September 29, 2013

Albany NY: Solving the mystery of public transportation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:14 am

So I went off to Albany, New York, last week, to attend a convention for murder-mystery writers and readers, where I got to meet a whole bunch of my favorite writers — and have the photos to prove it too

But the biggest mystery in Albany, for me, was how to get around on its bus system. By the time I left that fair city, however, I was the Agatha Christie of bus schedules — but had to do a whole lot of gumshoe surveillance first, before this mystery could be solved.

Why in the world would anyone want to drive a car anywhere when taking public transportation is so much more adventurous, exciting and, er, challenging? Forget all that stuff they say about taking trains and buses because it is good for the environment. Taking public transportation is good for the soul!

Where else can you have so many adventures in so short a time? Or get lost so often? Or have so many helpful people come to your rescue? Or even meet so many interesting people? When you’re alone in the bubble of your own car, who do you meet? No one.

So I left my airport hotel (after having just spent three whole hours on the phone with AT&T, trying desperately to explain to them why I still wanted access to my Yahoo e-mail account and they were not making that possible) and went to stand at a bus stop in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts on the road to Schenectady. No buses appeared for almost an hour — so I stuck out my thumb. But no one stopped. How come people always stop to pick up Jack Reacher — but apparently a little old lady with a broken arm and struggling along with a laptop bag, a huge carry-all purse and a roll-away suitcase is far too intimidating to stop for. But I digress.

Then the bus into Albany finally came. But it was the wrong bus. But then some nice lady from the Capital District Transit Authority talked me down off the wall over the phone. “Can you see a WalMart from where you are standing?” No. “How about a Home Depot?” Yes. “Well, then, just walk two blocks north from there to the stop for the 182 bus.” Sure. But which way is north?

Another hour later, I finally got into downtown Albany with only two mistakes — all rectified by various helpful people who I met on the bus, America’s salt of the earth.

And the convention went well. I met all kinds of authors and got all kinds of free books. And also stumbled across the wonderful New York State Library’s seventh-floor computer room — with its awesome view of the Empire State Plaza and the Catskills.

The Empire State Plaza is all built in that grand Mussolini/Stalin/Mao type of imperial architecture that reminded me of the main plaza in Pyongyang, North Korea. But, hey, it was built by a Rockefeller so it’s entitled to look imperial.

Albany has a whole bunch of amazing architecture, from its old colonial buildings and amazing gingerbread state house to its modern convention center, appropriately called The Egg. Definitely worth a trip there.

But now it’s six o’clock and time to fathom the mystery of how to catch a bus out to the motel I will be staying at. But then I got lost again, ended up walking six blocks in the wrong direction and getting stranded on some dead-end freeway on-ramp, still carrying the roll-away luggage and the laptop bag and the carry-all purse — plus an additional 20 pounds of free books. And the broken left arm.

And then I got on the wrong bus. Again. “I’m sorry,” said the bus driver, “but you must have wanted the 182.” Really? “So just walk back that way another three blocks.” Really?

And then there it was, the glorious 182 bus, stopped at the light. I waved at the driver frantically. No use. “Not an official stop,” he mouthed and waved. So then I desperately and hopelessly chased the damn bus, running penguin-style on my poor painful knees for the next five (5) blocks. With the purse, the roll-away luggage, the laptop case and the new bag of books, all balanced on and/or being dragged along behind me with my one functional arm.

But then the bus got stuck in traffic — but I still wouldn’t have caught up with it if everyone on the bus hadn’t been cheering me on out the windows and forcing the driver to stop for the penguin-stepping little old lady and the roll-away luggage and the books and the laptop case and the broken arm who had just sprinted five blocks “through the traffic like a mounted cavalier,” to quote Chuck Berry.

And guess what? One of the authors from the BoucherCon convention, Robert Kroese, was on my bus too and gave me an autographed copy of his new book!

Now I ask you. Would I ever have had such excellent (and mysterious) adventures if I had only just rented a car?

September 28, 2013

More Moronic Rhetoric from the Right

Filed under: Guest Comment — Ye Olde Scribe @ 2:57 am

September 27, 2013

One hand washes the other

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

Team Oracle teaches the “Never say Never” lesson

On Saturday September 21, 2013, film director William Friedkin was scheduled to do a book signing, for his new autobiography “The Friedkin Connection:  A Memoir,” at the Pacific Film Archive before a screening of “Cruising.”  Going there and taking some photos seemed like a relatively easy way to get some shots to use as the lead-in photo for this column.  After taking some paparazzi style arrival photos, our enthusiasm for the busman’s holiday work nosedived.  Instinctively we knew the frames we had were lousy and that to get “the shot” for this event we would have to go into the book signing and that could be accomplished only by paying the price of admission for the first film and we were intimidated by the prospect of shelling out our money just for the privilege of helping a guy who arrived in a limousine sell extra copies of his new book.  We balked at the opportunity but at least he got the lead position in this book wrangler’s wrap-up column.

Three years from now, there will have been three more World Series played and three more Superbowls will be in the history books, but the next American Presidential election will still be more than a month in the future.  Three more installments of the Oscar™ Awards TV special will have been broadcasted before the Election Night coverage goes on the air.

It seems to the World’s Laziest Journalist that even if any of our hero writers, Hemingway, Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson were still alive and churning out content, they would have a serious problem with the challenge of writing material from now until then that would hold readers’ interest and be worth the effort.

Fox will have no trouble churning out simultaneously criticism of both President Obama and the front runner, Mrs. Clinton, but could Hunter S. Thompson sustain the “game day” level of intense enthusiasm for that long?

Could a long sustained series of very discouraging news broadcasts cause a country to suffer a collective nervous breakdown?  Maybe by the time the 2016 Presidential Election is being held the “Top Forty” radio format will be experiencing a revival.

If a photographer with a blog had access to getting good close up photos of famous personalities such as the President and/or the former First Lady every day for the next three years, wouldn’t the hypothetical photog eventually run out of motivation to sustain the effort?

Obviously, if some potential aspect of pop culture is going to motivate a writer for one more week, or for three more years, there is going to have to be a great deal of indulgence for personal preferences as the explanation for various self appointed story assignments and topic selections.

For example, if a writer tried and failed to get press credentials to cover the 1968 Democratic National Convention it seems unlikely that a good connection between then and now will hold the writer’s or readers’ attention, but if that same fellow saw Jimmy Clark, Phil Hill, and Lorenzo Bandini compete in Formula One car races, then it is quite likely that he will find a flimsy pretext for slipping a plug (or a full length column as film review) into the mix when “Rush,” the new Ron Howard movie about auto racing, is released.  Heck, the mainstream media crowd seems content to use the horse race analogy every four years; maybe a column about the guys who drive Ferraris could be used as a metaphor for the 2016 Presidential Election.

Our friend writer Dennis Etchison is plunging into the Facebook world with some posts touting his new writing project, so why not help a friend?  The book “Mathison by Mathison” is the transcript of a two-and-a-half hour conversation Etchison had with Richard Matheson about his career.  It will soon be available from Bad Moon Books.  Their web site offers advanced copies autographed by Etchison and Mathison’s son.

“Turtle on the Fencepost Finding Faith through Doubt,” by Richard B. Patterson, has been mentioned in a previous column and, odds are, it will be plugged again before the results of the 2016 Presidential Election results are broadcasted.

“Eat, Drink, Vote,” by Marion Nestle gets a plug just for the clever title.

“Humboldt” by Emily Brady should be of interest to folks looking into the topic of marijuana.  Speaking of counties in California, Modoc and Siskiyou counties have voted to secede from the state of California and are starting the process of forming a new state.

Sunday, September 22, 2013, looked like it would be the day that New Zealand would win this year’s America’s Cup racing trophy and we considered going over to San Francisco and getting some grab shots that would help lure some new Kiwi eyeballs to the humble offerings of political punditry by the World’s Laziest Journalist, but then, once again, we suffered an attack of motivation starvation.  Even if we learned conclusively that the Prime Minister of New Zealand read our column about the inevitable victory . . . so what?

A sports editor taught young reporters:  “Never say never.”  We wanted to get a bet down on Joe Nameth and the Jets so much, but we couldn’t find a bookie.  The fellow at the desk next to us was reported to be a bookie who didn’t lay off.  We never saw him again.  Are there any books about Judge Crater?

If we write the first column that brings up a new topic and that topic (with no reference to where it originated) that goes viral . . . so what?  Has a book full of illustrations of “slap art” been published?  What art museum will be the first to hold a show spotlighting the “slap art” in contemporary culture?

Low level functionaries like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden used their ability to access all sorts of online information and then put that information online for what they perceived to be altruistic reasons.  We wonder when someone will resort to the good old American way of thinking and use their access to all things Internet to make some money.  Does Macy’s tell Gimbels’ what their game plan is?  Would the executives at Gimbels’ pay a fellow to help them read the e-mails of the high level management at Gimbels’?  You bet your bippy they’d fork over some big bucks for access to that material.

The New York Times Book Review Section tipped us to the new book “The American Way of Poverty” by Sasha Abramsky.  It would probably provide us with a basis for a good column but we won’t run out a buy a copy, we’ll wait and see if the Berkeley Public Library gets a copy.

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library does have a copy of “Deadline Artist – Scandals, Tragedies & Triumphs: More of American’s Greatest Newspaper Columns” edited by John Avlon, Jesse Angelo, and Errol Louis.

“Never Odd or Even” by O. V. Michaelsen features limericks and word play.  A revised edition is available by advanced sale on Amazon and we are looking forward to reading it because we know the author.

If plugging books written by friends is a human trait, what happens in Washington D. C. when nationally known journalists have to wheel and deal with powerful politicians to get access to personally delivered “no comment” responses to their questions?    Could it be that they trade in favors to achieve fair and balanced plugs?

The “On the Road” subgenre of literature is a personal favorite and so we were delighted to get a copy of Larry McMurtry’s “Roads:  Driving America’s Great Highways,” which is a transcription of some soliloquies he composed while driving on some of America’s best known highways.  We suggested that the Beat Museum stock that item in the bookstore section of their tourist attraction in San Francisco.

The management at the Cadillac automobile restoration firm run by Frank Nicodemus in “upstate” New York mentioned that they were sending a 1954 restored convertible to their client in California’s wine country but we missed out on a chance to collect some column material (and scratch an item off the bucket list) by getting a ridealong on the coast-to-coast road trip.

The San Francisco Public Library’s fall used book sale, where we were delighted to find a copy of Stephen Bates’ “If no news, send Rumors: Anecdotes of American Journalism,” continues through Sunday at Fort Mason.

[Photo editor’s note:  News photos taken this week at the America’s Cup Final will have a high stock shot value because the event (and the topic of subsidies provided by taxpayers) will be discussed for years to come and will be the subject for many books.]

In “The Best of Herb Caen 1960 – 1975” we noticed this passage about the arrival of Spring in 1964:  “At this time of year, I always remember the blind man on Market St. with a sign around his neck reading ‘It is Spring and I am Blind’ . . . .”  That made us wonder if Republicans pretended they didn’t see him?

The disk jockey will play “Tell Laura I love her,” “Leader of the Pack,” and “Deadman’s Curve.”  We have to rush out to see “Rush.”  Have a “checkered flag” type week.

September 20, 2013

Is the gangster saga a myth?

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

Good clean Sixties style fun in Berkeley in the digital age.

“The Family,” the newest edition to the gangster film genre, plays fast and loose with reality and that may explain the many tepid reviews, but in the future members of Joseph Campbell’s academic posse may point to this new flick as a noteworthy step in the mob saga’s journey from “based on a true story” to the realm of myth.

Joseph Campbell contended that the heroes in a culture’s folk stories took on supernatural qualities that manifested the group’s virtues and some skeptics may complain that gangsters and deities seem like an incompatible mix.  At first look having a kill-happy family as the heroes might seem inappropriate but cynical critics in other countries may see a connection as far as gangsters playing a role usually reserved for a diety as being a metaphor for American Exceptionalism.

Since a genre’s transformation from “based on a true story” to mythology is accomplished in slow stages, then a look at this gangster saga may, in the future, show the first stages of the change.

In the film the family of Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro) is in the witness protection program and becomes the Fred Blake family living in the Normandy section of France.  The realistic details of the witness protection program are irrelevant to the myth of a mob boss who is trying to live anonymously in a foreign country.  The Blake family lives, as Campbell’s disciples would see it, on The Road of Trails and their handler, played by Tommy Lee Jones, would be described by the advocates of the myth interpretation of “the Family” by the words of Campbell:  “For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.”

“The Family” makes a point of stressing the fact that saying a naughty word is much more vile than using a gun as a sacrament to deliver eternal punishment to a transgressor.  The same point was mentioned in “Apocalypse Now.”

The fact that Manzoni is given carte blanch for committing new crimes in return for his “ratting out” his associates is the first clue that reality has been abandoned.  Yes, a Boston mobster was given a similar pass in real life, but as myths tend to do the reality dial for “The Family” is twisted way into the unbelievable exaggeration red zone.

If guns and gangsters are in the process of being mythologized, some gun control nuts might soon start making dire predictions that the gun cult will raise the spectacle of mass shootings to the level of a sacred rite, which will mean that the topic of gun control will be subject to cancellation on grounds of religious freedom.

Are the debates between gun owners and gun control nuts more or less heated than the conflict in the Muslim religion between Sunni and Shiites?  Don’t all of them share the same level of commitment to their beliefs?

We had a chance to ask a fellow Berkeley columnist about the premise of this column and she voiced great skepticism about the idea that gun control advocates had become so inured to rounding up the usual suspect talking points for the mass shootings debate.  She refused to accept the idea that the advocates of gun control might only react to an extreme idea such as the possibility that shooting massacres will eventually become a religious ceremony, in the USA.  We tend to think that liberal talk radio schedules the third week of every month for the latest installment in the series of body counts outrage and gun control suggestions.

Perhaps some academic will take the premise of this column to the level of a doctoral dissertation and firmly proclaim that the gangster genre is entering the realm of myth in American culture.  The World’s Laziest Journalist would find such a tribute flattering and would hold the Legal Department in check as far as any law suite alleging plagiarism is concerned.  We don’t have the time or energy to expand this column into a book length treatise.

When film fans read a review they don’t want to get mired in a deep philosophical topic that uses terms such as “aesthetic arrest.”  They want to know if the flick is worth the price of admission or not.

Conflicted?  Giovanni Manzoni is the type of person that Travis Bickel tried to exterminate.

John Wayne won his Oscar™ by portraying a marshal who was a parody of the roles Wayne had played earlier in his acting career.  Nostalgia motivated Wayne’s award and so it is interesting to note that numerous reviews of this new film point out similar roles that Pfeiffer owned when she was younger.  Are the critics dropping subtle hints that a similar better late than never award for three time Oscar™ nominee Pfeiffer might be a good idea?

Apparently the World’s Laziest Journalist is the only columnist to note a similarity between Fred Blake’s speaking appearance in France and the one that Holly Martins makes in Vienna (in “The Third Man”).

Gangsters had refined the philosophy of a pre-emptive strike years before the births of the American politicians who would preach the redemptive benefits of the “bomb the bastards while they are still planning their first attack” philosophy that revolutionized America’s war policies.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; but do it first!”

It is more appealing for Americans to believe that Jimmy Hoffa is buried in the end zone of a sports stadium than to fact check the idea that he was taken to a union butcher shop and that an industrial strength garbage disposal unit destroyed all vestiges of a corpus delecti.  The 1964 film, “Goldfinger,” contained a delightful sequence illustrating a popular way of rendering a dead body unavailable for the medical examiner.  A copse inside a crushed automobile will be destroyed if the metal is melted to gain access to the evidence.  Gangsters knew this in the Sixties but Joe on Barstool mountain never stopped to think about that and preferred to believe the urban legend about where Hoffa is (allegedly) buried.  (The new San Francisco 49ers stadium will have an opening reception any day now.)

For a columnist desperately seeking column topics, this film was well worth the price of a bargain matinee.

[Note from the photo editor.  Ideally a publicity still of a scene from the new movie would be the ideal photo to accompany this column, but, since our legal staff always encourages us to err on the side of caution, we used a photo of a Sixties activity which attracted a great deal of interest from folks with digital cameras.  A photo of a Sixties era activity was deemed a way to use the image of something that is the antithesis of the gangster’s family values.  It was selected as a pragmatic and safer course to follow.]

Some poet advocated the theory that the saddest words are:  “It might have been.”  Somc comedian suggested that was wrong and that the saddest words you will ever hear are:  “Mr. Gotti says:  ‘Get in the ******’ (gosh darn) car!’”

Now the disk jockey will play “Gangster of Love,” “Stagger Lee,” and the soundtrack album from “The Godfather.”  We have to go find a news report on the Bouchercon being held this weekend in Albany, N. Y.    Have a “deus otiosus” type week.

September 17, 2013

A Simple Guide…

Filed under: Commentary — Ye Olde Scribe @ 1:36 pm

…to ANYTHING or ANYONE the Right disagrees with:

Click HERE

Shot through the heart: Why guns need to go

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 11:28 am

The Washington DC Navy Yard massacre just happened. And what are the chances of something like that happening in America again? And again and again? Really good.

According to the CDC and Google, the fifth most frequent cause of death in America is “unintentional injuries” — including those inflicted by guns. The tenth most frequent cause of death in America is suicide, including those involving guns. And the 16th most frequent cause of death in America is homicide, including a whole lot of murder-by-gun. And even though NRA lobbyists now work night and day to keep the CDC from collecting statistics on the actual number of Americans shot and/or killed by guns every year, those numbers are probably right up there with the number of Americans who are killed by cancer and heart disease each year

But even though, thanks to the NRA, we don’t have access to the exact statistics on deaths by gunshot, there’s still a really good chance that you and me could also be killed by a gun — one in 24,974 (and that doesn’t even include death by accidental gunshot injuries or gunshot suicides)

There are definitely a lot better odds in favor of us getting killed by our fellow Americans than by terrorists (one in 20 million are the odds of us getting killed by a terrorist). Look what happened at the Navy Yard for instance. Apparently Aaron Alexis was NOT a terrorist, just another fellow-American with guns having a bad day

Based on even the vague statistics now available, the chances of something like the Navy Yard massacre happening in America again are really really really good. And the chances of something like this happening to you and me are really good too.

PS: Last night I had a rather graphic dream informing me explicitly that the manner in which I myself would meet my own demise would be to get shot through the heart. Bam! Right in the middle of the ribcage. Dead as a doornail. That’s me.

So if Disney is right and dreams really do come true, I now know exactly how I will die. No sweet, painless “went peacefully in her sleep” good death for me. Apparently I’m gonna become just another gunshot statistic. Part of the fifth cause of death? Part of the tenth cause of death? Of the sixteenth cause of death? Or just another statistic in the next Navy Yard or Sandy Hook or Aurora or Columbine massacre? But does it really matter which category I’m gonna fall into? Dead is dead.

“But, Jane,” you might ask, “if dreams really do come true, how can you prevent yourself from meeting this sad fate?” That’s a no-brainer. Lawmakers could easily save my life (and also the lives of approximately 35,000 other Americans this year alone) simply by making guns less accessible. Works for me.

But as things now stand, with so many of my country’s armed killers abroad and so many of my country’s armed killers at home, I won’t be the only one to get shot through the heart. America will also be shot through the heart.

PS: This weekend I will be attending BoucherCon, a murder-mystery writers and readers convention in Albany, NY, and will be staying in some shady Sam-Spade-type hotel in a sleazy Jack-Reacher part of town. Perhaps that is where I will meet my death by gunshot? And then have hundreds of crime-novel buffs all standing around, ready to solve the Whodunnit part of my homicide! Awesome.

September 13, 2013

An Ox Bow Incident with poison gas?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:27 pm

Seeing a Forty Ford arrive in Berkeley wasn’t the only Forties Flashback moment this week for one columnist.

Pops Finnegan, the legendary journalist, guru, and (amateur) philosopher from Scranton Pa., always taught his fledgling analysts to consider questions from all sides and all possible angles, so if he were alive this week and seeing the President urging the country to believe that an attack on Syria is not war, he would (hypothetically) roll a sheet of paper into his typewriter and begin formulating an opposing devil’s advocate point of view such as:

“The course of action that President Obama was suggesting regarding the allegation that Syria used chemical weapons came perilously close to fitting the definition of a crime against peace that was used at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.”


Then he would include a relevant quote from the opening statement of Robert H. Jackson such as an elaboration of the hallmarks of a crime against peace:

“(3) Attack by its land, naval, or air forces, with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another state; and

(4) Provision of support to armed bands formed in the territory of another state, or refusal, notwithstanding the request of the invaded state, to take in its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or protection.”

Then he would challenge folks to do their own fact checking by providing a link to the full text of that speech.

The fact that Pops Finnegan lost a son fighting in the South Pacific in the early stages of WWII might have an influence on Pops’ respect for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and any attempt to eliminate such material from a modern debate about national policy.

No one disputes that the use of poison gas is reprehensible but the Ox Bow question is:  Who did it?  Could Assad have used a tactic that was sure to draw international condemnation in a fight that he was winning?  Could the rebels have been so vile as to kill some of their own supporters just to bring outside intervention into their effort which seemed to be failing?

The World’s Laziest Journalist, who does not squeeze writing time into a schedule that is full of talk show appearances, has had time to read up on the Nuremberg Trials.

Citizens, who find and read a copy of “Justice at Nuremberg,” Robert E. Conot’s 1981 book about the historical legal proceedings that came after the conclusion of WWII, might find it disconcerting to contemplate the concept of crime against peace for humanitarian reasons.

When we asked a woman who had worked on gathering evidence during WWII for a potential War Crimes Trial involving the Japanese military, if George W. Bush was a war criminal she immediately snapped:  “Of course, he is.”

If her experience based opinion was correct, then it is rather ominous to see the current American President repeating the Bush foreign policy because that tends to indicate that experts on war crimes might be harsh in their assessment of the Obama speech this week.  Luckily for him, the number of living people who are available for sound bytes on the Evening News with such insights has dwindled to a small number.

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, a German magazine reported that the BDN (Germany’s Intelligence Service) has heard phone calls that indicated Assad may not have personally authorized the use of the poison gas.  This bit of news got very little notice in the media inside the USA.  Was the fellow who wrote “The Ox Bow Incident” embroiled in the HUAC Hollywood Hearings?

The World’s Laziest Journalist would prefer to write columns about other more innocuous and vapid topics such as the arrival this week of the Juice Box camper in Berkeley as part of their effort to travel the country and inform the USA about the connection between diet and health.  They are using a forty year old Winnebago and that, in turn, got us to wondering if Tom Wolfe or anyone else will be doing a fiftieth anniversary recreation of the famous Magic Bus tour of the USA in 1964 and if so how can we get a chance to cover that journey.  Wouldn’t a chance to get a ride-along on Willie Nelson’s tour bus make any journalist almost famous?  Heck we got all jazzed by a Forties Flashback moment seeing a Forty Ford in Berkeley, recently.

Pops Finnegan would probably stress that the fun feature work can always be done later and that writing a column about a historic sidebar aspect to the plans to deliver a pin prick attack on another country might have priority.

The Peaceniks are deluging their representatives in Washington with a tsunami of phone calls and e-mails strongly urging a “no” vote against military action.  They could, if they chose to, make a much stronger case if they drafted recall petitions and informed their representatives that a “yes” vote would automatically initiate the use of the recall petition before sundown on the day of the vote.


[Photo editor’s note:  The columnist interrupted a week of unfolding ominous history to indulge in some innocuous car-spotting.  It wasn’t the week’s only Forties Flashback moment for the writer.  Without a chance to get closer to history in the making in other cities, this mundane photo with a very tenuous link to the topic is the best that a citizen journalist can provide.  The news organizations that provide stealth propaganda get better photo ops.  Could that be an example of a quid pro quo arrangement?  Are some American media exceptional in their ability to please the Administration?]

At Nuremberg the lead prosecutor, Robert Jackson, said:  “Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions.”

Now the disk jockey will play the song that played during the opening sequence of the movie “Apocalypse Now,” Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkeries,” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”  Now we have to go see a bargain matinee showing of “The Family.”  Have an “America Exceptionalism” type week.

September 11, 2013

What if YOU spent 2/3 of your salary on guns?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 1:04 pm

Imagine that you get up every morning, go off to work, work your butt off all week and then wait in happy anticipation for your paycheck on Friday. And then it arrives. But instead of getting the full amount that you’d been eagerly expecting, you only get one-third of it. “Yikes!” you exclaim in dismay. “What happened to the rest of it!”

“But don’t you remember,” says your company’s payroll clerk with a yawn, having heard all this stuff before from other employees time and again, “that you spent all the rest of your money on guns.” Guns? I bought guns? “Sure you did.”

“But what am I going to do about my rent money and my cable bill and paying off student loans and my trips to the mall and, er, not to mention food?”

“Sorry, guy, but our records show that for the past 60 years, you have definitely — and apparently voluntarily — spent at least two-thirds of your income on guns.” 60 years? The last whole freaking 60 years? I did?–puf-n-stuff

“But how come I’ve never noticed it before?”

If something like this has just happened to you, you might justifiably still be in shock. But here’s some good news. You are not alone! Every single other citizen in America right now is in your exact same boat. For approximately the last 60 years, two-thirds of America’s national hard-earned income has been spent exclusively on guns. Two-thirds of all our taxes. And two-thirds of all America’s credit-card debts too.

“But if I had spent all that money on guns for all those years, then where are they?” you might also ask. Good question. For all the trillions of dollars that we Americans have spent on guns in the last 60 years, you would think that every single one of us would have at least one or two Glocks, a couple of semi-automatics or at least even a Deringer stashed in the back of our closets or under our beds, right?

Then you would be wrong. We’ve got nothing to show for our rash 60-year spending spree except for a couple of million corpses, a goodly part of which are women and children. And who wants a pile of dead babies stinking up the house!

PS: Actually, the annual American tax budget allotment for guns is only 57% — that we know of. But who the freak even knows how much we also spend on black budgets and covert ops and foreign rendition prisons and spying on evil-doers like you and me

PPS: On September 18, I’m leaving for Albany, NY to attend a murder-mystery writers and readers convention there

This trip won’t be as exciting or exotic as going to, say, Afghanistan or Iran or North Korea again, but it’s all I can afford right now — plus never forget that it is America that is the source of almost all war in the world today and therefore, if you are a war correspondent, it is always best to remember the most important crime novel assumption of all: When looking for a killer, always look close to home first

September 6, 2013

War = jobs, jobs, and more jobs!

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:26 pm







San Francisco sentiment appeals to Democrats this week?

Americans are being duped by the cable experts into making two extremely dangerous assumptions.  First they are expected to believe that the launching of Cruise missiles will be achieved with sucker punch efficiency and second that Syria will disregard any opportunity to use their “stand your ground” philosophy to foil the attack.  Among all the hypotheticals, no one addresses the possibility that Syria may have access to weapons which could sink the American ships, the moment the first Cruise missile is launched.  If that were to occur, the idea of an iron clad guarantee for preventing boots on the ground scenarios would immediately be rendered irrelevant and invalid.  That, in turn, will lead the world to a nostalgic revival of the Bush era “no one could possibly have foreseen” line of reasoning, which always did seem a tad disingenuous.

After thirteen years and approximately a half a million words of criticism of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, President Obama made it apparent that our efforts have been irrelevant and ridiculous because he will, if he continues with his plant to attack Syria, soon compel all Americans, not just good Bushies, to adhere to the Bush axiom that folks are either with the Bush Dynasty or they are with the Terrorists which could be deemed patriotism via blackmail.

President Obama seems poised to either:  A. become a Bush clone or B. foil a neocon plan to resume the Bush master plan (which includes a new war in Syria) by some clever passive aggressive moves that will put the Republican Congress in a position where they must choose between ignoring public sentiment or giving Obama a chance to get off the hook by denying him a macho path to use American troops to save face. If they choose to let Obama off the hook, some Conservative analysts might interpret that as being an example of a humiliating vote of non confidence

If Obama is determined to become a Bush clone we will support whatever course the country is compelled to take, but, simultaneously, we will use our right to free speech to express disapproval and scorn for Obama the man in future columns.  If, conversely, he is indulging in some high level game playing to let Congress take responsibility for making an attack or preventing the President from making such a move, we will endorse whatever the country does, but we will also use our right to free speech to blame Obama for maneuvering the country into a position of extreme vulnerability for being run by a man who will be scorned and ridiculed by Muslim culture countries which revere macho conduct and a patriarchal form of governance.  Several columns may be needed to express our disapproval of such a poor foreign policy stance.

We submit to all readers both Republican and Democrats that President Obama should resign if he is repudiated by the vote in Congress.  If he gets authority to attack Syria and uses it, he owes his supporters, campaign donors, and especially the people who voted for the man who offered an alternative to the Bush program a resignation for fraud and dishonorable conduct.  The concept of conduct unbecoming for a politician is an oxymoron but it expresses the depth of his deception.

When we heard that President Obama was going to follow the Constitution and ask Congress for authority to deliver some of the old ultra-violence via some Cruise missiles, we hastily pulled out our 1965 copy of “Death in the Afternoon,” and prepared to write a column comparing the Obama move to that of a bullfighter who fools the bull, but then as the new week began to unfold in Washington, we wondered if it was the Democrats who were going to experience the moment of truth.  Later in the week, it seemed as if Obama might be the one to experience the moment of truth.

How will the Peaceniks in Berkeley, who were ebullient when Obama became the first American President of Pan-African heritage, respond to an invitation to attend a Support the Troops and Obama rally rather than any new anti-war protests?

Theoretically, by having a Democratic President take up the standard of the Bush Cheney foreign policy, it should mean that the last few holdouts to enthusiastic support of the Bush policy are compelled to make the change and unite the entire United States in the Bush camp, but there are some pragmatic considerations that might cause some problems.

Online some photos have been posted purporting to show American Troops objecting to providing support for Muslim rebels in Syria.  Is this stealth racism?  Would the troops be more enthusiastic if the Commander-in-Chief was a fellow named Bush?

If President Obama is sincere in his intention to lob some Cruise missiles into Syria and if he expects the World’s Laziest Journalist to recant and renounce previous columns that had a cynical tone regarding the need for an invasion of Iraq, we will be glad to provide some very enthusiastic propaganda but only if we get some very impressively large paychecks.  Otherwise, we will continue in our efforts to enjoy the right to free speech and voice some objections to the various gaps in Obama’s logic that we notice.

The Obama move to get Congressional approval for an attack on Syria has restored our faith in cynicism.

When he appears before Congress to Testify, should Secretary of State John Kerry, make a subtle appeal to patriotism by wearing his military medals?

Some journalists have suggested that the Saudis might subsidize the costs of a missile strike against Syria.  Could we have some lawyers look at the text of that vague verbal agreement to see if their offer covers any residual costs such as hospital care for wounded personnel or not?  Will patriotic Republicans have some objections to turning the American Military into a de facto mercenary force?

Some Administration folks have made the absurd assertion that the use of missiles against Syria is not war.  Didn’t a famous Democratic President make the argument that when an attack was made on Pearl Harbor, a state of war existed?

Has any of President Obama’s recent statements reminded his supporters of the dilemma faced by Captain Queeg’s crew?

Was this week, Putin’s equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crises?

A recent news radio news report stated that former President Jimmy Carter had said that the United States is no longer a functioning democracy.  Is Carter about to form a mutual defense treaty with Brad Friedman?  Friedman’s web site the Bradblog, which continually questions the accuracy of the results produced by the electronic voting machines, has earned him some mentions by mainstream media pundits who designated the computer voting critic as a certified member of the Lunatic Conspiracy Theory Association.

How long will it be before Jimmy Carter is predicting that those voting machines, with unverifiable results, will give JEB Bush an unfair advantage over Hillary in the 2016 Presidential Election?

During the week, Randy Rhodes and Mike Malloy mentioned a Bush era analysis that predicted that the USA would conduct efforts to destabilize the governments in several Middle Eastern countries including Syria.  America’s free press prefers not to give such information any consideration.

Mike Malloy is conducting a fundraising effort to pay for some improvements for his website and radio program and those folks who believe in fair and balanced commentary should be enthusiastic about keeping one of the few remaining Liberal voices active.

(We have warned Uncle Rushbo that when all Liberal voices have disappeared, there will be very little motivation for folks to continue paying him to provide the opposing Conservative point of view so maybe it would be a rational act of self preservation for Uncle Rushbo to surreptitiously help keep Mike Malloy funded and active in his mission of upsetting conservatives.)

While Obama asks Congress to sign a blank check, we tend to see it as a replay of the scene where Cool Hand Luke says he is standing in the rain talking to himself rather than a new chance for Obama to make an inspiring speech that evokes echoes of Churchill reassuring the Brits that “we shall never surrender!”

Richard M. Nixon resigned rather than subjecting the country to a Constitutional Crisis.  We urge Obama to drop the war or follow Nixon’s example.

[Note from the photo editor:  Those Democrats who are not teetotalers will be very likely to appreciate the sentiments expressed by a sign we saw in San Francisco recently.]


September 5, 2013

Fukushima, climate change & war: Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 8:22 pm

Yeah, I know. The Bible says that there needs to be FOUR horsemen involved if we are actually going to have a truly genuine Apocalypse — so having only three horsemen arrive at our doorstep doesn’t really count. Or does it? It certainly looks to me like only three lone riders, by working overtime and really putting their hearts and minds into the job, will actually be able to put it off all by themselves!

“And the greatest of these is…” war. Ever since mankind invented the machine gun, it’s been all downhill for us human beings. From the trenches of World War I to the jungles of Rwanda and the halls of Columbine and Sandy Hook, war has been the curse of the modern world

Oops, my bad. Most of the killing in Rwanda was done with machetes. And school shootings can’t be considered real wars — just kids using adult methods to solve problems. Plus World War I was supposed to be “The war to end all war”. Fat lot of good it did there

In any case, War, our first Horseman of doom, has been doing pretty damn good for himself in the last 100 years, systematically killing hundreds of millions of people and polluting the Earth in the process. And yet people still keep falling for his sweet siren song time after time — and then always end up crashed to death on the rocks

“Please, Daddy, please? Just one more war?”

“Oh all right.” And then yet another country is destroyed. And countries aren’t like crabgrass or blackberries. They don’t just grow back. Especially if undepleted uranium bombs are involved

So what about the other two Horsemen? One of them has obviously gone nuclear. That massive ongoing radioactive leak at Fukushima is like a grand tsunami of radiation heading our way Soon there will be two-headed calves being born all over the west coast of California. Enough said about that.

And climate change? Like those proverbial frogs put into hot water, we are failing to notice our Earth’s gradual temperature rise until it’s too late — and we’re all been cooked like frog-leg fricassee.

But there actually is a fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse besides the three more obvious ones I’ve included here. This one is more subtle. He may be called “Hubris” by most of us — but his nickname is “Greed”.

PS: It’s been 44 days since I broke my left arm in July, but it still really hurts. And if a mere broken arm hurts so bad, imagine how it must feel to be napalmed. Or hit with shrapnel. Or attacked by drones or undepleted uranium bombs. Or to lose your legs to a land mine. You guys up in the military-industrial complex? Stop dreaming about more and better ways to invent Death Star weapons to kill off the planet — and start developing more empathy instead.

Start imagining how you would feel if war maimed your own children — or even yourself — and then, for goodness sake, prove for the very first time that you too are actually human, let go of your greed and hubris, stop trying to play at being some false-god figure and develop some freaking compassion!

PPS: Here’s yet another example of American military-corporate Hubris: Back in 2008 when I was an embedded reporter in the Green Zone, John McCain came by and gave us media guys a little talk, running on and on about how wonderful the war on Iraq was. And now he’s back to spouting that exact same garbage about how fabulous a war on Syria would be

But what I didn’t understand then and still can’t understand now is how the American military-industrial complex can always act so virtuously superior regarding the use of WMDs and chemical weapons — and still keep a straight face.

To hear the White House, the media, the CIA, the RepubliDem war hawks and the corporate-driven military tell it, you would think that Syria was the very first nation in the entire world ever to use chemical weapons — as if the US had never ever used them ever before. Like we had never sprayed Vietnam with Agent Orange, never sprayed Kosovo with undepleted uranium, never ever gave Saddam Hussein the gas that he used on the Kurds, and never ever paid for all that white phosphorus that their Israeli buddies sprayed on school children in Gaza.



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