Archive for the ‘Politics and culture’ Category

Let’s ignore Fox News to death

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Jon Carroll asks in today’s Chronicle:

Could it be that the Fox model has played out? Could it be that the lack of civility and grace, the embrace of the most extreme candidates as long as they were Republicans, indeed, the whole idea behind Roger Ailes’ brainchild – a pimping station for the far right – may be politically bankrupt?

It was great fun to watch the paid liars of the right on Election Night as their carefully-constructed anti-reality crumbled in the face of the truth. But I think it’s time to stop rewarding the denizens of Bullshit Mountain with all this attention.

I enjoy seeing Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart take the lies apart day after day after day after day after day – but Fox News was designed and built to destroy the truth, and there is very little to be learned from analyzing the traffic on the channel. We know what their mission is, we know what their methods are, and we know what they’re going to say before they say it.

Why call any attention at all to a media outlet that is the moral equivalent of pumping raw sewage into the town square?

Matt Taibbi on last night’s VP debate

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Matt Taibbi nails last night’s VP debate in a brilliant tirade, one money quite after another.

The Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden Was Right to Laugh

A few favorite passages (but you really need to read the whole thing):

The load of balls that both Romney and Ryan have been pushing out there for this whole election season is simply not intellectually serious. Most of their platform isn’t even a real platform, it’s a fourth-rate parlor trick designed to paper over the real agenda – cutting taxes even more for super-rich dickheads like Mitt Romney, and getting everyone else to pay the bill.

“We want to have bipartisan agreements?” This coming from a Republican congressman? These guys would stall a bill to name a post office after Shirley Temple. Biden, absolutely properly, chuckled and said, “That’d be a first for a Republican congress.” Then Raddatz did exactly what any self-respecting journalist should do in that situation: she objected to being lied to, and yanked on the leash, forcing Ryan back to the question.

If you’re going to offer an across-the-board 20 percent tax cut without explaining how it’s getting paid for, hell, why stop there? Why not just offer everyone over 18 a 1965 Mustang? Why not promise every child a Zagnut and an Xbox, or compatible mates for every lonely single person?

Sometimes in journalism I think we take the objectivity thing too far. We think being fair means giving equal weight to both sides of every argument. But sometimes in the zeal to be objective, reporters get confused. You can’t report the Obama tax plan and the Romney tax plan in the same way, because only one of them is really a plan, while the other is actually not a plan at all, but an electoral gambit.

Paul Ryan, a leader in the most aggressively and mindlessly partisan Congress in history, preaching bipartisanship? A private-equity parasite, Mitt Romney, who wants to enact a massive tax cut and pay for it without touching his own personal fortune-guaranteeing deduction, the carried-interest tax break – which keeps his own taxes below 15 percent despite incomes above $20 million?

New bumper sticker idea

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011


KPFA workers to picket Pacifica 11/4

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

November 3, 2010

KPFA Workers To Picket Thursday to Oppose Cuts to a Quarter of Staff

(Berkeley, CA – November 3, 2010) Union workers at America’s first listener-sponsored radio station, KPFA 94.1 FM, have mobilized to oppose imminent dramatic cuts to KPFA staffing by their parent organization, the Pacifica Foundation. The Morning Show, Against the Grain, Hard Knock Radio, and the Evening News all appear slated for severe program changes and/or decimating cuts, which may include other vital positions at KPFA. The station has already cut nearly a fifth of its workforce over the past year.

Pacifica’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt, claims a budget shortfall requires the layoffs, but she has rejected most of the proposed alternative cost-savings measures that have won the backing of the staff, KPFA’s Local Station Board, and KPFA management. Those proposals, known as the Sustainable Budget, would preserve jobs while cutting unnecessary board expenses and reducing bureaucratic overhead.

“We’re shocked that Pacifica is disregarding all the recommendations made by the union,” says Communications Workers of America Local 9415 shop steward Antonio Ortiz. “I don’t understand how cutting a quarter of the staff will help the financial viability of the station in the long term.”

“Even during these difficult times, KPFA raises enough money to pay for itself. But it can’t afford to pay for Pacifica and its bureaucracy as well,” says Sasha Lilley, co-host of the public affairs program Against the Grain. “When listeners donate to KPFA, they expect the money to go to programming, not to governance and national bureaucracy. Since 2002, Pacifica has spent more than $2.4 million on its boards and elections alone.”

In the coming fiscal year, Pacifica wants KPFA to pay it more than $800,000, which is more than 21% of KPFA’s revenue.

KPFA’s union will be holding an informational picket at noon on Thursday, November 4 at the offices of Pacifica, located at 1925
Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley. The picket has been sanctioned by the Alameda Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which has condemned Pacifica for its “anti-union actions.” The San Francisco Labor Council has passed a similar resolution.

The Pacifica Radio network is an independent, non-profit organization that operates five radio stations: KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York City, KPFT in Houston, and WPFW in Washington, D.C. In 1999, a struggle between KPFA and Pacifica became a national and international news story and 10,000 people marched through the streets of Berkeley to save their station.

For more information about the labor conflict at KPFA, go to A fact sheet about the cuts at KPFA can be found at

“I Remember” – a must-see video

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Many thanks to the great San Francisco musician Steven Strauss for this link.

Voting with my wallet

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I walked into the Main Street Coffee Works in White Haven, Pennsylvania. I used the bathroom on my way in and then went to the counter to inspect the menu. Facing into the seating area was a TV set tuned to Fox News.

First of all: why is there a goddamn TV set in a coffee house? And: Fox news?

Not hungry enough to find that crap appetizing, I walked out to look for another place for lunch. I briefly pondered telling someone in the coffee house why I was leaving.

I got my chance to say something after all. As I was getting into my car, the proprietor came out and asked me if I was planning to come back inside. “No,” I replied.

“The bathroom is for customer use only,” he said. “Were you planning to buy something?”

“I was,” I said, “until I saw that you have Fox News on.”

“That’s a piss-poor excuse…” he said as I fastened my seat belt and closed my car door.

Not a poor excuse at all; it was a rare opportunity to vote with my pocketbook against fascist propaganda.

“Saint Misbehavin'” at the Grand Lake 4/1

Monday, March 8th, 2010

SNEAK PREVIEW and special event screenings of SAINT MISBEHAVIN’: THE WAVY GRAVY MOVIE to benefit the film’s release and Camp Winnarainbow at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, CA!

WHO: Saint Misbehavin’ himself – Wavy Gravy – and the filmmakers and stars of the film

WHAT: Screening and Special Event to benefit the film’s release and Wavy Gravy’s Camp Winnarainbow

WHEN: April 1st, 2010. Special Event Screening and Q&A at 7:30pm; encore screening at 10:00pm followed by Q&A

WHERE: The Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Avenue, Oakland CA

Special Event Screening will begin at 7:30pm followed by Q&A with director Michelle Esrick, Wavy Gravy and other stars of the film.

From 6:00 to 7:00pm limited a special reception will be held at the theater, where people can mingle with the filmmakers, Wavy Gravy, and other stars of the film. Also including silent auction. Reception limited to 100 tickets. Tickets can be purchased at the Grand Lake Theater box office or online at:

About the Film
Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie reveals the true story of cultural phenomenon Wavy Gravy – a man whose commitment to making the world a better place has never wavered. We experience the impact one man can have and connect to the hope that each one of us can make a difference and have fun doing it! Appearing in the film are Larry Brilliant, Jackson Browne, The Grateful Dead, The Hog Farm Commune, Odetta, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bonnie Raitt, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jahanara Romney (Wavy’s wife), Ram Dass, and others. The film features a special recording of Wavy Gravy’s song “Basic Human Needs” performed by Jackson Browne, Dr. John, Steve Earle, Emory Joseph, Taj Mahal, Maria Muldaur, Bob Weir, Bonnie Raitt and more.

About Camp Winnarainbow
Camp Winnarainbow draws from the world of circus and theatrical arts, teaching timing, balance and a sense of humor. We honor the creative spirit of each child in an atmosphere of approval and mutual encouragement. Camp Winnarainbow provides a training ground to nurture leaders for a peaceful, harmonious, and sustainable culture.

More information: &

Reading, writing, listening, and browsing

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Just a quick update on what I’ve been stuffing my head with lately, and one item that has emerged from same.

Assembling California, by John McPhee. I want to be him when I grow up.

Snake Oil & HummingbirdsJoanne Rand
Some Days the Song Writes You – Guy Clark
All In Your Mind – The Kind Buds
Geoff Muldaur and the Texas Sheiks
Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy
Mono Remasters boxed set – Beatles

I just turned in the liner notes for Let It Rock, a 2-CD live release of the Jerry Garcia Band w/ Nicky Hopkins on piano, recorded at the Keystone Berkeley November 17-18, 1975. This was a short-lived and troubled edition of the JGB, but when Hopkins had it together they made amazing music. Jeffrey Norman did a spectacular job mixing Betty Cantor’s multitracks. Release date is November 10.

A visit to Wasabimon sent me to Summertomato. Both are excellent food-related blogs. Start with 10 Reasons to Never Eat Free Food and then just start following links. Rita and I have learned a lot in just a couple of hours of poking around.

The drugs I need

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Olbermann on congresspeople for sale

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

The United States of Torture

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

From today’s Jon Carroll column:

I have heard the arguments in favor of increased prisoner abuse. This is a new kind of war with an enemy that kills civilians without mercy. This enemy has bombed the World Trade Center; it bombed nightclubs in Indonesia when the discos were crowded; it bombed subways in London at rush hour. It has bombed busy intersections and markets and even mosques all over Iraq. Its own record of prisoner abuse is horrible; it even kills its own people if they fail some ethnic or religious litmus test.

This week’s suicide at Guantanamo has given the Bush barbarians another opportunity to display their pathological personalities, calling it “a good PR move” and an act of “asymmetrical warfare.” The collective narcissism, the sociopathic self-interest, and sheer inhumanity of these bastards becomes more manifest every day. Not only are they incapable of admitting error, they are incapable of recognizing the ugliness and immorality of their souls.
A** C****** and Michael Savage are not as extreme as we’d like to believe; I fear they are expressing the true souls of the administration. I feel increasingly desperate for a way to make the sleeping middle of America awaken to the viciousness of the leaders they elected. If we don’t turn this around soon, it will be too late.
More from Jon Carroll:

I do not think we should be fighting the war in Iraq; I’m not sure there would even be a war if we had not declared it; still, I loathe the tactics of the militant extremists. I loathe the tactics of the militant extremists so much I want to make sure my side, the one supported by my money and representing my country, does not fall into the same pit of barbarism.

Torture — and let’s call it by its right name, because that’s what the Defense Department wants: the freedom to torture — does not just harm the tortured; it injures the torturer as well. If you listen to interviews with the men and women who were at Abu Ghraib, they were stunned by what they had done. They felt at though they had been reduced to beasts.

Debra J. Saunders, in today’s Chronicle, parses carefully the words of Al Gore and attacks his character in an attempt to sidestep the overwhelmingly persuasive facts adduced in An Inconvenient Truth:

Gore was wrong in 1992 when he wrote that 98 percent of scientists agreed with him on global warming….

Now he is wrong when he argues in his movie that there is a complete consensus on global warming today. As proof Gore cites a 2004 study that looked at 928 climate abstracts and found none that refuted global-warming dogma. That says more about the researcher than the scientific community.

There are a number of well-known scientists who don’t believe that global warming is human-induced, or who believe that if it is, it is not catastrophic.

How has the compassionate, liberal America I grew up in become such a vile, destructive (and ultimately self-immolating) hell? How is it possible for so many to remain willfully ignorant of reality and actively hostile to humanity?
Is there a way out of this lethal spiral?
Back to Jon Carroll:

Restraint and generosity do not seem to be hallmarks of this administration. Already, after unrestrained bombing in the early days of the war in Afghanistan, we were pulling troops out and reneging on our promises to rebuild Afghanistan so it no longer has to rely on the opium trade. We’ve decided, heck, let ’em grow it; we’ll handle the problem later when the refined product gets to our borders. Yeah, that’s worked.

Oh, wait, there’s another difference between then and now. During World War II, war profiteers were frowned on. It was not considered cool to make billions off misery and death. Today, war profiteers run the country. One might make the case that this administration is so busy figuring out how to reward its friends and campaign contributors with pieces of the war pie, it hasn’t spent all that much time coming up with innovative plans for fighting a war of attrition in a desert half a world away.

It seems pretty obvious to me that war profiteering is the number one motivation here. It is not a coincidence that the oil industry and Halliburton are the principal beneficiaries of this administration’s policies.
From the LA Times:

A rule designed by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep groundwater clean near oil drilling sites and other construction zones was loosened after White House officials rejected it amid complaints by energy companies that it was too restrictive and after a well-connected Texas oil executive appealed to White House senior advisor Karl Rove….

In 2002, a Texas oilman and longtime Republican activist, Ernest Angelo, wrote a letter to Rove complaining that an early version of the rule was causing many in the oil industry to “openly express doubt as to the merit of electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity.”

“Supidity” = “affecting my profits.” Fuck everyone else. Fuck the planet. GIMME!!!!!!

“Two Cents” re the NSA

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

I’m in the SF Chronicle’s “Two Cents” reader-response column again today.
The question was, “Ever say anything on the phone you don’t want the NSA to hear?”
My favorite answer was from Jo-Anna Pippen:

I’m sure in the last four years I’ve said: “Michael Moore, shotgun, Internet, ACLU, Berkeley, indicted, Hillary, drugs, cell, data, gay marriage, SpongeBob, peace, France, oligarchy, bomb, cell, Cheney, contraception, AT&T, Democrat, 29 percent, White House, turd blossom, tequila, Jeb, firewall, NBC and New York Times.” I’m probably on a watch list already.

Read ’em all.

Happy birthday, Mr. Gravy

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

Tonight is Wavy Gravy’s birthday party at the Berkeley Community Theater, as always a benefit for SEVA.
C.W. Nevius writes about Wavy in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

Compassion comes easy to this clown

A few excerpts:

….this has been a remarkable run, from making announcements atop the stage at Woodstock to having Ben & Jerry’s name a flavor of ice cream after him.

It was tasty, too.

With no visible means of support to speak of — Gravy calls himself “an activist, clown and former frozen dessert” — he’s not only lived a life in full, but filled it with an extraordinary zest and good deeds.


And then there’s the time he was poetry director at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village.

“I convinced the owner to bring on a kid named Bob Dylan.”

Dylan, by the way, wrote “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” on Gravy’s typewriter. So says Gravy, who says Salvador Dali stopped by and “made a salad.”

Is it any wonder that documentarian Michelle Esrick is on the Gravy train? Her film, “Saint Misbehavin’: The Life and Time of Wavy Gravy,” is due in 2007. Good luck. Editing his life into feature-film length won’t be easy….

I’ve had many opportunities to hang out with Wavy over the years – I’ve played festivals where he emceed, for example – and I’ve produced radio announcements for his various events over the years. I refer to him as a “regional saint,” for some reason. He’s a great character, and he’s done a hell of a lot of good in the world.
Happy birthday, other boss. I hope you have a great party tonight.

Pombo Must Go!

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

This is from my friend and colleague Paul Stubblebine:
Please join

pianist Pete Sears (Hot Tuna, Starship, Flying Other Brothers, etc.)

singer Spencer Day (Decca recording artist)

Paul Stubblebine (Coast Recorders)

for an opportunity to meet and mingle with Steve Thomas, candidate for Congress in the 11th Congressional District.

This district is important to all of us, whether we live and vote in that district or not. It is currently represented by Richard Pombo, who is (in my opinion) the posterboy for corruption in Congress, and the leader of the charge to remove all environmental regulation, among other troglodyte positions.

Friends, we have an opportunity to replace Pombo with someone we’ll actually enjoy supporting. No need to settle for a Hold-Your-Nose-and-Vote-For-A-Democratic nominee, no need to settle for a Demopublican nominee… there’s a genuine, progressive, back-to-the-future New Deal Democrat running.

Check Steve Thomas’ website to get a taste of what he’s about. Then come on down to Coast Recorders, San Francisco’s historic recording studio, on Saturday May 20th and meet him! Drop by any time between 4 and 7 PM. We’ll have the welcome mat out, and Steve will be happy to talk to you about his vision for a better future. Bring your checkbook – you just may want to help his campaign after you hear him speak. And at the very least, you’ll be able to say, “I knew Steve Thomas before he was co-opted.”

Coast Recorders
1340 Mission Street, between 9th and 10th, San Francisco
Plenty of parking, either on the street or in the lot behind our building, accessible from either 9th or 10th Street.

Godsmack frontman smacked by Arthur

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Check out this transcript of a phone interview between Godsmack frontman Sully Erna and Arthur magazine editor Jay Babcock!
I don’t know anything about Godsmack, but I gather they sell a ton of records and they seem to have licensed a couple of their songs to the US Army for recruiting commercials.
Babcock used a routine phone interview to confront Erna with some uncomfortable truths about the world, and Erna seemed unhappy about being called to account.
An excerpt:

JAY: …I have a quote from you here: “We’ve always been supportive of our country and our president, whereas a lot of people I thought” — and you said this in 2003, to MTV News, you said — “a lot of people I thought lashed out pretty quickly at what we did and I thought the government did everything pretty cleanly and publicly as possible.”


JAY: Well, what are you talking about?

SULLY: That was my opinion at the time. The whole war thing, and trying to keep us up to date like‰ÛS If you remember, back in other wars, we didn’t have the opportunity to follow it through the media, and CNN, and the news‰ÛÓlive updates and that kind of thing. And I thought that for the most part you know we were allowed to follow it as best we could through the media sources that were feeding us information.

JAY: [incredulous] You didn’t think the media was being controlled by the military?

SULLY: Well, it could be. I don’t know.

JAY: You didn’t look into it?

SULLY: Listen. Are you a fucking government expert?

JAY: I’m not telling people to go join the military and then not knowing what the military is doing.

SULLY: I don’t tell people to go join the military!!

JAY: You don’t think using your songs — the POWER of your music, which you were talking about — has an effect on the people that hear it when it goes with the visuals that the best P.R. people in the world use?

SULLY: Oh man, are you like one of those guys that agrees with some kid that fuckin’ tied a noose around his neck because Judas Priest lyrics told him to?

JAY: You were telling me how powerful your music was, and what age the people are that listen to it, and you must have thought, “Well the Navy sure thought it was useful,” so you tell me.

SULLY: Hey, listen. The Navy thought‰ÛS. It’s the same reason why wrestlers work out to the music, and extreme motorcross riders listen to the music and do what they do. It’s ENERGETIC music. It’s very ATHLETIC. People feel that they get an adrenaline rush out of it or whatever, so, it goes with whatever’s an extreme situation. But I doubt very seriously that a kid is going to join the Marines or the US Navy because he heard Godsmack as the underlying bed music in the commercial. They’re gonna go and join the Navy because they want to jump out of helicopters and fuckin’ shoot people! Or protect the country or whatever it is, and look at the cool infra-red goggles.

JAY: You said to MTV, “We’re not a very political band but we’re supportive of the U.S. military and how they approach things.”

In his endnote, Babcock supplies footnotes to support the things he says to Erna in the interview – Erna’s own words and other facts. Babcock concludes:

I suppose to a degree it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, but‰ÛS lives are on the line. People need to be held accountable. I’ve been trying to interview this band since 2003. I finally got my chance. It’s stimulated a ton of discussion — check out’s various threads, or the number of blogs and rock news sites that are now picking this up, or the comments below, or the endless barrage of juvenile hatemail we’ve been receiving ‰ÛÓ and it’s embarassed the band into silence on the issue, which is better than the jingoism they’d been spouting previously.

Finally: Please keep in mind that Sully is a MILLIONAIRE living in a comfortable life. His band is using their music to help recruit poor, under-educated, foolish, impressionable kids into the military at a time of worthless, pointless war, the consequences of which we — all of us — will be feeling for the rest of our lives. If he doesn’t care to discuss this ‰ÛÓ all of this ‰ÛÓ he shouldn’t do interviews‰ÛS especially with anti-war publications.

The whole transcript and supprting documentation are well worth a read. Thanks to Barry Smolin at KPFK for directing my attention to this story.