October 31, 2013

Fukushima: “If you knew sushi…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:20 am

OMG, I’ve just finished reading a really scary article about how even the seemingly-too-big-to-fail Pacific Ocean has become pretty much radioactive, thanks to a constant onslaught of 300 tons of nuclear-waste-contaminated water still pouring into it daily from Fukushima’s damaged nuclear reactors

Here’s a brief sample of power-points from that article, “28 signs that the West Coast is being absolutely fried with nuclear radiation from Fukushima”:

4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.

7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.

8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.

11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish…

18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.

23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning: “Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”

However, as deadly-nightmarish and horrendously future-threateningly-scary as this article may be, I’ll bet you anything that it’s not going to make even a small change to Americans’ current thinking about the Pacific ocean, radioactivity in general or even eating tuna-fish sandwiches. Why not? Because whenever we Americans read about some sort of catastrophic generality like this, we tend to just shrug our shoulders and move on. “Nothing to see here, folks. Doesn’t effect me.”

This is the same kind of thinking that Americans have about climate change. We view it with alarm for about a nano-second generally — but don’t individually seem to mind a little warm weather in January as it applies to us personally. And then we happily continue to drive our gas-guzzling cars and let corporations pollute our air. “As long as it doesn’t effect me…” But the Fukushima disaster IS effecting us now. Personally. Apparently there is now even radiation in our own freaking sushi!

Americans also don’t seem to care if all those undepleted uranium bombs that War Street drops on Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya (and now Syria) cause horrible cancers and hideous birth defects on the other side of the world. “That doesn’t effect me either.”

But what if you love a good salmon dinner or some California rolls or a tuna-noodle casserole? Are horrible cancers and hideous birth defects going to follow you home now too?

And are you now going to have to bring a Geiger counter along with you whenever you go to the fish store to shop?

PS: Here’s even further bad news about radioactivity in the Pacific, from a recent article in CounterPunch:

“There are three major problems at Fukushima:

1. Three reactor cores are missing [!!!???!!!];

2. Radiated water has been leaking from the plant in mass quantities for 2.5 years;

3. Eleven thousand spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps the most dangerous things ever created by humans, are stored at the plant and need to be removed. 1,533 of those are in a very precarious and dangerous position. Each of these three could result in dramatic radiation events, unlike any radiation exposure humans have ever experienced.”

Holy sheep dookie! This means that the danger of an atomic explosion blowing up the planet is even greater now than it was way back in the 1950s! And the only difference between then and now seem to be that now it may actually be happening — and also that, nowadays, nobody seems to care any more.

PPS: And while we’re on the subject of slow and painful death, let’s also talk about the Reagan-Clinton-Bush-Obama administration and their one big interconnected Endless War. Exactly how are we paying for all this endless and unnecessary blood-letting? Let me count the ways:

1. War Street gets all kinds of money for drones — and that money comes directly from funds that should have gone to shore up America’s crumbling infrastructure.

2. War profiteers receive a bottomless budget allowance to blow up and gravely injure hundreds of thousands of women and children in the Middle East — and that money comes directly out of our budgets for medical care and hospitals here at home

3. Wall Street sends American soldiers all over the world to act as its global corporations’ extortionists, enforcers and thugs — and this Mafia-like “protection” racket is paid for by drastic cuts to American veterans’ benefits.

4. Israeli neo-cons get billions of $$$ to endlessly reign white phosphorus down on school children in Palestine – and America’s budget for schools here at home shrinks drastically in order to pay for this illegal and brutal Occupation.

5. Oil companies steal oil routinely from other countries by using “preemptive war” — and Americans pay for these wars with $$$ cuts to our hometown fire department budgets and police funding. And now corporate lobbies are once again putting pressure on their (not our) Congressional representatives to make very serious cuts to our Social Security and MediCare in order to pay for even more endless wars for oil

6 thru 666. In the last 30 years, your lifestyle and my lifestyle have been greatly diminished in many many many other countless ways — so that Wall Street and War Street can live out their fantasy lives of aggrandizement and wealth beyond our own wildest dreams. And this sordid list of money-grubbing by the wealthy shadow figures who have their greedy fingers clandestinely dipped into America’s pockets goes on and on and on

But at no point, ever, do the American people ever come out on top.

October 22, 2013

Free Press or Ministry of Propaganda?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:44 pm

An interesting mural in San Francisco made for a good feature photo shot.

After the negotiations in Oakland collapsed and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) strike was resumed, we heard an odd item on KCBS radio.  They informed listeners that they should not be alarmed if they saw BART trains running on the system.  The reporter explained that the trains were being run to keep the system and the equipment in running condition in anticipation of the resumption of service after a settlement.  There was something about that bit of news that caused a small skeptical reaction for us but we didn’t pay close attention and ignored any implications that heads-up for the listeners might have.  On Saturday, after we took a one day excursion to San Francisco on the AC Transit Bus System (which is under a 7 day strike delay cooling off pause), we heard a news report that two people had been killed that afternoon by a BART train and immediately our internal alarm system sounded.

Usually the news coverage of a major strike includes video or still photos of some equipment sitting idle.  We know this from personal experience because in the late Seventies the photo desk at AP in Los Angeles called us at home and asked if we would take a stringer assignment to go down to the Long Beach area and take a photo of some California Highway Patrol cars sitting in the area headquarters parking lot.  A photo of cars parked in a symmetric pattern isn’t very dynamic but it does illustrate the concept of “sitting idle.”

So why was that BART train running during the strike rather than sitting idle?

If the public is to believe the KCBS explanation some member of management must have come in on the weekend, just to run the train during a period when one of the local papers ran a headline indicating that negotiations between the workers and management were not being conducted.  The implication was that the public’s inconvenience was going to last a long time.

So why was that BART train runnin’ down the tracks on a textbook perfect example of a Indian Summer Saturday afternoon?

Was the Bay area mainstream media missing a big story?  They couldn’t have been testing the equipment because a settlement was close.  It seems unlikely that some member of management had come in to take his kid on a joy ride.

The death of two people is a tragedy but wouldn’t there be a much greater amount of news value to it, if (subjunctive mood speculation in lieu of a concrete explanation is covered by free speech rules) those two folks were killed by a scab worker who was being trained to be used as strikebreakers?

The KCBS Saturday afternoon story completely ignored the question of who was running the train and the possibility that there would be any police charges used against that person.

At 5 o’clock Pacific Time the CBS network news said that the two people who had died were not union members.  This contradicted something we had heard on the same station moments earlier.  When the all news all the time resumed local coverage, they said the two victims were union members.

The next morning, the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle used the Saturday accident for the lead story with a banner headline.  The sub-head informed readers that the train was operating on the status of “on maintenance run.”  In the 13th paragraph the readers learned that it might have involved a training lesson.

On Saturday night, it was announced that the National Transportation Safety Board would be the lead agency conducting the investigation.

By Monday morning, the Bay Area section of the Chronicle was headlining the Matier and Ross column with “Insider:  BART training workers when 2 died.”

By Tuesday morning, the strike was over and service had been resumed.

Over the weekend, the World’s Laziest Journalist started to do some fact checking for a news story from Alaska that seems to have gone missing.  Do a Google News search for Governor Parnell and Cook Inlet.  We saw an interesting story via such a search over the weekend.  The story seems to have vanished from the Internet by Tuesday noon Pacific times.  If it isn’t every day that a judge speculates that the governor may have broken the law, doesn’t that make it a news story for the various National desks in NYC, if they can find it?

We have repeatedly made references to the case of the Los Angeles County assessor in our columns.  We have done Google News searches and found a few scant details via links to some information provided to the public by the Los Angeles Times.  We have not been able to augment those few facts with any other information from any other source.

Usually, if there is a scandal developing in Los Angeles, the newspapers in New York pay almost as much attention to it as they would if it were happening in New York City.  To the best of our Googling ability we have not seen a single mention of the assessor’s case in the “Great Gray Lady” (AKA the New York Times).

If, during the age of austerity budgets and small staffs, the World’s Laziest Journalist can come up with three stories that should be getting coverage in the mainstream media but are not; isn’t it time to hold the wake for America’s Free Press and admit that Journalism in the USA is DOA.

If the World’s Laziest Journalist actually were as young as he claims (a happy-go-lucky, irresponsible lad of 28?) then one might jump to the conclusion that he is a driven man who is determined to come to the attention of a top notch assignment desk in New York City and subsequently climb the ladder to fame and fortune in the journalism game.  The truth is that the World’s Laziest Journalist runs around San Francisco taking photos and looking for nuggets of information to use in a weekly column and skims through various Internet web sites not as a desperate career establishing effort but simply to fight boredom.

We have been accumulating images of “slap art” and wondering if someday our coverage of the early phases of this story will be regarded as “historic.”  We have wondered if someday some art museum (in New York City?) will hold an exhibition of T-shirts.  In a book on the topic we learned that the fad may have originated with some silk screened undershirts from the Pacific Theater of World War II.  Why, we have wondered, if the New York Times in the past (yeah, you know that’s code talk for “in the Sixties”) printed a list of books being published that day, then why doesn’t Amazon spark impulse buying with a daily blog featuring posting of a list of new books of possible interest to the pop culture reports elsewhere on the Internet?

Recently, when the Project Censored team appeared at Moe’s Books in Berkeley CA, this columnist suggested the L. A. assessor story to them.  They replied that if the World’s Laziest Journalist wanted to write the story up and submit it to them, they would look at it.

To get the necessary details we would have to go down to L. A. and revive our police beat reporting skills (which have been dormant for many moons).  We are not about to subsidize a fact finding trip and work on that story on a speculation basis.

If we are able to successfully pursue a whimsical quest for a press credential for covering the Oscar™ Awards Ceremony that will be held early next year, we might rationalize the possibility of turning such a jaunt into a twofer.  We could grant our self a cash grant that would cover the costs of staying an extra two days (week?) to poke around and see if we can get the details about the assessor’s arrest and incarceration, and any future court appearances or trial.

The fact that no one will do the story if we don’t front the costs of doing the fact checking should be enough evidence to  validate our contention that the Free Press in the United States is now just a mainstream media mirage.

While the story of the BART strike and accompanying tragedy was unfolding, we learned some history of the “fair and balanced” tradition in Journalism.  We read in Volume one of Robert Heinlein’s authorized biography by William H. Patterson (on page 179) that while Upton Sinclair was running for governor of California in 1936, the Los Angeles Times’ political editor Kyle Palmer, in response to a question from a New York Times reporter, had said:  “We don’t go in for that kind of crap you have in New York of being obliged to print both sides.”

Rather than putting in the effort to write a column that will get a low amount of hits because it sounds like a goddamn term paper, the World’s Laziest Journalist would much rather be doing the research for a trend spotting story about the pizza at the Golden Boy in San Francisco’s North Beach area or doing an innocuous bit of rumor mongering by saying that we are trying to verify some facts surrounding the possibility that a new album of protest songs by a reunited famous rock band.  Apparently, after getting some legal advice, it will be titled “The Byrds get Angry” rather than “Angry Byrds.”

This column was posted early so that some maintenance work can be done later in the week.

[Note from the photo editor:  This column mentions the fact that the World’s Laziest Journalist would rather be combing San Francisco for feature shots (such as the one of a mural on the Ameba Records store) rather than taking grizzly accident photos.]

In his campaign to become the California governor, Upton Sinclair said (ibid page 182):  “The issue of this campaign is:  can they fool you with their lies, and get you to vote in their interest instead of your own?”

Now, the disk jockey will play us out with:  “Turn!  Turn!  Turn! (to everything there is a season),” “Eight Miles High,” and “So you want to be a Rock’n’Roll star.”  We have to go compose a letter to the Press Relations dept. at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science and find a copy of the seventy-five year old Orson Wells’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast.  Have a “ . . . and the winner is . . .” type week.

October 21, 2013

Murder mystery at the NY State Museum: A 9-11 whodunnit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:33 pm

While I was in Albany, NY recently, I heard about a museum exhibit called “The Mystery of the Albany Mummies” and, according to the museum’s brochure, these two mummies have been put through every scientific test known to science so that we can now know everything about them that there is to know. Mystery solved.

And at the New York State Museum, also in Albany, there is also a huge exhibit regarding the World Trade Center and 9-11. But when I went to see that exhibit, I got more confused instead of being less confused. Two major questions immediately stood out in my mind. Or perhaps three. Or more.

First, one part of the exhibit stated that lots of personal items were found in the rubble — including jewelry, gold rings and even credit cards. Huh? Steel melted on 9-11-01 but credit cards didn’t?

Second, the exhibit made a big point about the Towers being held up by exterior steel beams, and also that the interior floors collapsed onto each other because of their weight. So the interiors of the buildings collapsed, according to the exhibit. But then why did the exterior steel girders collapse too? Under the pressure? Because they melted?

Then why didn’t the desks and toys and other paraphernalia at the exhibit collapse and melt too?

I’m confused.

Third, a lot of the items on exhibit were all covered by gray ash — but not the kind that results from burning office paper. So what kind of ash was it? The kind caused by thermite? We may never know. But some enterprising curator could solve this mystery for me in a New York minute — by just testing that freaking ash for traces of explosives. Sherlock Holmes would have done that. Or that guy from CSI. With all of those forensic crime-scene shows on TV, one would think that Americans would demand at least the same level of inquiry that Ted Danson would have delivered. But no.

Why haven’t the Twin Towers been put through the same rigorous scientific scrutiny as the Twin Mummies of Albany?

Darned if I know.

And also, if they had all those girders and fire trucks and photos on exhibit, why didn’t they also have the airplanes’ black boxes and the NORAD reports on exhibit too? And the NSA reports and the “chatter” from Dick Cheney’s war room? I wish they’d had a section devoted solely to “conspiracy theories”. And a section devoted to means, motive and opportunity as well! And why did this museum stick so closely to the “official story” even though the exhibits themselves contradicted each other?

There was also some verbiage at the exhibit about how the Twin Towers held up for an hour or so at first — until the heat from the fires melted the steel even though the jet fuel had immediately burned off. So the burning jet fuel didn’t cause the meltdown? Huh? What did I miss?

The museum’s graphic photos of the Twin Towers collapsing in on themselves showed what had to be a controlled demolition — because if even a few of the 237 steel girders holding up Towers 1 and 2 had melted even a fraction of a second faster than others, the WTC would have toppled over to one side like a child’s stack of blocks, possibly taking out the Wall Street stock exchange with it — or at least a bunch of churches, hotels, office buildings or banks. And we all know that didn’t happen.

And then there were those horrible photos of people falling from windows, windows that would had been impossible to open by human hands but which had possibly been blown out by the explosion of the airplane fuel, taking hundreds of unwilling human beings with them too. But how many more survivors of the original explosions had been blown out through even more usually-unopenable windows when Tower 1 and Tower 2 suddenly pancaked down, evenly and synchronistically destroying 237 steel girders per floor as they went?

By this time I was almost in tears.

I finally left the exhibit sorely saddened by all those lives that had been lost — but also scratching my head in confusion.

Next I’m going to go visit the Twin Mummies — where there are scientific methods at work that I can actually follow and understand.

PS: What the freak would be the motivation for creating a “Second Pearl Harbor” and then covering it up? Perhaps it was six TRILLION dollars? That’s the amount of money that war profiteers have made (so far) from the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Gaza, Egypt, etc. Means, motive and opportunity. No mystery here.

That’s $75,000 that has been paid to War Street by every single man, woman and child in America. Sounds like a huge incentive to me. And oil companies’ motives? The oil fields of Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc? And the bees still all buzzing around the oil in Iran? With Kuwait and Saudi Arabia next?

“But, Jane,” you might say, “Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are our allies. An attack on them would never happen.” You think not? Well. Saddam Hussein used to be War Street’s ally too and look what happened to him. And America used to be Big Oil’s ally as well but with six trillion dollars at stake, Big Oil clearly would have had no problems selling America out. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Anything’s possible.

PPS: By asking just a few simple questions, Paul Craig Roberts does a much better job than the NY State Museum of describing what happened on 9/11/01:

Question 1: “The national security state was defeated by a few rag tag Muslims with box cutters and a sick old man dying from renal failure while holed up in a cave in Afghanistan, and no heads rolled.” Why wasn’t anyone in our government ever held accountable for this spectacular failure?

Question 2: “Do you know what temperature self-cleaning ovens reach?”

PPPS: According to investigative reporter Russ Baker, “George H. W. Bush may be one of the few Americans of his generation who cannot recall exactly where he was when John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas on November 22, 1963.” And Poppy Bush had all kinds of reasons for wanting Kennedy dead. Plus Poppy Bush was working for the CIA at the time of Kennedy’s death. And the CIA hated JFK!

Baker also states in his articles that Grandpoppy Prescott Bush, that guy who chose being a cheerleader for the Nazis over cheering for America during WWII, also hated JFK.

So. If Grandpoppy Bush had no qualms about apparently siding with the Nazis over his own country, and Poppy Bush had no qualms about participating in the assassination of a sitting U.S. president in cold blood, what makes us think that Baby Bush would suddenly develop qualms about assassinating the Twin Towers for fun and profit? The apple never falls far from the tree.

PPPPS: So. Twelve years later, what are we Americans finally planning to do about all these clearly still-lingering and strong doubts and suspicions? Open a new and impartial 9-11 commission scientific investigation run by Ted Danson, one that is not afraid to ask the big questions no matter where the answers might lead? A truly unbiased investigation that would finally put all of our minds to rest? Or should we just continue to do nothing and merely be grateful that we each got to pony up $75,000 to War Street — and not even more than that?

October 18, 2013

Zen and the art of “Frankly, my dear, I don ‘t give a damn!”

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

” . . . to dream the impossible dream . . . ”

The real winners in this week’s national embarrassment will be the pundits.  The Tea Party got concession after concession.  President Obama got a walk-off last minute settlement.  The talking heads will get the chance to give their sages’ opinions to bigger than usual audiences this weekend even if they have to play the “too close to call” card when the host/croupier calls for a halt to the equivocating on the question of “Who was the real winner?”

Pundits employed by the mainstream media will ignore the fact that the Teabag Republicans attempted to go outside the Constitution to defund a law that had been passed by a previous Congress and concentrate on the idea that the Republicans will have a major challenge to reelection next November.  They will not go into territory where they might have to admit the possibility that if the Teabagers went outside the Constitution to attack Obamacare, they might use the electronic voting machines (with unverifiable results) to produce an undeserved win.

Competing with the well publicized and well connected pundits who refuse to consider anything but points of view that have been blessed by billionaire media owners (kosher-ized?) is an assignment for a columnist who is “the man” at on the La Mancha Times because, it would seem, the ultra rich are the unbeatable foes.

On the Columbus Day Holiday, the situation was:  The negotiation tactic of moving the goal line will be effective up until the clock runs out.  Then it will be time for both political parties to kick the can down the road and start the blame game as part of the preparations for the mid term elections in November of 2014.

Some cynical pundits (moi?) wonder when voters in the USA will realize that there is a vast credibility gap between the effusive patriotic enthusiasms the Republicans display when the military goes off to participate in a new quagmire and the hypocritical lack of attention they pay to the fiscal needs of the lesser known veterans’ programs.  Which group does the Tea Party love the most:  the disabled vets, the unemployed, or the hungry children?

Long before the Tweet fad started, the World’s Laziest Journalist noticed that the switch to the Internet media seemed to indicate that a digital version of the three dot journalism method of column writing might work well for the short attention span audience coping with the computer age.  Heck, the TV show “Laugh In” introduced the quick cut rapid pace to TV and changed that game many moons ago.  Since long reads online don’t seem to attract copious amounts of hits, it seemed like there would be a natural selection process that would favor the digital version of three dot journalism.  We forgot one aspect of the pop culture in the USA: it takes tons of publicity to provide a convenient short cut to success.

When book publishers discovered that their product sold better when the authors appeared on network TV talk shows, all of a sudden, they were ubiquitous on the Tonight Show.

When the proprietor of a Los Angeles book store was asked about the authenticity of a copy of “On the Road” that was autographed by Jack Kerouac and inscribed to Marilyn Monroe, he started doing his homework because the two had never been linked in Hollywood gossip.  Eventually he learned that when Jack Kerouac appeared on the Tonight Show (when Jack Paar was the host) to promote his new novel, one of the other guests that night was the famous actress who was (according to her PR agent?) an avid reader.  He authenticated the item which then jumped a considerable amount in value.

The accountants in Hollywood grew envious of the authors’ free air time and the trend of supplying Hollywood stars to talk shows to promote new movies was started.

If, in 1962 when “From Russia with Love” was being talked about, would anybody have believed a prediction that eventually the spy genre would morph into a tale about a rugged looking Chicano illegal alien who prefers a machete rather than a Walther PPK?  Has the lead actor, Danny Trejo, hit the talk show circuit yet?

German style potato pancakes are difficult to find in the Los Angeles area and so the World’s Laziest Journalist was very delighted to stumble on a place in San Francisco that listed that item on the menu.  We could write an entire column about that elusive treat.  Our third effort, on Columbus Day, to have a nostalgia laden foodie experience with that rare item was unsuccessful as the first two had been but it was a beautiful example of Indian summer weather and thus provided a pleasant setting for the futile effort.

Coffee houses are plentiful in San Francisco but the Cup-a-Joe on Sutter was notable because they also offer a choice of 10 brands of draft beer.  Their coffee and buns were very enjoyable but they didn’t have potato pancakes.

Ezekiel Tyrus, who is a clerk at the Beat Museum, had offered us a review copy of his new novel “Eli, Ely” and we decided that reading the entire novel and devoting a full column to a review was not our style, but a quick item in the column about him would work as a history hedge.  Wouldn’t it be remarkable if Tyrus eventually became more famous than any of the original members of the Beats?  Our effort to supplement a photo of Tyrus’ tattoo with a mug shot was unsuccessful on Columbus Day.

Five years ago when we went to Australia to satisfy our curiosity about that country (and scratch a visit there off our bucket list) we still harbored a desire to become a pundit with a vast worldwide audience.  After becoming a resident of Berkeley CA we began to reacquaint our self with the writings of our three most influential role models:  Ernst Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson.  We noticed that all three worked long and hard to become world famous writers.  All three were very uncomfortable with being world-wide fame when they achieved it. Maybe being an autonomous anonymous columnist isn’t so bad after all.  Invincible foes?  “Bring ’em on!”

We noticed this week that Jim Romenesko, who’s website caters to the practitioners of journalism, is featuring sponsored content.  In a world where Senator Dianne Feinstein maintains that real journalists draw a weekly paycheck, the paid content innovation could be a game changer.  Is that a newsworthy example of a precedence setting innovation on the Internet?  If so we could do a whole column about it.  We’ll keep that option in mind when we post our annual National Columnists’ Day.

On a day, such as Columbus Day this week, when we are laying starring at the ceiling and trying to decide if we want to award our self an all expense paid (one day) vacation in San Francisco, we don’t use the prospect of fame and fortune to motivate the effort; we use the possibility of getting some material for the column as an excuse (not a reason) for doing a walkabout in Fog City . . . if the BART and AC buses are running.  As of Friday October 18, 2013, a strike was complicating the choice.

What if an obscure pundit on the Internets suggested that commuters could show support for the striking BART union members by displaying a flower in their hair and that became ubiquitous on Monday morning?  (Armstrong and Getty would gag.)

Which is more work:  doing the research and fact checking necessary to expanding a topic out into a full column or gathering enough material to select the best items to fill three e-takes (a standard size sheet of typing paper was called a “take” in most news rooms back in the age of teletype, telephones and typewriters, so doesn’t that make a page in the Word program, an e-take?)?  It doesn’t matter because the World’s Laziest Journalist’s personality tends to function in what the Zen crowd calls “monkey mind” (going from topic to topic like Tarzan swinging on successive jungle vines) mode and three dot journalism feels more comfortable than a longer rant about a single issue.

For someone with a curious mind and a lot of time, a weekly column is a very convenient rationale for talking to people, investigating new places, and doing an extensive amount of reading to find interesting but innocuous facts.

During this week, it was mentioned in passing on the Norman Goldman radio show, that buried deep in the paperwork for the bipartisan agreement to extend the dept ceiling and end the shutdown was a provision that will change the rules and make it virtually impossible for the Teabagers to indulge in a similar exhibition of stunt politics again in late January of 2014.  The fact that such a change was made will make this weekend’s tsunami of righteous indignation by slave wage pundits irrelevant.  The change will be completely ignored. There will be more drama and bigger ratings numbers if the pundits can convince the audience that the Teabaggers might be giants.

The potential for the existence of unreported secret escape hatch clauses in new laws may give folks a hint at why Senator Dianne Feinstsein wants only wage slave employees to be regarded as journalists.  A maverick columnist can obsess on German potato pancakes or run spoiler items about hidden political news or both.  If he gets denounced as “not a genuine journalist,” he can take a cavalier attitude:  “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

[Note from the photo editor:  Berkeley is the type of city where the hippie philosophy of “If you like this t-shirt; I’ll take it off and give it to you” still exists.  After we took the photo accompanying this week’s column, the guy did take it off and give it to us.  Groovy, eh?]

Adlai E. Stevenson once said:  “Your public servants serve you right; indeed often they serve you better than your apathy and indifference deserve.”

Zombies are very popular with the young folks these days, so the disk jockey will play “She’s not there,”  “Tell her no,” and “Time of the Season.”  We have to fact check the assertion that Indian Summer is the best time of the year in Berkeley CA.  Have a “wear a flower in your hair” type week.

October 12, 2013

A World War II memorial in California has closed too

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 4:16 pm

If there are any “Greatest Generation” vets on the west coast looking for a closed WWII memorial to protest at right now, boy do I have a good one for you. It’s the Rosie-the-Riveter National Park in Richmond, CA. Come out and protest that closing too.

During World War II, my father was in charge of the Fleet post office in the Pacific and he wrote many poignant letters home to us about what he saw and did “Over There” — and how much he missed his little family. And I in turn donated those letters to the Rosie museum. But I digress.

Like those vets that are protesting the shut-down in Washington, I too am truly pissed off that this national park is closed. And I’m also very angry that even after shutting down so many federal offices that actually benefit Americans, Congress still forces us to pay billions of dollars a day to kill women and children in the Middle East.

And we are also still allowed to pay outrageously huge salaries to those jokers in Congress who got us in this mess in the first place.

And we can, of course, still be allowed pay government welfare to agribusiness, oil barons, Monsanto — and even to loggers in our national parks (the very ones that have been shut down to us tourists).

It’s a rich person’s world we live in today. Can’t afford to buy a congressman? Then you are [poop] out of luck. Shut you down.

So here’s what we do. We take a lesson from what Rosie-the-Riveter did. We put aside our individual lives, feuds and agendas and we work together to save our country. We grow victory gardens instead of groveling to Monsanto. We reach out to each other — to the left and to the right — and we come together as a nation — proud, unbeatable America! And then we oust anyone in Congress that voted for this shut-down in the first place (and take away their elaborate pensions too!)

Because if we, the new Rosies, don’t stop this government shut-down now (and the greedy bustards behind it) then the next thing we know, these avaricious sell-outs will also be shutting down our Social Security, our MediCare (which should be for everyone, not just for the Greatest Generation), our infrastructure, our schools — and ourselves.

“But why do you work for a place that memorializes war,” I asked ranger Betty Reid Soskin one day while visiting the impressive Rosie-the-Riveter national park. And she answered that what this national park also memorializes to her is, “a whole country working together.”

Moral here? “Don’t sit under the apple tree” with congressional representatives who don’t represent us! And also let’s “Accentuate the Positive” too. We Americans have been controlled by fear of “terrorists” and “the other” and “liberals” and even “wingnuts” for long enough. If our country is to survive, we MUST work together. That was Rosie’s whole message.

And now the Rosie-the-Riveter memorial in Richmond, CA, is closed too.

October 11, 2013

It seems like yesterday . . .

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

A warning flag flew in Berkeley recently.

Something’s happening here but it isn’t clear exactly what that is.  There’s a group of nuts over there telling us we got to beware of spending limits.  The President isn’t providing effective leadership.  Congress isn’t legislating.  The Supreme Court seems to specialize in legislating from the bench.  You don’t have to read every word on every page of “Project Censored 2014” to realize that freedom of the press is displaying symptoms of  rigor mortis.

The people who died fighting in World War II were told the sacrifices were being made for the Four Freedoms (can you name them?) and Democracy.  They paid the ultimate price for Americans to have the right to vote and the clowns in Washington demonstrating their hypocrisy and cynicism couldn’t make their attitude more obvious if they went across the bridge and urinated on the graves in Arlington National Cemetery.

If LBJ were in the White House this week, he would have called the director of the FBI, gotten the dirt on Boner, and the shutdown would have ended by supper time.  Radio talk show host Norman Goldman asked his listeners last week if they had heard or seen anything in the mainstream media reporting that there are two stealth illicit love affairs that involving a leading GOP spokesman.  LBJ would have tracked down that information and used the threat of announcing it in a press conference to make Boner an offer he couldn’t refuse.

If a fellow who was known for charm and charisma was in the White House last week, perhaps he could have offered Boner the chance to trade his trials and tribulations for a chance to live in the Ambassador’s residence in Paris.  Who could resist a chance to have diplomatic immunity in the country that made wine tasting an art?

Folk wisdom teaches:  “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” but Al Capone said “A kind word and a gun will get you a lot further than the kind word alone.”

There were news reports this week indicating that the shutdown had been engineered by two wealthy brothers and the mainstream media is doing a lousy job of reporting on the political motivation behind the charade.

We might just as well write a column about the pathetic spectacle of an adult human dragging an itty bitty dog on a sidewalk.  Baron Siegfried L. von Richthofen III was a combination Husky and German Shepherd who weighed more than 80 lbs. and if a person tried to drag him down the street, the effort would soon resemble two opposing rugby teams having a rope pulling contest.

Fifty years ago today, things were about to change radically in the USA but the man in the street didn’t have a clue and so went blissfully along without a care in the world.

The music industry wasn’t doing well.  Sales were off.  The folks at Capital Records were preparing to lay off all the workers at their plant in Scranton Pa.   Top secret.  Don’t let this get out!

The layoff notices were to take effect the day after Thanks Giving.  Folks in Scranton could start the Christmas Season (back then, boys and girls, it didn’t “Officially” start until the day after Thanks Giving) unemployed.

President Kennedy got shot and the mood got even more morose.

In anticipation of a TV event the following year, some songs by a British group who had long hair like girls’ began to get airplay and sell well.  The songs sold so well that right before Thanks Giving, every one of the layoff notices were rescinded.

In Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement hadn’t started.

A local newscast in New York City, that fall, carried dual leading stories.  Oakland beat the Jets and Heidi married the goatherder.

When the day of the TV event, in early 1964, arrived the CEO at the World’s Laziest Journalist’s HQ asked:  “Are they the guys who saved Irene’s job?”  When the answer was affirmative, the response was:  “Well, how bad can they be, then?”  Thus Scranton Pa. can claim to be the first place in the USA where that British band gained adult acceptance.  Some folks thought that the long hair was a symptom of deep psychological problems and found their catchy tunes completely unacceptable.

Beatlemania hit.  Conspiracy theories became a facet of the pop culture.  LBJ decided to send American boys to straighten out the mess in Vietnam.

Speaking of Conspiracy Theories, a new one is gaining traction in the R & D Department at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory (located in or near California’s “gold country”).  A radical faction is asking:  “Could Obama be a Republican mole in a long range plan that was subsidized by conservative money?”

The shutdown and default would not sound credible if the Republican had also won the White House in 2010, but with the “they hate Obama” angle added to the story, the rubes believe the charade and the actors can stick to the script.  So, it would seem, the reelection of President Obama was essential for the implementation of the showdown over the shutdown.

If, hypothetically speaking, the Republicans are expected to do poorly in the 2014 Mid Ter Elections but they, with some stealth help from the electronic voting machines that deliver unverifiable results, succeed in holding control of Congress, could the lackeys in the mainstream media keep a straight face while delivering the “completely unexpected” upset results delivered by the voters shtick (with the word “backlash” appearing multiple times) that has become a staple of the folks delivering the Election Night news?   They will if they value their weekly paychecks.

Could Obama have Boner arrested for Sedition?  This hypothetical question doesn’t matter because he wouldn’t do that even if he could.

Has the mainstream media said anything to reassure the citizens?  If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, there will not be any detrimental effect on the NFL season or the World Series.

If President Obama offered to cut the income tax rate for billionaires to zero percent, raise the retirement age to 70 (or 72?), and makes some cuts in Social Security payments, Boner could make the shutdown and debt ceiling issues go away in a flash.

Commuters in the San Francisco Bay area may have to put up with some inconveniences while Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management breaks the unions, but just think how happy that will make the Bohemian Club posse.  The BART trains were operating on normal schedule on Friday morning but a 72 hour strike notice had been issued.

The politicians in Washington should be gone home for the weekend and therefore the truckers’ protest should only inconvenience weekend tourists.  Pay no attention to the issues, don’t worry about the absent politicians, focus your anger on the fact that the middle class tourists will be asked to bear the burden of the political protest.

Is it true that the State Department has issued a diplomat’s passport to former basketball great Dennis Rodman?

The news industry lackeys who had access to Washington personalities were being stonewalled on any actual news or insights this week.  They had to make it seem like getting a “no comment” sound byte was a major scoop.  The best a rogue pundit could do was to point out that the Republicans’ attempt at branding their party as the one for “conservative Christians” was beginning to make them sound like Col. Kurtz reciting a poem about the hollow men.

Eric Cantor was showing up towards the end of the week as a Republican spokesperson.  What up wid dat?  Is Boner about to be a goner at the Speaker of the House office?

For more on the decline and fall of the free press story do a Google news search for “Leonard Downie.”  Rogue pundits could be ahead of the curve and be the first hint that a tsunami of 1963 nostalgia (and conspiracy theory) stories are about to land on your computer screen.


[Note from the photo editor:  We would have preferred to use a publicity still from the Chickie run sequence in “Rebel without a Cause” as the illustration for this column, but we didn’t have time to track down the owner of that image to get permission to use it, so we selected a photo of a “fire danger” warning flag, taken recently in Berkeley CA, as the photo because we think a warning flag (or a white flag of surrender?) should be flying at the Republican Headquarters this week.]

In “Scoop,” Evelyn Waugh wrote:  “Only one thing can set things right – sudden and extreme violence, or, better still, the effective threat of it.”

To evoke that 1963 feeling, the disk jockey will play these albums:   “Introducing the Beatles,” Elvis’ “Fun in Acapulco,” and Cool, Calvin & the Surf Knobs’ “The Surfer’s Beat.”  (Surf Knobs?  WTF?  It was a tell-tale physical indication that a guy knew a thing or two about surfing.)  We have to go see if we can get tickets for “The Fantasticks.”  Have a “‘Perils of Pauline’ finish” type week.

October 8, 2013

Benjamin Netanyahu: Major player on the world stage?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:37 pm

The other day I was watching the Charlie Rose show on TV, during the guest appearance of Benjamin Netanyahu. And much to my amazement, Mr. Netanyahu acted, talked and comported himself like he was the head of some huge major nation — not just a minor Middle Eastern country smaller than New Jersey.

It was as though Netanyahu thought himself to be on the same level of importance and influence as Obama or Putin — more influential by far than Britain’s prime minister, much more important than the president of France. The guy practically even shot his (very expensive, tailor-made) cuffs!

And why not? In reality, Netanyahu really IS more important than the president of the United States or even the Queen of England. When Netanyahu asks almost every major world leader to jump, that leader rapidly answers, “How high?”

What kind of Frankenstein monster have we created?

And, more important, will we mere villagers with pitchforks ever be enough to stop Netanyahu before he turns into the world’s next King Richard III? Probably not.

An average American, just your average man-on-the-street, knows instinctively that it is WRONG to kill people, to occupy other countries, to use chemical weapons on women and children and to use tanks, bombs and nuclear weapons to steal land from shopkeepers and farmers who cannot defend themselves. But psychopaths and major players on the world stage such as Netanyahu apparently don’t get this.

PS: Netanyahu is a neo-con. Never forget that. And the entire goal of any card-carrying neo-con, both in America and abroad, is not to advance Christianity or Judaism, no no no. The entire goal of every single neo-con is to make oodles of money — at our expense. “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too.” Never forget that.

Neo-cons are always happily busy creating a world consisting of haves and have-nots. And guess which ones they want us to be? If you have any doubt, just check out what life is like in a country completely dominated by the neo-con way of life: “Total militarized lunacy”.

And, also, if you have happened to notice recently that the price of gold has gone steadily down lately, please thank a neo-con for that too. Neo-cons have worked very hard to make this happen. Why? Because if gold prices fall, this forces small investors to look around for other options for making a profit — like investing in Wall Street’s various ponzi schemes and casinos. And ponzi schemes and casinos can’t make money unless they have suckers to place bets. And why would a sensible person bet on Wall Street when gold is a sure thing?

PPS: New rule: Neo-cons will only be allowed to start a new war after they’ve finished their last one!

October 4, 2013

Dionysian vs. Apollonian

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

What’s not to love about a split window V-dub van that’s been convertible-ized?

The penalty for reading Combat newspaper was death.

The writers, who provided content for the underground newspaper that reported information about the Resistance to citizens in occupied Paris, if caught, were tortured in such a precise way that they would beg for a coup de grâce to deliver them from their prolonged agony.

Richard C. Blum was featured in a recent issue of the East Bay Express in a story titled “Going Postal” that was touted on the front page with this teaser:  “The husband of US Senator Dianne Feinstein has been selling post offices to his friends, cheap.”

That’s the same fellow who has been reported to be a driving force behind the Bullet Train that, according to recent polls, most California tax payers don’t want.

Since Senator Dianne Feinstein is currently leading a drive to define journalists as salaried people on the staffs of mainstream media and thus are on an “approved” list, (i.e. collaborators?) and since we don’t want to be appear on the lady’s s**t list, this column will be a review of the new movie “Rush,” which isn’t about the miracle working conservative pundit (soon to be officially canonized?) some folks call St. Rushbo.  It is a new movie about Formula One racing and that should be an innocuous enough topic for someone who doesn’t meet the Senator’s standards for superior journalism or, as some might call it, journalistic exceptionalism.

In 1966, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City held an exhibition that featured Formula One race cars.  The spectacle of art aficionados walking around the silent machines talking in reverent whispers was a travesty of racing and a parody of the concept of a museum exhibition.

One particular spectator had to struggle for self control and refrain from screaming:  “Gentlemen, start your engines!”  (In 1966, Danica Patrick hadn’t even been born yet.  [For all of October, her Go Daddy race car will be pink to help raise breast cancer awareness.])  Quite is for funeral homes.  Anyone who has ever been in the pit area of a Grand Prix knows that the noise is palpable.  There’s no whispering at a Grand Prix.

[If you are in a band that is generating an extreme amount of audience enthusiasm and you want to speak to your bandmate, don’t try to shout over the noise.  Put a finger (yes, the middle finger works best) behind you pal’s ear and speak in a normal voice.  The sound waves will travel through your bones and be transferred to his skull and inner ear and he will hear you perfectly well.]

Film director Ron Howard got it right.  The engine noise in “Rush” deserves a credit for supporting role.  (Is that a subtle way of saying the sound men deserve a Nomination?)

The question “Is this the best car racing movie every made” will be discussed for many years to come.  Obviously some hypotheticals will spice up the debate.  If (big hypothetical) Elvis could have played the role of Clay Regazzoni and added some songs to the soundtrack album, it would have been even better, but critics have to deal with what was on the screen and not the realm of woulda/coulda/shoulda.  Doesn’t Monte Carlo need a theme song that’s just as upbeat as “Viva Las Vegas”?

What about the folks who don’t go nutty over cars?  The book crowd might want to discuss the possibility that this film is a classic example of the literary device known as “twinning.”  The film raises an age old philosophical question:  which is better: the spontaneous (Dionysian) approach to life or the careful and methodically planned (Apollonian) method?  Who said:  “Spontaneity works well if it’s planned right!”?

In the film Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) battle for the 1976 world championship for driving.  Lauda’s whole life is channeled towards achieving his goal; Hunt believes that life is an opportunity to maximize the number of ways to have fun.  (“Take it easy baby, specialize in having fun  . . .”)

Watching the film we noticed that the cinematographer’s work might earn a Best Photography Oscar™ nomination, which, in turn, made us think that “Rush” may be a serious contender for several different Awards next spring.

That, in turn, made us wonder if the Oscar™ Awards ceremony had changed much since we covered the ones for 1974 and 1975.  Back then getting a press pass was a Herculean task of the myth of Sisyphus level of challenge.  Odds are, it is much more difficult now.

The “Going Postal” article, which is a condensation of a chapter in a new book of the same name by Peter Bryce, exemplifies the kind of journalism that is displayed annually in the series of books published by Project Censorship.

Censored 2014:  Fearless Speech in Fearful Times goes on sale this week and the Censored Team will appear at Moe’s Books in Berkeley CA on the night of October 5, 2013.

Doing an article comparing and contrasting the 2013 Oscars™ with the events we witness back in the Seventies would not get any serious consideration from the evaluating committee at Project Censored, but . . . it would be hella fun, “n’est ce pas?”

Do the writers, whose work will be presented in the next edition of the Project Censorship series, also get the Dianne Feinstein Journalism seal of approval?

Would a whimsical article examining a thirty nine year gap in Oscar™ history, as an example of nostalgia laden coverage of the movie awards, be more likely to get a prize from the Dianne Feinstein Journalism Awards committee than from Project Censored?  There’s one sure way to find out.

Some cynics will say that since James Hunt was both very wealthy and very good looking, it was almost inevitable that he would enjoy living and that others who were not dealt such a good hand would have grounds for envy, but the sad thing about that is that the people who most need to learn Hunt’s “go for the gusto” approach to life, are the ones most likely to be diverted by resentment instead.  Didn’t we read somewhere that Summerset Maugham’s father was an ugly fellow who was married to the most beautiful woman in Paris?

Since we covered the 1974 and 1975 events as a reporter/photographer for the Santa Monica Independent Journal newspapers, and since the guy who helped us get that job is now a senior editor at Playboy, perhaps we could augment a trip to L. A. to cover the awards ceremony with a chance to revisit the Playboy mansion and trade some journalism gossip with the former editor of the Marina Mail.

Heck, if we get back down to “Shakey Town,” maybe we could visit the Marina Tenants Association and find out what’s up with the Los Angeles County Assessor.  The mainstream media is ignoring that intriguing story.  Did we just hear Fienstein’s voice saying:  “Good boy!  Want a treat?”?  Aren’t journalists who can “heel!” on command, worth their salary?  How can we submit a story pitch for possible inclusion in Project Censored’s book for the overlooked news from 2013?

Question for both of California’s Senators:  Why haven’t the Democrats who live in Tea Bag Republican Congressional Districts already started recall petitions for their representatives who seem oblivious to the wants and needs of their constituents?

Will older pundits compare the shutdown to the Chickie run sequence in “Rebel without a Cause” rather than the mandatory (?) reference to the film “Thelma and Louise”?

Are the approved journalists and pundits giving the voters a heads-up about what will happen if the impasse lasts until the 2014 mid-term elections?  If the situation disintegrates into a prolonged Mexican standoff, will the paid lackeys in the mainstream media dutifully report that this is a marvelous example of a democracy in action?

If Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and the others who risked their lives to provide content for Combat got a paycheck wouldn’t the existence of that slip of paper have been the equivalent of a death warrant?  If they didn’t; wouldn’t Senator Feinstein dismiss their efforts as useless examples of pathetic amateur scribbling?  Since possession of a copy of Combat was a capital offense, we wonder how often a mint condition issue is available on e-Bay and how much one usually fetches.

[Note from the photo editor:  Over the years the WLJ photo library with quality images of Phil Hill, John Surtees, and Dan Gurney has slowly evaporated.  (Is it true that Howell Connant’s photo library was destroyed when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed?)  The best we could do on short notice was to use a photo of the 1966 VW van, seen recently in San Francisco, that was channeled, shortened, and convertible-ized by folks who wanted to promote Tillamook Cheese.  We wanted to use those photos for a story idea tip to the ruling junta at Jalopnik but maybe a link to this column will serve the same purpose.]

Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle, in a book titled “Last Chapter,” wrote (on page 37):  “I’ve always felt the great 500-mile auto race at Indianapolis was the most exciting event – in terms of suspense – that I’ve ever known.  The start of a B-29 mission to Tokyo, from the spectator’s standpoint, was almost the same as the Indianapolis race.”

Now the disk jockey will play Elvis’ songs:  “Spinout,” “Speedway,” and “Viva Las Vegas.”  We have to go and start the arduous process of applying for press credentials for the next Oscar™ Awards ceremony.  Have a “Boh Chi” type week.

October 1, 2013

Shut down the military? Go for it!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 11:43 am

The government has just shut down? What a wonderful opportunity to re-set, to start again.

Shut down the military? Save six trillion dollars in just a few years, balance the budget immediately, get weaponized tanks out of our cities and stop killing people abroad? Absolutely.

Shut down the nuclear killing fields? No more deformed babies born in Kosovo and Iraq and Libya and Gaza and Afghanistan? No more possible Chernobyls and Fukashimas here in America? No more deadly stockpiles of nuclear waste being generated daily that will last long after the human race is toast? I’m so there.

Shut down the CIA? We’d have world peace within the year! No more rendition and torture camps, no more destabilization of countries with oil? I want that. Badly.

Shut down the NSA? No more spying on our phones and computers? George Orwell would heave a sigh of relief from his grave — and I certainly would too.

Shut down all those perqs to RepubliDem Congressmen? Why not. They have never earned their keep anyway.

Shut down all those subsidies to agribusiness, Monsanto, the Koch brothers’ lumber empire, etc.? Bring back the small farmer and the Lorax? Just imagine that. Wonderful.

Shut down the subsidies to Big Pharma? So we could once again afford to buy our medicine without going to Canada? I’m certainly willing to give that a try.

Shut down Homeland Security? Stop wasting money checking our junk and irradiating us at airports and making us paranoid and spending our money to run a police state? Whoopie!

Shut down the FBI and all those other agencies that didn’t protect JFK and aren’t protecting you and me but rather the corporate mega-state? And spend all their time putting citizen-protestors in jail for years and pursuing whistle-blowers but let Wall Street mega-criminals go? I have no problem with that.

Shut down MediCare? Just try it. You’ll have an army of irate old folks in wheelchairs and walkers descending on Washington with canes in our hands and blood in our eye!

Shut down Social Security? That we earned over time with our bare hands? Do you really want hundreds of thousands of truly-pissed-off senior citizens morphing into full-rebellion mode? The Greatest Generation brought down the Third Reich. And it can bring down the Fourth Reich too.

Just as soon as we find our false teeth.


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