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

September 26, 2014

Shoot first; ask questions later.

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

crop of Obama Peace sign

Barroom brawlers believe that whoever throws the first punch is legally responsible for whatever ensues. American journalists, who are oh so anxious to please media owners, don’t mention that for most guys the sucker punch is universally regarded as a despicable tactic that even gangsters, grifters, and lowlifes (who wear wife-beater T-shirts?) consider dishonorable.

George W. Bush, who either didn’t have the experience to know about or chose to cavalierly disregard that example of barroom etiquette, got the USA to go along with some convoluted logic that gave a sucker punch the eloquent sounding label of pre-emptive strike and took the country to war.

Now, Obama is using the fact that Bush set a precedent and the result is that the topic can be dispensed with via a late night vote that authorizes funds to bomb Syria.

Statistics regarding the number of people who have been shot by a police officer have risen dramatically this year. It is always reported that the policeman feared for his life because a suspect was reaching for the officer’s gun. Isn’t it time for a trend-spotting story or two in the national media about this statistical phenomenon? Some cynics regard the shootings as an example of using a bullet to deliver a sucker punch.

We would really rather be writing about other more innocuous topics and not be the point man for criticizing American Foreign Policy for looking like an example of the sucker punch tactic on a national scale.

We read recently a column by Maureen Dowd about a nasty encounter with marijuana and then learned that California may get a new chance to vote to legalize recreational pot via the initiative process. We did a quick bit of online searching for pot news and found out that Rolling Stone magazine was reporting that Willie Nelson had offered Ms. Dowd with “ground control” for a much better retry of her marijuana experience. He offered to provide a better environment for such a repeat pot experiment via the congenial setting aboard his tour bus.

For any other columnist such an offer would be the opportunity of a lifetime to write a historic report that would launch the writer into the level of columnist super-star and probably produce a book deal, but because she has published several books and has a steady gig on the New York Time roster of Op-Ed Page pundits, it seems that she has not opted for a carpe diem response the offer.

She might even get an entire column’s worth of information by asking him what honky-tonk habitués think of sucker punches and any link to America’s foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the World’s Laziest Journalist has to struggle with the attempt to come up with either a unique topic or new, logical, perceptive, and and/or insightful, comments on something that has escaped the notice of all the other columnists in the United States.

As September of 2014 was drawing to a close, we were considering writing a column about the death of James Dean or Banned Book week, but as they said in the Sixties, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

We know that these are disturbing times because recently we went to Half Price Books in Berkeley and learned that the Cliff Notes guides for both “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “On the Road,” are MIA from their list of available titles.

We had intended to write a sports oriented column urging the NFL to can Goodell and replace him with Donald Sterling, who is available for a management consultant gig in the sports world.

An oil company refining facility was bombed this week as part of the ISIS eradication program and that made us wonder if the price of gas would be increased in California this weekend with the destroyed targets in Syria being cited as the explanation.

One of the top reasons for living in Berkeley is the fact that it provides the best used book shopping experience this side of Book Row of America and we fully intend to write a column on that topic . . . some day.

After getting a bargain basement copy of “The Road Movie Book,” we intended to do a review full of lavish praise because it was knowledgeable about a topic we appreciate and because it hipped us to the film “Wild Boys of the Road,” which preceded “Easy Rider,” by almost four decades. We had just acquired a copy of “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” by Peter Biskind, and thought that could be the keystone for a great column.

Someday we’ll do a column on possibility that Obama is a Judas goat leading the Democrats to acceptance of the restoration of the Bush Dynasty via JEB as the Republican nominee to succeed him.

Speaking of Berkeley, we note that naked dating and naked survival shows became big topic on TV this summer and since it seems like the next step will be naked interview shows and since the San Francisco Bay Area has one such show, “My Naked Truth TV,” with Gypsy Taub, there might be a great opportunity to go on the show and do a gonzo punditry column answering the “what were you thinking” question about that experience. We’ll work on that.

Will Bruce Springsteen’s first Social Security check arrive soon?

The Sunday morning gab-fests are big on promising analysis and critical evaluation of the news for the week, but then they usually just state the facts and let it go without actually doing any bit of delivering an authentic heads up bit of forecasting.

Has any pundit bothered to note that the challenge facing Obama is very similar to the situation that most historians say was the crucial turning point in WWII?

Hitler conquered a great deal of territory and occupied Paris by the summer of 1940. He then started an extensive bombing campaign against Great Britain but balked when it came time to implement Operation Sea Lion which would have put boots on the ground in England. Pundits, spokespersons, and others skip blithely over any questions about how Obama plans to do what Hitler couldn’t.

All of Hitler’s military advisors have urged him to put the boots on the ground. Obama’s military advisors seem to be taking the same position about the futility of trying to use remote control drones to dominate a reluctant enemy.

We might not be the first pundit to compare the two but we will never get an invitation to ride on Willie Nelson’s tour bus and so we have to languish in obscurity and continue our pathetic efforts such as going to this year’s installment of the SuperHero Street Fair (Google hint: superherosf dot com) take some photos and then deal with extreme envy when we read what some Senator’s aid said to the highly paid columnists working in Washington D. C.

Isn’t assuming that the drone strikes will continue for the time being and that the ISIS forces will never make a retaliation strike inside the United States similar to assuming that your favorite baseball team will play four perfect no-hitter shutout games to win the World Series next month?

Some old West wisdom will serve as our quote of the week: “Shoot first; ask questions later.”

We asked the disk jockey to rustle up the best bar room brawl songs and so he will play: Sweet’s “Ball Room Blitz,” Johnny Paycheck’s “Colorado Kool-Aid, and Bobby Bare’s “The Winner.” We have to go see “Last Days in Vietnam.” Have a “Spalpeen” type week.

crop of Berekely political humor

May 21, 2009

Dowd Dood It


Further reading:

“NY Times’ Maureen Dowd Plagiarizes TPM’s Josh Marshall”
TPM, May 17, 2009.

“Gerth blames NY Times editors for Whitewater ‘mistakes’”
Eric Boehlert, Media Matters, June 5, 2007.

“Where’s the Media Mea Culpa?” [on Whitewater]
Joe Conason,, March 28, 2002.

“United States journalism scandals”

March 13, 2008

Maureen Dowd: Ways of the Wayward

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , — Volt @ 5:09 pm

Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, March 12, 2008

FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa.– Just when I thought my head would explode from trying to figure out delegate math, I’m hit with call-girl math.

The arithmetic of procuring a prostitute who is both experienced and inspirational is even more complicated than the arithmetic of procuring a president who is both experienced and inspirational.

If you’re a frugal governor who doesn’t even like paying his political consultant bills, as opposed to an Arab sheik or a Vegas high roller, do you really need to shell out $4,300, plus minibar expenses, to a shell company for two hours with a shady lady? Aren’t there cheaper hooker hook-ups on Craigslist? It makes you wonder how sharp Eliot Spitzer’s pencil was on the state’s fiscal discipline.

And how does it add up that Steamroller No. 1 suddenly morphs into Client No. 9, a nom d’amour with the ring of an overpriced Gucci cologne for men, giving untold thousands for untold years to a prostitution ring that has hourly rates based on rating its girls on a diamond scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being $3,100, and above 7 in a special club for $5,500 and up?

Read More Here

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