, Virginia, 2 July 2006 That was the 80s. My fellow pumpkin beer drinker remembered the 60s and 70s too. He said that prior to the 80s, Wisconsin had enough precipitation to produce blizzards. There was plenty of good packing snow prior to the 80s, according to him, and I'd heard the same story from other longtime Wisconsin residents. But he remembered the 80s too, a time he considered to be a part of Wisconsin's overall climate change. He thought the 80s were already showing signs of abnormal weather patterns.

And then came the 90s and the year 2k. As we sat and talked in late '02, the weather outside was abnormally warm for Wisconsin. In fact, the prior year (2001), I'd rented a house in Pleasant Prairie (the first town as you cross into Wisconsin from Chicago) while I set up my company's payroll database in their Chicago office. That particular house rental lasted from October until about April, in other words the entire winter season. I think it snowed 3 times all winter, and the landlords only plowed my driveway once -- but they really didn't need to, because there was very little snow, which melted within a few days. In fact, all of the snow melted within a few days. The winter was so warm that I rarely needed to wear more than a sweater outside. The grass was a blend of yellow and green throughout the winter, and the ground was never frozen. The skies were frequently overcast, although often that seemed more related to "chemtrails" -- the airplane contrails that expand abnormally. The winters of 2002-03 and 2003-04 were largely the same, only I recall a good snowstorm early in 2004, at least heavy enough for the city to use its snowplows. Then the snow melted away over the following days and weeks, and that was about all winter had in it that year. I still recall driving through an ice storm in Madison in the 1999-2000 winter season, wondering how so much sudden precipitation managed to find Wisconsin. The ice molded to the front of my car as I drove, falling as slush but freezing as it hit the cold metal. That's quite a change from being too cold to snow, from stark blue skies all year long and powdery dustings of snow blowing in the wind.

Of course, Wisconsin is only a small piece of the global warming puzzle. Hurricanes have destroyed New Orleans and other southern cities, but we all know the score and I really don't have to repeat the facts. If you need to know more, just see Al Gore's movie -- he tells it better than I do.

The politics of oil -- killing on the battlefield, killing the planet. All for the profit of a few. That's America today. Happy Independence Day.

Flag at Hard Bean Cafe in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, 1 July 2006

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© 2006 by Pam Rotella including photographs, except for Mike Moore's photo of Iraqi child © by Mike Moore and The Mirror - UK