Category Archives: Blog

26% Of America Gets News Via Cell Phones

That’s according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.    The study, “The New News Landscape: Rise Of The Internet” indicates Americans are getting their news from a mix of sources.

 “In the digital era, news has become omnipresent. Americans access it in multiple formats on multiple platforms on myriad devices. The days of loyalty to a particular news organization on a particular piece of technology in a particular form are gone. The overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) use multiple platforms to get news on a typical day, including national TV, local TV, the internet, local newspapers, radio and national newspapers. Some 46% of Americans say they get news from four to six media platforms on a typical day. Just 7% get their news from a single media platform on a typical day.

The internet is at the center of the story of how people’s relationship to news is changing. Six in ten Americans (59%) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day, and the internet is now the third most popular news platform, behind local television news and national television news.” -Pew Center Study

Drew Brees vs. The Archers

I heard about this in the gym yesterday.  I didn’t believe it then and I’m not sure what to think after seeing the video.

The premise for the show “Sports Science” was this:  Who is more accurate?  New Orleans Quarterback Drew Brees, or an Olympic archer?  Their conclusion is that Brees has the greater degree of accuracy.

They had Brees firing a football at an archery target 20 yards away.   They compared his accuracy to what appears to have been the average number of hits from archers (they don’t say how many) in the 2008 Olympic Games.   I’d like to throw out the average and see Brees going head to head with someone deemed to be the finest archer in the world.

It should also be noted that Olympic archers are trying to hit targets at a distance of 76.5 yards.

Either way, Brees is an amazing QB.  But Olympic archers are pretty accurate, too.

See what you think.

The Predictable Outcome Of Mr. Obama’s Meeting


It’s a little surprising to find some reporters pointing out this morning that nothing much was accomplished at President Obama’s health care summit with the Republicans (even with the square table the Republicans demanded) without also reporting that nobody really expected anything to come from it.

In case you haven’t been able to figure it out, the Republican Party doesn’t want health care reform.   They are trying to do now what they have done in the past, scrap everything that’s been put together and ostensibly “start over” because that, they say, is what the American people want.

Give the Republicans what they want and the result will be the same as it has been in the past.  There will be no health care reform at all, which is what the insurance industry has ordered their lapdog Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats  to deliver while much of America goes broke trying to pay for health care.

The American people want affordable health care.  End of story.

One has no way of knowing what Mr. Obama may be thinking at this point.  Some are speculating that he was just letting out more rope, determined to give the Republicans every possible opportunity to add to or amend the bills that have been hammered together, and to do it publicly,  so that there will be no doubt as to Republican resolve to kill health care reform regardless of how it’s written.   They will have shown their cause to be a ruse, giving Mr. Obama the leverage he needs to move forward without the cooperation or approval of the Republican Party but hopefully with the understanding of the American people.

It’s not for nothing that Mr. Obama mentioned the need to do what must be done and then letting the people register their approval or disapproval at the polls.  He was sending a message.  Get on board now or sink at the mid-terms.

However, the question of whether he will be able to make it happen remains, with or without the mid-term election.

The degree to which corporate money controls the House and Senate is troubling.   Something beyond that is equally  disturbing, or should be, to anybody whose head isn’t stuck in the 19th Century.

While watching some of the exchanges from Thursday’s meeting, I had to wonder if some of what was said to the President would have been said in the same fashion and with the same word choice and tone, if Mr. Obama were white.   It’s the same uncomfortable feeling I experienced when a United States Congressman shouted out “liar” during Mr. Obama’s speech on health care reform.   And again, when some schools across the land refused to let students watch a live speech from the President of the United States encouraging the nation’s schoolchildren to excel.   This wasn’t just another political hack who wanted to address the nation’s children.  It was the President of the United States of America.

Would any white president be confronted with the kind of disrespect Mr. Obama is being forced to face?   The fact that this question even needs asking is an indicator that there’s an elephant in the middle of the room.  Nobody wants to admit that it’s there, much less discuss it.  It’s there, nevertheless.

To date, former President Jimmy Carter, is among the few who have had the courage to address the issue, speaking out against those who  held up signs at rallies portraying the President of the United States as a reincarnation of Hitler while others suggested Mr. Obama should have been buried with President Kennedy.

“It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.”  -President Jimmy Carter

The tone and tenor of what’s being said seems to have come down a notch or two since Mr. Carter’s statement in September of last year.  However, racism is still racism, regardless of its subtlety.


(Because there are dog-eat-dog, wild-eyed idiots out there who will go on the attack at the drop of a metaphor, I should point out that the elephant mentioned in this post is not meant to represent the Republican Party.  It is meant to represent an actual elephant.  A large animal that is impossible to ignore, particularly when it’s standing in the middle of the room.)

California Leads The Way With “Cuss Free Week”

Anthony Portantino

Democrats and Republicans in the California State Legislature may have finally found something they can agree on.  A statewide “Cuss Free Week.”  The Assembly, is set to vote on a resolution designating the first week in March as our “Cuss Free Week, when all Californians will be called upon to try and avoid using swear words.

The idea was inspired by a teenager who founded a no-cussing club at his junior high school and was introduced in the Assembly by Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada/Flintridge).

Assemblyman Portantino says his staff plans on delivering “cuss jars” to the offices of all the state lawmakers and the Governor.   Anyone who is naughty and uses a bad word will then have to put some money in the “cuss jar.”  If they feel like it.

Isn’t that special?

The state is $21 billion in the hole and our legislative hall monitors are fiddling around at the junior high level?    Worse than than that, the AP reports that swearing on the floor of the State Assembly is rare.  Worse still, this wasn’t even their idea.  They had to borrow it from a high school kid.

With endless gridlock along party lines, the U.S. Senate continues to rank among the most dysfunctional, useless and disgusting legislative bodies in the country.  The California State Legislature isn’t far behind.

Don’t misunderstand.   Cleaning up the country’s language is a good idea.  But this is something that belongs where it originated, at the junior high school level.

Stand by for the Assembly’s next big move, an annual sweetfest celebration with legislators running around pinning one another with flowers, chocolates on every desk and a big parade through the streets of Sacramento.

And these people are responsible for overseeing the 8th largest economy in the world.

As for Mr. Portantino, the cost of cleaning up the recent mudslides back in his home district of La Canada/Flintridge, is expected to run somwhere between $20 and $30 million.   Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, has raised the question of whether the U.S. Forest Service may have been negligent in not doing more to contain the spreading fire that eventually led to the mudslides.  Presume the assemblyman’s got that all worked out?

Blagojevich To Speak On Ethics

 Rod Blagojevich

Chris Matthews has just reported that Rod Blagojevich will be featured at a discussion on ethics at Northwestern University.   The event is being billed as “Ethics in Politics: An evening with Former Governor Rod Blagojevich.”

Huh?  Where have these people been?  Why are they giving this guy yet another forum?  What’s next?  Sarah Palin on the geopolitical implications of Iran getting the bomb?

Why Not Just Dump The Network News?

Matea Gold reports in the Los Angeles Times, that ABC is preparing to cut its news division by as much as 20%.  The new model she reports, will force some of those who remain to act as “one man bands” both shooting and producing their stories.

“The process is expected to begin Wednesday morning when employees receive a letter asking for volunteers to take buyouts and leave the company. Newsroom employees have heard that the network is seeking to shrink the newsroom by as many as 300 positions, about 20% of the 1,400-person staff. If not enough employees volunteer to leave, layoffs are likely to follow.” -LA Times

The so-called “one man bands,” which force fewer people to do more with less and sacrifice journalism for the sake of cost cutting, were once used exclusively in small and medium sized non-union markets and would have been unthinkable at the network level.

The cuts at ABC follow recent cuts by CBS News.  Can the elimination of network news be far behind?

What the American public needs is obviously no longer paramount, so why bother?   It might even help newspapers regain some of their lost readership, if not with actual newsprint then on the Internet.

Is the responsibility of the networks to provide programming in the public’s “interest, convenience and necessity” anything more than a fading memory?  Isn’t allowing the networks to present promotion and entertainment pieces disguised as serious journalism, worse than nothing at all?

This Is Not A Dress Rehearsal

Much of the country appears to be in a state of denial.  It’s a sort of,  “This can’t be happening to us, so let’s pretend it isn’t and eventually everything will be okay” mentality.  But it isn’t okay.  Far from it.  This is not a dress rehearsal and better times may not be just around the corner.

It might take some time to get the Congress up off its collective duff and back in a position where it can actually do something other than refuse to move forward because it might make the other guys look good.  Our elected representatives need to start putting the country ahead of party politics.

As Senator Bernie Sanders points out in his piece “The Senate’s Reconcilable Differences” currently featured in “Truthout.”

“Since December of 2007, more than 7 million Americans have lost their jobs; a staggering 17.3 percent of the American workforce is either unemployed or under-employed; and over 6 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, the highest on record.

In America today we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in the industrialized world. With the top 1 percent earning more income than the bottom 50 percent, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty among major countries. About a quarter of our children are dependent on food stamps. Today, as the middle class continues its decline, one in nine families can’t make the minimum payment on their credit cards, and 120,000 Americans are declaring bankruptcy every month.

Sadly, this economic pain didn’t begin when the financial sector nearly collapsed over a year ago. It has been going on for a decade. As the Washington Post reported in January, “The past decade was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times … It was, according to a wide range of data, a lost decade for American workers … There has been zero net job creation since December 1999 … Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999–and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009.”  -Truthout

A past decade that has been “the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times…”   

Let’s see, 8 of those years were dominated by chickenhawks in the White House and a Republican dominated Congress pushing for two wars and a laissez faire economy.

It’s really worked well, hasn’t it?  And now when Mr. Obama proposes change with the prospect of improving things for the vast majority of Americans who are being squeezed until they bleed, he is confronted by the “party of no.”  Beyond that, he is confronted by members of his own party who have grown politically fat by taking millions in bribe money from corporate interests.

But everything is going to be okay, right?  It’s easy to stay in that “never, neverland” of denial, until you or someone you care about loses a job and is suddenly without a paycheck and health insurance.  Until you or someone you care about is suddenly face to face with the prospect of depleting their retirement fund just to get by.   Provided they even have a retirement fund.  Do you think it’s possible for the millionaires in the Senate to begin to relate to the stone cold fear that grips the parents of a family of five who suddenly find themselves without the money to pay the rent and buy food for their kids?

The unemployment rate here in California, currently stands at 12%.  That’s what Governor Schwarzenegger said yesterday during an appearance on “This Week” on ABC.  He said a few other things too, things about Ike Eisenhower and ancient Egypt that made me take notice, because I had been thinking along exactly the same lines.

The idea of those who are remembered as the world’s great leaders being linked to public building projects popped into my head while watching a documentary on Ramses II.  Old Ramses, the archeologists say, was among the great (he may have been the greatest) builders of Egypt.  There was no unemployment,  just lots of building going on the documentary reported, and what Ramses II accomplished was amazing.   Fortunately, some of it is still out there more than three thousand years later.  Temples, statuary,  buildings representing the physical manifestation of an ancient culture’s spiritual essence.  Fast forward to the 1950’s and Ike Eisenhower, the man who put the U.S. to work on what is now our interstate highway system, not to mention bumping up the infrastructure for a whole new country in the wake of World War II.  There have been others of course, I simply found it interesting that Mr. Schwarzenegger and I were both thinking about the ancient Egyptians and the parallels between  great builders, healthy national economies and being remembered by history.

It seems so simple.

History seems to teach us that putting people to work building the national infrastructure serves to support the economy.  Doing nothing, on the other hand, leads to nowhere.  An entire decade of going nowhere, with the rich getting richer while the middle class dies a slow death, has gotten us to where we are today.

Imagine if someone could wave a magic wand and  actually regulate:

-Healthcare costs

-Food costs

-Insurance costs

-Energy costs

-The banking and finance industry

-Fraudulent Advertising

-Media in the public interest

Oh wait!  The Congress has the power to do that, don’t they?   And a system to do all that was in place prior to deregulation wasn’t it?   And now, with the old regulations struck down,  Congress seems to be doing next to nothing for the American people and everything it can for the banking industry and the military-industrial complex.

Speaking of which,  Ike Eisenhower’s words continue to echo across the land.  Or they should.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  –Dwight D. Eisenhower  1961

Of course rebuilding our infrastructure, reforming government and establishing programs that will benefit the people of the United States will be expensive.

And who will pay for all of this, you ask?   Who do you think is paying for two wars and our current military deployment in more than 150 countries around the world?  We are, friends and neighbors.  We are.

The money is there, it is simply a matter of who it is being given to.

Perhaps we would be better off continuing on our current path of massive handouts to banking interests that are “too big to fail” and the nearly unlimited financial support for the military-industrial complex.  Perhaps it would be wiser to continue with the policies of the past decade, policies that gave us two wars, a military deployment in more than 150 countries and the worst economy since the Great Depression?

Or we can tell the people in Washington, that unless they go back to work for us, we will throw them all out on their  self-serving asses regardless of party affiliation?   That seems to be the only message they are going to understand.

Schwarzenegger Chides Republican Colleague’s Hypocrisy

Appearing on  “This Week” on ABC,  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger criticized some of his Republican colleagues for accepting stimulus money from Washington and bragging about the good it’s doing in their home districts, even while they continue attacking the Obama Administration’s stimulus package.   According to Mr. Schwarzenegger, stimulus money is responsible for 150,000 jobs in California.

“You have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on the stimulus money and saying this doesn’t create any new jobs,” Schwarzenegger said.

“Then they go out and they do the photo ops and they are posing with the big check and they say ‘Isn’t this great?'”

A Post On Palin To Good To Pass Up

Sarah Palin

  photo: ben aveling    

“The dangers of “death panels” were explained to Americans on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. Oh, sweet Lord, she must not sleep at night…her grandson could be the next victim of “socialized medicine”.

Recently released documents from the custody battle show clearly Tripp Palin Johnston has socialized health care through Indian Health Services and the Alaska Native Medical Center.

Palin’s family has federally funded health care afforded to them…but if you had it Barack Obama might kill you. Put this on the list of Palin’s Greatest Hypocritical Hits…volume 97.”  -Shannyn Moore in the Huffington Post

Cheeseheads On Wheels


       phtoto: ron olsen/ 

In what may be a first, a move is underway to make Harley-Davidson, Wisconsin’s official state motorcycle.   Harley, is a Wisconsin-based company.

SB-394,  “…designates the Harley-Davidson as the Wisconsin state motorcycle and requires the Wisconsin Blue
Book to include that information.”

A push is also underway in the state assembly, with AB-596.

However, as an old friend used to say, “You can’t do anything without goring somebody’s ox.”   In this case, the ox appears to be peace and quiet vs. the famous Harley roar.   The group “Noise Free America” is opposing the bill.  “The noise frightens and intimidates people,” George Atwood of Milton said.

Can We Move On Now?

 Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods does one thing very well.  He can hit a golf ball.  That’s it folks.  To the best of my knowledge he has never claimed to be a great thinker, philosopher or moralist.  He has not been nominated for beatification by His Holiness, the Pope.  He is a private citizen, not an elected public official who can be expected to answer to a constituency.

“Oh” but you say, “He should be setting a standard for others to follow!”  Well, maybe, but hasn’t this been taken a bit too far?   It seems as though half the professional athletes in America are, or have been, on one drug or another.   Does anybody get into the pros without using steroids or some other “performance enhancing” drug?   And do you really think other athletes don’t fool around?   Give me a break.  The only difference between Tiger Woods and any number of others, is that he got caught.

The man hits a golf ball and endorses products for a living.  He does not represent the second coming.  He may love women, but at least he appears to be drug free.  He hasn’t promoted dog fighting or been charged with assault.  He didn’t carry a gun into the locker room at Inverness.

The degree to which the mainstream press has continued to chase and promote this story, eyes bulging and drool dripping from their chins,  only exemplifies how badly our national news product has deteriorated.

We celebrate superficiality, mediocrity and anything, absolutely anything, that can be tied to human sexuality, making it increasingly difficult to determine where the tabloid press ends and the mainstream begins.   As a consequence, all of it, the tabloid and mainstream, is beginning to look like one big muddy river.

We have found the lowest common denominator.  It is us.

The man hits a golf ball for a living.   Yes, this was a story, but  there are more important issues out there.  Get over it and move on.

Alexander Haig Dies

Alexander Haig

   photo: u.s. dept. of defense   

News of the death of Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, prompted memories of Haig’s statement on the day Mr. Reagan was shot.   “As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice president,”  he said.   I remember wondering why he would be in charge when clearly the VP was next in line to Reagan.

Haig, later wrote that it was a bad word choice prompted by the heat of the moment.   Since he was actually fourth in line to the President, the statement made him look like a power-hungry politician, an image he’d never live down.

Beyond that, Haig will be remembered for stepping in as White House Chief of Staff for Richard Nixon, when H.R. Haldeman was forced to step down during the Watergate scandal.

It’s been written that the country owes General Haig a great debt of gratitude for holding the government together during the final chaotic months of the Nixon Administration.

Haig, served under three presidents, Nixon, Ford and Reagan and ran for president himself in 1988.  A four-star general of the Army, Alexander Haig died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.  He was 85.

A Return To The Two Party System?

 DNC 2000

photo: ron olsen/ 

There are signs the Democrats might be getting back into the game by growing a collective backbone and taking control of the United States Senate with the majority they were given by the American people.  But is it possible?  Are they about to finally stop what has become an ongoing tragic and painful exhibition of mousy knuckling under to minority Republican bully boys, representing corporate interests and a base that denies our separation of church and state while they eagerly look forward to being swept up in the “Rapture.”

Have Senate Democrats finally broken through their inside the beltway fog and recognized the potential for being hammered in the mid-terms if they fail to represent their constituents?

It took them long enough to get here.  Our government is broken.  Our Constitutional Republic, battered and bloody is down on the mat.  Hopefully, God willing,  it is not down for the count.

The tipping point on beginning the job of restoring our political process may have been reached.

The first half of setting the scales back into balance may have been the decision by the now totally politicized and conservative dominated Supreme Court of the United States.   It was a sad day when the Court, led by George W. Bush nominee John G. Roberts Jr., decided corporations have the same rights as citizens, that corporations can throw their millions and even billions behind a given political candidate in the U.S., even if the corporations in question happen to be multi-nationals.

The high court’s decision means it will be “we the people” gathering up our nickles, dimes and dollars in an effort to push back against the millions that corporate interests have to support (buy) candidates of their choosing.  If that isn’t an obvious enough blow against our democratic process then consider the ongoing health insurance monopoly that threatens to further erode our economic well being.  A monopoly that continues to be protected by an anti-trust exemption the Congress refuses to do anything about.

Monopoly breeds arrogance.   That may be what completed the tipping point process, knocking the scales so far out of balance that even the worst of the worst among the self-serving on Capitol Hill had to sit up and take notice.

It was Anthem Blue Cross (Wellpoint) of California announcing they were raising their rates to their most vulnerable customers, those not included in any group plan,  by 39%.  They were going to do it Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says, not because they need the money, but because they can.  In other words, sheer  arrogance and greed.

And the reason they can?   It’s because they have no real competition and inadequate oversight.   In the middle of what is our worst economy since the Great Depression.

It was so outrageous that the government finally did its job and interceded on behalf of the American people.  Wellpoint, agreed to delay the monster rate hike for two months while the government looks into the insurance company’s motivation.  Okay fine, but Secretary Sebelius has already indicated their profits are huge and their motivation is nothing but greed.  At least Health and Human Services seems to be paying attention.

A government that represents the people.   It’s a fascinating concept in a country with a Supreme Court that has given corporate interests control of the political process.

Trouble is, when it comes to health care, laissez faire does not work.  It only gets people killed.

The question of course, is simple:  Will this democracy killing nonsense be enough to shake Senate Democrats into action in spite of the millions they’ve taken from corporate interests?   Will they finally stand up to the Republican bully boys and say, “enough.”

There may be hope.   18 Democrats in the Senate  have indicated their willingness to get behind a public health care option and they’ve come up with a way to do it without the need for the 60-vote “supermajority.”   Apparently, they can do it with something called “reconciliation,” which will get parts of their health care reform plan passed with only 51 votes.  The White House says that if the Senate gets it done, Mr. Obama will back the effort.

It could be a first step toward restoring a balance to the political process in America.   It could mark a return to the two party system.  Remember that?

From Hell To Hollywood

An exhibit of photos taken by my old friend Nick Ut of the AP has opened in Orange County.   You may remember Nick being awarded the Pulitzer for an image he captured in 1972 of an injured little girl running down a road in Vietnam after being badly burned by napalm.  The picture became iconic of the Vietnam War.

Years ago, I was covering the O.J. Simpson civil trial in Santa Monica, when Nick showed up with someone he wanted me to meet.  It was Kim Phuc, the little girl in the award winning photo.  Even then, some 25 years later, I saw her face and knew exactly who she was.  That photo Nick took remains among the most memorable images of the war.  For me, a child of the 60’s, meeting Kim Phuc was to say the least, impactful.  I will forever appreciate having been given the opportunity to meet her.

Following his work as a combat photographer, Nick went on to practice his art here in the Los Angeles area.   Some of it is now on display at the Nguoi Viet Daily News building in Westminster’s “Little Saigon.” Click here for more photos on Ted Soqui’s blog.

Nick Ut

Peter Arnett, Kieu Chinh, David Hume Kinnerly and Nick Ut

(photo courtesy of Ted Soqui)

Daryl Gates Hospitalized

Daryl Gates Book

Former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates is hospitalized with a serious illness.

“Chief Charlie Beck informed the police commission during its Tuesday meeting that he had visited the former LAPD chief in the hospital over the weekend. Beck said Gates, 83, had a “very serious malady.” He did not describe the nature of Gates’ illness.

“I ask everyone to keep him in heir prayers,” Beck said.” –LA Times

Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department for 14 years, Gates was at the helm during the infamous Rodney King beating incident and then later, when the Los Angeles riots broke out.   Remembered for his verbal sparring with Mayor Tom Bradley, he eventually testified in federal court that the four officers charged in the beating incident should have restrained themselves and used a “swarm” technique to subdue Mr. King.

Gates is credited with helping to change the course of modern policing with the creation of “SWAT” teams.

“Gates is considered the father of SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics), who established the specialized unit in order to deal with hostage rescue and extreme situations involving armed and dangerous suspects. Ordinary street officers, with light armament, limited weapons training and little instruction on group fighting techniques, had shown to be ineffective in dealing with snipers, bank robberies carried out by heavily armed persons and other high-intensity situations. In 1965, Officer John Nelson came up with the idea to form a specially trained and equipped unit to respond to and manage critical situations while minimizing police casualties.

As an inspector, Gates approved this idea. He formed a small select group of volunteer officers. The first SWAT team, which Gates had originally wanted to name “Special Weapons Attack Team,” was born LAPD SWAT, D-Platoon of the Metro Division. This first SWAT unit was initially constituted as 15 teams of four men each, for a total staff of 60. These officers were given special status and benefits, but in return they had to attend monthly trainings and serve as securities for police facilities during episodes of civil unrest. SWAT was copied almost immediately by most US police departments, and is now used by law enforcement agencies throughout the world.”  –Wikipedia

The LA Times reports that Gates retired from the LAPD following the riots in 1992.