February 28, 2014

Beer and Loafing: On the Campaign Trail ’16

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:22 pm

Protest in Berkeley 2014

A spontaneous chance to cover a political protest in Berkeley on the morning of Sunday February 23, 2014 provided a photo-op and an opportunity to learn about a political dispute that hasn’t suffered from overanalyzes on the network TV newscasts.  The Dalai Lama had given a speech and the protesters were trying to draw coverage of the suppression of the Shugden sect.  The splinter group is brining a Sunni vs. Shiite style dispute to Buddhism.

The serendipity discovery of the religious feud was an opportunity to write a column about the allegations that the Chinese government was funding the rebel religious group for political reasons and that the Shugden believers were responding with accusations that the Dalai Lama was guilty of bigotry and religious suppression.

Initially our inclination, since access to the event was very limited, was to dash off a column about how restricting coverage to news events is an initial step towards managed news and de facto censorship.

We were bothered by the fact that devoting a full column to one particular topic in a week when a smorgasbord of issues begs for attention does a disservice to the other problems.

Has anyone noted that the Arizona veto story was a perfect example of a wedge issue taking up valuable air time on talk radio while the war in Afghanistan crumbles into another example of why quagmires aren’t popular with taxpayers?

Did a brief blip on the news radar, about the possibility that American sailors may have been exposed to a dangerous amount of radiation while providing a propaganda photo op moment at Fukushima, unleash a discussion about Veterans’ benefits?  If it did, we missed that.

When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the plans to reduce the Military to the 1940 level, we thought about doing a column questioning that ploy which might have the unintended consequence of causing a member of the Axis of Evil to become more belligerent.  Then we wondered if it was a variation of the rope-a-dope strategy meant to goad some more aggressive response to American foreign policy.

Then the media started reporting some ominous activity on the Ukraine border with the Soviet Union and we were reminded that after giving Syria an “or else” ultimatum, President Obama backed off on his threats to that country.  When Secretary of State John Kerry issued a similar sounding “or else” message, it brought back echoes of the preliminary stages of the Cuban Missile Crises and we wondered if President Obama was ready for a similarly tense confrontation.

After buying a bargain copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing:  The Campaign Trail ’73,” we noticed that much of the material could be written this week with only a few name changes being necessary.

Thompson’s description of the scene when George McGovern is asked if he would support Ed Muskie if he got the nomination and gave a “Yes, I’m inclined to that position” made us think that most likely Vice President Joseph Biden will back Hilary after she gets the nomination in the summer of 2016.

When Thompson castigates the Air Force for the results of the bombs they dropped, it sounded very much like the current disapproval some are expressing about the drone strikes.

Hunter marvels that McGovern had the Democratic nomination wrapped up by April.  The New York Times this week ran a story that makes it look like Hilary has a lock on the nomination and the only horse race for the press to cover is over in the Republican Party.

The Thompson book skips over the second rate burglary at the Watergate.  All most all journalists dismiss the question “what did the buglers get at the Watergate?” and ignore the crimes’ immediate impact on American History.  How did Thompson handle that thorny issue when it was a current event?

Unfortunately the book doesn’t have an Index and we started flipping pages and skim reading to get to the Gonzo assessment of the burglary in the context of the 1972 Presidential Election.

There was some iconoclastic name calling, a lot of name dropping, and the self promotion aspect of the book was, in retrospect, annoying.  Hemingway had to fight a perpetual battle with the bull known as a blank white sheet of paper.  Hunter S. Thompson fought a myth of Sisyphus battle with deadlines.  That was before the advent of cable news networks.

At the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory many of the employees with a great deal of seniority believe that the Watergate burglars went looking for skeletons in the Democratic closet and that they found what they wanted.  Among the material they took were copies of Thomas Eagleton’s medical records.  After he got the Vice Presidential nomination and the conventioneer went home, somebody leaked the damning information to the press.  The McGovern campaign was tripped up and never regained their footing thus assuring Richard Nixon of re-election.

There is an old journalism adage:  “When you can’t cover the story, cover the coverage.”  That accurately describes the essence of the Gonzo account of the McGovern Presidential campaign.

Doug Brew, who parlayed an assignment to cover the 1980 Ronald Reagan campaign for Time magazine into the coveted White House correspondent slot, once summarized the attitude of the big league journalists:  “Monkey see; monkey do.”

The hell with Thomas Eagleton’s medical records and the fact that they were the keystone story for Nixon’s reelection; on the morning of Friday February 28, 2014, we had a 10 a.m. reservation for a computer and at 7 a.m. the Perils of Pauline question was could we pump out the necessary keystrokes, transfer the column to the thumb drive, and get to the computer appointment without getting soaked in the much needed rain storm that was helping to break the drought in California and then get it posted on time?

Our efforts to get press credentials for the 1968 Democratic National Convention had failed.  Our attempt to get a press pass to cover this weekend’s Oscar pageant had been unsuccessful.  A word to the wise is sufficient.  Our efforts to secure a Press Pass to the 2016 Republican National Convention will begin this weekend.

Isn’t the decision about where to hold that event being made this weekend?  Isn’t Cleveland the front runner?

As New Jersey’s governor Chris Christy’s Presidential hopes are nibbled away by the piranha-icle mainstream media, the question now for political pundits (resorting to sports clichés) will be who is going to be the next Republican party bum-of-the-month?  Our prediction is that the man who gets the nomination will sit out the primaries and then listen to a committee begging him to break a deadlock.  (Hint:  His initials are J. E. B.)

[Note from the photo editor:  Photos of a protest in Berkeley have been popular for almost fifty years.  The tradition continued last Sunday when members of the Shugden sect protest of  a speaking appearance by the Dalai Lama drew extensive news coverage.]

Hunter, on page 300 of the Campaign ’72 book, writes:  “Later that night, at a party on the roof of the Doral, a McGovern staffer asked me who I would have chosen for the VP  . . . and finally, after long brooding, I said I would have chosen Ron Dellums, the black congressman from Berkeley.”

Now the dick jockey will play Ted Nugent’s “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” Rattlife’s “Great White Buffalo,” and As I Lay Dying’s song “Nothing Left.”  We have to go check out the San Francisco History Expo being held this weekend at the Old Mint.  Have a “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” type week.

February 27, 2014

Haiti & me: In search of Jean Bertrand Aristide

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 5:33 pm

When thinking about Haiti, a lot of people think first about that terrible earthquake disaster of 2010 — and also about President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. And I do too. So on my first day in Port au Prince, I toured most of the earthquake disaster areas. And on my third day there, it only seemed logical that I also attempt to meet up with the great man himself. And I actually came THIS close to doing that too!

After recovering from wandering around the Carrefour district’s Carnival celebration the night before, I then went over to check out Aristide’s house. “President Aristide is actually here today,” said the guard at the door, “but he’s not seeing visitors right now. However, you can always wave to him on our closed-circuit TV camera.” Great idea! So I smiled and waved and smiled and waved at the CCTV camera like the idiot tourist that I am.

Next I went off to visit Aristide’s Foundation Pour la Democratie and looked around there. Met some interesting diplomats, students, professors and a chicken.

Then I visited UniFA, a medical school established by Aristide in order to create more doctors in Haiti — where the ratio of Haitians to doctors is 10,000 to 1 in urban areas and 20,000 to 1 in the countryside (no wonder vodou cures are so popular here). “How many students study here?” I asked a bright-eyed first-year physician wannabe, sitting outside eating her lunch between classes. (Actually all the students here are clearly bright-eyed and diligent and idealistic — all young, gifted and Black. Go them.)

“About 700,” the student replied.

“So can you tell me how cure my sore knees?” I asked.

“No, we haven’t gotten that far in our curriculum quite yet.” Rats.

Lastly, I stopped by a large apartment building that had been constructed during Aristide’s presidency in order to house some of Port au Prince’s homeless population, right before GWB sent in the Marines. Two things about this apartment building were note-worthy. First, it was the only building for blocks around that had actually withstood the 2010 earthquake. And, second, the apartments all had two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen.

In stark contrast, directly across the street one could also see a hundred-odd new U.N. housing units — such as they were. Each family had been allocated a really really small cube-shaped one-room dwelling with no bathroom, no bedroom, no kitchen and no running water. And their shared port-a-potties were all way down the street.

So just exactly who is this guy Jean-Bertrand Aristide? And why do American neo-cons and corporatists all hate him so much? I don’t know. Maybe because Aristide doesn’t want to keep Haiti forever “barefoot and pregnant”? Maybe because Aristide, a former priest, actually tries to practice the teachings of Jesus? Your guess is as good as mine.

In any case, here’s a bit more about Aristide’s back-story for those of you who have never heard of the guy. In 2001, Aristide was democratically elected as president of Haiti, just one year after George Bush stole the 2000 American election. But, unlike GWB, Aristide’s emphasis was on inclusion and education.

In just the few years that he was president, Aristide built more schools in Haiti than had ever existed in all of its long miserable history of being controlled by U.S. interests. Aristide also devoted 20% of the nation’s budget to healthcare. Good grief! No wonder Wall Street and War Street hated him. And overthrew him too. Violently. In favor of deadly U.N. “peacekeepers” and the Marines, who immediately shot everything up and turned UniFA into a military barracks. That was back in 2004.

And now, ten years later, Haiti has been stuck with President Michel Martelly, aka the “Neo-Cons’ Choice,” elected in the same way that the U.S. got stuck with Dubya — illegally. “He is our guy!” cries Wall Street, War Street and the Deep State.

And now WalMart is once again happily running sweatshops in Haiti, where workers get paid $4.56 a day

What the freak was Aristide thinking!

Surely Aristide should have known that anybody who denies WalMart access to economic slave labor is naturally gonna be in big trouble — and educating a country’s children and providing its citizens with healthcare is also a really bad idea because then countries like Haiti will no longer have a subservient labor force and a really dumb electorate — and that’s just not the corporatist way. Aristide should have known better. Even most Americans are clear on this concept, keeping their eyes down and their mouths shut. Why couldn’t Aristide do the same?

And if you still want even more information on Aristide and Haiti, here’s a great video to watch:

PS: I truly love being in Haiti! It’s an amazing country. You all should all come visit it sometime. And, unlike those nasty rumors spread by neo-cons hell-bent on colonizing Haiti for fun and profit, Haiti is perfectly safe. And it’s lovely here too.

PPS: Here’s another interesting fact about Haiti: The whole population of this country has African DNA. So far, I’m the only white person I have met in all of Port au Prince. For instance, there were over 2000 people at the carnival in Carrefour last night — and only yours truly was white. And you know what? No one cared — because everyone was having such an amazingly wonderful time there, dancing in the streets, even me (except, of course, for my sore knees).

February 21, 2014

Shhh, I finally made it to Haiti!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 5:09 pm

I was supposed to fly down to Haiti on February 12 but ice-storm Pax put an end to that plan. 3,000 flights were cancelled, including mine — which was sort of embarrassing because I had already told the world and his wife that I was going and hated to go back on my word. So when I suddenly came across another cheap flight to Port au Prince on February 20, I decided not to tell anyone I was going until I was actually really and truly there. Why jinx a good thing? Fingers crossed.

And now I really am actually here! And just saw Port au Prince up close and personal. And had goat stew for dinner. Yes!

Sure, Haiti is a third-world country — thanks mainly to the United States, Canada and France. And, sure, there are still people living in tents from the 2010 earthquake, and a lot of our money donated to Haiti has gone toward projects like building a five-star hotel and getting Baby Doc’s evil rep whitewashed. But today when I did a quick windshield survey of Port au Prince, I also saw a lot of school kids in uniforms going hopefully off to school and a lot of market women carrying on.

And I didn’t see as many homeless panhandlers here as I did back in the United States. But, like I said, Haiti is still a seriously third-world country.

Last night I slept for a half-hour on a red-eye flight from SFO to JFK.

Tonight I’m off to the Hotel Oloffson to hear the RAM band play music based on Haiti’s voudou heritage.

Liberal Journalism MIA in Berkeley?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:23 pm

Dorothea Lange, then a Berkeley resident, took the Thirties era photo of a farmer’s wife (the image is called “Migrant Mother”) that became the “go to” image for depicting America in the Depression.  Mario Savio delivered the speech that some historians credit as the real start of the Sixties from on top of a police car in Spraul Plaza at UC Berkeley.  Morris Dickstein wrote:  “The History of the Sixties was written as much in the Berkeley Barb as in the New York Times.”  It seemed only natural to expect that in the Bush era journalists would be clogging both Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues to relay stories and photos of the famous variations of Main Street to the rest of the world.

Wolf pack coverage of the latest installment of bad times still hasn’t arrived in the university town a few miles east of San Francisco and so the question must be asked:  Has Berkeley become passé or has America’s Free Press screwed up again?

The Berkeley campus has a student newspaper and a school of journalism and the fact that the J-students aren’t covering the city’s homeless as relentlessly as the paparazzi dog actors in Hollywood may actually be the story.

Ninja Kitty, a denizen of Shattuck Avenue, finds it curious that the local politicians ignore the homeless at the same time that tourists from around come to the city wanting to take photos of hippies.  Do the tourists contribute to the politicians’ reelection campaigns?

He may have provided a Rosetta stone clue when he noted that the dynamic duo on the Armstrong and Getty radio show distort their audience’s perception of the homeless by focusing attention on the fringe element of the contingent of Bay Area vagabonds and concentrate on warping their observations and generalizations by focusing on the panhandlers in San Francisco who are shunned by the majority of the homeless community.  Why would anyone want to provide such inept attempts at journalism?

Is focusing on a group’s radical extremists an example of fair and balanced journalism?  What if a Liberal radio show asserted that the Republicans Party was populated by people brandishing guns as a way of standing their ground to protect their right to handle rattlesnakes in a religious ceremony?  “You’ll take my rattlesnake from my cold dead hands!”

The World’s Laziest Journalist has listened to Armstrong and Getty and noticed that their basic knowledge of the homeless milieu is inaccurate.  The homeless in Berkeley regularly use the access they have for taking a shower.  The homeless, who often sleep in the open, keep dogs with them as a means of having a burglary alarm system while they sleep.  Any homeless person can verify the accuracy of the folk wisdom:  “The rich rob from the poor; and the poor rob from each other.”

The hippies became known as “freaks” in the late Sixties and since Diane Arbus was known for photographing unusual people, we often marvel that she didn’t document the vagabonds in the Sixties who hitchhiked into and out of Berkeley.

Richard Avedon was hired (by Rolling Stone Magazine) to set up a portable studio at the 1976 Democratic National Convention and take portraits of all the most prominent politicians.  We’ve often wondered why he didn’t cover the anti-war protesters in Berkeley earlier in his career.

If the mainstream media ignores the Berkeley angle now in a complete contradiction of how, hypothetically, Dorothea Lang would have responded to the opportunity, we can chalk it up to unknown factors, but the nagging question remains:  If students at UCB in the Sixties used their local Berkeley angle to gain entry to the exclusive mainstream media In-crowd of the New York publishing world, why then, aren’t the Berkeley panhandlers of today in need of a press agent to handle interview requests?

If you have ever closely watched a human and a dog walk together, the dog frequently makes an effort to get his stealth cues from the human’s face and body language.  They often check to see if the Homo sapiens are emitting subconscious (to the human) clues about how the canine should react.  Is the approach of a stranger a bad thing (grrrr) or a good (wag the tail)?

Could it be that the (Sixties cliché alert!) sell out to the Establishment by Journalists in the USA has become so complete and pervasive that J-schools project the “do not offend the media owners” attitude so thoroughly that the students in Berkeley don’t bother to send query letters to New York based editors about counter culture stories?  Many of the Sixties students were eager to tell their stories in underground newspapers and the trend morphed into a farm club system of developing talent for the In-crowd in New York City (see the book “Smoking Typewriters” by John McMillian) but these days in the Fox era, it seems that the method is to make absolutely sure that Journalism students know from the start that unorthodox methods and stories are off limits and a binary choice about the capitalistic society has to be made.  “Are you in or are you out?”

Speaking of higher minimum wage rates, we are investigating a rumor that makes the assertion that some affluent college students are offering prestigious firms substantial sums of cash to land an internship gig which will give them some material to list on their resumes.

A scholar from Boston, who is in Berkeley to audit a class in philosophy, has told us that he is interested in making some suggestions to the city council regarding urban development and since that topic has a cusp area that overlaps with the needs and wants of the homeless, a greater interest in affordable housing may soon become a relevant factor in an area where tenants rights is impacting the subject of affordable housing.

Since the overall Conservative strategy has long been “divide and conquer,” circumstances, which cause a uniting of the assorted activists working on the challenges of renters’ rights, the long term consequences of home foreclosures, and the problems of the homeless, could , if they all joined forces, become a worse nightmare scenario for the champions of capitalism in action.

The World’s Laziest Journalist believes that the One Percent does not want a permanent solution to the homeless problem and consequently that topic will be revisited in future columns for years to come.

Since many of the political pundits with national audiences have pointed out that the Republican Party seems to be simultaneously alienating women, Chicanos, labor, abortion rightists, pacifists, and the advocates of legalized pot; it seems that there is only one possible strategy available to the Republicans to win the contest.

Brad Friedman, the leading Internet voice for criticism (Google hint:  Bradblog) of the electronic voting machines, with no verifiable results, has been labeled a conspiracy theorist, and so the only response to the aforementioned challenge may require a reference to the W. C. Fields quote:  “If a thing’s worth having; it’s worth cheating for.”

Stoned munchies?  Cities in the San Francisco Bay Area (Berkeley?) are finding that there is a noticeable increase in the sales of Girl Scout cookies at the locations that are in close proximity to the dispensaries for medicinal marijuana.

[Note from the Photo Editor:  A portrait of a fellow who is trying hard to cope with the new hard times will be used to illustrate this column.  Isn’t a poor attempt to imitate the photojournalism of Dorothea Lange, better than none at all?]

In “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (on page 67), Hunter S. Thompson wrote:  “History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time – and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.”

Now the disk jockey will play Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man,” and the Searchers’ “Needles and pins.”  We have to go look for a news story about the new Tonight Show host, Jimmy Falon, which mentions that one of his predecessors was Al “Jazzbo” Collins.  Have a “we don’t gotta show you no stinkin’ badges” type week.

February 14, 2014

Old soldiers tell excellent stories

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:26 pm

When two members of the United States Marine Corps, getting away temporarily from the rigors of combat on Guadalcanal, were put in a jail cell in New Zealand and told to sleep it off, they couldn’t shut off the adrenaline flow and so they spent most of the night telling each other their life stories.  Norm W. was impressed by the other guy’s determination to tell his story in a book that would be written “after the war.”  In the mid-Fifties, Norm noticed the publicity about the release of the film “Battle Cry” and headed straight for the nearest theater showing it.  He just had to see the new flick because the back story of the life of the author Leon Uris was the same information he had been told in New Zealand .

Norm told many wonderful stories about his experiences.  Once when a group of Marines wanted to have a sing-a-long in a New Zealand tavern, they were temporarily stymied by the fact that the place didn’t have a piano.  Luckily a near by gin-mill did have one so the Marines “borrowed” it and proceeded to have an impromptu songfest.  Norm’s stepson recorded one of his tales and just like in the movie “Big Fish” only regretted the fact that he hadn’t recorded more after Norm passed away.

Alan Lomax went around the USA recording and transcribing folk songs and earned a place in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.  Why then doesn’t an enterprising film school student tape the every shrinking supply of World War II vets telling their stories?  There are plenty of excellent stories lurking inside some old infantry men who are very anxious to pass their stories on to future generations.  We don’t mean interviews such as featured in the Ken Burns films that discuss the overall strategy for WWII.  Where are the interviews that record for posterity the day to day events that get told at various reunions?

For example, once, many moons ago, the World’s Laziest Journalist was in the stacks at the Santa Monica Public Library trying to do some fact checking on WWII.  An old guy asked us why we were looking at the books in one particular section.

The 109 Regiment from the 28th Division, from our hometown of Scranton Pa., had been involved in the Battle of the Bulge.  The old guy pointed to the group of books on that particular topic and told us about the time he had seen a quiet empty café and (despite the fact it was against regulations) he parked his tractor trailer and had a quiet, memorable lunch.  He spoke enough French to get his food and pay the bill.  The village seemed to be a ghost town.  The next day he learned that Bastogne, where he had stopped for the meal, was in German held Territory.

One neighbor in Scranton told a story about talking to a German POW and discovering that the Kraut knew most of the popular bars in the North Eastern Pennsylvania town.

When we were young, we were strongly cautioned to realize that the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges was not to be imitated or taken seriously because it was unrealistic.  We were told that an uncle in the Seabees had been attacked (on Guadalcanal) by an enemy soldier and had defended himself by killing the guy by hitting him on the head with an empty bucket.

Last year, on December 7, we heard news reports that the number of people who had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor had fallen to such a low number that the annual reunions in Hawaii were too impractical to continue.

While living in the Hollywood area, if we had collected a nickel for every time we heard the offer “we’ll write the script together and split the payoff,” we’d have enough today to buy a very fancy coffee latte.

We had a co-worker in Santa Monica who had a neighbor who had been one of the “Red tailed devils” (i.e. a Tuskegee airman).

Didn’t Tonight show host Jack Paar tell a story about the captain of a U. S. Navy ship that hid his girlfriend as a stowaway in the captain’s quarters for an entire deployment?

In Paar’s era, late night talk shows featured some fine examples of storytelling, but when the bean counters discovered that talk shows could be used to hawk Hollywood’s latest films, the talk show format became a series of disguised sales pitches which we call “promobabble.”

A once sentence synopsis of a plot for a potential movie is called a “pitch” in tinseltown parlance and Bo Zenga, who was the King of the Pitch became a movie director, so he would be a great potential audience for one particular WWII nurse’s story.  She was captured, became a P. O. W., escaped and made the journey to a neutral country and spent the rest of the war in that location.  It was “the Great Escape” with a woman protagonist.  Yeah, we know where Zenga’s office is.  Should we send him a query letter asking if we can “pitch” the old pitcher or what?  Should we contact a member of the Writer’s Guild and offer him half the proceeds if he can get his agent to make the pitch successfully?

Has the life story of combat photographer Dickey Chapelle ever been told in a movie?

Once, on a flight from Los Angeles to NYC, we expected the woman next to us to display snapshots of he world’s greatest grandchildren for our approval.  When we questioned her she said that she had spent WWII working in Washington D. C. as a secretary for a member of the government bureaucracy named William Donovan.  Wait just a darn minute!  We had heard Wild Bill Donovan, the founder of the group that became the CIA, called many things, but we had never heard him be labeled as a member of the government bureaucracy.  We often wonder if she ever got around to writing her autobiography.

Obviously not all tales from WWII have commercial movie potential but with all the film schools turning out all the next generation’s award winning documentary film makers, why aren’t those youngsters doing the Leadbellly act and interviewing on camera the continuously diminishing supply of WWII veterans?

In the past, we did some online fact checking and found that in the San Francisco Bay Area there are some storytelling competitions.  When we went back to recheck that fact for this column we learned that there is an annual storytelling event which will be held

Recently Coach John Madden told KCBS listeners that golf tournaments that get rained out are the best because the golfers get to hand out in the clubhouse and tell their best stories (again).

There are a bunch of Irish bars in the San Francisco Bay Area and one, the Starry Plough,  offers Irish dancing and songs, but there doesn’t seem to be one fooking bar where an open mike is available for a real storytelling opportunity and/or competition.  WTF?  What would happen if an Irish bar had a storytelling competition?  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph it would be “Katie bar the door” time, eh?

[Photo editor’s note:  The Berkeley artist, known as “Hardley Notee Sayahblay” on Facebook, is renowned for his digital images, but only a few get to know his ability as a raconteur who voices an Infantryman’s complaints about the Korean War.  We tried to select an image of him that implies an underlying back story.]

Robert McKee’s book, “Story,” is an excellent look at the art of storytelling from the scriptwriter’s point of view.  In it, McKee wrote (page 196):  “In essence we have told one another the same tale, one way or anther, since the dawn of humanity, and that story could be successfully called The Quest.  All stories take the form of a Quest.”

We asked the disk jockey  to play songs that tell a story and he selected the Bill Parsons (AKA Bobby Bare) song “All American Boy,” Tom T. Hall’s “Forty Dollars,” and Red Sovine’s “Phantom 309.”  Our DJ will include a memorial spin of Shirley Temple’s “Good Ship Lollypop.”  We have to go see “Monument Men.”  Have a “they all lived happily ever after” type week.

February 12, 2014

Snowstorms just cancelled my trip to Haiti. No-o-o-o-o!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 1:05 pm

I have been trying to get down to Haiti ever since the 2010 earthquake — and now, four years later, I thought that I was finally going to get that chance. But no. Leaving today as planned? Not.

“Severe weather in NYC has caused your flight to Port au Prince this evening to be cancelled,” said a rep from Jet Blue. “But we can still get you down there just two and a half days later — and we can probably still get you back home as scheduled.” Oh great. Just three days in Haiti? Or I could stay longer but with no guesthouse reservations? Forget that.

Damn you, climate change! Damn your eyes.

But one good thing has come out of this. I have been reading up on Haiti. A lot. Things are not really all that rosy down there right now. Lots of people still don’t have homes, food or even access to clean water — despite all the billions that have been spent on “building back better” after the quake. Most of that money seems to have gone to outside contractors and NGOs, according to Paul Farmer in “Haiti After the Earthquake,” not toward creating local jobs.

And Baby Doc Duvalier has been back in Haiti for over three years and is still running around free and acting like George W. Bush — like all those killings and tortures they committed weren’t really real, just stuff that has been made up by disgruntled liberals. Yet nobody seems to be asking all the amputees and ghosts born from their regimes.

According to Amnesty International, “While the victims await the Court’s decision [on Baby Doc's crimes], Duvalier has been taking part in public events. Most recently, on 1 January 2014, he attended a state ceremony to celebrate Independence Day in the city of Gonaïves. Former president Prosper Avril, a close Duvalier ally who came to power following a military coup in 1988 and ruled until 1990, also was there. President Michel Martelly justified Duvalier’s and Avril’s invitations as important to promote national reconciliation.”

National reconciliation? Then perhaps we should send GWB back to Iraq so Dubya could do some hands-on “reconciliation” with the million ghosts he created there. Or we should send Obama to Pakistan and Afghanistan for even more and better “reconciliation” after all his drone strikes on weddings.

Baby Doc? Nelson Mandela he is not.

I also learned that Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now living in Port au Prince but isn’t allowed to run for office again. And who isn’t allowing him to run? One guess. The same folks who had him ousted the last time he was legally elected. Or was it the last two times he was legally elected? Wall Street and War Street.

As Jose Marti once said, “If you look at all South American countries, the ones controlled by the United States are the poorest and the least free.” And over a hundred years later, this simple fact still rings true. Just look at Honduras. Just look at Haiti.

Then I read Isobel Allende’s book that took place in Haiti back when French “Christian” slave-owners were torturing their slaves and working them to death; for fun and profit. Nowadays slavery is illegal per se in Haiti, but American corporations have now replaced French slave-owners — and they can still get Haitians to work for them for slave wages and they can still work them to death.

“But Jane,” you might say, “if Haiti is such a freaking nightmare, why in the world would you want to go there?” Great music, nice people, wonderful historical sites, fabulous beaches — and a chance to give something back to the people of Haiti after European and American “capitalists” have spent the last six centuries taking so very much away.

PS: I haven’t given up yet. Sooner or later I WILL get to Haiti. And you should come too!

And when you get there, ask Ravix Evens ( to meet you at the airport and take you straight to the Hotel Oloffson in Port au Prince — and then, later on, ask him to drive you over mountains beyond mountains to the beautiful historical city of Cap Haitien, a UNESCO world heritage site. That’s what I would have done.


February 7, 2014

Why authoritarianism doesn’t work: Because nobody likes it!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Jane Stillwater @ 8:44 pm

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “David and Goliath” — wherein Gladwell says that, in the course of any human interaction, there will always be a graphic curve of diminishing returns when it comes to maximizing the use of force in order to achieve one’s goals.

In other words, always punching other people’s lights out in order to get your own way can very quickly become counterproductive. Good grief, I think that Gladwell might be onto something here.

Want examples?

If the maximum use of force in order to obtain one’s goals been successful in Iraq (and assuming that said goals were to depose a dictator and not just to create chaos and steal oil), then the Bush-led invasion would never have been such a dismal failure and there never would have been such a disastrous resistance war there — one that still keeps rolling right along to this day. So much for Shock and Awe.

If maximum use of force really worked, then Europe would still be saluting Hitler.

Slavery would still be on the books in Georgia and Alabama because of all those happy slaves it created. Or, alternatively, segregation would still be a huge success and MLK would have had no effect at all on it.

Descendants of Genghis Khan would still be running Russia and China.

There would be no Child Protective Services anywhere and parents would still be beating their kids to within an inch of their lives. And I would still be lovingly obeying my mean older sister.

Women would look forward to being placed in harems and having a dozen babies each and would never demand the right to be pro-choice. “Barefoot and pregnant.” They would know their place as slaves to their husbands and not strive for anything else. Rape would not be a problem for women and girls.

Those viscous stormtroopers who illegally seized control of Palestine 65 years ago by ruthlessly wiping out hundreds of villages and slaughtering Christians and Muslims by the thousands? They would not still be getting resistance from the Occupied Territories even now. And the current Israeli neo-cons’ constant brutal “eye for an eye” faux cleverness wouldn’t have forced Al Qaeda out of the remote caves of Afghanistan where it was holed up in 2001 — and forced it into not-so-remote southern Syria where Al Qaeda is now, right at Israel’s front door.

And there would not have been 30 years of The Troubles in Northern Ireland either.

And in South America, Pinochet’s ghost would still be running Chile, Argentina’s Dirty War would have made Henry Kissinger proud, the billions Reagan spent on killing peasants in Guatemala would not have been wasted, Batista’s grandson (not Castro’s brother) would still be ruling Cuba and all those tin-pot dictators that the CIA supported in Central and South America over the years would be in Heaven right now — not in Hell. And phrases like “Banana Republic” and “Military Junta” and “Drug Cartel” would all stir our hearts with pride instead of just making us queasy.

The Soviet Union would still exist — and Afghans and Chechyans would just love being a part of it. People there would stop praising Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Baryshnikov and start even more fan clubs for Stalin.

We would have “Fascism” and “Corporatism” engraved on our dimes now instead of just that stupid old word “Liberty”. And “Mein Kampf” — not “Romeo and Juliette” — would be required reading in all American high schools.

All seven billion of us human beings, when we were babies, would have been spanked every time we cried, been locked in closets for days for the slightest infraction and would have thrived on harsh whippings — and that would have been that. And as a result we would all have grown up to become obedient citizens, not axe-murdering psychopaths.

Jesus would have been just another loser with wild ideas. Even Mohammed and the Buddha would have been buked and scorned (and sent to bed without any Last Supper).

Everyone in America would be happily welcoming the NSA and the militarization of our police forces with open arms right now. More tanks driving down Main Street? More surveillance on our phones? More destruction of our Constitutional rights? Bring it on!

And Baby Doc and his Tonton Macoute would still be running Haiti and Jean-Bertrand Aristide would have been laughed out of the country instead of becoming a hero almost as legendary as Toussaint L’Ouverture.

So why don’t whips and chains and oppression and torture work out so well in the long run? One would think that they would. Isn’t Fear the greatest motivator? According to Gladwell, apparently not.

And why is “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” still such a hot item? You tell me. Which way would you prefer to be treated? As a friend or as a slave? Which way of being treated would piss you off to the degree that you would take torches and pitchforks in hand rather than live under a tyrant?

PS: And speaking of Haiti, I just got a really great deal on Expedia to go to Port au Prince over Valentines Day (flight there and back and five days in a guest house in Diquini, including breakfasts, for less than I can spend if I stayed home in Berkeley — plus a night of listening to RAM at the Hotel Oloffson on February 13

Does anyone know of any other interesting (and meaningful) things that I could see and do in Haiti — on a limited budget? If so, please let me know. Or how I could get interviews with Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Paul Farmer while I am there? Or I wouldn’t mind interviewing Sean Penn again either, who I hear now lives down there — when he’s not hanging out with Charlize Theron in Malibu that is.

Or even Baby Doc?

Beatniks, Hippies, and panhandlers

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:23 pm

In the arcane world of S & M, it is traditional for the masochist to eagerly and enthusiastically receive the punishment being doled out by the sadist.  For example, if the victim is being whipped, after each lash is received, the traditional response is:  “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

President Obama seems to have successfully weaned the Democratic Party onto the idea of building the XL Pipeline.  “Thank you, sir.  May I have another?”

President Obama was unsuccessful in his attempts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits.  “Thank you, sir.  May I have another?”

It seems that cuts to the food stamp program are unavoidable.

“Mmurf murb.”

“What?  I can’t hear you!”


“That’s better.”

Some time ago, this columnist suggested that the Passive Aggressive tactics of the Republicans in Congress were reminiscent of the sit down strike strategy used by workers at Chevrolet in the Thirties.  You will disregard that comment and only believe and repeat propaganda that is approved at the National Conventions.  Is that understood?

Who was it that said:  “What’s good for the billionaires is good for America!”?

On the night of February 5, 2014 to the 6in Berkeley, a person died on the streets.  It was rumored to be from hypothermia caused by the cold and rain.  If a weather dead can be reported in such a way that it subtly ridicules the idea of “global warming,” the national media put it on the Evening News, but if it happens as a result of a rainstorm, spike the story for being insignificant.

The Los Angeles County assessor was arrested in October of 2012.  In October of 2013, additional charges were filed.  The Los Angeles Time reported those bits of information.  The national media seems to be stonewalling the story.

The Fairness Doctrine is gone and the public airwaves are now overstocked with Republican talking points.

Berkeley war correspondent, grandmother, and blogger, Jane Stillwater, is going to Haiti to do some fact checking and gather some material.  She is seeking a letter of introduction which will help her get an opportunity to interview Paul Farmer, Jean Paul Aristide, and/or Francois Papa Doc Duvalier.  (Google hint:  Jane Stillwater blog)

Before WWII, Europe was crowded with journalists who were salaried employees for various newspapers in the USA.  These days it is up to citizen journalists to keep American voters informed.  “Thank you sir.  May I have another?”

Aren’t most (all?) of the reporters for American media covering the Winter Olympics?

Democracy in America is in shambles.  The spectacle of the President using the State of the Union Address to declare that he was retroactively endorsing the Imperial Presidency program initiated by George W. Bush was pathetic.

Will there be a future conspiracy theory that promotes the idea that President Obama was a Trojan Horse strategy used by Republicans to disarm the Democratic Party’s animosity aimed at the Bush Dynasty?  If Obama adopts every one of George W. Bush’s policies, what’s the use of continuing the snide remarks about the Bush Dynasty?

If the Dynasty resentment vanishes, what’s to prevent a JEB bandwagon in 2016?

What good does it do for the World’s Laziest Journalist to do all the grumbling?

One particular website has been an example of American Cultural Imperialism.  Did a column critical of that elitist attitude cause a change?  We noticed recently that they ran an ad proclaiming that they were now a portal to the radio stations of the World.  Does that mean that folks who are tired of Republican talking points can use that site to listen to Triple J, Skyrock, and/or Radio Caroline?  Maybe we can do some extensive fact checking and write an entire column about this new widow of opportunity for radio fans.

Isn’t there a goodly number of trucking music fans in America who might get some enjoyment out of hearing Australian trucking songs?

Is it ironical (or just an example of poignancy?) that while Republican ideology has become dominant on radio, Democratic Party programs (such as Gay Marriage and Medicinal marijuana) are proliferating at a rapid rate on the state level?

If capitalism works like the conservatives say it does, how long will it take before Top Forty music radio programming makes a comeback?

What if Casey Kasem’s Top Forty countdown becomes more popular online than Uncle Rushbo?   Won’t radio programmer wunderkinds want to play what sells?

Has any online source for radio programming registered the domain name?  How hard can it be to find a gravely voiced disk jockey to become Wolfman 2.0?  World wide access would make “coast to coast, border to border, wall to wall and treetop tall” seem chintzy in comparison.

With just a skosh under three years to go, folks are going to get more than a wee bit fed up with “Thank you sir. May I have another?” fanatical enthusiasm for Obama and his capitalist masters.

While reading “Counter Culture through the Ages from Abraham to Acid House” (by Ken Goffman [AKA R. U. Serius] and Dan Joy) we noticed that while the conservatives have been exerting their influence on the media, the lack of news coverage of any current counter culture trend is rather unsettling.  Where is the counterculture action happening these days?  How many times in a Western movie did the statement “I don’t hear anything” evoke a “That’s what worries me!” response?

Back in the Sixties, boys and girls, the reporters for main stream media used to sneak hippie sentiments into back of the book trend spotting stories.  This fellow Hunter S. Thompson shaved his head while running for sheriff and then called his opponent with a G. I. haircut “the guy with the long hair.”

Is it still the case that “we don’t grow our hair long and shaggy, like the hippies out in San Francisco do”?  Can we get back to you next week on that question?  Does the Haight attract more tourists than North Beach?  Would today’s kids rather be a hippie or a beatnik?

Recently the New York Times ran a front page story that made the assertion that franchise restaurants across the USA were struggling, but that posh upscale eateries were thriving.

If Mario Savio were attending UCB this year would he be driving a flashy Ferrari?

In 1965 weren’t the students protesting rising tuition costs?  Didn’t Prop 13 use a claim that homeowners would save hundreds of tax dollars to get them to pass a measure which saved businesses thousands (ultimately millions?) of dollars?  Didn’t Prop 13 pave the way for bankers to reap massive profits from student loans?

[Note from the Photo editor:  Is it sadistic to run a photo of a very exotic Ferrari with a column about how tough times are?]

The aforementioned history of the Counterculture informs readers (on page 232) that:  “Seeing no hope for positive change, the hipster had no desire to confront the repressive political apparatus and was barely even interested in offending ‘straight’ conformists.”

Now the disk jockey will play Lord Buckley’s “The Nazz,” Stan Freberg’s “Green Christmas,” and Jeff Bridges and the Abiders’ song “She Lay her whip down.”  We have to go find a used copy of a book called “Screw the Roses.”  Have a “needles and pins” type week.

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