March 28, 2014

At the LLC murder-mystery convention: Nobody’s mentioned Flight 370 so far…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 6:18 pm

While driving to a murder-mystery writers’ and readers’ convention in Monterey, CA the other day, I stopped by Silicon Valley to have lunch with my old college sweetheart. Good grief! How come I have aged so much and he hasn’t? That’s totally not fair.

A friend of mine in Germany had emailed me that I absolutely, positively had to visit the Paris Bakery while I was in Monterey Which I did. And got hooked. So much for my gluten-free diet. It’s clear that I’m gonna pay a steep price for this discrepancy when I get home. But not now! Too many eclairs, croissants and napoleons to sample. Greed triumphs over common sense. Again.

Once actually at the convention, I immediately scored my 40 pounds of free books. First things first. Greed again. Who would have thought that I was such a hoarder. But apparently I am. Who can possibly read three murder mysteries per day for a year? That’s just plain greedy. It’s like how the U.S. military collects all those countries, weapons and bombs. Hoarding. Just plain greed. Except that you can’t blow up cities and kill babies with books.

But how can I possibly begin to describe this convention? All kinds of fabulous authors spoke. And in between sessions, I ran off to the movies and saw “Omar” (you just gotta see it!), the Grand Budapest Hotel (laughed my socks off) and “Tim’s Vermeer (very interesting of course but I dozed off for a few minutes half way through — it was PBS on steroids).

My favorite authors speaking here were Lisa Brackmann, Johnny Shaw, Louise Penny, Cara Black, Brad Parks, Laurie R. King, Terry Shames, Rhys Bowen, Lee Goldberg, Sue Grafton, Sophie Littlefield, Simon Wood, Doc Macomber, Robert Kroese, Kelli Stanley…. Oh hell, they were all my favorites.

Except that Janet Evanovich wasn’t there.

And all of these fabulous authors gave talks and/or spoke on panels. But not even one of them mentioned the strange mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370 — or why it went down in the southern Indian Ocean instead of landing safely in Beijing — closer to Diego Garcia than to Peking duck. That’s a hecka long way to be off course.

Anyway, my main take-away from the first day of the conference did solve one big mystery for me — why in the world do I like crime-fiction novels so much? At a panel discussing murder mysteries and social justice, one author stated that, “I never write about anything that involves social justice. My books are just straight crime novels.” Which caused a light bulb to turn on in my brain.

“Every single murder mystery ever written is always solely about social justice — or even just plain justice itself,” I replied during the Q&A. “They all have to do with bringing killers to justice. And in every single one of these books, justice is always obtained.” No wonder I like murder mysteries. I am such a big fan of Justice — with a capital J. If only we could track down all those evil killers on the national and international political scene as successfully as Sherlock Holmes or Aimee LeDuc or Kinsey Millhone or Ellie McEnroe tracked down their bad guys.

But it’s all a matter of transparency. In crime-fiction novels, transparency is always achieved eventually. But in the covert world of the CIA, the Pentagon, NSA, Washington and Wall Street, transparency sucks eggs.

And the greatest murder-mysteries of our day — deadly climate change, sleazy bankster fraud, Monsanto’s silent-but-deadly GMOs, unconscionable War Street attacks on the Middle East and the creepy neo-Nazi corporatists’ takeover of our government — may never be solved. Until it’s too late, that is. “Oh, now we know who-done-it!” we will all cry out — cry out from our graves.

PS: Meanwhile, back at the Paris Bakery, there are even more important mysteries to be solved. Should I have almond croissants or eclairs for breakfast? Or that round thingie over there with all that whipped cream?

Fear and Loathing in Oakland

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:28 pm

Anarchists’ Book Fair in Oakland

On the day after Scott Olsen was awarded $4.5 million for injuries incurred during an Occupy Oakland protest, the folks who believe that the police are out of control held a book fair in Oakland.

A group called Copwatch was in existence before the first Occupy Oakland protester brought a tent to Frank Ogawa plaza.  The Occupy movement produced many examples of conduct that Copwatch wants to eliminate.  The protesters allege that the wealthy are being given priority treatment in a society that preaches all men are created equal.

Access to public restrooms was severely restricted during the Occupy time period.  The police then alleged that the protesters were uncivilized creations who didn’t use bathrooms and soiled themselves.

People (including the corporations known as “people”) who don’t pay taxes couldn’t care less how much Scott Olsen received as a settlement because it is the average citizen who will foot the bill for the cash awarded to the injured protester.  The fact that the richest pay no taxes and this law suit settlement will be paid for with funds provided by the middle class and poor taxpayers and not the rich seems to be an example of achieving perpetual motion.

When the Scott Olsen incident happened news reports indicate he had been hit by a teargas canister but when the cash award settlement was made, it was described as injuries received when he was hit with a beanbag.  Doesn’t that sound like a much more benevolent way to be injured for life?  Getting hit by a canister sounds barbaric but getting knocked out by a beanbag sounds like some high spirited schoolboy rowdiness  got a bit out of hand.

We wondered if there would be a large amount of coverage of the Anarchists’ Book Fair, on the day after the settlement was announced on Friday, March 21, 2014 or if we would pretty much have the Saturday story for our own.  Berkeley journalist/blogger Ken Knabb had a table at the event, and we were interviewed by a reporter for KALW radio but we did not see any evidence that would support a contention that the even received much additional coverage.

We thought the event would provide us with a blank check for some clever word play such as “we had a blast covering it” and “we’ll take a shot at describing it.”

Most folks think that anarchy is a synonym for bedlam and pandemonium but the anarchists say that it is a bit more of a less government form of political philosophy.  Take a closer look and it sounds like a mirror image of the Republican teabagers’ agenda.

The rich fuckers who think that the solution of the homeless problem is to tell them:  “Go home!” see no irony in the fact that many of them are in that condition because banks foreclosed them out of their domicile.  It’s kinda like telling an alcoholic to have a drink, eh?

Dump then out of their homes, put them in the streets and then tell them “go home!”  Who says they don’t have sense of humor that produces kneeslaper jokes?

Are the capitalists who want people to work for minimum wage, buy their goods at the company store, and pay big tax bills the root cause of society’s unrest or is it the anti-social(ist) rabble who cause the winter of our discontent?

Bob Calhoun was there promoting his book “Shattering Conventions,” which is a journal of his exploration of the world of expos and conventions.  Wouldn’t that make an intriguing shtick for use as a weekly feature by a outlet in the mainstream media?  What’s not to love about the idea of a fellow covering a new gathering every week?  (Isn’t that just the kind of thing USA Today would publish?)

Endless Canvas is a website that features news and photos of interest to graffiti artists and their fans in the San Francisco area known as “the East Bay.”  Two of the local celebrities in that realm are Gatz and Broke.  We bought a copy of “More Beer Less Work #4” done by Broke and it seems to be numbered and signed.

We could probably churn out a column about the 100 best anarchy songs of all time, and maybe sometime in the future we will.

As it turned out we were working on a column about anarchy at the same time that the fellow who runs the Cinesthesia dot blogspot website asked for our opinion of the “Grand Hotel Budapest” movie.  It seemed to us (subjective opinion alert!) to be like “The Sound of Music” without the tunes and politics so we told him:  “It is the greatest film tribute to fascism since ‘Triumph of the Will!’”  If a fellow expects a flick to be a big disappointment and it is; does that mean it wasn’t?

Is the fact that an elite bunch of hackers can keep track of every phone call in a foreign country for an entire month but they can’t find a missing airliner an indication that Americans are more gullible than previously assumed?

Recently we read two history books (such as “The Deserters” by Charles Glass) that indicate there was more anarchy in Paris during the Liberation by the American troops than there was during the Nazi’s Occupy Paris period.  Does that mean American exceptionalism is a valid concept?  Just because a Prussian cavalry officer can ride a horse doesn’t mean he automatically qualifies as a “cowboy,” eh?

A bumper sticker that advises “You don’t want to be associated with those nutcases” is much easier to digest than a book that presents some in-depth analysis of the idea that since a capitalist makes a fortune on the work done by his serfs, it might be reasonable to let the laborers share in the bounty.  WTF?  Shutup and get back to work!  Reading all of Albert Camus’ “The Rebel” would be more like work than relaxation.

Who can’t breeze through “Anarcho-Syndicalism Theory and Practice,” by Rudolf Rocker, in a single eveing?

If the capitalists can get the police, media, and members of the clergy to pall parrot the bumpersticker ideology, then maybe the capitalist will have some chump change to donate to his favorite politician’s re-election fund.

The general public stays away from events such as last weekend’s Anarchist’s Book Fair (“Good boy!  Want a doggie treat?”) because they have been trained to think it would be a bit like attending a convention of biker gang members.  The crowds were well behaved.  Some T-shirt vendors must make out like bandits at events such as this one.

We had wondered if there would be Anarchist books for kids.  We scored a copy of Woodie Guthrie’s “New Baby Train” for $3 and were relieved to learn that there was not a gap in the realm of pop culture that we would feel obligated to fill.  Whew!  That was close.

[Note from the Photo Editor:  Didn’t someone from Oakland once say:  “A convention is a convention is a convention. . .”?  Photo of last week’s Anarchists’ Book Fair looks a lot like a generic image.  Frank Sinatra was famous for telling movie directors that the first take that had just been shot got a “That’s good enough” rating and we have adopted that as the official motto of the World’s Laziest Journalist Industries.]

Leona Helmsley summed up the irony of the middle class and poor Oakland taxpayers paying for the damage that the Oakland Police Department inflicted on someone protesting an unfair taxation program that favors the rich, when she said:  “We don’t pay taxes.  Only the little people do.”

Now the decisions of the disk jockey (“What?  Me fascist?”) are final and he doesn’t want any quibbling about his choice for the three best anarchy songs of all time:  GWAR’s version of “Get into my Car,”  Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the name . . .”  and the best anarchy song of them all “Helter Skelter.”  We have to go to Chopshicks in Oakland to cover the Saturday slap art show.  Have a “getcha a case of beer for that” type week.

March 21, 2014

March Madness eclipses real news

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:23 pm

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee 

CBS Evening News, on Sunday March 18, 2014, spent almost as much time covering the voting for the fate of the Crimea area in the Ukraine as it did in assessing the prospects presented by the basketball schedule for March Madness and that brought up the question of news value.  Back in 1939, were newspaper readers anxious for facts about the first NCAA basketball tournament or were the front pages filled with details elaborating the esoteric aspects of America’s foreign policy?

Most news broadcasts lately mention that a Soviet Naval base with great strategic importance is located in the province that includes the city of Sevastopol.  We did not hear much background information and had to look it up.  The Germans captured Sevastopol in WWII.  It was retaken by the Soviet Army.  The city was leveled during the fighting.  A half a million Russians died in the struggle to control the region including the nearby city of Stalingrad.

To understand just how offensive Russians find Obama’s medaling think how upset Americans would be if Putin told the American President that the battle field at Gettysburg could be improved starting with an urban development plan.

Putin’s heavy handed manipulation of the region is inappropriate but it sure won’t help matters if President Obama talks tough and gets into a “pissing match” with Russia.  President Obama’s greatest gift to the Republicans may be a revival of the Cold war but they will still hate him.

Since CBS will be broadcasting some of the games to determine the NCAA basketball champions and since Americans don’t care much about what the ultimate consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (which was signed in 1939) will be; the coverage of the relative entertainment value of this year’s sporting event might, in retrospect, seem like a good news judgment call.

Unfortunately, in 1939, the management at CBS assigned their star reporter, Edward R. Murrow, to cover international developments in Europe and not the history making first installment of the NCAA basketball championship which was won by Coach Howard Hobson’s team from Oregon, when they beat Ohio State.

It doesn’t seem likely that 75 years from now, extensive coverage of this year’s March Madness will seem like a better news judgment call than some in-depth reporting about the history of Russia would provide but almost no one alive today will be able to live to see what is considered important old news in 2089.

Since all the speculation about what might have happened to the missing airliner seems amateurish and inept, we asked for and where granted an interview with a fellow who is on the board of directors at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory.

When we asked him what really happened, he noted that the plane was presumed to have gone west into the Indian Ocean.  “Is there a terrorist friendly destination in that direction?”  We answered “Somalia.”  “If the radio and transponder were turned off, would the airplane crew have missed something if they strayed into restricted air space and were challenged?”  We asked:  “How could there be restricted air space in the middle of the Indian Ocean?”  He smiled, shrugged, and said:  “Just suppose that there was for the sake of this conversation.”  The columnist pantomimed shooting at something in the sky.  Our expert witness paused for a moment or two and then asked:  “If it was in restricted air space, would they let searchers and the press into the area under the restricted air space where the debris would fall?”  We frowned and growled “Not bloody well likely.” After another shrug and smile, he said:  “Maybe they made it to Somalia and were given a safe haven for hijackers.”  Neither scenario would get much more than scant news coverage in the USA.

While most of the United States continued to suffer from a long hard winter, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco was held while the Bay Area experienced balmy shirtsleeve weather.  Would conservative TV networks want to run a feature story that implies global warming is a fête accompli or would they rather focus their audience’s attention on the apparent contradiction a harsh winter presents?

The contrast aspect of the warm weather in San Francisco while cities back east struggled with snow removal problems was virtually stonewalled by the news media.

Isn’t it curious that in the land that venerates a Free Press, criticism of journalism has virtually disappeared?  Would A. J. Liebling find that amusing?

American news media seems perfectly content to ignore the Fukushima clean up and any concomitant impact that disaster has had on the environment.

The third week in March of 2014 may be used by future historians to designate when the America’s Free Press went flat line and marked the end of an era.

Substituting amusing and interesting information in place of fact filled political analysis might draw bigger ratings and consequently please network executives and it will take years before historians and media critics can produce any definitive conclusions about the results such a development might produce.

The best that the World’s Laziest Journalist can try to achieve is to spend time gathering innocuous information that proves the old maxim:  If you are having fun doing it; it isn’t work.

George Clayton Johnson who wrote several scripts for the Twilight Zone also wrote the first episode of Star Trek (not to be confused with the pilot episode) on a typewriter.  He has a page on Facebook and that makes us wonder if George will send a friend request to George Takei or will it be vice versa?  Will they have a friendly competition to see who gets the most Facebook friends?

Early this week, we read an online report that says that authorities in Cuba are starting efforts to refurbish Ernest Hemingway’s home Finca Vega in hopes of increasing the tourist attraction value of the location.  The World’s Laziest Journalist has a visit to that very place on his bucket list and the prospects for getting there are slim and none, but isn’t there a song from Man of La Mancha that can serve as a musical inspiration for such an attempt?

Just this week, we snagged a bargain copy of Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” and were surprised to find that it contained a section that rhapsodized about finding love while soaking up the invigorating atmosphere at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Did you know that those games were televised?  They were filmed and the processing of the film caused a slight delay (about a minute) so that it could not be called “live” coverage.

[Note from the photo editor:  While many mayors in the USA were worried about snow removal, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was participating in a St. Patrick’s Day parade that was blessed with sunshine and temperatures in the mid Sixties and hence provided an image that graphically demonstrated the contrast aspect of the big country’s weather for that particular day.]

Near the end of chapter 16, of the aforementioned novel, Thomas Wolfe wrote:  “Was not this world of fashion and of privilege the deadliest enemy of art and truth?”

Now the disk jockey will play Marty Robbins’ “Beyond the Reef,” Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza’s duet “Bali Hai,” and the Andrew Sisters’ “(How’d ya like to spend) Christmas on Christmas Island?”  Since the New York Times probably won’t cover it, we figure we best go cover the 19th annual Anarchist Book Fair at the Crucible in Oakland on Saturday.  Have an “enemy of art and truth” type week.

March 14, 2014

Land of the “Ever Young”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:11 pm

Three American Presidents share Irish ancestry; Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Obama.  In recent years, that fact has made the Republicans uncomfortable, but this year, as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, their worst nightmare will bring their propensity for hypocrisy into play:  the Republicans hate the Communists and they hate Obama so being forced into a binary choice will deliver an uncomfortable decision: racism or McCarthyism?  The fact that some Republicans seem to be endorsing Putin over the American president in the Crimean Crisis speaks for itself.

Would it be ironic if some genealogists offered a theory that St. Reagan and Obama were related?

“It takes too long to retrain them!” is the punch line for an ethnic joke that might “get your Irish up,” if you were offended by that sort of attempts at “humor.”

Is it true that Adolph Hitler, who was a well known vegetarian, gave himself a dispensation from the usual rules by ordering corn beef and cabbage every year when Saint Patrick’s Day was celebrated at Berchtesgaden?

Is it true that one of the founding members of the Black Panthers would astound his posse by producing evidence that he held dual American and Ireland citizenship because he was born as an “Army brat” son of an American Air Force officer serving at a base on the Emerald Isle?

Ernesto Guevara Lynch’s son became known to the world as Che Guevara. You don’t find many references to that fact when St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are being held in the United States.

In the U. S. vs. Mexico war, induced by offers of higher pay than the American army paid and land grants, a group of gringos led by some Irish with military experience, fought on the side of Mexico.  They were called Batallón de San Patricio (Saint Patrick’s Battalion).  Many of those who survived battle were hanged (30 simultaneously) for treason.  Some (urban legend?) escaped and became Mexican landowners.

In the WTF file we see that on Monday many of the employees of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory plan to be wearing green T-shirts with the word “Diego Garcia” printed on them.  When asked what they symbolize; they shrug their shoulders and say:  “It’s a mystery.”

John Wayne was a member of John Ford’s “repertoire company of film makers” and many of the films featured a recurring group of actors (AKA the usual suspects”) but some of his most memorable films featured Maureen O’Hara (who made many films directed by John Ford) as his costar.  The best and best known would be “The Quiet Man” from 1951, in which John Wayne sang “Wild Colonial Boy.”

[In “Ned Kelly,” Mick Jagger sings the same song.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear what a good sound man could do making a mash up of the two versions?]

In “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Irish History and Culture,” written by Sonja Massie, readers learn (page 191) that sparks flew when William Butler Yeats met James Joyce, who, upon learning that Yeats was thirty-five years old, said:  “I’ve met you too late” and elaborated the age meant that he (Joyce) wouldn’t have any influence on Yeats.  Subsequently the fellow summarized Joyce by saying “Never, have I encounter so much pretension with so little to show for it.”

What is it like in Ireland?  According to a reliable source, “In the summer the rain is warm; in the winter, the rain is cold.”

Aren’t sailors on the USS O’Brien the only crew in the U. S. Navy that is permitted to wear green baseball caps rather than the regulation Navy blue gear everyone else must use?

For many years, the St. Patrick Day celebration in New York City was very popular with college students because back then the State of New York had a drinking age of 18 and was surrounded by states where it was 21.  Talk about “Aye, lad there’s the rub.” Eventually political pressure was used to convince New York to change it’s drinking age laws to 21.

Self-deprecating humor is a hallmark of Irish wit.  St. Ronald Reagan told a story about knocking on a farmer’s door during the Iowa primary season.  The local looked at the former movie actor and sputtered:  “You’re . . . you’re . . . you’re.”  St. Reagan tried to offer a hint:  “Do the initials R. R. help?”  The fellow turned and yelled into the interior of the house:  “Momma, come quick and meet Roy Rogers!”

George Berkeley has been described as being the only philosopher from Ireland.  He traveled to the United States.  A town “near Harvard” was going to be named after him, but an error by a court clerk changed the spelling of the town to Berkley.  A city in California was also named for him.  The Californians weren’t content to just spell the name correctly’ it was also decided to build a better University in the city a few miles East of San Francisco.

The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco this weekend is being touted as the 164th installment of the annual celebration.

The California town of Dublin will also have a parade this weekend.

[Note from the photo editor:  We dug up some photos from a past Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Frisco.

Hat tip to a clerk at San Francisco’s Beat Museum for that obscure historical sidebar item about the Saint Patrick’s Battalion.]

William Butler Yeats wrote:  “The best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Now the disk jockey will play the Rolling Stones’ “Flight 505,” the Irish Rovers’ “The Unicorn,” and he rarely does dedications, but just this once, for Clint Eastwood, he’ll play John McCormack singing “The Empty Chair.”  We have to go try to solve the riddle:  “Why can’t Irish employees be given a lunch break?”  Have a “Sinn Fein (it’s pronounced Shin Fain and means “Ourselves alone”)” type week.

March 13, 2014

Want to see real capitalism? Go to Haiti!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:35 pm

Note: Can we still post on BartBlog?

I LOVE BartBlog! It will be a very hard habit to give up.

Will there still BE a BartCop?

The world needs it more than ever!

You think that all those fat-cat corporatist billionaires on Wall Street are capitalists? Not even close!

Those guys have systematically and carefully cocooned themselves inside of a risk-free, artificially-induced highly-rigged monopoly-style con-game bubble — created at great cost to salt-of-the-earth types like you and me. And inside of this fairy-tale ponzi-scheme bubble, the top dogs all cheat and steal, no one goes to jail and you and I are their shills. Welfare for the rich? Yes. Capitalism? No, no, no and no.

But just come to Haiti and you will immediately see true capitalism at work — on every street corner. Everyone here has something to sell. It’s amazing! The competition is fierce. There are no monopolies. Nothing is risk-free. There are no artificially-created safety nets. And U.S. corporate fat-cats would only last about five minutes here.

Everywhere you look in Haiti, there is someone setting up a booth or offering a handful of goods to sell or improvising a restaurant on wheels — or in a wheel barrow.

Ariana Huffington just published a book called “Thrive,” and in the opening chapter she talks about how trying to make it in the corporate world has led to very high levels of stress. I would dearly love to see Wall Street CEOs and high-powered American executives who make 30 million-plus a year with the help of a lapdog government that they own lock stock and barrel — would love to see these spoiled brats and primadonnas get their asses kicked by the competition of trying to sell yams or used T-shirts on the streets of Port au Prince.

Within a half-hour at most, these fancy dudes would be begging to be taken back to their sweet little tax shelters and big-bank scams. “Please! I hate real-life capitalism! Get me out of here! Please!”

Haitians work their butts off making capitalism work for them!

Any fool can put together a housing-market scam if they have a trillion dollars to back them and a government to keep them out of jail. But Haitians know that they have no silver spoons in their mouths, no old-boy networks, no soft defense-industry contracts and no fleeced American taxpayers to soften their fall. If Haitians don’t make it in their own capitalist world, they die. Period.

When was the last time those welfare-for-the-rich dudes risked more than a hangnail? Libertarianism? Rugged individualism? My foot!

PS: Haiti is also the place where used T-shirts from America go to die, after they have been tossed out of our closets. There are all kinds of used T-shirts down here, that say almost anything on their fronts — and always say it in English.

PPS: Want an example of rigged “capitalism” in America? Here it is. Our judicial system happily supports deregulation on Wall Street and also supports War Street’s right to attack other countries illegally at will. Anyone with half a brain and wi-fi access knows that. But might our judges possibly go out on a limb and support net neutrality — just because American taxpayers paid for its creation? Not on your life.

“But, Jane, what’s so important about net neutrality?” you might ask. It’s this: If you can’t afford to pay big bucks in order to get decent internet speed, then you are automatically being censored and controlled. It’s all about access. While down here in Haiti, I have certainly found out about that.

Down here the internet is so slow that it takes me at least two hours to put together an article, plus another three hours to get it to post on my blog, while I wait around for everything to reload. And that’s on a good day. So while all of my blog posts are being written by hand down here Haiti, I will have to wait until I get home to send them out. What a bother. Who has five hours of internet frustration to spare every day or the patience to wait and wait to reload? Not me.

The slow internet here has also slowed me down a whole lot. I don’t even want to blog anymore most of the time. And when that happens in the USA too because I can’t afford to buy fast internet speed? Then, snap! I will have been effectively shut up and shut down — without the Deep State even having to lift a finger to stop me. “Damn those pesky liberal bloggers. We’ve certainly showed them.”

But there wouldn’t be any problems with net neutrality at all back in the States if capitalism was really working there — and artificial monopolies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc. didn’t have Congress and the courts in their pockets, creating yet another expensive hidden tax on you and me. And some start-up kids with a garage-app in Mountain View would be supplying us with high speed internet for about five bucks a month.

Want another example of welfare-for-the-rich? That’s easy. American taxpayers have been forced to fork over trillions of dollars in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, Kuwait, East Timor and even Saudi Arabia so far — to pay for what are essentially the top five oil companies’ private armies. But do we ever get a tax break on the oil that these armies steal? Hell, no. Only oil companies get tax breaks. Not us. That’s welfare-for-the-rich, not capitalism. What else did you expect?

Let those slick dudes on Oil Street pay for their own freaking armies.

It never ceases to amaze me how Americans keep electing anti-capitalism government officials who do not represent our own best interests or even the best interests of our country, but keep electing moochers, schemers and con-men from the welfare-for-the-rich class instead — time and time again.

PPPS: Paul Ryan just proved my case! The guy just made an impassioned speech to CPAC, stating that receiving welfare is humiliating and degrading. “People don’t just want a life of comfort; they want a life of dignity — of self-determination” So let’s help him get America’s “communism for the rich only” 1% off of welfare and give them some “dignity” for the first time in their lives instead.

PPPPS: Like I just said, the internet limitations in Port au Prince have forced me to wait to send out this story on Haiti until I got home to Berkeley. Good to be back. But I still miss Haiti a lot!

But on March 20th I’ll be traveling again, off to Monterey, CA, to attend the annual Left Coast Crime festival, a convention of murder-mystery writers and readers — and a chance to pick up 40 pounds of free books (without having to lug them back home on an airplane) and, hopefully, to have access to fast internet service so that I can blog about all that.

March 11, 2014

In memory of Terrance Coppage a.k.a Bartcop

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 8:57 pm

I was saddened by the news of the loss of Terry, our beloved bartcop. I know many of you are as well. I am not sure what to write, so these words come to mind:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Steve Jobs said that before he passed away and our bartcop lived his life like that…just read any back issue and you’ll see that.

So, what can we do now? Here is my proposal:

I am an experienced copy writer, editor and researcher. I also know a few things about search engine optimization (SEO) and IT management. I am willing to offer my services pro bono to help keep this site alive. I cannot do that myself, I would need help in the IT and graphics arts areas. I think that contributing to keep bartcop alive is the best way to honor bartcop. Terry is gone, but this web site can live on as long as there are people willing to contribute.

Bartcop was the liberal blogosphere before there was one. Terry’s work was truly groundbreaking and inspirational. Everyone on the left should feel indebted to him for showing how information can be spread without the help (or hindrance) of the corporate media.

If anyone is with me on this, feel free to email me at

May the Chinaco never run dry and let’s keep the hammer pounding!

March 7, 2014

In Memory of…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ye Olde Scribe @ 9:52 pm

St. Peter was closing the gate when newly arrived Rufus asked, “You let HIM in?”

“Yes, the boss ordered it done.”

“You do realize he ranted all the time about organized religion and called them all kinds of names…”

“So does the boss.”

“I’m pretty sure if he wasn’t an atheist he was at least an agnostic.”

“With all the stuff said, done and claimed in his name, the boss can’t blame him. Besides, he fought off true evil: especially evil claimed to be in the name of the boss. That counted for a lot. The boss even let him put something on the gate on the way in…”

Unexpected Help for an existentialist

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

A strongly held conviction that is only an opinion can liven up an online comments section and if the idea being endorsed seems to others to be a symptom of insanity, it can lead to a rugged challenge for the person who stands alone against the entire world.  Scientists managed to convince most people that Galileo was right about the world circling the sun and that the opposite explanation that the sun revolved around the world was wrong.  The scientists aren’t doing as well convincing the man in the street to endorse the theory about global warming.  Galileo serves as the patron saint for people who fervently believe that the Bush Dynasty will be reactivated after the next Presidential Election in 2016.

Saturday March1, 2014, seemed like it was going to be a day like any other day filled with skepticism and ridicule for any pundit who dared to offer an extreme prediction about the results of the 2016 Presidential Election in the USA.  Getting just one person to endorse an outrageously illogical opinion that causes people to question your sanity seemed like a long shot.  If the Pope had endorsed Galileo’s nutty theory, it would have made life a whole lot easier for the fellow who didn’t know when to shut up.

The first day of March in 2014 seemed destined to become an unforgettable day filled with those events which alter and illuminate modern history because Vladimir Putin was making it obvious to the world that he was going to disregard the American President’s opinion about the advisability of interfering in internal politics of the Ukraine but Putin had the boys in the Russian legislature backing him on that move, so he wasn’t alone.

Wasn’t Putin just implementing a variation of the reasoning behind many previous similar events in history such as St. Ronald Reagan’s valiant effort to protect American Medical Students in Granada?  Don’t the Republicans endorse any attempt to replicate St. Reagan’s policy?

At the San Francisco History Expo, the Art Deco Society and the Treasure Island Museum both seemed to think that the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island will be of interest around the world.

The Museum showed some old movie footage that informed the audience, which might have forgotten the glamour and excitement generated by Pan Am’s China Clippers, that the airline which was not a decade old had subsidized the construction of way stations where their flying boats could land for rest and refueling on their route that (eventually) connected San Francisco with China.  That pioneering effort became a virtual commuter run during World War II and the fact that it had been established right before the outbreak of the hostilities between the United States and Japan was a very lucky coincidence for the Allied Nations.

Pan Am started up just as the Great (or as it used to be called: “Republican”) Depression started.  By 1935, they were not only asking aircraft production companies to develop new models for them, but they could also subsidize sending men and supplies to island all across the Pacific to build facilities for hotels and support stations for flying boats at a time when many businesses were struggling to show a profit.  Could Houdini have matched that phenomenal feat?

After seeing all the historical newsreel footage about the China Clippers, our appreciation for the concept of time travel was once again being honed to a fine edge.  Then we experienced a moment of skepticism.  Was it really a lucky coincidence?  We filed away an impulse to check with our sources at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory and see if they had any material that offered an alternative explanation for that the happy coincidence of having a shuttle route between the USA and China available after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Was it more than just a coincidence?

[The New York Times reported the sudden death of Jackson Miss. Mayor Cholwe Uumumba on February 24, 2014, but after Hinds County Commissioner Kenneth Stokes called for an autopsy and Louis Farrakhan offered to pay for it, the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is evaluating the potential for having the R&D Department formulate an explanation for the unexpected death.]

Wild speculation couched in a conspiracy theory has no place in serious history books but, like horoscopes in the daily newspaper, it does provide a modicum of entertainment value for a columnist working the pop culture beat.

We learned from the American Printing History Association (Google hint:  Printing History dot Org) that a summer course for the operation of linotype machines is available and we thought taking that course might provide us with a good column topic in the coming summer.

Seeing Emperor Norton (wouldn’t he be about two hundred years old?) at the History Expo made us wonder about the potential doing an interview and column because he is almost as synonymous with San Francisco as Herb Caen was.

After our material gathering expedition to Fog City, we stopped at the Berkeley Public Library and during a brief online check (“round up the usual suspects”) we discovered that we where no longer the only person in the world who thinks that John Edward Bush (J. E. B.) will become the Republican candidate for President in 2016.  Sure enough, on page one of the Week in Review Section of the Sunday New York Times for March 2, 2014, there was the headline warning the readers to brace themselves for a battle between Hilary Clinton and the Bush Dynasty’s heir apparent, Jeb Bush.

Some skeptics might think that somehow the World’s Laziest Journalist got an advanced peek at the New York Times’ columnist’s copy and rushed to post our column posted on Friday February 28 and the only defense we can offer is to make the assertion that we had been banished from a prestigious website several years ago for making the JEB prediction too prematurely.

Do members of the New York Times newsroom sit around on Friday afternoons and pounce on each and every new installment of punditry from the World’s Laziest Journalist?  Let’s try an experiment.  One of our more obscure insights into world affairs make the assertion that if a reader holds a photo of Howard Hughes next to a photo of the Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini, material for a marvelous scoop will become obvious.

Now, if a writer for the Great Gray Lady hands in a column making the “has anyone noticed that Clark Kent is never around when Superman shows up?” type assertion about the image experiment; then we will have much more circumstantial evidence to support our “Friday afternoon” assertions.

Back in the day when a national TV network ran afternoon movies, we saw one that featured a fellow who faced a big dilemma.  He had to tell the magic fairy which of two potential spells she should cast on his girlfriend.  She would either become an ugly hag when they were alone and be seen as the most beautiful woman in the world when they were in public or she would be the most beautiful woman in the world when they were together in isolation but would be perceived as an ugly hag when they went out into society.  Yikes!  That could be a problem at the local pub, eh?

We have never been able to ascertain the title of that motion picture but it, in turn, provided us with a similar tough binary choice:  would a writer prefer to have hundreds of thousands of voters read his political punditry or would he tell the magic fairy to give him a very limited audience that included a Vice President who was a former classmate and about a hundred nationally known pundits?  What’s not to love about having a lock on the right to the claim to be “the pundit other pundits read first!”?

Some skeptical friends have cried “Coincidence!” when we pointed out to them that we have run items (such as a mention of smoking bath salts) and subsequently seen a front page article in a Sunday edition of the New York Times about that very topic.

We have often wondered why the topic of slap art isn’t being mentioned in the mainstream media, so if we announce our intention to cover the Slapocalypse 3 event on March 29 in Oakland, and if a certain daily newspaper headquartered in New York City does a feature story about it, we get to ask: “How many coincidences does it take to verify a trend-spotting hunch?”

[Note from the Photo Editor:  The columnist went to the San Francisco History Expo and some snapshots of Emperor Norton was the best he could do.]

Hitler said:  “The man who feels called upon to govern a people has no right to say, If you want me or summon me, I will cooperate.  No, it is his duty to step forward.”  Republicans will make sure J. E. B. reads this, eh?

Now, the disk jockey will play Harry Belafonte’s “Banana boat song,” Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen tons,” and Adele Dazeem’s exquisite rendering of “Let it go.”  We have to go fact check the rumor that Ahmed Chalabi is masquerading as a political consultant going by the name of Paul Manafort. Have a “I gets weary” type week.

March 4, 2014

Vodou Lounger: A tourist’s eye-view of Haiti

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:23 pm

“Please don’t go to Haiti — it could be dangerous down there!” several worried friends begged me right before I left. But boy were they wrong. Haiti is totally fun! I never had so much fun in my life as I did this past week in Haiti. And this is my very own tourist guidebook to all the neat stuff that I’ve done down here. Not exactly the Lonely Planet. But boy am I having a good time.

The most frequently asked question before I left was, “Are you going down there to do humanitarian work?” No no no. I’m going down there to be a tourist!

To start with, I got a really great bargain deal on Expedia — $800 to fly me from SFO to Port au Prince and five nights in a convenient, clean and quiet hotel called the Diquini Guest House. This was absolutely the smartest thing that I did on this trip. Why? Because the manager of the guest house, a former member of the Haitian diaspora and long-time resident of Washington DC, took me under his wing and for a reasonable fee let me hire his driver, translated for me, kept me fed on nicely-flavored Haitian stew and rice — and then took me off to explore Port au Prince.

First we went to the famous Hotel Oloffson where the ghosts of past American ex-pat writers such as Graham Greene and Lillian Hellman roam its gardens, terraces and gingerbread-style balconies; where Mick Jagger and even Jacqueline Kennedy have stayed — and where the famous vudou-inspired RAM band was playing that night.

The next day we explored what is left of the 2010 earthquake ruins, from what was left of the tragically beautiful stone-filigreed huge rose window of the old cathedral and the site of the historic National Palace to various small tent cities dotting Port au Prince that still house earthquake victims today, and the ruined buildings that still have market stalls precariously tucked into whichever concrete slabs are still left standing.

“So, Jane, how is Port au Prince actually doing now, four years after the quake?” you might ask, now that I’m an actual eye-witness to the scene of the crime. It’s not doing super-good, but not doing as badly as I had expected either. Most of the tent cities are gone now — as a lot of the homeless victims have by now squashed themselves in with relatives, left for the countryside or otherwise made do.

“But what are Haitians really like?” you might ask next. You can tell what Haitians are really like by the way that they drive. There are only a handful of traffic signals in Port au Prince and even fewer rules of the road. And Haitians drive very fast. But they also drive in a way that is almost polite. Everyone wants to get where they are going (and to get there fast) — but no one wants to actually hurt anyone else. I didn’t see any road rage there. Just people trying to get by.

Basically, Haitians are just people trying to get by after having been dealt a very rough hand for a very long time, from the moment they were kidnapped from Africa and sold as slaves here — starting in 1503, just eleven years after Columbus discovered the island. And those slaves were expendable too, worked to death in a few years at most and then replaced by other new slaves.

Then after having fought for and achieved its freedom in 1804, Haiti was also constantly attacked, exploited and/or invaded for the next 200-plus years by America, Canada and various combinations of European nations. And now Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, resembling the slums of Uganda or the slums of Zimbabwe. And yet despite their poverty, which is dire and extreme, Haitians still remain stoically polite.

Next we went off to the Iron Market bazaar to buy Haitian stuff to hang on my walls when I get home. And then we drove all over Port au Prince — the grand tour. And that night we went off to Carnival in the Carrefour district. Are you jealous yet?

Carrefour’s pre-Lenten carnival was like one gigantic block party and was actually as much fun as Berkeley in the 1960s, the benchmark against I always measure how much fun something is.

I also wanted to go see San Souci and the Citadel, UNESCO world heritage sites up in Cap Haitien, but it was a seven-hour drive to get there, so we went to Fonds des Negres instead, which was only a three-hour drive, and I met a vodou master there. “No one is cursing you,” he told me. Not even the NSA? Good to know. Then he performed a candlelight ritual to help my knees get better. Then he pulled out a business card for his son who owns a botanica in SoCal who, for a price, could finish my knee treatment when I got back home And then the vodou master pulled out his cell phone and started texting someone. Guess the ritual was over.

And there’s also a cave in the mountains near Fonds des Negres where a “Suzan,” a vodou spirit, resides. But you have to get there by motorcycle and we didn’t have time to do all that on this day trip. So I just bought a sequin-covered vodou flag instead.

“Have you seen any zombies in Haiti?” might be your next question. Sorry, no. But on my plane ride down here, we ran into a bunch of really scary turbulence over Chicago and I thought I was going to die. So I had an epiphany. “When you are in your mother’s womb, the only way out is by going through a whole bunch of pain first — and death is also like that. First you pass through a whole bunch of pain and then, poof, you are out on the Other Side.” As a zombie? Let’s hope not.

The next day we went out searching for Jean-Bertrand Aristide and then ended the day in that famous five-star hotel in Petionville — just to see how the other 1% lives. Trust me, they are living well.

What else have I done down here? I can’t remember exactly. But I will tell you this: I have really had fun. And if you ever want to go to Haiti too, I totally recommend it highly. And, no, I’m not getting paid to say this.

PS: While in Haiti, I also watched the winter Olympics on TV — thus getting a chance to compare Port au Prince and Sochi. One city has far too little city planning and one city had far too much!

According to journalist Roi Tov, “With less than 350,000 denizens, [Sochi] has been occupied by at least 25,000 police officers, 30,000 soldiers, 8,000 special forces, and an undisclosed number of FSB agents.”

Port au Prince is nothing like that. The streets go every which-way like a patchwork quilt. But it does have one thing in common with Sochi — abuse of its fragile labor force.

And let’s also compare Port au Prince with Havana. I’m currently reading Carlos Eire’s autobiography, “Learning to Die in Miami”. Eire appears to believe with all his heart that the Castro experience was a nightmare — and yet just compare Cuba and Haiti today. Haiti has been under the thumb of American and European corporatists for ages and ages. And now, despite all its amazingly fertile soil and impressive mineral riches, Haiti is currently one of the poorest countries in the world. Seven out of ten Haitians live on less than $2 a day, according to the International Red Cross.

But in Havana under the Castro brothers, everyone has a good chance of getting a college education.

But, hell, most Haitians are lucky to have a chance to even get as far as fourth grade!

If Fulgencio Batista and the American corporatists who owned him back in 1959 had remained in power and Castro had never taken over Cuba, Cuba today would more than likely look just like Haiti today. And does anyone with a working brain really think that having American and European oil companies, bankers, war profiteers and neo-cons in control in Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine are going to help those countries either? Hell, just look at what those guys did to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — and to Detroit!

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