The Morning After

  Almost didn’t vote yesterday.  Almost fell victim to the “it’s only a primary” cop out.  Then, at the last minute, the tv pundits got me going.  I was listening to them bat the Orly Taitz “Queen of the Birthers” thing back and forth and I decided to vote for a very simple reason.   With people like the “birthers” out there, we have reached a point where it’s too dangerous not to.   Some of these people are downright scary.   There are also the ghosts of all those who have fought and died to preserve our right to go to the polls.  So hey, no excuses.

Here in California, oh my, what a grand and glorious circus.   There she was.  That pretty billionaire ebay lady, Meg Whitman, with the broadest of smiles.  Her fists clenched.  Her arms raised in victory.  Rocky in drag.  But hey, the woman just threw away 80 million dollars.  80 million dollars.  Good God almighty.   Anyone who knows anything about California politics knows that in all likelihood, she’s gonna get hammered by Jerry Brown in November.  What did Brown call her yesterday?  Someone who was “bored and rich” so she decided to run for governor?  It’s gonna get really nasty, Meg.  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  You might even have to talk to the media and explain all those investments before this is over.    You’ll have to answer specific questions about how exactly you’re gonna fix problems like the budget deficit without further program cuts?  All the stuff Mr. Schwarzenegger couldn’t do, but you seem to think you can?  Are you kidding?  How, you gonna do all that, exactly?  The primary is over, you bought it, and we’re still waiting to hear your specific proposals.

Jerry Brown won’t let you continue on with nothing more than generalities.   He’s an old political pro.  He’ll demand specifics.

Beyond that, Brown will be waving his union card in the air as he touts his ongoing support for average folks trying to scratch out a living and pay the mortgage.  He’ll be dancing on your head for being a member of the uber-rich big business elite that took the country down the road to ruin.  Oh, there’s also the “ do you want another eight years of what we’ve just had?” card.  He’ll be playing that too, and hard.  And the fact that this is a blue state.   And that his political legacy goes back to his father, Pat.

What have you got to counter that with?   You gonna spend another $80 million on tv ads?  That’ll be $160 million you threw away.

Most of us can only dream of winning the lottery.   Whitman already hit it and she’s giving it away to the state’s tv stations.  Well, what’s $160 million more or less, when you have billions?  Or a billion?  Or whatever her net worth currently is. I can’t relate.  Can you?  How many Californians can?  Think that’ll be a problem for her?

Can you imagine how she’s gonna feel after the general election?  Sitting there all by herself, knowing she blew a fortune on a race she didn’t have a chance of winning?   Think about it.  All that money down the tubes and she’ll still be rich and bored.   Winning in business isn’t the same as winning in politics.   Two entirely different venues.  Ask Ross Perot.

Gotta think the other Republican businesswoman, Carly Fiorina (another millionaire whose net worth was at one time estimated to run around 2.2. billion), will also crash and burn.   I’m no tea party guy, but one of the reasons I voted in the primary was to vote against Barbara Boxer (net worth between 1.1 and 5.3 million), to protest the business as usual crowd in D.C.  The folks who got us into this horrible economic and military mess.   I thought others would do the same, but Boxer pulled in 80% of the vote in a primary that allowed independents to cross over and vote for or against the candidates of one party or another.   Barring extreme unforeseen circumstances, Boxer will destroy Fiorina in the fall.

My evening of political entertainment was capped off by Amy Goodman and her “Democracy Now” newscast on KLCS-TV.  If you haven’t watched it, you should.  Ms. Goodman, is doing an actual newscast.  I mean, she’s doing news, as opposed to entertainment disguised to look like news in an effort to pull in 18-49 year old women.  It’s not about personalities or giddy banter between Tad and Muffy.  No, it’s an actual newscast that features news.   It’s been so long since anybody’s done anything like it, that you’ll probably have a difficult time recognizing it for what it is.  But give it a chance.  Your brain will thank you for it.

Anyway, I switched over to Amy Goodman, and and caught her conversation with teacher and peace activist  Marcy Winograd.  The woman who was once again trying to unseat big bad Jane Harman (second richest member of Congress) in the 36th Congressional District encompassing  the Venice/South Bay area here in Los Angeles.   In the last election, Winograd pulled in 38% of the vote.  That’s respectable.  Goodman explained that both Harman and Winograd were invited to show up for the interview, but Harman declined.  Of course she did.  The polls showed her leading Winograd.  She figured she would win, so why show up for what would amount to a live debate with Winograd, who’s a pretty smart cookie?

Winograd talked about getting out of Afghanistan while creating green jobs here in the U.S. (rather than letting Europe and China corner the market, which is what’s currently happening).   She’s clearly a progressive, forward thinker, just the opposite of so many of those who currently have a lock on their seats in the House and Senate.  Like Jane Harman.  I’m not saying Harman isn’t a forward thinker (not saying that she is, either) just that she’s part of that old machine, the one the tea party people and many others say they want to get rid of.  Like me.  It’s why I voted against Barbara Boxer.  And I’m an independent.  Or a “decline to state” as they now call us.

But Winograd lost, sending Harman on to the general election along with Barbara Boxer and Senator Blanche Lincoln (net worth between $743 thousand and $1.8 million) of Arkansas.  So much for a tea party supported anti-incumbent backlash aimed at “throwing the bums out.”    Lots of bark and very little bite, apparently.   Looks like November may not be such a big problem for Democrats after all.

Oh, “Birther Queen” Orly Taitz, by the way, was defeated in the race for the GOP nomination for California Secretary of State.  Her opponent, Damon Dunn, ended up carrying every county in the state.

I hope Marcy Winograd keeps trying.

Gee Honey, It’s The New G4

   Just got the word from the good folks at MSNBC.  Steve Jobs is on stage somewhere at something called the the “Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference,” (marketing and promo meeting disguised as something else) announcing the June 24th arrival of the new iPhone from Apple.   Something…..something…..the new G4!…..iPhone4!….something.

“Get ready to wait in yet another line!” the young lady on MSNBC is telling me.  “If you thought the lines were bad for the iPad, well… we go again!”  Or words to that effect.  “I’m still recovering from the iPad, and now this!” she says.  They’re excited about it all and talking pretty fast.  Not that easy to follow, but she’s nearly giddy and I’m getting cranked up just listening to the high voltage banter.

Then it hits me.  I really don’t care.

Gee, G1, G4, whatever.  I never got the old one.   I’m still on my MotoRazr.  Love it.  Built like a brick and it works like a charm.  Does everything I want it to do.  Everything I need.  Never got an iPad,  either.    So there’s another line I didn’t have to go stand in.  Anyway, with four computers in the house and two Motorola Razrs (one for my wife) and a company CrackBerry, why in the world would I run out and get this new iPhone?  Or an iPad?  I don’t need this stuff.  Do I?  Am I missing something?

“Well….. you need this, because it’s thin and it has 100 new features!”  Okay, but I’m still happy with my Razr.  It’s plenty thin.  Almost anorexic.  As for the 100 new features, I don’t want um.  I’m currently being overwhelmed by new features on everything I buy.  I just learned how to use the digital controls on our new stove.  I still can’t figure out how to program the clock in my wife’s car without looking around for the owner’s manual.  I finally mastered our new camera, but it took me two trips to Europe to get to a point where I’m almost comfortable with the thing.  It just does too damn much.  And please understand.  I’m a pretty computer literate guy.  A few years ago I built a computer just for kicks.   And it’s still running!  Chugging away with a Linux OS from Ubuntu. (Free via download on the web.  No standing in line.)

Of course, the new iPhone will apparently give you the ability to video-conference on the go!  Meaning, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO GET TO YOU VIA VIDEO-CONFERENCING WHEREVER YOU GO.  AT THE BEACH.  ON THE GOLF COURSE.  IN THE JOHN.  IN YOUR BEDROOM.  THERE WILL BE NO ESCAPE!

There’s a tipping point coming folks.  One day, perhaps one day soon, people will realize that what they want and need is not more but less complexity in their lives.  The “KISS” principle (keep it simple, stupid) is going to kick in and kick in hard.  100 new features just means there are 50 or 60 or so you will probably never use, and the 50 or so you do try and use will take you weeks to understand and even then,  you will probably eventually determine you don’t really need any of them anyway.

The day may be approaching when “upgrade” will become a dirty word.  Or maybe it already has?  Across America, millions of workers break out in hives every time the boss announces yet another “upgrade” to their computer systems.   They try and convince you that the upgrade will make you a more effective employee.  Truth is, it’ll take most folks weeks or even months to get up to speed with the new and inevitably more complex program and all the while, productivity suffers.

Software developers live in one world.  The rest of us, live in another.

I’m starting to feel like Andy Rooney (who really needs to let someone take some hedge-clippers to those eyebrows.  What’s up with that?).

As I have said, there may be something I don’t understand about all of this.  So don’t be dissuaded from running out to stand in line on the 24th to buy the new iPhone 4, if that’s what you really want.  I’m sure it’s a fine product, and you’ll have a wonderful time with it, if that’s your bag.

I’ll be here at home, still trying to set the digital clock in my wife’s car.

Here’s a video about waiting in line to buy an iPhone you can watch on your iPhone while you are waiting in line to buy your new iPhone.

Maybe It’s Karma?

   Tar balls are now hitting beaches on the Florida panhandle. 

Ocean currents could eventually carry the goo around the tip of Florida and up the east coast, as far as North Carolina and maybe farther.

BP says the new “cap” may be working.  It “may” be draining off some of the oil.  Some of it, not all.   To the untrained eye it looks several times worse than it did before they began this most recent effort to stem the flow.   Sounds more and more  like the only real solution will be the relief wells, but it could be two months before they’re completed and experts say they aren’t a sure thing either.

Meantime, oil continues to flow into the Gulf and onto the shoreline, choking the life out of everything it comes into contact with.  Some are now saying the dispersant BP used to break up the oil is only making things worse by turning the gooey mess into a sheen, spreading death over a broader area of land and sea.  A sheen that is even harder to clean up.  This is the dispersant the EPA ordered BP to stop using but the oil company kept using it anyway.  How nice.  What wonderful ongoing cooperation.

Reports indicate that miles of “boom” that have floated off course and need to be controlled by human hands are being neglected because there aren’t enough workers in the Gulf to get the job done properly.  BP continues to insist they’ll pay for everything.

First BP said 42,000 gallons a day were leaking into the Gulf.    Then they said 210,000 was a more accurate figure.  Experts now estimate the number to be as high as 1-million gallons a day.

“I am furious at this entire situation because this is an example where somebody didn’t think through the consequences of their actions.” -President Barack Obama

You are correct, sir.  This is what happens when big business is allowed to push forward without adequate government oversight and regulation.  Be it oil, health insurance and pharmaceuticals or the financial industry.    Franklin Roosevelt and those Americans who lived through the 30’s and 40’s can tell you all about it.   They watched it happen before and put regulations in place designed to prevent another greed-driven blowout.

Then there was Richard Nixon.  Controversial though he may have been, the man did establish the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  Nixon,  a Republican, also locked horns with the “military-industrial complex” and pulled us out of Vietnam, saving thousands of lives and God knows how much money.  And who is a big part of that very same military-industrial complex?  The oil and gas industry, of course.  Try and run a military operation without oil and gas.  The oil companies rake in huge profits during wartime and we currently have two going strong with no end in sight.

But let’s return to the question of controlling our national need for corporate greed.  Our unthinking need to be our own worst enemies as we continue to maximize everything from what we drive to what we eat, rather than optimizing  what we already have.  Which is quite a lot.

Regulations, probably adequate regulations, were already in place, only to be weakened or destroyed by later administrations in conjunction with a Congress that took huge campaign contributions from big business and sat on its hands in an act of overt and unthinkable negligence.

It began with the “Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan, casting his net of pro-big business deregulation, deunionization and a slow death for the middle class across the land.   George H.W. Bush, followed with his gospel calling for a  “New World Order.”  Bill Clinton and Dubya Bush, finished the job, as the Glass Steagall Act, and other controls on big business came tumbling down.  How do you like the result?

This is one hell of a way to have to re-learn a lesson.  How many times must we repeat this same process?

A line from  “The Devine Comedy” just popped into my head.  Remember the phrase at the entrance to hell?  “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” 

Devine, no.  Comedy?  So sad, stupid and insane that it’s almost funny?  Looks like that’s where this is going.

Nothing will change so long as business interests are allowed to fund (purchase) our political process.

Or maybe it’s karma?  Payback for Florida stealing the election from Al Gore?

In the end it all comes down to politics.  It always has.  And friends,  Oligarchy and Democracy are like oil and water.

Click here for real time video of the leak from the BP website to see how well the two are getting along.

Jobs Warns Against Descending “Into A Nation Of Bloggers”

“We need editorial more than ever right now.  I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers.”

So says Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.

“One of my beliefs, very strongly, is that any democracy depends on a free, healthy press,” he said.  “Anything that we can do to help the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal find new ways of expression so they can afford to get paid, so they can afford to keep their editorial operations intact, I’m all for it.” –Sharon Waxman/The Wrap

Happy to see this coming from Jobs.   It’s painfully obvious that the slow death of our professional journalism “filter” is dealing a blow to American democracy as the country continues to be dumbed down with disinformation and misinformation.   I only wish Mr. Jobs had included The Los Angeles Times in his list of major papers that deserve to be saved.   Like the other papers, The Times may not be all that it was.  Nevertheless, it continues to employ some of the finest journalists in the world.

A Little More Street Music

   An update on an earlier post about that young street musician, playing a violin in front of the Ralph’s market in Studio City-

I went to the market yesterday to find her back at her post near one the doors, again playing classical pieces on her violin.  This time she was still there when I finished shopping.  Her name is Mindy, and she’s younger than I thought, just a teen.   She’s playing in front of the market, she said, to raise money to go to music camp over the summer.

An employee at the market told me she and her brother are both “really good kids” and talented musicians who sometimes play for charitable causes.

Well, so much for my first thought, which was that she was homeless and trying to raise money for food.  It’s the impact of being in journalism for so many years I guess.   You immediately go for the worst-case scenario.  There’s also Steve Lopez and his friend Mr. Ayers of “The Soloist” fame, both of whom were rattling around in the back of my head when I first saw the girl with the violin.

This time, I’m happy to report, that’s not what’s going on.  Just a talented teen, trying to further her education with a little street music.

Good for her.  I hope she gets to music camp.

Where Have All The Poppies Gone?

   We seem to have lost something.   Kinda feels like somewhere along the road our shared value in honoring the past has given way to commercial needs of the present.

I can’t remember the first “Decoration Day” parade I attended, or the first solemn ceremony on the bridge overlooking the Crow River at the west end of town.  I do though remember the poppies.  Bright red  “Buddy” poppies with green stems that could be twisted around the button on your shirt or attached to the rear view mirror of a car.

I remember my mother getting my brother and me up and washed and dressed in our better-than-usual clothes for the Decoration Day parade, followed by two memorial services.  One at the river and another at the cemetery.  It was a day to show respect for our war dead, and showing up unwashed or looking too casual simply would not do.    American standards for “dressing up” had not yet come crashing down.   And so, looking as presentable as possible, we would stand by as dad dropped the top on our dark blue Buick  Roadmaster convertible for the trip downtown.

God, how I loved that car.  I would settle into what seemed like acres of plush leather in the back seat, feeling that no matter what might happen, everything would eventually be all right.  It was more than a car,  it was a symbol of American renewal following World War II.  A symbol of victory and wealth.   We were Americans, a free people.  There was no difficulty we could not overcome.   I was too young to put it all into words, but I could feel it just the same.

The parade moved west up James Street.   Members of the American Legion and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) marched solemnly along behind a color guard made up of uniformed veterans carrying ceremonial rifles.    Townspeople lined the street and applauded as the units marched by, paying homage to the men and women who went off to war at Gettysburg, fought in the trenches in France, charged up San Juan Hill, faced a wall of machine gun fire at Normandy or froze to death on the 38th parallel in Korea.

These were the 1950’s.  Vietnam had not yet gotten started.  Afghanistan and Iraq were irrelevant.   Our thoughts were about those men and women from our little town of Paynesville, Minnesota, who had given their lives for our country.   And it was always on the same day.  It was always on May 30th.

American flags were posted in front of every storefront and house.  The VFW sold the crepe paper poppies for nickels, dimes and quarters, with the money providing assistance to state and national veteran’s rehab and service programs and the VFW National Home for Orphans and Widows.     The whole town would turn out and everybody had at least one poppy.  It was a tradition dating back to 1921, when the flowers were sold by the Franco American Children’s League to provide assistance to youngsters in areas of France and Belgium that were torn to pieces in World War I.    Here in the U.S., the VFW conducted its first poppy sale in 1922.  In 1923, they put needy and disabled veterans to work making the poppies.  One year later, veterans assembled the poppies at a factory in Pittsburgh and the flowers were officially designated as “Buddy Poppies.”

Since then, the bright red paper flowers, believed to have been inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” have become the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.   While their monetary value can be measured in pennies, their symbolic value is immeasurable.    Decoration Day was that one day out of the year when we all stopped what we were doing to wear our buddy poppies, plant a flag in the front yard and consider the cost of remaining free.  And it was always on May 30th.

It isn’t easy to pin it down, but the tradition of “Decoration Day” here in the U.S., may have started following the Civil War when widows and other loved ones went out to decorate the gravesites of fallen soldiers.    There are any number of small towns that lay claim to having originated the idea of starting the tradition which eventually evolved into what is now called “Memorial Day” or more commonly the “Memorial Day Weekend.”   But it’s not what it was.

The Decoration Day ceremony on the bridge over the Crow River always took place on May 30th.  It didn’t matter which day of the week the 30th fell on.  That day was Decoration Day, and everything stopped to honor our war dead.    At the bridge, there would be prayers and suitable remembrances.

My grandmother would be there, shedding silent tears for her son Bud, a naval aviator who never returned from the South Pacific.  My grandfather would pick up a big wreath made of buddy poppies and pitch it over the side of the bridge and down into the river.    We stood there, watching the bright red wreath as it turned and swirled in the water, becoming smaller in the distance as the current carried it away.

Unhindered, the wreath would eventually find its way to the Mississippi River and then down to the Gulf.   Nobody really thought it would get that far, but that wasn’t the point.  We weren’t there to believe in something that could not happen, like a crepe paper wreath surviving a trip to Louisiana.  We were there to remember and honor real people and real events.  It left even the kids with a feeling for the importance of sacrifice and respect.

After the bridge, we would travel by car caravan out to the cemetery where the graves were decorated with American flags.  Prayers were again said, followed by a 21-gun salute.    After that, Leo Baumann would pick up his trumpet and end the ceremony by blowing taps.   We would all head home,  feeling as though we had at least tried to give something back to those who had given so much for us.

I don’t know whether they still hold a parade back in my hometown.  I do know they continue to honor our war dead on Memorial Day.   Or, forgive me, over the Memorial Day Weekend.  I’ve seen pictures of it in the local paper.   But I don’t hear anybody calling it “Decoration Day” anymore.  I’m not sure why that went away.  And I haven’t seen one buddy poppy since leaving Minnesota in the early 1970’s.

The “Memorial Day Weekend” was created by Congress through the National Holiday Act of 1971 which stipulates that the last Monday in May is Memorial Day.   It gives everyone a three-day weekend featuring countless Memorial Day sales and a mad rush to the market for burgers,  potato chips and plenty of beer for backyard barbecues.     Some argue that a national day of remembrance created to honor our war dead has become a massive retail marketing opportunity,  as millions of backyard parties and weekend getaways mark the beginning of the summer season.   For many, it’s a three day celebration devoid of any thoughts or words about those who died in defense of our freedom.

People do still turn out to honor our war dead at the veteran’s cemeteries, but the number appears to have fallen with the passage of time.   For some, the day seems to have lost its significance.  Some, no longer feel a need to consider the sacrifices so many have made over so many years.  Sacrifices made by people like Kenneth Olson.  Ken’s family lived on a farm south of Lake Koronis in rural Minnesota.  He graduated from Paynesville High School in 1963 and died in Vietnam on Mother’s Day in May of 1968.   He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Richard Nixon.

The citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”   It’s a fancy way of saying that Ken covered a grenade with his body to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.

And my high school classmate Darwin Sturtz.   We played football together.   I clearly remember more than one occasion when our quarterback Tom Vanderpool would fire the ball into a crowd.  Somehow, Darwin would manage to get his hands on it and sprint for the goal line.   In our freshman year we were undefeated.  We graduated from Paynesville High School in 1966.  A corporal in the Marine Corps, Darwin died in Vietnam in 1968.

So what’s it all about?

“Monster Memorial Day Sale!  Prices Slashed!  Huge Discounts On Summer Clothing!  The Biggest Price Cutting Event In Our Entire History!”

The VFW has complained, “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day.  No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”  

United States Senator and Medal of Honor recipient, Daniel Inouye, has tried to do something about it.  In 1999, Senator Inouye introduced Senate Bill 189, which proposed to once again, make May 30th Memorial Day.  The bill was referred to committee and there it has stayed.  While Congress has failed to act, the words of the poem continue to resonate:

“In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD (Canada)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw,
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us, who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies
In Flanders Fields.


Click here for information on the continuing effort to once again designate May 30th as Memorial Day.

(Excerpted from “The Home That Holds My Heart”- copyright Ron Olsen)

Dennis Hopper: A Sense Of Time And Place

 photo: sony pictures  If anybody who survived the 60’s tells you they never tried drugs, they’re probably lying through their teeth.   Consider the time.  It was the Vietnam body count,  the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women’s liberation, Haight-Ashbury, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the “folk movement,” Acapulco Gold and Minnesota Green, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the dawn of static-free “underground” FM radio, the cold war and the assassinations of  JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.  The list goes on, but you get the idea.

“They were fast and dangerous times, and we lived in fast and dangerous ways.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were there, and now Dennis Hopper is gone.    His movie was about the youth culture of the time and drugs were a part of that culture.

The man is dead, and nostalgia is washing over me like an oil slick in the Gulf.  It’s a question of time and place.   Hopper, Minnesota’s own Bobby Dylan and the old Triangle Bar on the West Bank in Minneapolis.  It all ties in.

Cut to the movie and that idiot sticking a 12 gauge out the window of an old beat up pickup truck and opening fire on Hopper and Fonda.  It was the death of the American Dream.  The death of one shot at getting rich with one big kill.   If you’ve forgotten, Hopper (Billy) and Fonda (Captain America)  had picked up some cocaine in Mexico and sold it to a drug dealer up in Los Angeles.  The drug dealer, who pulled up in a chauffer-driven Rolls on an L.A. freeway, was played by Phil Spector.   They had their money and were rolling ahead toward good times.  They were free to go where they wanted and do as they pleased. Instead, a southern hillbilly opened up with a shotgun, killing Captain America and his best buddy Hopper.  He blew them both right off their choppers.

And that brings us to the heart of the matter.

Here’s how the character of George Hanson (played by Jack Nicolson) explains it to Billy.

Hanson: “They’re not scared of you, they’re scared of what you represent to um.”

Billy:  “All we represent to them man, is somebody who needs haircuts.”

Hanson:  “Uh-uh…what you represent to them, is freedom.” -Easy Rider

It was the ultimate act of generational contempt.  In their eyes we were better off dead than alive, non-conformist and free in a country that was being torn apart by the war in Vietnam.  A country were our mantra had become “don’t trust anyone over 30.”

That’s what hit me as my friend Shorty Smithers and I left the theater in Minneapolis after seeing “Easy Rider” for the first time.  I’d see it again but the impact would never be the same.  That first time was an epiphany.  And it was a Dennis Hopper film.   And now he’s gone.  So is Shorty.  So is the Triangle Bar.  They knocked it down.

You never knew who might get up on the stage at the Triangle.  “Snaker” Dave Ray, or “Spider” John Koerner.   I remember their “Blues, Rags and Hollers” album.  It’s still around here somewhere, I think.  In storage, probably.  I think Dylan played there as well.  I do know he was in the area at the time.  The stage was at the apex of the triangle, which created an intimate venue for artists to play to a crowd consisting largely of students from the University of Minnesota and an art school nearby.

There were also the bikers, including a few members of the local chapter of the Hells Angles that used to hang out at the bar.    I remember pushing one of their choppers up the street one night in an alcohol induced stupor in an effort to overcome a dead battery.  After a quarter of a block or so the guy popped the clutch, the engine roared to life and away he went, the death’s head on the back of his vest fading as he disappeared into the night.

On another occasion, I walked outside to find a friend lying in the gutter, too filled with the joy of living to stand.  In those days it was called “getting wrecked.”  This guy was probably closer to being ruined.   It would have been unspectacular were it not for the plaster cast on his arm.  He broke it while ramming his BSA Victor motorcycle into the rear end of a truck a few days earlier.   And now, here he was, trying to cast off the misery of what he had done to that beautiful BSA.  Youth is a wonderful thing.

My buddy James B. and I picked him up, got him in the car and took him home.  Only one friend was left behind that night.   We forgot Bob Putzke.  Just forgot him.  Left him there and drove away.  It worked out though.   Our apartment on 16th Avenue South was several miles away but Bob managed to get home on foot.   Through the city and across freeways, “wrecked” though he was, like a homing pigeon he made his way back.  I was fast asleep when he got back and started tapping on my bedroom window.   Not sure why he didn’t call a cab.  Probably too much money.   As I recall cabs weren’t even a consideration in those days.

They’re all gone now.  Shorty Smithers, Bob Putzke, James B., the Triangle Bar and Dennis Hopper in that floppy cowboy hat.  All dead.  It’s a thing about time and place I guess.  The popular culture of your generation.  Maybe you get it.  Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you had to be there.  It doesn’t really matter.

As Dr. Thompson would have said, we “stomped on the terra.”  Or thought we did.  I think Dennis Hopper would have liked the Triangle Bar.  RIP

Bob Banfield Hangs Up His Microphone At KABC-TV

 photo: abc7  With more than 60 years in broadcasting to his credit, old friend and former colleague Bob Banfield is about to retire.  Congrats on your retirement Bob, and all the best to you.  You’re one of the good guys.  Working with you was a privilege.  You will be missed.

Here’s part of the announcement from KABC-TV’s website and a link to a retrospective on Bob’s career from Channel 7 anchor, Marc Brown.

“After 43 years of service to ABC7 viewers, Inland Empire Bureau Chief Bob Banfield is retiring. When Bob started at Channel 7, gas was 35 cents a gallon, Lyndon Johnson was president, and America was at war with Vietnam. Bob grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio. In 1948, his performances in high school theater productions caught the eye of a car dealer in town who had connections to the local radio station WOHI.

“This man’s daughter was in some of those plays. He called me and said, ‘We’re putting a radio station together, would you be interested in being a junior announcer?’ And I was gonna go to work in the steel mill, I had no idea what this business is, you know?” said Bob. “I talked it over with my wife-to-be, and said ‘Well, let’s give this a shot.'”

 “…………….On May 26, 1967, Bob took on a new challenge. It was his first day on the job as a reporter for KABC-TV Channel 7.

“They paid me by the story, $20 a story if the story got on the air so we moved around a lot,” said Bob.

Bob came to Los Angeles during a turbulent time, covering the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Manson murders, and the South L.A. shootout. In the seventies, he hosted A.M. Los Angeles with Regis Philbin.

“I got a chance to meet three presidents on that show. I got to meet just an awful lot of people that I wouldn’t have had if I were going out and trying to cover the news,” said Bob.

Through it all, Bob brought a straightforward style to his reporting that reflected his Midwestern roots.”-Marc Brown, ABC7, Los Angeles

Click here for the video retrospective on Bob’s career.

Shed A Tear For CBS

   I am speechless following a report on CBS.  Shouldn’t be.  I should know better by now.  But they had been doing so well lately.  They had gone for months without putting another anchor colonoscopy on the air.  Whomever it is that’s been stacking their shows was finally beginning to restore some credibility to their nightly newscasts and they were doing it without another rectal exam.  And then it had to happen,  as the following vacuous nonsense went out over the air.  An alleged “correspondent,” a distinguished sounding woman with a British accent, alerted us all to a new report from our esteemed Dept. of Homeland Insecurity.   “A terrorist attack may come without warning,” she advised.   Homeland Security, she reported without cracking a smile,  thinks there may be terrorists on U.S. soil.  Or words to that effect.

Oh my God!  Do ya think?  Bad guys here in the U.S.?  Quick honey!  Get out the gaffer’s tape and plastic sheeting to seal the windows!  Alert the neighbors and load the shotgun!

This non-contextual, zero-perspective outlook is coming from CBS News?   The former “Tiffany Network” that Paley and Murrow built?  How sad.  What a bad joke.

Why Would Anybody Listen To Timothy Geithner?

   A couple of items overseas:  One, is U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in London,  telling the European Union that they need to work out “a carefully designed global approach” to financial reform.

Germany, has banned some risky investments by banks.   That’s more than the U.S. has done.   At the same time, the European Commission is putting together a plan to place a levy on bank’s assets to deal with any future problems that might occur.    Michael Barnier, the EU’s Commissioner for Financial Regulation reacted to Mr. Geithner’s statement by saying, “On this question, we can go forward by ourselves, on our own.  It is not up to the United States to pay for the financial stability of Europe.”

Based upon the United States record in dealing with Wall Street, why would the EU be interested in Timothy Geithner’s vision for a “global approach” to financial reform?

The other issue, has to do with a report that points to China and India, leading the developing world in the “booming green building market” and cutting carbon emissions.  China, in fact, appears to lead the world when it comes to clean energy investments.   China has earmarked $230 billion for green investment, compared to $80 billion in the U.S. and $31.76 billion in the EU.

This clearly has the Europeans worried.  Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action says, “You can’t imagine how fast things are moving out there…….There is no doubt to me that Beijing has realized that this is the industry of the 21st Century………Europe risks losing the jobs of the future as other regions forge ahead with low-carbon investment programs.”

Here in the U.S., oil continues to flow into the Gulf, while China and India, threaten to corner the market on “jobs of the future.”

Insufficient government regulation and oversight took the United States to the brink of financial ruin.  Insufficient healthcare reform continues to threaten the lives of millions of Americans.  That same lack of regulatory authority and oversight led to the massive oil spill in the Gulf.

Our government of, by and for multi-national corporations is a system that clings to old, established, greed-driven and dangerous energy production while developing nations appear to be leading the way to a future in which green energy production will play a major, if not dominant,  role.

It’s time for the U.S. to stop letting corporations lead us around by the nose and to once again be a world leader as we move into the future with renewed emphasis on the development of clean, sustainable energy.

The Idiocracy Marches On

   Maybe I don’t get any of this, but the whole “idiocracy” thing appears to be worse than ever.   Possibly because  Mr. Obama is being forced to react.  Forced to send troops to the border.   1,200 troops for 1,969 miles.  Let’s see, that’s one solider for every 1.6 miles.  Okay.  Fine.  Another “better than nothing” solution from a prez who seems to love to compromise with people who just love to bust his chops.   People who will bust his chops the first chance they get.  Bust his chops and then dance on his head.  And he keeps playing  “Mr. Nice Guy?”

If nothing else, this is at least a step toward finding a federal solution to a federal problem.  Something that will take the onus of acting off of the local cops in Arizona, where it does not belong and put it on the feds, which is where it should have been all along.  Too bad it had to come to this, with people in Arizona raving and all.  Bet they won’t keep the Guard down there forever though.  As with Dubya Bush (who did the same thing) the troops will eventually be pulled back and the situation will return to what it was.  Probably.  Just gauging the future based upon the past.  Anyway, who will we send to Iraq and Afghanistan?  Got all that nation building going on over there as we continue our conquest of the Middle East and Central Asia.  Got a war machine to feed and it’s damn hungry.

Oh, and then came the oil.  Nobody along the “Redneck Rivera” got all that excited until it started hitting the barrier islands and the beaches.  They’re plenty excited now.  All those “drill baby drill!” rednecks.    All those free-trader big business advocates and tea party folks who want big government to stay out of their business.   Well, some of the Tea Party folks anyway.  Kinda hard to pin down their agenda.  Except that they’re angry as hell.  And that they hate the idea of “socialist” big government.  “It’s socialism!”  “Its the devil!”

Interesting that a “socialist” move by big government to get in there and do whatever might be necessary to repair the damage is okay, now that they’re the ones with the problem.   Funny how that works.

Don’t worry folks, you were right all along.  The real problem was and continues to be big government.  Too much regulation!   We over-regulated the banking industry, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries and the oil companies.

How do you like the result?

Could that guy who’s now running up and down the Gulf Coast raving about oil and demanding more government intervention be the same Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who not that long ago was complaining about big government, too much federal spending and talked about rejecting stimulus money for Louisiana?

You’re singin’ a new song now, aren’t you Bobby?

Not to worry though.  BP’s on the job.  They’ll handle it.  Anything to hold down government spending and counteract those cursed  socialists in Washington.

Let the free market seek its own level.  Dubya is back in Texas suckin’ up beer and barbecue and  praying his ass off.   Have a little faith and it’ll all work out for the best.    We don’t really need those brown pelicans, anyway.

Live Feed Of Oil Flowing Into The Gulf Crashes – “Top Kill” Is Delayed – Red Tape Prevents Work On Sand Berms

 photo: u.s. navy  A government website featuring a live feed of the oil leak crashed due to the high number of requests over the internet.   However, a link to the video feed at the BP site was still working the last time I checked.   I may be mistaken, it could be the camera angle, but it appears the leak has grown in size compared to earlier video?   Click here to see for yourself.

BP now says it could be Tuesday before they will be able to try and use a so-called “top kill” method, drowning the leak with heavy mud and cement in an effort to stop the flow.    An earlier report indicated the oil company would be ready for the top kill by Sunday.  The AP reports frustration is growing as oil enters the coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

“Meanwhile, frustrated local and state officials were also waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits so they can build sand berms in front of islands and wetlands to act as buffers between the advancing oil and the wetlands.

In a statement, corps spokesman Ken Holder said officials understand the urgency, but possible environmental effects must be evaluated before even an emergency permit can be issued.”-AP

There was a similar situation with the Corps of Engineers here in Los Angeles County a few years ago.   A heavy duty El Nino inspired front was approaching.   Forecasters said heavy rain would be arriving and relatively soon.  Problem was, the county’s flood control channels were clogged with trees and vegetation.    County engineers worried that homes on the east side would flood out unless the channels were cleared of vegetation.  However, the Corps of Engineers held sway over the channels and  refused to issue permits because of concerns raised by environmentalists worried about the loss of wildlife habitat.  The deadlock was finally broken, but only after County Supervisor Mike Antonovich paid a surprise visit to a meeting between the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Public Works.   Antonovich was able to motivate the Corps to issue permits to clear the channels.  Good thing, too, as it turned out the forecasters were right.   The rain was heavy and it lasted for days.  There were estimates that thousands of homes would have flooded out had the Corps not cut through the red tape and gotten things moving.

So good luck with your sand berms.

In addition to the highly anticipated “top kill,” BP is drilling relief wells nearby, but the oil company says they are two months away from completion.

Under fire for doing too little, President Obama is putting to together a commission to investigate the spill.  It will be led by former Florida Governor Bob Graham and William K. Reilly, EPA administrator under former President George H. W. Bush.   The commission will be tasked with issuing a report in six months.

Oil has been gushing into the Gulf since the explosion of The Deepwater Horizon on April 20th.


Just went back and took another look at the video feed of the leak from the BP website.  They have now zoomed back to a much wider shot of the flow, making it look smaller and more similar to earlier pictures.  In fairness to the engineers and others studying this leak, they’ve got a problem with public perception to deal with.    If they zoom back to give the leak more perspective, they probably can’t get the closeup view they want for a better analysis.  However, if they zoom in to inspect the pipe, it gives the impression the leak is bigger than it really is.  This could be one of several  reasons there was opposition to releasing the live feed.  Then again, maybe the leak is getting bigger?  Visual perspective is a tricky thing.

The Oil Spill – PR Spin vs. Reality?

   BP now says that small pipe (one report says it’s 4 inches in diameter, another puts it at 6 inches) they inserted into the bigger pipe that’s dumping oil into the Gulf, is sucking up all of the 5 thousand barrels (210,000 gallons) a day they initially estimated was leaking into the ocean.  However, some oil they say, is still leaking.  Really?  Applying simple logic this means they underestimated the amount of oil that’s flowing into the Gulf, right?  Underestimated it by how much?  Some experts who have seen the video BP has agreed to release, think the real number is closer to several million gallons a day.

Of course, all of it is based upon nothing more than estimates.

On May 4th, the Los Angeles Times reported:  “BP officials said the spill rate could be as much as 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) a day – far above the 5,000-barrel daily rate estimated up to now.”

Ten days later, on May 14th, McClatchy Newspapers reported:   “The latest video footage of the leaking Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico show that oil is escaping at the rate of 95,000 barrels — 4 million gallons — a day, nearly 20 times greater than the 5,000 barrel a day estimate BP and government scientists have been citing for nearly three weeks, an engineering professor told a congressional hearing Wednesday.”-McClatchy Newspapers

That’s a considerable difference of opinion.

How much of what they’ve been saying is PR “spin?”  If it is PR spin, why is the Coast Guard buying into it? And why in the world does BP get to decide which snippets of video outside experts are allowed to see?  Could it be because BP is paying the bill for shooting the video?  That argument doesn’t hold water because BP isn’t paying all the bills.

Who’s paying for Coast Guard and Navy deployment and the work of other federal agencies in the Gulf and the committee hearings  in Washington?  The American taxpayers, that’s who.   Congress needs to put a real-time clock on all the assistance BP is getting so that we can send them a tab once this is over.  If Congress and BP have already reached an agreement I haven’t heard about that entails BP paying for everything, including Coast Guard deployment, then my apologies to both the oil company and the Congress.  But I don’t think they have.  At least, not in writing.  And if it isn’t in writing, then it isn’t.   Nothing personal, it’s just business.

The spill has now hit the Louisiana wetlands.  The other end of the spill is heading for the Florida Keys and from there, possibly up the east coast.

BP says it may be able to stem the flow with a so-called “top kill” by Sunday.  That’s where they pour heavy mud down into the hole followed by cement.   As I’ve said before, it sounds like it might work.  Sounds better than anything they’ve tried.  So why did they wait so long to try it?

Was their priority to seal the leak or was it something else, like seeing how much of the oil they could recover by tapping all or part of the leak first, and then worrying about stopping any flow that might remain later?

A “green” company like BP wouldn’t do that would they?  With all that oil flowing into the Gulf?

A Little Street Music

   Stopped by a Ralph’s Market after my workout today to pick up something for dinner.   Nothing unusual about it.  I often stop at this particular market as it’s across the street from my gym.   However, this time as I exited my car and approached one of two entrances, I noticed a young lady on the sidewalk playing a violin.   I was struck by her skill.  She was no hack.  She was obviously classically trained.

Street musicians aren’t uncommon in Venice Beach or Hollywood, but you rarely see this kind of thing in front of a supermarket in the San Fernando Valley.  At least I don’t.  People asking for money for one cause or another aren’t uncommon.  But a young lady playing the hell out of a classical piece on the violin?  I haven’t seen that before.

I made a mental note to throw some money in her violin case when I left the market.  But when I finished shopping and came out the doors, the violinist was gone.

It made me feel bad, not being able to toss a couple of dollars her way.

I’ll let you know if she reappears.