Wednesday, June 25, 2008

George Carlin


Oil: Would suing OPEC help?

What happened
Oil prices remained high on Monday despite a pledge by Saudi Arabia to increase production. Traders doubted that adding 200,000 barrels to Saudi Arabia's 9.5 million-barrel daily output would have much impact on prices. (

What the commentators said
It's time to sue OPEC, said Darren Bush, Harry First, and John J. Flynn in The Christian Science Monitor. The member states call themselves the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but "organization" is a misnomer. OPEC "is, pure and simple, a cartel that manipulates markets, restricts output, and fixes prices."

Congress "missed the mark" when it tried to pass legislation to make the government file anti-competition lawsuits against OPEC's member states, said Donna Wiesner Keene in The Washington Times. President Bush, rightly, threatened a veto because that would have invited retaliation. And congressional Democrats' other pet policies—a windfall profits tax on oil companies and price controls—were no better. "Casting scapegoats and villains won't address our energy challenges."

The only way to get the Saudis to open the spigots enough to provide relief is to "scare them silly," said Jacob Heilbrunn in the Los Angeles Times. To do that, the U.S. can't just cut its gasoline demand, it must make a real push to conserve energy, encourage new technologies, and develop alternative fuels, from solar to nuclear power, "that will help wean it from its dependence on foreign oil. Until then, the Middle East will continue to have Washington where it wants—over a barrel."

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‘A God Who Cussed’

george carlin kevin smith appreciation dogma film obituary

By Kevin Smith | Special Guest Columnist

They say you should never meet your heroes.  I've found this a good rule to live by, but as with any rule, there's always an exception.

My first exposure to George Carlin was in 1982, when HBO aired his "Carlin at Carnegie" stand-up special. When I saw the advert—featuring a clip of Carlin talking about the clich├ęd criminal warning of "Don't try anything funny," and then adding, "When they're not looking, I like to go …," followed by a brief explosion of goofy expressions and pantomime—I immediately asked my parents if I could tape it on our new BetaMax video recorder.

That was a hilarious bit. But when I finally watched the special, Carlin blew my doors off. Whether he was spinning a yarn about Tippy, his farting dog, or analyzing the contents of his fridge, Carlin expressed himself not only humorously, but amazingly eloquently as well. I was, as they say, in stitches.

And that was before he got to the Seven Words You Can't Say on Television.

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Marchers wear yokes, chains as sign of apology for slavery

By Sean Flynn/Daily News staff
"We today don't need to feel guilty, We just need to feel SORRY.'
- Jacob Lienau, 13, of the Lifeline Expedition, on right
NEWPORT - The sight of a 13-year-old boy with a yoke over his head and his hands tied in chains was perhaps the most controversial image in Thursday's "slavery reconciliation march" through the streets of Newport.

Jacob Lienau of Camano Island in Washington said he decided on his own to wear the yoke and chains after seeing a painting of African slave children wearing them in the 19th century, and hearing about the march.

"At the end of the slave trade, the majority of the captured slaves were aged 7 to 15," he said. "We today don't need to feel guilty, we just need to feel sorry."

Lienau and his large family, including his parents, Shari and Michael Lienau, and their four biological children and five adopted children, are part of the Lifeline Expedition that is visiting prominent American slave-trading ports from the Colonial era this month. They marched in Marblehead, Salem and Boston in Massachusetts earlier this week and in Providence on Wednesday.

"We recognize this is an unusual form of symbolic action," said a brochure the marchers handed out to passersby. "Our hope and prayer is that this form of apology will speak in ways that words cannot."
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Consumer confidence tumbles in June

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer confidence fell in June to its lowest in 16 years as high inflation continued to sap confidence and pushed expectations for the future to a record low, the Conference Board said on Tuesday.
 The Conference Board, an industry group, said its inflation expectations gauge matched the record-high 7.7 percent it hit in May, which will keep Federal Reserve policy makers concerned over price growth as they meet to decide rates on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 7 words you can never say to Americans


A Contrast of Two Irish Catholics: How Would George Carlin Have Conducted ‘Meet the Press?’




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Cocoa at record high as dry weather curtails supply

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Cocoa futures rose to their highest level in at least 24 years Tuesday, as dry weather in major cocoa-producing countries cut global supplies. The price of the main ingredient of chocolate has doubled since the beginning of 2007.
Cocoa futures for July delivery rose $39, or 1.2%, to close at $3,230 per metric ton on the IntercontintalExchange, or ICE Futures. U.S. Cocoa was trading at around $1,600 in early 2007. At the current levels, cocoa's prices were the highest since 1984, according to data collected by FactSet.
The surge in cocoa prices was caused by "unfavourable weather conditions in most parts of the cocoa producing areas," said Laurent Pipitone, senior statistician at the London-based International Cocoa Organization.
West Africa, the main cocoa-producing region, was hit by severe dry and dusty winds at the end of 2006 that lasted until February 2007. The dry weather sharply cut production in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the world's top two cocoa producers.
Dry weather also hit Indonesia, the world's third largest cocoa producer, and other Southeast Asian countries at the beginning of 2007, due to the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon, which is characterized by higher-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.
The world's cocoa production in 2007 dropped more than 10% to 3,370 metric tons, the lowest in four years, according to the International Cocoa Organization. This year's year-end stocks level is projected to fall to 1,533 metric tons, the lowest in five years.

Aw, $#!t!: Inadvertently Remembering the Late, Great George Carlin

Posted by Heather Muse at 10:30 AM, June 23, 2008

 The New York Post didn't manage to work in the late-breaking news that George Carlin died yesterday, but they inadvertently paid tribute to the legendary comedian by putting one of the seven dirty words on the front page. Granted, it's in the character-laden "we didn't really swear" form, but it's still there.

And what exactly is the banner head for the Post today? It's a reference to new Mets manager Jerry Manuel's comment that the team's fans are "fertilizer" when they boo the team. The Post declares, "$#!T HITS THE FANS." Even though the remarks were funny, creative, and most likely true, Manuel has been backpedaling on the comment since he made it, attempting to spin it as something positive. He said fertilizer was a "good thing" before the team played the Rockies.

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Awesomely non-racist political discourse


TRIBUTE: Carlin was essential listening for multiple generations


Things got off to a bad start when I spoke to George Carlin in April. He impatiently responded to the first query with, "Well, I've answered that question before . . ."

Like most other comedians I've spoken to, Carlin, who died of an apparent heart attack Sunday, warmed more to general biographical topics than those about the mechanics of his comedy.

The state of the world prompted a lengthy diatribe or two about his disappointment at our shortcomings as an advanced species. It was eloquently paced and delivered and at times funny — "I like to point out to people how badly they're doing," he said — but laced with an uncomfortable spite that blurred the line between humor and bile.

When one line prompted a laugh, Carlin quickly responded, "No, I'm serious." Then he paused and chuckled.

That delicate light and dark balance was a big part of Carlin's genius, though his legacy will be the "seven words you can never say on television." Only one has crossed over on network TV in the 36 years since he released the routine on his Class Clown album. Cable TV clearly didn't get the memo. But the fact that the routine hasn't been time-stamped as a period piece speaks to Carlin's meticulous writing style. As he said, "I don't really talk about the times. I don't do topical material. . . . I don't like doing it or hearing it because it's easy stuff to do. It's perishable."

Carlin's best routines weren't based on punchlines, but rather circling a subject, sometimes flinging darts, other times picking at its surface. He was a strange being, a '60s counterculture type without a whisp of earnestness. Carlin's comedy was contemplative but with a punk-like bluntness.

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Tomgram: Finally, the Oil...

[Note for TomDispatch readers: It's worth mentioning that the missing Iraqi oil story -- see below -- wasn't missing online, and certainly not at TomDispatch. This site's newest book, The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire, has a section labeled "The Petro-Industrial Complex and its Discontents," including striking pieces by Michael Klare and Michael Schwartz on our gasoholic Pentagon and the prize of Iraqi oil. Again, I urge readers to consider supporting TomDispatch and its efforts by picking up a book that should, I think, be in any serious library of our mad age of Bush the Younger. Tom]

No Blood for... er... um...

The Oil Majors Take a Little Sip of the Ol' Patrimony
By Tom Engelhardt

More than five years after the invasion of Iraq -- just in case you were still waiting -- the oil giants finally hit the front page…

Last Thursday, the New York Times led with this headline: "Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back." (Subhead: "Rare No-bid Contracts, A Foothold for Western Companies Seeking Future Rewards.") And who were these four giants? ExxonMobil, Shell, the French company Total and BP (formerly British Petroleum). What these firms got were mere "service contracts" -- as in servicing Iraq's oil fields -- not the sort of "production sharing agreements" that President Bush's representatives in Baghdad once dreamed of, and that would have left them in charge of those fields. Still, it was clearly a start. The Times reporter, Andrew E. Kramer, added this little detail: "[The contracts] include a provision that could allow the companies to reap large profits at today's prices: the [Iraqi oil] ministry and companies are negotiating payment in oil rather than cash." And here's the curious thing, exactly these four giants "lost their concessions in Iraq" back in 1972 when that country's oil was nationalized. Hmmm.

You'd think the Times might have slapped some kind of "we wuz wrong" label on the piece. I mean, remember when the mainstream media, the Times included, seconded the idea that Bush's invasion, whatever it was about -- weapons of mass destruction or terrorism or liberation or democracy or bad dictators or… well, no matter -- you could be sure of one thing: it wasn't about oil. "Oil" wasn't a word worth including in serious reporting on the invasion and its aftermath, not even after it turned out that American troops entering Baghdad guarded only the Oil and Interior Ministries, while the rest of the city was looted. Even then -- and ever after -- the idea that the Bush administration might have the slightest urge to control Iraqi oil (or the flow of Middle Eastern oil via a well-garrisoned Iraq) wasn't worth spending a few paragraphs of valuable newsprint on.

I always thought that, if Iraq's main product had been video games, sometime in the last five years the Times (and other major papers) would have had really tough, thoughtful pieces, asking really tough, thoughtful questions, about the effects of the invasion and ensuing chaos on our children's lives and the like. But oil, well... After all, with global demand for energy on the rise, why would anybody want to invade, conquer, occupy, and garrison a country that, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz once observed, "floats on a sea of oil"?

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Chicken hawk down


Time to Add Basket Weaving as a Course

The Irascible ProfessorSM

"The schools ain't what they used to be and never was."...  ...Will Rogers.

Commentary of the Day - June 22, 2008: Guest commentary by Ben Baker.

A South Georgia Board of Education recently considered a policy that would set the minimum grade for averaging purposes at 60.  In this particular school system anything below a 70 is considered a failing grade, so for transcript and report card purposes no grade below 60 could be awarded.

At the second meeting where the issue was up for discussion and a vote the superintendent withdrew the proposal, saying he'd done it for "shock value" as a way to get people to pay attention to the subject and actually put some thought into what our school system is doing.

I believe he was more serious than he let on.

At the meeting where this was first brought up, he and school administrators argued passionately for this policy change. The superintendent also brought a number of PowerPoint slides to add emphasis to the discussion.  That's a lot of work to just get people to thinking about something.  It is, however, the amount of work someone will invest in something they genuinely want approved.  If this was done to spark discussion only, it's a rather childish way to treat the elected Board of Education (whether they need to be treated like kids is a different matter.)

The idea is that a mediocre student who is doing his best can pull a 60 up, when averaged with other grades, to a passing score.  Whereas the same student might not be able to do the same with a score of 20 or so.

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Quote of the Day

"If I watched the news that you see here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts." 
- CBS's Baghdad reporter Lara Logan -


The patient bill collectors



Preview of World's First Rotating Skyscraper



Senator Feingold Will Filibuster FISA

In an interview with Amy Goodman, Senator Russ Feingold said he would filibuster the FISA bill.

(Photo: Lauren Victoria Burke / AP)

by Amy Goodman

    It's being described as the most significant revision of the nation's surveillance law in three decades. The Senate is preparing to vote on rewriting the nation's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and giving immunity to phone companies involved in President Bush's secret domestic spy program. We speak with Senator Russ Feingold (D–WI), who has been the leading congressional voice against the Bush administration's warrantless spy program since it was exposed nearly three years ago.

    "One of the greatest intrusions, potentially, on the rights of Americans protected under the 4th Amendment." - Senator Feingold blasts telecom spy bill.


    Amy Goodman: It's being described as the most significant revision of the nation's surveillance law in three decades. The Senate is preparing to vote on rewriting the nation's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and giving immunity to phone companies involved in President Bush's secret domestic spy program. On Friday, the Democratic-controlled House approved the measure by a vote of 293-129. The legislation gives the government new powers to eavesdrop on both domestic and international communications. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned it would allow for the mass, untargeted and unwarranted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States.

    While Democratic leaders in Congress, as well as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, have hailed the bill as a "compromise," Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin describes it as a "capitulation." Senator Feingold has been the leading congressional voice against the Bush administration's warrantless spy program since it was exposed nearly three years ago. Today, the Wisconsin senator joins us from Washington, D.C.

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The sworn enemies of decency and American values

Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk To Iran

Despite growing international pressure, including three Chapter 7 U.N. Security Council resolutions -- the last of which was adopted in April of this year -- Iran continues to move forward with its nuclear program. Iranian government officials have repeatedly said that they will not agree to suspend uranium enrichment, which they insist is their right. Though Tehran "maintains the program is exclusively for electricity-producing purposes," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in May that Iran was "still withholding critical information that could determine whether it is trying to make nuclear weapons." The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran last December concluded that Iran had "halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003," but the United States and its international partners continue to "accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover for weapons development."

THE DIPLOMACY: The latest package of incentives was presented to Iran during a recent visit to Tehran by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and "gives Tehran the opportunity to develop alternate light water reactors, trade and other incentives, in return for dropping the enrichment." However, the countries represented "alongside Mr Solana were Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Nobody from the US." There are also disincentives to match the incentives for Iran. On Monday, EU states agreed to impose new sanctions prohibiting Iran's largest bank from operating in Europe" and adding to the list of banned individuals and organizations. With the Iranian economy in tatters, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is politically weakened, and defiance on the nuclear issue represents a way for Ahmadinejad to maintain his political relevancy. Former diplomat Peter Galbraith wrote that, "from the inception of Iran's nuclear program, prestige and the desire for recognition have been motivating factors," and he "has made uranium enrichment the centerpiece of his administration and the embodiment of Iranian nationalism." Ahmadinejad has thus far "successfully used the threat of war to suppress dissent and divert attention from domestic woes."
UNHELPFUL RHETORIC: The release of the NIE on Iran last December effectively removed the short-term prospect of military action against Iran. But the last few months have seen a renewed effort on the part of pro-war conservative extremists to lay the groundwork for what they see as an inevitable armed conflict. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol recently suggested that President Bush might consider bombing Iran, depending on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Former U.S ambassador to the U .N. John Bolton also said a U.S. military strike against Iran "is really the most prudent thing to do." IAEA Director General Mohamed El-Baradei warned in an interview last week, "I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against would make me unable to continue my work." In a recent panel discussion, former ambassador James Dobbins suggested that threats force against Iran were unproductive and that the United States should "get busy with the job of diplomacy."

RECOGNIZING NEED FOR DIRECT DIPLOMACY: In May, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated, "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage...and then sit down and talk with them [Iran]." Recently retired CentCom chief, Admiral William Fallon, took "public positions favoring diplomacy over force in Iran," suggesting "a navy-to-navy relationship with Iran as a way to begin a sustained dialogue with the country." A new report from the United States Institute of Peace asserted that "Iran's goals appear to be largely defensive: to achieve strategic depth and safeguard its system against foreign intervention, to have a major say in regional decisions, and to prevent or minimize actions that might run counter to Iranian interests." The report also concluded that "it is hard to envision" any kind of lasting peace in the region "without a reduction in tensions between the United States and Iran." Citing recent polling evidence, National Security Network policy director Ilan Goldenberg wrote that "diplomatic engagement with the consensus position" among Americans. In what could represent a significant policy shift that accords with this consensus, yesterday the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is considering "opening a U.S. interests section in Tehran," the first U.S. diplomatic outpost in Iran in nearly thirty years.

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