Archive for June, 2013

Bob’s new column

June 28, 2013

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court made a decision because, they asserted, prejudice in the voter rights case was an outmoded consideration from the past, then the next day they struck a blow to protect gays from marriage discrimination.  Due to the fact that irony does not work well on the Internets, the World’s Laziest Journalist was on the verge of pulling the old “best of” dodge and skipping the weekend roundup column for the last full week in June of 2013.  One day the SCOTUS five are saying that racial prejudice is extinct in the USA then the next day a reconfigured majority of five says that since the work of eliminating discrimination against gays is still far from the finish line, they had to lend a helping hand.  Which is it? Is bigotry dead or not?

 

Will the late night comedian/political commentators try to get laughs by saying that the Supreme Court missed an opportunity when they did not get involved this week with the furor over Paula Deen’s use of the N-word?

 

Paula Deen suggested that she needed to be executed by a crowd of stone throwers and that got us to thinking that perhaps President Obama could offer patriotic Americans from the Democratic and Republican parties a chance to buy a spot on the firing squad that might be needed some day to deliver a death sentence to Edward Snowdon. 

 

That, in turn, brings up this question:  If Snowden is stuck in an area that is not a part of Russia, why doesn’t the United States’ State Department send someone from the American Embassy in Moscow to meet with the suspect, shoot him, and then use diplomatic immunity to walk away from the event?  Would that be so very different (and less messy) than using a drone strike to “rub out” the fugitive from justice?

 

We had hoped to write a sensational column, for this week, about the decline of journalism in America and maybe link the work of real journalists from the past such as Ernie Pyle and Hunter S. Thompson to the comic book hero, Spider Jerusalem, who is a popular and highly paid columnist who exposes political corruption and scandal.

 

Has the story arc for Journalism in America gone from Edward R. Murrow’s “This is London calling” to a comic book hero with weird glasses in less that 75 years? 

 

The World’s Laziest Journalist had assumed that conservative animosity would trump the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection” clause and deliver a ruling that rendered marriage rights for gays as being unconstitutional.  We were wrong.  It was just like the time we picked Native Dancer to win the Kentucky Derby.  We were wrong then, too.  Twice in one lifetime?  We won’t let it happen again!

 

A friend in the Eastern Time Zone called right after the decision was announced and said that the New York Time confirmed my erroneous prediction.  We were listening to Armstrong and Getty and challenged the accuracy of the headline on the Internets.  Our friend read more and amended her assessment because it seems that the great gray lady (as the famous newspaper is called in the gin mills that cater to journalists) had posted a bad (“Dewey wins!”) headline.

 

Randi Rhodes said that both landmark decisions, when considered together, indicated that the cause of States’ Rights had been bolstered by the week’s history and that continued political stalemate had been assured by the decisions.

 

Speaking of the status of Journalism in the USA, we had recently noted that some citizen journalists were advocating the use of a consortium approach to investigative journalism.  Since we have monitored the news media coverage of events in the Los Angeles area concerning the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and their administration of the Marina del Rey area, we are aware that the concept of investigative journalism is a complex and time consuming way to fight for gaining access to information that is deliberately put out of reach.

 

A web site that is intended as a central clearing house for altruistic investigative journalism projects was announced recently.  There is a tendency among writers to want to jealously guard against the theft of intellectual property but there is also a human tendency to want to participate in a community project that is working towards a large goal that is unavailable to the lone wolf rogue journalist.  (Insert nostalgic reference to Sartre, Camus, and Combat newspaper in Occupied Paris here.  [Them again?])  We will expand this topic in a subsequent column.

 

Speaking of lone wolves, citizen journalists, and the Internets, we went to San Francisco on Sunday June 23 to cover the City Lights Bookstore’s birthday celebration.  We got some OK photos outside the store but our tendency of avoiding claustrophobic situations to work “on spec” caused us to miss the chance to get to the poetry room to get a photo of Lawrence Ferlinghetti signing books.  It was amazing to see how much drawing power a beatnik could still have.

 

Berkeley is looking to increase tourism and the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s speech from on top of a police car is rapidly approaching, perhaps the city fathers should consider holding an anniversary event.

 

The saga of Spider Jerusalem, which is the product of the creative team of writer Warren Ellis and artist Darick Robertson, was told in the Transmetropolitan comic book series.  It was published in the late nineties and the early Dubya era, and contained a good number of accurate predictions of technological advances and political malfeasance.  The comic book columnist hero fits in with our recurring leitmotif of famous journalist, so we made an effort recently to chat with Robertson and get some photos of him doing a drawing of “the helmet,” which can be seen as a prediction of Google glasses.

 

If citizen journalists hope for fun, fame, and fortune, but get aced out of the fame and fortune by the proprietary attitude of the high priced media talent (and their “owners”?), then the Leprechaun attitude will become more prevalent in journalism than Hunter S. Thompson ever imagined.

 

Would it be rational to expect the Huffington Post to hire an Internets loose cannon (let alone Fox) or would it be more realistic to expect that only those who subscribe fully to the “ya gottta go along to get along” style of expressing opinions are acceptable to management as members of the team?

 

We picked up a bargain copy of Joseph E. Persico’s biography of Edward R. Murrow recently and were reminded of just how much time devoted to dealing with office politics was necessary at the time that he was reporting live from London during the Battle of Britain.

 

When Ernie Pyle showed up in England in December of 1940 to cover the effect that the Battle of Britain was having on the ordinary citizens, he stayed in a posh hotel and was not bothered by the riggers of rationing.

 

Did anyone hire Woody Guthrie to go to London to report on the effect on workers that the Battle of Britain was causing?

 

The dog days of summer draw neigh and so the next few weeks may be a very opportune time for a columnist to begin a whimsical attempt to find amusing and amazing feature material while the Supreme Court Justices do some relaxing and start to select the next batch of cases needing their attention.

 

Horace wrote:  “The man who is tenacious of purpose in a rightful cause is not shaken from is firm resolve by the frenzy of his fellow citizens clamoring for what is wrong, or by the tyrant’s threatening countenance.” 

 

Now the disk jockey will play  “Here Come da Judge,” “Strange fruit,” and Waylon Jennings’ “WRONG!,”   We have to go look for a time travel machine.  Have a “Great Caesars’ Ghost!” type week.

XL Pipeline, Gun Control, and Syrian Civil War

June 21, 2013

“Roi Ottley’s World War II: the Lost Diary of an African American Journalist” (University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas © 2011) edited by Mark H. Huddle came to our attention while we were in the Berkeley Public Library looking for books with information about the fall of Paris in 1940.  We had never stopped to consider the potential existence of material that would cover the topic of the journalism in WWII done by writers with a pan African heritage.  A footnote reported that an article by John D. Stevens, titled “From the back of the Foxhole: Black correspondents in WWII” indicated that there were at least twenty-seven such individuals.  Could one of our columns spawn a doctoral dissertation project? 

 

We had never before heard of the double “V” campaign that sought to publicize (and correct?) the irony that pan African soldiers from a country with segregation laws had risked death to fight a war against the white supremacist philosophy expressed by the Third Reich.

 

We learned that Roi Ottley had attended St. Bonaventure College and since we were preparing to act as tour guide to San Francisco for a high school classmate who had attended that institute of advanced learning, we knew we’d have something new to add to the conversation as we did the tourist bit in the bay area.

 

Recently we noted that Democrats were a tad disappointed in the developments in the realm of the XL pipeline, gun control, immigration reform, and the Civil War in Syria, and so we thought it would be a good idea to get a stock shot of the suicide hot line that is located adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge combination bike path and walkway.  Maybe some disgruntle Democrats need to hear a bit of the old “buck up and stay the course” encouragement rather than doom and gloom assessments of how the Bush Forever War is lasting a long, long time and seems about to be expanded into a new Middle East country.

 

“Jersey Bill” is an avid bicyclist, but he thought that the Golden Gate Bridge’s effort to combine a walkway and a bike path was a klusterfuk.  We concurred.  Jersey Bill and his wife passed on the suggestion to go out to Treasure Island and see where the Pan Am office had been located.  They were, however, up for a trip down Nostalgia Lane to the intersection of Haight and Ashbury.

 

We knew that a Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream store now sits on one of the corners of that world famous intersection and we decided that a photo showing the new franchise for the chain that made the Cheery Garcia flavor and is situated less than two blocks away from a home that was once occupied by Gerry Garcia, might be a chance to work in some sly references to AARP aged peaceniks who protested the war in Vietnam and must now work up some new anti-war slogans to express their disapproval of President Obama’s program to supply weapons (and technical advisors?) to the Syrian rebels.

 

One of the stores in the area was hosting a jam done by a local musical group called the Garden Band.  We looked them up and they have a page on Facebook and that got us thinking.  Some time back we had a similar experience.  A local band had played a free concert in the nearby Golden Gate Park.  Sure enough the Jefferson Airplane also has a page on Facebook.  It’s a small (digital) world after all.

 

Old habits die hard and when we told our fellow high school classmate that we might describe the weekend tour of San Francisco in a column about Roi Ottley along with our recent prediction that the United States Supreme Court will declare gay marriage unconstitutional, Jersey Bill resorted to his decades old (how can that be if we are only 28 years old?) tradition of calling the World’s Laziest Journalist a crazy person.

 

He reminded us of one or two of the very few erroneous predictions we have made in  our long and distinguished journalism career.  Hell’s Bells, man, that’s half the fun of being a modern practitioner of the three dots journalism tradition.  Jersey Bill was unaware of the work done by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen.  He did know about Walter Winchell because he had been carried in the morning paper in the city where we had been classmates.

 

Since the three dot journalism style of columns indicates many rapid changes of topics and since the internet has encouraged skim reading, we had always assumed that the old style of one topic per column would be vulnerable to a skip-a-long reading method and since Herb Caen’s methodology was complete unpredictability of one paragraph to the next, imitating his style would trip-up the skim readers’ game plan.

 

A columnist who embraces the serendipity style can throw a rhetorical question, such as:  “Who is the only war criminal to win a Nobel Peace Prize?,” into this paragraph and then blithely move on to bankers’ chicanery in the next.

 

We tuned into the Stephanie Miller program on Tuesday of this week and heard her, Charlie Pierce, and the mooks inform their audience that some banks had determined that they were entitled to the insurance money that would be paid out to the people whose homes had been destroyed by tornados in Oklahoma.  The banks figured that they could collect the insurance company payouts to pay off the mortgages of the destroyed homes.  That radio team also pointed out that many of the Occupy folks were arrested for protesting the bankers’ greed but not one banker has been arrested for taking homes from hard working Americans.

 

Speaking of video of folks crying on camera, we learned on CBS Evening News, earlier on Tuesday, that a politician in Colorado who urged gun control is facing a recall challenge.

 

We told Jersey Bill that in our next column we would deliver a challenge to the folks who aren’t upset by the collection of Internets information.  In a free country what’s wrong with taking a look at a site that challenges your beliefs?  If you think that’s A-OK, then we double dog dare readers to just take a look at one of the web sites that offers custom tailored SS Officers’ uniforms.

http://hollywoodprop.com/ss.htm

 

The staff at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory is working at maximum capacity this year because of the 50th anniversary of the vanishing grassy knoll persons of interest, the Cheshire cat WMD’s in Iraq, the building that just sorta fell down, etc., but the news item about some folks urging a new investigation into the accident that caused TWA flight 800 to fall out of the sky is causing the Personnel Department at the Amalgamated Factory (at a secret location in the Sierra Nevada foothills) to contact retirees and make lucrative offers to lure them back to the daily grind.

 

If any of the beloved inhabitants of the White House are ever caught in just one lie then patriotic Democrats will be forced by logic into considering the possibility that all the wild conspiracy theories from the last half century (starting on November 22, 1963?) have been refuted with lies.  Fortunately, the Democrats love the current occupant of the Oval Office so much that when he makes the assertion that the FISA courts, which have made 10,000 decisions in favor of government snooping but that the details of everyone of those cases makes complete secrecy necessary, is proof that he kept his promise to deliver transparency.  The Democrats believe him without flinching.  It’s as if all the Presidents have combined to pitch a perfect game as far as fibbing about mysterious unexplained phenomenon is concerned.

 

Jersey Bill takes a very dim view of the opportunity to jump on a bus near his home and go over to New York City to absorb some of the many cultural offerings and since many tourists remark that San Francisco bears a family resemblance to the Big Apple, (“Manhattan with hills added.”) we were not surprised when Jersey Bill informed us that he and his wife intended to get the hell out of Frisco sooner than we expected.

 

Thus, instead of spending Father’s Day continuing our tour guide service for a long time friend, we impulsively took one of the panhandlers in Berkeley out for an Eggs Benedict breakfast.  It was the first time he ever had that treat.  Listening to that fellow do a Howard Beale style rant we wondered why talk radio (or at least local cable access TV) doesn’t offer the audience a real choice and have a homeless pundit to push the debate to extreme freedom of speech limits?  Critics of talk radio contend that it is a variation of “good cop/bad cop” because the conservative hosts deliver conservative talking points and the callers second the motion.  On liberal talk shows, the host spends most of the phone time refuting callers who spout conservative talking points.

 

Do “they” just want to spin the illusion of public debates on all the current topics or do “they” really want a modern example of “no holds barred” brainstorming to solve problems?  Doesn’t being “intransigent” and ignoring other points of view, leave a whole lot more time for watching the NBA finals, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the mid season baseball games, and the NFL preseason exhibition games?  (Can players earn bonuses for extremely hard hits during an exhibition game?)

 

[Note from the Photo Editor:  The suicide hotline on the Golden Gate Bridge serves as a very grim reminder that there is a potential for some very lugubrious consequences if the United States Supreme Court makes some unpopular decisions later this month.]

 

We reminded Jersey Bill of Hunter S. Thompson’s  quote about how life should be lived:  “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming – Wow – What a ride!”

 

Now the disk jockey will celebrate National Music day by playing: “Just keep walking, Ambrose (Part V),” Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser,” and Waylon Jenning’s “I’ve always been crazy.”  We have to go observe Cuckoo Warning Day and International Surfing Day.  Have a “hang ten” type week.

Have you heard . . .

June 7, 2013

Obama’s efforts to wean the Democratic Party onto Bush Administration policies, which gave members of the Democratic rank and file fits of apoplexy during the Bush reign, seemed completed this week as Democrats and Republicans in both the Congress and the Senate shrugged off reports of government access to citizens’ phone records with an extremely blaze attitude.  Paranoia is patriotic and privacy is passé.

Could any of the politicians, who are überenthusiastic about the prospect of fighting terrorism by inspecting phone records, be vulnerable to manipulation (i.e. blackmail)?  Wouldn’t veteran married politicians, who had (hypothetically) placed multiple phone calls to single young attractive people at odd and non-business hours, be able to act (a key word) enthusiastic about such snooping?

The transition from a Bush Administration promoting invasions, drones, wiretaps, torture, and Guantanamo to a Democratic Administration that continues those policies as if they were venerable American traditions came to completion this week and thereby eliminated any tarnishing on the concept of a Bush Dynasty as an American version of the British Royal family and thus eliminated the largest negative factor from the prospect of JEB Bush’s participation in the 2016 Presidential Primary contest.

For the lefties who find that idea repugnant there were other topic during the first week of June for them to use to vent their outrage, such as the prospect of learning a new list of names involved in the baseball steroid scandal and a new installment of soap opera journalism as a beloved celebrity tries to lick throat cancer.

The Getty and Armstrong radio program, earlier this week, intrigued their listeners with the possibility that California voters had been victimized by a fraud that would result in a need for taxpayers to subsidize the costs of a bullet train.  We jumped online and learned that a court case, which is underway in Sacramento to consider the future of the costly venture, is a complex and confusing topic and any attempts to simplify the Gordian Knot of issues involved would only produce a tsunami of WFC (Who ******* Cares?) reactions in the Facebook mentality atmosphere of the current American Pop Culture scene. 

Anyone who wants a tsunami of Facebook “likes” would be better off collecting celebrity gossip items, rather than trying to becoming the pundit other pundits read first.

Back in the Sixties, a series of photos graphically showed a distinctive style of cobwebs produced by spiders who had ingested LSD.  Earlier in the history of the Internets, the topic of kittens who had been taught to paint caused a stir.  Would it behoove the “like” level of the World’s Laziest Journalists’ efforts to go viral with punditry on Facebook if we subsidized the costs of investigating the artistic efforts of feline Rembrandts who had been dosed with LSD? 

Marc Eliot in his book “Steve McQueen,” on page 68, describes a tense confrontation between Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra on the set of the film “Never So Few.”  Finally Sinatra laughed.  They became friends for life.

Once upon a time, the judge in Malibu (according to a reliable source) was outraged when her housemaid was bitten by the neighbor’s dog.  The judge, who was a woman, was determined to “read the riot act” to the owner of the offending canine.  On the day following the scheduled confrontation her staff breathlessly awaited the judge’s report.  She told them:  “Mel Gibson has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen!”

Speaking of blue eyes, why doesn’t someone rebroadcast the TV special that was used to welcome Elvis back to America after serving his hitch in the Army in Germany?

Our efforts to e-duplicate (metaphorically speaking) Genghis Kahn’s slog to go visit the Pope in the Vatican via going viral on Facebook produced the fact that recently Australia’s Tourist Bureau brought several lucky individuals to their happiest country in the world (according to a recent Wall Street Journal story [who owns that newspaper?]) to become gainfully employed doing their dream job.  (Like Kerouac in “The Dharma Bums”?)  That, in turn, made us wonder why the Fox Media Empire doesn’t provide Good Morning Australia (GMA) to various cable companies in the USA. 

If after a hectic morning Americans could tune in to an early morning TV show that exemplified the old folks adage “the world’s can’t end today because it’s already tomorrow in Sydney,” wouldn’t that in itself be therapeutic and inspiring?  The chance to deliver to Americans some feature stories would help boost tourism wouldn’t it?  If Sydney has a statue of Ivan, Queen Victoria’s dog, what would be the American equivalent of such a canine tribute?

“MarijuanAmerica:  One man’s quest to understand America’s dysfunctional love affair with weed,” written by Alfred Ryan Nerz (Abrams Image New York © 2013) caught our attention in the Berkeley Public Library’s main branch’s new books section and since we are a pushover for a new variation on the drive around America subgenre of literature and since columns that address the topic of the devil weed always get extra readers, we checked it out and will read it for a review in a future column.

Speaking of driving all around the USA, we wonder why some of the cynical, ever vigilant political pundits on TV haven’t questioned the curious fact that a lame duck President is doing an extensive amount of traveling to attending partisan fund raising events.  Should we start wearing our Wendell Willkie era “No Third Term” button again

In an era of austerity budget cuts some cities in the San Francisco Bay Area were uncomfortable with the concept of paying local police for providing extra security for a lame duck President raising funds for candidates spouting the liberal philosophy.

That brings us to FDR’s 1940 campaign promise that America’s kids wouldn’t be used as cannon fodder in a war on foreign soil. At the same time, Australians were a bit perturbed that many of their young men had been sent to participate in the slaughter of millions of young citizens of the British Empire in a war that was waged thousands of miles away from their homeland.  The Australian Prime Minister during WWII, John Curtin, told Winston Churchill that the Aussies in the military would only be used to defend their own country.  The American President seemed more concern with the potential loss of Australian land to an invading Japanese military than the British Prime Minister was.  The Brits were concerned about protecting access to oil in Saudi Arabia (sound familiar?). 

Prime Minister Curtin, who isn’t mention in many history books about WWII, kept his commitment to his citizens and the Aussies were not sent to the European Theater of Operations as they had been after an Austrian nobleman had been “offed” by a (tah dah!) deranged lone gunman operating in Serajhivo.  When they promised to “never forget” the sacrifice made by those who died at Gallipoli, they kept their promise.

[Note from the photo editor:  Many Americans who are baffled by the word “Gallipoli” would be astounded to learn (by Watching Good Morning Australia?) that Kalgoorlie’s War Memorial is prominently displayed near the train station where most of the city’s tourists arrive.]

Would Australians be traumatized by the thought of sending troops to participate in the Syrian Civil War if they knew it is (relatively speaking) close to Gallipoli? 

Isn’t it an odd coincidence to note that media moguls in the USA seem as reluctant to permitting foreign media into the lucrative market in America as were the staff of the German OKW during WWII? 

Feeding Good Morning Australia to America’s cable TV audience might “poison the well” as far as pure ideology is concerned and therefore be as unappealing as the possibility of including Triple J radio, Sky Rock, and (if it still exists) Radio Caroline to the folks who get an app that lets them listen to thousands of American radio channels.  (Cue the image of the hall of mirrors sequence in “Lady from Shanghai”?) 

The purity of America’s political philosophy must be insured and thus restricting access to foreign political punditry is as essential now as it was back in the day when news was controlled by Goebbels, eh?  Berkeley CA once elected a member of the Socialist Party as mayor and so American’s must be ever vigilant to stand guard against the possibility that their kids’ minds can be corrupted again by claptrap ideology from foreigners, eh?

The French teach their kids “One for all and all for one” (Just like in the book ?)  Do you want your kids thinking like the members of a famous Oakland motorcycle gang?  This is America and our motto (which should be on the money) is:  “Every man for himself, boys!”

W.E.B. du Bois said:  “Freedom always entails danger.”

Now the disk jockey will play AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” the Bee Gees’ “Nights on Broadway,” and Olivia Newton John’s “Have you never been mellow?”  We have to go investigate the disappearance of pay phones.  Have a “clean phone records” type week.