March 25, 2015

My trip to Portland: A crime convention, donuts, tunnels & rain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 7:28 pm

I’ve had a really good time in Portland, Oregon, this week — even though it rained almost every day. But even the rain in Portland is charming. I’d never been to Portland before and wouldn’t even be here now if it hadn’t been the site of a convention for murder-mystery writers and their fans. Murder-mystery fans? That would be me!

“But why are you such a fan-girl, Jane?” you might ask. That’s easy. It’s because you can always count on justice being achieved by the end of the book — which is a good thing, especially if you are an American and currently living right here in the very belly of the beast of injustice itself.

Whenever I think about our corporate gollums in Washington, all those huge bankster bailouts on Wall Street and America’s phony endless wars on the Middle East and the Middle Class, then seeing justice achieved every time becomes huge.

A lot of my favorite crime-fiction authors are attending this convention, including Lisa Brackman, Johnny Shaw, Lee Goldberg and Catriona McPherson, but there are also some writers here that I’ve never even heard of before — but need to.

Phillip Margolin, a famous crime-thriller writer, was a featured speaker at the convention and he said, “Before I was an author, I was a defense attorney and I’ve represented over 30 murderers at trial.” That’s clearly a unique way to get insights into the criminal mind.

“But I like writing better than being an attorney because you have the ability to change the outcomes — which you never can do in real life. Plus the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction is supposed to be credible. And you also have the obligation to tie things up. Sometimes real life makes no sense whatsoever.”

And Margolin’s method of writing? “I never write a word until I’m sure of the ending. Then I write a very detailed outline, fill in the missing pieces and then refine it and refine it. And I always read my dialogues out loud in order to test their validity. But basically, when writing, I need to find an idea that I can get excited about.”

I know exactly what he means. Nothing gets me more excited about my own writing efforts than the thought of getting to rail against injustice, especially against injustice paid for by American taxpayers — such as that mess in Ukraine, that mess in Syria, that mess in Palestine, that mess in Libya, that mess in the CIA, that mess in the District of Columbia, that mess in Ferguson, that mess in Wisconsin, that mess in [fill in the blanks].

After Margolin’s presentation, I got a chance to talk to him personally — about our similar experiences in the Peace Corps in Africa. Geez Louise, the Peace Corps was such a grand idea. But now it seems like all that Americans are clambering for these days is a War Corps.

Then, after attending a few more excellent panels at the convention, it was time to climb aboard the #8 bus and go off to tour Portland. All those stereotypes of Portland residents are true — almost everyone here wears plaid and most of the guys look like lumberjacks. And of course the first place that you gotta go to in Portland is to Voodoo Donuts. There were 80 people standing in line, but I played the sympathy card (just had an operation on my knee) and managed to cut in line. Unjust, I know, but I was desperate for a “Portland Cream,” the city’s official donut (glazed, cream-filled and frosted with chocolate). Delicious. Went back and got another one the next day.

Next, I toured Portland’s famous Shanghai tunnels, built in the 1870s, where approximately 3,000 kidnapped men had been warehoused at one time or another before being sold off to sea captains for $50 a man — and where kidnapped women were locked into tiny lightless cells until they were broken enough to be trafficked by white slavers. That tour was spook-y!

Next came the requisite tour of Powell’s Books and then back on the #17 bus to go home to the Walking Liberty Guesthouse where I stayed. I love Portland!

PS: Portland is also one of the few cities in America that isn’t forced to pour industrial-strength fluoride from China into its water supply, figuring that its citizens are smart enough to make that fluoride-use decision on their own and/or that they already get enough fluoride from other sources such as tea, tooth paste and pesticides.

And another thankful result of Portland’s non-fluoridation policy is that we can all rest assured that Portland’s world-famous craft beers do not contain fluoride like other American beers do — and thus if you drink a six-pack of Portland craft beer, you don’t ever have to worry about OD-ing on fluoride, which is more toxic than lead (but slightly less toxic than arsenic).

So if you really want to limit your fluoride intake to a reasonable amount, just drink Portland beer!


March 23, 2015

Let’s stop treating war criminals like Disney princesses!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 11:41 am

Scientific fact: You are either a war criminal or you are not. The Geneva conventions and the Nuremberg trials have set out specific definitions of what a war criminal is. How do you spot a war criminal? It’s not rocket science. You just look at the list of war crimes that has been drawn up for our convenience and then check off the boxes. A fifth-grader could do this!

Yet how come so many war criminals these days are being treated like Disney princesses by the American people?

George Bush, Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama have so many checks in their “war criminal” column that it’s pathetic. Torture? Check. Illegal invasions of other countries? Check. Bombing innocent civilian populations? Check. Check. Check.

And yet these four war criminals are being treated like Tiana, Jasmine, Arial and Pocahontas instead of like Ursula, Maleficent and Jafar. What’s with that?

Netanyahu is a war criminal by any definition. And that neo-Nazi guy who NATO installed into power in Ukraine is such a war criminal that both Hitler and Stalin would be proud of him. Yet Americans treat these two evil men as if they were Belle and Mulan.

Sisi in Egypt? Total bad guy! And we all know that the Saudis are so evil they give little kids nightmares about Saudi pilots flying into buildings. And wasn’t Osama bin Laden also a Saudi? Yet Americans talk about Sisi and the Saudis in the same reverential terms that little kids use when referring to Aurora and Snow White.

Turkey, Jordan, Israel, America and Britain all fund and support ISIS like ISIS was Tinkerbell and not Captain Hook.

The Pentagon and the CIA use Al Qaeda to do all their dirty work — like Al Qaeda was Cinderella or something. That’s crazy! There are absolutely no glass slippers involved in the Al Qaeda fairy tale.

Americans need to get a reality check. Evil men are not Disney princesses. They are evil men. I mean, seriously? Would Anna and Elsa ever throw their support behind evil men? I think not. But Americans still seem to be constantly mistaking evil men for Prince Charming.


March 20, 2015

American Geniuses

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:29 pm

crop of Mik Zint

“Magician, the Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles” is a new documentary film that tells the story of the fellow who made radio history and classic films, and was very much underappreciated while doing those things. Welles was a very innovative movie maker and is credited with inspiring the creation of the wide angle lens for “Citizen Kane.”

By pure coincidence, the additional material on a DVD of Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” had alerted us to the fact that Howard Hughes had many things in common with Orson Welles. Hughes was born fabulously wealthy and he never developed a reverence for money and the need to budget wisely. Welles never seemed to have had a conservative approach to fiscal matters. He claimed that on his first night in Dublin Ireland, he spent all his travel money on a lavish meal. Embellishing a story for dramatic effect seems to be a likely modus operandi for a fellow who was noted for a great sense of theatricality.

Hughes was (perhaps) the only Hollywood film director to be honored with a tickertape parade down Broadway in New York City. He received that honor for setting a record for an around the world flight.

Welles was given a lifetime achievement Oscar.

Both men were notorious for their love lives.

Hughes was an aviation pioneer and a celebrated film maker but he also was responsible for some very practical achievements such as introducing retractable landing gear on airplanes. It was an innovation which dramatically increased their speed. His companies made technical innovations which had a beneficial effect on weapons and thus he improved the quality of America’s ability to wage war. His contributions to technology and aviation, which made modern drone strikes possible, was not fully communicated to the American public which dwelled on his flamboyant public image and his impact on that facet of society that thrives on gossip column items.

Welles burst on the New York theater scene already a legend. He had barely passed voting age when he feuded with Hemingway over the narration of a documentary film about the Spanish Civil War.

Part of the Welles legend is that his radio broadcast based on H. G. Wells’ (no relation/different spelling) novel about an invasion from Mars caused mass panic and traffic gridlock. Newspaper articles stating that fact are plentiful but skeptics who wonder if that was just an example of Hollywood ballyhoo are hard pressed to find some citizen who can provide eyewitness descriptions of the alleged example of mass hysteria. Skeptical reporters are advised to always avoid fact checking the legend.

Back then, people were encouraged to get diverse points of view. People who tuned into the Welles broadcast and switched stations to get a different set of facts quickly learned that the other radio networks were presenting the usual Sunday evening smorgasbord of comedy.

A column about American geniuses must note that this week, in San Francisco, it was reported by KCBS news radio that St. Mary’s Cathedral would have to pay to remove the sprinkler system it had installed to soak the homeless sleeping in their doorways, because they had made the “improvement” without getting a building permit. Wouldn’t it have been quicker and more efficient if the bishop had just gone out and urinated on them?

To cynics, it seems that America’s “War on Poverty” has become a war on the poor.

When we asked the Berkeley homeless activist Ninja Kitty if a (formerly) homeless person had ever been elected to Congress, didn’t he respond by saying: “There’s a first time for everything!”?

It used to be that exit polls were credited with pin-point accuracy, but lately they don’t seem to be very reliable at all. Time after time results contradict the exit polls. With that in mind, we predict that Karl Rove’s greatest behind the scenes achievement in American Politics is yet to be achieved. Wouldn’t the reestablishment of the Bush Dynasty be Rove’s greatest triumph?

“Magician” is a Cliff’s Notes style documentary film that will inform the people who are not aware of Welles’ story about the life of a genius and it will also give established Welles fans a new chance to hear his voice and see film sequences which give tantalizing hints about his magnetism and charm.

Clifford Irving wrote a book about a fellow who was very successful painting and selling counterfeit works of art. Irving also wrote a bogus Howard Hughes autobiography.

One of Welles’ many film projects was “F is for Fake,” which included a segment about Clifford Irving.

Now the disk jockey will play Orson Welles’ rendition (it’s on Youtube) of “I know what it is to be young (You don’t know what it is to be old),” Rita Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame, Boys” (conspiracy theory folks assert it was dubbed) and the theme music from “The Third Man.” We have to go fact check the rumor that the Pacific Film Archive will open its new Berkeley home with a tribute to the films of Orson Wells. Have a “Rosebud” type week.



March 17, 2015

St. Patrick, Belfast, war, peace & me

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 5:08 pm

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the month of March every year. And so is Julius Caesar’s infamous Ides of March. One is spozed to bring good luck to people and the other is spozed to bring bad luck. Which will it be for you and me? We’ve probably both already found out.

The Minster of Finance for Northern Ireland was spozed to speak in Berkeley this week, but that’s not going to happen because he had to stay home in Londonderry in order to deal with a current legislative crisis involving welfare reform. The DUP (protestant) party wants to cut off welfare and the Sinn Fein (Catholic) party does not. Sounds familiar — except that in America the Democrats never protect the poor of this country no matter how viciously the Republicans attack the most vulnerable of us all (50% of all American children live below the poverty line and most welfare recipients live in Red States).

St. Patrick would never approve of any of these cuts to the poor in order to give (even more) money to the rich. And neither would Jesus. But I digress.

What I really want to talk about now is my trip to Belfast and Londonderry, back in 2003. I had packed up my then-teenage daughter Ashley and gone off to live on the Falls Road for a while. And then wrote about it on my “Travels with Amy” blog site. It’s a long read for a blog, but worth every moment if you ask me.

Let’s just cut to the high points, however. The woman we stayed with in Belfast had this to say about The Troubles:

“We were young when The Trouble began. I was only 18. We only wanted to peacefully protest injustice; call a little attention to it. And they came down on us with everything they had.”

We were sitting in Mary’s front room just off the Falls Road. She was smoking a cigarette. It was 11 pm. “Had we known then what our next actions would lead to….” Her voice trailed off. “War is a terrible thing. We had no idea. We were young and we weren’t going to let the Loyalists get away with it. My husband spent 18 years in jail. He was in every major prison in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland. I always say that jail was our contraception.”

Mary loved the Good Friday Agreement. “We must compromise, cooperate and give-and-take. I think the other side sees that too. Having known war for 30 years…people just have no idea what a terrible thing it is. You talk, you dialogue, you negotiate. You do whatever you can to keep the Good Friday peace.” She reminded me of the Bob Dylan song, “I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” Mary is active in building a community from the ground up now. “Before no one knew how to work a government. Not even the Orangemen. Neither of us had people on the Council. Now we do. We started from the bottom up. When the British do leave, we will know how to govern ourselves.” That’s what we are doing in America, I told her. We’re stepping up against the “Stealing of America” by Wall Street and War Street — stepping up to the plate one city at a time. One person at a time.

The one thing I learned in Belfast and Londonderry back in 2003 was that War is to be avoided at all costs — and never to be taken lightly. Libya, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, Palestine, Haiti, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chile, Panama, etc. have tolled death-bells that can never be un-rung. None of those dead millions can ever come back to life again. And all those dead trillions of dollars spent on War can never come back to life again either.

So. Beware of Caesar’s Ides of March — and listen to St. Patrick instead. Then get to work driving all of those evil, greedy and power-mad snakes out.

PS: A few years later I went off to Palestine and wrote about that too. And there is such a strong comparison between The Troubles in Northern Ireland and The Troubles in Palestine, including Gaza, that it is scary. It’s the same old story of evil, greedy and powerful men oppressing those who are weaker than them — for fun and for profit. That grim and brutal occupation of Palestine should also be avoided at all costs.–The-men-behind-the-wire-Comparing-Belfast-Gaza

And any future wars on Russia, China, Venezuela and Iran should be avoided too — for the same reason. If you too knew what it is like to be living in a war zone, you would never support another war either.

Black Taxi (2)

March 13, 2015

A bruin in bear country

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

Alfredo at de Young




[Note: This column is an attempt to achieve humor by supplying a hypothetical answer to the question: “What would it be like if a Leprechaun celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by writing a political punditry column?”] 

Technically it is still winter, but Berkeley has switched to using the summer clock set for Pacific Daylight Time and for some, it’s time to start spring cleaning. The decision about which team to support in the annual UCLA vs. USC football match-up has been made and we are not about to let any facts play a role in a decision to reconsider our choice.

To some that may seem a tad illogical but the sad fact remains that some people make their political decisions in the same uninformed blind prejudicial manner.

The implications attached to the fact that most of the conservatively owned media is not paying much attention to the long term implications of the Republicans communications with Iran is another subject that will also be ignored by the so-called journalists in the USA. If the Democratic politicians dared to question any move that George W. Bush made while he was president, their patriotism and sanity would have been subjected to immediate and unrelenting ridicule and derision, but it the President happens to be a mulatto Democrat, well then, anything the Republicans do in response to Obama’s program is portrayed as an example of partisan politics at its best.

If, as with the Iran-Contra affair, a Republican President ducks providing material with the potential of being incriminating, well then, the conservative press moguls just have a good laugh but God forbid that a measly (have your kids been inoculated?) Democratic woman should not provide full transparency regarding her e-mails.

If the mainstream media is ordered to ignore Operation Stingray, why should the World’s Laziest Journalist spend Tuesday, March 10, 2015, doing some fact checking and collecting background information on the news potential of that topic, when, instead, it was a perfect time to go see the new Botticelli to Braque Masterpieces from the National Galleries os Scotland exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco? The fact that the world class museum is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the North Beach area where a fantastic Italian cuisine lunch was available at a very affordable price just made the choice to have a great time in Frisco seem so much more preferable to wasting time on something that Fox News deems to be a topic that appeals only to conspiracy theory lunatics.

On Wednesday, March 11, 2015, the World’s Laziest Journalist attended the regularly scheduled meeting of the Berkeley Police Review Commission and we realized (opinion alert!) that they were given a “myth of Sisyphus” task when they were assigned to investigate the events that occurred on the evening of December 6, 2014. They decided to hold a special meeting next week and invite the Berkeley Chief of Police (or his designated representative) to come back.

The Berkeley Police Review Commission faces a myriad of difficult problems that only become more complex and baffling when they are examined. For example, the topic of getting video equipment that police officers can wear while on duty seems to be a popular idea this week. However, as it was pointed out at Wednesday’s meeting, the cost of obtaining the equipment and providing security for the hardware is insignificant when compared with the cost of providing storage for the digital material, which would also be required.

During this week, CNN seemed (opinion alert!) to have had a Cronkite moment when the talking head noted that the USA is sending citizens to fight and die installing the American Way (i.e. Democracy) in foreign countries, while the perception in Europe is that the government in the USA is fast approaching a point of complete gridlock, which means Democracy ain’t working. Could avid Republicans conclude that CNN just doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Hilary’s e-mails, the Logan Act, and local politics in Ferguson Mo. are just some of the distractions intended to entertain and amuse the workers in the media while staunch Republicans (opinion alert!) eagerly await the inauguration of President-elect JEB Bush. Some preliminary events are scheduled but the inevitable inauguration of JEB and the restoration of the Bush Dynasty is (for them) a sure thing that will happen faster than you can say “Broward Federal Savings and Loan.”

Hilary or JEB? If you don’t know now who will get your vote, why not just flip a coin?

After a happy-go-lucky columnist, who covered the Oscars forty years ago, passes his 28th birthday, there comes a day when he is bound to assess the process of running around to things like the Berkeley Police Review Commission meetings and say: “I’m getting too old for this ****! Perhaps I should just join a group at one of the conveniently located Berkeley Senior Centers and settle down and learn to sew and do some book reviews.” Life could then be like living a Beach Boys song.

Speaking of writing movie reviews, the Employees Recreation Committee at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory gave a standing ovation following a screening of “Conspiracy Theory,” starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts . . . but then they called for an immediate investigation into why the main stream media seems to be willfully ignoring this ahead of its time bit of Hollywood magic.

The most popular joke at the Conspiracy Theory Factory this week was: “What’t the difference between the airplane that Harrison Ford crashed on the golf course and the one that crashed into the Pentagon? Answer: The NTSB found more debris to use for a subsequent investigation at the Penn Mar gold course than it did at the Pentagon crash site.”

Maybe if CNN just had a Cronkite moment, it’s too early to abandon the online political punditry game. Then, again, perhaps we should just write a novel about a life-long IrishCatholicDemocrat, who (on a lark) decides to run for Congress as a Republican in one of the nations strongest Liberal Democrat districts and . . . wins.

Fukushima, polar icecap meltdown, and Civil War in Syria might make it seem like the golden age of pessimism has arrived..

Good sportsmanship is important and no matter which team wins the game this year at Thanksgiving, the captain of the loosing team will shake hands and say “Good game!” to the captain of the winning team. Good Republicans (opinion alert) might consider that the Supreme Court could both literally and figuratively speaking, see these two decisions as a chance to “win one for the Gipper!”

With that in mind, and being aware that Liberal punditry is becoming extinct, if the United States Supreme Court invalidates Obamacare and/or declares the concept of gay marriage as unconstitutional, we can only hope that the disappointed Democrats will greet the decisions with a spirit of good sportsmanship and that they say in unison: “Good game!”

In Berkeley, where the University of California’s local team uses blue and gold colors and an image of a resident of bear country, it is relatively easy to show a preference for the outcome of the annual UCLA vs. USC game because the one participant in America’s greatest cross town rivalry features blue and gold and graphics that depict a bruin.

Would “St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin” make a good column headline? Does Dublin California celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

If the Republicans won a majority in Congress and the Senate by promising to end political stagnation and the end result is complete legislative gridlock will that have a deleterious effect on JEB’s inauguration in January of 2017? **** NO! ! ! Thank God for the electronic voting machines that leave no way to verify the results!

The closing quote was said by Knute Rockne: “Show me a good and gracious loser and I’ll show you a failure.”

Now the disk jockey will play the Beach Boys “Be true to your school,” “Shut down,” and “God only knows.” We have to go buy an Irish Rovers’ album. Have a “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” type week.

March 10, 2015

Where has all the money gone? Savings bond values take a nosedive

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 10:45 am

I just had a talk with a friend of mine who was all pissed off because he had purchased a Series EE savings bond for his little kid way back in 1998. “I paid $500 for it at the time and, at that time, the bank promised me that the bond would mature in ten years and then be worth $1,000.” So? Well? Did it? Is it?

“Eh — no,” sighed my friend. “When my kid cashed it in last month, she only got $850 back.” What? You mean after accumulating over 16 years of interest, the bond had only gained $250 in value? Even after all those promises of doubling its worth after just ten years? That’s whacked.

But, according to the Treasury Direct website, it is also legal. “Series EE bonds issued from May 1997 through April 2005 continue to earn market-based interest rates set at 90% of the average 5-year Treasury securities yields for the preceding six months. The new interest rate for these bonds, effective as the bonds enter semiannual interest periods from November 2014 through April 2015 is 1.49%. Market-based rates are updated each May 1 and November 1.”

What the freak does that mean?

It means that Series EE savings-bond-holders have been (and can continue to be) legally ripped off. Government agencies now under the happy control of the top 1% can legally make the rest of us little guys any promises they want — and then just take them back.

“Buying government savings bonds is practically like loaning the government interest-free money,” I told my friend. “But on the other hand, if you had bought $500 worth of gold back in 1998 instead of that bond, it would have cost you $296 an ounce — and an ounce and a half of gold would now be worth $1,808, a net gain of one thousand three hundred and seven dollars.”

However, if you had spent that $500 on baseball cards, you might be pretty much out of luck.

But what if, instead, you had purchased $500 worth of stock for your kid? If you had bought stock in mortgage companies like Countrywide, for instance, you would have kissed your $500 goodbye.

But if you had bought stock in pharmaceutical companies that produce products like mercury-laden vaccines, psychotropic drugs and male sex-enhancers, or bought stocks in weapons factories or bought stocks in oil companies or WalMart, you could have practically put your rugrat through college with your capital gains by now!

Or suppose you had invested that $500 in buying part-ownership in a Congressman — like the big boys on Wall Street, War Street and K Street do? Apparently you would have gotten an average of a 5000% return on your investment.

Or if, like your government in cahoots with its sleazy bankster friends, you had invested your $500 in loaning money to college students instead? Then you would have been able to collect 6% interest from said college students’ loans for decades to come — and owned their souls for the rest of their lives too!

But, no. You had faith in your government and bought savings bonds instead — never dreaming that your government would invest its resources in war and corporate welfare instead of in you.

However if it’s any consolation, you and your kid are not alone. China made that same mistake too.

PS: Remember back when our founding fathers wisely designed our Constitution to include having three different branches of government? Legislative, executive and judicial? Well, just over 225 years later, America’s government still has three different branches — except now those three branches are Wall Street, War Street and K Street.

PPS: A Manhattan jury just awarded a $218.5 million verdict against the Palestinian Authority for damages done to Israelis with American citizenship by Palestinian suicide bombers. Do you know what this means? A new precedence has just been set. A new Pandora’s box has just been opened.

Now everyone affected by anything like this can now also use American courts to get recompense for damages done by acts of “terrorism” on American citizens abroad!

For instance, were any Chilean-Americans killed in the CIA coup against Allende in Chile? Their relatives can now sue Henry Kissinger — but of course they will have to stand in line behind the Cambodian-Americans killed by him.

And what about the bunches and groups of Palestinian-Americans, Yemeni-Americans, Iraqi-Americans, Syrian-Americans, Ukrainian-Americans, African-Americans, Grenada-Americans, Guatemalan-Americans, Haitian-Americans, etc. who have been either killed out in public for all to see by America’s overtly-evil war machine — or else killed on the sly by those covertly-evil CIA troublemakers at Langley?

Or, hell, what about all those dead American-Americans too for that matter? Does this mean that American soldiers killed or wounded in Vietnam, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Afghanistan, etc. can now sue the Department of Defense in American courts for “terrorism” too — as well as for fraud, creating dangerous conditions, willful negligence, breach of promise and entrapment as well?

Hey, Uncle War Street! See ya in court!

PPPS: And speaking of money, I’m off to Portland (Oregon) this weekend March 11-15) to attend a convention — while trying to spend as little $$$ as possible. Might anybody know any exciting things I can see and do in Portland on the cheap?


March 6, 2015

Hemingway, O’Reilly, Murrow

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:29 pm

better crop poster












According to legend, Ernest Hemingway arrived in Paris three days before the Allied Armies did. A trip to Paris in 1986 seemed like a great opportunity to do the fan’s attempt to conjure up the spirit of the famous writer but we did not anticipate a chance to do any serious fact checking. While visiting Harry’s New York Bar, an old fellow caught us off guard when he said that he had inherited the place from his father and when he, the present owner, was a child, he had sat on Mr. Hemingway’s lap while the famous writer told stories. We were so engrossed in his descriptions of the repeated encounters with the young but already famous writer, that we missed the chance to ask him if Hemingway had actually arrived before the Allied Armies. The Liberty Valance rule made doing any fact checking seem like heresy. When facts and legend contradict each other, always print the legend.

Recently Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly had become a subject for fact checking by his associates and the consensus opinion seems to be that there is a credibility gap being generated which, in turn, tarnishes Fox News’ reputation.

Brian Williams has been suspended from the anchor chair at NBC Nightly News because he claims that he rode on a helicopter in a war zone that received enemy fire. The account has been challenged by others who are qualified to confirm or refute the specifics of Williams’ story.

Since Williams works for a news organization that is perceived as “pro-Liberal,” the conservatives are making the assertion that Williams has rendered NBC’s credibility to the nil level.

If Charles Manson (hypothetically speaking) were to deliver a news report that provided undeniable evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald was not working alone when he shot JFK, would the fact that most people do not approve of Manson’s ethics and personal conduct be sufficient to invalidate the remarkable report?

There is a certain amount of irony to be derived from noticing that the two different reactions to the veracity of the two journalist comes at the same time that CBS will mark the sixty-first anniversary of what many consider to be the high water mark for American Journalism: Edward R. Murrow’s report on Sen. Joseph McCarthy broadcast on March 9, 1954. (Google: “See It Now” McCarthy report)

During WWII, Murrow risked death and infuriated his bosses by going on a bombing mission over Berlin. (Google hint: “Edward Murrow orchestrated hell”)

Conservatives assert that Brian Williams has committed “stolen valor” with his bragging. They give full and complete absolution to O’Reilly and ignore the long list of war correspondents that died covering various wars over the course of history.

The conservative tendency for holding two opposing points of view simultaneously (called “double think” by George Orwell) can best be illustrated by the old axiom: “My wife’s married, but I’m not.”

Would Gerda Taro, Robert Capa, and Ernie Pyle be inclined to blithely dismiss the idea that O’Reilly is stealing valor from the list of war correspondents who were killed in action?

Speaking of war stories of valor and daring, we wonder how General Douglas McArthur got the nickname “Dugout Dug.”

Once, on NPR radio, we heard the story of a fellow who was assigned to defend a pass where an attack was expected. He had a machine gun and was credited with single handedly killing more than 600 enemy soldiers in one night. Some people think the guy should have gotten a Medal of Honor.

The fictional character Baron Munchausen was renowned for telling absurd stories that had an extreme flavor of outrageousness to them buttressed by a thread of logic that made them seem (theoretically) possible.

In a bookstore in San Francisco, earlier this week, we noticed a new book which promised to teach the art of storytelling to sales reps.

St. Ronald Reagan was a superb story teller. He told one story about campaigning for President in Iowa. He knocked on a farmer’s door and when the fellow was flabbergasted by his famous caller, he had a senior moment and couldn’t think of the former actor’s name. St. Reagan gave the baffled fan a clue: “Do the initials R R help?” The fellow broke into a large smile and turned and shouted into the interior of the home: “Momma, come quick and meet Roy Rogers!”

Misleading people for fun and votes might seem a tad misguided to some journalists. The philosophy that “we report; and let you decide” is a bit deceptive because it assumes that everyone in the audience is capable of doing their own quality analysis. “We distort and let you jump to wrong conclusions” would be a more ingenuous slogan.

Here is an exaggerated tale of why that isn’t a good policy: A person you know slightly tells you that your business partner is having an affair with your wife and is cooking the books and robbing you blind. Fair enough? Just suppose that the rest of the story is that the guy was setting you up. You killed your business partner and then while you were in prison the tell all Good Samaritan marries your now ex-wife and you learn that your business partner was an innocent bystander. The guy who filled your ears with lies had an ulterior motive. You leaped to some erroneous conclusions and took action. Would you have acted differently if you knew the “reporter” was trying to trick you?

The fact that most high-school graduates don’t challenge the logic of “we report; you decide” is a preposterous situation. The results could be just as bad as they were in the hypothetical story above. Who doesn’t love being the butt of an old fashioned practical joke?

Doesn’t Bill O’Reilly work for an organization that went to court and established that it has a legal right to tell lies in the guise of supplying facts for citizens to make informed judgments?

After hearing a stream of news reports about bad snowstorms causing all kinds of closures and disruptions of service for people living on the USA’s East Coast, we were a bit disconcerted to hear news reports that during the same time frame new car sales were good and that new jobs were created. Has skepticism earned a place on the endangered species list?

On Friday March 6, 2015, the Getty and Armstrong radio show reported that the “hands up; don’t shoot” meme was inaccurate and had not actually occurred.

Hemingway was boastful and may have exaggerated some of his accomplishments. His fans don’t want to be burdened with the odious task of doing some precise fact checking to separate the hard facts from the legends. Brian Williams worked for a liberal news organization and is being punished severely. Bill O’Reilly is getting the rich kid pass from an indulgent father responseto what he has done. “Now run along and play!”

[Note from the photo editor. A montage image is the best we could do this week.]

Here is the quote of the week. When the woman combat photographer Dickey Chappelle complained about mosquitoes buzzing around her while taking pictures on Iwo Jima, a Marine corrected her misperception: “Those wasn’t mosquitoes, ma’am, they was Japanese bullets.

Now the disk jockey will play “Who shot Liberty Valance,” “Do not forsake me,” and the theme from TV’s “Gun Smoke.” We have to go start our own urban legends. Have a “good night and good luck” type week.

March 2, 2015

Triumph of the checklist: Comparing Netanyahu, ISIS and Hitler

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 6:23 pm

Gee, I hate to keep pointing this stuff out all the time because a whole lot of people get really ticked off at me every time that I do — but the truth is the truth. ISIS, Netanyahu and Hitler really do have a whole lot in common. But as true as this statement may be, still almost nobody these days wants to hear that their favorite emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Why? Perhaps because it makes people feel bad that they have been so completely suckered, had, duped and used.

However, like it or not, the three emperor-wannabes listed above are still not wearing any clothes. So to speak.

And here’s my checklist to prove it:

1. Received a lot of their financial support from the weapons industry:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

2. Founded their empires (reichs, caliphates, promised lands, whatever) on invasions, blitzkriegs, preemptive wars, guys-just-wanna-have-fun, terrorism, whatever — with the goal of eventually taking over all geopolitical territory within thousands of miles of their empire’s original borders:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

3. Committed mass genocide based solely on religion, race, land or resource ownership, language usage and/or nationality:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

4. Used illegal weapons, including chemical weapons such as napalm, white phosphorus and noxious gases, and/or landmines, cluster bombs, biological weapons, etc. on civilians:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Not really sure. Are broadswords considered illegal weapons if used to behead journalists? Probably. Okay, check.

5. Bomb the freak out of civilian targets:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Do RPGs and car-bombs count? Yes? Then “check”

6. Routinely terrorized civilian populations to the point of said populations thinking they were living inside a horror movie, a police state or ‘Stalag 17″

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

7. Used lies, snappy slogans, false-flag operations and “1984″ types of propaganda, threats and the deliberate generation of irrational fears to get their own populations to back their criminal activities:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

8. Wore snappy uniforms designed to intimidate and impress:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

9. Supported by rich industrialists, corporatists, recipients of corporate welfare and opulent dictatorships in the Middle East:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

10. Had a huge destabilizing effect on Europe, the Middle East and America that ended in tragedy, economic chaos and the further spread of war

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

11. Pretends to be of a certain religion but never practices their religion’s goals, ideals or concepts:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

12. Steals resources and valuables from the countries and territories that have been illegally seized:

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

13. Has absolutely no tinges of conscience whatsoever after having caused thousands of families, scores of ethnic groups, an unknown number of combat veterans and even whole countries to suffer from shell shock, battle fatigue and PTSD

Hitler: Check
Netanyahu: Check
ISIS: Check

14. Is invited to speak before Congress:

Hitler: No way.
ISIS: Not a chance.
Netanyahu: Roll out the red carpet!


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