July 15, 2012

The Sermon on the Mount: Why Bother?

Filed under: Opinion,Toon — Tags: , , , , , , , — RS Janes @ 7:09 am


July 13, 2012

“Spare change?”

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

Chalkupy came to Berkeley this week to take a stand in the sit-lie debate.

Early in the week, a popular medical pot dispensary closed in San Francisco and caused a flare-up of the baffled pundit syndrome. Skeptics are asking if President Obama is overlooking a link to the young voters who helped him win in 2008 and perplexed commentators are left scratching their heads. Why would he do something that seems to spurn the attitude of a large portion of his political base? Could the well paid experts be overlooking an obvious answer in much the same way folks couldn’t find the purloined letter? Is there a hypothetical explanation for Obama’s curious failure to let pot dispensaries function without harassment?

Do you want to consider a possible explanation? Let’s assume that businesses in the pharmaceutical industry make large contributions to both the Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates’ campaign funds. Then let’s assume that those very same firms resent the potential of medicinal pot which is not part of their assortment of products. Would they hold off on asking the resident in the White House for a bit of payback out of consideration of the therapeutic value that the pot provides for the afflicted or would they remind the President about paybacks and then ask him to pull strings to make life miserable for the interlopers?

On Thursday, a large popular medical marijuana dispensary with outlets in Oakland and San Jose announced they must either find new locations or close.

In Berkeley CA, this week, the city council heard public input on the topic of the sit-lie law which will be on the November ballot. The measure will, if adopted, prohibit sitting or laying down on sidewalks from early morning until late evening. If Berkeley gets rid of the hippies, what will be next? Will anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at Venice Beach be outlawed?

Chalkupy, an activist organization which provides art work for liberal causes, placed a large chalk drawing in downtown Berkeley on Tuesday which showed a seated Buddha and said “arresting people for sitting is unenlightened.”

Chalkupy is brought to the public by Fresh Juice Party ( According to a flyer handed out to folks who saw the chalk work of art being created, FJP is a politically prejudiced media group. They also assert “WE have the power to squeeze out the truth.” (Well if the free press in the US isn’t going to do their job, it would be nice if some other group takes up the slack.)

If the measure is passed it will go into effect in July of 2013. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the measure removed all the hippie panhandlers at the very same time that someone else started an effort to increase business in Berkeley by holding some events which would commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mario Savio’s speech from on top of a police car in December of 1964?

San Bernardino (AKA San Berdoo) wasn’t the only city making news this week by having financial hardships. One report on KCBS news radio indicated that part of San Bernardino’s troubles stemmed from the fact that the city contains a large number of foreclosed homes which produce no property tax revenue.

We noticed that Scranton Pa. was also making news by cutting pay for various groups of city employees. If some Occupy activists came to Scranton and waged an effort to win the restoration of the full pay rate for police and firemen, who have been reduced to the minimum wage rate; how aggressive would the police be about thwarting such amicus est tanquam alter idem type help?

Why do you suppose it is that the well paid Liberal pundits are failing to point out that American cities are going broke at a time when the United States is still unquestioning about continued funding for the Bush Wars? Would the old Berkeley Barb let this example of an inconsistent economic philosophy pass unnoticed?

[Is it true that one episode of Star Trek portrayed a visit to earth that revealed that at the end of the 20th century large global wars on earth had ceased and been replaced by smaller regional wars called Bush Wars?]

The Republicans seem to have a platform of: austerity measures, tax cuts for the rich, and more war and the poles show a virtual tie between Mitt and President Obama. How can this incongruity be explained?

Wasn’t there a scifi movie, some time back, which predicted that people would eventually become anesthetized by various distractions and not pay any attention to the important issues? The people became I-pod people and just did not give a damn about anything. If there was impending political disaster: “Oh? That’s interesting, what else is happening?” Journalism has become sports, weather, celebrity gossip, and innocuous feature stories and the people in America are becoming increasingly enthusiastic about austerity measures, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the chance to send American troops to Syria.

Chill out, dude! What’s the worst that can happen? If the Republicans use the Edward Gough Whitlam clause in the Party’s by-laws to disqualify Mitt from getting the nomination, and if they then select a Presidential Candidate who delivers an early Christmas present to the folks who made long odds bets on him, well then maybe some Americans will realize that they better get used to stringent austerity measures and forget about looking for a job. We’ll write a column that uses the headline: “Austerity measures will continue until prosperity returns.”

If the people elect a Republican in the fall of 2012, this columnist will concentrate on more superfluous topics. Who isn’t interested in knowing that the Rolling Stones played their first paid gig fifty years ago on June 12, 1962?

Since Saturday is Bastille Day and since we are continuing with an effort to re-read “Is Paris Burning?,” we intended to write a column for this week that was mostly very upbeat and feature-ish, but reading about all the sacrifices that were made to win the liberation of Paris, we began to wonder what the troops who were killed in WWII would say about the current situation in the USA. How long will it be until some hippie who is into the occult comes out and claims to have held a séance which revealed that the fallen soldiers complain “the current political impasse in the United Sates wasn’t what we were trying to achieve when we made the ultimate sacrifice”?

It seems to this columnist that the Republican politicians are being passive-aggressive regarding their “jobs” and that the Democrats are shrugging their shoulders and saying they can’t do a damn thing about it because of the filibuster rules.

An employee (unless it’s a bank’s investment specialist) who doesn’t perform gets fired immediately; not when his annual review takes place. When a pitcher gives up five runs in the first inning, he is told to “hit the showers!” A soldier who commits dereliction of duty faces harsh consequences. We’ve called what the Republicans are doing a modern sit-down strike and that concept sure as hell hasn’t “gone viral.” The Republicans are very critical when any other group of workers use strike tactics. Should the shirkers (strikers?) be reelected or arrested? Do the I-pod people care about politics?

Didja know that there is a WTF website? Maybe, if we write columns that are more insegrvious we can cross post our efforts on that site? (You got a problem with a columnist using words that don’t exist?)

Have you ever noticed that college radio stations that insist on a culturally eclectic play list almost never play any Native American Music?

James Russell Lowell wrote: “They have rights who dare maintain them.”

Now the disk jockey will play “The Marseillaise,” “As time goes by,” and Edith Piaf’s “Le vie en rose.” We have to go get a crepes breakfast. Have a “le jazz hot” type week.

Baingate and the Ghosts of Romney Past


Too much information: Uganda for Dummies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 5:57 am

There’s been so much going on over here in Uganda that I can’t even begin to put it into words and will probably have to wait until I get back home to be able to digest it all, having taken approximately 65 pages of notes.

But what have I learned so far? That on the one hand, there is a whole bunch of excruciating poverty here — I will never take running water for granted ever again! And the care and safety of children? NOT a given in this world of human trafficking and child soldiers.

But on the other hand, 35,000 students attend Makerere University in Kampala. That’s as big as U.C. Berkeley (but unlike Cal, Makerere University is not trying to buy a tank to intimidate its students with). Plus SO many people here really care about Uganda — and work their fingers to the bone to make it succeed. And so there is also much hope for Uganda’s future.

Am leaving soon to spend a night in the Doha airport. Then a night in the Singapore airport. Then three days in Jakarta visiting my friend Almira. Then a night in the Tokyo airport. And then home.

Wish me luck!

PS: If you think that the Ugandans have it hard and are struggling to hold on to their quality of life, just you wait until the spit hits the fan back in the USA. America’s corporate-owned government leaders are apparently scheming to turn us into a third world country too.

Just wait and see what happens to us once the Trans-Pacific Partnership is passed Then we too will be scrambling to have running water and safe children.


July 12, 2012

Drink Corpo-Cola!

A timely rerun…


July 11, 2012

GOP Economic Plan Revealed!


July 10, 2012

The Romneys: We Are VIP!


July 9, 2012

Fox News Indoctro TV


July 8, 2012

Republican Paradox Comics


July 7, 2012

The GOP Elite: We’re Only In It For The Money

Filed under: Opinion,Toon — Tags: , , , , , , — RS Janes @ 9:37 am


July 6, 2012

Tanks? “You’re not welcome!”

Filed under: Commentary — Bob Patterson @ 12:31 pm


Austerity budgets = patient dumping?

The Lenco BearCat, which is best described by the phrase “armored personnel carrier,” is often called “a tank” in the media and at a recent city council meeting, during a routine report by the Berkeley Police Department the members of the city council were surprised to be informed that thanks to a grant from the Urban Areas Security Initiative, one was coming to Berkeley. They were told that the vehicle will be jointly owned by the Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) Police Departments and that it will be housed at UCB.

If this bit of news had occurred in 1968, it probably would have been reported in a wide variety of media ranging from the weekly Berkeley Barb newspaper to the New York Times (which needs no introduction). As it is, times have changed and the Barb is gone and the New York Times has to cope with a smaller full time staff, smaller stringer budget, and a shrinking amount of space for news in the printed hard copy. Getting a surfeit of celebrity gossip is not a problem. Fill in the blank ¬¬_________ with your own favorite irrelevant example from the current events page. (Did an online news site just use a public domain photo of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle to illustrate a feature news story on obesity?)

Since the vehicle will be acquired via the joint three department grant and will not require the authorization of funds, the Berkeley Police Department did not see a need to consult with the City Council about the matter. At the last city council meeting in June of 2012, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to reexamine the questions raised by getting a tank.

Since many local police departments are getting similar vehicles, the fact that one is coming to Berkeley has a low priority for use on websites with national audiences, but what does make it relevant is the fact that a local decision seems to have been made for Berkeley by people who don’t live in the area.

When one national political party makes a campaign issue out of the idea that there is too much government involvement in citizens lives, seeing people outside the area make the decision for bringing a tank to Berkeley (Oakland already has one.) seems to be an egregious example of saying one thing and doing the exact opposite.

By Tuesday of the first week of July 2012, it was being reported online via Patch that Albany would not participate in the joint cooperation deal. On Thursday morning, the UCB student newspaper, The Daily Californian, was reporting that Albany was pulling out of the tank deal. By Thursday afternoon, the Berkeleyside website was reporting that all three police agencies had dropped out of the agreement.

An odd facet of the tank story was that on Monday Google News was leading fact checkers to a story in the San Jose Mercury News. By Tuesday, it was very difficult to go back to and reread that story. Reality, it seems, is becoming gelatinous in the Internets Era.
While doing some Google-news searching to see if Lenco BearCat is an issue in Concordia Kansas, we learned that the Cancun Underwater Museum is about to open. Do they have a Scuba Dive shop in Concordia? Do they have a tank?

Have you read much (any?) news coverage about the scuba team that is doing some wreck diving on the Graf Zeppelin, Germany’s only WWII aircraft carrier? (We leaned about that topic in a recent copy of Wreck Diving Magazine.)

Early in the first week of July 2012, we heard a report on KCBS news radio that the legislators in Sacramento were considering making a law that would permit a child to have more than two parents.

Does Uncle Rushbo read our columns? If he uses new topics after some World’s Laziest Journalist’s columns about those items are posted online, that might provide some circumstantial evidence to support the claim.

The case that inspired the move to pass this new law is rather complex and involves a married pair of lesbians and two guys who are married, with (according to the news report) one of those fellows being the biological parent of the child in question. It is sure to spawn a massive amount of righteous indignation from the ranks of the family values party.

This week CBS News was getting a lot of credit for breaking a story about the inner workings of the Supreme Court of the United States that preceded the announcement of the decision for the Obamacare cases. Uncle Rushbo asserted that secret “in-fighting” was unprecedented. Doesn’t that claim completely invalidate the credibility of Bob Woodward’s book “The Brethren”?

On Tuesday, the police made a sweep and emptied the protesters at Lakeview school in Oakland from the school grounds. Online reports indicated two people were cited and released in the process.

If the Republicans had to make a binary choice between getting high speed rail service between San Francisco and ultimately destroying California’s famed Redwood trees, or not spending the money for the boondoggle and thereby saving the sequoias for posterity; which way do you think they’d flop? What better use could a giant sequoia tree be put to than to supply gavels for conservative judges for all eternity?

Have we plugged the Tree Museum on the UCB campus? Shouldn’t they include a new puppy giant sequoia (What it grow!) on their roster? It ought to be rather tall when the time capsule from the 1939 New York World’s Fair is opened in 6539. We are learning all about the World of Tomorrow in James Mauro’s book about the aforementioned extravaganza from the past.

Speaking of the past, we learned on the Bradblog website that Ireland has scrapped their electronic voting machines recently because of questions about the reliability and accuracy of the results. If those futuristic machines reduce taxes and increase employment isn’t that reason enough to rely completely on them? Wasn’t there a poem in Yank during World War II saying that the troops were not fighting for electronic voting machines? (see the closing quote below)

Does the United States Supreme Court use some kind of computer to tabulate the voting on the questions they decide? What if (subjunctive mood alert) that computer produced results that were very unexpected?

The union workers at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory were not amused to see that a CBS television reporter was straying into their territory and they were considering a boycott charging her with “crossing the craft.” Wouldn’t it be better for them to start a recall petition against that reporter? It would be just like what happened to Ann Curry. Wasn’t her recall petition signed by just one person who happened to be one of her coworkers? When it comes to buying into conspiracy theories, always look for the union label.

Speaking of crossing the craft, we noticed that a certain well known person from the realm of journalism management recently posted some interesting tweets that were widely referenced on the Internets. Can management tweet? Shouldn’t only members of the tweeters union be posting that material? Is it true that the motto of the tweeters union is: “I though I saw a pussy cat!”?

At the World’s Laziest Journalist World Headquarters we are always on the watch for fascinating new ideas from the lunatic fringe and so we are trying to figure out what the . . . heck . . . is the significance of the rumors that the Edward Gough Whitlam Fan Club is planning to give this year’s “Hit the showers, kid, you were found wanting” award to . . . Mitt Romney.

What will the Republicans think if the electronic voting machines that tabulate the results at the Republican National Convention say that some other guy gets the nomination? Assertions that the results were absolute and unverifiable would cause some grumbling but that could easily be mollified by charging that such distension was spawned by a conspiracy theory concocted by lunatics. Didn’t the host city get a tank earlier this year?

If, for example, when the first roll call vote is taken at the National Convention and if the final results are tabulated by an electronic voting machine, what will happen if the omnipotent machine says that JEB Bush gets the nomination?

In the poem “A Plea to the Post-war Planners (or, Please don’t streamline mother while I’m gone)” T/Sgt. Philip Reisman Jr. (USMC) wrote: “I’ve little use for synthesized soup, or operas (soapy) televised, . . . or wireless ballots for brainless voters, . . . .”

Now the disk jockey will play the Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil” (because it mentions tanks), the soundtrack album for “Patton,” and Bob Hope’s theme song “Tanks for the Memories.” We gotta make tracks outta here. Have a “The Crimes of Patriots” type week.

[Note: A staff photo of a BearCat was not available but a photo showing a possible example of the results of patient dumping was ready for use. We thought the photo had some relevance to a column about tanks for American cities. Compassionate Christian Conservatives are endorsing a trend towards militarizing Police Departments while cutting social programs, but when the possibility of patient dumping was mentioned to one of the city council persons in Berkeley CA, corrective measures were begun immediately. Seeing that same city decline an armored personnel carrier, which would have been touted as costing nothing (Houdini did not actually make the elephant disappear. {Using federal funds rather than city money does not mean that the item doesn’t cost the local taxpayers one cent. It just means some creative accounting made it seem that way.}), causes a cynical columnist to experience a momentary glimmer of optimism.]

Working for peanuts: Observing human trafficking in Uganda

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 10:38 am

As we get older, we tend to start looking less and less forward to our next birthday. And turning the big Seven-Zero seemed like more of a threat to me than a pleasure — so I did something about it and made sure that I was doing something so special on my 70th BD as to look really forward to it rather than dreading it.

So. How did I spend my big day? Sitting for hours in a plane on a runway in Cairo, waiting to fly off to Kampala, Uganda, in order to study the effects of human trafficking on that country. Hey, how unique and memorable can I get?

Kampala is memorable.

Apparently all of east and central Africa has been in a state of flux since the bad old days of the Cold War, the CIA and the assassination of Patrice Lmumba by Eisenhower’s spook doo-doo-heads who never had a clue regarding which dominoes they were causing to fall — just like they also screwed up the Middle East, Latin America and China back then.

But we have now all learned the hard way that the idiots who have written American foreign policy for the last umpteen years never really had a clue as to what they were doing back then, and have been creating mess after mess throughout the world ever since. And are still doing it now! But I digress.

For whatever reason, there is a LOT of human trafficking now going on in this region of Africa. And all too many of those humans being bought and sold are children.

With a little help from Global Exchange, I got to interview people regarding that subject at the American Bar Association here in Kampala yesterday. Yes, that ABA. Back in 2009, when Uganda’s legislature passed an anti-trafficking law, everyone was all smug about this new law — until they realized that no one had a clue as to how to implement it. So the ABA has been helping Ugandans by holding workshops on how to interpret and enforce this highly-needed new law. Good on them. My beloved Berkeley-Albany Bar Association would be proud of the ABA.

But waiting for the 2009 law to be implemented hasn’t been enough for many grassroots “boots on the ground” organizations here who have taken to the field and are actually out trying to stop this filthy practice and to give solace (and job training) to its victims.

One such organization is The African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect — because many of the humans being trafficked are children.

In these desperate times of poverty and conflict, traffickers arrive in villages and refugee camps and they promise the world to stressed and desperate parents. “We’ll take care of your child and see that they go to school in the big city and get a chance that they would never get here.”

And then the children are sold to brothels and plantations and into harsh domestic service or made to beg on the streets of Kampala or Nairobi or the emirates or wherever. Or worse. They become involuntary organ donors or human sacrifices or child soldiers and are never heard from again. And this is a common practice in east and central Africa.

So. Here I am in Uganda. And woke up and realized that it was the Fourth of July. And I actually had a bag of “Yankee Doodle” peanuts for breakfast! How patriotic is that!

And driving into Kampala, I passed the U.S. Embassy to Uganda. It was like a freaking medieval fort. Nothing but armed soldiers guarding a really long fortified wall. “No stopping! No photographs!” read the sign. And this is the face that America shows to Uganda.

The Christian religion’s main message to the world is “Peace and Love”. And Islam and Judaism’s main message to the world is
“Justice”. Oh how far we all have fallen.

But Kampala seems to be an organized and peaceful and safe and hard-working city despite all the regional conflicts. And the ghost of Idi Amin no longer haunts Uganda — living on only in Hollywood movies. It’s like one anti-trafficking expert here said on that subject yesterday, “Amin is gone. Only Forrest Whitaker remains Get over it. The rest of the world needs to move on.”

And the kids here are getting an education and there Is a future for them, even the ones who have been rescued from the brutal and deadly trafficking routes. Good for the Ugandans.

Next, I will be going up to the border with Kenya. The border is very porous up there, somewhat like borders in the EU, and traffickers can do a lot of their dirty deeds in secret.

And if I actually should step foot into Kenya, I’ll let you know if I meet any Obamas (although when Mitt Romney’s papa ran for president, there was a court ruling that even though Pops was born in Mexico, he could still become president because at least one of his parents was a U.S. citizen. So if even Mitt was born in Mexico, he could still get elected. And
Obama is also good to go no matter where he was born.)


July 1, 2012

Thoughts on Visiting Rome: That empire is toast!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 2:00 am

Here I am in Rome, the Eternal City. And you can usually find a fabulous monument or church or historical ruin on almost every corner. Or a gelato shop.

First I scored a cheap-but-nice room at the Hollywood Hotel near the main railway station (using and then settled in to see the sights. Rome is amazing. You should go there. Everyone here speaks English. Bring a map.

Of course the first thing I did while in Rome was visit the Coliseum and the Forum. And must I state the obvious here? After running a thousand-year-old eternal empire that stretched from Britain to Palestine and beyond, now nothing is left of that empire but a bunch of scenic rocks. Hint hint.

Or as President Eisenhower used to say, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

Enough said. A word to the wise is sufficient. A priori, the American Empire is doomed. 1000 years from now? Nothing but rocks. Let’s just hope that they also are scenic rocks. What future tourist would ever consider paying 12 euros to see the ruins of strip malls?

Next I went off to the Vatican to try to give Pope Benedict some advice regarding his recent War on Nuns. “Don’t go there.”

Visisting the Vatican involves standing out in the hot sun for three hours while waiting to get in to see the Sistine Chapel. So much for paying extra to “Skip the Line”.

There is a great Roman-built wall around the inner city here, built by Emperor Constantine to keep out the barbarian hoards lapping at Rome’s door. So. From a vast military complex with over 400 military outposts scattered across the known world, the Roman Empire had finally been reduced to just as few miles of real estate.

Perhaps America might consider Rome’s plight as well and spend its money (our money) defending America rather than trying to seize all of the known world too. We can now see in advance how that’s gonna go.

Right now, thousands of foreign emigrants are trying to come to the United States — but in a good way. They are only following the trail of booty that has been looted from their own countries by America’s One Percent. They don’t want to destroy us. They just want to join us.

But. Sooner or later, there are going to be true barbarians at our gates — just like there were at the gates back in ancient Rome. And all our armies will be out there in Nowhereastan trying to steal oil for Exxon instead of here at home minding the battlements where they belong.

History will repeat itself. Just look at all these ruined walls.

Citizens of Rome see these ruins every single day — and learn from them. No wonder Italians don’t like to seek empires. They are constantly reminded of its futility. It’s a wonder that Mussolini was able to scratch up any conscripts at all or even get to first base.

Then I went off to the catacombs of San Callisto. Amazing. 16 miles of underground tunnels built by early Christians in order to secretly bury their dead. Roman emperors hated Christians. Why? Because Christians were tired of centuries of war and wanted peace and love instead. And so they were persecuted for their craving for peace in a militaristic world — much like peace-loving liberals are persecuted by the military-industrial hierarchy today. That’s another analogy we could learn from.

But will we? Er, no.

PS: Am leaving for Uganda via Cairo today. Arrivederci Roma.


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