April 30, 2013

The Boston Marathon bombing: Failure of the police state

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 1:59 pm

Author’s note: Despite all of the confusion, questions, contradictory news reports and conspiracy theories regarding the Boston bombings, one thing is clear. The police state created under Bush and continued under Obama utterly failed the people of Boston on April 15, 2013.

Full text:

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Since 9/11, Americans have willingly sacrificed constitutional rights, personal freedom, billions of taxpayer dollars and lives in order to feel safer from terrorist acts. The horrific bombing in Boston is an ugly reminder that such sacrifices are not keeping Americans safer.

Even though the suspects were found within days after the bombing, the surveillance and police state that Americans have allowed to be created utterly failed on April 15th, 2013. Indeed, over 250 years later, the words of Benjamin Franklin ring true.

Some are questioning the official narrative of the Boston Marathon bombing and the ensuring events in the five days that followed. That is to be expected when the official story seems so improbable in light of all the anti-terrorism measures that have been enacted over the past 12 years. If one believes that story, however, it should become clear that all of the rights that Americans have sacrificed, all of the tax dollars spent, and all of the lives lost in the “war on terror” have done nothing to keep Americans safer from terrorist attacks.

The American people are told that they need Echelon, the CIA, the NSA, the DHS, the TSA, fusion centers, tracking devices, RFID chips, drones, spy satellites, militarized police armed like Marines, and a defense budget that accounts for over 41% of world military spending – more than the next 10 highest spending nations combined.

Americans are told that they need indefinite illegal detention, illegal torture prisons that provide no reliable intelligence that can be acted upon, gun control, pre-crime arrest, a stifling of freedom of speech and expression, a means to bypass Miranda rights, control of every channel of communication, censorship of the media, complete control of the internet, etc. – all in order to prevent terrorist attacks and keep them safe.

Americans are told they need to make sacrifices in taxes, Social Security, Medicare, health care, education, jobs, infrastructure, and even lost lives in the military in order to keep them safe from “terrorists.” As a cowed and misinformed population willingly makes these sacrifices, the constitutional rights of common Americans are being shredded, their freedoms disappear and the nation is spent into bankruptcy as an all-powerful police state is expanded in an Orwellian fashion.

Despite all the sacrifices, two seemingly ordinary young men, ages 26 and 19, acting independently, were able to elude hundreds of police, federal agents, bomb-sniffing dogs, surveillance cameras, internet surveillance and even their own family and friends in order to set off two makeshift bombs and that killed three people and wounded over 200, evading capture for almost five days in a city of 650,000 people.

Before the suspects were caught, it took a plea to the public from the F.B.I. to identify them from a grainy department store surveillance camera still shot, a manhunt during which hundreds of rounds of gunfire were unleashed in a crowded city, a virtual martial law lockdown of thousands of Americans, house-to-house searches (see video below) and a cost of an estimated $333 million in expenditures and lost income in Boston.

Many details have been reported and later contradicted about the events between April 15th and April 19th, the background of the suspects and the manner in which authorities handled the situation. The full truth may never be known.

One thing certain, however, is that at least one of the suspects was on the F.B.I.’s radar before the bombings. The F.B.I. originally denied first meeting with one of the bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, two years ago, but finally admitted that after CBS published the information. There have been several allegations that the F.B.I. interviewed the elder bomber multiple times.

At the very least, that would mean that the F.B.I. would have run a background check on him and run his name and photos through all the available surveillance databases that federal agencies have created with taxpayer funding. Reuters reports that was done and that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was put on a terrorist watch list. Yet the public was asked for assistance in identifying him, which raises some questions.

There are only two possible conclusions based on those facts: Either the F.B.I. was utterly incompetent in preventing a terrorist attack by someone they monitored, or they are covering up that they were instigating and handling the bombing plot, like they have done with many others in the past, and this one got out of hand. Perhaps even a combination of both.

Another certainty is that a lot of security was in place at the bombing site before the bombs went off. Three of the security measures that have been documented to have been used at the finish line are bomb-sniffing dogs, a bomb drill and extra security provided by the National Guard, including the Weapons of Mass Destruction – Civil Support Team (CST).

So much security, in fact, that many “conspiracy theories” that the bombings were staged can be found on the internet. Along with the many unanswered questions, that is not surprising. The only way to prove that the official story is fabricated, however, would be through a serious investigation entailing filing state records act requests, Freedom of Information Act requests at the federal level, as well as obtaining the search warrants, affidavits and a whole lot more. Since authorities are obviously unwilling to release such information at this time, it is best to simply stick with the facts that are available.

The available “facts” are that despite a plethora of security, foreknowledge of the potential of one of the bombers to have a propensity for terrorism, billions of dollars of spending on homeland security, a 26-year-old and a 19-year-old were able to succeed in committing a terrorist act that killed and maimed innocent Americans. Then they managed to cause a large city to be transformed into a virtual martial law war zone after one was killed and before the other one was captured.

That can only be described as a failure of the surveillance, police state that Americans have made so many sacrifices for.

The real questions to ask may be: Where is this going to take America from here? Is the nation going deeper into the abyss of defense spending, more surveillance and further loss of constitutional liberties? Is homeland security designed to protect Americans under constitutional law or is it designed to protect the establishment’s power over the Constitution? Will over 200 years of laws and legal precedents be scrapped whenever a suitable event occurs or an excuse can be contrived? Who benefits from that, defense contractors, security firms, weapons and surveillance technology manufacturers, the elitists who run police states, or common Americans?

Obviously, the victims in Boston did not benefit from that. If the police state was designed to protect average Americans, then it has failed.

Get links, a slideshow and a video here: Madison Independent Examiner – The Boston Marathon Bombing: Failure of the police state

April 26, 2013

Bombs, Bullets, and Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:35 pm

CA stands tall with Boston

“The Third Bullet” (Simon & Schuster New York © 2013) by Stephen Hunter is a fictional account of an investigation by a former U. S. Marine Corps sniper named Bob Lee Swagger into the murder of President John F. Kennedy.  Since this is the year of all gun chat all the time on talk radio and since this year will be the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy in Dallas Texas on November 22, we were pleasantly surprised to learn of the existence of this new installment in a series of mystery-adventure novels about a fellow who is loosely based on the legendary Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock because it seemed that none of the trolls who dominate the national discussion on guns has mentioned this new book.  We have read several of the preceding installments in the series and were aware that the book would contain some very detailed technical information about guns and bullets.  Suffice it to say that this new book blends accurate details of known American history with some speculation in a manor that is both entertaining and thought provoking.

Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent,” which describes the anarchy caused by bomb throwing Bolsheviks and was published in 1907, is based on a true life incident that occurred in London in 1894 but it still has that “ripped from today’s headlines” aura of relevancy to it.  We wonder if teachers will urge their students to read this example of American Literature.  Conrad’s novel “Under Western Eyes,” is an almost century old look at the world of political fanatics in Russia.  What’s old is new and these two old books may start selling again.

“Twilight at the World of Tomorrow,” (Ballantine Books New York © 2010) by James Mauro tells the story of the use of a bomb by terrorists at the Great Britain Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair on July 4, 1940.  There had been other bomb incidents at that time in the New York City which were caused by a union dispute.   This bit of New York City terrorism remains an unsolved mystery.

“Live Fast, Die Young (The Wild Ride of Making ‘Rebel without a Cause’)” by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel (Touchstone © 2005) just happened to be the next book on our recreational “in” pile as pundits around the world faced the task of doing a weekend wrap-up for the week that included the Boston Marathon Bombing.  In that book, we learned (on page 79) that on the G. E. Theater episode titled “The Dark, Dark Hour,” James Dean worked with Ronald Reagan.

In a world where folks can see hundreds of cops standing around (on OT?) doing nothing, while the air traffic controllers are taught the pragmatic reasoning behind the move that destroyed their union, some cynics think that it may just be the latest installment in the long history of the anarchy caused by bomb throwers.

Did the folks on all Gun Chat radio all the time notice that while the police searched for the bombers, Sen. Harry Reid was saying “gun control legislation is dead for this year.”

Will the capitalist business owners in Boston charge employees who missed work on the day of the lockdown with a vacation day or will they cry “sequester cuts!” and declare that it was a one day sequester event and they need not pay for it?  How many will be magnanimous and pay regular salary for the missed work day?

Boston dominated the news but KPFA reported that something bad may have happened at Guantanamo the Saturday before Patriots’ Day.  Naturally the mainstream media ignored that and other important stories.

A fellow who was arrested for sending poison to politicians was released and can resume his career as the most famous Elvis impersonator alive.

If the Butthead and Bevis duo used cell phone technology to detonate the backpacks, did they also learn how to do that from material they found on the Internets?  If not who mentored them?  If the two brothers were enrolled in Terrorism 101, will President Obama pull a Dubya and invade the campus and destroy the school?  If the American military is spread too thin, then does it not follow that the investigation must conclude that the older brother, Lee Harvey Tsarnaev duped his younger brother into being part of the gang of two and that they acted alone?

Now that the story is out that Syria has used poison gas after President Obama warned them not to do that, he seems to be caught in a classic binary choice familiar to barroom brawlers:  “Throw a punch or shut up and go away.”  Will President Obama and the Syrian leader now do a political version of the “chickie run” sequence in “Rebel without a Cause”?

If Obama sends American troops to get involved in that country’s Civil War, will Kim Jung Un get bolder thinking that Obama has run out of troops to send abroad?

Will Obama back up former President Bush’s threat to deal severely with any country that provided a training ground for any terrorists who would subsequently attack the USA or will he find out that the military is stretch too thin to back up that old warning with the promised action?

After seeing the spectacle of Boston being brought to a complete halt for a day by two young bomb throwers, cynics are asking:  “Will their quick apprehension serve as an effective deterrent or will it act as a catalyst inspiring copycats to make many more well publicized political statements with bombs?”  Will historians say that the boys from Chechnya opened the flood gates for a hoard of Mongol copy cats?

Has one other news item, the slipped past most of the mainstream media?  According to the Los Angeles Times, more charges have been filed against the County Assessor.

Since Dubya was notorious for not putting anything on paper we have always wondered what will be displayed at the Bush Presidential Library.  Apparently all the e-mails from fans will be one of the major attractions.

In the recently published book, “Ayn Rand Explained,” (Open Court Chicago © 3013) readers are informed (on page 17):  “Ideas, values, and behavior which we would reasonably think were wrong because they lead to the destruction of life are considered as acceptable as any others.”  What will conservatives do if it turns out that Tamerlin Tsarnaev was an avid Ayn Rand fan?  Could it be that he wore a WWJGD (What Would John Gault Do?) bracelet?

The guy, A. J. Clemente, who dropped the “F-bomb” on his debut as a news anchor in Bismarck, North Dakota, got invited onto the Letterman and Today TV shows, but our attempts to just find the name of his co-host, who remained composed and continued doing her job, were inconclusive.  Did A. J. read “Atlas Shrugged”?  Have American kids learned yet that “Incompetence Rules!” and that the old philosophy “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” would make a better motto for use on the money use by the USA.

Did the debate over “Miranda Rights” precipitate a situation where the prosecution’s case in the trial of the Boston Bomber is compromised before the opening statements are made?

Is an online pundit, who lives in Berkeley CA, being facetious and critical of the Democrat in the White House when he sports a 1940 Wendell Wilkie political button that proclaims:  “No Third Term”?

[Note from the photo editor:  While covering Occupy Oakland, we noticed an odd bit of graphics, from something called, which combined the outline of the state of California with the logo for Boston’s major league baseball team but we didn’t think it was relevant back then, but now that all the USA is expressing a desire to stand tall with Boston, we thought this photo might be an appropriate visual way to say that CA stands with Boston.]

Speaking of the New Deal, we are working on getting more details about an effort to establish a New Deal Museum.  With our luck the assignment editor for the features desk at the New York Times will read this column, scoop us, and save us a bunch of work.

According to “Live Fast, Die Young,” in early 1955, after being inured in a car wreck, actress Natalie Wood summoned movie director Nicolas Ray to her hospital room.  A Hollywood legend was born (page 40) when she (allegedly) whispered in his ear:  “They called me a goddamn juvenile delinquent.  Now do I get the part?”

Now the disk jockey will play the new Boston anthem, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” a memorial playing of Ritchie Havens’ “Freedom,” and a memorial playing of George Jones’ “He stopped loving her today.”  We have to go find a good Walpurgis Night Party to crash.  Have a “Why do we do this, Buzz” type week.

April 24, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court, tax laws & insanity: What I learned at three rubber-chicken lunches recently

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 9:59 am

The Berkeley-Albany Bar Association has been on a huge roll this year. First we had a local expert on the U.S. Supreme Court speak at our January monthly luncheon, giving us the complete 411 regarding what the court had been up to this past year. Not a pretty picture. It’s really hard to eat rubber chicken and contemplate Anton Scalia at the same time. But I took lots of notes. But then I lost them in the process of getting my apartment renovated.

Then, two months ago, we had a tax-law expert tell us all about Congress’s latest new IRS laws. It was also totally informative and I also took a whole bunch of notes. But then they got lost too.

However, regarding taxes, it doesn’t really matter what kinds of laws that Congress does or does not pass when it comes to you and me — not while rich people are being allowed to hide approximately 32 trillion dollars in offshore tax loopholes; money that, unlike your and my money, will never ever be touched by the IRS.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “[32 trillion dollars is] roughly the size of the American and Japanese economies combined, according to the report from James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey & Co. And the figure only includes financial wealth, not real estate, yachts or other assets held abroad.”

The rich really are different from the rest of us — especially when it comes to cheating on taxes. We go to jail. They don’t.

In 1950, corporations paid 40% of America’s taxes. And now they pay almost zip.

This month’s speaker at the BABA luncheon was a psychiatrist and he spoke to us about how to prevent substance abuse and mental illness. Fascinating. “It’s mostly genetic,” he said.

Apparently if one of your parents or grandparents was nutzo or addicted, there is a 25% chance that you will be too.

“Most substance abuse and/or mental illness shows up in adolescence,” the speaker continued. Great. Now all we gotta do is keep our teenagers from being teenagers. Problem solved.

If only I myself had been able to somehow jump over those crucial hazardous teenage years.

Then the psychiatrist gave us six main signs to look for as flags for future mental illness. I think I had at least five of them — but then I already know that I’m crazy because I keep hopelessly believing that Mankind is basically good, that world peace is possible, that we will someday give up letting Wall Street and War Street be our gods, that the internal combustion engine causes climate change and that too much television is bad for you.

PS: Here are the six main flags for mental illness. Enjoy. But once you realize that you too (and almost everyone else in America) are also officially crazy, then you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

1. Feeling that “something’s not quite right”
2. Jumbled thoughts and confusion
3. Being fearful for no good reason
4. Hearing sounds/voices that are not there
5. Declining interest in people, activities and self-care
6. Trouble speaking clearly.

PPS: I just scored an actual solar-powered Lucky Kitty over in San Francisco Chinatown the other day. How crazy-good is that!

April 18, 2013

Living & dying on the streets: Being homeless is HARD WORK!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:36 pm

While my apartment was busy being renovated, re-habbed and fixed up for most of last month and a good chunk of this one, I had been forced to find “alternative housing” — staying with relatives, living in cheap motels, house-sitting for strangers, sleeping on various couches and futons, renting rooms-by-the-night in other peoples’ homes, staying in hostels, whatever. But yesterday I finally got to move back home!

Sure, all my stuff was still in boxes when I got back and the heater didn’t work and there was no hot water, but it’s like Virginia Woolf used to say, “All one really needs is a bed and a computer of one’s own.”

Everything else is just icing on the cake.

This past month has been a grand adventure, obviously, and a whole lot of fun in many ways. But the bottom line is that, for most of this time, I was disoriented and grouchy and unsure and unorganized and even afraid. And for much of this time I was basically living out of the back seat of my car — and in laundromats and diners and parks and libraries. Even now, my head hurts just thinking about it.

And even though I myself was never in any real danger of being actually homeless during this time and didn’t have to go without any meals and always found a roof to put over my head, nevertheless, I was constantly stressed out during this entire month. Mucho stressed out. Stressed out a lot!

So just imagine if someone was forced to do this uber-stressful homelessness gig 24/7; for months and even years at a time — with no resources, no backup and no future hope that someday soon they would be going back home again. I can’t even imagine doing all that and still keeping sane.

In just the past month, my complete respect for the homeless has grown by leaps and bounds. It’s a wonder to me that they can handle all this stress day after day and still remain sane. It’s even a wonder to me that they can even still stay alive.

According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “[T]he number of homeless people on a single night in January 2012 was 633,782.” And I bet there were a lot more than that.

Here’s to you, homeless Americans everywhere. Having been almost one of you for only one month, I salute you with all of my heart.

PS: My all-time favorite bumper sticker reads, “Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!” And I sincerely believed this was true until I met a young woman from China recently — and now have to re-think that idea completely.

“What are they like — those adults in China who have grown up under its single-child system, the fortunately-nurtured ones whose needs have all been met? Are they happy, secure, hopeful, compassionate?”

“No, hardly! They’re egocentric, self-centered and spoiled. They think only of themselves and their own wants and needs. Having been raised without siblings and with so many doting parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, all they can pretty much do now as adults is to whine a lot when they don’t get their own way — and expect to be waited on.”

And this same sort of thing seems to be true here at my housing co-op as well. When we all moved in here back in 1979, a lot of us had some pretty grim stories to tell — having endured poverty, homelessness, spousal abuse, single-parent loneliness, unemployment, overcrowding, victimization, addiction, etc; before finding these wonderful homes. I myself had previously been living in an attic without running water and then in a small apartment with no privacy.

And then our sweet little housing co-op offered all of us bruised members of society an idealistic new chance to be wanted, nurtured, protected and loved. My co-op’s motto became “Caring and Sharing”.

And so what happened next? How did these new residents handle this wonderful new chance? Humph. Instead of creating “neighborhood peace in one generation” like we had hoped, they soon became a re-creation of the worst of today’s modern American society, almost exactly. We soon developed an almost Darwinian example of survival of the fittest.

Within ten years, my sweet little housing co-op had already developed its very own Boss Tweeds and its very own 1%.

However, something good did come of all this. Timid little me actually began to develop the necessary cajones to go up against this new 1% all by myself. And even after surviving attempts to beat me up, illegally raise my rent, stage frequent sudden illegal “inspections” of my apartment, actually try to pass an ordinance that I was not allowed to knit in board meetings, hold five (5) kangaroo courts to try to convict me of wrong-doing, attempt to evict me illegally and even to throw me in jail, I did finally win the battle to get my housing co-op not only financially stable for the first time in years but actually renovated and restored to its original pristine condition.

And then, even more important, when George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, I realized that if I could single-handedly defeat the greedy Boss Tweeds who ran my housing co-op, then taking on GWB should be a walk in the park! And that’s how I became a blogger. So, actually, I do owe those former powers-that-be in my co-op a huge debt of gratitude after all.

They proved to me that if someone, even the weakest and meekest of us all, can work long enough and hard enough to achieve justice, then it can be obtained.

And so Wall Street and War Street had better watch out! I am still coming after them. And I’m now locked and loaded — with a computer and a bed!

PPS: A well-known local psychiatrist recently gave a speech to members of the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association, and he said that children raised in child-centered households were far LESS likely to become substance abusers than children raised in adult-centered households.

This probably means that the egotistic children of China at least won’t be at risk for getting all addicted to alcohol and drugs — plus it certainly explains why GWB was a drunk and coke addict for so many years.

April 17, 2013

Ernie Pyle or Herb Caen?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 6:19 pm

San Francisco named a street for a famous local columnist

[Note: The annual task of writing something to be posted honoring National Columnists’ Day on April 18, which was the day that war correspondent/columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific Theater of  WWII, is always a challenge because the intention is to keep the tone lighthearted and upbeat but this year, because it falls at a time when the national mood is very somber, we will, after a moment of silence, proceed with this year’s installment, for the same reasons that Boston will hold their marathon again next year.]

A hint of scandal for this year’s America’s Cup Races in the San Francisco Bay area will provide us with a chance to examine how two of our favorite columnists might take different approaches displaying their unique styles to the task of informing their readers of the looming potential for an economic blunder with dire implications for the taxpayers in the town Herb Caen dubbed “Baghdad by the Bay.”

While preparing to write this year’s installment of our annual National Columnists Day posting to mark the day which honors both war correspondent Ernie Pyle and the vocation of being a columnist, we decided to focus this year’s effort on legendary San Francisco scribe Herb Caen who served in the Army Air Force during WWII.

Pyle wrote from the point of view of the G. I. in the foxhole, while Caen, in his civilian phase, preferred to let his audience participate vicariously in his life as a flâneur, a boulevardier, and a bon vivant, who hung out with and traded gossip with “the swells.”  Caen’s first effort was published on July 5, 1938, and ended with his last column in 1997.

Obviously if both of them were still alive and churning out words, they would both take very different approaches to the growing grumbling about the Americas’ Cup races scheduled to be held later this year on San Francisco Bay.

The race’s lawyers seem to have outwitted the ones working for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and so the two parties signed a deal that, upon closer reading, will leave the citizens liable for a large financial shortfall.

We assume that Caen would look forward to rubbing elbows with the “swells” who will conduct the races and hold the accompanying “invitation only” parties and maybe he would also describe the spectacle as seen from a private airplane flying overhead.  Isn’t it logical to conclude that Pyle would side with the taxpayers who can only use binoculars to see some (three?) sailboats on the bay?

Caen’s pioneering approach to celebrity journalism made him a star in the ranks of columnists.  He coined the word “beatnik” and quite often his witty way with words won him a mention in the monthly “towards more picturesque speech” feature in the Readers’ Digest.

Caen was a staunch supporter of iconoclastic wit and provided a continuing source of publicity to Lenny Bruce for his pioneering efforts in the realm of “sick” humor.

In addition to honoring and remembering Ernie Pyle each year, the day is also intended to draw attention to the career of being a columnist, which in the Facebook era should make Pyle the Patron Saint of Facebook, since the mission statement for a columnist is essentially the same motivation for churning out the keystrokes for a Facebook page, i.e. tell the world what you are doing and thinking.  Ernie Pyle, Herb Caen, and Bill Mauldin all have a Facebook page.

Can a Facebook blurb make or break a restaurant?  Once, many moons ago, Caen wrote a blind item blurb about a restaurant that incurred his wrath.  After it was published, the owner of another restaurant that fit the vague description of the offending culprit, contacted Caen’s office and begged him to explain that their restaurant, which had suffered a consequent crippling of their usual business level, was not the one that folks should boycott.  He immediately cleared up the misperception.  Can a Facebook writer have that big of an impact on a community?

The fact that Caen’s style of quick verbal jabs was dubbed “thee dot journalism,” because he used the punctuation of three dots (called an ellipse) to separate items, preceded the Internet phenomenon of catering to an audience with an attention span that demanded items with the complexity level of a bumper sticker and that should endear him to the new generation that operates with a self imposed 130 word limit.  For example, isn’t just the fact that Anthony Grafton wrote a scholarly book, title “The Footnote a Curious History,” enough information for a great Herb Caen-ish column item?

A fellow who went AWAL from a military hospital, three weeks after the liberation, and went into Paris with a nurse who spoke French told us about going into a fine restaurant and ordering a “once in a lifetime” meal.  When the fellow asked for the bill, management considered it a matter of honor to refuse to let the sergeant pay for the meal.  We like to think that Ernie Pyle, if he heard about it, would have devoted a full column to that incident.  He would (we assume) have compared and contrasted the best that Paris had to offer with the famed K-ration that the GI’s often disparaged with very salty language.  (If the disk jockey is alert he will play “Moose Turd Pie” as part of the “outro” music at the end of this column.)  Herb Caen, who served in WWII, was a gourmet who savored fine meals and shared his enthusiasm with his readers.

Many Facebook entries include a snapshot of a meal.  Would young folks appreciate the subtlety if an Ernie Pyle wannabe posted a photo of a K-ration being served?

Once, according to an anecdote provided by one of Caen’s contemporary rivals in the realm of column writing, the two competitors for the right to the title of “Mr. San Francisco,” were out cavorting in some fog city bars after WWII.  They became a bit rowdy and a rookie policeman started to arrest them.  They simultaneously asked if the youngster knew who he was trying to arrest.  He didn’t know and didn’t care.  He led them down to the local station.  When the trio entered, the desk sergeant began to laugh boisterously and asked the newcomer:  “Do you know who you are trying to arrest?”  Case dismissed!

The San Francisco Chronicle would, when Caen was on vacation, run a box on the front page above the fold saying “Herb Caen is on vacation” to cut down on the number of complaints from people who would call and bitch about not being able to find that day’s installment of the column simply titled “Herb Caen.”

Once, back in the season when the Oakland Raiders won games when George Blanda would kick a last second field goal, a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune rushing a “starter” copy of the day’s publication, noticed that at the beginning of the lead story, the words indicated that the story was about the will a local celebrity had written “after” he died.  The ME had a “Stop the presses!” moment and the word was quickly changed to “after” and one of the typesetters was given a stern lecture about the rule that only editors could change copy.  The incident was quickly forgotten until the next week when the secret goof-up was prominently mentioned in Herb Caen’s column.

According to Barnaby Conrad, in his book “The World of Herb Caen,” the Frisco phenomenon produced enough columns of approximately 1,000 words (about three takes) that Caen’s lifetime total would verify this boast: “If laid end to end, his columns would stretch 5.6 miles from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

At the height of his popularity Ernie Pyle was read by approximately 3 million readers nationwide.

Facebook posters might note with extreme envy that in his prime, Caen received 45,000 letters a year.  Isn’t a fan letter better than a quick “like” click?

Herb Caen wrote:  “If I do go to heaven, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to heaven. He looks around and says, It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.

Now the disk jockey will play the “Vertigo” soundtrack album, the “Moby Grape” album, and the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealist Pillow” album.  We have to go reread Ernie Pyle’s very gruesome and lugubrious columns written on the Normandy Beach (as foud in the Random House book “Ernie’s War: the Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches” edited by David Nichols) immediately after the D-Day Invasion.  Have a “soldier on” type week.

April 12, 2013

Burglars. Books, and political games

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


Did Karl Rove suggest that to get some dirt out on a potential opponent without giving the impression that they were trying to launch a smear campaign, some top Republicans could supply a “clandestinely recorded” tape to a member of the liberal media and then accuse the Democrats of stealing the material . . . or . . . did the Democrats hire some crafty old burglars (are any of the old JM Wave team still alive?) to come out of retirement and pull off a new version of the Watergate caper?  Will a full, complete, and impartial investigation of this “outrage” be any more successful than the attempts to look into the short sales of airline stock before 9-11, the anthrax attacks via the Post Office, or possible vulnerability of the unhackable electronic voting machines?  Such a cover story for delivering a tape full of smears, jeers, and leers could not only avert attention from the source of the news story, but would also help divert attention away from the mean spirit of the Republicans.  For a big payoff what would prevent the McConnell team from making the recording themselves and engineering a stealth handoff of the item that was sure to stir up news coverage of the potential opponents mental health history?

A columnist with a cynical attitude might just as well do the keystrokes for a totally innocuous effort as try to make sensible points about the contemporary political atmosphere in a country that is mired in a stalemated debate and so we will take the path of least resistance (and effort) this week.

How old is disappointment in America’s free press?  Upton Sinclair’s attack on the newspaper industry, titled “Brass Check,” was first printed in 1920.  Over the past weekend, the reference library at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory obtained a copy of George Seldes’ “Lords of the Press,” which was copyrighted in 1938.

A month ago, we had never seen the word “privishing,” but since then we obtained a copy of “History as Mystery,” by Berkeley based writer Michael Parenti, and “Into the Buzzsaw,” edited by Kristina Borjesson, which both explained that the word can be used to refer to a book that is published but then essentially quashed or left to languish unpublicized by book companies that want to extend some “interline courtesy” to some capitalist entities that would prefer folks don’t learn what those books have to say.

Did you know that up until Harry Truman ran for re-election the Depression was called “the Republican Depression,” but that in 1948, the conservative spin masters decided that the phrase “Great Depression,” sounded less partisan?

We had never heard the expression “hobo nickel,” until we ran across a young troubadour in a local Laundromat recently who hipped us to the topic of that collectable item.  We did a Google image search and were astounded to see what a fascinating item we had missed.  The young musician also was carrying an example of moldovite and was showing what makes it collectable.  It is a semi-transparent rock.

In the last week we also got a news tip that fans of Jim Lehrer might like to know that he has contributed a blurb to help Roy Zimmer draw attention to his political humor available on Youtube.  (What ever happened to Vaughn Meter?)

Recently we were delighted to stumble upon the book, “Hell above Earth,” by Stephen Frater, which tells the story of Herman Goering’s nephew, who became a B-17 pilot flying bombing missions over Germany in WWII.

The challenge of including unique bits of political commentary has become much easier than it used to be since America’s “Free Press” has become Fox-ified.  (See the “The Fox, the Hounds, and the Sacred Cows” chapter starting on page 37 in the book “Into the Buzzsaw.”)

For example, has any pundit pointed out the chilling potential for the hypothetical possibility that if North Korea makes an aggressive move against South Korea, a response by the United States might be a strategic time for hackers in China or Iran to cripple the American Military’s computer network.  If (subjunctive mood) that were to happen, would that, in turn, have a deleterious effect on America’s assertion that “all options are on the table” regarding a move to cripple or delay Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear device?

Most of the American based commentary we have encountered regarding Kim Jung Un is rather immature name calling and not at all like a calm evaluation of the possible repercussions of a new military adventure in Asia.  If Americans can handle very convoluted and intricate speculation about the rules and game strategy used in football, why do networks tend to resort to little or no expert analysis regarding International Politics?  Could that be an example of Fox-ified thinking at the headquarters of CBS and/or NBC?

Spending time and money inspecting bookstores to purchase obscure items such as Thomas Byrne and Tom Cassidy’s 2009 book titled “The Electric Toilet Virgin Death Lottery . . . and other outrageous Logic problems” may seem a tad foolish to most folks, but to someone who gets to feel like they “belong” when April 18 rolls around and National Columnists’ Day is celebrated, it makes sense.

Getting up early and turning on the computer, at 0600, to write about finding Stephen Clarke’s book, “ A Year in the Merde,” can be a bit of an ego-boost for someone who is aware that Hemingway urged wannabes to “write at first light.”

Would anyone else except a columnist enjoy learning (on page 161 of the book Time Capsule 1941 [A history of the year condensed from the pages of Time]) that Hitler’s Irish born sister-in-law, Bridget Elizabeth Hitler, was, before Pearl Harbor was bombed, working in New York City for British War Relief?

Only a columnist could use the fact that the Rolling Stones are about to start their new tour of “the colonies” in Oakland and that Willie Neslson is going to celebrate his 80th birthday later this month, to urge the two singers (who are both known for a vast array of duet recordings) to join together for a new example of their dueting abilities.  What song should they sing?  How about Bob Marley’s “Legalize it!”?  As the Stones tour begins, who wouldn’t want to hear Mick help Willie sing “On the Road Again!”?  Could those two rascals get away with a bawdy version of the WWII hit “Love them all”?  Would this be an appropriate time and place to plug John Costello’s book “Love, Sex, and War 1939 – 1945”

Tim Osman got a warm welcome to the USA by the CIA.  Who was he, really?  Look that information up on Google.

Will the anchor desks at the network news programs finally notice the story about the Los Angeles County assessor when he appears in court later this month?

With all the references of Mitch McConnell’s bugging being similar to Watergate, will the news media still cling to the old saw about “the burglars didn’t find anything of value” or will they start to hint that what they got was the dirt on the Vice Presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton and they used that to throw the Democrats off balance at the start of the 1972 Presidential Election campaign and parley that into Tricky Dick getting elected for a second time on a promise to end the War in Vietnam. This Sunday night is the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic encounter with an iceberg.

Just for yucks, pull up Hunter S. Thompson’s interview with Keith Richard on Youtube and see how many words you can understand as they talk to each other (ostensibly in English) and have no trouble understanding what’s being said.

If “they” have hacked into the Yahoo and Google sites and if the electronic voting machines are truly “unhackable,” why don’t Yahoo and Google hire the folks who delivered the unbeatable security to the “unhackabble” voting machines?  Were the people who designed the “unhackable” voting machines (by any chance?) veterans of “the Blond Ghost’s” old posse?

Baseball fans in San Francisco are getting their hopes up that they will soon see Carl Hubblell’s 1936 record for the Giants of winning 24 consecutive games be broken.

In his autobiography, Lenny Bruce started chapter five with this sentence:  “Standing on the deck of a warship in battle, you get a good look at the competitive aspect of life, carried to its extreme.”

Now the disk jockey will give Annette’s “Pineapple Princess,” a memorial tribute play and then spin ACDC’s “Dirty Deeds,”  Jackie DeShanon’s “Salinas,” and Bobby Daren’s “Jailer bring me water.”  We have to go check into some “false flag” rumors about the sinking of the SS Athena for the research department at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory.  Have an “electro shock therapy” type week.

April 10, 2013

America: Always searching for new and better ways to kill people

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:27 pm

It’s not at all hard to believe that our most popular national priority right now is to see how many more new and effective weapons of death we can supply our troops with, supply foreign dictators with, supply our cities’ paramilitary police with, supply every rabid gun-nut and gangsta in the country with and/or also supply ourselves? Geez Louise!

And can you also believe that we just spent over 300 billion dollars on developing a F-35 bomber which, despite its crappy design, construction and performance, is still an ultra-deadly weapon of mass destruction on a post-Godzillian scale?

What ever happened to knives, shivs, nunchuks, baseball bats or even fists? If you really want to kill someone that badly, shouldn’t you be required to do it with just your bare hands?

Over in this pile on my left we have all kinds of stuff we could be spending our money on that would make us healthy, happy and safe. And over in that pile to my right we have all kinds of stuff to kill people with. If you were to compare these two piles right now, one pile would about the size of a wedding cake — maybe. And the other pile would easily dwarf the Empire State Building or even the Twin Towers — the one that all the gazillion weapons we own couldn’t save. How misguided (or even sick) is that!

We Americans need to get a hold of ourselves. We need to put our blood-lust in check.

On the one side we have drones, robo-cops, tasers, lasers, assault weapons, white phosphorus, torture chambers, chemical weapons, biological weapons, gun shows, Blackhawks, Bradleys, hummers and atomic bombs.

And on the other side we have ballet. The symphony. Arts and crafts and music in the schools. Yawn. To most Americans, this side is a joke. “All that sissy stuff won’t protect us from The Enemy,” you cry. But guess what? With almost all our wealth and experience and knowledge and intentions going toward developing even newer and better ways of killing people, the enemy is already within our own walls. We ourselves are the ones who are slowly but surely destroying America — physically, financially and morally.

And we ourselves have now become all those scary nightmares in the closet, angels of death, schoolyard bullies, serial killers, relentless attackers and masters of our own doom that we fear so much.

That’s beyond sad. That’s psychotic.

Imagine if we had spent seven or eight trillion dollars on stuff like healthcare, jobs, schools, food and parks — instead of on constantly inventing new and better ways to turn human beings into fetid and rotting corpses and cadavers? Sure, we might all have been murdered in our sleep by the Bad Guys. But at least we would all die happy. And there wouldn’t have been all that many bad guys to begin with either. Or we could have just bought them all off.

Not only that, but having all these nasty cold-blooded weapons instead of having adequate healthcare, decent housing, infrastructure improvement, etc. is already killing us on a gargantuan scale. More Americans die of hunger, homelessness, untreated diseases, unregulated firearms, domestic violence, child abuse, corporate greed, agribusiness pesticides and GMO epidemics, Wall Street shadiness, prescription drug “side effects,” over-the-top industrial pollution, improper nuclear waste disposal, prison-industry callousness, heartless pension cuts, bankster housing scams, etc. than have ever died as a result of any “enemy” action.

And according to journalist Mark Karlin, the NRA is currently trying to sponsor legislation that supports selling guns to terrorists on our watch list, violent abusers of women, and the legally blind! How many Americans would that kill in a year? Osama bin Ladin woulda been so proud.

Despite all our good intentions, bravery, wisdom and even common sense, America’s largest and most popular industry right now is still designing, manufacturing and selling weapons that kill men, women and children.

America today is not a country I can be proud of.

PS: I am currently reading Peter Barus’s new book, “Matters of Life and Death” — all about Japanese sword-fighting and the honorable philosophy and art of “engagement” with an opponent But guess what? No one is ever “engaged” by a nuclear weapon. No one is ever “engaged” by a drone. There are no heroics involved in wholesale murder and slaughter. Just ask the surviving victims of Hiroshima and Auschwitz.

PPS: And speaking of Auschwitz, my very favorite holocaust museum ever is located in Terre Haute, Indiana. Founded by Eva Kor, a survivor of the Mengele twins project, this museum is based on Kor’s heart-felt philosophy, “Forgive your worst enemy. It will heal your soul and set you free”.

We have seen again and again in places like Bosnia, Congo, Kosovo, Israel, Afghanistan and Rwanda, how victims of brutality then turn around and become victimizers themselves — how quickly prey learns to become predator. So let’s try something new and end this vicious cycle. “Let there be,” as Kor herself says, “no more wars, no more experiments without informed consent, no more gas chambers, no more bombs, no more hatred, no more killing, no more Auschwitzes.”

Someday I hope to visit this inspiring museum myself.

PPPS: I’m still taking my month-long involuntary tour of cheap places to stay in Berkeley while my apartment is still getting re-habbed — although a friend of mine just commented that I should say “renovated” instead because re-hab sounds too much like someone has just sent me off to the drunk tank.

But the house-sitting/dog-walking gig ended yesterday and now I’m renting a SRO up on Parker Street for three nights. Hopefully I’ll be moving back home on Monday, although who knows? They just discovered black mold in the apartment above me and that might take some more time because they gotta call out the haz-mat guys in white suits. But that’s okay. I’m sort of actually starting to enjoy being pseudo-homeless and constantly “On the Road” — just like that other Berkeley resident, Jack Kerouac.

April 5, 2013

“Free lunch, total wisdom, and full coverage . . .”

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

The face on an Oakland threshold

After receiving a tip that some Phd’s are staying in a local shelter, and rejecting the possibility that it’s unlikely that a Republican majority United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) would issue a game changer liberal ruling, and wondering if some third party countries might be goading North Korea into a hostile action against the USA, why would a teetotaling columnist think that a new gin mill for journalists in the Oakland area would make the best topic for a new column?  The oil spill in Mayflower Arkansas isn’t getting any media mentions so scratch that off the possible topics list.  Updates on the nuclear plants in the Fukushima area of Japan won’t interest anybody but the treehuggers.  Kim Jong Un seems to have spoiled the news value of sequester cuts because there seems to be plenty of money available for Obama to do some “saber rattling” type diplomacy.

In a media market that has been inundated with analysis of the Gay Marriage issue, the fact that we have not encountered any commentary that points out that it is very unrealistic to expect a ruling from a conservative majority SCOTUS that would hand the liberals a “walk off grand slam” ruling and since there has been a surfeit of punditry that tries to keep a “think it through, Agent Utah,” outcome shrouded in a veneer of “anybody’s guess” mystery, writing a column with a tone of predestined inevitability seems like a waste of time and effort.

What good would it do to point out that some nefarious country with an Eddie Haskel type sense of humor might think it would be amusing to goad the leader of North Korea into renewing hostilities on the Korean peninsula because that would make it more difficult for the USA to resort to some of the “all options are on the table” solutions to the task of preventing Iran from manufacturing WMD’s?  Didn’t the USA show that they could successfully handle the challenge of a two ocean war back when FDR was President?

The possibility of doing an article about finding people with Phd’s in shelters located in close proximity to a world famous University might have some potential for landing a long and arduous assignment from the editor of the New Yorker magazine but doing all that work just to get a column for the Internets that would be just three e-takes long, seems a bit too Pollyanna-ish for the World’s Laziest Journalist.  Didn’t we already mention the New York Times writer who now lives in People’s Park?

The Don Quixote challenge of starting a new establishment that will gain a place on the list of the mythological watering holes for word slingers – now that’s worth writing about.

To write about that topic, wouldn’t the abstaining columnist have to have some first hand knowledge of places such as Hurley’s bar in the Rockefeller Center area of New York City where Frank McGee would huddle with his co-workers while members of the staff of the AP’s New York Bureau gathered at a separate table nearby?  Check.

Wasn’t The Keg near the Santa Monica Evening Outlook a legendary drinking place?

Wasn’t the hotel in liberated Paris, called the Scribe, the setting for some amazing feats of alcoholic consumption?

Didn’t the war correspondents in Saigon gather at the Hotel Continental each evening to watch the artillery shelling of the city’s outskirts?  Were journalists permitted entry into the Purple Porpoise bar in Vientiane Laos, if that city actually existed?

We noticed in the New York Times Arts & Leisure Section for Sunday March 31, 2013, an article about a new Broadway play titled “Lucky Guy,” which is based on the life of Mike McAlary who was a columnist with “high-octane swagger” who (reportedly) did cartwheels when “closing time” was announced at the bar where he happened to be imbibing.

Gonzo Journalism is starting the second half of its first century according to the way one of the founding fathers, Tom Wolfe, sees it, so the summer of 2013 might well be a time when America is awash in nostalgia for Gonzo journalism and that means that the idea of starting a new place in Oakland that will be gathering place for writers who grew up believing that they had to “go where the action is” has merit.  Do folks outside the Oakland area know that Lake Merit isn’t a lake?

The Tribune Tavern, which will be located on the ground floor of the Tribune building in downtown Oakland, has opening day scheduled for April 10th.  Wouldn’t the journalists who covered Saigon have preferred a bistro on the top floor?

There is one tavern in Oakland where police tend to gather and talk shop talk.  Journalists tend to “let their hair down” when they are among their own kind.  Motorcycle enthusiasts tend to go to biker bars.  So gin mills may be an example of the old folk wisdom “water seeks its own level.”

While traveling in Australia a few years back, we noticed that the smoking and drinking table found at most of the hostels where we stayed tended to attract the most loquacious of the travelers staying there and so we often found the best conversations at those gathering places even though we do not smoke or drink liquor.  Perhaps a non drinker can hold his own in this new watering hole where columnists should be welcome.

Speaking of the legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen and the fact that National Columnists’ Day is rapidly approaching, a recent Chronicle front page story detailing the attempt to assemble a list of San Francisco bars that are culturally significant makes all of Caen’s Bay Area fans a bit sad that he isn’t alive and fighting to augment that effort with a campaign to establish a “Gin Mill Hall of Fame” for the legendary bars that are gone but not forgotten.

What kind of chatter makes a journalists bar interesting?  About forty years ago, in a bar in a state known for gambling, a crusty old reporter told about the time he was a rookie who went with the old hands to a bar for a bit of liquid refreshment.  The journalist with a “white belt” level of experience got into a lively discussion with a veteran sports reporter about the legendary race horse “Man o’ War.”  The two had differing ways of speculating about the Triple Crown winner that couldn’t be settled until the bar tender jumped into the conversation and very emphatically said what the horse would have done under the hypothetical circumstances.  When the bar tender was asked “What makes you so certain?,” he replied “Because I was his trainer.”  That, in turn, led the young tenderfoot journalist to a high profile series of freelance articles about horse racing.

Realistically, when the Tribune Tavern opens, we don’t expect to find anything that we can use in a query letter to the assignment editor at Scanlon’s Magazine, but maybe we will stumble upon a source who can tell us if the “scientists” at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory (ACTF) have made any progress on their investigation into the possibility that “they” can use a dormant wifi connection to hack into laptops that are turned off and look at your private photos and read your e-mails.

Speaking of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, we heard a recent radio news story that informed listeners that a recent Pew Research Center effort produced data that indicates that some classic conspiracy theories are gaining new adherents.

If journalists gather at the new Oakland location, maybe we can track down some facts to confirm or deny the rumor we have heard that preliminary work is being done in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory’s Planning Department to build a wing to house a Conspiracy Theory Hall of Fame museum.

Sometimes when journalists talk among themselves they come up with new story ideas via the “catalyst” phenomenon.

Will the most cynical journalists look at the cheating teachers scandal in Georgia and start to wonder if doctors get commission checks (or free junkets to the Bahamas?) from pharmaceutical companies when they exceed a certain number for prescriptions of a particular medicine.

Most journalists who have spent any time observing humanity in a bar know that President Obama, in his war of words with Kim Jong Un, is rapidly approaching a tough decision that cause bar room brawlers to realize for both leaders it’s time to either throw a punch or shut up.

Hunter S. Thompson’s philosophy for journalists was “Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage . . .” and that brings to mind the old question:  “How can you tell if someone is a journalist?”  The answer:  “He is the guy who goes up to the free food, starts shoveling it into his face and, with a mouth full of food, asks:  ‘Where is the Hand Out?’”   Hand Outs are prewritten news stories that save lazy journalists (moi?) a lot of time and work.

Journalists can only take so much of official BS.  How many toasts will be inspired by a society that continues to foreclose large numbers of homes while the local radio urges the listeners to save more money?   As an old coworker used to say:  “My car payments are driving me to drink.”

[Note from the Photo Editor:  We used a photo of a bit of artistic decoration from Oakland but not from the one that hasn’t opened yet, because we thought that the quaint example, of a nearby establishment’s threshold, of art for bars would help set the tone for this column and it gives us a chance to make a literary allusion to the “face on the barroom floor.”]

In issue 111 of Granta magazine, on page 210, Richard Russo wrote:  “After World War II, about the same time men stopped wearing hats, women stopped wearing gloves.”

Now the disk jockey will play Slayer’s “World Painted Blood,” the Celtic Cowboys “Kiss My Irish Ass,” and a ditty titled “The Alco-hall of Fame.”  We have to put on our Gonzo disguise and go incognito to cover this new place in Oakland.  Have a “there’s no ‘there’ there” type of week.

April 4, 2013

Closing corporate tax havens: The solution to the sequester (and world poverty)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Greg in cheeseland @ 1:58 pm

Author’s note: This article was originally published on the Madison Independent Examiner. There is a slideshow and video for viewing there. You may recognize some of the images from this site. The video is very informative and I encourage you to check it out. It is about time Americans demand that mega-corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share of the tax burden.

It has been widely reported since at least 2010 that U.S. corporations and the wealthiest Americans have taken advantage of tax loopholes by hiding their assets in offshore subsidiaries (a.k.a. tax havens) in order to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. The amount of money hidden in these tax havens and what the lost revenue means to the American people has not been so widely reported.

According to several sources, including the BBC, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) and James Henry, former Chief Economist at McKinsey & Company, the top 1% of wealthiest Americans and corporations have deposited between $21 and $32 trillion in tax havens in order to evade U.S. taxes. The top seven U.S. banks, furthermore, account for over $10 trillion in assets in more than 10,000 overseas subsidiaries.

Assuming these figures are correct, if all of these assets were taxable, then the U.S. could collect billions, perhaps trillions in additional revenue each year.

Data from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and several governments are used in that assessment. (See video at source). CRS’s report focuses on five small countries generally considered to be tax havens (the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Bermuda and Switzerland) and compares them to five of the top “traditional” foreign countries where American companies actually do business (Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico).

While any knowledgeable person knows that U.S. multinational corporations engage in tax avoidance by shifting their profits into tax havens, not many know exactly how that is done. The waters are further muddied by CEOs and corporate lobbyists who either deny that outright or use the standard industry mantra: “Our company pays all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction where we operate.”

The practice of using tax havens is somewhat simple and is legal under current tax codes, but that does not make the practice morally right or even ethical. Corporations and banks simply need to shift their profits by conducting transactions in countries with little or no corporate taxes. U.S. tax codes allow a “deferral” on paying taxes in the U.S. until the funds are actually brought back to the U.S. and in most cases, they never are.

A classic example of tax haven abuse is the common practice of registering subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands. With more than 85,000 companies registered there, it is one of the few territories in the world that has more organizations than inhabitants.

Mitt Romney’s Caymen Island accounts garnered some scrutiny during last year’s Presidential election. Facebook sheltered $700 million in the Cayman Islands in 2012, while posting over $1 billion in profits and paying no taxes in the US. In fact, 26 of the 30 largest U.S. corporations that utilize subsidiaries paid no income tax between 2008 and 2011, including GE, Boeing, Verizon, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. The banks on the list, ironically, were bailed out by U.S. taxpayer money.

It can be correctly argued that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world at 39.2% when both federal, state and local taxes are included. That, however, means very little in terms of actual taxes paid when corporations and the top 1% hide most of their profits and assets in offshore tax havens. Smaller corporations, small businesses and the bottom 99% of individuals are generating more than their fair share of revenue than are large corporations and the top 1%.

Conservative estimates of lost federal revenue due to offshore tax havens are about $150 billion per year, but that does not take into account what the states lose. A U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) report estimated that states lost nearly $39.8 billion in revenues in 2011, bringing the total to about $190 billion annually. Of that total, corporations were responsible for about 65% in lost revenues to tax havens, while wealthy individuals were responsible for the rest.

To put that in perspective, $39.8 billion would cover education costs for more than 3.7 million children for one year. This sum is also roughly equivalent to total state and local expenditures on firefighters ($39.7 billion) or on parks and recreation ($40.6 billion) in 2008. The U.S. national debt is closing in on $17 trillion and the sequester cuts total about $22 billion. $150 billion in additional federal revenue would make sequester a moot point and remove austerity from the national political vocabulary. The government could then move on to addressing the real problem in the economy – lack of well-paying jobs.

In his book, The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs estimated that in order to end extreme world poverty it would cost $175 billion per year for the next 20 years, a total of $3.5 trillion. In other words, the wealthiest corporations and individuals have enough in offshore tax havens that they could do that now and still retain most of their assets. Taxing 65% of between $21 and $32 trillion in profits and assets at a rate of 39.2% could also provide more than enough to do that.

Dropping food instead of bombs on impoverished nations, true humanitarian projects such as helping to provide clean drinking water and electricity, instead of facilitating regime change in third world countries, may help to repair the U.S. image in the world and reduce terrorism. A better world image may even reduce the need to spend more on defense than the next 13 nations combined. As things stand now, unfortunately, the U.S. does not have enough revenue to help its own people.

The same businesses that avoid paying taxes are also the ones that benefit from educated American workers, an infrastructure that aids in the transportation of goods, services and transactions, and the security that the publicly-funded police and military provide on both a local and global level.

Yet corporations, banks and wealthy individuals have no problem with avoiding paying their fair share of taxes, thereby dumping the tax burden on the working poor, middle class and small businesses. Meanwhile Americans are looking at cuts in social services such as Medicare and Social Security, a crumbling infrastructure, an underfunded educational system, a higher deficit and higher taxes.

It is about time for Americans to demand that lawmakers put the brakes on the free ride that huge corporations and the top 1% have been getting for the past few decades.

Get links, sources, a slideshow and video here: Madison Independent Examiner – Closing corporate tax havens: The solution to the sequester (and world poverty)

April 1, 2013

Purple Haze: Putting the ghosts of Savo Island to rest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 4:27 pm

Did you know that one of the first American naval battles fought in the South Pacific against the Japanese imperial fleet during World War II took place in the Solomon Sea, off the shore of some god-forsaken volcanic outcropping called Savo Island — and right next to another god-forsaken rocky island called Guadalcanal? And that the American navy lost that battle — bigtime? And that 1033 American sailors and Marines died from wounds received at Savo Island? And that four Allied heavy cruisers were sunk?

According to naval historian Lt. Col. David E. Quantock, “The Battle of Savo Island occurred early in the morning on 9 August 1942, when the Japanese 8th fleet surprised the Allied Task Force shortly after the landing at Guadalcanal. In approximately 37 minutes, the Japanese Navy destroyed four Allied heavy cruisers and killed more than 1000 American and Australian sailors, handing the U.S. Navy the worst defeat in its history. There were many strategic, operational, and tactical reasons for this debacle; however, the one common thread through the entire disaster was the poorly framed command and control relationships.”

Soon after this tragic event, a new housing project for naval personnel was constructed in Berkeley, CA, and named after that sad and humiliating battle. According to the January 3, 1945 Berkeley Gazette, “Located across the street from the WACs barracks, [Savo Island] will consist of 192 units [where] some combat personnel returning to shore jobs may rent a single-bedroom unit for as low as $11 a month.”

And one of the children raised in this new housing project was Jimi Hendrix. And we all now what happened to him.

And then Vietnam came and went. And Nick Terse’s excellent new book, “Kill Everything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam,” tells us the most accurate story to date about what really happened in Vietnam. As one reviewer put it, “‘Kill Anything That Moves’ is a hard book to read. You want to look away but finally turn the pages and read of mass killings and targeted assassinations of Vietnamese civilians, rape committed casually and coldly in sight of officers, sport killings and road rage incidents.”

And the ghosts from Savo Island, Vietnam and all the other bloody and unnecessary “wars” perpetrated by greedy corporatists and/or their “poorly framed command and control” have just kept on piling up since then. The 9-11 blunder, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq — and now Syria, Iran and North Korea are also in the mix

And these ghosts of more and more dead people from more and more unjust American wars seem to keep showing up at Savo Island. Why? Because “someone had blundered” on War Street (again) — or because someone else on Wall Street had gotten greedy (again).
In 1974, the old Savo Island housing project in Berkeley was torn down and then Jimmy Carter (my hero, he built housing like this in every single city and town in America in 1979) gave orders to build a new, renovated Savo Island right on the same site — but as a housing cooperative. However, somehow I think that the ghosts of the old Savo Island still remain. There have been murders here. And suicides. And cancer victims. And hoarders. And addicts. And all-too-many cases of people going bat-shite crazy — perhaps even me!

The current Savo Island housing project is supposed to be an idealistic neighborhood cooperative, a perfect example of neighbors “caring and sharing” — yet now the only thing that we neighbors seem to do together is to bicker and quarrel night and day about every single little thing.

And now that our extensive new re-hab in progress and I’ve been forced to move out of my sweet little home for a month, I’ve also come to notice that every time I even set foot back on the property even for few minutes, I start to get this irrational feeling that it’s time to either fight or flee, almost like I was back on Guadalcanal myself!

Perhaps all the ghosts of all the dead from all those unnecessary American wars are still coming back to haunt us.

Can anyone recommend a good exorcist?

PS: And during the period that I have been out of my apartment during this re-hab, I’ve also been taking quite an extensive tour of Berkeley — renting rooms in people’s houses and apartments, sleeping on people’s floors, staying in cheap motels and house-sitting people’s dogs. It’s been quite a wild ride. But the squabbling at Savo Island has still remained a constant in my life. For instance, some of my neighbors at Savo have just accused me of staying up at the luxurious Claremont resort and spa in high style — at our co-op’s expense! Don’t I wish. Up there in the hot tub. Just me and a million or so ghosts.

PPS: I was watching a documentary on the Holocaust in Germany during World War II the other day — such inhuman brutality. In Nazi Germany, corporatists treated living and breathing men, women and children as mere instruments of profit, and all compassion was gone. This cold and brutal objectification of human life serves us as an obvious example of cwhat happens when orporate profit-driven motivation is taken to its extreme.

And so here is a warning: What German corporations did to the Jews — worked them to death, callously starved them and even stole their gold teeth — all in the name of making a profit? Then American multinational corporations may be about to do this to you and me too.

When profit alone is allowed to be king, hatred is then thrown into the mix and all compassion is dead, then no one is safe.

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