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Stateside with Rosalea: Watermelon man

Forget the presidential pretzel; I nearly choked on a cheerio watching a football game last Monday morning. To be truthful, it was just a newsclip of the back of Andrew Mehrten's knees as he waited to take a penalty kick while two blokes - "buck nekked", as they say here - rocked and rolled about the place. The morning news anchor wondered aloud if the official who tackled one of the streakers and took him away had "drawn the short straw", but I guess he had the dubious benefit of the uncensored version. Throw them to the crocodiles, I say!

So, my little cupcakes, what else has been in the news this week? The Veep came to town and shocked the media by answering a question, posed through a moderator, about Halliburton. He couldn't talk about it, he said, because people would say he was trying to influence the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation. At the end of the week, commentators were still talking about the fact that he'd given an answer - even in Iowa reporters are kept 50 feet away from him at all times as he arrives at and leaves from fundraisers for local Republican candidates. That was his prime reason for being in California, of course, though not so much for the gubernatorial candidate, Bill Simon, as for the person hoping to take Gary Condit's seat in the wake of that congressman's fall from grace and subsequent defeat in the Democratic primary to choose who would stand in November.

Sorry for the long sentence, especially if you're not all that interested in the convoluted nature of US politics and the confusing array of races that are being run. Despite the fact that who is elected to their local school board and local offices, to their state assembly and governor's mansion, and to the US Congress in their name is of immense importance to the everyday lives of everyone in the US, these elections are still called "mid-term" elections. The "term" that this election is the "mid" of, is the President's. So, when does he sit the exam?

On Tuesday evening the political editor of one of the local tv news shows did a piece about "the man the Governor doesn't want you to know about" - Green gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo. The week before, Camejo's local paper - which is widely read in the Bay Area - started a story about him with a small photo and a couple of paragraphs on the front page, then continued the story on page 8, giving him a third of that page. They did the same with a photo of Donald Rumsfeld and a story on Iraq. The other third of page 8 was ads, so the immediate impression on turning to page 8 was the juxtaposition of just two words: "Iraq" and "Green". A scare tactic perhaps? Vote Green and you'll elect a war-mongering Republican is a message that's consistently put forth in far less subtle ways, with George W. Bush as the ipso facto.

Political analysts are saying that Camejo could make a big difference to the campaign, despite having a campaign budget of only $250,000 compared with the millions that both Davis and Simon have. There is continuing worry within the Republican camp about Simon's financial dealings, and the Democrats worry that Davis comes across as being more concerned with money than with heartfelt concerns. According to Camejo in the television report, Simon wants him included in the candidate debates on NBC and Davis "threatened NBC and said he wouldn't turn up if they included me." He says Davis thinks he is a "watermelon" - which Camejo says means he's green on the outside and red on the inside because he's for the environment and social justice.

So fierce is the battle between Democrats and Republicans at this election that the State of California still doesn't have a budget some seven weeks after it should have been passed. Republicans want to be seen as fighting against taxes - whether they be increased motor vehicle registration costs, tobacco taxes, or higher income taxes in the highest tax brackets - and the Governor can only stand by and help pick off the Reps by promising to build veterans homes in their districts and the like. The budget requires a two-thirds majority to pass. In the meantime, state employees aren't being paid, and neither are suppliers to the state of, for example, food for prisons and child care for low-income families who receive a state subsidy. Just to be clear here, there are no minor parties in the California State Assembly.

Well, by the end of the week all the fussing about fighting Iraq seemed to have calmed down to the point where everyone was urging caution and making sure that Congress and allies were in behind the President for a specific objective. Not the objective of toppling a government, but the objective of destroying weapons of mass destruction in anticipatory self-defence. Unfortunately, while Bush was trying to refocus the arguments in order to get some allies, the Veep had discussions with Iraqi "opposition leaders" and somebody else released a report saying the Saudis are enemies not friends.

In the meantime, Rumsfeld was talking to the press about the weapons that the US plans to use instead of conventional warfare, given that any battles in Iraq are likely to take place in cities, not in the desert. By the weekend we had graphic pictures of superslime and microwaves at work, and some other device that makes your whole body feel like it's on fire. Which pretty much looks like a weapon of mass torture to me, but hey I'm a peacenik so I'm prejudiced. Heck, I'm even on the side of the whales and against having their lungs torn to shreds by the navy's submarine detection devices and I'm glad to see the Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Navy for breaches of the law in okaying the system's use all over the world.

Lea Barker
California
Sunday, August 11, 2002

PS While I was writing this, Scott Dixon finished 5th in the Mid-Ohio cart course, having started at 15th. He also recorded the second fastest lap. After his brief no-puff interview, the commentator said, "I don't think Scott Dixon realises how well he's done."


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