July 31, 2012

Mitt Romney: Unfortunate Son the Sequel


July 30, 2012

Children of Uganda: They have NO safety net!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 10:04 pm

Kids in America usually have their parents, free public education, child protective services, Medicaid and Sesame Street to fall back on when times get tough — but children here in Uganda have none of that. And the children of Uganda need a safety net far more than our children do because they have a whole lot further to fall if they should make even the slightest misstep.

For example, when times get tough for kids in Uganda, it is completely possible for them to be sold into slavery or forced into prostitution or live in overcrowded orphanages or become child solders or starve to death or get caught in war zones or die of horrible diseases or become homeless because their parents’ land has been stolen by the “extraction industry” or become street beggars or… The list goes on and on and on.

You had just better thank your lucky stars that your children were born in America and not in Uganda.

And we Americans also need to guard our children’s safety nets with our very lives and just pray that the One Percent doesn’t get their way and cut our precious safety nets off — or it will be our kids who are out there begging on the streets or living in orphanages or forced into prostitution too.

If we Americans also lost our safety nets such as medical insurance and schools and everything else that, in the past, we have pooled our money together to buy because we couldn’t afford to buy any of this on our own, then this could be also happening to us.

Scratch that. It has started to happen to us already.

Now that huge corporations have bought out our government lock, stock and barrel and have made it work for them instead of for us? Now we Americans are no longer unique. Now we, like the Ugandans before us, are also fast becoming merely one more group of residents of what Chris Hedges calls corporate “sacrifice zones”.

In Uganda, it costs a whole bunch of money for children to attend public elementary schools. Have you noticed how our corporate-owned government is already charging a whole bunch of money to attend public universities here? So. Will they soon start charging us a whole bunch of money to attend public elementary schools here as well, like they do in Uganda? Guess what? It’s already happened

And what if you lose your job in America, now a distinct possibility? You still might be able to survive by feeding your kids with food stamps and housing them through HUD subsidies. But not so in Uganda. Here you just sell your kids to a human trafficker. That’s your safety net here.

I love Uganda. It’s a wonderful country and people here really do try to help each other and the government here is also really trying hard to keep its finger in the dike that holds back human misery. But let me tell you, aside from possible help from a few foreign NGOs, ultimately you sink or swim on your own here. And now the Republicans are telling us that we too need to man up and be responsible for ourselves instead of relying on a “nanny state” — while the GOP itself never applies these rules to it own, blatantly stealing our tax money to buy vacation homes in Monaco and the Caymans

It’s time to tell the One Percent that they also need to stand on their own two feet too — no more government safety nets and free subsidies and handouts for them. Or, better still, let’s just send all of THEM off to beg in the streets of Uganda.

PS: On a lighter side (sort of), there are so many orphanages here in Uganda that one sometimes wonders if there are any parents left here at all. So I went off to visit an orphanage and had a wonderful time having cute little babies crawling all over me. Babies everywhere — smiling and cooing. Plus I got to talk with many American couples who had come to Uganda to adopt one of these cuties. Good for them.

PPS: With the help of Global Exchange representatives, I was also able to meet with members of a UN agency in Kampala that deals human trafficking in Uganda, and to learn a whole bunch of stuff dealing with that particular scourge. Here are my notes on the subject:

“The Karamoja region in northeastern Uganda has the most children being trafficked into Kampala. Why? Because Karamoja is the most unstable area in Uganda — due to poverty and war.” Karamoja also has many “sacrifice zones” because the “extraction industry” is in full swing here too.

“Aunts and uncles of these Karamojong children arrive back home from Kampala and look relatively better-dressed and more well off. Receiving 10,000 shillings a month (approximately ten dollars) doesn’t mean too much to us — but it is a fortune to these parents. And so the desperate parents trust them and give them their children to take back to Kampala, to hopefully have a chance to get an education, learn a skill and have a better life.

“And so the children are loaded onto trucks and buses and brought here. And nobody ever stops these trucks to ask, ‘Where are the parents of these children?’ Plus you cannot stop people from moving around. People do have the right to go where they want if they have documents.

“But what the traffickers neglect to tell the children is about the deplorable conditions they will find themselves in once they get to Kampala. They are sent out onto the streets to beg, for instance. And there is always a watcher or ‘street mother’ nearby who makes sure that the children always have their hands stretched out to beg. And if they don’t beg they are beaten, so they soon learn to stretch their hands out — even in their sleep.”

These children are brutalized, beaten and sexually abused. They ‘rent’ tiny spaces on the floors of small crowded rooms for 200 shillings a night. The girls, after age 12, are then forced into prostitution, and the boys start picking up scrap metal or go into petty theft.

“Sporadically children are rounded up by the police and then warehoused with little or no food. Then they are taken back and dumped in Karamoja again. But there is no life for them in Karamoja either. Are they being provided with schools, counseling, housing, etc. once they return? No.”

When the children are repatriated, they are sometimes given a package consisting of a small amount of money, a few clothes and a mattress. So then people there started sending their kids to Kampala in order to just get the package.

“This is the status of our work to prevent domestic trafficking right now: We are concentrating on case management, social integration and raising public awareness such as how people can protect themselves from traffickers. To this effect, we hold outdoor video screening of trafficking documentaries in the villages, and one famous pop singer here has even written a song about it.”

Regarding deterrence, this UN agency is also working with the police in Kampala in order to train them how to best deal with a bad situation. And although a number of the children taken in routine police sweeps really want to go back to Karamoja, some don’t because they know that they will just be going back to the same bad situation they came from. And some parents don’t want their children to come back for the same reason; because they won’t be able to put food in their mouths.

“Karamojong children have been trafficked for over 20 years now. This should have been stopped long ago — but there is sometimes discrimination against the Karamojong here in Uganda.

And with regard to the subject of sexual trafficking, people here in Kampala do know that it goes on — and even people in really high places are sometimes involved. There is currently one man who has instigated a class-action suit on behalf of women who were trafficked internationally, claiming that the government did nothing about it. In another instance, recently 600 trafficked Ugandan women were stuck in Malaysia and the government was made aware of this situation when a media spotlight was shown on their plight.

What is the definition of trafficking? Apparently it has to do with exploitation and failed expectations. Traffickers promise one thing and deliver another.

And sometimes even traffickers delude themselves too, thinking that “I’m improving someone’s life” or “This is a way of life where we live; has been done by everyone for a long long time.”

Uganda’s new human trafficking law, passed in 2009, may not be as effective as it could be because it is too punitive in regard to punishment. People might think twice about turning in a relative if the punishment is life imprisonment.

“But there is always hope. It’s a big problem but we have a task force for it and are working on solving it. But the underlying problem is unemployment and poverty, which puts young people at risk.”

Ah. Unemployment and poverty. Could this mean that when the GOP gets its way and Americans too become just one more vast source of cheap labor, that there will be more human trafficking in America as well?

“With regard to international trafficking, Asia and the Middle East is where trafficking is really picking up — where there is a demand for both prostitutes and cheap domestic help.

“Regarding the rehabilitation of former prostitutes, a person who has gone through prostitution is really hard to get back into the regular work force. We used to give them cash to help them start a new life and they would run through it in a few weeks. Now we give them aid in kind — help them set up businesses. But it’s hard. It takes a long time to build the ethos for this.”

And most people forced into prostitution end up HIV positive and have little access to meds.

“Some former prostitutes return to the life because of the stigma at home. Some go off to South Sudan and are prostitutes there. Repatriation is hard. Do the women themselves want to come back from this life? Are there funds to help them come back? Of the 600 in Malaysia, we have only repatriated 15 so far. But once they are back, we help them to access services.”

This agency uses the same approach to international trafficking that it uses for domestic trafficking, and also offers ways for victims to come back to Uganda — such as giving cards to young women at airports with a number to call if they need help.

“If girls try to escape from their situation, they may be physically abused. And the traffickers also have their passports and may have ties to officials there so that there is no one the girls can report to.” The UN is also trying to make other countries aware regarding how to handle people who have been trafficked.

And Ugandan women trafficked to China pose a particular problem for Uganda, which depends on China for aid. They don’t want to offend China and so must tread lightly.

“People are so desperate in their situations here that they are willing to believe what the traffickers say. So as long as the root causes exist, trafficking will exist. And It is like another form of slavery. Slavery was abolished a long time ago but it still exists. It has just taken another form.”

Most international cases of trafficking involve girls over the age of 18 due to passport requirements.

“And sometimes those being trafficked turn around and become traffickers themselves because you have gone through abuse for so long that you become desensitized. You don’t look forward or look back because you are so beaten down — and you start to accept the life you are in. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome: Identify with the abuser to the point that they protect their traffickers and become traffickers themselves.

“These victims see their life as gone and they see no other way back for themselves. Victims have to be willing to change — and many of them are not.”

And Karamoja is still the greatest source of trafficking victims. “The poverty in Karamoja is obvious when you go there. The droughts of the 1970s and 1980s began this downward slide. It’s all about poverty. And the HIV pandemic has left many child-headed households as well. And the wars have had a big effect too — cultures there have been disintegrated by war and by drought.

“Originally Karamojong kids came to the cities looking for work. And the trafficking grew from there. And it is also an outgrowth of the custom of people having many children in order to share the work — so that now there are still many children to provide for but less work to support them.”

I’ve also heard that, as more and more minerals are being found in the Karamoja region, more and more farmers are being tossed off their lands by the “extraction industry”.

“Globalization has also been a large factor in another way , in that development projects bring in a whole new supply of johns. And it then becomes a matter of distinction of power. If you try to stop the Chinese johns, then it becomes a political issue.

“Women who get too old to be prostitutes may become madams, pimps, ‘street mothers’ and traffickers themselves. They stay in the game but in a different capacity. Many of them, however, flat-out die. HIV, gang rapes, poverty.

“The Ugandan military supplies major clients and johns. Camp followers are common. But that’s starting to change as soldiers who contract HIV are not being promoted.”

And it isn’t just poor people in Uganda who are being trafficked either. Recent university graduates without jobs have been answering what appear to be legitimate employment offers in the newspapers for work abroad in their fields. However, somehow only the young pretty female ones get hired — and then find themselves chained to a whorehouse in China or the Middle East.

After talking with the UN agency representatives, I then went off to Busia, on the border with Kenya, to learn about cross-border trafficking there — where the border is porous.

“Trafficking isn’t just about buying and selling human beings,” said a local expert on the subject. “It’s about any form of exploitation. Sexual trafficking is also a problem here because of all the long-distance truckers who come through Busia while bringing goods from China and the Kenyan ports into Uganda, the Congo and the C.A.R.”

Because Busia is now a boom town, women and girls come here seeking employment. But once they can’t find work and have no other choice, they are forced into prostitution.

After meeting with the trafficking expert, I then hopped onto the back of a bicycle for hire and set out for the Kenyan border itself, hoping to score an interview with an Obama. But no such luck. The crossing was too crowded. But I did meet one young woman who exactly fit the trafficking profile — she was young, naive, beautiful and desperately searching for work. Optimistic and bright-eyed and hopeful, she was on her way to a new job interview.

After all that I had just learned, I just wanted to scream at her, “Run, girl, run! Go back to your home. Go back now — before it’s too late.” But I didn’t. And she probably wouldn’t have listened to me either. What would have been her other option? No safety nets for her spring to mind.


July 29, 2012

The Things You’re NOT Liable to Read in the Bible


July 28, 2012

Jobs: the Teabagger Dilemma


July 27, 2012

Gun control in the liberal pundits’ cross hairs?

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

This shot is from the World’s Laziest Journalist’s photo morgue.
How did they get to Berkeley CA?

The Hollywood recipe of sex, high speed car chases, and shootouts, used to attract large numbers of young men to movie theaters during the summer months occasionally boils over into real life and when it does it precipitates a cavalcade of clichés for both the pro and anti gun pundits who automatically proceed to the “round up the usual suspects” mode of operation. Attempting to write a remarkably eloquent example of argumentation for either point of view brings to mind a quote made famous by Inspector (Dirty) Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood): “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

American culture offers such an abundance of pop culture items for relevant allusions that it provides a book manuscript level of possible material and since this will be a quick read column meant to incite readers to do their own analysis rather than offer an “off the rack” set of tailored opinions, we will try to present something that is both unique and thought provoking.

One of the world’s laziest journalist’s recurring complaints is that regimented thinking has become too standardized in mainstream media and we noted with some satisfaction that our subjective reaction to the initial onslaught of news was to wonder how many of the pundits who tackle the subject will use the idea that the shooter obviously needed to get laid as the basis for a column suggesting that the fellow was a poster boy for the idea that prostitution should be legalized.

One of the victims, Jessica Ghawi, was a remarkable rookie sports reporter whose brother asked for a boycott of the perp’s name and so we will not use the name of the young man who methodically attempted to execute an entire movie audience. She was, according to several news reports, a vivacious and talented person who embodied what the French call joie de vivre (joy of living). We have been intending to write a column about that French philosophical concept and realize the poignant fact that the victim epitomized the philosophy that every day is a precious gift and should be appreciated accordingly. We will hoist a glass of our favorite non-alcoholic drink in her memory this weekend.

The kid who is now in custody and awaiting trial, it seems to this columnist, needed some love and sex to suppress his antisocial impulses. We wondered what would have happened if fate had supplied the shooter with a dynamic girlfriend instead of a compulsion.

Many of the news reports about the shooter’s first appearance in court noted that the fellow looked dazed and confused. None of the accounts specifically used the phrase “drug addled moron,” but that seemed to be the consensus opinion of the journalists. It made us wonder: since the fellow had been in custody since early Friday morning, did the District Attorney prescribe heavy sedation for the defendant to prevent the culprit from going berserk Monday as a way of providing a foundation for an insanity plea defense?

During the week, Ted Nugent speculated about how different things might have been if some other members of the movie audience had been strapped (i.e. carrying firearms). When Australian fugitive Ned Kelly was apprehended, he was wearing home made armor and he sustained more than two dozen wounds before he was subdued. Apparently Nugent’s speculation included a magical bullet with a mythological ability to be unencumbered by the restrictions of the laws of physics and would have sent the mass murderer to an early grave.

Could Chuck Norris have delivered such a hypothetical example of perfect marksmanship in the midst of the mass confusion?

Obviously Ted Nugent deserves a place on Mitt Romney’s short list of potential running mates.

Premeditated anonymity for the shooter, in accordance with the wishes of Ms. Ghowi’s brother, caused us to wonder just how many Americans can supply the name of the assassin (Charles Guiteau) who shot President James A. Garfield or the fellow (Leon Czolgosz) who shot President William McKinley. It would take a trivia champ to name the guy (Gavrilo Princip) who shot Archduke Ferdinand and precipitated the mass carnage of WWI.

That, in turn, reminded us that there was a second Congressional investigation to augment the Warren Commission Report into the shooting of President Kennedy and the lesser known study concluded that there was more than one person involved in the assassination in Dallas. Some conspiracy theory scholars suggest that the fellow who shot President Lincoln may have had some help from unknown people who were accessories to the crime.

Just about everything the world’s laziest journalist knows about snipers was learned while reading the novels of movie critic Stephen Hunter. That, in turn, inspired us to read the biography of Carlos Hathcock, a U. S. Marine Corp sniper who killed a Viet Cong general with a shot from 2,000 yards away.

His name sparked us to remember that a poker hand of aces and eights has a special significance for people who are fascinated by the history of the American West.
At this point while doing the keystrokes for the rough draft for this column, caroming off on a tangential topic about which shots are morally acceptable and which are not has a powerfully appealing aspect, but we will address that topic some other day in a future column and continue objectively assembling a collection of gun related items for this particular column.

It seems very unlikely that corporate media will permit any of their indentured propagandists to dwell on the fact that the shooter had a college degree and was overqualified to work the “want a side order of fries with your burger?” jobs available.
If the police found any books by Marx or Engels in the shooter’s apartment, Uncle Rushbo & Co. will be jubilant. Have the conservative pundits ever noted that the Tea Party movement in the USA strongly echoes the Black Hundred political movement in Tsarist Russia?

Some pundits have suggested that the shooter wanted fame and media attention and point out the culprit’s dyed hair as proof that the fellow was bonkers and willing to go to extremes to gain attention. Have any of these expert pundits walked around in a college town lately? If they have they will learn that the War in Vietnam has ended since they graduated and that some young folks these days sport hair dyed green, purple, or gray. Have any of the musicians who pioneered the punk rock genre and used the retro Iroquois haircut started to go bald?

After hearing some recent news reports indicating that a majority of young people want to be famous, we stumbled upon a curious link connecting Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson. Biographers indicate that all three considered being a famous celebrity a curse rather than a gift of fate.

[Both Hemingway and Hunter Thompson were avid gun enthusiasts. We can’t immediately recall any passages from Kerouac’s writing which mentioned guns. We have often wondered (word play alert!) if the inventory for Hunter’s private arsenal included a Thompson submachine gun.

Back in the day when this columnist was too young to qualify for a driver’s license, weekly magazines (such as Look and Colliers?) often featured an ad offering Thompson submachine guns which had blocked up barrels. Quite often those ads were adjacent to other ads which offered replacement parts (such as barrels?) for obsolete military weapons. We haven’t seen any of those ads recently and so we wonder if the Thompson submachine gun is now considered an assault rifle or not.]

Isn’t it rather poignant that the anti-Establishment rock bands from the Sixties, who warned their contemporaries about the dangers of commercialism, have come to epitomize the lucrative aspect of fame? Some day we will get around to writing a column that will convey our philosophy about how fame can be a double edged sword.

[The illusive mystery writer K. C. Constantine was once quoted as saying he wrote and avoided publicity because he had had his fill of fame when he played professional baseball. Our hunch is that the writer’s secret identity would be that of a former member of the N. Y. Yankees who had a subsequent career as a sports caster and lived in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.]

Is the anti-capitalism beatnik/hippie philosophy still being preached? A blogger who posts tips and hints about how to run away to join a hippie commune will get a constant trickle of visitors seeking information on that very subject. Maybe we’ll write a column on that topic.

Is it an example of hypocrisy to note that the conservatives who advocate availability of assault rifles for the masses often live in very secure compounds and fastidiously avoid malls and public movie theaters where they might encounter germs or stray bullets? Would it be an example of über-irony if the gift shop at the World’s Laziest Journalist World Headquarters were to offer a T-shirt reading: “I love hypocrisy!”?

After 9-11, people in the L. A. area who were being admitted to free movie screenings for critics and journalists, were searched for weapons, so is it another example of hypocrisy if people who see new films in a secure location condemn motion pictures for inciting violence at public theaters? Or is that an acceptable example of double standard thinking?

Speaking of cinematic violence, when we were an enthusiastic Three Stooges fan, a relative pointed out that the mayhem in those comedies was “play acting” and noted that the only time an uncle killed an enemy soldier (he was a Seabee who was going for water on Guadalcanal), he hit the fellow on the head with an empty bucket.

Are the journalists in the media suffering from sensational event deficit disorder? Do you expect to see/hear any gun control debate on the Sunday talk shows during the first weekend of the sports games in London? After a news event has been featured on the covers of the weekly news magazines, it becomes ancient history.

Didn’t President George W. Bush end the War in Iraq when he signed a peace treaty with Saddam Hussein at an event that was held on the deck of an aircraft carrier?

As this column was being written, the disk jockey was sorting through a mountain of material to select the best relevant music to play when the time to roll the credits arrives. There are so many songs about shooting that it would be difficult to select the top ten. Items like “Frankie and Johnnie” and “Stagerlee” are fixtures in American Pop Culture. Using the Gonuts song “Hot for Twinkies” would be too confusing for anyone who is not a trivia expert on San Francisco Political History. Is some of the best of Ennio Morricone’s music appropriate? If the disk jockey plays the Ride of the Valkyries, should the columnist say “Getcha a case of beer for that!”? Should he play the theme song from “High Noon”? “I hate Mondays!”?

American folk wisdom proclaimed: “God didn’t create all men equal; Col. Colt did.”

The disk jockey will play the “Annie get your gun” album, the song “America – Fuck Yeah!” from Team America, and the theme song from the TV series “Palidin.”

Roll credits!

V. O. (Voice over):
Since we have not gotten an assignment to go to London and extol the delights of the cavalcade of simultaneous sports events occurring there, we will be lucky to get to the Gilroy Garlic festival this weekend. Have a “wear garlic necklace” type week.

[TrustoCorp, which is described online as “a New York based artist (or artists) dedicated to highlighting the hypocrisy and hilarity of human behavior through sarcasm and satire,” put up an example of their work in Berkeley CA about two years ago. It expresses a macho Australian philosophy about guns. We used a shot of that sign (from the WLJ photo morgue) to illustrate this week’s column.]

The Incredible Not-Rightness of Being Mitt


July 26, 2012

Robin Hood vs. Sir Mitt, the Thane of Bain


July 24, 2012

Hypocrisy Thy Name is Mitt


July 23, 2012

Miscellaneous Uganda: Dealing with Big Pharma & beads in Kampala

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:31 am

In early July, I left for Uganda on a fact-finding tour sponsored by Global Exchange — and have learned a lot of really amazing stuff since.

First, I learned that taking anti-malaria medication sucks eggs. Your stomach begins to feel nauseous, then you break out in hives and then get the runs. And yet despite having to endure all this miserable uncomfortableness, there’s apparently still a fair chance that the freaking pills might not even work.

Next, I learned about a mysterious “nodding disease” that is currently killing children in northern Uganda — where Big Pharma is routinely conducting various human drug trials on the locals.

According to Ugandan journalist Angelo Izamaa, “One of the undesirable facts about Northern Uganda, beyond the [LRA] conflict itself, was the attractiveness of its conditions for disease research.” Further, “Last year the BBC reported that Pandemrix, one of the vaccines [involved in drug trials in northern Uganda], was being investigated by several countries including Finland for the link to ‘nodding disease’ like conditions.”

And then I developed a really bad cough. Really, really bad. Bronchitis. “Can you PLEEZE take me to visit a witch doctor!” I begged. But then I found out that, in Uganda witch doctors demand a human sacrifice as part of the cure — preferably a small child with no scars. Good grief. I don’t think even the FDA would approve of that kind of cure. So I took massive amounts of vitamin C instead and that worked.

Next I read an article in Kampala’s leading newspaper which touted the fabulous effectiveness of a new cervical cancer vaccine for female minors — and how every young girl in Uganda should get this wonderful vaccine ASAP.

Hey, isn’t that the very same vaccine that many Americans now refuse to give to their daughters due to the drug’s horrendous side-effects which are way out of proportion to its possible ability to prevent a STD that may give you a form of cancer forty years in the future that is already easily detectable by a Pap smear and thus relatively preventable anyway and may leave you dead at age 15 instead? Yeah. It is.

According to the Washington Post, “A new report (at http:/ / vaccinesafety/ vaccines/ hpv/ gardasil.html) by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that serious complications had occurred [from use of the vaccine, including 20 deaths], although the rate and severity of most side effects appear to be consistent with those of other vaccines.”

Now that a lot of Americans have stopped allowing Gardasil to be administered to their daughters, are its manufacturers now foisting off their excess inventory onto Uganda’s daughters instead? Anything for a profit, guys.

And speaking of vaccines, in Kampala I once again jumped head-first into that old argument over the costs vs. the benefits of giving babies and young children a whole bunch of doses of vaccines before they even reach kindergarten.

“If a vaccine can prevent horrible debilitating diseases like polio, then go for it,” is my point of view. “But as for the rest of the 38 different vaccination encounters recommended for children under the age of six by the American Academy of Pediatrics and being foisted off on our unsuspecting kids these days? 38 different doses administered to our babies in their first very vulnerable years of life? Really?”

“But without vaccines,” the other person responded, “we will run the risk of having measles epidemics and coming down with the mumps and hepatitis and….”

“But even whooping cough can be cured,” I then replied. “And even diphtheria. However, the occurrence of autism in American children has increased approximately 800% since the amount of vaccines given to them has proportionately increased. And now approximately one in every 88 American children suffers from some form of autism. Sure, autism has not been officially linked to vaccines — but what if getting 38 doses of vaccine in a very short time even MIGHT be the cause of it? Why take the chance? Whooping cough can be cured. Autism is forever.”

Still don’t think that autism is linked to vaccines? You are probably right. However, “All About Autism” magazine just featured an article stating that, “Approximately 50,000 adolescents with ASD will turn 18 years old this year in the United States. This is the first wave of children who were identified with autism in the early 90s.” Early nineties? First wave? There WAS a first wave? Right around the time that vaccines were becoming a fetish with Big Pharma? Huh?

Other miscellaneous stuff that I’ve learned here in Uganda? That women in the slums of Kampala cut up old magazines and calendars, turn them magically into beads and sell the beads to support their families. So I bought more bracelets than you can imagine from them — and they in turn gave me a tour of their homes, which were the size of many Americans’ closets.

“The more money that I make from the bead business, the more that the landlord raises my rent,” said one woman who lived with two sons and a daughter in a 10×12 shack under a sweltering tin roof. “And he charges me 20 cents every time we use the latrine.” And there is no drainage system, no water pipes, no washing machines, no showers or nothing like that in this slum. And yet these women all emerge from their houses each day immaculately clean. How do they DO that!

After seeing this slum, I was totally amazed that everyone living there hadn’t already come down with cholera. But for them, this life is normal. And life goes on.


Tailgunner Joe Bachmann


July 20, 2012

“Hello, sucker!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 19, 2012

YOS: An Interview with God

Filed under: Commentary — Ye Olde Scribe @ 1:39 pm


Ye Olde Scribe, concerned with recent comments by George the “I wanna blow some punk away” Zimmerman, called God on his Deity Hot Line: an item he bought used from the Salvation Army and programmed it to reach the Almighty according to Sean Hannity’s instructions. Used to be the Bat Phone from the old TV series. Adam West sold it because there were too many calls to the pay per minute “I like boys” sex talk hot line by his partner and he felt someone was… ROBIN… him.

Romney’s New Time Cover


July 18, 2012

Romney Models New 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Uniforms


July 16, 2012

It’s Not Outsourcing When Romney Does It

Filed under: Opinion,Toon — Tags: , , , , — RS Janes @ 5:34 pm


From Watergate to Baingate


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