June 20, 2013

Netroots Nation opening night: Howard Dean, the Tech Museum & magical thinking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:58 am

Photos of Dean, etc. are at

Today, when I drove down to San Jose to attend the opening night of the Netroots Nation bloggers’ convention, you would think that I was getting ready to go off to the moon or something — not just 40 miles away. And when I got down there, all I wanted to do was take a nap — I had jet lag?

But my hotel had a refrigerator so I went off to Trader Joe’s to stock it with kale-cranberry salads and yogurt and tortilla chips.

At 7:30 pm, it was time to go off to the Tech Museum. Howard Dean is going to speak? Really? I love Howard Dean. He’s my favorite. Imagine if he had won in 2004 instead of just having Bush and Diebold steal the election. We would all have single-payer healthcare right now, and one out of nine American bridges wouldn’t be about to fall down because all our money is being spent on bombing Syria, etc. instead.

“When’s Howard Dean gonna speak?” I must have asked at least a hundred people. Lots of shrugs.

“I don’t know.”

“He already spoke!” finally said the 150th person I asked.

“What did he say?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. The Tech Museum has a lousy sound system. But finally I found someone who had heard what Dean said.

“He said, ‘We are the change.’” Really? I coulda said that.

But there sure are a lot of people here at this opening night. Plus there was lots of free food and I got to tour the Tech Museum and get my photo taken in a fake astronaut suit.

PS: How will change for the better ever come? Here’s my latest theory: Magical thinking.

“But, Jane,” you might say, “magical thinking changes nothing.” Yeah it does. Just ask the GOP.

Inside each of our rational adult selves, there appears to be a very small, very scared kid. And the best way to reassure this small, scared little kid is to tell him or her some magical-thinking fairy-tale stories. A little kid can’t tell the difference. A little kid actually thinks that magic works.

So you tell the little kid inside all of us some magical fairy tales. That’s what the GOP does. Big Bad Wolves and ogres and stuff. it’s Fox News’ bread and butter.

Magical thinking.

“We are the change?” Sure. Why not. Progressives could use some magical thinking too.

PPS: Human beings only really thrive when they have problems to solve. So here’s a problem to for us to solve, a Big problem to solve: World peace.

“Once upon a time, there was a little girl with a problem….” Fill in the blanks about how she solved it. Super powers? Magic wands? Or just being the change that we want to be.

July 21, 2011

Summer Surfeit of Conspiracy Theories

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:32 pm

The American economy is being assessed as “sluggish”’ by some partisan writers on the left but reports are reaching the national desk at the World’s Laziest Journalist’s headquarters that indicate that the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is operating this summer at full capacity with three shifts working seven days a week. In the middle of the summer of 2011, here are some of the most preposterous examples of what is being peddled to the gullible.

In the era of pat-downs and scans at the airports, is it really that easy for a comedian with a plate of shaving cream to get onto the floor of Parliament?

Was the pie incident planned in advance by Murdoch’s spin doctors to generate sympathy and divert attention away from the testimony? Did his wife’s defense move come so fast because it had been rehearsed? What previous body guard experience has she had? Are we supposed to believe that it was a reflex reaction on the part of a hausfrau?

Have the Employees of Rupert Murdoch been exposed to some germs from the Bush Administration and will they soon be experiencing the manifestations of an epidemic of “witness amnesia?” What? You can’t recall what “witness amnesia” is? Well, then, there’s no use elaborating on this new conspiracy theory. We’ll let the matter drop.

Many of the new attempts at producing news worthy examples of conspiracy theories are a variation on the possibility that the nice kindly old gentleman (think of him as the Australian Geppetto?) in charge would have instigated some instances of extortion and political blackmail. (Didn’t Donald Rumsfeld often cite an old Al Capone quote: “A kind word and a gun, will get you a lot further than the kind word alone.”?)

Various refurbished classic old theories are being souped up (a la the hot rodders and pre-war dry lake racing scene) and being offered as “new and improved.” Conspiracy theorists contend that a second look is required now to explain some past sudden shifts in American politics.

Does the fact that a cousin of George W. Bush, who worked for Fox News in 2000 and changed the election night projection, in the middle of the night, for a Florida win for Gore to a win for Bush and thus flipped the outcome, indicate that there is need for a closer look?

Does the fact that a fellow called “Knute” was having an extra marital affair at the same time he was condemning Bill Clinton saying that the President should be impeached because of some funny business with an intern mean that “Knute” could have been coerced into backing some rule-bending which granted crucial exemptions to Murdoch?

Was the sudden epidemic of news stories alleging a mental break down by Howard Dean during a victory speech an example of a journalistic example of morphic resonance or was it part of a concerted coordinated conspiracy to bestow the “frontrunner” mantle on a Democrat for whom an extensive and far reaching attack on his strong point had been painstakingly assembled? Did the unexpected Dean surge catch the Murdoch smear machine off guard?

Did some bit of clandestine extortion and/or political blackmail occur during the twelve hours between the time Sen. Kerry told a nation wide TV audience that he would contest the 2004 election results in Ohio and the next morning when he suddenly switched to the “no worries, mate” attitude?

We’ve heard that one of MSNBC’s talking heads has raised questions about some high profile unexplained political resignations and the possibility of some stealth extortion and political blackmail.

One of the more interesting but almost completely ignored new conspiracy theories postulates a similarity between the crowded field of contenders for the Republican Party’s 2012 Presidential nomination and Agatha Christie’s classic mystery “Ten Little Indians.” The premise is that when the only Republican candidate left un-sullied is JEB, he will win the coveted prize by default. (Oh! Don’t say that word this summer.)

Doesn’t Fox wash away all doubts about the reliability of the unverifiable voting results from the electronic voting machines by reciting the ancient sorcerer’s incantation: “Conspiracy theory!”?

Some members of the conspiracy theory cult worshippers are asserting that the Wall Street Journal has done the Jekyll and Hide act with its (former) sterling reputation for untarnished quality news reporting. (What do ya bet that conspiracy theory is being espoused by an insignificant blogger with the journalism equivalent of penis envy?)

Is “integrity” at the WSJ as dead as the old nine column three deck headline reserved by the New York Times for use on the days that meant that the course of history had changed overnight?

Once upon a time there was a blogger who noticed that when the Bush Administration suggested that folks in America should construct an airtight panic room as a precaution to protect them from chemical or biological terrorisms attacks, it ignored the very strong potential for death from asphyxiation. He wrote a letter to the New York Times pointing out the grievous window of opportunity for tragedy.

The day his letter was published, the Secretary of Defense held a press conference to point out that the duct tape and plastic sheeting suggestion was only metaphorical and not to be taken literally. The poor self-deluded fool was ready to proclaim that he had made the blogging equivalent of “the Willie Mays catch.”

At that time, were high paid media grunts really that stupid that they couldn’t see the absurdity of the suggestion or did they see it and face a management embargo on stories that ridiculed any of the hysterical nonsense that was leading to war? (When the “Fuhrer” says jump: you peons jump and ask “how far” on the way up. Is that understood?)

President Obama’s track record seems to be falling short of the expectations of extreme lefties. Will they use the Murdoch hacking angle to concoct some speculation about some possible extortion and imaginary political blackmail which might have been applied to gain some concessions about Medicare and Social Security? (What could possibly be that effective as a game changer? Here is a possibility: Just picture the image of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK.)

How do you explain his betrayal of Medicare and Social Security? How much more harm will he do with “Four more years!”?

One obscure blogger in Berkeley is anxiously awaiting the announcement of this years nominees for the “Conspiracy Theory of the Year” award to see if his column asking if Obama is a secret Republican mole sent into the Democratic Party to dismantle the last vestiges of “The New Deal.” The Berkeley blogger is beginning to suspect that there is a secret plot to thwart his chance to win the coveted award.

Will the members of the American mainstream media offer some interline courtesy and help Murdoch deny and cover-up (as happened in Great Britain following the 2006 allegations) or will they conjure up images of Edward R. Murrow’s stand against Senator McCarthy and insist on exposing the details of the Murdoch Scandal? Would it be ironic if the Murdoch summer followed the Arab Spring?

TV critic Jack Gould said that Murrow’s McCarthy program displayed “crusading journalism of high responsibility and genuine courage.” (A. M. Sperber “Murrow: his life and times” Freundlich Books – New York, ©1986 hardback page 440)

America could use some more of that now because freedom of the press and concomitantly its effect on the democratic process is what’s at stake. Freedom of the press. Use it or lose it. The British Parliament didn’t believe Murdoch. Why should you?

It’s time for the closing quote. During the “See It Now Program” about McCarthy, Edward R. Murrow said “The line must be drawn or McCarthy will become the Government . . . ” Ibid. page 437 (Has Ibid. become extinct because of the “Dumbing down of America”?)

Now the disk jockey will play Buddy Holly’s “Think it over,” Patsy Cline’s “So Wrong,” and the Hank Williams (Sr.) song “Be careful of stones that you throw.” Now we have to go to America’s oldest newsstand (in Oakland?) to see if we can get a copy of Confidential magazine. Have an “Oh, boy!” type week.

June 28, 2011

America needs JOBS: And holding Washington’s feet to the fire is OUR job

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:21 pm

At the Minneapolis Netroots Nation convention of progressive bloggers last week, the main focus was on America’s current crippled job market, our current high unemployment rates and the desperate need to create new jobs here in America (not offshore) — and as well it should be.

First Howard Dean spoke, and here’s what my notes say that he said: “We are still all about electing Democrats to Washington. But once they get there, however, we need to hold their feet to the fire. We, not the people in Washington, are the only ones who can make the change we can believe in. And we need to be working toward a vision bigger than ourselves — community, security and liberty. We need security from the need for foreign oil, and freedom from religious bigots telling us what to do.”

Yes, Dean actually said that. He actually called out the religious bigots — instead of pandering to them like Palin, Bush and Gingrich have done. No wonder the corporatists and fright-wingers fought so hard against Dean getting elected in 2004.

“We can’t count on politicians to stand up to the monied interests. So we must do it ourselves, building a small-picture movement based on a big-picture vision.” And part of that big-picture vision is one where America doesn’t eliminate and/or outsource its jobs.

Then Senator Russell Feingold spoke next. “There is too much corporate dominance in America today. But corporate power has been rocked by the internet — and they were terrified that we might stop the flow of soft money campaign contributions and fiscal deregulation. Then along came Citizens United and now we’ve been taken back to the old Gilded Age of the robber barons — only it is now a Gilded Age on steroids. But together we can stand up to corporate power.”

Yeah. And we can bring our outsourced jobs back home to America too. You can’t stand up to corporate dominance quite as fiercely if you don’t have a job.

No wonder the corporatists and the fright-wingers fought so hard to get rid of Senator Feingold. He represents us — not them.

Then I took a bus ride back to where I was staying over on the other side of the Mississippi River (which, BTW, runs right through the middle of Minneapolis) and I got to chatting with the bus driver, who also held down another job as a firefighter. “I work two jobs,” he said — and boy was he pissed off about all the recent forced budget cuts to municipal services.

“Your firefighting job is in danger?”

“Yes,” he said. And that was a very definite YES — a very angry-sounding yes. “I’m tired of bailing out Wall Street and financing endless wars. What do people think they’re going to do if their house catches on fire? Call a banker? Call 911 and have a war-profiteer show up?”

Yeah. So. Jobs. After listening to various speeches at NN 2011, talking to various other bloggers from all over America and hearing the sad tales of several local working men and women, I was starting to get the idea. Many private-sector jobs have been outsourced overseas already and now public-sector jobs are in danger. America is becoming a nation of the rich and the poor.

And speaking of being poor, I also had a long talk with a local homeless guy. “I like being homeless,” he said. “It makes me feel like I’m free, that I’m my own man. I sleep out under the stars.”

“But what about during the winters?” Winters are apparently rather fierce in Minnesota — ten degrees below zero for weeks on end.

“Then I just ride the buses all night.” It’s a good thing that this guy likes being homeless — because he can set a good example for the rest of us who may be facing involuntary homelessness pretty soon. We all could be like him in a couple of years if the corporatists and their fright-wing minions have their way.

Then Rep. Alan Grayson gave a speech and he really brought the problem of America’s lack of jobs into focus. “There are five things that you need to be Middle Class in America. You need a home, a car, a pension plan, healthcare and a job. And the Republican party refuses to support anything that will help you get any of these five. And right now you only have three friends in life: God, your mama and the Democratic Party.” And, apparently, you only have the Democratic Party if you hold its feet to the fire.

No wonder the corporatists and fright-wingers worked so hard to get rid of Grayson too.

There were other speakers on Grayson’s panel, including Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Raul Grijalva — on the first leg of a nation-wide tour. And each speaker gave us a a verbal snapshot of the pathetic state of America’s current job market.

I forget who said what during this panel but here is the gist: “This is a war between the greediest people on the planet and the rest of us. If we take this message out to America, however, we WILL win! It’s time to stop the politics of scarcity and go for the politics of generosity. There IS enough for everyone. We need to make jobs the main issue. If you’re not talking about putting America back to work, then you are talking about nothing. It is NOT okay to destroy personal lives just to make a profit. That is the definition of evil. And these are the people who are in charge of America today. The priorities in Washington DC need to match the priorities in the rest of America!”

Rep. Grijalva then added, “Various hot-button issues have been used in a very cynical way to divide America from the good of the many to the good of the few. The next election will define our nation for generations to come — and we must define America for the common good.”
The top one percent of people in America just got ten percent richer, I was told. And the rest of us only got threatened with unemployment. Screw that. No wonder the corporatists and the fright-wingers are working so hard to get rid of these progressive members of Congress. And now they are trying really hard to get rid of you and me too — starting with our jobs

PS: I also want a job! Does anyone out there have any use for a 68-year-old unemployed blogger?

PPS: When progressives talk about jobs, we are talking about REAL jobs — not just the phony jobs that corporatists are always campaigning about but which in real life turn out to be only more low-paying jobs performed by prison inmates or more jobs sent overseas or more jobs where billionaires only need apply or jobs only for corporatists’ relatives or simply just more TALK about jobs.


September 25, 2008

The Tattlesnake – October and Other McCain Surprises Edition

Or, St. John and His Cowardly Lyin’

“Presidents have to deal with more than one thing at a time.”
– Barack Obama, Sept. 23, 2008, as quoted by Business Week.

All politicians lie to some degree; it’s a gloomy fact of national politics in America, and the higher the office sought, the more likely and frequent the infractions of the truth.

Some self-servingly shade reality intermittently, others cross their fingers behind their backs and deliver the quasi-whopper occasionally, and then there are the full-out Nixonian scoundrels who’ll tell a lie at the drop of a hat in the ring.

John McCain, in his conduct since becoming the Republican nominee, has crossed the Nixon threshold of deceit, most recently by calling David Letterman at the last minute and telling him he couldn’t appear on his show September 24th because he had to urgently drop everything and fly to Washington to delve into the bailout crisis.

McCain’s prevarication to Letterman blew up in his face when the talk show host discovered McCain was still in New York City for many hours after that phone call; indeed, McCain was being interviewed by CBS’ Katie Couric not far from the theater where Letterman tapes his show and could easily have stopped in and kept his commitment to Letterman. As Dave said sarcastically, showing a live feed of McCain talking to Couric, “Need a ride to the airport, Senator?”

This is self-destructive blowback of the first order: Letterman reaches tens of millions of viewers across the land, many of them the politically semi-literate that McCain is trying to reach with his over-simplified messages of ‘maverick reformer,’ ‘reliable leader’ and comfortable ‘regular guy,’ and Letterman spent most of the show last night, including his notorious Top Ten list, savaging McCain for his absence, his suspension of his campaign, and asking the pointedly mocking question of why Palin couldn’t simply step in and take McCain’s place. He even had McCain’s harshest Big Media critic Keith Olbermann on to further pound the stake into the Republican candidate. Presidential campaigns in America are really won or lost in the comedy sketches of the late night TV hosts and viewers form their opinions of the candidates’ characters based on the kinds of jokes disseminated – by that measure, millions of late night TV viewers now know that McCain is a bald-faced liar; a treacherous old codpiece willing to deceive their trusted TV friend Dave. Hmmm, what else might he lie about as president? Not only was this a nuclear one-night hit, but McCain has now made a foe of David Letterman, an enmity that will carry on until the election – it could very well make the difference in November.

Something else that will make a difference, and also presents McCain as a perpetual dispenser of falsehoods and humbug, is his bizarre abandonment of his former friends in the Big Media and Punditrocracy. McCain’s campaign has lately made it a badge of honor to snub and treat with contempt the very same ‘Guys and Gals on the Bus’ who protectively guarded and excused McCain for his gaffes and deceptions in the past. Once heralded for his access to the media, now only pre-tested loyalists are invited to speak with the coddled candidate on his campaign jet, and the rest are shuttled off like cattle to stand behind a shield of sour-faced campaign staff. The turning of opinion amongst the press corps is growing obvious.


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