April 15, 2011

Odd jobs: Getting by in America’s new patch-work economy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:11 am

Now that most of America’s social safety nets have either already disappeared or are currently in the process of getting shredded really fast, then pretty much all that we have left now are bragging rights for having created the largest number of corporate billionaire robber barons ever in the history of the planet — and only they are allowed to have government safety nets, not us. So how are we little folks gonna survive when the going gets really tough? Here’s a good suggestion: Fake it.

There’s not much of a chance that any of us will be able to land some cushy well-paying job on Wall Street or Rodeo Drive in the near future (unless of course we have at least five lobbyists working for us in Congress) but somehow we too have still gotta make ends meet, right? So how are we supposed to do that? Fake it. “But doesn’t the expression that you’re quoting actually say, ‘fake it until you make it’, Jane?” you might ask. Not any more. That part of the expression has been pretty much canned. No one in America is gonna be “making it” here any more — unless of course you are a war profiteer, were a member of Skull and Bones at Yale or are currently receiving Bush-Obama welfare-for-the-rich handouts. Which most of us are not. But, hopefully, we can still fake it just enough to get by.

“But how?”

By doing a little bit of everything and then patching a do-able income together from the pieces — piece by piece. Sell at the flea market. Raise petunias. Babysit. Take in washing. Make wine in the basement. Deliver newspapers. Panhandle. Bag groceries. Do odd jobs.

“But Jane,” you might say, “that’s repugnant. Those kinds of jobs are beneath me. That’s the kind of thing that undocumented immigrants and over-achieving teenagers trying to earn money for prom night might do — not people like me.” Hey, you shoulda thought of that before you voted for Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama, and became Teabaggers, Limbaugh fans and friends of Fox News. Too late to complain now!

Now you just gotta get out there and HUSTLE.

PS: Living on Social Security may sucks eggs but there’s something even far worse than that — having no Social Security at all. Thank goodness for FDR and Social Security and the New Deal! Too bad that it’s too late to bring all of that good stuff back again, but we’ve already given most of the money we would have needed to make it happen away to war profiteers and rich people who have butlers, maids, lobbyists and Congressmen to wait on them hand and foot.

How come nobody in America seems to be pissed of about this sad situation but me?

PPS: Unfortunately, I also practice what I preach — and lately have become the Queen of odd jobs. I substitute teach at the local juvenile hall, try to sell my books, take an occasional role as an extra in movies (look for me in the crowd scene in Moneyball when it finally gets released), try to sell T-shirts and coffee mugs with inspirational titles such as “Life is a competition — the winners are the ones who do the most good deeds,” read palms and tell fortunes, take an occasional evil-doer to court, hold yard sales, become a traveling notary public, etc.

You can buy my fabulous and entertaining book on the Middle East at and my fabulous and entertaining book on the Hajj at And you can buy my T-shirts and coffee mugs here:

But I truly have really bad money karma and most of my many money-raising schemes don’t ever work out — so now I’m also patching together a lot of other ways to survive as well. And while America’s billionaires seem to feel all neglected and deprived if they are forced to suffer along with owning only two yachts and three BMWs apiece, I’m busy trying to make ends meet by squeezing every penny I own until the eagle screams. Or Lincoln gets pissed off. Or whatever.

One television role that I recently auditioned for involves playing a contestant on a new reality show about people who know how to get food for free. I am totally qualified for this role! Here’s their blurb: “All-new docu-reality series seeking people who eat for FREE! Do you get a thrill out of spending little to no money on food? Do you dedicate your life to scoring meals in clever ways? Have you perfected the art of dumpster diving, coupon clipping to an obsessive degree, or bartering your way to a full stomach? Do you crash events, meetings, and open houses just for the free feast? This all-new series for a major cable network will explore the lives of people who have mastered the art of eating for free.”

And at the rate that we Americans are being happily fleeced by corporatist rich people these days, it looks like almost everyone in America will be qualified to audition for this show pretty soon — not just me.

PPPS: This April, I paid more federal taxes than General Electric and Bank of America combined. Does anyone but me see anything wrong with this picture?

Like the bumper sticker on my 1990 Toyota (Hey don’t laugh — it runs well, is paid for and gets over 30 mpg) says, “Tax the Rich!”

PPPPS: Here’s a description of a student film role that I’m about to audition for. It’s entitled “Street Zombies” and sounds like fun, even if there isn’t gonna be any patch-work pay involved. “We need several extras to get bloody and fill the screen to create the feeling the world has gone completely mad.” I can do that!


April 14, 2011

National Columnists’ Day for Gonzo Journalists

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:22 pm

National Columnists’ Day occurs annually on April 18 because it was on that date in 1945 that war correspondent/columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action on the island of Ie Shima. In past years, our annual National Columnists’ Day column has detailed Pyle’s life and career and in other years it was devoted to other memorable columnists such as Herb Caen and Walter Winchell. About two weeks ago, we took a break from the task of selecting a subject for this year’s installment and went down to the local Half Price Bookstore in downtown Berkeley to score a bargain bin copy of Ammo Books’ “Hunter S. Thompson,” which is subtitled “Gonzo.”

Recently, we had caught a screening of the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and followed it up with an immediate repeat viewing via a VHS tape, on the following day. The “Gonzo” book, edited by Steve Crist and Laila Nabulsi, includes photos and reproductions of memorabilia from Thompson’s life. While perusing the new addition to the collection, because a friend is preparing to celebrate her fortieth birthday, we noticed one particular illustration in the Ammo book; it was a certificate of achievement, from the National District Attorneys Association noting the fact that the Thompson had covered the Third National Institute Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs convention which was held, in Las Vegas, on April 25 to 29 in 1971. We realized that the events described in Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” book were also celebrating their 40th birthday.

After starting to reread the book, we recalled reading columns by Hunter S. Thompson in the (now defunct) Los Angeles Herald Examiner and then later, in the computer age, online. Thompson has always been hard to categorize and so it seemed that selecting him to be the peg for this year’s installment of our annual National Columnists’ Day column made the choice a “slam-dunk” because forty years after Thompson blurred the lines between fiction and journalism all of American Journalism has become a credibility challenge for those who want to know if what the government is telling the people is fact or fable.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is subtitled: “A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream” and that may be a play on title of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Forty years ago, the concept of the “American Dream” evoked clichéd references to a home surrounded by a white picket fence. Today, the thought of a “home” conjures up images of thousands of families being thrown out of their homes by wealthy businessmen (who contribute generously to various political reelection funds?) who are just as savage and ruthless as any native warrior encountered by Marlow in the journey described in the Conrad novel.

Forty years after Thompson lampooned the American Dream, circa 1971, the USA is full of disillusioned families with broken dreams trying desperately to cope with homelessness and the darkness in their new depression era hearts. The country is going broke fighting three separate perpetual military adventures which are either just for the pure fun of it or are wars of imperialistic aggression. The American Dream has morphed into a nightmare while American Journalism stands by obsessing over the latest celebrity gossip about Charlie Sheen and ignoring the Republican Party’s coordinated efforts to vandalize and sabotage the Democratic process of holding honest elections.

Thompson helped popularize the term “Gonzo Journalism” which became a handy label for a Sixties journalism trend marked by the writer including himself in the events being described while simultaneously exaggerating some factual aspects of the story. (For a more scholarly approach to the wide open and vague bit of fact checking about the origin of the word “gonzo,” refer to page 128 of Jann S. Wenner and Corey Seymour’s oral biography of Thompson, titled “Gonzo,” published in 2007 by Little Brown and Co.)

In the early stages of Internets development, we belonged to an e-mail group of people (mostly scholars) who were focused on all things concerning Ernst Hemingway and they accepted without challenge the idea that the degree of involvement of the writer in his own story, as far as both Hemingway and Thompson were concerned, was about equal. The term “gonzo” had not come into contemporary American Literary culture when Hemingway was writing (and producing columns) about WWII and the Spanish Civil War. Is it possible to make the case for asserting that Hemingway was the spiritual godfather of gonzo journalism?

While George W. Bush was President, columnists who furnished vitriolic criticism of the fellow, who Thomas called “the child-President,” became wildly popular on liberal web sites and attracted an eager audience whose appetite for disparaging remarks about the occupant in the White House couldn’t be satisfied by a relentless torrent of criticism.

In “Kingdom of Fear,” the last of Thompson’s books published while he was still alive, the pessimistic attitude regarding the future of America is epitomized by the phrase “Big Darkness Soon Come” and it doesn’t take a scholar with impeccable academic credentials to say that if Thompson had lived, he would be very acerbic in his assessments of George W. Bush’s successor who has rubber stamped his approval (“imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”) of almost every one of Bush’s outrages against the Geneva Accords and the rules of engagement.

Thompson was relentless in applying his philosophy regarding politicians (“Don’t take any guff from these swine”) to the Bush Administration and anyone who wants to assume that Thompson would give President Obama a pass and, instead, provide partisan platitudes just because he wasn’t a Republican is asking for a stretch in logic that betrays the foundations of rational thinking.

Thompson’s righteous indignation, directed against George W. Bush, was a matter of principle not subject to change when a new President from the other major political party took the oath of office, rather than being an example of partisanship (of the German salute level of commitment kind) which would defy credibility when it broke the WTF barrier of logic and did a complete 180 degree about-face to mollify the new war monger (not that the new guy gives a farthing about what columnists or bloggers think of his ERA [or era?]) Thompson would have continued his acerbic snarky attitude with only the name of the President being criticized changed.

Philip K. Dick, in “Man in the High Tower,” envisioned a cult hero writer adored by his fans who lived in isolation in Colorado. The World’s Laziest Journalist is alone in his conviction that Dick had accurately forecast the cult of Thompson fans, in his alternative history novel which was written and published when Thompson was graduating from high school and serving a hitch in the Air Force. If this columnist was younger and more ambitious, he might consider doing a doctoral thesis as the basis for a comparison of the real life writer to Dick’s fictional character.

Thompson’s biographers report that he was obsessive in his slavish attention to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby” and that Hunter may have either consciously or unconsciously patterned “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” on Fitzgerald’s work of fiction. Ironically, the Fitzgerald novel has become an icon of life in the Twenties during prohibition and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” has become a symbol of the hippie life style. Each novel has come to epitomize an American generation. Perhaps some diligent liberal arts graduate student will do a doctoral thesis comparing and contrasting the two (related?) examples of classic contemporary American Literature?

While gathering information for this column we were informed that Cliff Notes does not have a detailed critical analysis of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” available. Perhaps some industrious literary critic will now send a query letter to the Cliff Notes commandant and perhaps that gap will be remedied?

The fact that the Beat Museum (in San Francisco) has become the host site for two courses (for college credit?) in creative writing brought to mind the academic consternation caused when a pioneering effort to teach a course in Beat Literature was a controversial innovation and that, in turn, caused us to wonder if any college or university anywhere offers a course of study (Gonzo 101?) devoted to the works of Hunter S. Thompson or an overview of Gonzo journalism per se.

Ernie Pyle went to England to cover the Battle of Britain. Hunter S. Thompson covered the Viet Cong’s arrival in Saigon after American troops were evacuated. Would it be too Philip K. Dick-ish to try to envision how an imaginary encounter between Pyle, if he had lived longer, and Thompson, during the evacuation of Saigon, would have played out?

Looking through the index for Karl E. Meyer’s book “Pundits, Poets, & Wits (An Omnibus of American Newspaper Columns)” it is obvious that we could have made a different less controversial selection for this year’s installment of our National Columnists’ Day column, but the fact that Thompson could be a contentious choice made it all the more imperative to do so.

About his friend Oscar Zeta Acosta, Thompson wrote: “Oscar was one of God’s own prototypes – a high powered mutant of some kind who was never even considered for mass production. He was too weird to live, and too rare to die.” The same might be said of Thompson himself.

Now the disk jockey will play the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” soundtrack album. We have to go to a wifi hot spot and post this column early as a way to stir up a “my National Columnists’ Day column is better than yours” competition to increase public awareness of the annual event. Have a “Gonzo” type week.

$4 per gallon gasoline in WI, contango and Koch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 5:59 am

Author’s note:
And the rape of third world states like Wisconsin continues…

Gasoline prices in Madison and around the country have increased to nearly $4.00 per gallon – the highest price for consumers since the summer of 2008. So-called analysts in corporate media blame the increase on free market fundamentals relating to supply and demand, such as OPEC policies, the unrest in Libya and increased demand in China and India.

The truth is that market fundamentals are not driving gasoline prices up. Libya produces about 2 percent of the world’s oil and only 5 percent of that goes to U.S. companies. Furthermore, oil production is at a record high, with an adequate supply of crude to meet global demands.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) commissioner Bart Chilton recently explained that rampant oil speculation, which is at its highest level in 2011, is to blame for current prices.

A commodity market is said to be in “contango” when demand is expected to outstrip supply and future prices are expected to rise. Big banks and companies like Koch employ a contango strategy by buying up oil and storing it in massive containers both on land and offshore to lock in the oil for sale later at a set price. Sort of like the Wal-Mart of Wall Street.

What most people do not know, however, is that Koch Industries occupies a unique role in manipulating the oil market and is one of the top five largest distributors of gasoline and oil that engages in the practice. Koch Industries, unlike well-known oil companies, has little involvement in the extraction process of procuring crude oil. Instead, the conglomerate focuses on shipping crude oil, refining it, speculating on the future price, and then distributing it to retailers.

In 2008, David Chang from Koch Industries drew attention among clients by bragging that falling crude prices in 2008 provided an opportunity to remove oil from the market for future delivery. He said:

The drop in crude oil prices from more than US $145 per barrel in July 2008 to less than US $35 per barrel in December 2008 has presented opportunities for companies such as ours. In the physical business, purchases of crude oil from producers and storing offshore in tankers allow us to benefit from the contango market where crude prices are higher for future delivery than for prompt delivery.

In December of 2008, Koch Industries leased “four supertankers to hold oil in the U.S. Gulf Coast to take advantage of rising prices in the months ahead.” Writing about Koch’s contango efforts to artificially drive down supply back then, Fortune magazine writer John Birger noted they could be raising “gasoline prices by anywhere from 20 to 40 cents a gallon” at the time. Prices have increased far more than that in recent months.

Koch Industries, like Enron, created a number of derivatives in order to leverage its privileged position in the energy industry. With control of every part of the market, the Koch brothers are not only able to bet on future oil and gasoline prices with privelaged information, but also are able to procure and withhold enough supply from the market to influence the future price.  

A recent presentation from Koch Supply & Trading, the Koch unit devoted to selling financial products, confirms that Koch has taken advantage of a lax regulatory environment to aggressively trade on future oil prices. “The return of speculators to Oil, the ‘macro trade’ is alive and well,” reads slide 36. The entire presentation can be viewed on slide share here: Koch Supply & Trading Risk Management.

Are the Koch brothers again buying up supply in expectation of higher crude prices during the summer or beyond, as many analysts have predicted?  Based on their history, the answer is probably “yes.” With little regulation and oversight of the oil speculation and trading industry, however, and virtually no information made public, Americans have no way of knowing the extent to which such practices affect monthly, weekly and even daily fluctuations of gasoline prices at the pump.

With the energy industry, speculation and trading industry currently operating with virtually no regulation and energy corporations posting record profits, one may think reasonable gasoline prices would be a small concession to make for consumers. Apparently that is not the case for corporations like Koch Industries.

That is, of course, not even taking into consideration the costs to consumers of disasters like the financial meltdown, the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, or the GE reactor meltdowns in Japan.

How about trusting the Koch brothers to run a nuclear power plant in Wisconsin with little or no regulation? Apparently Scott Walker thinks that is a good idea.

Read more, get links here: Madison Independent Examiner – Contago and Koch

The Facts of the Leisure Class


“All business sagacity reduces itself in the last analysis to judicious use of sabotage.”
– Thorstein Veblen, author of “The Theory of the Leisure Class.”

April 13, 2011

House trying to gut Open Internet

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Peregrin @ 3:54 am

April 12, 2011

Clowns Without Pity No. 3: Tim Pawlenty


April 10, 2011

The “birther” nonsense continues with Donald Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 10:06 pm

Author’s note:
These birthers are a writers dream! This is the fourth time I have been able to rehash this information and publish it into a new article.

The right-wing nonsense about President Obama’s birth certificate never ends and never ceases to amaze those who have both feet on the earth and are not wearing a tin foil hat. It has resurfaced yet again with Donald’s Trump’s new adventure in presidential politics.

Trump, espousing the theory that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen, has recently announced that he has hired private investigators to look into the matter in Hawaii. After emerging as a possible contender for the Republican presidential ticket, Trump’s announcement has helped him rise in GOP presidential primary poll ratings to second, behind only Mitt Romney.

On a side note, that just may be an indication of far off the tether Michele Bachmann is, but the “birther” conspiracy is certain to be revisited in the mainstream media as long as Trump is in the spotlight.

Perhaps someone needs to inform Donald that there have been many investigations into the matter by many organizations and investigators have invariably come to the same conclusion – Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen, and was born in Hawaii in 1961. But why let pesky little things like facts get in the way of a good publicity stunt?

The following information was obtained from several sources and published last year on my Orlando Independent Examiner page. It was also published on the bartblog at in 2009. Information can also be found at In lieu of recent news, it may be worth revisiting.

Anyone who believes that Obama is not a U.S. citizen, was not properly vetted by the DNC and thoroughly scrutinized by the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and John McCain is so far out of their mind that the tether has snapped.

Yet there are many out there like Trump, so here are a few facts and photos that probably will not interest you if you kneel at the throne of Queen Birther, Orly Taitz.

Read more, gets links and a slideshow here: Madison Independent Examiner – The “birther” nonsense…

April 9, 2011

The Tattlesnake – Political Short Cuts Part Deux Edition

Filed under: Commentary,Opinion — Tags: , , , , , , — RS Janes @ 4:15 am

More short sour snipes at some prominent political and media figures of our bloated Blutocracy, in no particular order.

WI Supreme Court Justice David Prosser – Proudly relying on a former underling and ardent GOP activist to discover more than enough ‘accidentally uncounted’ votes two days after losing the election to miraculously make him the victor, Prosser has shown himself to be in the same league of unembarrassed conservative judicial giants as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. No doubt if there is ever again a Republican president haunting the White House, Prosser will be at the top of his or her list of US Supreme Court nominees, eclipsed only by the fine legal minds of Scooter Libby, Louie Gohmert and Orly Taitz.

Ann Coulter - Anorexic in appearance; emaciated in thought; bulimic in speech. In other words, she never changes.

Mike Huckabee - His Christian devotion to integrity would be breathtaking to behold at some point in the future. As it is, we just have to take his assurance that he follows the teachings of Jesus on faith, as no independent evidence exists to confirm this assertion.

President Barack Obama – Apparently content to advance through constant retreat which, if you believe the world is round, would eventually result in him sneaking up on his enemies from behind. Conversely, his political opponents believe the world is flat, which is why they’re falling off the edge like lemmings. In any race to the bottom, Obama’s antagonists have the shorter drop.

GOP ‘House Budget Czar’ Rep. Paul Ryan – A man whose idea of balancing the budget involves giving away money to the rich and then hoping they will take pity on your impoverished state and provide you with a good job. It’s part of the lethal charm of Republican reptiles to insist that this ‘perpetual motion machine’ of economic thought, which has failed repeatedly in the past, is sure to work this time around. Of course, Ryan himself will have a good job in the future, in or out of politics, inadvertently paid for by the destitute taxpayers without their knowledge.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie – In a large bowl, combine tasty tax cuts for the well-heeled with budget-cutting zeal strained through a sieve with tea infused with Bush Republican crapola. Mix with whatever Ann Coulter’s drinking heavily and add a heaping cup of Il Duce’s state corporatism. Put in the oven for four years at high heat and – voila! – you have an oven ruined by an unpalatable mess fit only for the trash that is no longer being picked up in New Jersey regularly since the governor privatized the service to break the union.

WI Gov. Scott Walker - His politics honor King Louis XVI, his speeches Newt Gingrich, his ‘toughness’ a box of rocks, while his eyes pay homage to Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman. One could easily see him in the White House, cleaning up after Bo, and it may be the only job he can get after angry Wisconsin voters recall him next year – it’s definitely the only one he’s qualified to do.

AZ Gov. Jan Brewer - What happens when a batch of mean goes sour.

Newt Gingrich – He has the fire in the belly, the snow on the roof, the fourth lady-in-waiting, millions in the bank, and the fringe-conservative hamster furiously navigating the CPAC exercise wheel to guarantee his shot at abject failure in the 2012 GOP presidential primaries. Since Newt has an incredibly large vocabulary of words to express his puny ideas and historical deviances, nothing will stop him from embarrassing himself by losing to Sarah Palin in the first few primaries.

Donald Trump - Teabaggers and other neoconservative halfwits would be well disposed to take advice from a failure who couldn’t turn a profit from an Atlantic City casino and can’t get a gambling license in Nevada due to his history of bankruptcy. In fact, the only thing that ‘The Donald’ has ever made money from is his pathetic TV show wherein he hilariously fulfills the rubber-room delusions of his marketing staff by pretending to be a smart businessman. A more perfect presidential candidate reflecting the current state of the Republican Party does not exist. Trump is their man and, if somehow elected, would doubtless spend four years concentrating on his weekly reality show, “Who Wants to Work in the White House?” while the nation further crumbles.

The Koch Brothers – Nuts ‘n’ money, honey, and a rich Republican’s joke is always funny, especially from a couple of billionaire sons of Birchers. They are incontrovertible verification of Dorothy Parker’s line: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to,” but even the late, great Algonquin Round Table wit never imagined the Almighty would stoop this low for a laugh.

Mitt Romney - Loose rumor claims that, during Romney family vacations, it was actually the Mittster who was tied to the roof of the car while the dog drove the station wagon, but let’s not go down that road. It’s also claimed the charismatic former governor of Massachusetts can charm a roomful of supporters into needing a nap within five minutes flat. His firm handshake is reminiscent of grabbing a dead cod, his personal history is redolent with mirthful myth and confounding flip-flops, and his political notions are agreeably GOP incoherent, plus he’s rich and he wants to be president, making him the perfect choice to be the Republican sacrificial tiger in 2012.

Sen. John Thune – Mitt Romney without the zesty personality and sense of dignity.

© 2011 RS Janes.

April 8, 2011

Bethlehem & Rossmoor: Justice, Jesus’ home town & upscale senior living

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:52 pm

I actually got out to visit Rossmoor last week. Somehow it always seems harder to get to Walnut Creek than it does to get to, say, Argentina or Iraq — but I did it. And I was also pleasantly surprised. Rossmoor is a planned senior-citizen gated community that was built back in the 1970s, but I had never been out there until now. Not sure what I had been expecting the place to be like, but was rather overwhelmed by the luxury of it all — wide boulevards, lakes, streams and ponds, golf courses, pleasant and pretty homes and even some weeping willows and geese.

“Good grief!” I commented to one of the residents. “To afford a place like this, you probably all gotta be Republicans living on the corporatist dole!”

“Not necessarily,” he replied. “It may surprise you to discover that many of us are actually liberals — or even progressives.” And he was probably right about that because the whole reason for me being out there was to hear a speaker from Bethlehem brought there by the Rossmoor branch of the Jewish Voice for Peace.

“But it must cost an arm and a leg to live out here,” I exclaimed, “unless you can find some homes in foreclosure.”

“To the contrary,” answered the resident. “It’s actually rather affordable. For instance, we have some very nice one-bedroom apartments selling for just $59,000. And the rate of foreclosure here is very low. Plus there are all kinds of things to do out here — hobby clubs, biking trails, swimming pools, gyms.” Sorry but I still can’t afford it — although it really does look nice.

Plus I could never leave my current home, located right across the street from the Berkeley Bowl fresh produce market ( I’m a big fan of salads.

And then JVP’s speaker for the event, Professor Mazim Qumsiyeh, began his talk on the recent history of Israel and Palestine. Professor Qumsiyeh used to teach genetics at Yale Medical School and Duke University but returned to his parents’ home town on the West Bank in order to teach at the University of Bethlehem, a highly-respected university badly in need of quality teachers who aren’t afraid of living dangerously.

When the Israeli army invaded Bethlehem back in 2002, they blasted a huge hole the university library wall, using weapons bought and paid for by the United States. Now, however, this ugly hole has been turned into a conversation-piece. I’ve seen it myself and was highly impressed by what a few resourceful librarians, two large sheets of plexi-glass and some nice exhibit labels can do. Jesus would have been proud of His old home town

Anyway, Prof. Qumsiyeh’s talk was very informative and interesting and so was Rossmoor. Out in the senior-citizen planned community of Rossmoor, they are still living the American Dream — but apparently in Bethlehem they are still living the American nightmare.

PS: Here is the basic gist of Prof. Qumsiyeh’s talk — and if I didn’t get the quoted sections here exactly right, blame it on my inability to write really fast.

“Our village, Beit Sahour [translated as Shepherds' Field after the shepherds who saw the angel in the New Testament, and is located just outside of Bethlehem], was one of the lucky ones,” began Prof. Qumsiyeh. “It was not destroyed in order to create space for a Jewish state. How can you have a Jewish state when the majority of its residents were Palestinians? So Palestinians were, literally, pushed into the sea.”

Prof. Qumsiyeh’s father was a Greek Orthodox Christian and his mother was a Lutheran.

“After 1967, Palestinians lost 22% more of their land. Jerusalem used to be a multi-ethnic community but Israelis moved everyone that wasn’t Jewish into East Jerusalem, including Aramaic, Christian and Muslim families.” But now apparently even East Jerusalem isn’t safe and, in the last nine years alone, over 25,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed there and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories.

“Now Israelis have built settlements on 87% of the area of Bethlehem alone, forming what Israel calls a ‘Western Segregation Zone’ that includes that area’s aquifer. And the Zone’s Separation Wall is three times as high as the Berlin Wall. And the Israeli settlements in this Zone are illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. Everyone admits this, even the United Nations and Hillary Clinton.”

Not only that, but 1,500,000 olive trees as old as when Jesus walked the land have been uprooted in order to build this Wall.

“Five and a half million people have been squeezed into ‘Concentration Areas’ consisting of only 8.3% of the country, giving Palestinians less land than even the Blacks were allowed in South Africa. The South African Blacks were allowed on 12% of the land. And the Israelis actually do call these Bantustan-like camps ‘Concentration Areas’.” [Not very tactful of them, say what.]

But this police-state situation is not unique to Palestine. “The United States has supported dictators all throughout the Middle East. And America actually shields these dictators from international law. But the face of the Middle East has changed. 18 million people turned out in protest in Egypt. And the people of Egypt were also very upset with conditions in Palestine.”

Prof. Qumsiyeh is also the author of a new book entitled, “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Empowerment and Hope,” and is a record of the large non-violent movement within the Palestinian state. “But you don’t hear about our non-violent movements in the U.S. media because Israeli leaders are trying to sell you a product — that Palestine is bad and Israel is good. And that is their product’s marketing strategy.” And it appears to have been working very well for quite a while.

Having written a book on Palestinian history, Prof. Qumsiyeh then gave us a brief history of the Palestinian occupation. “Palestinians have been uprising against Zionist ideology since the 1880s, when Zionists first announced that they wanted to get rid of the residents of Palestine. The uprising back then was a success because the Ottoman empire supported it. And Germany was an ally of the Ottoman empire at that time.” So the Zionists, who had been located in Germany originally, then moved their operations to London.

“Then in 1929, after the British occupation was in place, Palestinians organized one of the first nonviolent protests against the take-over of their land — and the British then opened fire on the protesters. However, the non-violent protest did cause the British to change some of their policies in the area.”

And by the 1930s, Palestinians even had their own radio station to support their cause. And during the violent period when Israel was founded, the Palestinians’ motto became, “We Palestinians resist simply by existing on the land.” And this motto is still viable today.

“Bethlehem University has been closed 12 different times by the Israeli Army. Kindergarten teachers at one point faced six months in jail for teaching children to read. And schools have been bombed in Gaza. However, hope still has remained alive in Palestine despite all this and we are 100% confident that this story will have a happy ending — against all odds.”

Prof. Qumsiyeh stated that the next generation of Palestinians is still committed to attaining their freedom. “Even though we have lost tens of thousands of Palestinians due to violence and non-violent resistance, we continue to cling to our land. However, the Israelis have no hesitation about killing thousands and thousands of Palestinians. Israelis have stated their belief that ‘The old will die and the young will forget,’ but this hasn’t happened because this our land.”

Apparently there are more apartheid-type rules in Israel now than there ever were in South Africa. “I was involved in the South Africa movement against apartheid in the 1980s — and the situation there then is very much like the situation in Israel now.”

Professor Qumsiyeh said that all he could do to combat the ever-present Israeli version of what is going on in Israel/Palestine is to represent his own experiences in his own village. “You get the Zionist perspective every day on TV. What I am trying to show you today is my own perspective — that this situation is a classic struggle against colonialism. This is a classic anti-colonial situation. I am going to skip over talking about the over 250 massacres by Israelis or the ten-to-one ratio between Palestinians civilians killed and Israeli civilians killed. However, these are the symptoms of a disease, not its root causes. Colonialism is the root cause and must be dealt with.”

Prof. Qumsiyeh further stated that the two-state solution offered under the Camp David accords would have practically eliminated Palestine. “How could Arafat possibly have signed that? But Israel is not interested in negotiations.

“Then came Oslo, which put forward the new idea that peace could not be built on basic justice, as we had hoped, but rather on Israeli security.” And by accepting this premise, the Palestinians blew it. “Negotiations have never gone anywhere since then — because they ignore human rights, justice and international law.” And none of these three vital factors were even mentioned in Bush’s famous Road Map.

“Basically, the Israelis are saying to us that ‘If you let us keep all the natural resources, the land, the airspace and the gas rights offshore from Gaza, then we will let you keep your flag’.”

The Arab League first proposed a comprehensive peace initiative in 2001. This plan would have given Israel 70% of the loot that they already had plus the recognition they craved, but Israel turned it down. “Israel has everything now already. It would be as if you are a thief and now own the whole house that you stole and the sheriff is in your pocket. Under these circumstances, why let the original owners of the house live in the basement?”

Prof. Qumsiyeh then pointed out some of the similarities between Netanyahu and Gaddafi. “And don’t ever think that America is supporting Netanyahu out of love for Israel. Today, 25% of all Israeli children live in poverty. And many Israelis are also beginning to realize that it is all a lie — look who is benefiting from this occupation? It is not the Israel public.”

As for America’s role in all this, hypocrisy seems to be the rule of the day. “Bahrain was just invaded by the Saudis and the United States does nothing — yet when Iraq invaded Kuwait, America was there. But now the world is changing and [both Israeli and international Jewish] people are now starting to click — that Zionists are lying to the Jews and that Zionism is the second-worst thing that has happened to them in modern times. Jews are safer today in Berlin than they are in Tel Aviv.”

Then Prof. Qumsiyeh made the Palestinian diaspora personal. “There are seven million Palestinian refugees in the world right now — and in my own family alone, I have relatives in 30 different countries.”

“So what is the preferred solution to this problem?” someone in the audience asked.

“My preferred solution? I think we can have a ‘one person, one vote’ situation just like they have in South Africa.” And then I drove home back to Berkeley, leaving Rossmoor’s beautiful willows and streams and golf courses behind.

PS: When I woke up the next morning and read about the deadly new Israeli air force bombing campaign that has just started up again in Gaza, another question came to mind. How come there isn’t a no-fly zone over Gaza?

The Israeli air force is at it again, dropping their terrible super-high-tech bombs down on defenseless people trapped in Gaza — like shooting fish in a barrel. They even have a name for this particular massacre: “Operation Scorching Summer”. With a name like that, it looks like Israeli war-hawks and American war-profiteers are planning to be bombing unprotected women and children trapped in Gaza for a long, long time to come.

According to a PressTV article dated April 6. 2011, “Israeli warplanes have repeatedly attacked Gaza during the last two weeks. Dozens of people, among them children, have been killed and injured in the airstrikes. Tel Aviv has continuously attacked the besieged territory from the air, land and sea since the end of its devastating war on Gaza at the turn of 2009. The 22-day offensive left more than 1,400 Palestinians killed and thousands more wounded.”

How come the UN, the United States, the EU and NATO aren’t demanding a no-fly zone over Gaza as well as the one over Libya?

Could it be because there is no oil in Gaza — like there is in Libya and Iraq? Or could it be because Gaza, unlike Afghanistan, doesn’t produce billions of dollars of heroin revenue each year?

Perhaps when the oil recently discovered offshore in Gaza swings into full production, maybe Gaza will get a no-fly zone then? Or will Netanyahu, like Gaddafi, also just snag up those oil profits for himself too?

Or am I just being cynical (once again) regarding the way that this world really works?


Uncounted ballots appear in WI Supreme Court election

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 12:06 pm

Author’s note: Looks like election fraud is alive and well in Wisconsin.

Waukesha county officials claim that they have found 7582 uncounted votes for incumbent David Prosser in the hotly contested Supreme Court election in Wisconsin that was tentatively won by challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by a narrow margin of 204 votes.

News of the uncounted votes came as officials throughout Wisconsin were conducting county canvasses, a final review of voting records that allows the state to certify this week’s bitterly contested Supreme Court election.

So where were the votes on election day? According to the Reuters corporate news outlet, as reported by Raw Story, they were found on a spreadsheet of the county clerk in Waukesha, Kathy Nickolaus.

Nickolaus, a known Republican activist who keeps election results on her personal PC in her office, and only on her personal PC, shockingly revealed the “uncounted” votes in a county where 73.4 percent of the vote went for Prosser.

Nickolaus said at a news conference that she had failed to properly save a spreadsheet showing one town’s voting results. But now she is “…thankful that this error was caught early in the process and during the canvass,” Nickolaus said. “The purpose of the canvass is to catch these kinds of errors.”

So, the people of Wisconsin are to believe that a centralized optical scanning vote system certified by the state and used statewide was routed to a spreadsheet on the Waukesha county clerk’s PC? And Kathy could legally save, forward, delete, fail to report, or report over 7500 votes?

Are any bovine excrement meters taking readings yet?

Read more, get links and video here: Madison Independent Examiner – Uncounted ballots…

April 7, 2011

Kloppenburg declares victory in Wisc. Supreme Court election

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 11:36 am

Author’s note:
Yeah, yeah, yeah…Wisconsin politics probably bores people to death by now, but this election is a major turning point for labor against huge corporations. This has nothing to do with spending or balancing a budget. It has everything to do with defeating corporate money in politics. It is a small victory for every middle class worker in this country:

Challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg has declared victory in a hotly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court election. Kloppenburg won by a narrow margin of 204 votes, but the election results are almost certain to be challenged with a recount by incumbent David Prosser.

Voter turnout for the election was exceptionally high for an April election, with 1,479,976 votes cast statewide. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, voter turnout in Madison is estimated at 70 percent. 182,140 votes were recorded in Dane county and 227,577 were recorded in Milwaukee county. Kloppenburg won by margins of 46.7 percent and 13.1 percent respectively in those counties.

As a challenger, Kloppenburg faced enormous odds against her winning the election. Apparently that changed sometime after Feb. 15.

Firstly, only one sitting Supreme Court justice has been unseated by a challenger in Wisconsin in 41 years. That happened in 2008 when Michael Gableman defeated then-Justice Louis Butler in 2008, thereby shifting the court to its current 4-3 conservative majority.

Secondly, Prosser was seen as a clear favorite. He got 55 percent of the vote in the four-way Feb. 15 primary to Kloppenburg’s 25 percent.

Thirdly, unprecedented amounts of money were spent by supporters on both sides of this election with Prosser supporters significantly outspending Kloppenburg’s. The candidates themselves were limited to each spending $100,000 in the primary and $300,000 in the general election under the state’s new Impartial Justice Act – a public-financing program that Walker proposes to cut.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, however, estimates that interest groups spent more than $3.5 million on TV ads, breaking the $3.38 million record set in the 2008 Gableman-Butler contest, with four conservative groups backing Prosser spending a total of 37% more than one liberal group backing Kloppenburg.

Regardless of victory speeches and statements from both sides, it is clear that this hotly contested election is not over. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Prosser told his supporters early this morning at the Seven Seas Restaurant in Hartland that, “there is little doubt there is going to be a recount in this race.”

Read more, get links here: Madison Independent Examiner – Kloppenburg victory

April 6, 2011

Both Neocons and Progressives Like Gadaffy Duck

Filed under: Opinion,Toon — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — RS Janes @ 5:14 pm


April 5, 2011

Project Vote Smart – H Amdt 92 Prohibiting the Use of Federal Funds for NASCAR Sponsorships Member Vote List

Filed under: News — Peregrin @ 5:20 am

Project Vote Smart – H Amdt 92 Prohibiting the Use of Federal Funds for NASCAR Sponsorships Member Vote List.

And the measure to prohibit the use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood passed.   Of course.  We can’t possibly fund a service for womens health that will end up saving money in the long run.  But we sure as hell can afford to sponsor NASCAR.

This, too, was never about the budget.

Household Income Short of $68K? Welcome To the New Poverty

Filed under: News — Peregrin @ 5:16 am

“So we are now officially living in a country where more than 60% of households are not making enough money for a basic household — the bottom three quintiles of American household income top out at $62,000.”

Household Income Short of $68K? Welcome To the New Poverty.

That’s right.  More than half of us are officially “poor.”

We are overdue for a class revolution.

April 4, 2011

The new definition of crazy: Our wars on Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq & drugs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 2:51 pm

Recently I’ve become a fan of ABC’s new television show “Off the Map,” and last week’s plot featured a schizophrenic woman who kept imagining things that didn’t really exist in the real world. Inside of her own mind, however, it was a different story — and, as far as she was concerned, the scary phantoms who peopled her own mental world really did exist. “What I see IS real,” she kept sobbing.

And, apparently, all the scary phantoms and bogeymen who seem to people the minds of diagnosed schizophrenics have also been living inside of the minds of America’s current leaders as well. Everywhere from the Pentagon to Wall Street, it appears that a whole bunch of crazy and false images are also running through our leaders’ brains. “All our wars are humanitarian wars,” they keep telling us. “All our wars are necessary and good. And we are also winning all of these wars.” Sounds crazy to me.

In the last several decades, Americans have been sold a whole laundry-list of military, financial and/or moral disasters, such as our wars on far-off God-forsaken places like Afghanistan, Vietnam, Libya, Serbia, Grenada, Somalia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, El Salvador, Africa, Latin America and Iraq; and we’ve also been sold a bunch of wars on various miscellaneous things such as Terror and Drugs. And don’t forget all those other miscellaneous undeclared wars that are also being sold to us daily — such as corporatists’ undeclared wars on unions, sick people, infrastructure, women, school children and what’s left of our American middle class.

Just look at this list. It’s basically loony-tunes. To a sane person, it would appear that our leaders have declared war on practically every single person in the world but themselves. That’s craziness. Just what the freak is going ON inside of these people’s minds?

And while all these horrendous and insane disasters keep on draining America’s treasury — approximately seven trillion dollars has gone down the drain so far, a nest egg that we’ll never see again — still our leaders keep on trying to sell us even more of these loser wars, telling us over and over again that they are not only moral, necessary and affordable, but that they are actually keeping us safe and that we are actually WINNING these wars. How schizophrenic is that?

“What we see IS real,” our leaders keep sobbing — just like that crazy woman on TV.

Is it really normal human behavior to spend trillions of dollars on bombing, torturing and murdering untold numbers of strangers? Women and children and babies who we don’t even know?

Is it really normal human behavior to elevate weapons of mass destruction to the position of becoming America’s top national product? Especially in these modern times of recession and need?

Sounds more like schizophrenia than sanity to me.

For instance, let’s take a look at that ever-popular War on Drugs. America is losing the War on Drugs. So far, we have spent untold billions on this craziness and yet the results are obviously certifiably abnormal — to say the least. Mexico and Columbia have become armed fortresses, while here at home Americans by the millions are losing their brain functions — and/or their lives — because of unregulated street drugs that are being cut with everything from corn starch to shoe polish.

We are twenty or more long years into this “war” and nothing has changed — except that the rich are getting richer. According to the Guardian newspaper, “[The illegal] drug industry has two products: money and suffering. On one hand, you have massive profits and enrichment. On the other, you have massive suffering, misery and death. You cannot separate one from the other.”

What kind of alternative reality do our leaders live in if they actually think that this kind of behavior is okay?

And let’s look at the war on Iraq next. In “Off the Map,” the schizophrenic woman runs into the village marketplace and starts trying to kill people. On the TV show, this sort of behavior is presumed to be clinically insane and the good guys rush in to stop her. Yet when this same behavior gets repeated again and again on a massive scale in Iraq, no one seems to be calling it crazy. Why not?

Next, let’s attempt to get inside the distorted minds of those American leaders who actually think that we are winning the war on Af-Pak. Yeah right. If you think that spending billions per month on a ten-year-old “war” that kills thousands of women and children living on the other side of the world and still keeps slogging on and on and on with no end-game in mind or in sight is called “winning,” then you are way out of touch with reality here as well.

If anyone were to start exhibiting this type of behavior on the streets of any small town in America, they would immediately have several large men in white coats running after them with straight jackets.

How crazy can it be to spend trillions of dollars on slaughtering human beings on the other side of the planet — while huge numbers of our own children here in America cry themselves to sleep at night because they are homeless and hungry due to the huge deficit caused by these “wars”? And we are calling Muammar Gaddafi crazy?

Isn’t Einstein’s definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”? Yet our leaders, both Democrat and Republican, keep plunging us into loser war after loser war even after every one of their wars so far have been unnecessary, avoidable and psychopathic disasters.

Perhaps it’s time to do something different for a change, something that actually works.

Perhaps it’s time for Americans to switch paradigms here and start looking at our leaders from this new “Off the Map” perspective — and to finally begin to realize that if America’s leaders are incapable of keeping us out of all these useless, inhuman and unnecessary loser wars, then they are the ones who are acting crazy. Nuts. Bonkers. Bananas. Looney-tunes. Fruitcakes. Certifiable. Off the map.

And also, I just gotta ask, why is the rest of America putting up with all this craziness from our leadership time after time — and continuing to keep electing these obvious lunatics to office. Am I the only one who can see the insanity of this? I’d hate to think that I was the only sane person left in America.

PS: Speaking of crazy murderers, I just filmed an audition tape to send off to an up-coming reality show called “Get a Clue”. The show will be similar to some popular murder-mystery board game — and I’m trying out for the part of the innocent-looking little old lady who nobody would ever suspect of being the killer. Here’s my audition tape:

PPS: Speaking of financial craziness and war, for the last three or four years I’ve been waging a losing battle against the Department of Labor in order to receive federal workers compensation benefits regarding injuries to my right foot and knees received while on the job. And why is my battle with the D.O.L. proving to be so hard to win? I suspect that it is because our leaders have been squandering far too much of America’s money on murdering women and children in Juarez, Kabul, Tripoli and Baghdad, and are now cutting corners here at home so they can still keep their war-profiteers friends happy. And that’s totally crazy too. Guys, it’s time to get your priorities straight. America first!

Anyway, here are the latest details with regard to my struggles with the D.O.L and workers’ comp:

After I went to see two excellent independent podiatry and orthopedic specialists who both agreed that my injuries were job-related, I then went off to see the U.S. Department of Labor’s own doctor and he also told me that I was injured on the job. All sides agreed. Clearly a cut-and-dried case, right? Not exactly.

A few months later, this very same D.O.L. doctor then submits another report telling me the exact opposite — that I was NOT injured on the job. Then this very same D.O.L. doctor gets his certificate to practice medicine in the State of California revoked, allegedly because he is a bad doctor. And then the D.O.L. itself has the chutzpah to turn down my case once again, apparently because this same crumby former D.O.L. doctor now suddenly knows what he was talking about — but my own two excellent independent specialists don’t. Huh?

And now I gotta go out and file yet another appeal with the D.O.L. Dudes! Wouldn’t it have been cheaper all around to just have given me my earned-the-hard-way workers comp benefits in the first place? We’re only talking about the price of some orthopedic shoes here, one arthroscopy and seven months of back pay. Geez Louise.

For the price of making the quality of my life 100% better, it would only cost the same as approximately one leather bucket-seat in just one of some war-profiteer’s fleet of BMWs, or perhaps just a case of French champagne for some corporatist CEO who recently got bailed out by Congress. Chump-change money to them, direly important to me.

PPPS: Here’s even another example of craziness. Corporatists are so much more of a danger to America and have done so much more damage to our country than terrorists have ever done — including the nightmare of 9-11 — and yet no one seems to be getting on their case about that damage or screening for them at airports or even torturing them to confess or sending them off to Guantanamo. In fact, America seems to be even in LOVE with these creeps.

In addition, more damage has been done to America by corporatists in terms of job losses than any illegal immigrants could ever possibly have done. Just think of all the tens of millions of jobs that corporatists have stolen and outsourced from America, including probably yours. And yet you never see any corporatists shunned or jailed or deported. Why not?

Not only that, but all-too-many corporatists don’t even pay any freaking taxes here at all because the corporations that they own — even though they have been happily granted all the same kinds of rights of personhood that real Americans have — aren’t even American citizens at all, having fled abroad in order to avoid paying taxes.

These corporations/persons are now officially living abroad and have chosen some foreign country over us? Well, fine. However. If these same corporations/persons ever try to sneak back across our borders to get work in America again, that will make them wetbacks! So let’s sic the Migra on them and send them all back to the Caymans where they belong.

PPPPS: Here’s a crazy-but-funny video from my son Joe:


Clowns Without Pity No. 2: Michele Bachmann


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