October 31, 2014

T. F. I. in the U. S. A.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:24 pm

crop of Venice Boardwalk

A series of “news” stories has informed Americans that the Senate will become Republican controlled in the mid-term elections and that the Republicans will maintain their majority in the House of Representatives. The reliability factor for exit polls was questioned and found wanting, but these new polls seem good enough for the conservatively owned main stream media to endorse the idea that the results of next week’s mid-term elections will only be questioned by conspiracy theory loons. It sounds like a set-up to cynics and skeptics.

On Thursday afternoon, Mike Zint, a journalist and political activist, was reporting on his Facebook page that the San Francisco Chronicle had posted the story with the results of next Tuesday’s mid-term elections.

There was a front page story in the New York Times, on Monday of this week, that indicated that the stigma of the Bush Dynasty may have been expunged from the minds of American voters and that JEB Bush will be the front runner for the Republican nomination to become their candidate for President in 2016.

The number of pundits offering liberal ideas and criticism is shrinking rapidly and so, apparently, America is ready to embrace the concept of a Republican Supreme Court, a Republican majority Senate and House of Representatives, and a resumption of the Bush Dynasty without a word of dissent.

Meanwhile, in Berkeley, when Bill Mahr was invited to be the commencement speaker at the end of this Semester, which is the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, a protest against that selection was held because Muslim students felt that some of his recent views rendered him unworthy of being offered the opportunity to be the commencement speaker. The offer had not been revoked as the week drew to a close.

What’s happening in the Middle East?

The efforts by the authorities to quarantine health workers returning to the USA, has caused others to warn that such strict measures will have a negative effect on the number of people who volunteer to go to Africa and help control the Ebola epidemic. We used to know a city editor who constantly advised reporters: “No good deed goes unpunished!”

If the election results next Tuesday confirm the idea that America has embraced a Republican majority for the Senate and strengthened the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, then perhaps we will renew our efforts to write columns about less partisan topics and renew our efforts to get a chance to cover the next installment of the Oscar Awards Ceremony.

On Friday, October 31, 2014, “the authorities” were predicting that a million people would turn out to stand in a rainstorm to see the baseball team that just won the World Series, the voters of America will give the Republican Party a majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, who will prepare the way for JEB to be inaugurated as President of the United States in January of 2017. The window of opportunity for the World’s Laziest Journalist to write columns urging sanity and logic is shrinking rapidly.

Perhaps we should do an about-face and start encouraging America’s rush to complete total f*****g insanity.

Now the disk jockey will play “Singing in the Rain (when was the last time you saw “Clockwork Orange?”),” “Crazy,” and the Rolling Stones “contractual obligation album” project. Have a “run towards the flash” type week. Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel (?).


October 29, 2014

Madame Jane predicts: Things are gonna to get worse, much worse

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

My neighbor Madame Jane is not only the world’s most accurate fortune-teller, she is also the most completely-ignored fortune-teller since the beginning of time — except perhaps for Cassandra. And there is a good reason for this too. Frankly, Madame Jane is just plain morose. Nobody wants to be told bad news constantly — even if it is true. Even I am getting tired of being haunted by Madame Jane’s sad tales of gloom and doom. And I’ve told her this time and again.

But, suddenly, at 6:00 am this morning, there was Madame Jane again, at my front door, banging fiercely away with her fists and shouting, “You need to wake up, dearie. Wake up! And it’s time for the whole world to wake up too!”

“Well, the whole world is going to have to wait,” I yelled back, “until after I’ve brushed my teeth.” Plus I’d just finished reading a book called “Fun Is Good” — and Madame Jane is definitely not fun.

But M.J. was having none of it. “Things are never going to get better in America,” she yelled through the door. “I have just returned from the future. Things are only going to get worse. And right now the only hope of changing this grim future is to band all Americans together as allies, working together in common cause.”

Read my lips. “I. Don’t. Care.”

“We need to stop anyone who tries to teach Americans to hate each other. We need to turn off all those attack-ads on TV — and then fight desperately like wolves in a pack so that, in the future, things perhaps might possibly remain the same as they are now and not get any worse.”

Madame Jane took a deep breath and adjusted her wig.

“The wealthy 1% are now shamelessly attacking black people, brown people, old people, children, Muslims, Native Americans, progressive white people, students and women. Separately these groups are all minorities. But united together they can all stand tall — like the strong and proud Americans they are. But will they actually even try to unite to protect themselves from these merciless attacks by the oligarchs? Not gonna happen.”

No, Madame Jane definitely does not have a fun outlook on life.

But then I suddenly remembered what Mahatma Gandhi used to say. “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the whole ocean does not have to become dirty.”

So I told that to M.J. — and she just humphed. “Mahatma Gandhi’s ocean never had to deal with Fukushima.”

“Okay, so the whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” I said. “But so what? Every human being has got to die sometime anyway and there is no escaping that fact — so what does it matter if our time comes sooner rather than later? Plus what the freak can I do about any of this freaking mess at freaking 6:00 am in the morning?”

But Madame Jane was completely undeterred. “You need a wake-up call!” she cried. No I don’t. I need coffee.

“You need to start reading up on what is really happening in the world right now, girly-girl — not just what they tell you on TV. And after that, you need to go get out in the world and start making some waves. And even if you are only one drop in an huge ocean, then you need to start making that one drop count. Because if you and all the other billions of little guys like you don’t do something to stop these dire predictions from happening, then who will? And then everything that I predict will come true.”

If we snooze, we lose. Got it. Now can I go back to bed?

“And America today currently has the most sadistic foreign policy since Genghis Klan — and I can clearly see that America’s foreign policy will be getting even more sadistic in the next 20 years. That is, if there still is any America left 20 years from now! With a foreign policy based on mass murder, who can tell how long America can still stay in business without pissing everyone off — including God, Allah, the Buddha and Jesus!” Yikes! Has Halloween already arrived? To stay forever? Apparently so.

“And don’t even get me started on the Middle East situation.” Too late.

“All that horrible stuff happening in the Middle East today seems to boil down to just this,” Madame Jane said next. “Everyone in the Middle East is getting screwed — plus American and Israeli taxpayers are getting screwed too. And everyone in the Middle East knows who is doing the screwing — American, Saudi and Israeli neo-cons, none of whom even pay taxes.

“However, either no one in the Middle East knows how to stop getting screwed or else they just figure, ‘Since there is such a lot of screwing going on and no one knows how to stop it, I might as well help the ones doing the screwing rather than be a screwee.’” Sucks to be them.

“And then you add a bunch of psychopaths to the mix and also a bunch of eager weapons manufacturers looking for a killing — and what do you get? Adam and Eve getting thrown out of the Garden. Again.”

Does this mean that if you live in the Holy Land and Fertile Crescent, then knowledge of good and evil comes with the real estate deal? And just exactly how much evil can these poor Arab schmucks know before there is no one left to know it?

Then Madame Jane muttered something under her breath about 9-11. Not being fully awake, I asked her to speak up. Which of course she did.

“9-11 was a very small terrorist attack. It only involved twenty Saudis with box cutters and a little help from some NORAD screw-ups. Only 2,996 Americans were killed.” Only? Hey, that’s a lot!

“But every single day of every single year, year in and year out since then, many more than 2,996 Americans are killed every day by the real terrorist attacks that we suffer, right here on our own American soil — attacks on our lives, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness. Terrorist attacks! Terrorist attacks!”

Hey, M.J., calm down. Blood pressure, remember?

“But sadly, nobody seems to notice about them like they did about 9-11.” What terrorist attacks?

“Terrorist attacks on our infrastructure, our food supply, our water supply, our agriculture, our veterans, our hospitals, our children, our Constitution, our economy, our…”

Oh. I get it. You’re referring to the Koch brothers, Congressional lobbyists, the military-industrial complex, Monsanto, Citibank, Morgan Stanley and those guys. Like what that French guy Piketty said, that the richest one percent are currently in possession of half the world’s assets — and the top 10% now own 87% of the world’s assets. And boy are the rest of us 99% gonna be pissed off when there is nothing left for us. Or, to quote Lynn Stuart Parramore, “In that case, fasten your seatbelts. This ride could get very rough.”

“Getting pissed off is gonna do the 99% no good at this late date. They missed their chance to save themselves from serfdom way back in 2000, when they let G.W. Bush steal the presidential election. And now all they have to save themselves is, er, nothing. The oligarchs now have all the power — not to mention all the weapons. Sorry about that.” That’s harsh.

“And here’s another example for you,” said Madame Jane. “I just went to buy gas at the pump today.” Madame Jane drives a car? Now that’s scary. “And gas was up 50 cents more from the last time. Why? Because of all this ISIS craziness in the Middle East after Congress authorized spending billions of dollars on hiring ISIS pirates and thugs to slaughter women and children in Syria and Iraq in the first place. And all we Americans get out of it is this stinkin’ gasoline price-gouge T-shirt!” Madame Jane is an American? That’s scary too.

“Not to mention climate change that will put your grandchildren in the hospital with lung cancer and emphysema! If we even still have any hospitals left 30 years from now. And it would be so laughingly easy to put solar panels on top of all our homes and then run our electric cars off of that. But no. American neo-cons still force us to pollute and spend trillions on wars for oil.”

Good grief. So that is why we taxpayers are financing ISIS’s scorched-earth policy in Syria and Iraq — to drive up the price of oil. Now can I pleeeze have some coffee?

“These anti-American oligarch Wall Street terrorists need to leave America the freak alone and go back to where they came from — the Cayman Islands and Swiss bank vaults where they belong”

Then Madame Jane started to glare at me again — with those fierce and ancient dark gypsy eyes of hers. “And what exactly are you going to do to stop all this?” she snarled.

“Er, uh, sign a petition on the internet to save the dolphins?”

PS: I’m currently reading a book called “Social,” and the author claims that when our brains aren’t doing anything else, their default setting is to think about our interactions with others. That’s amazing. “After Christianity and Islam,” says the author, “Facebook is the third largest organization in the world,” because people just wanna be friends.

Hey, maybe Madame Jane can get on FB and then convince all our friendly brains to help save the world. Why not — if being BFFs with seven billion other people would give our brains something creative to do. After all, blowing people up and hoarding money are social activities that suck eggs.

If social interaction actually is the most important thing in the world for our brains, then the Pentagon and banksters are going about things all wrong.

And this could also explain the behavior of ISIS. Because its members never really learned the niceties of genuine social interaction because they weren’t raised around women, the queens of social interaction and hot gossip, they never learned any real social skills. So apparently they think that beheading people is the best way to win friends and influence people? You guys are just gross!


October 26, 2014

Gutter Ball

Filed under: Guest Comment — Ye Olde Scribe @ 7:08 am


October 23, 2014

Sick Man of Europe: Turkey’s infection with the cancer of ISIS

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 10:01 am

On October 17, 2014, American journalist Serena Shim was beheaded — and “not with a sword but a cement truck,” to paraphrase T.S. Elliott.

Right before she lost her head in a brutal “accidental” collision with a cement truck the size of a freight train, Shim had reported that not only was Turkey supplying ISIS foreign fighters and terrorists from such places as Pakistan and Chechnya with weapons and material, but Turkey was also spiriting wounded ISIS terrorists back over the Syrian border into Turkey, hidden in NGO aid trucks, so they could be treated in Turkish hospitals.

Turkish Intelligence is highly suspected of setting up this tragic hit on Shim, hoping to silence her — but its actions have backfired and all it has really accomplished is to make the whole world put Turkey under a microscope, asking questions about Shim’s bloody death and the role that the Turkish intelligence agency played in this beheading.

“Turkey. how could you have sunk so low?” the whole world now asks.

“Hey, it was easy,” Turkey replies. “What else could we do?” What else could Turkey do indeed — when the usual crew of polished and professional American and Israeli neo-con con-men (not to be mistaken for actual honest, hardworking and sorely hoodwinked Americans and Israelis) simply showed up at its doorstep, waved their magic wands over Turkish president Erdogan’s head and promised to get him the old Ottoman Empire back if only he would attack Syria. (Or else.)

And then with his eyes dazzled by dreams of glittering booty, Erdogan fell for the con — hook, line and sinker. Of course he did. And then he opened Pandora’s box and let ISIS in.

According to Middle East expert Judith Bello, the Washington Post published a map “of the flow of 15,000 fighters flowing into Syria from more than 80 nations, hardly the foot soldiers of a civil war. Most of these fighters have entered Syria through Turkey.”

A sorry cancer-like epidemic of death, destruction and deceit has spread over the Middle East in the last few decades. And Turkey, the “Sick Man of Europe,” has been the latest nation to catch it.

Welcome to the cancer ward, President Erdogan.

On Thanksgiving this year, Turkey will obviously have nothing to be thankful for, what with ISIS sitting at its table and expecting its dinner — unless Turkey starts “chemotherapy” immediately. My prescription for Turkey? “Stop messing around with ISIS, stop believing the empty promises of American and Israeli neo-con-men, and start behaving in Turkey’s citizens’ best interests instead.”

Turkey has been trying to join the European Union for years now. But who wants a Turkey in the EU that has already proven itself to be just another Middle Eastern “soiled dove” for American and Israeli con-men? Erdogan has thrown the baby out with the bathwater here.

Just because Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have all been diagnosed with the kind of fuzzy thinking that can only be caused by cancer of the part of the brain that governs common sense and self-preservation, this doesn’t mean that Turkey has to waste away too. Beheading a journalist is common in these other neo-con infected countries. But one would expect that a sophisticated and modern country like Turkey, a potential member of the EU even, might be immune. But apparently not.

President Erdogan, what were you THINKING!

PS: Looks like the average American and Israeli isn’t immune from catching the cancer of stupid thinking either. If we aren’t a lot more careful and watchful and vigilant than we are right now, then we too may soon be contracting this Turkish and Middle Eastern disease — and then watch our own journalists get beheaded too.


October 22, 2014

Not again!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:53 pm

crop of Titanic

The bargain bin at Half Price Books in Berkeley has yielded some literary treasures but since our “In” stack of books is a formidable reading challenge, prudence dictates that any additions to the unread pile should be chosen very judiciously and so, recently, we were leaving the store empty handed. We were wearing some jeans with holes in the knees and must have looked a tad like one of Shattuck Avenue panhandlers which may have inspired a local citizen to engage us in conversation. He quickly cut to the chase (as they say in Hollywood) and delivered the essence of his philosophy of life: “If you want nice things in life (such as the books being sold inside the store), get a job and earn the money to buy them.”

Rather than take a pragmatic approach and respond with some logical facts and statistics about how the nation is in the midst of The Great Recession and jobs are hard to get and hold, we challenged the validity of his premise. What’s wrong with the old song’s belief that “the best things in life are free”? In the specific case of the World’s Laziest Journalist that would include: a ride on the Goodyear blimp (Bucket list item since high school days), a ride on a B-17-G WWII bomber (dittio), a chance to cover the Oscars (ditto again), a 1965 ocean voyage to Casablanca and various European ports of call, and talking our way into a closed automobile museum. Total expenditures: Nada.

He was flummoxed. He had failed to shame us into a painful admission that we were an abysmal failure in a capitalistic society. We travel around having a shipload of fun and are too dumb to realize that we should have embraced Oscar Levant’s concept of the treadmill to oblivion.

There’s an old adage that says anybody who has kids has given hostages to fortune. We may wind up with an anemic memorial service (such as Jay Gatsby’s) but we console ourself with what Hunter S. Thompson said: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson wanted to become world famous writers. They got what they wanted and it made them miserable.

The Berkeley Public Library offers a tool library service and the library in Boulder City in Western Australia offers a toy library. Don’t kids go through toys like a voracious reader goes through books? Buying toys keeps the toy factories (“made in China”?) busy and if a kid is going to obsess on his Hoppalong Cassidy holster and cap gun for just a short burst of time, why do the parents have to buy it? A toy library is logical but basically a Communist concept, n’est ce pas? How often do you use the sander that you got for Christmas several years back?

A happy-go-lucky bachelor is the antitheses of family values. A vagabond who can throw all his gear under a hostel bunk and explore exotic locations can easily identify with an Apache who can pick up all the necessities and move on at a moment’s notice but for the father of a modern family, life demands an unchanging home and social structure.

When the (future) World’s Laziest Journalist was warned about the hazards of indolence, we (being of Irish heritage) immediately assessed the value of lazy slobs in society. For one thing, it gives mothers an example for what can happen if a kid doesn’t strive for excellence in kindergarten and all subsequent educational endeavors. Then again, it also reinforces the moralistic message that all good little boys grow up and become responsible citizens and a cinder block for building a solid social structure.

Nonconformists might do more for helping the proles become assured that they have made the correct life decisions than the possibility that they will inspire dissent and unrest.

Who, in their right mind, would want to experience what it is like to stand at a forlorn highway intersection, see no traffic, and realize that a thunder storm will soon leave you cold, wet, and miserable? On the other hand, what diligent father wouldn’t want to read a passage about such a dismal night on the road (at this point hipster know that the disk jockey will play Red Sovine’s song “Phantom 309”) to his kids? There’s a line in a Waylon Jennings song that cheerfully reminds listeners that when life serves you a shit sandwich “at least you got the makings of a song.”

At this point, as the column is being written, the columnist recalls a debate among three neighbors in South Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1970 that tried to determine which is more difficult: life “on the road” or the challenges of working the same job year after year just to provide for a family? The red or the black? Family or Adventures? The Lady or the Tiger?

There is one very dangerous aspect to picking the Jack Kerouac trail to fame and forturne. Well, two, actually. First you might not become rich and the author of best sellers and two: you might become so addicted to the process of collecting material for the greatest autobiography ever written, that you don’t actually write the damn thing. It would be a case of contraccting the wordsmith’s version of “White Line Fever.” WHAT-ev-ah!

One thing is for sure at this point in life. We know we aren’t capable of writing a column that clearly outlines the parameters of the turmoil in the Middle East, let along write a column that (somehow) ends it. Sooooo? This weekend we will not post a week-in-review column, but will provide tour guide service for a fellow who will be visiting the San Francisco Bay area.

You want more? Google “The Myth of the Unbiased Media,” by Robert Gammon in the latest editor of the East Bay Express (dotcom).

Recently a political activist in Berkeley (Ironically the home of the world’s best weapons lab happens to be a city where the peace symbol is ubiquitous) asked us: “Are you in favor of World Peace?” We responded “F*** no! War means jobs.” It also means that we will feel obliged to reassess the situation again next week when the Forever War will again instigate a need for perceptive and insightful (and cynical?) commentary.

The World’s Laziest Journalist realizes that Howard Beal was spot-on in his criticism of the way things are going, but we also realize that if after many years of producing criticism of the system we can get our closest friends to “share” the link to our latest column on Facebook only on rare occasions. We have concluded that the best we can do is adopt the throw the glasses into the fireplace and imitate the philosophy in the “Is that all there is?” song and try to have an “eat, drink, and be merry” fling that would have made the Red Barron proud.

Recently we heard a report on the radio (probably on KCBS) that President Obama was going to rely heavily on scientists for advice on how to contain the threat of an Ebola epidemic and we marveled that the conservative media didn’t quickly ask: “You mean the same loons who cooked up the Global Warming conspiracy theory?”

We expanded our search for the meaning of life to include some (new to us) nineties style pop culture endeavors by activating a DVD player and in a documentary about the life of film director John Huston learned that his modus operandi was to have a much fun as possible. Second the motion.

We have always tried to emulate the people who made “having fun” a leitmotif for their biography. We have even found a way to include that proclivity into a portion of our personal views on theology.

If life is a gift and if the people who seem to enjoy living the most are the ones who have the most fun, then perhaps (we speculate) when we die and face St. Peter on Judgment Day, he will ask everyone the same question: “Did you have fun during your time on Earth?” If the answer is “Yes!” then their reward will be a chance to be reincarnated and have more fun; if they answer “No!” then their punishment will be another go-round to see if they can figure out how important it is to improve their “fun quotient.”

Herodotus wrote “If a man insisted always on being serious and never allowed himself a bit of un and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.”

Now the disk jockey will play Waylon Jennings “He went to Paris,” the Beatles’ “Follow the Sun,” and Duane Eddy’s “Movin’ N Grovin’.” We have to go buy a “Yes on D Berkeley vs. Big Soda” T-shirt for our history archive. (Dang! We wish we had bought a souvenir T-shirt from the kids who were on strike at Columbia back in 1968.) Have a “Kick on third down!” type week.


October 21, 2014

Mary Poppins, Elizabeth Warren & the American banking system

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 12:50 pm

When I saw the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” during one of my interminably-long plane rides back from Syria (, I liked it so much that I actually went out and bought a copy of the 1964 “Mary Poppins” Disney classic it was based on — the one with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke frolicking across the rooftops of London.

And much to my surprise, I discovered that Mary Poppins might have been one of the world’s first hippies. Who woulda thought! And what was even more amazing is that Mary Poppins was one of the first people to warn us about the dangers and perfidy of big bankers and big banks.

And fortunately for those of us living here in America one hundred years later, Elizabeth Warren has now become the new Mary Poppins — also warning us about the dangers and perfidy of big bankers and big banks.

If only Americans would start paying attention to Elizabeth Warren as much as they paid attention to Julie Andrews!

“Hey, Elizabeth!” I also want to shout on the rooftops like Dick VanDyke, “voters aren’t listening to you!” Maybe if Disney studios made a movie about you too? Then maybe voters would finally start to listen.

According to Warren, the American middle class has been absolutely decimated by the banking and credit-card lobbies.

And yet voters still keep falling for all those glossy ads and happy lies that still keep getting pro-big-bank candidates elected to the White House and Congress even though voters can clearly see that they themselves are losing their jobs, having their homes repossessed, becoming slaves to their student loans and getting ripped off bigtime by credit-card debt. But then I guess that those syrupy ads actually do prove that “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” after all.

In the heroic country of Iceland, their well-informed voters have vigorously fought back against bankster greed and have even re-written their constitution in order to make lending-bubbles and bank fraud illegal.

But in America, the opposite happens. Here in America our very own government, the very one that bank lobbyists have chosen for us to elect, is handing over billions of our very own hard-earned dollars to big banks just as fast as it can. And Congress is always writing new bankruptcy laws that favor banksters over the middle class every time. Mary Poppins would be livid, of course, but nobody else seems to even notice these days — except for Elizabeth Warren.

And even the Federal Reserve is dancing over the rooftops in glee as it too gives away our money to the banksters just as fast as it possibly can, singing “Step in Time” as gleefully hands over giant bags of taxpayers’ money to Chase, Bank of America, CitiBank and Goldman Sachs.

And the Federal Reserve’s chim chem cher-ee chummy coverups are going through the roof too.

Plus the Senate just vetoed a bill that would have given students a break from paying up to 12% interest on their college loans too. According to Warren, “This isn’t complicated. It’s a choice – a choice that raises a fundamental question about who the United States Senate works for. Does it work for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists to protect tax loopholes for billionaires and profits for the big banks? Or does it work for those who work hard, play by the rules, and are trying to build a future for themselves and their families?”

Not to mention the hidden (and not-so-hidden) fees that banks gleefully charge us customers for no reason at all.

To try to completely understand how banksters and their toadies in Congress and the Department of Justice are robbing the rest of us blind, you just gotta watch this video of Bill Moyers interviewing bank-fraud expert Thomas K. Black. Seriously. You really should watch this:

In this video, Black describes how Obama was elected by the banking industry and how Obama has totally paid back his debt to the banksters by handing them all “get out of jail free” cards. Is being elected president really worth selling us Americans out to the banksters? Apparently so.

“There’s no threat to capitalism like capitalists,” continues Black. “They are destroying its underpinnings. And when dishonest people gain an advantage in the marketplace, bad ethics drive good ethics out. This is why we need the rule of law.” Doesn’t Thomas K. Black sound just like Dick VanDyke, er, I mean Burt the Chimney Sweep here — as Black proposes that it’s high time to sweep clean our banks.

And now let’s talk about America’s ratings on the so-called “Misery Index” Apparently America rates higher on the misery charts now than it ever has, even back in the Great Depression — and probably even as high as did Mary Poppins’s 1910 London. Thanks a lot, banksters.

Isn’t it time that American voters finally join up with Elizabeth Warren and Mary Poppins — and tell big banks and banksters to go “fly a kite!”

PS: Speaking of money, look how much of it is being spent in the Middle East — and not here at home where it is needed!

According to a recent blog-post at, the first official estimates of the ISIS price tag from the Pentagon showed that, “the costs of intervention between mid-June and late-August was $7.5 million per day. At that rate, the U.S. has spent $850 million on operations against ISIS as of October 8, adding up to about $2.74 billion per year. The Pentagon has since revised the estimate up to as high as $10 million per day, or $3.65 billion per year. In reality, both of those numbers are quite likely to be underestimates of what’s to come.”

Looks like the US military is just as bad as the US banksters when it comes to cleaning out America’s pocketbooks — after they both have put us to sleep with false promises and false news

What we Americans really need to do these days is to once again take Mary Poppins’s advice and “Stay Awake”!


October 20, 2014

A VERY Little Joke just to CHEER You Up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ye Olde Scribe @ 4:28 am

Take Rah and his nurse like outfit



And what do you have? The al Qaeda loyalists of the Nusra Front. For extra points add pompoms and you get…


October 19, 2014

Sometimes you just gotta take a break from fear of ISIS & Ebola!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 3:32 pm

Geez Louise! Here I am living in a wonderful town, on a safe street and with food in the refrigerator. But all I ever do is worry about poor Syria being invaded by ISIS, America and the Saudis

Here I am with the best medical care in the world located only six blocks from my home — and I worry about Ebola. According to John Barry’s fascinating book about the 1919 flu epidemic, “The Great Influenza,” viruses have a nasty habit of evolving in order to be more contagious and thus have a longer shelf-life. And remember the bird-flu scare and the swine flu scare? And the fact that Congress has just slashed the CDC’s budget and left us defenseless — now that the very agency that stopped both of those possible epidemics in their tracks is currently operating at half-speed due to budget cuts? Good grief.

Here I am, snug as a bug in a rug, but my neighbor just told me that foam mattresses give off fumes that can ruin my life. So there goes my foam mattress, out to the dumpster. Rats. It was really really comfortable too.

And the Republican party has been telling me since Reagan’s time that I should be afraid — very afraid. Of what? You name it. Undocumented Americans, commie spies, weapons of mass destruction, drug lords, terrorist invasions, I forget what all else.

So now the only sane thing I can think of doing today is to spend the day hiding under my (mattress-less) bed. “But, Jane, you can’t do that! Remember that there might be a bedbug epidemic!” Oops. I forgot.

Maybe I should just move to someplace like Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Sierra Leone instead — someplace where it’s safe.


October 17, 2014

What a week!

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:36 pm

crop of inspection long shot

Once upon a time, several decades ago, a televised football game inadvertently became an example of theater of the absurd when a heavy fog developed. If the quarterback threw a pass he couldn’t see the receivers and they would have to rely heavily upon intuition to catch a ball that might suddenly appear where they were holding their hands. Running plays were no less of an exercise in absurdity. TV cameras can no more cut through fog than human eyes so the video portion of the game was ghostly images at best. Sports announcers are supposed to describe the play as it happens but when vision is impaired by fog, their job becomes very challenging. The novelty of the situation became exhausted quite quickly and we changed channels and forgot about that bit of boring television entertainment until recently when we tried to assess the new coverage of the Isis battles in the Middle East.

The reporting, commentary and analysis of the Isis phase of the Forever War is similar in quality to the coverage of that forgotten game played in the Chicago area (as we recall) many moons ago. The media heavy weights get the latest official statements which are vague and nebulous. The war correspondents get to describe the carnage they are permitted to see, but they can’t see over the horizon. Politicians appear on the Sunday morning gab-fests and promote their party’s agenda. The bottom line for journalists is: there is nothing to see, no one will say what their secret plan for victory is, but everyone is willing to say that Americans should be prepared for a long struggle.

Coverage of the Ebola episodes is just as bad as far as the lack of quality journalism is concerned.

In a frantic effort to find some items of interest to be able to write this week’s anemic attempt to provide a “that was the week that was” report about how things are going as the mid-term elections in the USA are approaching rapidly, the World’s Laziest Journalist rounded-up a few small items and will lump them all together as background material for a week full of medical reports about various Ebola victims.

On the campus of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, the staff is, for recreational purposes, experiencing a reading via “Dr. Mary’s Monkey,” by Edward T. Haslam. It seems that this novel indulges in speculation and hints of a link between the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Ebola epidemic. The World’s Laziest Journalist will attempt to borrow the copy of his book, read it, and report on just how likely it is that the book’s fantastic speculation could or could not be true.

The Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is formulating some speculation about the possibility that terrorists are recruiting kamikaze jihad warriors for a suicide mission that asks them to get infected with Ebola and then travel into enemy territory. Wouldn’t infected blankets work just as well?

The Orwellian concept of “doublethink” was not missing from the surreal aspect of this week. Tom Frieden told Congress that the Ebola could not be contracted by sitting next to a victim on an airplane, then he added that Ebola victims should not fly.

Wasn’t one of the goals of the Sept. 11 attack, to cripple the airline industry? Your homework assignment, this week, is to write an essay asserting that the Ebola fad is part of the terrorist strategy from 9-11 to destroy the airline industry in the USA, post it on social median and then wait for it to go viral.

Will cost conscious hospitals and health organizations suddenly embrace a “damn the costs” approach to containing a potentially hazardous situation from getting out of hand? Could the heath problem provide a new example of the foolhardy aspect of the “penny wise, pound foolish” philosophy?

Is Albert Camus’ novel “The Plague” experiencing a surge in popularity? Can the sale performance of a book be determined on the Amazon site?

We have heard one prediction that this year’s most popular Halloween costume will be a Has-mat outfit.

Berkeley political activist Mike Zint early this week posted on his Facebook page, a piece assessing the shrinking number of alternative news sources available and on Wednesday October 15, 2014, the Bay Guardian, an alternative news source in the San Francisco Bay Area for forty-nine years, published its last issue (Vol. 49, no. 3).

Quality news for Germans was unavailable during WWII and the ramifications of what their dilemma was, is a topic that will lead most online fact checkers to an familiar sounding situation. (Google hint: “gray radio WWII 600,000 watts” and also try “Aspidistra”)

Do the UCB alumni have to see this year’s Cal vs. Stanford game to know who they want to support? Should Americans care if Freedom of the Press has become extinct?

On a lighter note, the annual write a novel month online shenanigans is about to begin again. (Google hint: National Novel Writing Month [AKA Nanowrimo])

Since the ship America was in San Francisco for fleet week, and since the President of the United States was in Frisco for some fund raising at the same time that the christening ceremony was scheduled to take place, we went on a walkabout in the area trying to get some serendipity photos of the commander-in-chief. The world’s laziest journalist got some digital images of the view from the Hi-Dive tavern on the Embarcadero, some photos of security checks being made and a good impromptu portrait image of San Francisco’s chief of police, Greg Suhr but we didn’t see or take photos of the current POTUS.

We had never heard of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) until this week when a Liberal Berkeley resident suggested that ODD might explain the civil unrest in Ferguson Missouri.

This week we were invited to go to Cupertino, see the film “Dead End,” directed by Joron F. Ghanma, and review it; but we couldn’t arrange transportation and missed that chance to write a change of pace column.

BTW you should change your e-mail account password.

George Orwell wrote: “The Gordon Riots of 1780, though they had religious bigotry as a pretext, seem to have been little more than a pointless outburst of looting.”

Now the disk jockey will play Ray Steven’s “I Saw Elvis in a UFO,” “Hang up and drive,” and “Dead Skunk (in the middle of the road).” We have to go see “Kill the Messinger.”   Have a “Go Giants!” type week.

Our photo of San Francisco Chief-of-Police Greg Suhr


crop of chief Shurr



October 15, 2014

“Help us, Michelle Obama!” Berkeley’s still under attack from Big Soda

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 10:28 pm

According to First Lady Michelle Obama, 25% of everyone trying to enlist in America’s armed forces these days are turned down because of poor health. And of those who actually make it through the physical exams and join the Army, Marines, etc., 50% of these recruits are in poor enough health that they cost our military 150 billion dollars in healthcare expenses — plus $100,000 per patient to repair their bad teeth.

Boots on the ground? Yeah, sure. But first we have to find enough healthy young adults to wear those boots in the first place — and then fix their teeth. I’m sure that ISIS doesn’t have that kind of problem at all.

Apparently, we pretty much have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find healthy young adults — or even kids — in America these days. “We even have two-year-olds testing with high blood pressure right now,” says the First Lady.

And why is all this happening? One of the major causes of this scary decay in Americans’ health is that they drink too much soda. And also, we have to pay truly outrageous doctor bills as a result. So can we tax soda consumers for their fair share of their own health costs? Something small, like one cent a can? Seems logical. We already tax alcohol and tobacco consumers for their fair share of their own health costs, right?

So the City of Berkeley, which runs three health clinics and a dental clinic, got the bright idea of taxing soda consumers to help cover their own healthcare costs. And they put a measure on the November ballot to this effect. And then all Hell broke loose in Berkeley! Good grief!

Soda manufacturing companies reacted like we had spit in their soup and kidnapped their cat! “Get over it, Big Soda. This is not about you!” This is about the consumers of your products who are dying ten or 20 years early because they like your products. They are the ones who are paying the tax. Not you.

So now I get at least one robo-call a day from Big Soda, plus all kinds of mailers, fliers, canvassers and accosters too. 1.2 million dollars worth of junk mail and hounding, telling us Berkeley residents to “Vote No on Measure D” in November. I think that the people of Berkeley will vote “Yes on D” just because Big Soda has pissed us all off!

Further, no single corporation or individual should be allowed to buy any American election. Ever. Not even a city election. And the “One person, one vote” rule should never be allowed to apply to corporations. And we the people, not some company hacks on the Supreme Court, should be the ones who decide whether we want to live in a plutocracy or a democracy. “You have to choose between one or the other,” as Justice Brandeis once warned us back in 1916 when the Robber Barons were in charge — like they are now.

Bottom line: “Help us, Michelle! Put your money where your mouth is. Come to Berkeley. Help us. Save us from Big Soda. Please!”

And you can help too. Please write the First Lady at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 20500 and beg her to help little Berkeley out (And also please mention that her hubby needs to get the freak out of the Middle East and start spending all those trillions of dollars that he now spends on killing strangers — on fixing Americans’ teeth instead).


October 10, 2014

Going APE in Frisco

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob Patterson @ 12:25 pm

crop of first squid pix best

We were on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train somewhere in South Berkeley near the border with Oakland when the caffeine from our morning coffee kicked it. It was almost noon and we had miles to go and promises to keep before we could get to Press check-in at the Alternative Press Expo 2014 being held at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. In October, San Francisco becomes bat country. The Giant sluggers’ bats come alive (only in even numbered years) and the bats lead the way into the World Series. That’s one thing you should probably understand about Frisco. “Only in even number years.”

The home office had neglected to arrange a press pass for us and so we lurched over to press check-in and began babbling. Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage. How can you tell if someone is a genuine member of the journalism community? The boys on the bus head straight for the free food, and after shoveling some into their mouths, they ask: “Where’s the press release?” We passed the smell test and entered the event that was taking place on a dock overlooking the San Francisco Bay where we could watch the tide roll in and then watch it roll away again.

We noticed that the first booth featured drawings of a huge reptile gnawing on a woman’s neck. The comic book posse falls into two diametrically apposed groups: one that thinks a serial killer lurks inside everybody and the other that thinks the world is full of wonderful kids and loveable animals, especially puppies.

A comic book series titled “Byron,” done by Karl Christian Krumpholz, caught our eye immediately and we honed in on it to learn if it was based on the life of the legendary manager of Club Ocean Park in Santa Monica. It turned out that it was a fictionalized account of a serial killer.

The crew from Whiskey Tango Comics (dotcom) seemed ready to challenge us and draw their guns (cartoonist pun alert!) and we had to reassure them: “We’re just a good patriotic American like yourselves.”

We had promised our curmudgeonly self that we would not buy anything but when we encountered a copy of “L’il Buddha Loves You (then again he loves everybody!),” by Ryan Dow we had to buy a copy to give as a Christmas present (WTF?) to a member of the congregation of the church of loveable puppies and adorable rug rats.

Note: don’t the clergy provide much better sermons during war era Christmases? When the world is at Peace during Christmas time, aren’t the speeches given by the various members of the clergy rather anemic? “We hope your little once got all the swag that Santa could smuggle down your chimney!” GMAFB. During war, the priest/minister/rabbi urges folks to sing “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”

The sermons about praying for Peace on Earth are so much more inspiring.

There used to be a Museum of Robots (dotcom) but all that’s left now is the virtual gift shop.

Squid Row Comics (dotcom), about a quirky, coffee-addicted artist, drawn by Bridgett Spicer (dot com). We wanted to advise her that she should try using that formula for writing columns. We don’t recommend it to everybody but it’s always worked for us.

Somewhere, somehow Erin & Christine Humiston have gotten the mistaken impression that there is a lot of conflict and drama involved in the formation and career of a rock’n’roll band and so they produce a comic book series, titled BAND, based on the misperception. Its home on the Internets resides at Band-Comic (dotcom).

Nuggets of Wisdom (AKA nuggetsNOW dot com) was so different from all the rest, we wondered how they sneaked (the past participle of the verb sneak is not snuck; it’s “sneaked”) in.

Wandering around we were trying to get a handle for putting all the diverse examples of fine comic style drawings and wild imaginative stories into perspective and one coherent column. Lumping well crated images of pre-historic animals, gun toting seekers of vengeance, and cute animals together on one dock in San Francisco is what the whole hep world would be like if the Germans had won WWII, we thought.

We had been toying with the idea of doing a column on publicity and how it is the key to success for any artistic endeavor and at A. P. E. 2014 we saw that the key to success is to stand out from the crowd and the best way to achieve that is through publicity.

A surge in publicity got massive amounts of pop culture clout for a group of writers and poets in the Fiftiies, when they were labeled as “beatniks.” (Actually Herb Caen, a San Francisco based columnist coined the word.) The new literary movement and the demand for copy about the phenomenon was phenomenal.

Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe took the idea of the writer as protagonist and repackaged beat as hippie and got plenty of press and greenbacks. (Hadn’t Hemingway gotten into Paris before the Allied Armies?)

Thompson claimed the “Outlaw Journalist” title and shot to the front of the list of the hippie era writers.

When the country music boys needed to boost sales, someone cooked-up the “Outlaw” label for use with their songs and then (to quote a line from a Waylon Jennings song): “New York sent a posse down like I’ve never seen.” The rest is pop culture history.

In the early Forties, Gypsy Rose Lee wanted to expand her career to other money making endeavors and so she became a mystery writer. If she had been a stripper with a comic strip, she probably would have achieved an even great amount of fame and fortune than she did. (Homework assignment: Google “Stripper girl comic strip.”) Isn’t the rule in Hollywood: “Ya gott have a gimmick?”

Cartoons and motion pictures have been a winning combination since the first “talkies” were made. Boo oop ee doop! We wonder if Pixar sent a cartoon talent scout to the San Francisco Bay Area event.

Hunter Thompson fans should fact check the comic book series “The Transmetropolitan,” which featured a famous fictional gonzo journalist, named Spider Jerusalem, who wears sun glasses and has a shaved head. (Try a Google Image search.)

Speaking of suing a cartoonist for plagiarizing a life, when we noticed the comic book series “Kill-Weather,” (written by Jesse E. Lichtenstein and drawn by Abraham Mong), which is about the adventures of a conservative political pundit, we thundered: “You changed liberal to conservative and stole my life story; my Samoan lawyer will contact you.” They responded “There’s nothing for him to take away from us and we need the publicity; so go ahead and make our day with a newsworthy lawsuit!”

Last weekend was the A. P. E. event; this weekend in San Francisco will be Satire weekend. (Wasn’t he on the NY Times OpEd team roster some time ago?) Maybe for next Friday, we’ll do a column and use the headline: “Sartre, Satire, and Safire”?

Charles M. Shulz (creator of the Peanuts comic strip) has said: “There is a difference a philosophy and a bumper sticker.”

Now the disk jockey will play the Coasters’ song “Charlie Brown,” the Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley Oop,” and the Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy vs. the Red Barron.” We have to go see if we can get a one-day press pass for when the Giants play home games during the World Series. Have a “Curses! Foiled again!” type week.

crop of second Krumpholtz better

October 9, 2014

Question for ISIS: Where’d you get all those swords?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 4:57 pm

Okay, so what? So what if you’ve just joined ISIS, been given a sword and been sent off to Syria and Iraq. So what if you now have a huge bloody sword in your hand and you’ve just cut off somebody’s head? Big freaking deal. You’re the one that will be going to Hell, not me. But what I want to know is this: Where, exactly, did you get that huge bloody sword in the first place? “Swords R Us”?

From your local “Samurai of the Desert” katana convenience store?

To find out who is really financing, training and supplying ISIS, just check out who is supplying its swords.

“Made in China”? Of course. Isn’t everything these days. But who are the swords being shipped to?

Syrians aren’t supplying the swords. Syrians stand solidly behind Assad — as evidenced by their June elections, and also by the fact that almost all Syrian internal refugees flee to Assad refugee camps, and no one, I repeat, no one ever flees off to ISIS.

Syrians hate ISIS — almost as much as they hate being beheaded! Plus ISIS is still beheading their fathers and mothers and nephews and cousins and aunts. How can you possibly become BFFs with someone like that? Let alone give them more swords so that they can go after your wives and kids too?

According to a new Tweet just sent out from Kurdish Syria, “Hoped American planes will help us. Instead American tanks in the hands of ISIS are killing us.”

And Libya isn’t supplying the swords either. Why? Because Libya itself just had its head handed to it on a platter too — courtesy of the dread Sword of NATO. All that those American-backed “rebels” now in charge of the failed state of Libya are supplying ISIS with currently are some used American rocket launchers and RPGs left over from Benghazi, and a bunch of guys trained by the US to behead Gaddafi.

But perhaps Saudi Arabia is supplying the swords? After all, their state symbol is two swords and a palm tree. But I still don’t understand why the Saudis would do such a dumb thing — buy entire shipments of swords to give to creepy guys hovering right outside their borders? Aren’t the Saudis afraid of blow-back?

Aren’t the Saudi princes afraid that “Behead like a Pirate” day might be coming to Riyadh too?

And isn’t it bad enough already that a bunch of Saudis got their hands on those box-cutters over on the other side of the Atlantic back in 2001 — and just look at all the mischief that caused! Can Saudis really be trusted to play well with swords right in their very own backyards? Saudi Arabia is about to find out.

And how about Turkey? Seen any bloody swords stamped “Made in Istanbul” lately? But why would the Turks want to do that? The blow-back there would be even more immense. You’d have to be crazy to arm a horde of ISIS madmen to go next door and cut off your Syrian neighbors’ heads — no matter how much you hate Syrians. Oops, too late. Turkey has already supplied ISIS with every kind of weapon you can think of — and then naively hired ISIS to be its Neighborhood Watch.

But apparently Turkey thinks that by supplying weapons to ISIS (and also establishing a no-fly zone over Syria) that Syria will fail too and then Turkey will get the Ottoman empire back.

Sorry, Turkey. It’s heads. You lose.

But what about Israel? Did Israeli neo-cons supply all those swords? Who will ever know? Who the freak ever knows what Israeli neo-cons are up to? Certainly not the Jews who first hired them. And definitely not me. Ask the Mossad. But a fly on the wall at Mossad headquarters would probably hear something like this: “Those stupid Americans actually think that we are their only friends in the Middle East. However, before we came along America had no enemies there at all. Good job, guys!” Followed by a high-five.

The nightmare of having ISIS swordsmen let loose to create panic and havoc in the Arab world sounds like an Israeli neo-con wet dream to me.

And what about American neo-cons? Nah. Their most important product is weapons, sure, but they prefer selling Tomahawks rather than swords.

“But Jane,” you might say, “American weapons-manufacturers will sell anything to anyone, even swords to ISIS, if it will make them a buck.” Hell, they’d even sell drones to the Taliban if they thought that money was involved. They’d sell out America in a heartbeat for money. They’d probably even behead their own mothers for a few dollars more.

According to former Austrian general Matthias Ghalem, several years ago Al Qaeda wannabes “signed a financial-military contract to confront upcoming military and security challenges in southern Syria in the future…and that two deputies of Robert Stephen Ford, US former ambassador to Syria, were also present at the meeting…. And according to the Los Angeles Times, since the opening of a new US base in the desert in southwest of Jordan in November 2012, CIA operatives and US special operations troops have covertly trained these militants in groups of 20 to 45 at a time in two-week courses.”

But according to US vice-president Joe Biden, the Saudis are to blame for arming ISIS. Of course they are. But it is American weapons that these ISIS cutthroats are firing — and it is American humvees that ISIS is doing donuts with out in the desert too. So why not brandish American swords as well? American neo-cons suddenly draw a line in the sand against swords? But RPGs are okay?

And then there’s Russia. Russia stood silently by while the “Coalition of the Willing” beheaded Iraq and Libya. Would it really be in their best interests to let Syria and Iran get beheaded next? Or is Russia playing the “Afghanistan Game” with the US instead — wherein America slowly but surely beheads its own economy by trying to put eleven trillion dollars worth of “boots on the ground” all over the freaking world where they don’t belong?

Or did Iran sell ISIS the swords? With the American military-industrial complex and Israeli neo-cons using every trick in the book to try to find an excuse to put Iran’s head on the chopping block for fun and profit even as we speak? I think not.

And a friend of mine just asked me the following question: “Or else could it be that Libya and Syria are/were among the few remaining countries that have resisted the imposition of a central bank associated with the Bank of England/Federal Reserve?” Hadn’t thought of that. Hell, maybe the banksters bought ISIS their swords!

And now we get to the next question. Who the freak would ever even want to behead anyone in the first place? That takes a whole bunch of work. Not to mention all that blood-splatter involved — and with no laundromats in sight either.

You’ve got to be really really angry or crazy or both to cut off someone’s head. So what got these ISIS fruitcakes so pissed off in the first place? Perhaps it might have been all these past 60 or 70 years that they, their parents and their grandparents have spent trying to survive the constant “War on Arabs” by American colonialists and Israeli neo-cons? Perhaps this is what has finally sent them around the bend and into horror-movie mode?

Just be glad that ISIS got their inspiration for weapons from watching the “Walking Dead” and not from watching the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. But I’m sure that the weapons industry would far rather prefer producing chainsaws than swords. Chainsaws are a bit more profitable to make, more effectively bloody and just a bit less Old School.

Yes, those are Marines and large weapons in the background of the photo above.  Yes, that is a Sunni sheik in Al Ambar province, Iraq.    And, yes, that’s me too — trying to think up a not-dumb question to ask.

October 3, 2014

Berkeley looks back

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

crop of arrest guy speaks BEST

Approximately 50 years ago, a traffic ticket was issued and put on a car being operated by a member of the University of Scranton Class of 1965. The fellow came along as the ticket was being written and he tried to talk his way out of it. Other students passing by stopped to watch. A crowd partial to the plight of the student gathered and thing began to reel out of control. More police arrived and then a round-up of students started. Later in the afternoon, a local radio station reported that 18 arrests had been made. The chancellor of the Jesuit University went down to the local police station and by the time the local morning newspaper was delivered the next day, no arrests had been made and no incident had occurred. Unless someone had been there to see it happen, most Scrantonians would ever know about it. The incident was quickly forgotten and (mostly) disappeared from the annals of Scranton History.

On October 1, 1965, a student at the University of California’s Berkeley campus, Jack Weinberg, was proselytizing from a card table on Sproul Plaza about the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The topic was in direct conflict with school rules which expressly forbade political oriented activity on the campus where a scholarly atmosphere was traditional. Again, events spun out of control and eventually students surrounded the police car where the fellow who was being arrested was sitting. Someone urged the students to lie down all around the police car to deter the car from proceeding to the police department. A stand-off situation developed.

One student, Mario Savio, in an attempt to defuse the volatile situation, jumped on top of the police car (he removed his shoes so that he wouldn’t scuff the paint) and began to give a speech. That example of impulsive extemporaneous oratory became an iconic moment and would be recognized around the world as the start of the student activism era in the USA and Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (FSM).

A rally to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the events which spawned the Free Speech Movement was held Wednesday, October 2, 2014, at the same location, Sproul Plaza, and drew a crowd of several hundred which included current students and (by a show of hands) a goodly number of individuals who had witnessed the original confrontation.

It was a melodramatic moment for them when the voice of Mario Savio was replayed via electronic means. Cynics who appreciate heavy-handed audience manipulation couldn’t help but notice that it would have reduced the older folks to tears if the event producers had played Jerry Lee Lewis’ song “I wish I was 18 again.”

An assortment of journalists was on hand to record the new event for posterity. Local newspaper and radio news reporters were there as well as a platoon of photographers and at least two TV news crews.

One of the reporters was representing the Paris publication Le Monde newspaper and the reporter, Cerine Lesnes, mentioned that she was new to the area. She had been reassigned to the Bay Area because that paper had just opened up a news bureau in San Francisco.

Since newspapers have been cutting the use of satellite offices as a cost cutting measure, this bit of trade talk caused us to schedule a bit of subsequent fact checking to see if this is an anomaly or if it can be used to write a future trend-spotting column about a turnaround in the newspaper industry.

Ironically the ceremony to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Free Speech Movement fell on the same day that the new issue (Vol. 49, No. 1) of the Bay Guardian carried the latest installment of Project Censored’s annual list of the year’s top ten underreported stories. Free Speech is about the unimpeded flow of information; contemporary Mainstream Media (MSM) is about corporate propaganda masquerading as news.

Fifty years ago students clamored to have their voices heard on social issues, but in the interim, the main stream media in the United States has become a sad pathetic echo of what the citizens think they are getting; i.e. enough information to make well informed decisions in the voting booth.

We explained briefly to the Le Monde reporter, why there would never again be student anti-war protests in the United States (and Berkeley in particular). The cost of tuition has priced many Americans out of the market for a top notch university education. They have been replaced by students from wealthy foreign families who don’t care what the USA does, the wealthy Americans who are training to take their place as the community leaders of the future (and not about to rock the boat) and kids who are signing up for a life of indentured servitude via student loans. The student loan contingent can be stripped of their academic standing if they get arrested in a demonstration but they would still have the loan to repay, hence they operate on the “ya gotta go along to get along” principle. (Google hint: to learn more about how the Frisco area looks to a reporter from Paris: twitter dot com slash BicPictureCL)

The irony of celebrating free speech while economic reality stifles dissent and student criticism in political issues seems to contradict the essence of what the day was meant to promote.

Many Americans think that the valuable role played by newspapers has been supplanted by the Internets but reality contradicts the idea that “you can look it up on the Internets.”

Last week, we did some fact checking on the Internets and concluded that the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd had fumbled a great opportunity to gather material for a top notch column. Subsequently we learned that she had written what may be her best column ever with a lead sentence which may get her into future editions of “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.” In her column for September 20, 2014, she opened with this sentence: “WHEN Willie Nelson invites you to get high with him on his bus, you go.” (Odds are that even the Pope would concur.)

There are times when the World’s Laziest Journalist wants to check something we have written in the past and our attempts to find it online have been unsuccessful. Our opinion of the quality of the information available on the Internets keeps shrinking.

Initial critical assessments of the Internets potential asserted that it would become just another sales tool for corporate America and that the promise of developing unique voices that could build an audience and clout was doomed to be vetoed by the corporate leaders who will be very reluctant to foster any means that would encourage and supply an opposing point of view.

At first glance, the UCB event Wednesday was a chance to cover (and run) a light-hearted look laden with nostalgia back at some Sixties lore. A closer examination of the changes that have occurred in the last fifty years would require a bit more than a quick column geared to please in the skim and click age.

The Congress on Racial Equality isn’t in the news much lately but if you look around on the internets you will find that the assertion that a person of African-American heritage is shot by a police agency (on the average) of once every twenty eight hours is ubiquitous.

Fifty years ago, 18 year old young men were being drafted to fight in conflicts started by politicians whom the draftees couldn’t vote for until three years later. Now new military action can be sanctioned by a budget vote held late at night. The all volunteer military is staffed by young folks who can’t afford to go to college and don’t want to be burdened by student loans.

Corporations are still reaping large tax benefits from Prop 13. The loss of property tax revenue has meant that tuition costs in California have become astronomical (metaphorically speaking) and so the people struggling with student loans are probably not thrilled about the fact that corporations are still reaping benefits from that decades old bit of legislation.

Have things changed via the Free Speech Movement or is it a case of the more things seem to change the more the reality is “same ole, same ole”?

The words of Mario Savio will be quoted extensively in various “Week in Review” round-ups and so, to be different, we’ll quote Andy Gowdy who once said to Chef Teddy Owens: “For your birthday, we’ll take you up to Vegas and get you some new scars.”

The disk jockey was tasked with finding songs about being arrested, so he will play

Johnny Cash’s “Live at Folsom Prison” album, and Merle Haggard’s “Mamma tried” and Toby Keith’s “I’ll never smoke weed with Willie again.” We have to go post bail for a buddy. Have a “‘get out of jail free’card” type week.

crop of Le Monde repotersecond shot

October 1, 2014

Nigeria: Rebels without a paycheck?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 11:49 am

Author’s note: Who among our founding fathers way back in 1776 would ever have guessed that, just two hundred and thirty eight years later, America’s main driving force, highest ideal, most efficient function and top-priority goal would be to sell weapons and hoard oil.

I recently dared to ask a Nigerian-American friend of mine the same dreaded question that I had asked him the last time we had talked. “How are things going over in Nigeria right now?”

“Bad. Really bad,” he once again replied. “I’m sure you don’t even want to hear about it.” Yeah I do.

“There have been lots of bombings over there lately. And not just any kind of bombs either. Definitely not the old-fashioned home-made pipe bombs and glorified Molotov cocktails that one would expect. These are sophisticated, well-placed and expensive bombs being set off by so-called Muslim terrorist groups. And hiring and training mercenaries like that doesn’t come cheap. Many of them may be misinformed fanatics but still — they still need to be trained and equipped and fed. A whole lot of money is involved. Billions.”

“But from what I had learned from studying about Nigeria in college, its Muslim population, the Fulani, mostly used to herd cows,” I replied. Apparently that’s no longer true.

“The Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in Nigeria today have amazingly well-equipped and well-trained troops — and their main goal seems to be to de-civilize the country. Farmers and herders who should only have been able to stage revolutions with blunderbusses at best, are now expert sappers and know the advanced operation mechanisms of RPGs by heart.”

Now why do these techniques sound so familiar? Well-trained troops? Expensive equipment? Causing chaos? Attempting to destabilize countries? Oh, right. The “rebels” who seized the government in Libya, the “rebels” who tried to seize the government in Syria and the “rebels” who seized the government of Ukraine and parts of Iraq — not to mention the “rebels” who had seized Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Afghanistan and the Congo back in the day.

These rebels are definitely getting paychecks!

And we are definitely not talking about the idealistic, poorly-trained and ill-equipped rebels fighting for freedom and their lives against despots and madmen who have seized control over places like eastern Ukraine, Palestine, East Timor, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (or the American colonies in 1776 for that matter). Those rebel chumps are only trying to protect their families, homes, lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness. Those kinds of rebels don’t matter. The CIA doesn’t equip or train those kinds of chumps. They don’t count.

“And aside from the constant threat from terrorists,” my friend continued, “we also have to deal with the highest level of corruption in the world. For instance, one storefront lawyer with almost no clients was suddenly promoted to governor of a Nigerian state — and suddenly he’s spending $150 million on a private jet and socking away millions more in a private bank account offshore.

“And now if he wants any money, he just transfers it out to the state’s coffers and into his own. And it’s all perfectly legal to do that.”

This sounds like what a U.S. Army officer once told me about Afghanistan. “The corruption here is amazing, sure, but leaders do the same thing in America too — the only difference being that in America, they pass laws to make the corruption legal first.” Citizens United comes to mind. And a whole bunch of shady oil and weapons deals too.

“And here’s another bad thing,” said my Nigerian-American friend. “In the river-delta area of Nigeria, land that used to grow produce is now hopelessly and dangerously polluted by American oil concessions.”

“But what about the Ebola virus?” I asked next.

“That’s a problem in Liberia, not in Nigeria. Yet.” Nope, too late. It’s already arrived at the airport

And then he told me about another situation — one that I am sadly familiar with myself, having spent a lot of time in Africa and the Middle East. “Here in America, I am leading a double life. Part of me goes to Target to shop and eats at Olive Garden and feels perfectly happy and safe. But the other part of me just constantly marvels at how my fellow Americans can be so completely unaware of all the pain and killing and hunger that exists in other parts of the world — and that are the direct result of brutal and monstrous actions done in their name.”

I too feel the same way — torn between utter gratitude that I have electricity and my children are safe, on the one hand, and on the other hand, knowing that all across the world, the CIA is arming mercenaries to kill and maim children in far away places with names like Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq and Nigeria; names that many Americans couldn’t even find on a map.

“The powerful people in Nigeria will do anything for money,” said my friend sadly.

“And so will the powerful people of America too,” I sadly replied.


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