Archive for February, 2012

“We just live in it . . .”

February 24, 2012

The assertion that President Obama may have botched his chance for reelection in November because he didn’t start a war during the week of February 19 to 25 may sound absurd as that week comes to an end, but how will the President’s spin specialists respond if, right before the 2012 Presidential Election is held, the Republican candidate tells the voters that it is too late to stop Iran from developing an atomic weapon and that the last chance to prevent that development came during the last full week in February?

Usually avoiding American involvement in a new war is portrayed as a wise course of action, but with the Republicans this year the standard rules of political conduct seem to be in disarray, if not total chaos, and that leaves open the chance that the candidate who eventually wins the Republican Party’s nomination and who will attempt to limit President Obama to one term in office may not hesitate to point back at the last full week in February of 2012 and say that was when President Obama had the last chance available to use a surgical military strike to put a halt to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

During the week of February 19 to 25, pundits and or journalists suggested thatIranmight want to use a preemptive strike to protect their own country.  The news media in theUSAran a story suggesting thatIranhad individuals inside theUSAdoing scouting reports for possible terrorist activity. 

If a President has solid intelligence asserting that another country is going to launch a preemptive strike against theUSA, doesn’t that mean that the President should launch a preemptive strike against them to defendAmericafrom a new Pearl Harbor-type attack?

Some altruistic personalities were suggesting that the week would have been a good time to launch humanitarian air strikes againstSyriato protect their citizens in much the same way as the war for humanitarian reasons helped diminish the carnage inLibyalast year.

Now that the principle of war for humanitarian reason has been established (by President Obama) can any Democrat rationally defend a choice to skip waging a new war for humanitarian reasons? 

The Republicans love to frame the issues and debates for the Presidential elections and so if they make the assertion that a surgical strike against Iran should have been launched this past week, then the Presidential campaign might be based on the idea that the winner should be the one who can most duplicate the war-like attitude of George W. Bush.

Wouldn’t it be über-ironic if George W. Bush’s brother used that bit of inverted logic to win the Presidency in November of this year?

If President Obama doesn’t attack some country soon, his fall reelection campaign might sound like a flashback toSan Franciscoin the Sixties.  “Make Love, not War” and all that.

It seems that Occupy San Francisco has faded into history.  The Republicans love to treat a problem by removing the symptoms.  Where have all the Occupy Protesters gone?

Page one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wednesday, February 22, 2012 edition, reported “Peter Cukor, 67, was killed at his home inBerkeleyminutes after reporting a trespasser.  Police were responding only to emergency calls at the time.”  Since the Berkeley Police Department was busy monitoring an Occupy Berkeley Protest, critics immediately demanded a complete investigation into the BPD response to the citizen’s call on the non-emergency line.

OccupyCalhas been moving a protest encampment around to different locations on theBerkeleycampus.

OccupyOakland, Occupy San Francisco, and Occupy Berkeley encampments have been dispersed.  The news media seems to have become distracted away from any questions about where the Occupy protesters have relocated. 

On Wednesday, February 22, 2012, the San Francisco Organizing Project (SFOP) had members of the local clergy present a letter to a representative of Wells Fargo Bank asking their bank to put a halt to foreclosure proceedings in the state of California until a study could determine if the paperwork had been done carefully and legally. 

Would the clergy’s protest have received more news media coverage if any of the Occupy groups had provided additional protesters?  There were no San Francisco Police Department officers in riot gear monitoring the possibility that the clergy protest might get out of hand and necessitate numerous arrests.

The Occupy San Francisco protesters have disappeared and news coverage of the possibility that the city will host theAmerica’s Cup yacht races has become the hot controversy for local political observers.

To some cynical observers, it may seem that the politicians inSan Franciscoare giving away too many concessions to various parties.  To others, theAmerica’s Cup races promises to bring additional tourist revenue to the area.

If some averageSan Franciscocitizens were to suddenly have the chance to do the tourist routine inFremantle,Western Australia, which would they rather see:  Bon Scott’s statue or the Museum with a yacht that won theAmerica’s Cup?

Recently the World’s Laziest Journalist noticed what seemed to be a T-shirt with a typo.  It read:  “Beat me up, Scotty!”  Then we realized that was aSan Francisco(Republican?) thing.

This week, folks in fog city learned that tickets would soon go on sale for a local venue for “<a href =http://shatnersworld.com/>Shatner’s World:  We just live in it</a>.”  Wasn’t that predicted ages ago by the Mayan calendar?

Former area resident (and columnist) Hunter S. Thompson has been quoted as saying:  “I wouldn’t recommend alcohol and drugs to anyone.  But they have always worked for me.”

Now the disk jockey will play The Iron Butterfly song “Beyond the Milky Way,” the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” and Scott McKenzie’s “What’s the Difference?”   We have to go see if flower power is still happenin’.   Have a Haight & Ashbury type week.

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JEB, Karl Rove, and a brokered convention

February 17, 2012

IsAmericabeing set up for the return of the Bush Dynasty?  Has the legacy of Murrow’s Boys morphed into a shameless spectacle of his network’s modern on air talent kowtowing to the Republican Party in the form of stories about a political triumph that is being spun as a “compromise”?   

In the early morning hours on Thursday, KCBS news radio inSan Franciscoreported that the payroll tax cut had been extended because the Republicans folded on their insistence that it be balanced by corresponding budget cuts. 

Isn’t the “payroll tax cut” code talk for cutting back on workers’ contributions to the Social Security Trust fund?  Hasn’t destroying the Social Security program been the top Republican political goal since the day FDR signed it into law?

They get to take another major step towards dismantling the Social Security Program and make their dreams come true and a step to destroy (eliminate funding from) other social programs is postponed and that qualifies as a compromise?  GMAFB!

Hasn’t cutting social programs become the Sadistic highlight of the post St. Reagan era for the Republicans?  Wouldn’t gettingAmerica’s free press to applaud the trend just be icing on the cake?  Could the trend to cut social programs funding be compared to being the budgetary equivalent ofSherman’s march to the sea?

Isn’t portraying the lack of cuts as a humiliating compromise the final nail in the coffin forAmerica’s Freedom of the Press?

Do employees at Fox News really start the day by facing a photo of Murdoch, taking an loyalty oath, and then putting their hats over their hearts while singing along to “Memo from Turner”?  Or is that just an urban legend?

The World’s Laziest Journalist thinks that he remembers a posting on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website castigating American Journalists for using the dishonest “payroll tax cut” euphemism in place of the more politically charged term “raid on the Social Security Trust Fund.” 

In the conservative dominated realm of spin, ascertaining the truth in American Politics has come to resemble the classic chase scene in Orson Wells film “The Lady fromShanghai.”  Which image is political reality, which is diabolical spin?  Remember if you make a guess and it is incorrect, you will lose more of you rapidly diminishing supply of Constitutional rights.  (Good luck!) 

Hasn’t the pervasive Conservative noise machine pummeled Americans into surrendering their insistence that the function of the press is to provide citizens with accurate information that will permit them to make well informed decisions when they vote?  Isn’t amusing and entertaining what just what Edward R. Murrow and his posse, called Murrow’s Boys, really wanted?

Have you heard the radio ads that tout a method for getting a choice of approximately 500 American radio stations?  (Define “a hall of mirrors.”)  Should the ever narrowing window of opportunity for access to foreign news sources be compared to Hitler’s edict that proclaimed that listening to foreign radio stations had become a capital offense?

What would be so bad about listening to Sky Rock fromParis, Triple J fromAustralia, or (if it still exists) Radio Caroline?

Wasn’t there a book a while back in theUSA, with the cryptic title:  “Ladies and Gentlemen; this way to the showers!”?  What was that supposed to mean?

At the World’s Laziest Journalist’s Headquarters we thought we saw a mention on the Internets (and a story in last Sunday’s edition of the New York Times) about some newsmen getting arrested inGreat Britainbecause of a hacking scandal investigation.  Did we just imagine that?

Before Dubya sent American troops off toAfghanistanandIraq, the American Free Press ran “we don’t want anotherVietnam” essays on their Op Ed pages.  Now asAmericaprepares to use the principles established at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials outlining the necessary condition for permitting a preemptive strike, the lefties in the press realize that such divisive diversions are counter-productive and seem to have given up that lame attempt at circulation building stunt journalism. 

If Rupert Murdoch tells the journalists to jump, they must jump and ask “How high?” on the way up.

Americaestablished the principle of war for humanitarian reasons before authorizing drone attacks onLibya.  This week the need to send drones attacks againstSyriaas a means of protecting that country’s citizens from a bloodthirsty national leader is becoming abundantly clear thanks to the fair and balance new coverage being provided byAmerica’s Free Press.

Weren’t the trend spotting reporters in American Journalism right on top of the “Linsanity” phenomenon this week?  We may have to personally direct the Pulitzer Prize selection committee’s attention to some of the best of the lot.

Not all the work done at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is devoted to deep dark secret government plots against its own citizens.  One of the Factory’s midlevel management team, earlier this week, dug out an old item from long ago when he was only a summer intern there. 

According to his theory; if you take the segment of Madonna’s “Truth or Dare” documentary film where she ridiculed actor Kevin Costner and speculate that that incident must have occurred just about the time he (as Executive Producer for the film project called “The Bodyguard”) was making assessment about who should be given the role of the female singing sensation (what is type casting?); you just might come up with some speculation about how Whitney Houston’s big career boost was  directly attributable to some rudeness delivered by Madonna.  (Didn’t Madonna used to have some aspirations for an acting career to augment her musical achievements?)

This week Tony Bennett was given the key to the city in a ceremony atSan FranciscoCity Hall.  Some pre-event publicity indicated that part of the program would include the honoree singing “I Left My ♥ inSan Francisco.”  He didn’t.  (OMFG! Somebody has left the ♥ symbol loose on the Internets!  Now it will spread like the bubonic plague!)

The Occupy Cal rebel encampment on Sproul Plaza was moved to another area of the campus late this week.  (Note:  On Friday morning, it was being reported by an Occupy Potester that the encampment on the steps of Doe Library had been removed.  A Google News search was inconclusive.)

On Thursday, we saw news reports that stated that a brokered Republican Convention might be offered the choice of JEB Bush or Sarah Palin to function as a “tie-breaker.”

(How many Democrats will be dumb enough to believe that the Republican Party is ready to name a beauty contest winner as commander-in-chief of the American military?  {This is what mystery fans call “a red herring.”}) 

There is a bit of folk wisdom inHollywoodthat advises script writers to leave some “wiggle room” at the conclusion of a horror film, so that the monster can return in a sequel. 

Wasn’t there a bunch of news reports about the Bush Dynasty being as extinct as the dinosaurs when George W. Bush’s term in office was concluded?  Is Karl Rove going to pull an astonishing sequel scenario out of a hat this summer just as if American politics were as predictable as a Wes Craven movie sequel?

Are the liberal pundits inAmerica’s Free Press just going to sit there and not bring up the possibility of the political effort to reincarnate something that was deemed extinct? 

If this column isn’t reprinted on the Op Ed page of the New York Times next week, maybe the World’s Laziest Journalist should try to contact the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney (New South Wales) and see if there’s any possibility of being a guest lecturer there before the November election.  Don’t people into scholarship value alternative viewpoints . . . especially if in retrospect they were spot-on?

To be continued .  . .

FormerSan Franciscocolumnist Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary included this entry:  “<I>Cynic</I>, n. a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.”

Now, the disk jockey will play The Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” Janis Joplin’s “Down on me,” and Quicksilver Messenger Service’s “Holy Moly.”  We have to go to the poster shop and get the one of the flying Mustang from “Bullitt.”  Have a “Make Love, not war” type week.

World’s Laziest Journalist hard at work

February 10, 2012

As the first full week in February ends, the overwhelming temptation for political pundits is to compare the chaotic process of getting the Republican primary elections voters to choose the man who is ultimately going to get the nomination to Bach’s Little Harmonic Labyrinth, and so the World’s Laziest Journalist will skip that because it is too obvious.  The executives for the Democratic Party know who their nominee will be just as surely as Karl Rove knows who his party will select.

Isn’t it obvious to non pundits that Romney is a Potemkin candidate?  For most Republicans the situation is like when they learn beforehand that they will be honored via a surprise party and that they will have to act surprised when it happens right on schedule.

The paid pundits in the mainstream media know this but their weekly (“Yeah, I get paid weakly – very weakly”) paycheck is whatcha might call “hush money.”  When the inevitable happens watch and see just how authentic the surprise is on the faces of TV’s regulars on the weekend analysis shows.  It’s like they say in Hollyweird:  “If you can fake sincerity, you have it made inHollywood.”

Didn’t Republicans fight hard to get ranked choice voting established and now aren’t they using the Liberals’ arguments against the change to discredit Romney who isn’t getting much more than about 50 percent of the voters in any one primary?

Speaking of Republican inconsistencies; what about the possibility of sending Americans intoSyriato help them win freedom and democracy?  Is it an oxymoron when Republicans staunchly endorse sending American youth to die in a war to establish a democracy overseas?  Shouldn’t they want to establish a Republic and not a Democracy?

TheOaklandcity council at their regular Tuesday night meeting voted down a measure to order the Police to use more stringent measures when dealing with the Occupy protesters. 

Some cynics question spending money for keeping people out of a public park or plaza or from seizing a vacant building on a weekend when five murders are committed in other areas ofOakland.  Isn’t the answer that there is always going to be gang violence but cleaning up the downtown shopping area makes business associations happy?

Periodically atFrankOgawaPlazatiny teepees will appear.  Apparently they are meant to be a gesture of defiance regarding the ban on the use of tents in that area in front of theOaklandCity Hall.

This week the Guardian weekly newspaper inSan Franciscoran an article, on page nine of the February 8 to 14, 2012 edition, written b Shawn Gaynor, about new legislation which is designed to prevent the San Francisco Police Department from working with the FBI to investigate local citizens. 

Isn’t it one thing for the police to tell a fearful wife that they can’t do much about a husband’s threats until he actually does something unlawful, and another thing for a country that might send troops toSyriato investigate the possibility of future reprisals inside theUSA?

This week the New York Times in a lead story on page one reported that theUSAplans to downsize the number of diplomats stationed inIraq.  Were they trying to hint that the massive Embassy constructed under war conditions in that country was an example of overspending that precipitated the numerous cuts to welfare programs inside theUSA?  If that’s what they wanted to imply, why not just come out and say so in an editorial?

How can it be that there isn’t a week that goes by without some liberals protesting the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Prison but the allegations of prisoner abuse in the Los Angeles County Jail gets little (if any) notice outside that gigantic county?

On Thursday, February 9, 2012,OccupyCalheld a rally on the Mario Savio steps at Sproul Hall. 

The World’s Laziest Journalist went early to the noon event and, while waiting for the start time to arrive, chatted with a local political activist, Russell Bates, who attends many of the political events in the area.

Bates (who emphasizes that he is not related to the mayor ofBerkeley) related a version of the events inOaklandon January 28, 2012, that didn’t quite mesh with the way it was reported in local news media.

According to Bates, the marchers who trampled a fence down at theKaiserCenterinOaklandthat day were trying to move away from police aggressive police officers and when the marchers encountered the fences the crowd movement away from the police was a greater force than the fence was engineered to withstand.

Bates went on to assert that the people who were arrested for burglary entry into the YMCA later that night, were merely trying to avoid being arrested in a kettling maneuver by the police and that the marchers were merely rushing through the only avenue of escape.  Bates alleges that of the 408 people arrested that day, only twelve were charged. 

Bates claims that the news media is complicit in spinning the events of that day because they did not provide aerial coverage from their news choppers of the kettling process. 

On Thursday, news coverage of the attempt to restart the Occupy Cal movement initially could be described as meager.  A camera man from KTVU was covering the noon rally as well as reporters from the student newspaper, radio and TV studio. 

Last fallOccupyCalreceived news coverage from a much larger contingent of journalists.

A police officer informed the protesters that the tents they were erecting on Thursday afternoon were not permitted.  The police did not take action immediately and attempts to learn about subsequent developments by listening for news reports on KCBS news radio were unproductive. 

The columnist functions as the writer, typesetter, editor, fact checker, for this column but also has to do the computer work necessary (download from the Coolpix, edit the photos and transfer the ones selected for possible use to a memory stick and then posted online in a place where the html process can find and fetch it for use when the column is posted on Friday morning) to add photos to the column.

[Note:  there is a labor dispute in progress at the World’s Laziest Journalist’s headquarters and the proofreaders have been locked out until they give up their silly demands for wages and other benefits.]

Would it be appropriate if the World’s Laziest Journalist were to be well paid to not coverOccupyCal?  How can “hush money” be spun so that it sounds commendable? 

On Friday morning, KCBS news radio was not making any mention of the Thursday student protest and so the World’s Laziest Journalist will have to take a circuitous rout to the computer which will be used to post the column online and check to see if the tents are still making their mute protest or if the protesters have folded their tents and faded away into the night.

On Friday morning, that news station was reporting about a Thursday night public meeting inOaklandwhere members of the public made charges of police brutality against the participants in the Occupy Oakland events.

Recently this columnist has suggested that there might be a need for an unofficial meeting place for a Berkeley Press Club.  Apparently the columnist misjudged the level of enthusiasm such a suggestion might generate.  Only one reader responded to the idea of such a group. 

On Thursday, the news media seems to regard Occupy Cal as a fad that has faded.

<B>This just in:  On Friday morning the tents were still on Sproul Plaza and more TV news crews had arrived and interviews were being conducted.</B>  The story on Friday morning seemed to focus on the symbolism of a mushroom as indicating regeneration.  The World’s Laziest Journalist will try to file updates next week.

To be continued . . .

California Governor St. Ronald Reagan once said:  “If it takes a bloodbath to end this dissention on campus; let’s get it over with.”

Now the disk jockey will celebrate the Beach Boys reunion by playing their “Smile” album.  Tuesday in San Francisco there will be several events to mark the 50th anniversary for Tony Bennett’s original studio session for making the recording of “I left my heart in San Francisco,” so the DJ will play that song.  He will also play “Desert Caravan.”  We have to go and see if we can watch the Grammies.  Have a “nothing to see here” type week.

A Familiar Voice from the Shadows

February 7, 2012

A distinctive voice coming from a man walking in the shadows is a set-up if most of the people in the audience can identify the voice’s owner.  The voice fans in the audience might identify the source before the actor steps into the light and be pleased they didn’t need to see the guy’s mug to I.D. the perpetrator.  The celebrity dominated culture in theUnited Stateswould have been sorely disappointed if the image of the speaker’s face didn’t solve the “who dat?”” puzzle of the familiar voice.

If, thanks to computer wizardry, Rod Serling had stepped out of the shadows most of the viewers on the younger side of the age demographics for the Superbowl audience would have known that it was the Twilight Zone guy.

What would the reaction to a technological cloning have been if it turned out that the voice and the face belonged to be Edward R. Murrow?  How many kids on the outside of a School for Journalism would have recognized the “Londoncalling” voice and associated it with daredevil reporting of the highest caliber?

Obviously using the voice and image of W. C. Fields would have had a sabotage effect.  Would today’s hipsters recognize, let alone appreciate, Fields’ voice?  Do they still sell the posters featuring the once famous comedian?  They were ubiquitous in the late Sixties, don’t cha know?

If the computers had produced that Superbowl ad with St. Ronald Reagan stepping out of the shadows, Republicans all acrossAmericawould have wept openly.  It’s morning inAmerica, again, folks and a cinematic cowboy is here to make you feel safe and warm.

Could the folks who want to see the Bush gang hang possibly misinterpret the Cling Eastwood commercial and see it as an endorsement of Dirty Harry tactics that include a complete disregard for the rules of war that were proclaimed at the Nuremburg War Crime Trials? 

In some long ago news broadcast we heard a news story that asserted that female infants would pay more attention to the voice of a male stranger than they would to their mother’s voice.

According to a reliable source, over a decade ago a young UCLA coed, who was working as an interviewer for a phone survey, called the provided phone number and started to convince the young man who answered the phone to participate in the poll.  He heard her voice and offered to come fromNew York Cityfor a date in L. A. the following weekend.  Since she wasn’t hurting for male attention, she politely declined.

When Johnny Carson made a casual comment about “the late John Carradine,” he got a phone call from the actor saying:  “John, at my age it’s hard enough to get work without you announcing to the world that I’m dead.” Carsonnoted the quality of the voice he was hearing before he moved along to the fact that he then issued an invitation to come on the Tonight Show.  Carradine got subsequent invitations to return to that show.

We have read somewhere a story that alleged that David Brinkley one time called into a Washington D. C. contest seeking a David Brinkley sound-alike.  He came in second place. 

When future radio fans look back on the Post Dubya era, we wonder which voices from 2012 will be the most recognizable. 

Uncle Rushbo, of course.  Who else? 

We have, in past columns, lamented the fact that there seems to be room in the smorgasbord of contemporary culture for a competition for would-be voice over actors, but, alas, our suggestion has fallen upon dead ears.

The World’s Laziest Journalist has begun to do the preliminary fact checking needed as preparation for doing a column on story telling competitions.  As luck would have it, the only item produced by several Google searches is something called the <a href =http://www.porchlightsf.com/calendar.html>Porchlight competition held in San Francisco CA</a>.  So maybe we can enter that contest and get some material for a “been there done that” first hand account column about that competition. 

Maybe some reader will have additional information to add to the comments for this column and thereby adding to the potential for doing a future column on story telling competitions.

We note that the Liars Hall of Fame seems to be an example of a variation on the tall tales in the field of exaggeration variety rather than an actual Hall of Fame whereby someone who spread the WMD alarm is accused of providing an entry for consideration by the Liars Hall of Fame induction committee.

Don’t some (all?) of the best raconteurs have bits of Irish ancestry in their blood?

Rather than a closing quote <I>per se</I>, we will recount a story that we heard St. Ronald Reagan tell in 1980.  While he was campaigning inIowa, he knocked on a farmer’s door.  The man was flabbergasted.  “I know you!  You’re the actor.   I forget your name.”  Reagan suggested that as a hint he would supply his initials.  The man heard “R. R.” and immediately turned toward the interior of the house and called out:  “Mama, come quick and meet Roy Rogers. 

OK you won’t let it slide?  You want a real quote as the closing quote?

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets out his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more’ it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

A friend in L. A., chef Teddy B. Owen, may have provided the best closing quote for this column when he said:  “The voices in my head have the call waiting feature.”

Now the disk jockey will play Carly Simons’ “You’re So Vain” (Tell me you can’t hear Mick Jagger’s distinctive voice singing backup), Clint Eastwood’s recording of “Born Under a Wandering Star,” and Judy Collins’ version of “Amazing Grace.”  We have to go gargle.  Have a “stifle talk about unionizing” type of week.

Silence of the Lambs meet A Nation of Sheep

February 3, 2012

“A Nation of Sheep,” written by William J. Lederer has been on our literary radar screen for many years just because of the catchy title.  When we were presented with the chance to buy a used copy in BU (Brilliant Uncirculated) condition recently, at a bargain price, we snapped it up quickly.  Among the usual suspects list of places in Berkeley CA where a thrifty fellow can buy desirable additions for one’s personal library at prices that won’t destroy a tight budget, the number of available books that criticize American Journalism seems astoundingly high, until a proper assessment of the phenomenon is made.  The University located inBerkeleyhas aSchoolofJournalism, so there is going to be a goodly number of teachers and students reading up on that subject.  There is also a number of folks who work in and around theSan FranciscoBayarea Journalism community who live inBerkeley.  There are also a few people still living in Berkeley who can tell stories about the golden age of underground newspapers because they worked for the Berkeley Barb and the Berkeley Tribe.

That, in turn, reminded us of the fact that the World’s Laziest Journalist has intended for some time to write a column about the fact thatBerkeleyhas no Press Club.  If some enterprising coffee shop owner (apparently the Berkeley Barb was started by a coffee shop owner who wanted a small “poopsheet” to hand out to his regular customers) wanted to fill his place on an “off” evening, he could set aside one night a week to make a special effort to attract “newsies” and start a <I>de facto</I> Press Club, where a herd of the boys could gather around and talk shop.

[We can use the sexist word “boys” because we heard a recent report about a new book on KCBS that reports that there is a paucity of women in the clique of reporters covering this year’s Presidential Campaign.]

Recently Police officials have been making decisions based on the fact that they don’t consider some reporters for Internets based publications to be eligible forPressPassstatus at news events.  That could be a lively topic for discussion at the aforementioned hypothetical gathering just mentioned.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the big topic among journalists for the past week, was not the Romney victory in theFloridaprimary, but the detention of reporters inOakland.  Some of the detained journalists had valid Press Passes issued by the San Francisco Police Department.  Maybe, if well informed voters are a legitimate goal, it is time to include web-journalists on the list of those eligible to apply for Police issued Press Passes?

Citizens and media owners seem eerily silent about this latest trend in journalism; could it be that they don’t care about the health and welfare of America’s free press?

It would be a bit easier to write a weekend-update column, if a fellow could compare notes at an impromptu Press Club.  Macy’s may not tell Gimbel’s what’s going to go on sale next week, but journalist do talk to each other on an “this is off the record” basis and swap some information which can help determine the newsworthyness of some topics.

For instance, what if an online columnist noted that during the past week there had been some headlines online that indicated that a nuclear facility in Illinois had a bit of trouble with their hardware, the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California had a radioactive leak, and a big shot in Washington had announced that the next terrorist attack on the USA might come in the form of a hack attack. 

Wasn’t there a story recently alleging that <I>somebody</I> had used computers to sabotage and slow downIran’s program to develop nuclear weapons? 

If there was an informal Press Club inBerkeley, a columnist could do a bit of a mini-opinion poll about the feasibility of seeing a connecting thread for those bits of information?  Could the nuclear malfunctions be an example of “paybacks are hell”?

If other journalists thought that all these separate bits of information could be lumped together legitimately, then OK, but if they said it didn’t pass the smell test, then it might be prudent to pass on the idea.

On line, anything that isn’t stamped USDA approved mainstream media style patriotic information will be branded as sounding suspiciously like something being prepared for test marketing by the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory boys (rumored to be headquartered in an abandoned railroad car manufacturing facility in Emeryville CA?) and not worthy of a mention.  The catch phrase for the teen years (of this century) might be:  “You’re on your own, pal.”  [Bust the unions and stress rugged individualism.]

Didn’t a legendary pioneer blogger, whose handle was Plato, once predict that eventually journalism would become a game played by guys sitting in their man cave looking at a computer screen thinking they were grasping reality and making cogent remarks in a process known as “live blogging”?  Don’t they deserve to get a night out to break the shackles of solipsism?

Sure, it is wonderfully invigorating to see younger journalists tilting at windmills, but don’t they need to hear a crusty old reporter reminding them:  “Ya can’t fight City Hall, kid!”?  A Berkeley Press Club would help keep such idealistic young j-students grounded in reality.  The flip side of the coin would be that the students could help the old war horse scribblers fathom the mysteries of the laptop. 

There is one other stealth advantage to having a local Press Club where journalists can talk shop.  If a writer tells his colleagues about a story he is writing and if something happens to him while he is digging for that story, then the others will be able to continue the (hypothetical alert!) the crusade that cost a life.

Wasn’t columnist Dorothy Kilgallen working on an angle to the Kennedy assassination when she died suddenly?

Has IBM abandoned their use of plaques that displayed the word “THINK”?

On page 31 of the Crest Book 1962 paperback edition of “A Nation of Sheep,” William J. Lederer quotes a Prince/editor fromThailandas saying:  “You Americans are the easiest country in the world to propagandize.  You believe anything.  I could give a lecture here inHonoluluand say that the king’s mother had two heads – and that is why she isn’t seen in public.  Most of the audience would believe it and the papers would probably print it as a factual story – without even checking to see if His Majesty’s mother is still alive.”

Now the disk jockey will play the Defiant Ones’ 1961 recording of “Defiant Drums,” Elvis’ “Rock-A-Hula Baby” and Johnny Cash’s “Guess Things Happen That Way.”  We have to go read Edward Jay Epstein’s 1973 book “News from Nowhere.”  Have a “Cross my heart and hope to die” type week.

Has the free press jumped the shark?

February 2, 2012

The World’s Laziest Journalist has known about the origin of the word “stringer” and the explanation of the tradition of typing “XXX” at the end of a story for a long time, perhaps even since when the Rolling Stones were guests on Dean Martin’s TV show, but we had never heard the expression “Kettling” until this week when that word popped up in stories about the events in Oakland last Saturday.

Ironically we had seen an example of Kettling occur inSan Franciscolast summer but were unaware that what we had seen was one of the first occurrences of kettling. 

When police surround and cordon off a group of people and heard everybody (press, perps, protesters and bystanders) into the busses and take them off to a booking facility that is an example of the latest law enforcement trend called “Kettling.”

Initial news reports said that said that Occupy Protesters invaded the YMCA on Saturday night.  Later stories explained that the area had been cordoned off and the protesters (and perhaps pedestrians caught in the Kettling?) were trying to pass through the YMCA in an effort to avoid arrest.  Would the use of the words like invasion be poor journalism or spin?

Last summer during one of the “No Justice No BART” protests inSan Francisco, the police rolled the doors of the Powell Street BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station and detained the people inside their perimeter. 

This columnist/photographer took some photos inside that area and then when the doors began to be rolled down, we moseyed outside to get some additional images from a different perspective.  Journalists were detained along with protesters.  The San Francisco Police glossed over the incident as a bit of a law enforcement agency’s version of a clerical error.  The journalists didn’t write many complaints into the various accounts of that event.

If the wealthy media owners don’t want law enforcement officers criticized and express that preference in strong managerial directives, could the paychecks issued to writers, reporters, photographers, and TV camera men, be considered “hush money”?  Just asking.

We have seen reports that indicate a similar example of this kind of clerical error may have occurred at some events at Occupy Wall Street inNew York City.

Is it too soon to write a trend-spotting story about these examples of kettling? 

Hang fire, we’ll send the link to this column to the tip desk at the Columbia Journalism Review and if subsequently, they do a story on Kettling, well then, we can brag about the fact we gave them the “heads-up” on the story.  If they ignore the suggestion, then the folks who are firmly convinced that this columnist does moonlighting work at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory will have some more evidence to explain their firm conviction.

Speaking of firm convictions, how are the cases against the Occupy Movement protesters going?  Can an effort to use some exemptions to proper procedures be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court to speed up these cases?  Aren’t there some privatized prisons with empty cells?

Recently James Richard Armstrong II, a homeless writer in Berkeley CA, has been writing a series of columns for the Smirking Chimp website alleging that various Bay area cities are using some members of a brigade of street sweepers to spearhead an effort to “get rid of” the homeless in the downtown area.  If it weren’t for the fact that Darwin BondGraham corroborated Armstrong’s facts in a story that appeared on Page 8 of the January 25 – 31, 2012, print edition of the East Bay Express (and it also appeared online); it would be easy enough for patriotic critics of Armstrong to dismiss his work as another example of a product from the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory. 

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing for Armstrong’s critics if he appeared on David Letterman’s Show and made his assertions that “things aren’t what they seem” to a nation wide audience?

Some hypersensitive writers for the alternative press media contend that since Columbia University receives research grants from the Government, the politicians in Washington will use that money as a bargaining chip in an effort to convince the college types that “there’s nothing to see here – move along!” is the principle (school pun alert?) that should be use to make any decisions about the trend-spotting journalism value of such material originating in the digital era version of the underground press.

We could dig out some digital files from the event last summer and some from last weekend, and add images to this posting, but lately our inclination is to just add photos to the end of the week wrap-up columns. 

[We’ve got a question for the folks who enjoy the esoteric and sometimes enigmatic information that is liberally scattered about in our columns:  “If the name of theSan Francisco’s guy who claimed to be the World’s Greatest Disk Jockey was Don Sherwood why did locals call it the Will Sherwood Show?]

In the pre Internets era some newspaper writers were paid (what’s that?) on a per column inches basis.  I.e. the amount of material that got published would be used to determine their pay check.  Editors would take the bound copy of last month’s issue and use a ball of string to measure out all the writer’s stories for that particular time period.  If all the fellow’s stories used up 35 inches of string and if his pay rate was $10 an inch – wait just a dang minute, let’s call it a buck an inch – you do the math.  (It doesn’t take a professional trend-spotter to know that Americans are going to get used to smaller paychecks.)  That’s how the part time editorial employees got to be called stringers.

In the age of telegraphed news stories there was no word with three x’s in a row.  (That was before adult movies started to run ads in newspapers.)  So the telegraphers got in the habit of designating the end of a story by inserting XXX, which was the Roman numeral for “thirty.”

Speaking of which . . .

To be continued . . . (but not necessarily tomorrow.)

Forgive us our Press Passes . . .

February 1, 2012

In the late Seventies, after a PSA jet crashed in theSan Diegoarea, Time magazine sent a writer from theirLos Angelesbureau, Doug Brew, down toSan Diegoto cover that news event.  When he approached the wreck area, there was a police perimeter line and he was stopped and challenged.  He showed the officer a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office Press Pass saying he was a reporter for the Santa Monica Independent Journal Newspapers in Santa Monica and the officer said “You’re OK, boy, you can go on through.” 

The fellow had dual citizenship in the world of Journalism.  He was the editor of the weekly Santa Monica Independent Journal Newspapers and simultaneously functioned as a reporter for Time Magazine’s Los Angeles bureau on a “stringer” basis.  Without a Press Pass he would have been in a difficult dilemma but with it, he had no problems about getting the story for Time Magazine.  Good thing he had the Press Pass.

Initially Doug Brew had been reluctant to do all the bureaucratic work necessary to get Press Passes for the news staff at the weekly Independent Journal Newspapers in Santa Monica, but one day, after being challenged by a Santa Monica Police Department officer, while riding his bicycle to the IJ office, he relented and agreed it might be good to have the Press Passes “just in case.”  The other fellow on the news department staff had been very enthusiastic about getting the Press Passes and made the suggestion about getting them. 

After the PSA incident, Brew was glad that he had been convinced to make the effort to secure the Press Passes and verbally expressed that sentiment to a co-worker.  Little did he know that would provide the led for a column on the Internets about 35 years later.

“♫Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end . . . ♫”

The process included being fingerprinted and photographed and having the editor’s application submitted by the Publisher.

In 1973, there were three young men who worked for the IJ newspapers.  One went on to become one of the people listed toward the top of the Playboy masthead; Brew went on to become Time Magazine’s White House correspondent during the Reagan administration.  The third one went on to International Fame as the World’s Laziest Journalist. 

According to Gavin Aronsen’s first hand account of the events (for the <I>Mother Jones</I> website[Click this link:  <a href =http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/01/journalists-arrested-occupy-oakland>http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/01/journalists-arrested-occupy-oakland</a&gt;) that occurred in Oakland on Saturday night, a woman reporter with a Press Pass issued by the San Francisco Police Department was detained by Oakland Police Department.  The OPD pointed out that she was in Oakland not Frisco before arresting her.

Initial reports state that there were six reporters who were taken to various jail facilities in the Alameda County area as part of the mass arrests in Oakland. 

Subsequently the reporters were released.

Apparently the principle of “Interline Courtesy” among various Police agencies has changed since the Seventies.

Has Oakland Police Department unilaterally adopted theLas Vegasphilosophy of “What Happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” or is there something else more ominous and disturbing going on all across theUSA, that could form the basis for a trend-spotting story?

If William L. Shirer, who wrote “Berlin Diary,” were still alive this writer would try to contact him and see if he could provide any insights or make any comparisons to events he witnessed years ago to the events that happened Saturday night, but we can’t do that.   He is dead and so we will let it go at that.

The reader is invited to formulate whatever “jump to conclusions” analysis he (or she) wants to accompany this report.

Won’t Uncle Rushbo, and other talk show hosts of that ilk, try to whip up a hysterical level of <I>schadenfreude</I> concerning the trials and tribulations of the reporters and then goad the rubes into voting for a Conservative?

To be continued . . .