Archive for June, 2012

A Political Quagmire for Conservatives

June 29, 2012

Did General Dietrich von Choltitz just disobey a direct order to invalidate Obamacare?

The Breitbart website, on Thursday, was raising the possibility that Chief Justice John Roberts was coerced by liberals into changing his vote from striking Obamacare down to letting it stand.  If Chief Justice Roberts was being coerced by President Obama or any of his authorized agents, the Supreme Court Justice missed a big chance to score the political equivalent of baseball’s unassisted triple play.  Justice Roberts could have voted with the conservatives, accused Obama of political blackmail (and opened up an avenue to impeachment?), and become the man who insured that Obama would be defeated in November.  Instead he made a “Profiles in Courage” move that unfortunately pissed off (AKA “greatly perturbed”) 99% of the conservatives in the United States and put the Republican Party in quite a bind.

Breitbart apparently isn’t bright enough to realize that perhaps the flip side of the coercion question might be in play.  Suppose some highly place Republican strategist told Justice Roberts which way they wanted him to vote and additionally suppose that Justice Roberts reacted in a way described on the opening page of Albert Camus’ “The Rebel:”  “A slave who has taken orders all his life suddenly decides that he cannot obey some new command.”

If Roberts made up his own mind then all the incredulity on Thursday would be genuine, but if he were being coerced by any of the Obama team Justice Roberts messed up in Hall of Fame fashion.  If (subjunctive mood) Breitbart is spot-on with his wild assertion, then Justice Roberts could have revealed the blackmail effort and achieved a much greater and very different level of conservative indignation.  As it is, rather than increase the conservatives hatred for Obama, this hypothetical unreported extortion ploy only produced a photo finish between Obama and Justice Roberts regarding today’s level of conservative revulsion for both of them.

This week’s current events sensation may eventually be seen as a tipping point for the entire conservative political agenda.  The conservatives can not replay the Howard Dean “complete mental breakdown” response because that would call all of the recent SCOTUS decisions into question and possibly precipitate a need to review all of them.  If, on the other hand, all possible rational explanations of the baffling decision invoke a conspiracy theory scenario, that too is unacceptable.  If one conspiracy theory is confirmed that would then open the flood gate of legitimacy for all conspiracy theories and that also is unacceptable.

The only response is to completely ignore the story and that will open the possibility that some obscure bit of punditry could “go viral” and expose the “emperor’s new clothes” aspect of the “pretend this isn’t happening” attitude.  Again, uncaccpetable.

The fact that Justice Roberts did not report any coercion brings to mind the Sherlock Holmes case in which a dog didn’t bark.  A guard dog doesn’t bark at friends.

Thursday also produced news reports that indicated that both CNN and Fox News had a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment which indicates that they both seemed more motivated by the “nyuck nyuck” philosophy than by a sincere attempt to practice journalism.

Obviously the management at both organizations was proceeding from the <I>Brennt Obamacare?</I>  (“Is Obamacare burning?”) attitude rather than wondering “What was the decision?”

If you want some analysis of Thursday’s decision that is more scholarly and lawyerly you might try reading UCLA law professor Gene Volokh’s site called the Volokh Conspiracy.

There was some fast and furious rewriting efforts at the WLJ home office following Justice Roberts delivery of the judicial equivalent of a brush-back pitch in baseball, but since the staff had not placed any bets on the decision, the prevailing attitude was:  <I>Me vole madre, cabronez.<I>

Once upon a time, a member of management told the World’s Laziest Journalist that it was fun to be our boss because we were very unpredictable.  The boss said he could usually accurately predict how the other workers would react under a set of certain circumstances, but that we were an unpredictable challenge.

When the Internets were getting started, everyone extolled the possibility that it might spawn new unique voices.  Then the corporations brought in the carefully controlled publicity machine and imposed the old “star” concept and shut out the possibility that something unexpected might actually happen.  Unfortunately the suits failed to see that another age old law of entertainment was also operable:  repetition becomes predictable and that is bo-o-o-ring.

Hearing a conservative talk show host get rude with a liberal caller is funny the first time you hear it, but after the first hundred times, it gets very predictable.  Get off my computer screen you unimaginative stuck record.

Hearing a pedantic liberal give icy cold courtesy to a troll conservative caller is annoying.  Why don’t they sacrifice politeness in favor of entertaining righteous indignation?  After several dozen callers abuse the hospitality of the liberal talk show host that too becomes tedious.

Hearing Norman Goldman give the trolls a flip side version of Mark Levin’s brand of vitriolic lack of hospitality is very refreshing.

We wish both the liberal and conservative talk show hosts were human bottles of nitroglycerin.  Be sweet and cordial to one troll and then be exceedingly rude to another one later in the program.

The unexpected (as Thursday showed) may cause some upset stomachs but it also make for memorable entertaining moments.  There is an alternate take, recorded in Las Vegas, of Elvis changing the lyrics to “Are you lonesome tonight” and breaking up the band, all but one of the back-up singers, and himself.  (A video of that is on Youtube.)

How many people laughed the night Walter Cronkite said:  “This has been Walter Cronkite filling-in for Arnold Zenker.”?

One (special) night at the Palladium in Los Angels, Keith Richards was touring with “the Expensive Wino Band” providing the back-up instrumental music and he was obviously getting a big kick out of seeing/hearing the audience react to songs recorded by the Rolling Stones.  He enjoyed the audience’s confusion even more when they ripped into one particular song.  WTF! ! !  Wait a minute!  The audience recognized the song, but something sounds “off,” eh?  Fooledja!  It was a song that had been a big hit for the Beatles and like a pitcher who lures a runner on first base to take one too many steps, Keith had caught his audience way off base.

Here is a question for connoisseurs of uniqueness:  If you heard two different musicians play the same song on the same piano in the same venue, could you tell the difference?  We have heard a well known musician play “Great balls of fire” at the Palamino in North Hollywood and later heard Jerry Lee Lewis plunk out the same tune on the same piano.  We have convinced ourself that we could distinguish a difference.

They say that in the old days some folks could not only tell who was working the other end of a telegraph, but that some experts could even tell who had taught that person to work the telegraph.

This columnist has read extensively about World War II (at least six books!) but it was only recently that we stumbled on something we weren’t expecting.  Hitler was funny?

We’ve been conditioned to expect the words “monster” and “madman” when reading about Germany’s leader in WWII, but this was such a change-up.

On page 51 of “The Women Who Wrote the War” (by Nancy Caldwell Sorel [Yeah, we’ve already plugged that 1999 book twice recently]), Virginia Cowles quotes Unity Mitford as saying:  “He (Hitler) would do imitations of his Nazi colleagues Goering, Goebbels, Himmler – also Mussolini, which was the funniest.  Sometimes he even imitated himself.”

Ernst Junger won an Iron Cross in World War I and subsequently wrote a novel, <I>Storm of Steel</I>, which was a paean for war.  Another novel <I>On the Marble Cliffs </I> was perceived by some as a criticism of the leadership of the Third Reich and Hitler, who was not known for a welcoming attitude for criticism, shrugged it off saying “Let Junger be!”  Junger rejoined the military and became the only man to win an Iron Cross in both World Wars.

Did you know that Audie Murphy wrote some country songs?

Speaking of obscure links for bits of arcane and esoteric information, on a recent visit to the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory (which is rumored to be located in a secret rebel encampment in the Sierra foothills) during a visit to the gift shop we were completely baffled by a T-shirt that read:  “Does Romney know about the treacherous rip tides at Cheviot Beach?”  WTF?   What’s the sense in offering material that nobody but the author will understand?  We have lived in Los Angeles County and we know that there is no beach in Cheviot Hills.  If they mean the world famous tourist attraction known as Venice Beach (which is the second biggest tourist draw in Southern California), why don’t they just say it?

In “An Aesthete at War,” Bruce Chatwin quotes Madame Morand as saying:  “For me the art of living is the art of making other people work and keeping pleasure for myself.”  The Supreme Court would no doubt concur in a 5 to 4 decision.

Now the disk jockey will play Linda Laurie’s song “Just Keep Walking” (which has only garnered about 10,000 hits on Youtube), Rod Derrett’s song “Rugby, Racing and Beer,” and (This is the first year tickets to the Bayreuth Festival will be available online!) “Sigfried’s funeral march.”  We have to go see if Pan Am is sold out for next January’s China Clipper flights to New Zealand.  Have a “iftah ya simsim” type week.

[Note:  A feature photo from the Lakeview school sit-in in Oakland doesn’t have much of a direct relevancy to this column, but (as they used to day in Vietnam):  “Sen Loi, G. I.”]

Hackgate or Hecklegate?

June 22, 2012

Some news such as the potential for a Hackgate scandal is being completely ignored by mainstream media, while a rude conservative instantaneously becomes a celebrity journalist.  Between the two extremes of Hackgate and Hecklegate, lies a vast array of news stories of differing degrees of newsworthiness that should be getting more media attention.  The staffs of various national news organizations have been cut back to alarmingly low levels and stories that have great trend spotting value are being ignored by the various media that might have provided massive coverage if these same stories broke back in the day when manpower was plentiful for large newspapers and TV networks.

On Thursday, June 14, 2012, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) held a press conference to release their reaction to the the Frazier Report which criticized the OPD conduct in response to protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza on October 25 of last year.

On Friday, the Lakeview elementary school in Oakland was closed permanently.  Over the weekend disgruntled parents and teachers began a sit-in on the school grounds.

On Monday morning, the Oakland Police delivered to protesters the information that they were subject to arrest on the charge of interfering with the operation of a school, which is a serious matter.

As the week progressed it was unknown if the Oakland Police would adjust their response to the Lakeview school sit-in in a way which indicates that they have heeded the message of the Frazier Report or not.

Critics of the OPD would have other Americans believe that a new local version of the Algiers Motel Incident is almost inevitable.

If Oakland is becoming a microcosm of the problems and challenges facing many other American cities during the summer of 2012, then perhaps national news media (usually owned and controlled by conservatives) should be covering the political maneuvering in that city.  The politicians are trying to provide a miracle of the loaves and fishes style solution for the rapidly expanding list of budget shortfalls and municipal challenges.

News stories during the week indicated that Oakland would hire a Los Angeles based firm to manage the Oakland Coliseum as long as the agreement contained an iron clad clause that the company would not indulge in team poaching.   That brought to mind the old quote about “I don’t want lawyers who will tell me what I can and cannot do; I want lawyers who will get done what I want done.”

At the same time that a Republican Senator, who owns several homes, is staunchly asserting that it might soon become very necessary for the American military to become involved in a civil war in Syria, the Republicans, who have established their brand identity along the “for the sake of the children” style of thinking, seem to be willing to decimate public education nationwide rather than miss out on the chance to completely disregard the “never again” post Vietnam philosophy and plunge America directly into a shiny new war (AKA quagmire) in the Middle East region.

It seems as if the Republicans who were fearless of the deficit problem during the George W. era are now willing to sell off kids’ education and instead provide them with basic training and an M-1 (or the modern equivalent) in deference to deficit spending.

While student activists were objecting to generous raises for the UCB executives and trying to gain wage and benefit increases for the members of the AFSCME union’s local 3299, they had to contend with the possibility of massive cuts in the library service available to the students.  The Republicans seem ready to manipulate current students into a much higher interest rate for their student loans.

A recount of the votes for the smoking tax initiative in California’s June primary election were still being conducted as the week started, and the tally was “still too close to call.”

Financial markets around the world seemed to react favorably to the pro-Conservative results in the elections in Greece.  Pre election news stories indicated that the voter sentiment was leaning toward a socialist agenda.

Some skeptics were questioning the legitimacy of the election results in Egypt.

It seemed like the only journalist who was concerned about the legitimacy of the voting results in Wisconsin was Brad Friedman, who has provided extensive coverage about the reliability of the electronic voting and vote tabulating machines being used nation wide.  He was the only person drawing attention to the implications that if the recall results in Wisconsin were questionable, then conservatives might have used the contentious recall election there as a dress rehearsal for sliding more skewed results past the media in November.   (Google News search hint:  “Brad Friedman” plus “Command Center”)

In the past, reporters in the group known as Murrow’s boys (Yeah, we’ve read The Women Who Wrote the War” by Nancy Caldwell Sorel so we know that the war correspondents weren’t all guys) risked their lives to bring a very high standard of excellence to American Journalism during World War II.  Media owners (who are usually conservative) would like Americans to assume that is still the norm.  Unfortunately that is just as unrealistic as believing that Paul Josef Goebbels was a champion of freedom of the press.

These days it is much easier to get a major career boost from rude and boorish conduct at a President’s press conference than it is to do so via high quality reporting.  Who doesn’t love a class cutup from the Spicoli School of Journalism who can disrupt a President’s speech just as easy as he used to toss snide remarks at the teachers giving lectures at Ridgemont High?

How difficult would it be to convince high school dropouts (via cleverly disguised political propaganda?) that teachers don’t deserve to get the pension benefits they spent a lifetime earning?

The state of the art for Journalism in the USA has become so wretched that American journalists are happy to manufacture drama and uncertainty about how the Republican majority United States Supreme Court will rule on a case that could subsequently provide Republican propaganda specialists with an opportunity for asserting that there is no basis for speculating about the legacy of the first President with a pan-African heritage.

The world of conspiracy theory connoisseurs is buzzing with rumors that the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is conducting a competition that is offering a cash prize for the first employee who can come up with one single, all encompassing, narrative that includes three diverse items from the current events beat.

There is rumored to be a wealthy journalism media mogul who used wire taps and e-mail hacking in Great Britain to accumulate material which was then used to blackmail politicians for unspecified ends.

Brett McGurk’s e-mails were posted on a web site called Cryptome and caused the fellow to withdraw his efforts to become the American Ambassador to Iraq.

Some recent news stories reported that the e-mails of Mitt Romney, who is expected to be given the Republican nomination for President, have been hacked.

It is doubtful that even Philip K. Dick could concoct a logical narrative connecting the dots using those three items of public record, but if he were still alive and if he did concoct an entry for the competition and labeled it “Hackgate,” it is very unlikely that news media would take any notice.

Famous con man Frank W. Abagnale, in his autobiography, wrote:  “Almost any fault, sin, or crime is considered more leniently if there’s a touch of class involved.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Charlie Brown,” Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” and the drinking song from Sigmund Romberg’s “The Student Prince.”  We have to go see what odds the British bookies are giving for bets on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Obamacare case.  Have a “not drunk he is who can from the floor can rise alone to still drink more; but drunk he is who prostrate lies with power to neither drink nor rise” type week.

[Note from the photo editor.  A good deal of time was spent on Monday trying to get some adequate news photos from the Lakeview school sit-in in Oakland.  A return trip on Tuesday produced a better result.  A casual encounter with carpenters’ local 180, which was handing out information leaflets on Market Street in San Francisco on Wednesday, produced better (but less relevant?) photo images.]

Bloom’s Day, Claustrophobia, and Pittsburg

June 15, 2012

Friday June 15, 2012, is Johnny Hallyday’s birthday, Saturday, June 16 is Bloom’s day, the Monterey Pop Festival celebrates its 45th anniversary and the word “Watergate” triggers 40 year old memories.  For a columnist who has the “write about anything” assignment, the world is a movable smorgasbord feast and all the writer needs to do is fill in the blank assignment sheet.  For instance, if attending the annual aviation event in Oshkosh is on the bucket list, then all that the modern day Ulysses has to do is take his mobile command center (his lap-top) to Wisconsin and he is in business.  On the other hand, expenses might be a consideration.  Perhaps moseying down to Palo Alto for the Concours d’Elegance, which will be held on the grounds of Stanford University, on Sunday June 24, would be a better choice from the low budget is no budget point of view.

Is wandering around in your own hometown just as exciting and adventurous as roaming the world?  For an Irishman, a day in Dublin might provide the same classic adventure as any of the Vikings’ Odysseys.  It would just be up to the writer to make it sound like a stop in a Dublin pub could be just as invigorating and refreshing as a drink in Hurley’s bar in Rockefeller Center, Quinn’s bar in Papeete Tahiti, or the Floridita bar in Havana.

Some time ago, the World’s Laziest Journalist visited and wrote a column about a day spent roaming around in Dublin CA, so, rather than settle for a been there done that retread travel experience, we decided that our dress rehearsal for Bloom Day would be a one day excursion to Pittsburg CA.  A one day local bus pass in the Pittsburg/Antioch area for seniors cost $1.35, which is in our price range.

Would anyone, other than a native of Scranton Pa., be curious about the origin of the name of Antioch’s Black Diamond Street?  Obviously, Huell (California Gold) Howser won’t be the only one to see a feature story potential for the place in downtown Pittsburg CA that is a combination of a Merchant’s Bank branch and a coffee house.  This columnist can not remember ever seeing a similar business combination anywhere else in our travels.

The bookstore in Pittsburg offers local memorabilia in many forms; one of which is cutting boards for chefs made by carpentry students in the local high school, whose football team is called the Pirates.

While in the Pittsburg/Antioch area we encounter a clerk in a local CD store who was able to update us with an extensive amount of information that would be necessary to participate in the continuing debate about the quality of analogue vs. digital music.  It has been several years since we have done any fact checking on that topic and apparently there have been some technical advances in the interim that would have relevancy for reevaluating the merits of digital music.

The Pittsburg Antioch area is the home of the “Forensic Philosopher” who is a champion exponent of using local transportation services as a way to increase the greening of the Tourism industry and his efforts cause us to wonder if the computer era will spawn a way for local tourist offices to offer integrated area transportation information.

Here is an example.  San Francisco attracts large numbers of tourists from outside the United States.  Citizens of Germany have been conditioned to expect a very high level of achievement from automobile museums.  California has three car museums that are capable of meeting the Germans’ very high standard of excellence and one of them, the Blackhawk, is accessible to visitors staying in San Francisco, but the challenge of using the resources available to get there and back in one day are formidable even for a local who is familiar with the various transportation companies that would have to be used.  The challenge of tracking down all the necessary time schedule information that would be needed to make such a day trip would be overwhelming.

Wouldn’t a one-stop computer site which offered all the integrated information necessary to make such a museum visit be theoretically possible?  Well, then, why can’t some group, or association of groups, subsidize such a site which would increase and maximize the level of tourist satisfaction for foreign visitors to the San Francisco bay area?  Doesn’t it seem likely that more tourists from Germany would appreciate a top notch auto museum than would enjoy the chance to see the Giants attempt to play another perfect game?

Isn’t it obvious that the appeal of using the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train system and a Pleasanton area bus to visit a world class car museum is much greater than the idea of running the bureaucratic obstacle course that someone with a foreign driver’s license must complete to rent a car (and cope with the complicated map reading task) that could also get them to the same destination?  Not to mention being less expensive.

One of the rewards of traveling is a cross pollination effect on ideas.

In order to prolong our Pittsburg experience, we played hooky from the Tuesday night meeting of the Berkeley CA city council meeting which was going to feature input on the issue of putting a sleep-lie measure on the ballot for the city’s voters this fall.  We figured that since we were already in Pittsburg, we could pick up a one sentence summary of the council meeting later.  (They approved the measure to put the sleep-lie matter on the November ballot for Berkeley voters.)

The question of the homeless reminded us there could be Paris Hilton angle to the problem that isn’t being considered.  We were living in the L. A. area when Paris Hilton was permitted to use a GPS tracking device and house arrest as a substitute for a cell in the county jail because she had acute claustrophobia issues.

When we offered to buy lunch for the Berkeley’s (beloved) homeless fellow called “hate-man,” he asked if the offer could be in the form of a take-out meal from a nearby restaurant which would be enjoyed in the familiar surroundings of the People’s Park (this was before he got a stay-away order).  We immediately wondered if the guy’s odd behavior was part of his way of coping, on a lesser scale than Ms. Hilton’s solution, with claustrophobia and then we wondered how many other of the homeless might be carrying out compulsive behavior because of that malady.

That, in turn, caused us to wonder why some group of students at the University of California Berkeley campus haven’t used the readily available material for an extensive study (say a psychological evaluation of the homeless) that would shed some new light on the local problem with similar challenges being present in many other American cities.

During the week, we heard a report on KCBS news radio that the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was going to offer some of his personal fortune to help publicize and promote innovative and imaginative solutions to urban problems.

Berkeley mayor Tom Bates has mentioned that his city leads the nation in providing services to the homeless.  At specific times during the week, one of the municipal swimming pools (that is permanently closed for swimming) uses the locker room facilities to let the homeless take a shower.  Could other cities adopt this program?

Unfortunately the fact that Berkeley has such programs tends to bring additional homeless to the region and that carries with it a danger that the innovative programs could become over used and thus (metaphorically speaking) die of suffocation.

If the members of the Berkeley city council are very busy coping with this problem would it be logical to think that they might not have sufficient time to check to see if any programs Santa Monica used to cope with the same problem might be used in Berkeley?

In an era when information is available rapidly online, that has created a new problem.  How can voters in Berkeley know what progress has been made in other cities?  If a class in Berkeley studies solutions in Santa Monica how can the students bring their knowledge to the attention of the Berkeley City Council?

If Mayor Bloomberg’s cash awards help promote the cross pollination of urban ideas, he will have made a valuable contribution to the improvement of urban living.

Speaking of travel, while we were walking on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, Kimberly reminded us that Environment California is trying to draw attention to the fact that the tsunami trash that has traveled from Japan to America’s West Coast isn’t the only junk floating around in the Pacific Ocean.

[Note from the Photo Editor:  we will use a sunset shot from Christmas week 2008, taken on the beach at Fremantle Western Australia at 9 p.m. because that is their summer time to illustrate our point about how different locations perceive things differently.  Do folks in New York City think of a picnic dinner on the beach at Christmastime?]

While folks are reading this column, we gotta start wrestling with next week’s blank assignment sheet.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:  “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel’s sake.  The great affair is to move.”

Now the disk jockey will play Johnny Cash’s “I’ve been everywhere,” Johnny Paycheck’s “The running kind,” and Waylon and Willie’s “Clean Shirt” duet.  We have to go check the rideshare section on Craig’s List.  Have a “the world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings” type week.

On being a Hemingway Wannabe

June 8, 2012

If Ernest Hemingway interrupted efforts to cover Occupy Madrid and came to Berkeley and was told by the street people that their ranks were swelling because a local (several?) hospital(s) were dumping indigent patients on Shattuck Avenue, how would he react?  Would he raise funds for and write and provide the narration for a documentary film titled <I>The Berkeley Earth</I>?  Would he write the best of all his novels and title it “<I>For whom the UCB Campanile Tolls</I>”?  Would it delineate the exploits of a <I>fashionista</I> who joined the ranks of the legion of destitute victims of home foreclosures who were struggling to put an end to the economic domination of the work force by the one percenters?  If he did that would he be vulnerable to charges of exploiting the panhandlers for his own fame and fortune?  Since Hemingway has been dead for more than 50 years, he won’t have to deal with these hypothetical challenges.  What about the legion of Hemingway wannabes?  How should they handle the issue in his stead?

To a high school student the prospects of studying long and hard to become a lawyer or doctor who would work relentlessly for 50 weeks of the year just to be able to afford a better vacation paled in comparison to a career that would require a fellow to go to far away exotic locations, meet the movers and shakers of the world, and then write it up for fabulous sums of money.  The life of a writer errant seemed like a more appealing vocational decision.  Positive proof of the lopsided nature of the choice might be evident when the latest copy of LIFE magazine arrived in the mail box containing photographic evidence that such an escape from tedium was possible.  For a kid who hasn’t yet experienced the much desired rite of passage known as passing the driver’s license test, the chance to travel the world for pay held a hypnotic allure.

Growing up in Scranton Pa., offered a basic binary choice:  you could go to work in the coal mines (literally or figuratively) after high school, or (if your parents could afford it) you could go to college and then get a job in coal mine management, marry your high school sweetheart, and have bunch of kids.  The fact that Scranton became the setting for a fictionalized look at the absurdity of working in “The Office” would only become apparent much later in life.

In the Fifties, the ticket out of what Fred Allen called “The Treadmill to Oblivion,” was to become:  a rock star, a movie star, one of Mickey Mantle’s teammates, or learn to type as the first step on the Hemingway wannabe road to fame and fortune.  In high school, given the choice of two more years of Latin vs. learning to type, a young man didn’t need “Papa” Hemingway by his side to make the call.

The grim reality that <I>Collier’s Magazine</I> would, after 1957, no longer be available to subsidize sending the next generation of Hemingways to far away places with strange sounding names was irrelevant because at the same time that they folded, a young writer named Jack Kerouac was demonstrating that if you subsidized your wanderings, you could always recoup the bankroll by publishing the results in book form.

After college, books about Hemingway began to appear.  Heck if you couldn’t write like Hemingway, you could always write about Hemingway.  Using that logic had its drawbacks because that would indicate that eventually some writers would be writing about this Kerouac fellow who had, by the Vietnam War, faded into obscurity.  It was worth noting, however, that this beatnik fellow made more appearances on “The Tonight” show than Papa Hemingway did.

The torch had been passed to a new generation of writers and guys like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson were generating scads of publicity for inventing “new journalism,” which some (sour grapes?) critics dismissed as repackaged and relabeled examples of the Hemingway formulae “<I>Veni, vidi, escribi</I>.”

Unfortunately, reading novels such as “Goldfinger,” “The Big Sleep,” and “The Maltese Falcon,” meant that when it eventually came time to enter the “Good Page of Bad Hemingway” contest, this columnist would submit something that sounded like:  “He was an old detective who worked alone out of an office on Santa Monica Blvd. and he had gone eighty four days now without a client.”

Hemingway’s name was synonymous with hunting and fishing but if the A. E. Hotchner or Carlos Baker biographies mentioned that Papa supported conservation, this columnist didn’t notice such passages.  Sure he was glad to lead the wolf pack of writers (called the War Tourists) to the cause of the workers in Spain, but did he ever say anything about the retched treatment that was given to Native Americans?

All the Hemingway aspirations had been safely tucked away in the recesses of the World’s Laziest Journalist Memory Archive until we began to read books such as “Gellhorn” by Caroline Moorehead and “The Women Who Wrote the War” by Nancy Caldwell Sorel at about the same time that we began to cover the Occupy Oakland, Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Berkeley, and Occupy UCB stories.  When we got the chance to see a screening of “Hemingway and Gellhorn” at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, we were fully aware of why the plight of the ordinary citizens objecting to high tuition, home foreclosures, union busting, and layoffs sounded so very <I>déjà vu</I>.

Authorized biographies provided a stealth introduction to spin.  Reading the Gellhorn biography by Caroline Moorehead, copyrighted and published in 2003, recently, it was a bit of a shock for a Hemingway wannabe to learn that Mr. Macho consistently delivered shabby treatment to the women in his life.

If he were still alive, the newer books revealed that the Nobel Prize for Literature winner would also be a leading Souse and Louse of the year award.  Does the Modern Drunkard online site even give such an award?

Is the new HBO film a variation on an old existentialist trick?  While he was a POW, Jean-Paul Sartre staged a play that was about the history of ancient Greece.  The Germans running the POW camp didn’t notice that it was also a metaphor for their heavy handed methods for governing an occupied country.

There is an old saying that those who forget history are bound to repeat it.  How many young folks in the United States know what the issues that sparked the Spanish Civil War were?  If Rupert Murdoch will not permit any disparaging words about the US during the Bush Era, could a film about a tempestuous love affair between two writers covering the Spanish Civil War actually be a clever way to slide the topic of the age old struggle between the wealthy (and their lackeys – the politicians, the police, the press, and the clergy) against the wage slaves past the old biddies delivering Murdoch’s rules for living on the Fox New programs?

Disgruntle slaves have always infuriated the plantation owners by their lack of gratitude via the “Oliver Twist” question:  “Please, sir, may I have more?”

Back in the Thirties, Ford shot strikers and Chevrolet caved in to their demands and ever since then, it’s been a continuing struggle for the landed gentry to regain the upper hand.

Which automobile company response to strikers would Hemingway have endorsed?

In the biography “Gellhorn,” readers are informed that the only time Martha Gellhorn ever saw Hemingway cry was when he learned that a Franco victory in the Spanish Civil War was inevitable.  After Tuesday’s election results in Wisconsin, we wonder if another Fallangist victory (no matter how well it was disguised) would still get the same result.  Would Hemingway see a Republican domination of the US Presidential Election in 2012 as another fascist victory?  Would Hemingway notice similarities between the causes of the Occupy protesters and the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War?

Hemingway loved bull fights because of the ritualized ceremony’s pageantry (a High Mass for sadists?) and that makes us wonder if Papa would note the similarity to the paradigm script for modern controversial wedge issues in American politics.  When a controversial wedge issue is decided by the voters, the electronic voting machines must always decide in favor of the conservative program.  The bull must die even if a relief matador (from the bull pen?) has to be brought off the bench.

Would Hemingway be intimidated by the prospect of being called a “conspiracy theory lunatic”?  The fact that unflattering criticism did seem to wound a man who was being called the greatest writer of the century and that he worked tirelessly to build and protect his image indicates that he might have been vulnerable to such a threat.

If Spain is going to have to endure austerity measures, will it hurt only the workers or will the wealthy also suffer?  Would Hemingway (and Gellhorn?) rush off to cover the impact of austerity on the average citizen in Spain (if they were still alive)?  Regardless of what the banks do, won’t the <I>glitterati</I> attend this year’s “Running of the bulls” and won’t it be held on schedule?

Reading about the long list of journalists who were alarmed about the possibility that the struggle of workers in Spain against the Falangists was a prediction that eventually and inevitably the USA would be forced to participate in a European war against fascism, and then reading about the frantic scramble to get an assignment to cover the European phase of World War II, only makes a columnist in America all the more aware that Journalism in the states today bares a remarkable resemblance to the paucity of news available to Germans during the Hitler era.  Reading or listening to foreign based news was strictly <I>verboten</I>.  Reading or listening to a non conservative point of view in the USA today is just about as foolhardy as listening to the BBC in Berlin was in 1943.  (Google hint:  “gray and black radio propaganda”)

Friday, June 8, 2012, is World Ocean Day and it isn’t hard to figure out how Hemingway would celebrate it, but that causes us to wonder:  If the Gulf oil spill kills off all the Marlins would Papa attack the company responsible for the atrocity against nature?

Hemingway tended to see life in terms of a prolonged boxing match, so we like to imagine that if he were still alive, he would enthusiastically urge the Liberals in Wisconsin to get up, take a standing nine count, and then plunge back in the fight by starting a new effort this weekend to collect signatures for another recall move against Scott Walker.

Somewhere along the way, the Dionysian approach to writing new columns about a variety of topics, in the Herb Caen manner, began to appeal to the World’s Laziest Journalist more than the Apollonian formula of spending months of pounding out a novel.

Consequently, to put it in the terms that would be understandable to someone who read extensively about the exploits in the old West of the U. S. Cavalry, the World’s Laziest Journalist tends to approach the world like an Indian Scout rather than like an egotistical general.

Santa Monica had to contend with the rumor that some cities were giving their charity cases a one way Greyhound ticket to “Skid row by the sea,” and Los Angeles had a scandal about patients being dumped on Fifth Street, so if the rumors about increase in the size of the Shattuck army of panhandlers is true, other writers can do the extensive amount of reporting that the topic will require; meanwhile this columnist will start checking the logistics for tackling other topics such as this year’s Running of the Bulls or the 24 hour sports car race at Le Mans.

In “Death in the Afternoon,” Ernest Hemingway wrote:  “There are two things that are necessary for a country to love bullfights.  One is that the bulls must be raised in that country and the other is that the people must have an interest in death.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Frankie and Johnnie,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “I wish I was 18 again,” and the Plimsouls’ “You cant judge a book (by its cover).”  We have to go see if LIFE magazine wants to assign us to write “The Dangerous Summer on the road to the Hemingway Days in Key West” story.  Have a <I>Botellazo</I> free week.

Are news tips extinct?

June 1, 2012

[<B>Note:  This column will be a subjective report intended to proved a foundation for building an inductive logic case to support the contention that Journalism in the United States is reaching the point of no return for becoming an example of the death of a thousand cuts.</B>]

Before posting our last column on Friday, May 22, 2012, we were informed by one of the panhandlers on Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley, that an incident involving police and some homeless young folks had occurred the previous night.

After posting the column, we made a more concerted effort to ask around to get some facts and information about the news potential of the event.  The street people related that the police had attempted to ticket a sleeping person about midnight and when the fellow did not wake up the Police used extreme physical methods to try to wake him up so that they could engage him in a conversation.

At that point the columnist was aware that the story had two possible ultimate conclusions; either it was a case of biased criticism of police procedures or it was a newsworthy example of police misconduct.

This writer has been posting columns asserting that Journalism in the USA is on the endangered species list, so this latest incident in Berkeley seemed like it would provide a convenient handle for another similar installment in the series of columns contending that the prognosis for Journalism in the USA is:  “dead man walking.” Instinctively, we knew that there would be resistance to any attempts to submit a news tip and that such reluctance to listen would be the topic for our next column.  Has submitting a news tip taken on the same karma as offering a piece of Kryptonite to Superman?

Writing about the Berkeley event itself would require a massive amount of fact gathering which could not possibly be finished in time for a column that would be posted on the First Friday in June, so we decided to render help to the panhandlers in the form of a news tip to other area news sources which might report about the event which, according to hearsay, sent a young man to the hospital.  (Later we were told that the fellow was a veteran who had served in Iraq.)  On Friday morning, a lawyer from the East Bay Community Law Center was interviewing the young homeless people about what had occurred the previous night.

If the event was as serious as some contend, then it might develop into a Berkeley version of the Rodney King beating.  A veteran had been injured last November at an Occupy Oakland event, so perhaps police beating up indigent veterans would be a trend-spotting story.  Such a trend would outrage Liberals and put conservatives in an embarrassing position because they would have to choose between approving the new anti-veteran philosophy or endorse the criticism of the police.  Either way the Conservatives would look inconsistent in their beliefs.

We called the California Center for Investigative Reporting and the phone operator said they weren’t interested in news tips about local events.  She suggested that I could write up a query letter offering to do all the work myself and submit that via snail mail.  Apparently if our news value judgment is better than theirs, we can prove it by doing all the work and then letting them take an agent’s cut for selling it.

Since the Berkeley Daily Chronicle is defunct and since the Berkeley Daily Planet’s weekly print edition has been suspended, the UC Berkeley student newspaper, the Daily Californian, has endeavored to take up the slack in that city’s local news coverage.

This example of a decline in local commercial news coverage is not a fatal wound for American Journalism, but it is a noticeable cut and entered as evidentiary exhibit for the contention being made by this column.  The fact that the Times Picayune of New Orleans has suspended daily publication is a more pertinent example of a long slow decline in local newspaper journalism.

We walked to the office of the Daily Californian and were told by a young man acting as receptionist that there was no member of the editorial staff available to listen to the news tip.  A receptionist can make a news decision or block a tip from being submitted?  There is another example of a non-fatal cut for our “case.”

Now since our experience has been that the editor at the Santa Monica Independent Journal Newspapers always advised that a good journalist is always open to receiving news tips and since Doug Brew later became Time Magazine’s White House correspondent; we have always assumed that his advice about Journalism was reliable.

The World’s Laziest Journalist has always welcomed news tips.  Our past columns on the Pascua Lama gold mining and Germany’s Pirate Political Party were spawned by news tips.

This kid wouldn’t give his name so that we could attribute the Cal Daily news decision to him, so we used our best “don’t take ‘no’ for an answer” reporter’s assertive attitude and continued our efforts until we were speaking to the editor.  The editor took down the contact information for the lawyer from the East Bay Community Law Center and promised to look into the potential trend spotting value of the news tip.

We had to use our best “refusal conversion” debating style to get the audience with the editor and assume that most other potential tipsters would be cavalierly brushed aside by the receptionist (who looked old enough to drive but too young to purchase alcohol).  Now one fumbled news tip won’t be fatal to American Journalism, but if the trend in America is to disregard new tips . . . that would appear to be more like a major gash than a small nick with a razor blade type cut.

In the past, we have learned that the New York Times’ Public Editor does not want to concern himself with criticism of missed stories, and the New York Times Letters to the Editor editor does not publish letters about news that was not covered by the Great Gray Lady.  They obviously have a different attitude than the one this columnist was taught by the Independent Journal’s managing editor.

If the event that occurred on the night of Thursday May 24-Friday May 25, was one of a series of examples of police brutality, then a sensationalist might put the story with a headline that offers this opinion: “Kristallnacht for Berkeley’s homeless.”

On the Memorial Day Weekend, Jalopnik, the web site for car enthusiasts, ran a story about Police in the USA seizing cash and then (like the line in the Jerry Reed song) keeping all that money for evidence.   (Google hint to learn more:  http://jalopnik.com/5913416/cops-can-confiscate-money-and-property-from-law-abiding-citizens?popular=true)

Should someone call Fox News and give them a news tip about the arrest of Andy Coulson?

Why doesn’t the world’s laziest journalist do all the work necessary to write the “Are the Police in the USA out of control?” story?

The only possible motivation for such a labor intensive project would be self-satisfaction.  If writing a column about potential police misconduct didn’t get a bit of police harassment in return, the best this writer could hope to get would be a noteworthy example of mass indifference to online content.  Think along the lines of a soliloquy by Travis Bickel given to himself in his own home.

Do it gratis for humanitarian reasons?  We can only quote a crusty old Santa Monica Outlook city editor who used to growl:  “No good deed goes unpunished.”  The payoff choice runs the gamut from nasty stealth political paybacks to massive public apathy and that bleak spectrum of rewards is supposed to provide the motivation?  If this columnist is going to provide his own self-satisfaction, it will be by selecting assignments that are <I>ipso facto</I> fun to cover.  It would be much easier to write a column that lived up to the headline:  “Austerity measures will continue until prosperity returns.”

Getting from Berkeley to the Presidio in San Francisco takes a bit of time, but seeing United States Navy history occur, seemed worth the effort.  Getting good photos was just part of the self-satisfaction aspect of the work.  Doing the extra work to use photos to augment this weekend roundup column will be a “fielder’s choice” type decision.

If Freedom of the Press is actually in the process of dying the death of a thousand cuts, what’s the worst that could happen?  The Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory’s R & D Department is working on just such a prediction.  Here is a preview:  What if the Republican front runner gives a triumphant victory cry the weekend before the Republican’s National Convention, the last week in August, and (what if) the press (like a trained seal) issues a unanimous assertion that the fellow (just like it happened to Howard Dean) has suffered a complete mental breakdown and is unfit to receive the nomination?  We’ll keep you posted on future developments regarding this potential item in the Conspiracy Theory world.

If, on the other hand, Journalism in America is in robust health, what is the harm in letting the World’s Laziest Journalist post some idle speculation to the contrary?

If the Republican National Convention were happening in Great Britain, there would be a possibility that some of the delegates would be vulnerable to some extortion and blackmail via the News of the World style wiretapping, but since it is happening in the USA <I>It can’t</I> (as Upton Sinclair would confirm) <I>happen here.</I>  (But if it could . . . what’s the worst that could happen?)

If Euripides was assigned to rewrite a new shooting script of Ben Hecht’s “Front Page,” would he turn in a story that portrayed America’s Free Press as being blindsided by fascism and use the word “hubris” to explain it all?

If police ever start to invade newsrooms to beat up reporters, who will the reporters call to give a news tip for that story?

William R. Hearst sent a cable to Frederic Remington, who had been sent to Cuba to provide illustrations of a war and was requesting permission to return to the USA because he couldn’t find a war to illustrate, advising the famous painter:  “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Now, since this column will be posted on June 1st, which is Superman Day, the disk jockey will play:  “O Superman” (done by Laurie Anderson), “I kicked Spiderman’s ass,” and the theme music from the TV show “Batman.”  We have to go check out a news tip.  Have a “Kryptonite free” type week.