July 20, 2012

“Hello, sucker!”

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:31 pm

Any man who hates small dogs and children can’t be all bad.

There is a sequence in a W. C. Fields movie (If memory servers, that would be “Never give a sucker an even break”) that shows a con man with a funny name (Fields) at a coffee shop lunch counter chatting up the fellow next to him. The rapscallion makes his move and says to the victim: “It’s been a pleasure talking to you; I think I’ll buy your lunch. When I get up to the cashier, I’ll tell her to charge me for your lunch, so you raise your hand when I point in this direction.” Then when he talks to the young hostess with access to the cash register, he says: “The fellow next to me offered to buy my lunch. It’s that guy.” He points to the gullible fellow, who raises his hand. Fields marches off in triumph leaving the film audience in hysterics.

All this esoteric film history would be relevant if we were trying to land a gig as the intern at the British film review website Cinesthesiac, if they ever expand their staff to include that position. However, since this column is going to be posted on sites that relish mordacious political punditry, we had better hasten to add that this vignette from the cinema vaults can serve as a metaphor for a newer and more pertinent swindle being perpetrated on gullible Americans and proceed immediately to the explanation of the symbolism involved.

A loveable rascal in the White House wanted to go down in history as a war President and so he convinces his country to start a quick war that (he assured the citizens) wouldn’t cost much and would be over quickly and successfully. Then, several years later, when his successor from another political party falls into the trap, the slick fellow tells the cashier: “He’s going to pay for my war!” and voila! the chump raises his hand and (eventually) gets a big surprise. Economic chaos ensues (Don’t the Republicans think that economic chaos is an example of knee-slap funny humor?) . . . .

If a W. C. Fields character where to be given a contract for security at a big world famous sports event, the cad would over promise performance, under deliver results, and then take the money and run leaving the host country to fill the security gap. What Conservative doesn’t believe in the old Woody Allen philosophy of “Take the money and run”?

Before America got into WWII, Fields ran a campaign for President. The thought of a fellow who is mostly known for bumbling, unscrupulous business conduct vying for a chance to move into the White House was a hilarious diversion for the American voters who had, in 1940, been coping with economic adversity for a decade.

One of the agents in the World’s Laziest Journalist spy corps recently filed a report saying that over at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, some of the more radical thinkers (?) on the staff are predicting that the Republicans are going to use a “Lucy van Pelt pulls away the football” type maneuver to take the nomination away from the presumptive (“never assume!”) nominee.

Gullible rubes refuse to consider the possibility that pundits are serious when the use the qualifying phrase “presumptive nominee” when they talk about Mitt Romney. Their naiveté is a crucial ingredient for the political blitzkrieg (allegorically speaking) that will be unleashed before the Republican convention is called to order in Tampa.

The folks at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, this week, were expressing the old Jimmy Durante line: “Everybody is trying to get into the act.” Where does journalism reporting rumors end and conspiracy theories start? Is there a cusp area? There were rumors online Thursday hinting that a certain front running candidate may have to contend with assertions he was given amnesty for some income tax evasion offenses and if this unfounded rumor turns out to be true, he might be ruled retroactively ineligible to be a participant in the Primary and General Election activities.

Americans have been anesthetized to any shock that might accompany proof that a politician is telling blatant lies. Suppose (AKA “What if . . . ?”) that a party’s front runner has to content with undeniable, irrefutable proof that he has committed a major misdeed (such as income tax evasion?) just days before the convention is scheduled to start? Could a fellow be ruled retroactively ineligible to participate in some Primary elections and stripped of his wins? (Did Mitt ever win the tour de France?)

It seems to some of the members of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Workers union that some amateur scabs were doing some speculating this week that come perilously close to infringing on their trade.

There could be major problems ahead for the Republican Party. If (subjunctive mood) Mitt is a rich kid who knows that where there is enough available money there is always a way to get what he wants and if the Republicans hint that it is time for him to be graceful and step down, perhaps the rich kid will become obstreperous. If Mitt comes unglued by the tax question, he might have a meltdown that would make the Howard Dean scream incident seem very tame in comparison.

What would the Republican Party do if a respected newspaper had a Pentagon Papers moment and published authentic copies of the tax returns in dispute? What if Mitt still wouldn’t step aside?

If that were to happen, then it might be time for a journalist-curmudgeon to say: “The kid’s not a real trooper; send him home.”

If a Mitt candidacy is unacceptable to Republicans how can they possibly expect to sell him to Reagan Democrats?

If Mitt wasn’t really shuttling between working on the Olympics and working at Bain, could that rascally old Mormon have been splitting some of his family values time with an extra wife?

Speaking of double standards, most Liberals don’t understand the Conservative philosophy of boardroom conduct. The executives, because of their “hands on” style of management, earn every last cent of their paycheck when things are rosy and profitable, but when things go sour, it must always be blamed on some underling who kept “the chief” in the dark about potential problems. Being a mid-level management executive these days is like being a human shield protecting the fearless leader from indictments and irate stockholders. When Republican industrial moguls say “You can’t loose,” that exactly what they mean. Unfortunately, that caveat doesn’t apply to managers who don’t sit of the board of directors.

Was it Fields or Laurel and Hardy that featured the shtick about flipping a coin and saying: “Heads, I win; tails, you loose!”? What conservative Christian can’t condone that example of how to bamboozle a sucker?

St. Ronald Reagan often said that the eleventh commandment was: Never speak ill of a fellow Republican. The recent rash of Republican ruminating about the Romney run makes skeptics wonder what’s up in that party. Either Reagan’s sway on the party faithful is waning or the Conservative Christians don’t consider Mitt to be an authentic member of their party. If that’s the case, the chorus of criticism will continue until Mitt is deemed disqualified for the nomination and then he and his supporters will have a WTF mind meld moment and start asking themselves the usual Charlie Brown questions about being fleeced of their campaign money and being rooked out of the nomination they considered rightfully theirs.

There is a bit of old conventional wisdom among film critics that holds that the key to watching any film about swindlers is to keep in mind that the iron clad rule for the genre which is: the con men are always the ones who get fleeced. Thus film critics who see Mitt Romney as a modern W. C. Fields patent medicine salesman expect that he will wind up (like the fellow in a particular Jerry Reed song) getting the shaft instead of the expected gold mine.

If the Mittster is looking for a slogan for his Presidential campaign, perhaps he can swipe the phrase that Texas Guinan used to use when she greeted customers entering her New York speakeasy: “Hello, sucker!”

For a column on swindles that will be posted on July 20, the disk jockey insists that his closing selection of songs starts off with “Springtime for Hitler” (from Mel Brooks’ “The Producers”), the Rolling Stones contractual obligation album [when they were committed to delivering one more album to a certain record company, they delivered a package of über-bawdy material and when the record company executives complained that they couldn’t release the album, the Stones lawyers indicated “That’s your problem.” (It became a top bootleg product for those people who sanction unauthorized products.)] and as a memorial tribute for country music fans, Kitty Wells’ breakthrough Country hit “It wasn’t God who made Honky-tonk angels.” We have to go check and see who the Republicans have available on the bench in the bullpen. Have an “I’ll hold the football for you, Charlie Brown,” type week.

[Quagmire, who may be the littlest panhandler on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, attacked the columnist after being given a “drop in the bucket” offering and bit the writer’s cane so we thought a picture of this ungrateful cur would be an acceptable illustration for a column about swindles. Why a cane? Isn’t a cane essential for projecting the image of a suave boulevardier?]

January 20, 2012

Is there a UCB – von Richthofen link?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:33 pm

Is there a link between the two?
The Chronicle saw a link

There are multiple bits of local lore and history that residents of Berkeley CA might find interesting, but that doesn’t mean that stumbling onto one of these obscure facts from the past will provide a columnist with a topic to use online because folks in other parts of the world might not be concerned with the hundred year old social life of a UC Berkeley graduate who went on to a teaching career in Oakland.

Would there be a world wide audience interested in her if further investigation revealed that after Manfred von Richthofen (AKA the Red Barron) was shot down, on April 21, 1918, during World War I, a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle sought out Miss Margaret P. Hayne and asked her if she had been engaged to him?

After noting that she denied that, a story in the Chronicle went on to report that “her friends believed that there was an understanding between the brilliant German aviator and the Berkeley girl.”

She was quoted as saying “I knew him very well, that is all.” She went on to explain that she knew his mother, brothers and sisters and that “ . . . a close friendship existed between myself and the family.”

The story informed readers that Ms. Hayne had graduated from UC Berkeley in 1903, passed the bar exam, and that she had had a law office in San Francisco before beginning her teaching career in Oakland. Was calling a woman approximately 35 years old “a girl” an early example of “spin”?

On Saturday, January 14, 2012, the World’s Laziest Journalist went on a topic safari to San Francisco. At the once-a-month warehouse sale held by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, we bought two book to be read with an eye for column topics, but we had also purchased William E. Burrows’ book, “Richthofen: A True History of the Red Baron” just to read for personal pleasure.

That nigh, when we opened up the 1969 book from Harcourt, Brace, and World Inc., while looking for the end-paper map, we noticed that a standard 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper had been folded in half and tucked behind the back flap of the dust jacket.

We expected to find a review of the book at hand, but when we unfolded the paper it appeared to be a 100% size Xerox copy of the front page of a much older newspaper.

A story about Miss Margaret Hayne was circled in red.

Since a portion of the image identifies the San Francisco Chronicle as the source and sine it makes reference to the fact that Captain Baron von Richthofen had been shot down the week before, it would be relatively simple to track down the exact date of publication.

If we went to the San Francisco Public Library it would probably require just another hour or two of library research to ascertain that information and perhaps provide the basis for sending a feature story query letter to a magazine that appeals to an audience of aviation enthusiasts.

A quick online search revealed that the Red Baron was killed on the 21st of April in 1918, which was just a few days after the United States marked the first full year of participation in the War to end all Wars. Congress had declared war on April 6, 1917 because of a torpedo attack on the passenger liner Lusitania. Conspiracy theory lunatics have challenged the veracity of the official accounts of the incident ever since.

The alternative would be to put the information into the less scholarly form of a loopy column and skip over the need for extensive academic research.

Information that had been previously published several decades ago won’t qualify the column as a “scoop,” but a few Google searches indicated that a column about Ms. Hayne and the Red Baron would provide some information online that hasn’t previously been easily accessible for the curious readers on the Internets.

At the same time and place that we bought the Red Baron book, we had also purchased a mint condition copy of a 2003 Barnes and Noble paperback edition of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” with introduction and notes by Maura Spiegel. It was obvious from the blurbs on the back cover that if the columnist reads that book another column about how the exploitation of workers by the wealthy Chicago meatpacking company owners would write itself. Sinclair called the area Packingtown.

The headline “Occupy the Jungle” would help draw today’s readers into a review with comments about the 100 year old novel.

When “The Jungle” was published it spurred President Theodore Roosevelt into action and another of its effects, according to the Introduction by Maura Spiegel, “was shinning a bright light on the ever-darkening realms of child labor, prisons, insurance companies, and foremost, American enterprise and its role in the creation of a new American class of impoverished industrial wage slaves.” Isn’t the pendulum swinging back towards the sanctioning of child labor once again?

Some Republicans are hinting that such a move could benefit the United States in two ways: it would eliminate the need to spend tax dollars on school improvements and it would provide families with extra income.

Could Mitt Romney use Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” to assert that he will fight to reestablish the sacred American tradition of exploiting poor workers to help him get himself get elected as President?

Earlier in the week, the columnist had bought a copy of “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,” and learned about the concept of “Strange Loops.” According to the Author, Douglas R. Hofstadter: “The ‘Strange Loop’ phenomenon occurs whenever, by moving upwards (or downwards) through the levels of some hierarchical system, we unexpectedly find ourselves right back where we started.”

If the Occupy Movement is fighting the same injustices that caused Upton Sinclair to write his best selling rant more than a hundred years ago, does that mean it is time for Hofstadter to revise his book with more examples of contemporary culture’s modern flashbacks to the past?

Hofstadter maintains that many of M. C. Escher’s most famous drawings are images that embody the Strange Loop concept.

Would it surprise Hofstadter if the Republicans select JEB Bush as their Presidential candidate or would he merely shrug it off saying that it was just another example of the Strange Loop?

About two blocks away from the book sale and about two hours after we bought the books, Occupy San Francisco made the news with some protest activity at a nearby branch of the Wells Fargo Bank. We missed the chance to cover that chapter of the history of the Occupy Movement, but thanks to the material we gathered leading to information about a Berkeley student, the WWI ace, and the muckraking journalist, we would classify our topic safari to San Francisco as a success.

Ms. Hayne provided this column’s closing quote when she gave her assessment of von Richthofen to the Chronicle’s reporter: “He was a fine man.” We concur. Wasn’t respect for a warrior from the other side considered a proper manifestation of the chivalry code of conduct?

Now the disk jockey (can you see it coming a mile away?) will play The Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron,” the Guns and Roses’ song “Welcome to the Jungle,” and as a farewell tribute to a fellow whose formative years were spent in Berkeley, Johnny Otis’ “Willie and the Hand Jive.” We have to go check the show times for the new movie titled “Red Tails.” Have a “I don’t want to send those men up there in machines held together with bailing wire and chewing gum – but I must!” type week.

September 6, 2011

Is 1968 really over?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:03 pm


File photo of August arrests in San Francisco.

New protesters call attention to old issues at People’s Park in Berkeley CA.

As the ninth month of the year begins, here are a few items that the columnist considers important cultural tidbits: an unpopular Democratic President is struggling to get renominated, a bumper sticker being sold on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley asks: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?,” there is an ongoing protest at People’s Park, the Freedom of Speech issue is spawning arrests, a new book by Shel Silverstein is due out this month, the Playboy Club (and “the bunny slouch”?) will be featured in a new TV series, and Pan Am will get tons of free publicity from a new fall TV series (perhaps based on the book “Coffee, Tea, or me?”?), so with out looking at a calendar can you please say what year is this? British disk jockey Danny Baker recently proclaimed that this year is 1968 and he might be right.

The longer Obama is President the easier it becomes for a pundit to make clever and perceptive comments; all that’s needed is a great memory. A case in point would be pollution and global warming. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theory scientist to have a major emotional reaction to a bit of popular American culture from 1970. Who can watch the Iron Eyes Cody Public Service Announcement and not get the point?

Who can listen to “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash’s 1971 hit that covered just about all of today’s problems, and not find it moving?

For people living in Berkeley and facing the task of preparing to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s speech from the top of a police car, the recent No Justice No BART protests and arrests about the Freedom of Speech issue has a distinct “been there done that” aspect.

People’s Park is back in the news. Activists are staging a protest. They assert that the University of California in Berkeley is using incremental limitations as a way of trying to end the use of the area known as People’s Park as a campsite for homeless people. Activists inform journalists that efforts are being made to end the program to feed the homeless in the park. Similar protests in 1969 were suspended after the Park and the protests, which resulted in the death of James Richter, became national news stories.

Peace is still the objective for Peaceniks only the name of the war has changed.

Mario Savio objected to high tuition fees in the Sixties and asserted that students had a right to express their opinions. Two years ago students were holding demonstrations at UCB to draw attention to increases in tuition costs.

Over the Labor Day weekend, a march by the United Farm Workers reached Sacramento where they hoped to deliver their list of grievances and goals to the governor of California.

For a columnist who made futile efforts to get to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, this year’s issues and protests have a strong déjà vu aspect to them. One ingredient that is missing from attempts to photograph and write about this year’s events is an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm.

Scrambling around the San Francisco Bay area to get photos at a benefit for the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance, People’s Park and the various No Justice No BART protests, it is obvious that getting a by-line in the Berkeley Barb is a goal that will never be accomplished.

In one day, can one reporter photographer cover a nine hour event at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, a planned new No Justice No BART event in San Francisco, and check in with the protest in People’s Park? Obviously we’ll have to postpone plans to do a round-up column on the current spate of items concerned with the quality of the judicial branch of government in the USA today. We’re working on developing other columns such as one that compares the Republican philosophy to that of the Apaches and play with the irony that some famous Republicans have been accused of kidnapping Geronimo’s skull.

We’ll try to cover the Sunday event at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco on September 11. We’ll monitor the People’s Park protest. We’ll do updates on the No Justice No BART protests. Rather than struggling with the knack of loading Tri-X film on the Nikkor reels, we’ll be struggling to learn the new html skills to move our photojournalism into the digital era, but we will also be aware of certain other limitations on our efforts.

Back in 1968, the World’s Laziest Journalist used to annoy the snot out of some close friends by introducing cultural comments and insights with the phrase “Back in 1968.” We don’t bug them with that shtick anymore because a two of the folks who were most upset with it, have “gone to the happy hunting grounds.”

In the April 1965 issue of Cavalier magazine, Paul Krassner wrote: “There was, of course, one Berkeley administration official who mustered up his oversimplification gland and labeled the protest there as not much more than a ‘civil rights panty raid.’”

Krassner also wrote: “There is an Establishment (translate: in-power) point of view about events such as these – usually predictable but nevertheless in a state of limited flux – and the mass media serve as vehicles for and reflections of the Establishment point of view.” What if Rupert Murdoch is the Establishment?

Now the disk jockey will give some Berkeley musicians a bit of exposure by playing the “Fixing to Die” rag, “Run through the Jungle,” and “Long as I can see the Light.” We have to go and try to buy a copy of Eye magazine. Have a “hella-groovy” type week.

August 30, 2011

BART Protests continue in San Francisco CA

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:18 pm




For an individual attempting to provide web sites with both news stories and photo coverage of the continuing series of protests against the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Department by the group called “Anonymous,” the inherent dangers to the art of journalism are becoming apparent.

On Monday, August 22, 2011, this columnist went to the BART Civic Center station to get some news photos. Through a combination of experience, intuition, luck and skill we took, and subsequently posted, photos that illustrated the events from the early part of that night’s events.

To augment our after event fact finding process, we attended the Special Meeting of the BART Board of Directors held in Oakland on August 24, 2011. That provided us with background information from both sides which will help improve the quality of any subsequent news stories. We took photos of the massive media coverage of the meeting that started at 9 a.m. According to statistics provided by one reporter, there were 32 members of the media, 18 BART PD officers, and 14 members of the public who submitted speaker cards, and a Board of Directors quorum in attendance.

We took photos that illustrated the heavy TV presence at the Board meeting, but since the board took no direct action, we didn’t see any news value for making the effort to post photos of a bunch of video camera operators at work.

At that meeting a protest spokesperson, Kristoff, said that the protests would continue, so on Monday August 29, 2011, we traveled to the Civic Center station to take photos if something newsworthy occurred.

The protesters changed tactics and no arrests were made in that station.

The protesters moved above ground and the responsibility for security changed from the BART Police Department to the San Francisco Police Department.

Various people spoke to the multitude of reporters about the Anonymous and No Justice No BART criticism of the BART PD. Several representatives of other protest groups (such as nudists and Native American Rights) with other causes, tried to avail themselves of the easy access to the large media contingent on hand to draw attention to their issues.

The protesters decided to walk to the Powell Street BART station and did so.

When it seemed to the World’s Laziest Journalist that the evening was drawing to a conclusion, we took a bus to the downtown area to catch an AC bus back to Berkeley. As the bus approached the Embarcadero BART station area, we observed another phase of the BART protest and took some more photos.

For an individual writing about the event has to be a subjective report. You can’t take photos of arrests and talk to the PIO (Public Information Officer) at the same time. You can’t be on the scene and get an overview from the sidelines simultaneously. When another reporter says that arrests were made earlier at the Embarcadero station ticket booth, you can’t categorically state hearsay evidence into a news story without either your own visual confirmation or an official police statement. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in its edition for Tuesday August 30, 2011, that two arrests were made at the Embarcadero station.

In the old days, a photographer would have to go develop the film and have an editor “AKA the photo desk” select a frame to make a print which would then “move on the wire” if it was good enough to meet their standards of excellence. Now, a digital photographer has to get to a computer, download his work, and for vertical shots, rotate the appropriate files. Then he edits his own work. We know of one instance where an editor used the opinion of a stringer to confirm “the desk’s” selection from the available frames.

A photographer can’t do the digital file clerk work and (if he is working at ome an lacke internet access) simultaneously monitor Internet news organizations at the same time. KCBS news radio indicated that the protesters had changed tactics for their protest on August 29, 2011.

We will use the ominous implications for the Journalism Industry that we see in the shrinking number of professional journalists as a topic for a future column. We will revisit the BART PD vs critics’ dispute as events warrant. We will, as time permits, use the topic of online photojournalism for some future columns, as time and inspiration permits.

Taking photos of the arrests that occurred on Monday August 22, 2011, provided a bit of nostalgia and the sense that “we still got it,” for a photographer who was reminded that some things haven’t changed much since doing similar work in the L. A. area in the seventies.

Covering the BART board of directors meeting was similar to covering Santa Monica city council meetings back in the days when Clo Hoover was the mayor and covering Culver City council meeting when that group shared their building with a branch of that city’s fire department.

Liberal media relies on altruism to provide content. Conservative media uses money to tailor their content to their ulterior motives. In an extremely long and extended contest, human nature tends to indicate which group will survive an endurance contest.

August 16, 2011

BART PD vs Anonymous in S. F.

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:14 pm




When the BART Police Department faced a demonstration by folks from Anonymous, the World’s Laziest Journalist was among the throng of writers and photographers recording the event for posterity.

August 12, 2011

Who hasn’t read “The Decline and Fall . . .”?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:23 pm

While the Democrats constantly hum the refrain in the Eagle’s song about a fellow who spends his whole life locked up in chains only to discover that he has had the key in his hands all the while, the Tea Baggers are desperately hoping that those folks don’t read Edward Gibbon’s magnum opus, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” because if the perpetually stymied Democrats do peruse that example of literature, they might suddenly have a solution to the riddle of how to finance a country’s essential services while fighting capricious and strategically unnecessary foreign wars.

When the Democrats eventually suggest not fighting optional wars, the Tea Baggers will quickly defuse (bellicose pun?) that argument by responding: “World Peace will be a ‘Jobs Killer!’”

Think of all the jobs that Peace would eliminate. Then think of the “Age of Aquarius” and how many jobs that spawned. Aren’t “Head shops” illegal in many states? Once folks have listened to the “Hair” album a hundred times, then what?

Recently when we learned that Willie Nelson was starting a new political group called “The Teapot Party,” we sent the link to the web site to a fellow who knows George Clayton Johnson (of Twilight Zone fame) and asked that the information be forwarded to Mr. “Kick the can.” Did that get us any new regular readers? No! Would Hunter S. Thompson endorse Willie’s political endeavor?

When we imitate Merle Haggard and make fun of the “hippies out in San Francisco,” the column gets twice as many hits; so (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) expect some more columns with more sarcastic references to “drug addled morons.”

Speaking of the Hippies out in San Francisco (Hey, stoners, have you heard: It’s just like the Jim Morrison song says; the Vietnam war is over!), they are just the kind of people to think that the recent “Kids for Cash” trial in North Eastern Pennsylvania is proof that the privatization of prisons was a bad idea.

Does the fact that a judge was convicted of doling out excessive jail sentences for minor drug offenses (in return for a “finder’s fee”?) provide conclusive proof that privatizing jails was a bad idea?

Speaking of getting children headed in the right direction, on Thursday, August 11, 2011, on his radio program, Mike Malloy had a story about how the corporate farms were providing berry picking jobs for kids. It was Malloy’s assertion that a seven year old kid had an entitlement to ten more years of public education rather than an opportunity to live out a “rags to riches” success story that is a basic ingredient of life in this “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” paradise for motivated citizens.

Apparently Malloy hasn’t seen “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” He seems to be stuck in the nostalgic sixties with the “kids still respect the college dean” philosophy that superseded the “flower power” image of sticking a daisy down the barrel of an M-1 rifle.

Which would be a better choice for seven year old kids: the lyrics of the Roy Orbison song “Workin’ for the Man,” that teach berry pickers that if they work hard, then someday they might own the farm, or the lyrics to “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”?

The kids in school are blasted out of their minds and mouthing the song segment about seeing a picture of themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. (“Buy five copies for my mother.”) Wouldn’t it be better for them to be outdoors in the fresh air doing some hard work?

Has moving their headquarters out of San Francisco helped Rolling Stone magazine? The latest issue invites readers to jump to the conclusion that if (subjunctive mood) Rupert Murdoch used extortion to influence politics in Great Britain he might be doing the same thing in the United States of America. When Rolling Stone moved, did they lease some available office space in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory?

In his essay, “Faking It,” Michael Sorkin wrote: “If any accident produces coherence, all coherence is artificial.” Thus if the Republicans can convince voters that their crazy quilt Party isn’t the medium but is the actual message, then the Democratic attempt to provide a coherent response will be perceived as artificial and doomed to fail.

When Sorkin referred to wrestling on TV, he stated: “It tightens the link between the representation of reality and the comparable validity of its infinite distortions.” Couldn’t the same be said of the Republican Party?

Isn’t the 2012 Presidential Election going to be a variation of TV wrestling? Won’t the Republicans (who always get to frame the issues) present the idea that the Republicans are the clean cut All American hero types doing their best to get the referee (The United States Supreme Court) to notice that the other fellow is cheating? The other fellow is always depicted as a slimy villain flip flopping out of the hero’s best move and then using an illegal punch to stun the hero?

Jack Armstong (AKA the all American boy) will be pitted against a villain (oil sheik, Apache warrior, a guy in a German WWI helmet, an illegal alien, or [worst of all?] a Frenchman [can you say “existentialist,” boys and girls?]) who will immediately incur the disdain (This train? This stain? Whatever!) of the patriotic red blooded Americans in the audience.

Would it help Jack Armstrong to validate his attempt to portray himself as “the next President,” if two members of his immediate family had previously worn the POTUS (President of the United States) crown?

At that point the staff at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory will roll out their effort to conflate confusion with conviction and assert that President Obama is a Republican mole and encourage prejudice via a vote for any other available candidate?

Isn’t that hypothetical future example of stealth racism just as absurd as the idiotic suggestion that Gorbachev was a CIA mole? Wasn’t Mata Hari the most famous example of a double agent (also known as “a mole”)?

What are they smoking during their breaks (at least 20 feet away from the doors) near the entrances to the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory?

Jack Kerouac may have been speaking a bit prematurely for the Democrats when he said: “We are a beaten generation.”

Now the disk jockey will play Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco [Be sure to wear a flower in your hair],” Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee,” and The Jefferson Airlane’s “White Rabbit.” We have to go see if we can get a ticket to see “the Fanatics.” Have a “Plastic fantastic” week.

August 7, 2011

Visions of Kesey

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 3:17 pm

When morning for Monday, August 8, 2011, arrives on America’s East Coast, the financiers will have already coped with their response to the Asian stock markets, the military will be replying to the weekend’s helicopter attack in Afghanistan, and the President will be meeting with his advisors to implement the Obama Administration response to the credit downgrade. Voters in the USA will be visiting various web sites to learn the political pundits explanation for and analysis of last week’s news and that will be one step behind the playing out of this week’s reality and so the curious citizens might just as well be reading a subjective response to one of the new movies that opened this past weekend and by a remarkable co-inky-dink that is what this column contains.

The film “Magic Trip” contains home movies made by novelist Ken Kesey of a cross country trip he and his acolytes made in 1964 to visit the New York World’s Fair. The 16 mm home movies, almost 50 years old, used to provide the bulk of the movie’s images, may provide an inadvertent and very accurate prediction of what the USA would be like in the summer of 2011.

Ostensibly the documentary provides a nostalgia laden look back at a more innocent time when the USA was poised to grow and prosper and provide workers with a consumer’s paradise full of mod clothes, exciting new music, and inexpensive travel opportunities. Unfortunately a closer look at the adventures of the Merry Pranksters may provide a metaphor for the dazed and confused America that is trying to figure out why their own government social services must be eliminated to provide a balanced budget that will permit the continuation of some capricious and perplexing military adventures in far away lands.

The film starts with the shot of a microphone which provides film aficionados with a visual pun that refers back to promotional material made for “Citizen Kane.”

Successful novelist Ken Kesey (who was enjoying success from “One Flew Over the Cookoos’ Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion”) spent some money in early 1964, to acquire a 1939 International Harvester bus that had been transformed into a rolling dormitory room. He envisioned using it to take his friends on a quest for an insightful movie about their journey. The group of road acolytes were accompanied by Neal Cassidy who had already achieved fame as Jack Kerouac’s on the road traveling buddy.

What the movie actually shows is a group of social misfits and fuck-ups lurching through a series of travel disasters, a string of social faux pas, several encounters with American Literary legends Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, an anticlimactic visit to the World Fair, a bumbling inept visit to Timothy Leary’s estate, a series of numerous dispensations from their marriage vows, a return to the West Coast and coping with their leader’s jail term which was (magically?) truncated by a promise to denounce the use of the growing popularity of the experimental psychedelic drug called LSD.

Is the Tea Bag movement the political equivalent of LSD for conservatives?

The new century has seen the USA become embroiled in questionable examples of democracy in action, a series of unprovoked wars, an imitation of Hitler’s distain for the Geneva Convention rules of war, the principles America established at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials, and the standard American dream of a home surrounded by a white picket fence going into foreclosure.

Simultaneously, America has turned on Fox News, tuned into the Republican talking points and dropped out of being well informed about political issues.

When the USA bombs Libya constantly for more than four months to protect its citizens from their leader of forty years at the same time that the President turns his back on the Syrians who are being shot down like rabid dogs in the street, no responsible political pundit takes notice of the dichotomy.

Why should they? Aren’t they being paid to reassure the voters that the radioactive sites in Japan, the economic turmoil, the endless wars, the unexplainable election upsets, and the rapidly dwindling 401K accounts are no cause for alarm? Chill out, dude! You’re just having a bad trip.

After seeing “Magic Trip,” we went to the Berkeley Public Library and borrowed a copy of Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Elecgtric Cool-aid Acid Test,” which was about what happened to Kesey’s posse

The book is highly regarded as a pioneering example of gonzo journalism, which was the label given to the trend in journalism whereby the writers injected themselves into the story they were covering. From the vantage point of more than forty years later, the tone of the beginning of the book is more like a sales pitch at the entrance of a freak show. Wolfe provides the ordinary folk with an alter ego for a journey into the land of pathetic drug fiends.

Will he actually drop acid later in the book? Perhaps, as the long hot summer of 2011 continues to play out, we will have a chance to finish reading the Acid Test book and write a column on its efforts to be a valid example of gonzo journalism.

Wolfe’s newspaper article and subsequent book anointed the Merry Pranksters to a high level of fame and notoriety. Perhaps with some lucrative book deals some influential future historians will be able to depict the summer of 2011 as a time full of warm and fuzzy sentimentality when folks walked out of their recently foreclosed homes and went off in search of their inner Woody Guthrie?

Wasn’t the Great Depression chock full of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, Amos ‘n’ Andy radio shows, and Black Mask magazines that were just so much fun? Won’t the future look back at this summer with so much envy because they will have to settle for a vicarious participation in the antics?

CBS radio news’ hour long weekend recapitulation of the week when the debt crisis was settled and the USA’s credit rating was lowered is available on line at radio etc. The political pundits’ analysis of this week’s current events should be available next weekend.

According to a popular urban legend, Kesey’s bus was the subject for a request from the Smithsonian Institute that it be donated to them. In real life, it became a rusted out hulk on Kesey’s Oregon farm. Future historians will know if the suggestion that the bus was a metaphor for America’s Democratic process was valid or not. How does the binary choice of “Four more years!” vs. JEB, grab ya? In the “Magic Trip” movie, someone is heard dispensing the advice: “Enjoy the chaos!” Could there be a better epigram for capturing the zeitgeist for the summer of 2011?

Tom Wolfe wrote: “They get the feeling that Kesey was heading out on further, toward a fantasy they didn’t know if they wanted to explore.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Mellow Yellow,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and “Puff the Magic Dragon.” We have to check the current flower power level. Have a do svidaniya type week.

August 5, 2011

May you live in “Interesting Times”

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:30 pm

Now that President Obama has checkmated the Republicans and can coast to reelection, it seems that while Congress takes its summer vacation the folks who write political punditry can also kick back and use the dog days of summer to churn out some content on other more mundane matters.

Some recent items from the Beatnik file have been accumulating on our desk and so we will use this weekend’s opening of the “Magic Bus” (Ken Kesey’s search for a cool place) movie as an excuse to do a roundup of items from the reporter who collects those tidbits of news and information about being “on the road” and lump them all together in one column.

We’ve been accumulating some new “road” books and are in the process of reading Alistair Cooke’s “The American Home Front,” which presents the story of that Brit’s road trip throughout the USA in the early stages of WWII. Cooke was one of the few journalists who covered the war’s effect on civilians while most of the countries journalists flocked to the various battle fronts.

At the beginning of John Steinbeck’s book “Travels with Charlie,” he talks about an encounter on an airplane trip with John Gunter and how they compared notes about how their two styles of gathering material differed. Isn’t it odd that at the beginning of Gunther’s book “Inside the USA,” he tells readers that he used the itinerary of his crisscrossing road trip around the USA to gather the book’s material as the outline for his way to present his material in the book? Does that make it a “road book”?

At the Berkeley Public Library Main branch book store we discovered “It isn’t a Bus,” by Martha French Patterson and Sally Patterson Tubach, which is about Charles Everett Patterson’s (no relation to this columnist) pioneering efforts to turn a Flexible bus into a motorhome and tour the USA in it, after World War II.

We are still plodding through a borrowed copy of Douglas Brinkley’s “Majic Bus.”

On Thursday, we learned that President Obama intends to go on a campaign style bus tour in August. Sarah Palin did a brief bus tour publicity stunt earlier this year.

If the World’s Laziest Journalist’s efforts to become the pundit that other pundits read first has stalled out, then it might be time to post a terse ride wanted notice on Craig’s list: “SWM seeks ride: SF – NYC” and see if we can join the vast number of journalists taking America’s pulse during this historic summer. If we catch a transcontinental ride on a band’s tour bus, a chronicle of that journey might make us almost famous.

We noticed items on Kevin Roderick’s L. A. Observed web site recently noting that at least two writers have started an effort to walk across the USA.

What’s with all the bus trips? What ever happened to hitchhiking? Should we attempt the Berkeley to Boston thumbing marathon? In 1968, we used that method to get from Chambersburg Pa. to Tonkawa Oklahoma. Perhaps a nostalgic series of columns could report on how the USA has changed (if it has) in the interim.

We’ve missed Hemingway Days for this year, but the Oshkosh Flying will be happening soon, and the 25th Annual Farm Aid Concert is coming up in Kansas City on the weekend of August 12 -14. Would a trip to Burning Man produce some worthwhile columns? Will this be the year we finally get to see some aspect of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance?

Jack London wrote a book about traveling about the USA in 1898. Is Jack London’s book, “The Road” a road book? Could Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad” be considered a road book?

Some critics of the World’s Laziest Journalist might think that the shtick of mentioning an attempt to get a speaking gig at the Beat Museum in San Francisco during Litquake is pathetic and getting tired and old. Is it a genuine authentic bid for such an opportunity or is it a classic example of a subconscious effort to sabotage the request? Can you picture the World’s Laziest Journalist doing all the work that would be required to give a talk which would promote the venue’s bookstore offerings (of road books and beat literature) as well as extol the virtues of the author’s memoirs which he intends to write someday when he “gets a round tuit.” (Bah dump bump)

Slowly, during the summer of 2011, the number of folks who are getting on the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factor employee’s shuttle bus (used to move folks about at their secret rebel encampment) seems to be growing. People are beginning to put things together. If you add 2 + 2 you get 4; but if you put 2 and 2 together, you get 22.

Can the Murdoch hacking scandal, the profits from the endless wars, the stolen 2000 and 2004 Presidential Elections, the blind faith in unverifiable election results, the voter rebellion in Wisconsin, the Republican assertions that they are on the little guy’s side, the suspicion that Republican politicians are guilty of dereliction of duty (which would get them a courts-martial if they were in the military), the fact that Obama’s odd (but highly acclaimed) “reach out across the isle” style of negotiating closely resembles total capitulation, and the glaring SFW (So F*****g What?) aspect of the FAA fumbled ball story all be used as ingredients for a massive Liberal recipe for truth? The result will serve as the answer to the standard conservative dodge: “Something’s happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear . . .”

Are people beginning to suspect that the Republican refrain about how everything is unexplainable and that none of them are to blame when (not if) things go wrong, and that any conjecture about anything is automatically to be discounted as an unreliable conspiracy theory sounds just as phony and suspicious as O. J. Simpson’s adamant assertion that he was not guilty? Or does it sound like Captain Queeg’s deductive reasoning process that lad to the conclusion that there was another key to the wardrobe?
When will Americans get to hear Michelle Bachman say: “Tell Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.”? Do Democrats think of “the Ballad of Lucy Jordan” when they hear the latest Republican spin?

In the summer of 2011, would there be a market for T-shits that proclaim: “Only certified millionaires should spout Republican talking points!”? Would that cover the recent Internet fuss over the allegation that David Gregory continues to pepper his (loaded) questions with Republican talking points?

Ken Kesey has been quoted (Bartlett’s 125th anniversary edition page 913) as saying: “Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place – then it won’t make a damn.”

Now the disk jockey will play: Ray Charles’ “Hit the road, Jack” and Willie Nelson’s “On the road again,” and his duet with Lacy J. Dalton’s on the song “Where has a slow moving, once quick draw, outlaw got to go?” We have places to go find out more about Willie Nelson’s new Tea pot Party. Have a “real gone” week.

July 28, 2011

The most memorable summer since 1968?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:33 pm

During a week in which a request to evaluate the efforts of a rookie blogger to explore the bridge between spirituality and psychology arrived in the e-mail inbox and world events delivered a cornucopia of news that ranged from the effect the death of Amy Winehouse had on the Forever 27 website to the Democratic President using Ronald Reagan’s method to (make an attempt to) bypass a recalcitrant group of U. S. Congressional representatives, the World’s Laziest Journalist decided that it was time to use a new installment of his version of the three dot journalism style of columning to evaluate the challenge to future historians who will work very hard to revisit this historic week that is just outside our doors right now.

Will future books about the summer of 2011 care about the weather? How many books will be written about some aspect or interpretation of the Summer of 2011 Debt Crises Debate? How many books will interpret the Obama Administration in relation to the outcome of that debate? Obviously one or several biographies of Amy Winehouse, who died at the age of 27 last Sunday, will be rushed into print. Will the Murdoch summer be just an example of one of the challenges that Rupert faced in his lifetime or will it be the starting point for numerous books on some additional arrests and assessments of the art of journalism at this point in history?

Historians tend to examine segments of contemporary culture as isolated topics much as a coroner examines body parts separately, while daily newspapers, news broadcasts, and weekly news magazines attempt to deliver a snapshot of a living subject. Some books have been written attempting to deliver the portrait of a particular year, but most books tend to select a very specific topic from the pages of history and examine that segment of the world in close detail.

Some years are more interesting to historians than others.

For example, this columnist has read a number of books (more than a dozen) about World War II, but it was only while reading Laurence Thompson’s book “1940” that we learned Europe experienced sever winter weather in the early months of 1940 and that it had a direct effect on the course of the early stages of the fighting in World War II.

According to Thompson (“1940” William Morrow & Co. New York © 1966 hardback page 16): “From the end of December until mid-February, with only a single break, Britain experienced its coldest winter for forty-five years.” The British censors quashed coverage of both the war and the weather.

William K. Klingaman noted in his book, “1941 Our Lives in a World on the Edge,” that the weather at the beginning of that year was very cold and harsh in Europe. Didn’t the scientists announce some kind of “New Ice Age” theory?

CBS radio journalist Larry LeSueur covered World War II from Russia and titled his book about the period from October 1941 to October of 1942: “12 Months that Changed the World.” Didn’t sever winter weather tip the balance at Stalingrad?

Every year is important to world history, the trick it to know which ones are very important while they are occurring and then write a book about how you knew it all along.

In the summer of 2011 here are some items that caught this columnist’s attention. (Will historians concur with our selection?)

The folks covering developments at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory are reporting a rumor that a roll out ceremony is approaching for something new.

The Democrats resisted the efforts to bestow on President George W. Bush additional rights and privileges as part of the Republican quest for an Imperial Presidency. The Republicans are conducting a remarkable goal line defense against a debt crisis settlement. The Democrats are ready to insist that the Democratic President use all available means (Signing statements, Executive orders, line item vetoes, etc.) to circumvent a financial disaster. If President Obama uses Imperial Presidency powers now, that will set a precedent for the next Republican President (JEB in 2012?) to have what George W. wanted and was denied.

Is President Obama playing chess while the Republicans are playing poker and holding a royal flush cleverly disguised as the unverifiable electronic voting machine results?

Recently Brad Friedman poured (metaphorically speaking) gasoline on this hot conspiracy theory by noting that hackers have gained access to most business computers and to the Pentagon’s files, but the electronic voting machines are considered “unhackable.” That smug attitude is challenged by most knowledgeable hacking specialists.

Radical conspiracy theorists are asking if Rupert Murdoch is doing things in the USA that would give him the power to manage National Politics in his new country. They see connects between the methods used in Great Britain and a series of humiliated and disgraced Democratic congressional representative who are resigning.

If, when future historians write about this summer, it turns out that the confidence in the electronic voting machines was an overestimation, and if many of the 2012 congressional district contests result in stunning, unexpected Republican upsets, will the scholarly writers become infected by the “conspiracy theory” germs and connect the two separate conspiracy theories? Can’t you just see one of those college professor authors viewing events with perfect hindsight crowing: “It was so obvious back then but folks just couldn’t see it!”?

The blogger who had some success with a column about “William Randolph Hearst, Charles Foster Kane, and Rupert Murdoch,” was almost inspired enough to write another one with the headline: “Al Capone, Don Corleone, and Rupert Murdoch.”

Folks who think that some of the items that the World’s Laziest Journalist uses in his columns are too esoteric, arcane, and inscrutable, might not get the joke about the “inside baseball” humor for movie fans hidden in the fact that the Berkeley Seven Flashback film series followed “Godfather” (Part I) with the rather obscure “From Here to Eternity.”

Some folks in the San Francisco Bay Area who prefer the Summer of 1968 to this year’s, were given an offer they couldn’t refuse: “One grand prize winner will also receive a tip for two on the Magic Bus.” Ken Kesey fans will want to check out the promo being offered by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and also click on the hippie bus San Francisco web site.

Will the summer of 2011 come to be known as “the Summer of Republican Love for the Debt Crisis and all the political opportunities that came with it”?

Has union busting spread into the realm of American Sports?

Is there a bridge between religion and psychology? To this columnist it seems more like a “cusp area.” Are we going to have to write a “Got Philosophy?” column after the Debt Crisis is settled and this historic summer comes to a close? If we do, maybe we could cross post it there?

Speaking of Global Warming, why isn’t Fox News refuting the concept by using some live feeds from Australia where it is winter and there is sure to be some fair and balanced winter wonderland scenes to cancel out the deleterious effects that the American heat wave is having on skeptics of the so-called scientific theory? Who doesn’t love video of cute reporterettes in ski bunny costumes? Refute that, Mr. Peabody!

Alan Ginsberg has said: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix . . .” (Where they having a Debt Crisis debate back then, too?)

Was 1968 really all that good? Now the disk jockey will play 1968’s top ten albums, then you tell us if that was a good year or not. We have to get ourselves to the Beat Museum to see how our efforts to score a speaking gig there during this year’s Litquake are going. Have a “flower power” type week.

July 21, 2011

Summer Surfeit of Conspiracy Theories

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:32 pm

The American economy is being assessed as “sluggish”’ by some partisan writers on the left but reports are reaching the national desk at the World’s Laziest Journalist’s headquarters that indicate that the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is operating this summer at full capacity with three shifts working seven days a week. In the middle of the summer of 2011, here are some of the most preposterous examples of what is being peddled to the gullible.

In the era of pat-downs and scans at the airports, is it really that easy for a comedian with a plate of shaving cream to get onto the floor of Parliament?

Was the pie incident planned in advance by Murdoch’s spin doctors to generate sympathy and divert attention away from the testimony? Did his wife’s defense move come so fast because it had been rehearsed? What previous body guard experience has she had? Are we supposed to believe that it was a reflex reaction on the part of a hausfrau?

Have the Employees of Rupert Murdoch been exposed to some germs from the Bush Administration and will they soon be experiencing the manifestations of an epidemic of “witness amnesia?” What? You can’t recall what “witness amnesia” is? Well, then, there’s no use elaborating on this new conspiracy theory. We’ll let the matter drop.

Many of the new attempts at producing news worthy examples of conspiracy theories are a variation on the possibility that the nice kindly old gentleman (think of him as the Australian Geppetto?) in charge would have instigated some instances of extortion and political blackmail. (Didn’t Donald Rumsfeld often cite an old Al Capone quote: “A kind word and a gun, will get you a lot further than the kind word alone.”?)

Various refurbished classic old theories are being souped up (a la the hot rodders and pre-war dry lake racing scene) and being offered as “new and improved.” Conspiracy theorists contend that a second look is required now to explain some past sudden shifts in American politics.

Does the fact that a cousin of George W. Bush, who worked for Fox News in 2000 and changed the election night projection, in the middle of the night, for a Florida win for Gore to a win for Bush and thus flipped the outcome, indicate that there is need for a closer look?

Does the fact that a fellow called “Knute” was having an extra marital affair at the same time he was condemning Bill Clinton saying that the President should be impeached because of some funny business with an intern mean that “Knute” could have been coerced into backing some rule-bending which granted crucial exemptions to Murdoch?

Was the sudden epidemic of news stories alleging a mental break down by Howard Dean during a victory speech an example of a journalistic example of morphic resonance or was it part of a concerted coordinated conspiracy to bestow the “frontrunner” mantle on a Democrat for whom an extensive and far reaching attack on his strong point had been painstakingly assembled? Did the unexpected Dean surge catch the Murdoch smear machine off guard?

Did some bit of clandestine extortion and/or political blackmail occur during the twelve hours between the time Sen. Kerry told a nation wide TV audience that he would contest the 2004 election results in Ohio and the next morning when he suddenly switched to the “no worries, mate” attitude?

We’ve heard that one of MSNBC’s talking heads has raised questions about some high profile unexplained political resignations and the possibility of some stealth extortion and political blackmail.

One of the more interesting but almost completely ignored new conspiracy theories postulates a similarity between the crowded field of contenders for the Republican Party’s 2012 Presidential nomination and Agatha Christie’s classic mystery “Ten Little Indians.” The premise is that when the only Republican candidate left un-sullied is JEB, he will win the coveted prize by default. (Oh! Don’t say that word this summer.)

Doesn’t Fox wash away all doubts about the reliability of the unverifiable voting results from the electronic voting machines by reciting the ancient sorcerer’s incantation: “Conspiracy theory!”?

Some members of the conspiracy theory cult worshippers are asserting that the Wall Street Journal has done the Jekyll and Hide act with its (former) sterling reputation for untarnished quality news reporting. (What do ya bet that conspiracy theory is being espoused by an insignificant blogger with the journalism equivalent of penis envy?)

Is “integrity” at the WSJ as dead as the old nine column three deck headline reserved by the New York Times for use on the days that meant that the course of history had changed overnight?

Once upon a time there was a blogger who noticed that when the Bush Administration suggested that folks in America should construct an airtight panic room as a precaution to protect them from chemical or biological terrorisms attacks, it ignored the very strong potential for death from asphyxiation. He wrote a letter to the New York Times pointing out the grievous window of opportunity for tragedy.

The day his letter was published, the Secretary of Defense held a press conference to point out that the duct tape and plastic sheeting suggestion was only metaphorical and not to be taken literally. The poor self-deluded fool was ready to proclaim that he had made the blogging equivalent of “the Willie Mays catch.”

At that time, were high paid media grunts really that stupid that they couldn’t see the absurdity of the suggestion or did they see it and face a management embargo on stories that ridiculed any of the hysterical nonsense that was leading to war? (When the “Fuhrer” says jump: you peons jump and ask “how far” on the way up. Is that understood?)

President Obama’s track record seems to be falling short of the expectations of extreme lefties. Will they use the Murdoch hacking angle to concoct some speculation about some possible extortion and imaginary political blackmail which might have been applied to gain some concessions about Medicare and Social Security? (What could possibly be that effective as a game changer? Here is a possibility: Just picture the image of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK.)

How do you explain his betrayal of Medicare and Social Security? How much more harm will he do with “Four more years!”?

One obscure blogger in Berkeley is anxiously awaiting the announcement of this years nominees for the “Conspiracy Theory of the Year” award to see if his column asking if Obama is a secret Republican mole sent into the Democratic Party to dismantle the last vestiges of “The New Deal.” The Berkeley blogger is beginning to suspect that there is a secret plot to thwart his chance to win the coveted award.

Will the members of the American mainstream media offer some interline courtesy and help Murdoch deny and cover-up (as happened in Great Britain following the 2006 allegations) or will they conjure up images of Edward R. Murrow’s stand against Senator McCarthy and insist on exposing the details of the Murdoch Scandal? Would it be ironic if the Murdoch summer followed the Arab Spring?

TV critic Jack Gould said that Murrow’s McCarthy program displayed “crusading journalism of high responsibility and genuine courage.” (A. M. Sperber “Murrow: his life and times” Freundlich Books – New York, ©1986 hardback page 440)

America could use some more of that now because freedom of the press and concomitantly its effect on the democratic process is what’s at stake. Freedom of the press. Use it or lose it. The British Parliament didn’t believe Murdoch. Why should you?

It’s time for the closing quote. During the “See It Now Program” about McCarthy, Edward R. Murrow said “The line must be drawn or McCarthy will become the Government . . . ” Ibid. page 437 (Has Ibid. become extinct because of the “Dumbing down of America”?)

Now the disk jockey will play Buddy Holly’s “Think it over,” Patsy Cline’s “So Wrong,” and the Hank Williams (Sr.) song “Be careful of stones that you throw.” Now we have to go to America’s oldest newsstand (in Oakland?) to see if we can get a copy of Confidential magazine. Have an “Oh, boy!” type week.

July 18, 2011

“If you make the headline big enough . . .”

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:29 pm

In America, newspaper publishers have always been accorded high rank and special privileges in that democracy’s class-less society. The idea that publisher William Randolph Hearst arranged for the Spanish-American war to happen is widely believed inside and outside the journalism industry. When famed artist Fredrick Remington was sent to Cuba to cover the war, he sent a wire saying nothing was happening and he wanted to return back to the USA. Hearst responded: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Americans, who refuse to believe that Fox News coverage of the Bush election in 2000, the events of September 11, 2001, the run-up to the war in Afghanistan, the Invasion of Iraq, the need for the Patriot Act, and George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 was anything other than fair and balanced, are quite willing to believe that Fox’s owner did not make any effort to dictate America’s political history or foreign policy.

Did William Randolph Hearst manipulate President McKinley into not opposing a Congressional move to start a new war? (Back then Congress not the President would start a new war.) If Presidents were manipulated in the past; can they still be “played” in the age of cable news that travels at the speed of light?

Did Rupert have anything to do with the British Prime Minister’s invitation to America to join them in using oil rich Libya for target practice? Rupert doesn’t just happen to have a few shares of BP stock does he?

The Hearst saga is echoed in the film thought by many critics to be the greatest movie ever made: “Citizen Kane.” In the Orson Wells classic film, a fictional newspaper publisher, Charles Foster Kane, is portrayed as a champion of the poor and down trodden who cleverly manipulates the United States into the war with Spain.

The New York Times’ lead story for their Sunday, July 17, 2011, print edition (written by Don Van Natta Jr.) asserts that (some) journalists working for the American citizen and renowned newspaper publisher (in Great Britain, the USA, and Australia), Rupert Murdoch, may have hacked some phones in their pursuit of the never ending fight for Truth, Justice, and the Murdoch way of life.

The New York Times story jumped to a full page inside Section One and was augmented by a sidebar story that elaborated the details of Murdoch’s personal full, complete, and (should the qualifier “apparently” be used?) contrite apology to one crime victim’s family on Friday.

The lunatic conspiracy drones have been galvanized into action this past week and are asking questions to raise new suspicions in all three countries. They hint that if the Murdoch employees in Great Britain committed some misconduct (they must be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law) in Great Britain, then the “bad journalism” infection may have spread (unbeknownst to Murdoch himself and upper management in the two other countries) to the other news staffs in the USA and Australia.

Have you noticed that if you ask the grunts in corporate America about their assessment of upper management’s job performance, the folks in the trenches will be in unanimous agreement about the fact that the brass can’t differentiate manure from shoe polish but when it’s time for indictments to roll, they assume management “must have known” and the attitude suddenly changes to “Hang ‘em from the nearest tree!” Which is it? Only one can apply. Is it “the boss’ job” to know what’s happening or are they paid large salaries just for appearance sake?

If (subjunctive mood) some of Mr. Murdoch’s employees did stretch the limits of ethical conduct a tad during the Bush era, isn’t it obvious that in the three years of President Obama’s term in office, he has done absolutely nothing about investigating possible journalistic misconduct and therefore he must assume full and complete responsibility for any potential current offenses?

In contemporary American politics, the responsibility principle now applies to President Obama regarding war, torture, war crimes, taxes, recovery, economic stability, ecological issues and home foreclosures, so why wouldn’t it also apply to ultimate blame for the Murdoch scandal?

(Sixties cliché alert?) Journalists are a different breed of cat. Did the journalists reporting about how “carmageddon” failed to materialize seem disappointed?

Back in the early 80’s when the Olympic Games were scheduled to come to Los Angeles, there were similar dire predictions about gridlock. When the marathon of sports competitions began the slight increase in traffic congestion was barely noticeable.

Are some irrelevant news stories used to distract the voters from other more important news items which don’t fit the publisher’s hidden agenda?

Los Angeles can survive fires, earthquakes, Olympic Game traffic, and world famous murder trials. With the ease that they handled the weekend closure of the 405, the folks in L. A. can take credit once more for shaking off a new challenge to their famous “laid back” attitude.

Speaking of diversions on GOP TV (AKA Fox News), will any of the jackasses who try to prove the existence of global warming be among this year’s inductees for the Mad Scientist Hall of Fame?

Why must the Murdoch scandal be called “Rupertgate” or “Murdochgate”? Why can’t rogue bloggers call it “Murdochgeddon”?

On page A-12 of the Wall Street Journal’s print edition the lead editorial asked: “Do our media brethren really want to regulate how journalists gather the news?” That a really smooth way to divert attention away from the real crimes of possible extortion and perhaps even some political blackmail. Nice dodge, guys!

Note for fact checkers who want to play along at home: The Hearst quote at the beginning of this column can be found in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotes (it is in the 125th Anniversary edition on page 702) and since they have one of the best fact checking teams in publishing; that’s enough proof for the World’s Laziest Journalist.

Do it yourself fact checkers are encouraged to view “Citizen Kane,” and read “Citizen Hearst,” by S. M. Swanberg, “The Making of Citizen Kane,” by Robert L. Carringer, and “Lapdogs” (How the Press rolled over for Bush) by Eric Boehlert.

While your at it, check out this quote about the run-up to the Spanish American War found on page 140 of the Bantam Books paperback edition of “Citizen Hearst:” “In Washington, publicity-seeking Senators and Representatives were constantly guilty of indignant statements about Spanish cruelty and oppression based wholly on New York newspaper reports which were highly biased or downright fictitious.”

The Columbia Journalism Review is conducting an informal survey this summer to determine the best film about journalism. We left a comment about our opinion of Network and we’ll leave it to Pulitzer Prize winning film Critic Roger Ebert to remind them of “Citizen Kane.”

If Fox News does ignore Murdochgate, then at some point won’t that glaring omission become an example of substantiating evidence?

If Fox News is ordered to ignore Murdochgate, where can folks with inquiring minds learn more about this breaking story?
Try these websites:

and read these articles:
The aforementioned New York Times lead story on Sunday

and take a loot at:

David Swanson puts it rather succinctly

If Freedom of the Press has become extinct and honest election results are not a source for concern, doesn’t the “lock the barn after the horse is gone” principle apply? Why bother with woulda/coulda/shoulda nonsense at this point?

However, if, on the other hand, Freedom of the Press and honest elections are not DOA but merely wounded, and if Mr. Murdoch has used illegal means to promote his meddling and diminish Americans freedoms, then, unless people don’t really care if scores of Americans died in combat to protect those liberties, perhaps they should (at the very least) send a letter to their representatives in Congress urging multiple investigations as a way of providing triage for the wounded freedoms.

It’s time to insert this column’s closing quote. In “Citizen Kane,” Publisher Charles Foster Kane (Orson Wells) says: “You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.”

Now the disk jockey will play Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” “Down on Me,” and “Bye, Bye Baby.” (What? You think that Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s album “Déjà vu” would be better?) We have to go read up on Col. McCormick. Have a “Remember the Maine!” type week.

July 16, 2011

The Big “What if . . .?”

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:25 pm

There is a human tendency for people to assume that others are just like they are and that can cause some very great difficulties when two diverse groups must communicate (or negotiate) with each other. Psychologists call that tendency “Projection.”

This month in the United States, the Democrats, who believe that default would cause so much economic turmoil that it would be insane to choose that path, assume that the Republicans also think similarly. If, however, they are projecting they could be making a bit mistake. A catastrophic example of projection and some “what we have here is failure to communicate” unproductive bargaining sessions could soon produce a bad political situation for President Obama who will seek reelection next year.

Democratic politicians and liberal pundits seem reluctant to explore the ramifications of what becomes inevitable if the Republicans secretly wish to precipitate default. In the spirit of free wheeling and wide ranging informal analysis and strategy planning, let’s cut to the chase and ask: “What if the Republicans want default?”

What would the Republicans have to gain and what would they have to loose, if that’s what they get later this month?

For the Democrats, default will deliver a shitstorm of rancor and recriminations to the DNC headquarters.

Regret is a natural human tendency. (I’m sorry that I have to say that; but it’s true.) Consequently if default occurs, some less than stalwart Democrats will lament the pain and chaos and ask the rhetorical question: “If Obama knew this was coming, shouldn’t he have made more concessions?” (That ignores our basic premise that the Republicans preferred default and would ignore even a complete surrender on Obama’s part. but people tend to act within the limits of natural human conduct and many surely would ask that question.)

That, in turn, will have the unfortunate effect of diminishing the number of Democratic Party member votes for Obama’s reelection in November 2012. The precise number of voters thus lost is immaterial because if he looses: one that number will be irrelevant and two because of the degree of uncertainty caused by the unverifiable results from the electronic voting machines the precise number of disillusioned Democrats will be unable to be accurately measured.

That alone could be sufficient reason for the Republicans to make default an example of existential philosophy in action but there may be other bonus reasons for the Republicans to consciously work to make the default happen.

Default could bring on even more examples of mortgage loan defaults. (Can we get a public domain image of Snidely Whiplash holding the deed and tying Nel to the railroad tracks? [“Don’t worry, Nel, I’ll save you!”? Hah! Not bloody well likely.])

[Note: we heard a report on the radio (CBS radio news?) this week that banks have resumed the practice of issuing mortgage loans to unqualified buyers. Isn’t there a classic movie that asserts that every time a bank repossesses a home, an angel gets its wings?]

Default is almost sure to provide the folks with surplus cash (Wouldn’t that mostly be Republicans?) some juicy bargains in the stock market. When a stock market crash occurs there has to be one buyer each time some panic stricken stock holder sells. The buyers love a bargain.

Default will prove to be a “job-killer” and thus precipitate a very intense round of the blame game. Can’t you just picture it? If default happens some top Republican can shrug off that Party’s role in the disaster, point to Obama, and say: “What a man wants; he gets.”

If the default precipitates chaos, which political party will Fox News hold responsible? If Rupert and Fox lead, is any member of the mainstream media club strong enough to buck the trend?

There must be a downside for the Republicans to consider. There is. If default occurs then the exchange rate will change and vacations in Paris (or Perth?) will cost slightly more (or as the rich folks so quaintly put it: “A bigger lump of chump-change”).

Did President Obama make a real bad Freudian slip and give away the game when he said: “Don’t call my bluff.” Luke was holding nothing but he made them think he might have a pair of kings. There is a difference.

It used to be that the political pundit’s mission was to assess for his audience all the most likely possible courses of action. If all the available commentary on the ramifications of the debt crisis proceeds from the assumption that the Republicans aren’t crazy enough to let that happen, then American voters are being cheated out of the opportunity to consider the likely effects of one of the potential outcomes.

If the World’s Laziest Journalist isn’t the only columnist to suggest that an economic ambush/debacle is about to occur then readers are invited to post any relevant links in the comments section.

If, on the other hand, no one else is speculating about the possibility that the Republicans may be willing to “drive the economy off the cliff,” then we are going to need a bit of help (if for no other reason than to prove to future historians that the remote possibility was considered).

If readers of this column agree with the writer, then please send the link to others (or post it on their Facebook page) to alert them to the need for being aware of a potential very nasty dog day surprise waiting in the political wings. If the readers don’t agree, then they might send others the link (or put it on their Facebook page) just to get an example of their (reluctant?) endorsement of freedom of speech.

Before inserting the closing quote, we will add some additional substantiating evidence for the concept of “projection.”

Different ethnic groups with different religions tend to teach the members of the new generaation that theirs is the best religion and when the two diverse groups compare theologies, friction develops. Isn’t that because each diverse group projects their values and mindsets on to the other?

White folks from Great Britain arrived in Australia and ascertained that the local natives, called Aborigines, were not really human beings and could be hunted as an animal species. Some outside meddlers arrived and called it murder.

If one side of a dispute considers themselves to be logical and clear thinking, then why can’t the other side be just as reasonable? Isn’t it just a case of delivering “a word to the wise” and watching for the “Eureka!” moment? Can dueling examples of “projection” be used to explain the deadlock?

Which side of the abortion issue assumes that the other side “just doesn’t get it”?

There was a book that asserted that men and women think differently. It was titled “Women Are from Venus; Men Are from Mars.” (Will there be a sequel title: “Democrats are from Venus; Republicans are from the planet named after the god of war!”?)

If people think that the psychological phenomenon called “projection” really does exist, then shouldn’t members of the tea party be enthusiastic about a chance to convince college graduates that it’s just another intellectual scam from the twerps (when was the last time you saw that word online?) called “scientists”?

BTW how come college graduates endorse taxes for school improvement and high school drop-outs think that raises for teachers is an example from the list of government give-a-ways?

In the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” the Captain (Strother Martin) explains life to the prisoners: “You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice you got yourself two sets. You ain’t gonna need no third set, ’cause you gonna get your mind right.” Can that be used as a metaphor for political confrontations on the road to reelection? Will John Boehner ever stand in front of the microphones and say: “Get your mind right, Mr. President!”?

Now the disk jockey will play Eddie Cochran’s 1957 recording “Mean when I’m Mad,” the theme song from “High Noon,” and Johnny Cash’s “Guess Things Happen That Way.” We have to go check up on the Murdoch scandal in Australia. Have a “standing in the rain talkin’ to myself” type week.

July 14, 2011

“Network” and the Murdock Scandal

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:48 pm

Was the 1976 Oscar™ winning film “Network” an amazingly accurate roman a clef based on this summer’s trials and tribulations of poor, poor pitiful Rupert Murdock or was it just a good guess about what could happen in the future?

[Spoiler warning: this column will reveal surprise plot points. If you have not seen the 1976 film, Network, it would be better if you made the effort to watch it and then read this column. If you have already seen the film, you might get more enjoyment from it and this column, if you re-view it and then read this assessment of that classic film and its chillingly accurate predictions.]

The World’s Laziest Journalist betook himself to San Francisco CA to attend the weekly front steps used book sale at the San Francisco Public Library’s main branch that is conducted (weather permitting) each Wednesday during the May to September months.

When we spotted Network amongst a trove of VHS tapes that appealed to our columnist instincts (“Notorious,” “King Kong,” “High Noon,” the original version of “the Manchurian Candidate” and “Twelve O’Clock High” [Expect more plugs for Donald L. Miller’s book “Masters of the Air” in future columns]), we glommed on to it with gun fighter reflexes speed.

In “Network,” legendary newsman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) – a fictional member of the “Murrow’s Boys” gang – uses his influential position as a journalist with a regular network TV show to do the bidding of a wealthy mogul who is a front man for the Arab royal family. Beale is assigned to convince Americans that they are insignificant cogs in a new and improved world where democracy has become obsolete and business is the raison d’être for the existence of humanity. How close to home does this classic film hit?

Some alarmists (conspiracy theory nuts?) are implying that if (subjunctive mood) Rupert Murdoch meddled with politics in both Great Britain and Australia, he may have, could have, might possibly have also done so in the United States of America. This irresponsible reckless speculation is based upon the assumption that many Americans aren’t fully informed on political issues.

[This just in: C-SPAN is (allegedly) being eliminated from some cable pay packages in the Berkeley CA area.]

There was an item on the Internet, on The Australian web site, that asserted that an investigation into the (alleged) influence Rupert Murdoch may have had on the politics in the country where he was born.

As a hypothetical example of how Murdoch may have possibly meddled, the host of the progressive talk show (that airs on KKGN from 6 to 9 P. M. in the Pacific Time Zone, each weekday evening) postulated a hypothetical example of how such imaginary meddling might have worked, suppose (hypothetically) that Rupert Murdoch’s aggressive style of journalism fact finding divulged that a guy in America’s legislature (we’ll call him “Knute”) was simultaneously having an extra-marital affair while urging that a fellow southerner in the White House should be impeached for defending a woman’s honor by telling a fib under oath. (The WLJ legal advisors insist on such convoluted cautionary wording and we trust their judgment.)

Additionally, the talk show host urged listeners to imagine what would happen if Rupert Murdoch were to use that knowledge as a bargaining chip in discussion with “Knute” about granting some legal dispensations to the Murdock empire so that they could establish a new beachhead in America for Murdoch’s brand of aggressively and selectively dishing the dirt out on politicians who opposed his efforts?

[Wouldn’t all this sound so much more palatable if the voice of Rod Serling could be used to supply the vocal track?]

If Rupert Murdoch were to use political blackmail to achieve his goals, wouldn’t some Paul Wellstoneish fellow do the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” routine in opposition? What ever happened to Senator Wellstone?

Does that radio guy think that decency and honesty in politics and fair and balanced journalism have done a variation of the “no survivors” results at the Battle of the Little Big Horn? He might be right, eh?

Murdoch came to America, got some legislative breaks, and started Fox News. Does that mean that Paddy Chayefsky was spot-on with a prescient script all that long ago or are there merely some superfluous basic plot similarities?

Would Vincent Canby call the summer of 2011 “brilliantly, surprisingly funny,” as he did “Network”?

BTW if Fox News blatantly ignores the various stories involving Rupert Murdoch, does that mean that they should change their motto to: “the best Biased and Slanted opinions that Rupert’s money can buy”?

The shopping expedition to fog city has had a noticeable detrimental effect on this columnist’s reserve energy level and so we will eliminate any attempts to draw some conclusions for our readers and merely strongly urge them to make a concerted effort to get a chance to see “Network” either again or for the first time, this weekend, and then decide if it was time well spent or if it was a wild goose chase.

Almost thirty five years ago Howard Beale summed it up thusly: “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Now, the disk jockey will play “Happy Days Are Here Again,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and Fred Waring’s “Little White Lies.” We have to go find a the specifics for next year’s Conspiracy Theory Convention. Have a “good night and good luck” type week.

July 12, 2011

How is a columnist like a fighter pilot?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:24 pm

President Obama’s expects blind fanatical devotion from Liberal bloggers that reaches the same level of intensity as did the evening TV newscasts from Berlin during the era of the Third Reich. Many teabagging journalism critics may be surprised to learn that even before CBS radio started to recruit newspaper reporters for the gang that became known as “Murrow’s Boys,” Germany had a nightly newscast on TV. The 1936 Olympic Games were telecast but it used a convoluted technology that got images that were a minute old from freshly developed movie film. The German leader devised the publicity generating ploy of the Olympic flame. The nightly TV newscasts were suspended long before VE Day. The pro-Obama bloggers slogger on.

Conversely, curmudgeonly online columnists are accorded the same broad amount of permissiveness as are the fellows who deliver the opening monologues on the late night marathons of promobabble. Columnists are free to lampoon the President if they stumble across any potential for hilarity such as (hypothetically) if a President from the Democratic Party inadvertently began to help the Republicans achieve their dream goal of dismantling FDR’s “New Deal.”

Imagine for a moment that Johnny Carson were able again to do such a monologue recently and that he laughingly speculated that if the CIA had been permitted to use their famous “enhanced intorogation” methods, the Casey Anthony case would have ended with a confession. He could get away with such an example of a hilarious hypothetical, right?

Any Liberal Blogger who attempted to emulate such impunity would be given a time out and sent to his/her room if not actually dismissed from the roster of daily boosters of the President’s cause.

Cynical columnists would defend their obstreperousness by pointing to page 285 of Donald L. Miller’s book, Masters of the Air, because the author delineated the different qualities that were considered when picking bomber pilots or fighter pilots. If someone showed “rapid hand-eye co-ordination, aggressiveness, boldness, individuality, and a zest for battle,” they were more qualified for fighter pilot training. The ideal candidate for bomber pilot training displayed “physical strength, judgment, emotional stamina, dependability, team play, discipline, and leadership.”

Bert Stiles was both a B-17 pilot and a fighter pilot (P-51 Mustang). After completing his 35 bombing missions and qualifying for reassignment back to the states, he asked to be reassigned as a fighter pilot. We read his book “Serenade to the Big Bird” while in high school.

Newspaper reporters would be more like bomber pilots and the columnists would be more like the fighter pilots.

Bloggers are much better at doing what they are told to do and they will help President Obama get reelected so that he can continue to work his magic for four more years. They will ignore the reliability factor of the electronic voting machine results because if they don’t they will sound like conspiracy theory nuts. Capiche?

A blogger will accept his mission unquestioningly. You will hammer home the point about the possibility that the next President might get to make some important nominations for the Supreme Court.

The permissiveness for columnists often reminds his audience of the passage in the aforementioned Miller book (again on page 285) that goes: “This often encouraged explosive recklessness and dangerous exhibitionism, . . . .” (“Capt. Willard, are my methods unsound?”)

Would a rogue columnist be reluctant to challenge his audience to imagine President Obama saying to Rupert Murdock: “Please, I’ll do anything you ask if you will please, please, please quash this story.”?

Wouldn’t Freddie Francisco (from Berkeley CA), also known as “Mr. San Francisco,” also approve?

Bloggers will not be free to point out that the 2011 Presidential Election is shaping up to be a competition between an extreme Republican and a moderate Republican seeking reelection.

Is the Red Barron’s mantle of invincibility greater than Obama’s reelection chances?

How many unearned electoral votes will the electronic voting machines award to the Republican candidate? Will it be five or six? Was “Dirty Harry” a fighter pilot in WWII?

The chances that the average voter won’t be as effectively represented in the Debt Ceiling crisis debate as will the folks in the “no millionaire left behind” squadron suggest to this columnist that he should make a concerted effort to do the fact finding that would be needed to frame the Debt Ceiling issue in the form of a basic plot paradigm from the film noir genre. (Maybe not today. Mayby not tomorrow, but some day soon.)

Wasn’t it in the film “The Great McGinty,” that Claude Rains said: “Ricky, I’m shocked. I’m shocked to learn that fraud is being suspected in the electronic voting machine elections!”?

George Raft has said: “I must have gone through $10 million during my career. Part of the loot went for gambling, part for horses, and part for women. The rest I spent foolishly.” Would that have been in the form of campaign contributions?

Now the disk jockey will play “Sky Pilot,” “Snoopy and the Red Barron,” and the Pogue song “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” We have to go hunting for our copy of “Catch 22.” Have a “bombs away!” type week.

July 11, 2011

Trend-spotting in Punditry Land

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:32 pm

Manohla Dargis authored an essay for the Sunday, July 10, 2011 edition of the New York Times that applied some of the information in the new book “The Invisible Gorilla” to the art of film reviewing. She elaborated how movie directors often go to extensive lengths to manipulate the audience’s attention. Bloggers will find that much of what she was trying to teach rookie film critics also applies to the art of political punditry and they are encouraged to read it online or on page 13 of the hard copy’s Arts and Leisure section.

The book contends (and Ms. Dargis seconds the idea) that sometimes folks get so intent on something that they see what they want to see and disregard all the rest (as lies and jest?). Haven’t magicians been making a comfortable living based on that principle for decades? Don’t they call it “The Three card Monty” Shuffle? Didn’t Banksey use the converse of that principle as the basis for his “Elephant in the Room” installation in Los Angeles, a few years ago?

Aren’t the efforts of the JEB Bush campaign to win the 2012 Republican nomination a viable example of the Invisible Gorilla book’s contention that (to rob another book title) Naked is the Best Disguise? Heck, if Karl Rove goes on the Sean Hannity radio show and while assessing the various candidates’ chances overlooks JEB, isn’t that proof that if he has fooled himself into forgetting about JEB’s efforts, then all the peons in Punditvania will also drop JEB from the evaluation process? Whew! Maybe the Fox Hacking team will also be fooled and not bother to pry into JEB’s telephone answering machine and come up with an embarrassing scoop? Wouldn’t that be a very lucky break for the JEBster?

Ms. Dargis suggests that “inattentional blindness” and “change blindness” help perpetuate some of the visual frauds in cinema.

Wow! What would happen if a Democratic President promised “change” and subsequently Karl Rove imposed the principle of “change blindness” on his pals in the national media who were searching diligently for opportunities to have a “Eurika!” moment in the contemporary political perception arena called “status quo chaos”?

Did we mention that Harry Houdini was the first person to pilot an aircraft flight on the continent of Australia?

Ms. Dargis quotes theorist David Bordwell as saying (on his blog) that “perceptually films are illusions . . .” and that reminded this columnist of the time (as a kid) when we asked an aunt who loved Western Movies, if so many of the actors, who were hired to be Indians and cowboys, were getting killed each week, why didn’t Hollywood run out of actors? At that point we were informed that the weekly images of massive massacres were only people playing pretend. (Just like with the bombings to kill Col Qaddafi?)

Boy, do the pacifists in Berkeley get pissed when they see film purporting to show massive carnage in Iraq? Dude, relax, it’s just a movie! Isn’t it ironic that a city known for the Peace symbol is home to a weapons laboratory?

Ms. Dargis then quotes a British psychologist, Dr. Tim Smith, about the fact that directors and actors do the same thing that magicians do: i.e. get the audience to look where they want them to look so that they miss seeing/learning something else that might spoil the fun/effect/surprise.

Our favorite British psychologist is Rupert Sheldrake and a quote about his concept of morphic resonance might have been germane to the topic, but oh well, you don’t always get what you want (but if you try some times?) . . .”

Wouldn’t it be funny if Roger Ebert wrote a review saying that remake of “The Italian Job” was a good summer action flick but nothing close to an existentialist drama and then some online fellow wrote a review that was peppred with quotes from Camus and Sartre showing that it was a superb example of existentialism in the cinema?

The American military got a line for the Marine Corps song when they fought the Barbary Coast pirates, then they went back to the same local to kick Rommel’s ass and turn the tide (“It is not even the beginning of the end.”) in WWII, and so Col. Qaddafi had best mind the American’ folk wisdom: “Three’s the charm.”

Is it true that on some liberal aggregator web sites that the contributors are not permitted to write about using cuts in the Social Security program to help solve the Budget crisis because such wild unsubstantiated speculation sound suspiciously like a conspiracy theory? Isn’t the President’s willingness to sanction such an obvious solution to the problem while all the other Democrats “can’t see it,” similar to the Invisible Gorilla principle?

Isn’t it time for political pundits to start gathering some facts about movies depicting cars driving off a cliff for some hip cultural references in their budget crisis commentaries? In “North by Northwest,” Carry Grant almost drives off a cliff. In “Rebel without a Cause,” and “Thelma and Louise,” cars do drive off a cliff.

For bloggers who are partisan cheerleaders the fact that they will have to work harder in the next year to support President Obama and help get out the vote for his reelection seems to be their equivalent of the Invisible Gorilla.

For curmudgeonly columnists, who see their mission as being critics of the status quo, their Invisible Gorilla moment might be to ask if there should be an investigation into the possibility that the Murdock media in the USA may have used the same methods of journalism as they did in Great Britain. (Would it be an example of überhubris to assert that only folks who have read every word in Ulysses can maintain that a practitioner of three dot journalism is obtuse?)

If major league Football and Basketball disappears in the USA, what’s going to happen next Spring at baseball training camps? Will Fox cable sports channel start to use their Australian facilities to provide a feed for cricket and rugby matches? Will Americans suddenly start wearing West Coast Eagle T-shirts?

How many Fremantle **ckers fans live in Concordia Kansas? (Not even Mike Malloy can legally say the name of that team on the air.) If the number of **cker fans in that Kansas town grows perceptibly that would be a real change, eh?

Speaking of Tricks; did Houdini teach an Australian publisher the lesson that if an elephant disappears, it’s much harder for folks to sue that elephant? Isn’t it obvious that it is harder to sue a paper empire that has been dissolved? It’s just like the lyrics of the song: “Why deny the obvious, child?”

President Obama is asserting that if the budget crisis isn’t solved ASAP, there will be a double-dip recession. As far as the Republicans are concerned, isn’t that like B’rer Bear and B’rer Fox threatening to throw B’rer Rabbit into the briar patch?

Tom Wolfe has written: “The young architects and artists who came to the Bauhaus to live and study and learn from the Silver Prince talked about ‘starting from zero.’”

Now the disk jockey will play Ray Steven’s “Gitarzan,” and “Harry the Hairy Ape,” and Ernie Kovacs’ Nairobi Trio’s version of “Solfeggio.” We have to go investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of St. Ronald Reagan’s costar, Bonzo. Have a “keep your eye on the ball” type week.

July 5, 2011

Zorro in Libya?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:19 pm

Purportedly one of the advantages of the computer era is that citizens with blogs will provide backup for the news media staffs that are stretched to the breaking point by cost cutting layoffs. There is danger in letting that bit of reassuring nonsense go unchallenged because if the backup capabilities of the citizen journalist is nothing more than an urban legend, then any unscrupulous villain who wanted to manipulate public opinion would have the public relying on a safety measure that was fictional and thus have a better chance of fooling the citizens with a lineup of meek and subservient lackeys providing the ruse of a Potemkin Journalism Industry which would (ostensibly) delight in reporting the very sham which they are helping to perpetrate.

Any blogger who uttered such First Amendment blasphemy would be expected to provide an example of a bit of news which would provide a text book perfect example of a news item that was being ignored by the media when it should be brought to the public’s attention. It would be even more convincing if such a blogger were to provide several stealth news items which if taken together would make a strong case for any wild conspiracy theory about how bloggers have as much sway with national media as Hans Brinker did with his neighbors.

Americans, who expect their media to use their Constitutional right to inform the citizens of any governmental misconduct, are often very condescending when evaluating the fact that in Germany during the Third Reich era, the news media there let national policy go unchallenged.

In the summer of 2011, are the journalists of America pointing out that after three months of conducting air strikes against Col. Qaddafi to protect that country’s inhabitants from his wrath, he continues to live? Beyond the irony of the fact that a small rag-tag band of fanatical amateur members of al Qaeda achieved their goal in one day and the USA with state of the art technical weaponry, the best spy information that money can buy, intelligence gathered by satellites, and a minor amount of anti-aircraft protection from the Libyans, they still haven’t been able to kill the one man who is their target and thereby opens up a chance that the USA will inadvertently bestow a folk hero status (a la Zorro?) on the elusive Libyan leader.

Will American media point out any collateral damage attached to the extreme effort to kill just one man? Other than one rogue story about one example of civilian casualties have American media reported any possibility that extensive collateral damage makes a mockery of the concept of unleashing a massive amount of explosives to protect the Libyans from the fellow who has been that country’s leader for almost 40 years?

A one hundred day series of air strikes to protect the citizens of Libya from their leader has been successfully marketed as a humanitarian effort. Shouldn’t the ever vigilant American media offer an explanation about whether the Libya mission ranks above or below the bombing of Guernica on the humanitarian effort scale?

If Col. Qaddafi were killed in an air strike today, would the air strikes continue? If so would Americans be provided with any explanation? Silence implies consent and the American free press is very silent about the effort to kill Col. Qaddafi.

If, as some outspoken progressive pundits would have their audiences believe, there is a concerted Republican effort to break unions, shouldn’t some of the sports departments assigned to cover American football and basketball games be offering up some conjecture about the possibility that two simultaneous lockouts in the USA sports scene are part of that political trend? Will a baseball lockout be next?

If a movie critic with a well respected reputation were to write a reevaluation of the 1980 movie, “The Formula,” and ask if the Germans during World War II were able to use coal to produce gasoline back then why isn’t that scientific achievement being used now to help stabilize prices at that gas pump in the USA? Wouldn’t the various editorial departments pick that up as a way to cope with the journalistic challenge of the dog days of summer? If the concept of citizen journalists providing backup for the national media is valid, wouldn’t a citizen blogger who asked these questions produce a mainstream media reaction?

[Note: An online columnist who asks questions that the mainstream media won’t is usually classified as a conspiracy theory crazy and is therefore ineligible to be an example of citizen journalism in action. The real question is: Should such unmanageable “loose cannon” writers even be considered to be human beings?]

One hand washes the other. If the idea that the German method for producing gasoline from coal would embarrass the big oil companies, then perhaps it is just an exaggerated example of “interline courtesy” to assume that media would be mum about such a footnote from the history books and let the oil companies maintain their high prices by perpetuating the “lost technology” myth about the German source for gasoline during World War II.

It has been suggested that the citizen groups in California that will assist in the efforts to redraw the new Congressional district maps are being swamped with applicants from the Tea Party side of the political spectrum. Aren’t the assignment desks at the New York Times and CBS sure to pounce on that story the first time a blogger mentions it? Or is the concept of “citizen journalist” just an urban legend?

If citizen journalism were a valid concept, wouldn’t there be annual awards for the best blogger scoops? You don’t expect the Pulitzer folks to hand out one of their awards to someone who scooped all of America’s editorial writers, do ya? To the best of our knowledge, there are no citizen journalist awards. Do they actually exist but suffer from an unknown gentlemen’s agreement among media to not give them any publicity? If you believe that, then you are eligible to apply for membership in the group that does give out awards for the year’s best new conspiracy theories.

Go back to sleep, America. On Saturday, this columnist noticed a story, posted online, with a headline indicating that President Obama has already lost the Budget Crises battle.

For the closing quote, we will allude to the movie line where Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman) says: “I’m just standin’ in the rain talkin’ to myself.”

Now the disk jockey will play “One is the loneliest number,” “Alone again, naturally,” and Patsy Cline’s version of “Crazy” (which was written by Willie Nelson [more than fifty years ago?]). We have to go make a design so we can get rich selling “Four more Years!” T-shirts. Have a “Tell Mr. DeMille I’m ready for my close-up!” type week.

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