March 31, 2012

U.S. obstruction of Afghan massacre investigation alleged

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 11:31 pm

Author’s note:
This one where you really should go to the source in the link at the bottom. There is an embedded video from SBS Dateline in Australia that tells an entirely different story than the one we are getting from corporate media. An Afghan-born Austalian journalist, Yalda Hakim, was the first western journalist to interview survivors and witnesses. SHe also interviews Harmad Karzai in the clip. The embedded version to the left can be found on You Tube, but there is a link to the original in the article. Check it out and ask yourself, who’s telling the truth?

John Henry Browne, the defense attorney representing Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who is accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians in Kandahar earlier this month, says he cannot interview witnesses and prosecutors will not cooperate with his team’s investigation.

“We are facing an almost complete information blackout from the government, which is having a devastating effect on our ability to investigate the charges preferred against our client,” Browne said in a statement released on Friday.

According to a Reuters report, Browne claims U.S. forces in Afghanistan obstructed him and his associates from reaching the injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar province to interview them about the incident:

When we tried to interview the injured civilians being treated at Kandahar Hospital we were denied access and told to coordinate with the prosecution team. The next day the prosecution team interviewed the civilians injured. We found out shortly after the prosecution interviews of the injured civilians that the civilians were all released from the hospital and there was no contact information for them.

That means potential witnesses will scatter and could prove unreachable, making it virtually impossible to track them down. Thus far Bales’ defense has only managed to talk to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, but not victims or actual witnesses of the attack.

Browne explains that the military prosecutors who filed the charges against Bales have possibly been unwilling to cooperate because “they are concerned about the strength of their case.”

Browne’s statements raise questions about whether the U.S. military really wants to punish the guilty party to the fullest extent of the law and raise suspicions that the U.S. government is concealing some ugly truth about the Kandahar massacre. In the days immediately following the incident, reports about the events in U.S. media sources widely varied from those in overseas sources.

US officials still insist that only one soldier was involved in the shootings. They showed their Afghan counterparts images captured by a surveillance camera on a blimp above the base, which allegedly shows Bales returning after the shooting. But the investigators, for some reason, withheld the surveillance video from Bales’ lawyer.

A journalist for SBS Dateline in Australia, Yalda Hakim, provides yet another account. Hakim was born in Afghanistan and as a child, immigrated to Australia. Hakim also said American investigators tried to prevent her from interviewing the children, saying her questions could traumatize them.

After appealing to village leaders, interviews were arranged. Hakim and cameraman Ryan Sheridan were granted rare access to President Hamid Karzai’s chief investigator, to survivors and their relatives, and to the area where the attacks took place. She is, perhaps, the first international journalist to interview the surviving witnesses.

In a video aired by SBS Dateline, children who witnessed the events told Hakim that other Americans were present during the massacre, holding flashlights in the yard. “One man entered the room and the others were standing in the yard, holding lights,” an eight year-old named Noorbinak told Hakim. (Note: Above link is to original video, embedded video to left was found on You Tube).

Noorbinak says in the video that the shooter first shot her father’s dog. Then she says he shot her father in the foot and dragged her mother by the hair. When her father started screaming, he shot her father again. Then he turned the gun on Noorbinak and shot her in the leg.

A brother of one victim told Hakim that his brother’s children mentioned more than one soldier wearing a headlamp. They also had lights at the end of their guns, he said. “They don’t know whether there were 15 or 20, however many there were,” he said in the video.

In all probability, the American people will never be informed of all of the details behind what really happened on March 11 in Afghanistan. It is also quite possible that Bales’ attorney will never get all of the facts. What few facts that are released will be released slowly, over time. That, unfortunately, is the norm with incidents that occur in war zones shrouded in secrecy.

Whether or not Staff Sergeant Bates acted alone, the blame will almost certainly fall on him and for that he may face the death penalty. Blaming one man, however, not only suppresses the horror of what routinely happens in all wars, but also mitigates the responsibility of those all the way up the chain of command to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Panetta, and President Obama.

Read more, get links, and video here: Madison Independent Examiner – U.S. obstruction of Afghan massacre investigation alleged

Tomorrow’s New York Post Cover


Paul Ryan: Privatize Medicare, eliminate Medicaid and food stamps

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 12:23 am

Author’s note:
Paul Ryan must be an Ayn Rand fan.

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed $3.5 trillion budget resolution on a 228 to 191 vote, largely along party lines.

If Ryan (R-WI) has his way with his proposed budget resolution, Medicare will be privatized and Medicaid, food stamps and many other federal entitlement programs will be eliminated. The cuts under Ryan’s budget proposal, if implemented, would drastically increase income inequality and poverty.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post sums up Ryan’s budget plan in one sentence:

Ryan’s budget funds trillions of dollars in tax cuts, defense spending and deficit reduction by cutting deeply into health-care programs and income supports for the poor.

Ryan’s budget resolution is part of a bipartisan campaign to slash spending on social programs. All Democrats, however, voted against the resolution, while offering their own proposals that called for somewhat less drastic cuts in spending and token tax increases on the wealthy. All but ten of the Republican majority in the House backed the resolution and those ten wanted even bigger cuts.

Last year, Ryan offered the first-ever proposal for the complete abolition of Medicare. It passed the House but not the Senate. His resolution this year is even more drastic and reactionary. The major spending cuts are focused on programs for the poor and the lower-paid sections of the working class.

In negotiations with House Republicans last August, the White House agreed to significant cuts in discretionary spending for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years in return for an increase in the federal debt ceiling. The Ryan budget resolution reneges on that agreement by failing to adhere to the spending levels set in that deal.

While Democrats accepted the budget cuts endorsed by Obama last year, Republicans refused to do so, which raises the possibility of a new legislative deadlock over the adoption of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2013. That could lead to a partial shutdown of the federal government October 1, just prior to the presidential and congressional elections.

According to a study by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Ryan’s proposal calls for $5.3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. 62 percent of the $5.3 trillion in spending cuts come from “programs that serve people of limited means.” Many low-income working families would actually see an increase in their tax burdens under the Ryan plan.

Another CBPP analysis found the budget provides for $800 billion in cuts for Medicaid, $1.6 trillion from repealing the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for low- and moderate-income people, $134 billion in cuts from food stamps, and $463 billion from other programs for low-income individuals and families, including an estimated $166 billion from Pell Grants for low-income college students. (See slideshow for a detailed look at the CBPP’s and other statistics).

An analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC) finds that people earning more than $1 million a year would receive $265,000 apiece in new tax cuts, on average, on top of the $129,000 they would receive from the Ryan budget’s extension of President Bush’s tax cuts.

According to the New York Times, White House officials said the budget plan would cut 200,000 children from Head Start, deny food stamps or WIC food commodities to 1.8 million infants, children and pregnant or nursing women, cut transportation financing by up to $50 billion, and cut unspecified billions from federal employee pensions.

Ryan’s plan, essentially, would negate over a half century of progress with federal social programs for the poor and the working class. It would cap federal spending programs at about 19% of the gross domestic product, levels not seen since the 1950’s before the establishment of Medicare and other social welfare programs by the Johnson administration.

While Ryan’s plan is unlikely to pass in an upcoming Senate vote, a bipartisan measure is likely to be reached in a deal before the end of this year, quite possibly after the November elections.

Regardless of which of the two parties control the White House and Congress after the pretense of electing politicians that truly represent the majority of Americans, any budget proposal is likely to slash spending on programs that benefit 99%, while spending billions on increasingly unpopular wars and preserving the majority of the enormous tax breaks for the wealthy 1%.

This will be presented to the American people by our “leaders” under the guise of “equal sacrifice” or “shared responsibility” for the fiscal crisis of the federal government.

Read more, get links, video and a slideshow here: Madison Independent Examiner – Paul Ryan: Privatize Medicare, eliminate Medicaid and food stamps

March 30, 2012

New stories: When the economics of happiness meets the desperation of not having healthcare

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 6:33 pm

Last week I attended an “Economics of Happiness” conference here in Berkeley and heard Charles Eisenstein speak. “I see the world shifting from a profit-taking economy to a gift economy, from an economy of ‘how can I take the most?’ to ‘how can I best give of my gifts?’ This future, in which the anxiety of ‘making a living’ no longer drives us, will arise out of the transformation in the human sense of self that is gathering today.”

Eisenstein also talked about how the availability of unlimited resources has now come to an end. “A monetary system based on growth is now obsolete,” and we can no longer destroy resources at will without suffering dire consequences.

“It’s like my son Jimmy, who grew two inches one year and five inches the next. This was appropriate to his age. But to continue to grow two inches a year for the rest of his life? Not appropriate. And now that he has reached adulthood and no longer grows, what should we do? Frack him?”

Eisenstein next talked about “old stories” and “new stories”. “Economies based on money and material growth have become ‘old stories,’ ones that simply don’t work any more.” And a new story, based on the economics of happiness, is becoming more common as monetized economies continue to fail and become obsolete.

Eisenstein next described his idea of a gift economy, based on meeting basic mutual needs through cooperation. “That’s why poor people can sometimes be happier than rich people — because the poor need to gift each other in order to survive; this gifting process then creates a bond; and bonding leads to happiness.”

Eisenstein could be right about this, although since I’ve never been rich, I’m not in any position to compare. However, a recent world-wide “happiness” index showed that materially-deprived Cuba is currently ranked number seven on the happiness scale — while materially successful America is now ranked 114, far below even Israel and Palestine, and even below Iraq and the DRC.

But what exactly does a gift economy look like? I found a perfect example of one last week while attending a four-day “Remote Area Medical” event at the Oakland Coliseum, when hundreds of medical professionals offered up their time and knowledge for free so that over 4,000 patients without health insurance could be seen and treated.

That’s 1,100 treatments per day.

Cavities were filled, eyes were examined, medical diagnoses were made, etc. Acupuncture, chiropractic, you name it, was provided. It was AMAZING.

As one medical provider stated, “R.A.M. was first designed to provide these services to people in third-world countries — but it soon became obvious that, if you could not afford health insurance, medical care in America was at the same level as most of the Third World. And so R.A.M. started coming to the United States as well. Our politicians should be ashamed that they’ve let the quality and availability of American healthcare sink so low that R.A.M has to pick up the slack.”

This medical professional had just volunteered to spend her entire weekend gifting her community. And was she happy about it? You bet!

PS: I got to the Coliseum too late to get my teeth looked at (the lines for that service had started forming four days before) but a trailer staffed by Volunteers of America was still offering free HIV testing — so I did that instead.

A VoA staff member swabbed my mouth, let my saliva sit in a test kit for 20 minutes and then told me I didn’t have HIV. “Have you used any dirty needles or had sex recently?” No and no.

“HIV is only transmitted through blood, semen and per-ejaculatory liquids, vaginal fluids and breast milk,” I was told.

“But what about through saliva?” Usually not — unless there’s a cut in the mouth.

AIDS and HIV treatments have changed a lot in the last 20 years. “There are now medications that, if patients keep taking them regularly, can allow them to lead a fairly normal life.” That’s incredibly good news. “But uninfected people still need to take precautions to avoid being exposed to the HIV virus — such as not using dirty needles and always using condoms.”

Next, apparently in the spirit of the economics of happiness, the VoA staffer then gifted me with a whole handful of condoms. “Sorry, but my glory days of creating that kind of happiness are long past,” I sadly replied.

PPS: Here are some examples of how to change all our dreary old stories into new, better and more appropriate ones:

Old story: Modern man’s brave conquest of nature is achieved by heroically chopping down every tree in sight and putting a car or two in every driveway. And exactly why is this old story now obsolete? Scientific American has just announced that global warming will be irreversible in just eight years unless we immediately change our outmoded ways.

New story: Nature is our friend. We protect her and she protects us. Stop driving. Buy locally. Plant trees. The Lorax is back!

Old story: My sister apparently hates me and I, in response, tend to hate her right back.

New story: My sister loves and forgives me and I love and forgive her too. (Realistically, however, it doesn’t look like this particular fairy tale is gonna come true any time soon — but it should. One can hardly tell a new and hopeful story about having peace in the world when one is still having difficulties even loving and/or forgiving one’s very own sister.)

Old story: Eva Kor and her twin sister were brutally starved and tortured at Auschwitz, victims of Josef Mengele’s notorious twins project.

New story: Kor chose to forgive her tormentors — and then she did. “Forgive your worst enemy. It will heal your soul and set you free.” Kor then established the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana. “CANDLES strives for the elimination of hatred and prejudice from our world. CANDLES pursues this goal through education about the Holocaust and the power of forgiveness.”

The elimination of hatred? That’s a new story we could all use. Or, to paraphrase Eisenstein, “As the shell of our old world cracks, then new light can shine in — and the only antidote to despair is to hope. If we are to continue to survive as a species, we must constantly invent new stories of hope.”

PPPS: My friend Barbara just sent me a link to her son Jake’s live-streaming video from his Occupy Wall Street current location. Yay Jake!


Visions of Hjortsberg

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:24 pm

William Hjortsberg
Jack Kerouac Alley is adjacent to the City Lights Bookstore
The Vesuvius Cafe is mentioned in “jubilee hitchhiker.”

When William Hjortsberg started reading chapter twelve, “frisco,” from his new book “jubilee hitchhiker: the life and times of Richard Brautigan” (Counterpoint Berkeley hardback $42.50), and got to the lines about the role the City Lights bookstore played in the start of the Beat era in the city at the South end of the Golden Gate Bridge, it seemed rather appropriate to be hearing it with the audience in the poetry room of that very same bookstore.

In an era when perpetual growth, unlimited opportunity, and boundless optimism made it seem like America was driving a stake through the heart of poverty and that the starving artists of San Francisco were serving as artist proxies who would voluntarily submit themselves to the rigors of destitute living so that the middle class in the Eisenhower years would have some interesting and entertaining novels available to help amuse those who were enjoying the start of the era of infinite prosperity to know what life as a starving artist would be like rather than experiencing the American Dream firsthand.

The story of Richard Brautigan and a legion of others who would become the roster of celebrity artists who converged on San Francisco in the Fifties and Sixties has been fertile ground for almost all of the participants in the events that provided a gold rush opportunity for those luck enough to be there.

The World’s Laziest Journalist first heard Hjortsberg’s name when the mystery book sub-genre of vampire detectives became an obsession. Two decades ago, Hjortsberg’s books had become prized collectors’ items and so obtaining a copy of his “Falling Angel” became both a challenge and a necessity. Our quest led us to Vagabond books, back when they had a brick and mortar presence on Westwood Blvd., in Los Angeles. We asked if they had the book and they did. It was a mint condition copy. We balked at the price but mentioned how a New York Times review indicated that book was an outstanding example of the new sub-genre we were investigating. The clerk said: “Oh do you just want to read it?” We said yes and she scurried off and returned with a battered edition. It was just a “reader’s copy” and much less expensive.

That, in turn, led us to read several other Hjortsberg’s novels that were not about a vampire detective.

When we passed by the City Lights bookstore on Tuesday, March 20, and saw a flyer indicating that later in the week, Hjortsberg would be reading and signing his new book about Richard Brautigan. We decided that the event would be a twofer because we have also read some of Brautigan’s work.

Since our political punditry columns predicting that JEB will be the next President seems to upset both Liberals and Conservatives and since JEB endorsed Mitt Romney the next day, it seemed like the twofer reading and autograph party just might provide a timely and convenient opportunity to produce a column that veers away from partisan politics but still retains the right to be classified as news appropriate for use in the pop culture section.

The book was facetiously described as 50% a Brautigan biography, 50% a novel, and 50% Hjortsberg’s memoirs and that may sound like inaccurate mathematics until you see the gigantic book. The book could easily be described as an Encyclopedia of facts for fans of the Beat Generation.

The new book may revive the dormant debate about who precisely is and who is not a beatnik writer. Many of the authors mentioned in this new book are irrefutably classified as founding fathers of the Beat Generation. But some, like Brautigan, may not seem to qualify to be on the list.

One member of the audience at City Lights was a woman who was acting on behalf of her Brautigan fan husband who was out of town. One fellow came equipped with a large variety of Hjortsberg material to be signed by the author. He even had vintage copies of Playboy magazine with stories by Hjortsberg. The topic of writers’ autographs and getting books signed would provide enough material, such as the signed copies of the Philip K. Dick book that was published posthumously [signatures from his returned checks were pasted into numbered copies of the book], for an entire column.

Since Hjortsberg mentioned that James Crumley was among the vast array of writers that the author knew personally, we used that as an excuse to ask Hjortsberg during the Q and A segment of the evening a question that we had previously (at the Ocean Front Bookstore on the Venice Boardwalk) asked Crumley: “What is your favorite dive bar?” Hjortsberg responded by noting that his favorite bar in all the world did not qualify as a dive bar and that was the legendary McSorley’s Bar in New York City.

It turned out that Hjortsberg’s father owned a different bar in New York City. Later when Hjortsberg was signing copies of the new book, one member of the audience compared Brautigan unfavorably to Gene Sheppard and that caused Hjortsberg to elaborate on being influenced, as a kid, by the New York late night radio talk show hosted by Sheppard.

Luckily the massive book (Will it be compared to Boswell’s Life of Johnson? [It just was in the last sentence.]) has an Index and that will make it much easier for students of literature who want to read this new book as a source book for possible thesis material. Crumley’s name gets three pages listed and he appears in a caption in the selection of photos in the book. As best as we can recall, Crumley’s response to the question was a bar named “Mother’s” somewhere in Montana.

At this point, the fact that many of the beat writers used their own life experiences as the basis for their books, such as Brautigan did with “Willard and his bowling tropies,” caused this columnist to notice a distinct similarity to the “New Journalism” style of writing that emerged fifty years ago immediately following the Beat era. Where does the Beat style end and the New Journalism style begin? Will this new book provide fodder for a debate about that very topic?

Jack Kerouac wrote about one particular San Francisco poetry reading in 1955 in his book “The Dharma Bums.” Kerouac fictionalized the names of the participants in the actual poetry reading at the 6 Gallery. Kerouac also included some of the participants, Neal Cassady and Alan Ginsburg, with yet other fictionalized names, in his classic beat novel “On the Road.” Tom Wolfe, one of New Journalism’s founding fathers, wrote about the exploits of Neal Cassady in his work of nonfiction titled “The Electric Kool Aide Acid Test.”

When the line of those getting items autographed disappeared and we noticed that there was one copy of the new book left, we decided that it was time to start our Christmas gift shopping (Is this a manifestation of doubt concerning our claim that when JEB wins the November 2012 Presidential Election, we will do our Christmas shopping in Paris [France not Texas {should we put a visit to the town in Texas on our Bucket List?}]?) and buy the last copy and have it inscribed. (The recipient will never know we read it before giving it . . . unless they read this column and that’s not bloody well likely.)

Hjortsberg said that a great amount of material had been cut from the original manuscript to pare it down to the massive volume which was printed. During a period of skimming through the book, we encountered several topics which might warrant use as a subject for a full column in the near future, so we appreciated the challenge of the task of figuring out (as the song goes) “what to leave in and what to leave out.” If this new book becomes a runaway best seller, does that mean that sometime in the future Beatnik fans can clamor for a “director’s cut” edition which will be twice as big?

We noticed that many of the complaints of the poets and writers described in this new book sounded very familiar. That brought up a question for another potential column topic: Are the Occupy Protesters recycling the Beatnik’s criticism of “the Establishment”?

The Vesuvius Café, which is just across Jack Kerouac Alley from the City Lights bookstore, is mentioned in the book but not listed in the Index.

One of the passages Hjortsborg read described a Brautigan project that combined poems with plant seed packets “published” with the title “Plant this book.” Brautigan gave them away in the late Sixties and Hjortsborg said that ones in mint condidtion are now valued at a thousand dollars by collectors. This columnist lived in San Francisco in 1969, but we don’t know how valid our “oh yeah, I remember seeing that” memories are because this column’s closing quote is the current folk axiom: “If you can remember the Sixties; you weren’t really there.”

Now the disk jockey will play “The Age of Aquarius,” Country Joe’s “Fixin’ to die rag,” and “Big Bad Bruce” (that may have been a regional hit played only on San Francisco jukeboxes). We have to go and search for a way to exceed our life time best (in a letter to a high school classmate in Vietnam) of a quadruple end parentheses punctuation. Have a “solid!” type week.

March 29, 2012

Who Looks Scarier in a Hoodie?


March 28, 2012

Zimmerman’s Fantasy; Trayvon’s Reality


The Giants, Beatniks, and Occupy Protests

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:21 pm

Coping with sporadic stints of volunteer file clerk typist duties for the Marina (del Rey) Tenants Association down in the Los Angeles, while simultaneously trying to “get a handle” on some unfamiliar new topics in the San Francisco bay area caused a “Eureka!” moment for the World’s Laziest Journalist when a paradigm for all the diverse issues began to form.

During hard times what’s not to like about a sure-fire way to make a new fortune, reelect incumbents and bilk voters? Is there a common thread here connecting the long battle in the L. A. area with the new issues in the San Francisco Bay area? What if you can get politicians to give you free land for your business, get them to build the building where you will conduct your new enterprise, get some tax breaks thrown in if you can, and then soak the voters for as much of the money in their bank accounts as you possibly can? Wouldn’t you then feel obligated to use some of that loot, to subsidize the reelections of the politicians who handed you that windfall license to steal? Could Liberal pundits please call such campaign contributions “tithing” and not make snide remarks comparing the cash donations to “kick backs”?

We noticed this possible pattern recently after being asked if we could help the Marina Tenants Association write up an annotated report on the long close relation ship between real estate developers and various members of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to be submitted to the new California Attorney General.

Baseball fans in San Francisco are upset because the baseball team seems to be asking a city in the South Bay area to get some land, build a new baseball stadium, and then let the Giants baseball team move-in and charge more money for seats and season tickets. The fans for that baseball team think they are being exploited.

The folks urging government expenditures to lure the America’s Cup boat races to the San Francisco Bay Area seem to be asking for the rights to develop various Piers after the city gives them the real estate. In return for the added recession era municipal expenditures such as additional traffic control and police work, the locals will (if they can’t use a helicopter, airplane, or yacht to get close up views of the competition) get the chance to buy expensive binoculars and telescopes, and thus boost some local businesses, if they want to try to get a glimpse of the race participants doing their high speed version of the Sunday duffers roaming about the bay.

Didn’t George W. Bush exploit his close connection with and access to the occupant of the White House to get land via eminent domain? Then didn’t he get the citizens of Texas to subsidize building a stadium on that land? At that point, didn’t he help (in exchange for a bit of stock?) a group of businessmen buy a baseball team and move it into that very stadium? Eventually didn’t he sell his share of that team and make a tidy profit?

If you see a familiar pattern in these random examples of self made fortunes, then perhaps you need to consider seeking professional help to break you of this terrible propensity toward conspiracy theory lunacy.

Back to MTA problem. The invitation/challenge arrived when we were trying to “digest” a vast quantity of information of, by, and about the Beat Generation writers as part of the preparations for doing a column about a new book focusing on an assortment of relevant topics.

The challenge of writing something new, concise, and well documented using a vast array of newspaper articles that were published over a fifty year period seems daunting, to say the least. Concurrently reviewing information about writers and poets who felt that they were beat before they got their careers started, for a future column, conjures up comparisons to the old Myth of Sisyphus story.

The fact that all this is swirling around in the World’s Laziest Journalist’s “in box,” while efforts are being made to coordinate information about attempts to revive the Occupy Wall Street series of political actions while a suspected war criminal is getting a heart transplant begins to overload the “current topics” circuits.

Could the fact that the Conservative noise machine is drowning out all the concerns about wealth inequality getting worse be compared to the battle the Beats had in various courts for using words that were condemned for being “Obscene!”?

Could the uphill fight use the pod people in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as a basis for a comparison the futility of fighting the tsunami of Fox Propaganda? Isn’t trying to warn members of the proletariat that they seem to be voting against their own welfare when they vote Republican a lot like Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) trying to convince his town that something bad is happening? Isn’t the blank look response in both cases identical?

Since this column is being written in the city that was, for many year, Philip K. Dick’s hometown, could we channel him to cook up a science fiction column describing how it would have been if the Beat writers had time traveled back to Berlin in 1935? Didn’t William L. Shirer describe in one of his books about life during the Third Reich era how Hitler told his associates when they entered the Chancellor’s office, that when he final left there they would carry him out on his shield? Isn’t that how the Republicans view their “mandate”?

The Bonus Army, Beatniks, and OWS protesters and the homeless seem to be connected by a long continuous series of aggravations for the ruling class.

Couldn’t the never ending efforts of the wealthy to train the little people to pay their taxes and not complain be compared to the work Sisyphus was assigned?

Could the “stand your ground” law be compared to legalizing lynching?

Some years ago (1994?), the Los Angeles Times made a commendable effort to draw attention to the fact that a cozy relationship existed between various real estate developers and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, but they were unable to neither instigate any legal investigations nor win a Pulitzer Prize for the series of stories they published.

It is flattering to be asked to make a new effort to do what they couldn’t accomplish, but the overwhelming feeling is that the next time we hear about Sisyphus’ rock, our response will be: “Been there; done that!”

It has come to our attention that some motorcycle gangs assert that if a person picks a fight with one member, the attacker will have to contend with the entire club membership to win the battle. Do the wealthy and the politician secretly hold that same philosophy?

It seems that if a tenants’ association attacks a group of politicians, they have to fight all the politicians to win any ground and if they do make any progress, a Republican majority in the United States Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional. Rest assured your attempts will be beaten down.

Why do the New York Giants play their home football games in New Jersey?

Aren’t the Giants moving out of San Francisco?

[Late edit: My (Joey Bidgen-ish) mistake.
The Baseball Giants moved to Frisco.
The Football 49ers are moving out of Frisco.
The Baseball Dodgers moved to L. A.

So where is the Brookly Dodgers Football team playing these days?]

Maybe we should write a column about the two big cites that lost a team called “The Giants”?

Remember how reassuring it was to hear Harry Harrison on WABC inform his audience he was broadcasting from the “Greatest City in the world!”?

Who paid for the new stadium where the Yankees play baseball? Hmmm. Maybe before we go running off to the Marina Tenants Association offices, we should detour through Times Square and do some additional fact finding? Wouldn’t that be a far, far better thing to do in a far away better place?

In “the Rolling Stone Book of the Beats,” Richard Meltzer, on page 72 of the paperback edition, wrote: “His (Jack Kerouac’s) actual bloody masterpiece, and one of the great, great works of the English language, is Big Sur.”

Now the disk jockey will play Ornette Coleman’s “Shape of Jazz to Come,” Slim Gaillard’s “Slim’s Jam,” and Cecil Taylor’s “Unit Structures.” We have to go look up the California Attorney General’s snail mail address. Have a “totally cool” week.

March 27, 2012

Political Tabloid Headlines of the Future


March 26, 2012

Sanford, Florida, Police Guide to Standing Your Ground


March 25, 2012

14 defining characteristics of fascism: The U.S. in 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 10:20 am

Author’s note:
You may have heard of the characteristics of fascism because they were published in 2003. They were in several critiques of the Bush administration. In applying them to the U.S. today, it saddened me that many still apply with a Democrat in office. In fact, if anything has changed, new legislation and the most recent executive order have made the poltical climate in the U.S. even more oppressive. I encourage readers to take a close look at America today in light of the 14 tenets of fascism and ask yourselves, do we really live in a democracy? I will post the first four, please use the link below to review the other 10.

In the spring of 2003, ex-corporate executive and political scientist Lawrence W. Britt published an essay in Free Inquiry magazine entitled “Fascism Anyone?” In his work, Britt examined the traits of the two governments that formed the original historical model for fascism, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and five other protofascist regimes that imitated that model, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. He identified 14 characteristics that were common to all of them. These traits have since been widely accepted as the 14 defining characteristics of fascism.

Nearly three generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, all of these regimes have been overthrown, but fascism’s principles can still be found in many nations. History tends to repeat itself because many leaders and nations fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm in the world today.

In the U.S., leaders, teachers, media and citizens proudly claim that America is a democratic society with certain freedoms and rights guaranteed to all citizens by the constitution, bill of rights and rule of law. But is that really the case? A close look at the 14 characteristics of fascism in light of what has changed in America in the past few years may raise some questions as to whether or not Americans truly live in a democratic society.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

Drive down any street in suburban or small-town America and witness the amount of flags flying, flag stickers on mailboxes, ribbon stickers on vehicles and patriotic tee shirts. Then-Senator Obama was criticized during his 2007 campaign for not wearing the ubiquitous flag lapel pin that many politicians wear. Nearly everyone has heard catchy slogans such as “Freedom isn’t Free,” “God Bless America” and “Support the Troops.” Borderline xenophobia is exemplified when french fries were renamed “freedom fries” in D.C. cafeterias. The fear of “illegals” taking scarce jobs has been written into legislation in states such as Arizona, where failure to carry immigration documents is a crime. Your papers, please?

This characteristic may be the most innocuous one of the 14. Americans have always had a strong sense of patriotic nationalism and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But patriotic symbolism and nationalistic legislation have been taken to a new level in the years since the first Gulf war when the first yellow ribbons were placed on trees.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

The use of extraordinary rendition, military tribunals instead of public trials, the refusal to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” are good examples of human rights violations. Many were done in secrecy until the information was leaked to the press. Capturing people and imprisoning them without charges is repeatedly called “extraordinary rendition” in the media, simulated drowning is called “waterboarding,” refusing the right to a fair trial a “military tribunal” and torture “enhanced interrogation.” All are good examples of the use of propaganda to make these practices palatable to the American people.

Disdain for human rights in the U.S. has never been more apparent than in recent years. The rights of free speech and assembly obviously do not apply to the over 6700 citizens that have been arrested and the many that have been beaten and pepper-sprayed since the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement began last September.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), signed into law by President Obama in December 2011, gives the government the power to indefinitely detain, imprison, torture and murder anyone, anywhere if he or she is considered a suspect of anything the US government wants to make up. The detention, imprisonment, torture and murder can occur without the person having been charged and without a trial.

These practices would probably have caused public outrage at any time in U.S. history before the new millennium, but now are accepted by many Americans as necessary tools in the “War on Terror,” (itself a slogan). Ask anyone present at recent OWS demonstrations how “free” they think Americans are now.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite ‘spontaneous’ acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and ‘terrorists.’ Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

The most readily identifiable scapegoats for Americans now are Muslims. Saddam Hussein was the ultimate scapegoat. It was easy for the Bush administration to rally the American people behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq by suggesting Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaida, which Bush later denied, and by repeatedly stating that Iraq had WMDs, which were never found.

There is a difference, however, between fascism today and the right-wing ideology that it embodied under Hitler and Mussolini. Modern fascism uses the left-right dialectic to maintain control over a divided populace. American politicians, citizens and media on both sides of the political spectrum continually use scapegoats to shift blame for failures and misdirect anger: liberals, conservatives, socialists, capitalists, bible-thumpers, atheists, blacks, welfare queens, tree-huggers, etc., etc. The list of labels used in name-calling and blaming goes on and on. Meanwhile, few if any real solutions are offered for problems such as unemployment, inflation, corruption on Wall Street and government spending.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

The U.S. government spends more on defense than anything else and more than the next 14 largest defense-spending nations combined. When the need for budget cuts are debated, politicians usually take aim at “entitlement” programs and social programs, while expressing concern that “military spending cuts are a risk to our national security.”

The U.S. government has allocated $851 billion for defense spending in fiscal year 2013. Defense spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all discretionary spending and accounts for about 22.4% of all federal spending – more than the allotments for Medicare or Social Security. Military manufacturing increased by 123% between 2000 and 2009 while the rest of the manufacturing sector decreased.

While Americans pay for the military to invade and occupy sovereign nations, millions of Americans lack access to affordable healthcare. The U.S. is the only country in the “developed” world that does not have a tax-payer funded healthcare system. Infrastructure is literally crumbling. Students in other industrial nations are outperforming U.S. students in math, science and reading. Yet all other departments, including Health and Human Services ($71.7 billion), the Department of Education ($69.8 billion), and Housing and Urban Development ($35.3 billion), must operate with the remaining $410 billion of discretionary spending.

Read about the other 10, get links, video and sources here: Madison Independent Examiner – 14 defining characteristics of fascism: The U.S. in 2012

Florida Justice


March 23, 2012

Report from 6079 Smith W

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:45 pm

It’s a game changer when pawns become bowling pins.
Smirnoff is offering something new in the San Francisco market.

Artist Mark Petersen opened his new show, titled “game changer,” at the “local 123 café” gallery in Berkeley on Friday March 16, 2012; the premise for the show is that 99% of society are pawns in a game being played by the one percent of the population that believes in a government of the elite by the elite is run for the benefit of the elite. We took some photos of the artist and assumed that the philosophy underlying the works of art would provide a graphic metaphor for starting a column that would explain the results of this week’s Primary Election in Illinois, which we were expecting. When the final count ran completely contrary to our expectations, the lede for this week’s column wasn’t the only thing that needed a quick revision.

The World’s Laziest Journalist has assumed that Karl Rove hasn’t worked all these years for the Bush family so that he will get a prestigious seat assignment for the Inauguration of Mitt Romney as President in January of 2013; so when JEB endorsed Romney the day after Romney won in Illinois, it seemed that it was time for the various radio talk shows to use “A simple twist of fate” for their bumper music as the week drew to a close.

There are two ways to write political commentary. You can either report your own personal thoughts and reactions or you can read up on other commentary and then make the choice to either follow the crowd or go rogue. Since our access to TV and the Internets is rather limited lately and since our budget has necessitated a drastic reduction in our ability to read the New York Times on a daily basis, we have been forced by circumstances to go the “I column as I see ’em” route to forming our political opinions.

Our immediate reaction to Tuesday’s election results in Illinois and the JEB endorsement story was to begin a search for a clever line that would casually mention Bishop Romney or to make some snarky remark about Mitt Goldwater or Senator Barry Romney.

Are the Republicans really going to give the Presidential Nomination to a fellow who turns off a goodly number of their own voters? Apparently they are. Are the Democrats going to give their party’s nomination to a guy who has put his imprimatur on the Bush war policies by adopting them with a Nihil Obstat rating? Apparently they are.

Political commentary hasn’t had to contend with a game changer like Tuesday’s Illinois results since Linden B. Johnson told Americans, on March 31, 1968, that he wouldn’t seek reelection.

While the very convoluted contemporary political scene gets sorted out, what can a columnist write to amuse and entertain the dozen or so regular readers? “ . . . to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget . . .”

There will be a cornucopia of topics not related to the November election available during April because this year there will be chances to write about: the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the San Francisco earthquake, National Columnists’ Day, the bombing of Guernica, the Columbine school shooting rampage, and the start of Winston Smith’s clandestine diary.

We could also write about the Air Sex Championships scheduled for Tuesday March 27, 2012, at the Elbo Room in San Francisco. It wasn’t immediately clear if the Air Sex Championships is a band or a contest similar to the Air Guitar competitions.

Since Mitt Romney’s middle name is Willard perhaps we could write a column comparing the November Election to the classic movie “Apocalypse Now”? It’s not difficult to imagine candidate Romney looking at the Obama legacy and responding to an question about the effectiveness of Obama’s agenda by muttering: “I don’t see any methods at all . . . .”

If Willard Romney wants to project a “man of the people” image (on his Etch-a-sketch screen?) perhaps he should show off some bowling trophies?

We could run a plug for a friend’s automobile photos and then use that as an excuse for segueing into considering if we should send a query letter to the assignment editor at Jalopnik suggesting they assign a political pundit to test drive a new Ferrari or maybe just a chance to describe the sensations produced while operating a Zamboni. Does anyone ever hold Zamboni races? Would an assignment to cover such hypothetical Zamboni races provide a chance to write an allegorical novel about “a savage journey to the heart of the American Dream”?

Could a series of weekly Photo Reports on Contemporary Pop Culture pass as weekend wrap-up columns?

Could we write a column with deep psychological insights based on the fact that this week in San Francisco, we saw an advertisement for whipped cream flavored vodka? Would anyone read such a column? Would anyone care? “What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side?

Is it worth the effort for the World’s Laziest Journalist to go to Chicago and see if the Occupy May Day protests there will produce any 1968 flashbacks?

A trip to London to see the Olympic Games might not be cost effective for a columnist who would have to subsidize his own travel expenses.

Didn’t a long haul trucker become an art critic for the New York Times? Hasn’t that fellow maxed out on getting Facebook friends? Has that guy ever heard the music of the German Country and Western band named “Truck Stop”? Is it possible to think of the concept of Country music with lyrics sung in German and not think of Hunter S. Thompson’s line in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” describing the “Circus Circus” casino?

Lately talk radio seems to consist of either conservative hosts endorsing the conservative talking points made by conservative callers or progressive hosts attempting to drop a game changer explanation on a conservative caller who doesn’t seem inclined to listen to any rebuttals. A Romeny vs. the incumbent Presidential race does not seem to offer any hope for improving the entertainment factor for talk radio.

At this point, it seems that rebroadcasts of some of Wolfman Jack shows would be more entertaining than any production figures about oil pipelines provided by a man who has talent on loan from God.

Can anyone make the chocolate production numbers more informative and entertaining than Rush Limbaugh? “Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones.”

Speaking of Uncle Rushbo, has he commented on the Treyvon Martin affair yet?

There isn’t going to be any drama about the eventual Democratic Party pick for the fall election. The Republicans seem resigned to the fact that Mitt Romney is predestined to get his party’s nomination. Isn’t the challenge facing both political parties comparable to the idea of getting American sports fans hooked on rugby?

This columnist was expecting to write a series of columns for 2012 that would sound quite a bit like what one might expect to be produced by a black belt in conspiracy theory, but all that evaporated this week when the movement toward the selection of the Republican nominee got its “white smoke/new pope” moment.

If football players can get bonus pay for sending a member of the opposing team to the hospital, why can’t liberal pundits get big extra bucks for items that cripple the campaigns of conservative candidates?

We will (apparently) have to scrap all our plans to win a few friendly bets on JEB Bush and face a bleak choice of either making some tepid criticism of both party’s candidates or changing the focus of the columns to other topics. However, in the best spirit of conspiracy theory lunatic thinking, we can remember that in this vitriolic world of unexplained events, an unexpected game changer development could become a new factor quicker that you can say “Senator Paul Wellstone.”

The closing quote for this column was found in George Orwell’s essay titled “Looking back on the Spanish War.” He wrote: “All that the working man demands is what these others would consider the indispensable minimum without which human life can not be lived at all. Enough to eat, freedom from the terror of unemployment, the knowledge that your children will get a fair chance, a bath once a day, clean linen reasonably often, a roof that doesn’t leak, and short enough working hours to leave you with a little energy when the day is done.” The Republicans in Spain wanted that?

Now the disk jockey will play Patsy Cline’s “So Wrong,” Waylon Jennings “WRONG!,” and Buddy Holly’s “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?” We have to go look for some new column leitmotifs. Have an “Ignorance is strength” type week.

March 22, 2012

Corporate Goliaths: Have they now become unstoppable?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 1:02 pm

When David went up against Goliath back in the Bible, Goliath was really truly HUGE. But just how did this guy manage to get that big in the first place? I’m assuming that he started out by eating up everything in sight. At first his mommy probably fed him. But as he grew larger, he started grabbing his weaker neighbors’ food for himself. And as he continued to get more massive, he started getting more greedy — and he soon wanted it ALL. All of it. All of it for him. Nothing for anyone else.

And that’s when David stepped in.

American and international corporate giants have become very much like the old biblical Goliath. So here we are today, getting sucked up by their endless appetites, like we were Skittles or potato chips or something — but there are no modern-day Davids in sight.

In both America and worldwide, these corporate Goliaths have kept growing and growing. How? By lowering our wages so that they can make more profit at our expense, seizing ownership of our media so they can get us to believe that what they’re doing is right, and taking over our government so that it can happily feed these monsters our lifeblood.

These snowballing Goliaths have taken over our armies, our treasury, our healthcare, our food, our regulatory systems, our ability to be industrially self-sufficient, our churches and synagogues, even our children’s future, and are pushing all of it into their endlessly massive gaping maws. Yuck. And the more money and resources that the corporatists take, the weaker the rest of us become.

Have these Goliaths finally grown large enough to become completely unstoppable? Surely, even against such great odds, there must be SOME way to stop this vast, terrifying and still-growing avalanche of Goliaths? But how? Perhaps by finding another source of power, something beyond what they consider important? Perhaps their unwieldy Goliath model has become outmoded? Perhaps they too can be slain by an opposing avalanche of nimble Davids?

It worked back in Biblical days. Why not now?

Since the advent of the internet, what it means to be a society has changed. What it means to be an individual has changed. What it means to be a country has changed. We are no longer powerless and alone. And we too can become Davids. We can do this. We are doing this already.

PS: Just look at what happened to one of the first Goliaths to fall: Rush Limbaugh.

One Percent Lusts for Romney

Filed under: Opinion,Toon — Tags: , , , , , — RS Janes @ 9:14 am


March 21, 2012

Fox News Lies Killed This Man’s Mother

Tracy Knauss is a progressive satirist who has done great art collages like the one shown below:

But even Knauss’ solid slapdowns of Fox News likely didn’t prepare Tracy for the tragedy that struck his family; his mother, an ardent Fox News viewer, refused medical treatment that led to her death; she refused it due to false information spread by Fox News. Read on:

This is not my normal political satire. This is the truth. For real. FOX NEWS KILLED MY MOTHER — For about 20% of Americans, many of them older and/or uneducated, Fox News is the main source of information. But rest assured Fox is not about news any more than it’s fair and balanced. FOX is the main propaganda arm for the Republican Party and America’s plutocrats. It is THE worst of the corporate owned media. FOX’s founder, Roger Ailes, was the top media consultant to the last four Republican presidents. No way was he going to create a fair or balanced news media. FOX News is killing America one lie at a time, one life at a time. I know this personally. FOX News killed my precious mother, Hallie. She watched FOX religiously. And when she fell ten days before she died, she refused to go to the doctor because, “I don’t want Obamacare to get all of my information!” she declared, recalling the warnings from FOX News “anchors.” She was emphatic. She was not going to consort with the Muslim enemy. As she made out her will she told her lawyer, “I don’t want any of my money going to the Muslim Brotherhood!” And her last protestation dealt with “Obama’s death panels.” Mother died just days later. I hold FOX News responsible for my mother’s death.
– Tracy Knauss, as quoted at Silenced Majority.

Here is the graphic Tracy posted with the entry above:

And this also appeared on Tracy’s Facebook page:


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