Archive for December, 2010

Do Republicans need Ethic$$$ Advi$$$or$?

December 22, 2010

Once upon a time, back during the other Big Depression, a bootlegger chanced upon a group of young lads.  The gangster found much amusement by throwing nickels in their midst and watching the ensuing scramble to take possession of the coins with buffalos on the back (AKA obverse) side.  One of the guys stood aside and made it obvious he wasn’t going to participate in the debasing spectacle.  The hoodlum commended the fellow’s attitude and handed him a half dollar coin. 

Back during the Thirties, there were two rival labor groups which spent all their time and energy battling for the upper hand in their mutual struggle to be the one representing the trucking industry.  A fellow named Ted V. Rodgers was invited to become the president of one of the groups.  He attached a condition to a favorable response.  He wanted their full commitment to his leadership style.  In desperation they agreed.  Several days later the rival group met to select their leadership.  Rodgers walked in, introduced himself and said if they picked him, he would consolidate the two groups and get things done rather than spin wheels in the quest for domination.  They elected him and the two groups merged to form the American Trucking Association.

Conservative sugar daddies bank roll various media to get their message (bigger tax breaks for the wealthy less wages for the working stiffs) across to the public.  Liberal media, like the kids who amused the philanthropic gangster, scrambles desperately for donation money when they should be concentrating on informing the public just how bad things will get if Karl Rove succeeds with his plan for a thousand years of domination of American politics by the Republican Party via control of the Presidency in 2012 and (thanks to the magic electronic voting machines?) getting majorities in both the House and the Senate. 

When this columnist writes a diatribe about the chance that JEB will be elected President and continue the legacy of the Bush Dynasty, the number of reads is noticeably higher than if the columnist strings together a bunch of Google bait items that are fun to write.  That would seem to prove that the audience for this website prefers, wants, and expects some hard-hitting liberal flavored punditry. 

Perhaps readers expect that some wealthy Republican will have a change-of-heart moment and anonymously donate ten grand in a way that could be the basis for a tear-jerker novel by Charles Dickens.  (Scrooge goes into a Vets Hospital and exclaims:  “I don’t need my tax break as badly as these fine lads need more care!”) God bless us all!  I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

So, while <I>el jefe</I> is distracted by the myth of Sisyphus chore of raising funds, we’re going to suddenly change this column to one that should have the headline:

“A Festivus ‘Airing of Complaints’ Column.”

Since the celebration of Festivus has become an annual American tradition which started with the Seinfelt episode broadcast on December 18, 1998, and since this columnist thinks that it is fitting and proper to promote a veneration of traditional values in the Land of the Free, and since we think that the selection of whatzizface rather than Julian Assange as Time Magazine’s Newsmaker of the year was a slap in the face to the American principle of a free press, this will be the our first Annual Frestivus Airing of Complaints Column.

We think that it is shameful in a country that was founded by people who firmly believed that citizens had a right and a duty to know the whats and the whys which could explain the conduct of the ruling junta (be it royalty, dissatisfied colonists, or the Bush family) that websites promoting liberal values should die for lack of funding.  What happened to the American tendency to support the underdog?  Conservative values now assert that Americans should die promoting freedom of speech in other countries while censorship is gaining a toehold in their fatherland and that seems a tad existentialistic.  When did the Frog philosophers take over American thinking? 

When we make a great suggestion in a column and it is ignored, that makes us grumble and complain.

There are other less important gripes for this year’s Festivus.  Does anyone remember the annual summertime competition in which local newspapers and Kodak teamed up to find the best examples of amateur photography?  Where did that go?  Why doesn’t the LIFE website (which has a rock solid branding identity in the photo community) expand and publish readers’ digital photos daily?  Wouldn’t they get a massive response to an offer to give Flickr some competition?  If they added a small cash stipend for a “best of the day” image, wouldn’t their site get more daily hits than the Drudge Report?

Is LIFE conceding that the BBC and Der Spiegel have gained the initiative and made it impossible for LIFE to do on the Internets what it did in the realm of magazine publishing in the late Thirties and in the pre-TV Forties?  Come on, LIFE, if the BBC and Der Spiegel can post readers’ pictures online, so can you!  Great amateur photos were part of you winning formula in the past.  It will work, again.

One of the delights of bookstore browsing is the opportunity for a serendipity find of some new book that the customer didn’t know existed.  As we recall, many years ago, the New York Times used to publish a list of the books being published on the same day that the issue was printed.  Back in the Paleozoic period of Internets development, we suggested that Amazon should hire a reporter who could produce a daily blog about new books to provide an opportunity to increase their business with some impulse buying.  We still think that’s a good idea.

There may not be a huge target audience for a book on how to build chicken coops, but isn’t it logical to think that a few extra units might (we are not saying “will”) be sold if Amazon’s hypothetical book blog plugged such an actual example of bookistry?  (It is now.)  Wouldn’t that help build their traffic by luring “browsers” to their site?

Until earlier this week, this columnist had never seen the word “Chindogu,” which is “the art of the useless idea.”  When we chanced across the opportunity to buy “101 un-useless Japanese Inventions” by Kenji Kawakami (translated by and additional text by Dan Papia Edited by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) from W. W. Norton & Co., we suddenly became a <a href =>Chindogu</a> fan and bought the book.

In the book, we learned in the Ten Tenets of Chindogu that it must be a real thing and not a nonsensical concept such as a wish to become an Ethic$ Advi$$$or for a Republican Politician. 

Speaking of shameless huckstering of products by the media, will the word “promobabble” (which was coined by the World’s Laziest Journalist) ever gain traction and become a contender for the annual “new word” competition?  In California, where everyone over the age of seven is an amateur psychologist and has distain for the word “psychobabble,” indicating an effort to provide friends and relatives with insights and encouragement, knows that there should be a word to designate the endless efforts of TV talk shows to help a guest sell a new product (usually a move, record, or, in rare cases, book).  Hence the word “promobabble” was invented.

Why doesn’t Google News have a list of links for localized news coverage such as L. A. Observed, Berkeley Daily Planet, and Berkeleyside?  We think it’s a good suggestion.

Why do stores segregate men’s and boy’s pants?  A fellow who is of average height can’t buy jeans with legs less than 30 inches in most stores.  People aren’t born adult size; so they must make jeans with shorter leg lengths for young people.  They make it very difficult for an average height fellow to buy them.  Is business that good?

With all the different holidays that occur at the Winter Solstice, why isn’t there one for the Native American Culture?  With the power granted me as a columnist, I hereby declare December 21, of every year, to be “Winter Pow-wow” Day. 

There’s not much time left, get out there and spend!  Buy crap that will sit unnoticed and unused.  Wage irrelevant and unnecessary wars to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.  Support the Republicans gridlock because it indicates that their political party has adopted the traditional labor (socialist?) tactic of a “sit-down strike.” 

Now, the disk jockey will play Stan Freberg’s “Green Christmas,” two different songs titled “Christmas in Jail,” Jimmy Buffett’s song and album titled “Christmas Island,” and Lalo Guerrero’s “Poncho Claus.”  We have to go finish reading Eddie Muller’s “The Distance.”  Have an “exorbitant Chri$$$tma$ bailout bonu$” type week and a Happy Festivus!


A nation with dementia praecox?

December 15, 2010

Item 26 on the Action Calendar for the Berkeley City Council Regular Meeting, which started at 7 P. M. on Tuesday, December 14, 2010, brought the famous university town to world wide attention (once again) because it called for support and freedom for Pfc Bradley Manning and urged the council to proclaim Manning a hero.  Citizens were given one minute each to speak about the item.  The two opposing sides were firmly entrenched in their divergent positions.  For the folks against the item, it was a matter of patriotism to defeat the motion; for those who endorsed the motion, approval was a manifestation of the position that the USA must adhere to the principles enunciated at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials.  The Berkeley City Council voted to table the motion, which means they decided to not make a decision (for the time being). 

In a city where the Hearst School of Journalism is located, there did not seem to be any j-school students getting a first hand look at the noteworthy meeting.  It was easy to get a seat in the audience an hour after the meeting started.  There were a few TV trucks in front of the building where the Council Chambers are located (not the City Hall), but it was not the large number that was adjacent to the Court House in Santa Monica when the matter of the Roman Polanski statutory rape case was being considered.  Perhaps the world news organizations were economizing by using the work of various San Francisco TV stations as pool feeds?  Or could it be that sex cases are more important than war?

Can an entire nation become schizophrenic?  There are two schools of thought on that question.  One says “absolutely” and the other says “No way, Jose!”

Those who say it can happen offer some items for evidence such as:  When Ed Muskie cried in Vermont, while seeking his party’s Presidential nomination, the media stepped in and destroyed and discredited his quest by pointing out that he was emotionally unstable, but when Rep. John Boehner, the Republican who will be the next Speaker of the House and will be right after the Vice-President in the line of succession, cries it’s OK because it is a manifestation of the Orange man’s “softer side.”

When the Germans used waterboarding, they were committing a war crime; but when America uses the “simulated drowning” method of questioning, it’s OK because they are protecting their country.

During the eight years of the Bush era, tax cuts do not seem to have provided a surfeit of jobs, but now that a Democrat is President, extending those tax breaks will suddenly provide jobs.

When Julian Assange exposes war crimes, he should be lynched because he might be endangering American lives; but when Dick Cheney outs a CIA agent (which is specifically verboten) that’s OK because her husband’s loyalty to President George W. Bush was in question.

After Germany’s leader used subterfuge to instigate an invasion of Poland, that example of misconduct was used at Nuremburg to produce the principle that any invasion is a crime against peace.  When George W. Bush used nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to justify the deployment of American troops into Iraq, that was OK because he didn’t know that they were figments of his own imagination.  Isn’t that like using a “temporary insanity” plea as a way to avoid a conviction for war crimes? 

There’s an old bit of wisdom for those who attend Comic-con:  “Reality is a crutch for those who don’t understand Sci-fi.”  Should that axiom be amended?  “Reality is a crutch for those who don’t understand patriotism.”

Rupert Murdock is a (very wealthy) wise old media mogul from Australian and the thought that a cute and much younger, much less experienced guy, who is also from Australia . . . is there something going on here that the US doesn’t know about?  Do you think that . . . ?  Isn’t it just a case of a refusal by the older journalist to pass the torch to a new generation?  Does the management at Fox News think that the Assange sex case more important than war?  Is it?

Would it be deliciously ironic if the password to unlock the next WikiLeaks document dump uses the Des-key (F2654hd4) used to keep the electronic voting machines secure?  Perhaps that could happen by repeating those same 8 characters several times?  If that is the case, could it be considered an inside joke for the hackers community?

In the land where former PM Tony Blair was affectionately called Bush’s Poodle, are the Brits refusing to participate in a new installment of the “dog and pony show”?  If America wants to bring Assange to the USA, why is it necessary to play the shell game about getting Great Britain to send him to Sweden first?  Can’t the USA just ask the Brits for extradition?  Have the people who benefited from the Lend Lease program completely lost their sense of gratitude?

Whatzizname from Facebook has just been named Time magazine’s newsmaker of the year for being who he is and doing whatever it is that he has done.  Folks in Russia think that Julian Assange deserves a Nobel Peace Prize but the news organizations seem to be skipping over what the Commies think of Time’s selection. 

Neal Diamond has just been named to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. 

When Berkeley has the chance to once again direct the focus of anti-war sentiment to their city, they tabled the motion.

President Obama was last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.  He has continued using the questioning techniques authorized by George W. Bush & Co., which some say qualifies as a war crime.  Will future historians dare to ask if those two facts, taken together, prove that the year 2010 was the high point of the Golden Age of American Schizophrenia?  On the one hand, this columnist is inclined to predict that it will happen; on the other hand, maybe we should just table the motion and let it slide.

In The Dream of the Golden Mountains (The Viking Press hardback 1980 on page x in the Foreword), Malcolm Cowley wrote:  “I say ‘we’ and ‘us’ while conscious of their being treacherous pronouns; any reader is entitle to ask, ‘Who is <I>we</I>?’”

Now the disk jockey will rock out and play “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” “Holly Holy,” and “I am I said.”  We have to go get a wifi connection to learn what happened after we left regarding Item 27 for the Berkeley City Council which meant they would urge Pacifica to reinstate to KPFA’s Morning Show.  Have a “Stones” type week.

What is Gonzo?

December 13, 2010

In an effort to get away from the Bush Tax Cut Exemption Blues, this columnist hiked to Moe’s Bookstore, in Berkeley, last week, to hear a talk by Benjamin Griffin, one of the associated editors of the recently published first volume of Mark Twain’s three volume autobiography.  The book has had Berkeley’s intellectual community all agog for the second half of this year.  We had a pen and our official Ampad 4 inch by 8 inch Reporter’s Notebook in the left back pocket of our jeans (just in case) and then, wouldn’t ya know it, just when we settled back to enjoy a night off, it seemed like we had to get to work because the speaker offered tidbits of evidence we could use in a continuing argument in the employee lounge at the World’s Laziest Journalist headquarters that pitted the editorial department against the legal department.

Griffin mentioned that Twain wrote everything in longhand except the Autobiography, which he dictated to a secretary.  The jumbled result has for years caused extensive discomfort to a continuing series of editors because they wanted to take the rambling, free association, stream of consciousness material and put it into a different order other than the chronological one in which it was delivered by Twain.

Which of the two methods of composing is better?  Editorial argues for direct to the paper and legal makes the case for dictating the words.  Do dictators write better novels?

In the Q and A session after the talk, Griffin was asked if a Twain scholar, hearing a passage for the first time, could tell if it had been written in longhand or dictated, replied:  “I can” and got a good laugh.  He then noted that Joseph Conrad, for whom English was a second language, dictated his novels.  According to very old anecdotal evidence, Errol Stanley Gardner used the dictation method for his Perry Mason courtroom drama novels.

In “James Thurber on Writing and Writers, Humor and Himself (Edited by Michael J. Rosen Harper Perennial 1989 page 5),” readers are informed:  “I still write occasionally – in the proper sense of the word – using black crayon on yellow paper and getting perhaps twenty words to the page.  My usual method, though, is to spend the morning turning over the text in my mind.  Then in the afternoon, between 2 and 5, I call in a secretary and dictate to her.”  

Griffin also informed the audience that most of Twain’s stories came from first hand experience and observation and they often involved some distortion of the situation.

Fictionalizing and including the writer as part of the scene sounded like a very familiar formula.  Where had we heard that about a writer using that modus operandi?

Wow!  Now we were closing in on a doubleheader column as a bonus for working instead of taking it easy.  Hadn’t Griffin just outlined the Gonzo style of writing?  Could it be that Mark Twain was Gonzo before Hunter Thompson was born?

The first thing such a column would need is a definition of the word Gonzo.  In the book Gonzo: the Life of Hunter S. Thompson (An oral Biography by Jann S. Wenner and Corey Seymour Little Brown and Company 2007) the origin of the word is outlined by Doug Brinkley on pages 125 and 126 but he doesn’t give a definition of the word itself.

Online, at the Owl Farm blog we found <a href =>Hunter Thompson’s definition</a> from the Great Shark Hunt.  It boiled down to firsthand observations, quick composition, and some storyline streamlining via fictionalizing.

This week, we’ve been rereading parts of William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diary.  He wanted to record history as he saw it happening.  In the Foreword he says:  “The only justification in my own mind was that chance, and the kind of job I had, appeared to be giving me a somewhat unusual opportunity to set down from day to day a first-hand account of a Europe that was already in agony and that, as the months and years unfolded, slipped inexorably towards the abyss of war and self-destruction.”  It is a great book but none dare call it Gonzo Journalism.

How much fictionalizing is an acceptable level?  Where does Gonzo journalism stop and tall tales begin?  Online we found that tall tales involve “a story with unbelievable elements related as if it were true.”  Works such as the Singular Travels, Campaigns and Adventures of Baron Munchausen (written by Rudolf Eric Raspe?) would be disqualified from being called Gonzo Journalism because the humor is in the extreme exaggeration of reality.  An example would be the Baron’s encounter with a frightful wolf:  “ . . . I laid hold of his intrails, turned him inside out like a glove and flung him to the ground where I left him.” 

Richard Trageskis managed to participate in the Battle for Guadalcanal and keep a (forbidden?) diary of the experience.  It was turned into a bestselling book and movie during World War II. 

Don Lattin, in a review of two new books (Page E 1 and E 6 of the December 2, 2010 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle) confuses things even further by trying to rechristen the Gonzo style.  Lattin wrote:  “ . . . an overheated speedy prose style, one that has come to be known in some circles as ‘<a href =>hysterical realism</a>.’”  He drolly adds:  “This irreverent in the moment tone may have once work for Wolfe or Hunter S. Thomason, but it quickly becomes tiresome when chronicling something that happened half a century ago.”

The fact that the official version of Twain’s autobiography has been held off the market for 100 years and is now selling well (No. 3 on the New York Times Nonfiction Best Sellers list for December 12, 2010) is all that is needed to invalidate Lattin’s judgment on the topic of Gonzo Journalism and discourage any additional sour grapes attempts to rename it “hysterical realism.”

Jane Stillwater is a friend and blogging colleague and also she is a veteran Berkeley activist and grandmother.  She has written a book, Bring Your Own Flak Jacket, which describes her experiences being embedded with Marines in Iraq and freelance traveling in and reporting from Afghanistan.  On page 358, she reports:  “The helicopter ride back to the Green Zone was spectacular because our Blackhawk didn’t have doors.”  Doesn’t that sound very Gonzo? 

Can anyone deny that editor Julian Assange has become part of the story?  It seems that an editor shouldn’t be eligible to become the new Hunter Thompson. 

Perhaps William L. Shirer would say that any writing that permits fictionalizing isn’t journalism at all.  If one admits that true journalism has zero tolerance for fabrications, should Fox News be permitted to refer to itself as a member of the journalism media?  Could they claim to be purveyors of Gonzo entertainment?

In the December of 1934 issue of Esquire magazine Ernest Hemingway wrote:  “But the bad luck for the customer is that your correspondent was a working newspaper man and as such used to envy the way columnists were allowed to write about themselves.”  Hemingway overcame that reluctance but can the Gonzo label be applied to his work? 

The topic of what is the precise definitive definition of Gonzo and who, other than Hunter S. Thompson, can wear the mantle of Gonzo is fertile ground for a book project.  The topic of journalistic tolerance for fictionalization belongs in the classrooms at various J-schools. 

Stirring up something and then walking away from it worked for George W. Bush, so we’ll give it a try.  Here’s a question for those scholars who like the debates about the possibility that <a href =>Christopher Marlowe wrote one, some, or all of Shakespeare’s plays</a>:  Did Mark Twain hire Ambrose Bierce to do some ghost writing work?

Sir Winston Churchill wrote:  “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.”

Now the disk jockey will play James Booker’s 1960 piano instrumental titled “Gonzo,” Jerry Lee Louis’ song “I wish I was 18 again”  (listen to the words and tell me that isn’t Gonzo journalism set to music), and Ted Nugent’s 1978 Double Live Gonzo album. 

We have to go to the Hiller Aviation Museum to cover their celebration of the DC-3’s seventy-fifth birthday.  Have a “when the going gets weird; the weird turn pro” type week.

This column has been cross-posted on

Is talk radio doomed?

December 7, 2010

John Loughery’s biography of Willard Huntington Wright, titled S. S. Van Dine, contains a noticeable amount of material about art theory which this reader found interesting.  That prompted us to leap to the assumption that we would have enjoyed the evening of conversation about that very esoteric topic which was recently scheduled to occur in New York City at the 92 St. Y.  Unfortunately, the event was put on a cable TV channel and the viewers were encouraged to e-mail questions.  The host group was inundated by requests for celebrity gossip because one of the participants just happened to be the author, comedian, and actor Steve Martin.  The event sponsors caved to public pressure and relayed the audience’s wishes to Mr. Martin.  That destroyed the event’s intellectual intent and threw it into complete disarray. 

We learned about this Manhattan based brouhaha on Sunday morning at the café Mediterraneum in Berkeley CA while we were finishing our first pass on that day’s installment of the Week in Review Section of the New York Times. 

Initially, declaring that we were in a genuine beatnik café (hey, if the place was open as the Piccolo and offering bargain meals while Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg were living in Berkeley . . .) before noon may be suspect, but, since that place was the home of the caffé latte, and since we were in dire need of a dose of caffeine, and since we had, while walking there, acceded to an impulse to buy the aforementioned massive journalistic document dump of information and ideas, it seemed altogether proper and fitting to be thus engaged.

We noticed that our neighbor at the next table was duplicating our effort to become well informed.  We asked:  “Why are you reading the New York Times in Berkeley California?  He noted that was a profound question and he lacked a profound answer.  Fair dinkum.  We exchanged a few additional bits of opinion and local information and so when he rose to leave we asked if he knew where in that particular university town, someone could go to find a lively discussion.  He listed three possible locations worth, by his reckoning, investigation.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, wouldn’t cha know it; his answer indicated that we might want to reach into the memory bank and use our ability to imitate an Irish accent to augment the search process.  In the part of Pennsylvania, where we spent our childhood years, IrishCatholicDemocrat is one word and everyone who used it was of Irish ancestry.

Some naïve folks may suggest that what this columnist needs to do is to turn on the radio and turn the tuning knob to find a smorgasbord of lively discussions revolving around the day’s controversy du jour.  Aye, lads and lassies, there’s the rub.  The programs available on the radio are comparable to playing a game of chance with a Mississippi riverboat gambler.  The programs that are conducted under the conservative banner, will disconnect a caller who is heading toward making a salient liberal point (“to protect the audience from misinformation and heresy” or words to that effect) while the shows that are hosted by a liberal pundit are lately prone to be dominated by callers repeating conservative talking points. 

Consequently the result is as bland and boring as if someone who does not give a tinker’s damn about sports, tunes into a radio station featuring sports talk.  Don’t the stations in the San Francisco Bay area favor the local teams and don’t the New York City based stations featuring sports talk favor the Yankees, Jets, and Giants football team?

The days when people who wanted a lively discussion would adhere to the guidelines elaborated in Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay “<a href =>Talk and Talkers</a>” are part of a lost era.  Now, shouting matches are foisted on the audience because they are entertaining and help boost ratings.

After departing the previously mentioned beatnik café, we encountered a fellow who, when we had occasion to mention that we do not own a TV set, said:  “Someone who doesn’t own a television?  . . . that’s as scary as a Steven King movie.”  Just a few moments after that exchange, we encountered a group of young hippies in the world famous “People’s Park,” who were deeply engrossed in the process of reading a fresh copy of that day’s edition of the New York Times.  We took a photo because the tableau resembled a cross between a Saturday Evening Post cover painted by Norman Rockwell and some photojournalism (by Dorothea Lang?) documenting the last Great Depression.

Could it be that the conservatively owned news media have, with their incessant proclamation of the triumph of the philosophy of the wealthy, only manage to delude just themselves?   What if the attitude toward journalism in the United States today matches the levels of cynicism and distrust toward managed news that was experienced in Germany during the second half of 1944?

Every kid knows that hot air and bubble gum will collapse when they meet their limits, but do the best known purveyors of conservative talking points have late night moments of questioning and doubt similar to what Scrooge experienced when he encountered some ghosts in the Dickens tale? 

What respected journalism awards have Rush and Glen Beck won? 

Isn’t it time for Rupert and the Koch brothers to fund some new news awards which can be bestowed on hapless propagandists to impress gullible teabaggers and to reassure any conservatives vulnerable to moments of self-doubt?

Liberal websites are like the canary in the mine and some of them are looking very peaked these days.  Imagine, if you will, that Combat newspaper, which was distributed in occupied Paris during World War II, had suspended publication because of a lack of money.  Do Americans still not get the picture?

Does Rush Limbaugh honestly think that capitalists will continue to pay his salary when the last vestiges of any opposing point of view have been extinguished?  Capitalists don’t get rich by handing out exorbitant paychecks unnecessarily.  When the voice of opposition and lively conversations have become extinct, Rush’s services will be as appealing to the capitalists as the efforts of a union organizer are now.

From a selfish point of view, wouldn’t it be logical for Rush to think that he should sporadically offer subsidy money to liberal media anonymously

Listening to Rush Limbaugh repeat passages from the Republican playbook reminds this columnist of the Twilight Zone episode that ended with the line:  “It’s a cookbook!”

Wouldn’t readers of this website love to be the clerk in an Unemployment Office when all liberal media has been extinguished and Rush is given a pink slip and has to learn first hand what amounts of bureaucracy are involved in the paperwork necessary to start an unemployment claim?

Patriotic teabaggers would be the first to proclaim “It can’t happen here.”  To which we would quote the closing line from The Sun also Rises: “‘Yes!’ I said.  ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so.’”

Richard H. Dana, Jr., in Two Years Before the Mast, wrote:  “Whatever your feelings may be, you must make a joke of everything at sea; and if you were to fall from aloft and be caught in the belly of a sail and saved from instant death, it would not do to look at all disturbed, or to make a serious matter of it.”  That’s good advice for conservative talk show hosts too.

Now the disk jockey will play Walyon and Hank Jr.’s “The Conversation,” a bootleg copy of “Cosmic Joke,” written and sung by David Carradine, and (from South Pacific) “Happy talk.”  We have to go to the “Going Places” travel agency and ask Tulle if Pan Am offers a stop off in Tahiti if we buy a ticket to New Zealand.  Have “smile when you say that” type week.

A fulcrum moment for Freedom of the Press

December 4, 2010

Describing the subjective reactions which accompany the miscalculations of a driver who finds that the automobile he is driving is going to do a rollover seemed to be material which would provide an excellent metaphor to be applied to the sensations that were experienced by advocates of a free press while they were witnessing this week’s vehement reactions by the Republicans to the latest WikiLeaks document dump.

In their January 1969 issue, Esquire magazine (the writer of one of their articles would be a more precise way of putting it) declared that race car driver Masten Gregory was the last of the great crashers.  He would exit a Ferrari that was traveling at a hundred miles an hour toward a wreck situation with the same savoir fair and sang froid as if he were agent 007.  He has successfully done that maneuver more than once in his life.  It is good to have that bit of trivia available if you happen to find yourself in a vintage Volkswagen (remember the kick peg to access the last gallon of gas in the fuel tank?)  that is tilting precariously to one side.  A decision about departing from a vehicle as a crash becomes imminent is a quick-draw gun fighter reaction and not an occasion for a prolonged and detailed debate weighing the pros and cons of a binary choice:  “Should I stay or should I take the option to get the hell outta here?”  It’s a “think fast” type situation that is focused on and decided in one short moment in time.

We all know that Republicans are fanatical in their devotion to the Constitution, but when it gets to the Amendments, then they begin to go all wobbly and the issues start to get a little bit fuzzy.  Thus while they give titular approval to the concept of a free press, they do consistently balk when it comes to most debates over the application of the principles established by the First Amendment.  This week, it seems, some Republicans were on the verge of suggesting a return to vigilante justice and an endorsement of the idea that Julian Assange should be stoned to death in front of the New York Times home office.  (Does stoning a sinner in public equate to “Second Amendment” remedies?)

Obviously teabaggers would be eager to debate the topic “Is Julian Assange the new victim of “The Ox-Bow Incident” mentality?” and slip in clever bits of equivocating and blur the terms of the debate because they are clever fellows who fully appreciate the art of fine oration.  They seem oblivious to the point of view that the effort to quash Assange comes perilously close to replicating the level of tolerance for dissention held by Germany’s National Socialist Workers Party in Germany during the Thirties

Republicans with highly developed debating skills would be quick to point out that an occasional application of denial of the public’s access to biased propaganda is not the same as news censorship and therefore an acceptable remedy for the crisis that the WikiLeaks has precipitated in the realm of information management.

The Republicans ignore requests to show what specific information has endangered American lives by being published and completely ignore questions about how Assange qualifies for the death penalty on that count while Dick Cheney got a full pass for the damage he caused by outing Valerie Plame.

Some villainous Democrats have taken the debate over Assange as an opportunity to smudge and fudge and make gullible rubes think that a stifling of the WikiLeaks affront to the diplomatic corps of the “greatest country on God’s green earth” is comparable to the efforts of Herr Goebbels to implement mind-control on a national level. 

The Democrats exaggerate the threat so greatly that they would have folks believe that the choice regarding killing Assange ASAP or sparing his life, putting him on trial, and then executing him for treason, is important and an occasion comparable to giving a crowd of members of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club the choice of granting a full pardon to either Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or to a legendary brigand name Barabbas.  They would have us believe that the Republicans are actually crying:   “Death to the free press!”

Future historians will look back on the week after Thanksgiving 2010 as the “point of no return.”  Will Fox News (have you noticed how some lefties sneeringly  pronounce it as if it were spelled Fucks News?) convince America this week that Rupert Murdock should become JEB Bush’s Commissar of Information or will America turn on the Republicans and endorse unfettered access to accurate information?

When Paul von Hindenburg decided to grant the leader of a minority faction the chance to be named chancellor, it was (to coin a new meaning for an old geometry phrase) a fulcrum moment.  He did not realize that the lives of millions depended on his response.  The instant he replied the course of history changed and their fate was sealed.

Someone with much more computing expertise than this columnist, could probably assemble a montage of moments from Western movies when someone yells:  “Come on, boys, let’s <a href =,9171,738163,00.html> string him up</a>!” and juxtapose it with some Republican sound bytes from this past week and get the point across.  (It seems doubtful that Jon Stewart is reading this, but if he is; he has my permission to use this suggestion for a video segment.)

The New York Times, which this columnist has vigorously criticized previously, took a historic and commendable stand with their coverage of the latest WikiLeaks document dump.   At an event held this week in Berkeley, a member of the audience shouted out the idea that Julian Assange should get the next Nobel Peace Prize.  Isn’t he a leading contender for the “Time Man of the Year” award (which is given for news value and not as an accolade)?

Americans are facing a fulcrum moment.  Americans can repudiate the Republican reaction to Assange or they can raise their hand in “the German salute” and prove that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it 

Omar Khayyam once said: 

“The Moving Finger writes; and having writ

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Now the disk jocky will play Dobie Gray’s “In with the In Crowd,” Jim Backus (and friend) doing “Delicious,” and Willie Nelson and Ray Charles singing “Seven Spanish Angeles.”  We have to go and investigate the news tip that Assange is staying at Lee Harvey Oswald’s secret hideout somewhere in the USA.  Have a “The High and the Mighty” type week.