Friday, November 25, 2005

And up through the ground came a bubblin' crude

Hugo Chavez seems a bit of a jerk, I'll have to admit. His posturings and radical rhetoric often overshadow the actual good that he does. While some claim him to be the Hispanic Nelson Mandela, he would do well to study Mandela's methods, instead of trying to provoke knee jerk reaction from both his supporters and his enemies.

Still, this seems like a useful, if politically awkward offer of help:

Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, has pulled off his greatest public relations coup yet in his campaign to irritate the Bush Administration with a deal to supply cheap fuel to thousands of poor residents of Boston and New York.

To the anger of many in Washington, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a company controlled by the Venezuelan Government, will supply more than 45 million litres of oil at 40 per cent below market prices.

The deal is one of the most spectacular moves yet in Mr Chavez's attempt to market his "21st-century socialism" using his country's oil wealth.

While it will not change many minds in Washington about his populist and autocratic regime, Caracas hopes it will bolster Mr Chavez's claim as the coming leader of an anti-capitalist Latin America. Mr Chavez, who once dubbed President George Bush a "genocidal madman" and led a huge anti-US protest earlier this month, first proposed his fuel offer in August when oil prices were at a record high after Hurricane Katrina.

Joe Kennedy, the chairman of Citizens Energy, one of the organisations that will distribute the oil, said the deal highlighted the failure of oil companies in the US and the Government to step in to help.

"Our government has made billions of dollars just this year on the royalty payments the oil companies pay to the Government," he said. But when it is a question of poor Americans, "what do we hear from Washington? Sorry boys. There's no money in the till."

Keep in mind, this is the same Chavez that almost was ousted in a US sponsered coup a while back, and who that paragon of Christian virtue Pat Robertson said:

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

The question, of course, is what matters to GWBush: saving face in a pissing match with Chavez, or actually helping Amricans who might have trouble buying gasoline.

We'll see. My bet is on saving face.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

We went to a very special event tonight, a screening of One Bright Shining Moment, the film about George McGovern and the very special assault he made on the malevolent political machine that was the Nixon Presidency in 1972.

What made the evening more special was that George McGovern was there to give a brief introduction. Afterward, he and the film's director Stephen Vittoria, took questions and gave spirited and complex answers for almost an hour and a half.

Many activists today won't really understand the dynamic of '72. Coming during the downward slide into hell of Viet Nam, the left and the peace movement, which had been largely dispirited by the horrible events of '68, became newly energized behind the Senator from South Dakota, an unlikely yet perfect candidate, much like it seemed Howard Dean might become last year.

Of course, there are many differences between McGovern and Dean, just as there are comparisons and contrasts between Iraq today and Viet Nam in the '70s. Yet one elemental bond gives both time periods commonality: the awakening of a hungry movement, a political force that could capture and change the minds of the American public as clearly happened then, and hopefully seems to be occurring today.

McGovern, unlike most politicians today, was unequivocal in his opinion against the Viet Nam War. He makes the statement in the film, echoed in person, that his misled vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in '64 was his biggest voting regret, and he compared that to the vote in 2003 to give authorization to GWBush to propel the equally mendacious war in Iraq forward. But other than that one exception, McGovern was staunch in his disapproval of the Southeast Asian war.

As is the case today, in a relevant and oft repeated parallel, those who dissented then, as McGovern did, were, and are still today tarred with the brush of 'treason,' He mentioned in the Q & A this week's statement by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) against the Iraq war, which predictibly drew cowardly references from the White House hit squad.

McGovern is a special man, whose clear grasp of history and current events made the film even more relevant than merely revisiting a moment where political advantage was lost. His message, made clear as the film unfolds, is that hope moves us forward, that the bastards won't wear us down. This is a film worth watching for any student of politics, and especially those who consider themselves activists today. And Vittoria's sharp direction, featuring interviews with those involved with the campaign like Gary Hart and Frank Mankiewicz, as well as observers such as Gore Vidal, Dick Gregory, and Warren Beatty, presents a vision that seems as clear and frustrating today is it did in '72.

And for those members of the Greater L.A. Blogger's Alliance in town this weekend, there are 2 showings on Sunday, 11/20, followed by Q & A. It would do you well to go see, and meet this mythic figure of progressive Democratic politics. His message is still as vibrant as it was in the infamous 3:00 AM acceptance speech at the '72 convention.


Note: music used in the film was excellent. I am always moved by Elvis Costello's reading of Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love, and Understanding" which played over the closing credits.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Party all the time, party all the time

Several of us, a loosely allied and rag tag bunch of LA bloggers, were invited to the home of the lovely and talented Arianna Huffington tonight for the impressive party she threw for Gawker Media/Yahoo/Huffington Post's new alliance. Bloggers in attendance beside us were Brian Linse (AintNoBadDude), Greg Saunders (TheTalentShow), Joseph and Alex (MartiniRepublic), Brad Friedman (BradBlog), John Amato (CrooksandLiars), Kevin Roderick (LA Observed), and others I likely missed.

Arianna was, as always, gracious. As when she came to the LA blogger party at our house last August, she meets and greets everyone equally, and makes each and everyone feel welcome and valuable. In her talk to the assembled masses, Arianna praised the direction blogging has taken the media, as witnessed by the successful pairing of Gawker & Yahoo.

That said, we also observed Ron Silver, who, like his character on West Wing, is a political animal with no true center, able and willing to swing with the breeze of convenience and shallow thought.

Mickey Kaus was also there, and I wanted to ask him what the hell he was thinking when he recently wrote, post-Katrina, that rescinding Davis-Bacon protection for local workers was a really groovy idea, to speed up government response and bypass bureaucracy. But I didn't.

I also had an interesting exchange with Paul Bond, West Coast Business Editor of The Hollywood Reporter, who, while charming, asked me I was thinking when I told Arianna that Woodward had again proven himself less than credible, while his
mea culpa with Len Downie was less about Bob and more about Len's loose standards.

Anyway, it was a pleasant gathering, Arianna was charming, and deserves thanks for opening her home to so many folks, and I'm just really glad that Silver didn't bring his latest squeeze, the effervescent and delightful Ann Coulter.

I might'a hurled.

for the bible tells me so...

Thanks to the indispensible Mom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Now, if I'd known they'd line up just to see him,

We went to the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) tonight, and as glitzy exhibitions that charge too much for tickets and have convoluted entry methods go, it was a success.

I saw Tut on his first and only previous world tour in 1978, and he didn't disappoint. Some old material, some never before presented to American audiences, and tickets were only(?) $25 through Ticketmaster (bastards!).

But the audience has changed, some might say, matured. Tonight it was a show for and about parents, and their kids. Kids that pouted and fought. Infants that squawked and cried. Parents that talked on prohibited cell phones while their darlings fought like soccer hooligans having just sung the last verse of "You'll Never Walk Alone."

In short, what the hell is wrong with people? No infant will be edified and uplifted by seeing Tut's Canopic Jars. No 4 year old will relate unless Sponge Bob is somehow included in the show. And no adult ought to have to listen to screaming babies at a museum.

Call me intolerant. Today's parents feel it's their God given right, even duty, to parade their progeny to the world as if they alone had somehow been given the gift of procreation. Their spawn must be catered to, included in everything, and their every bowel movement bronzed and mounted on a marble block.

I'm sorry I don't feel that way. Adults have earned the right to some experiences and events without the distraction that otherwise lovely kids become. I won't suddenly stand up in the middle of a nice restaurant and start singing Pokemon songs. I won't loudly ask my sib why they are such a dork. I won't cut between other folks simply because I'm smaller. And I won't bring my kids (had I any) to places where they would annoy others by behaving similarly.

So next time, leave yours at home too. It'll be much more peaceful that way. Speaking for King Tut, we appreciate it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is this land made for you and me?

The Library of Congress's National Recording Preservation Board's listing of "This Land" as an entry in the 2002 Registry of historical recordings brought to the public some almost forgotten verses. These often ignored lyrics change the folky chestnut from a patriotic ditty sung by Elks Lodge members and Cub Scouts alike to what Woody really intended: a populist call to arms, a gentle, witty tirade against fascism and concentration of wealth. In short, a socialist manifesto with a clear nod to the civil disobedience of the coming civil rights movement.

Read especially the forgotten 5th and 6th verses. Their message is as clear and as relevant today as it was when the song was written in the '40s.

Read the whole list of songs and recordings. This is real rock and roll: music that changed the world, from Robert Johnson to Scott Joplin; Booker T. Washington speaking and William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech. This is the sound of history, of guitars, drums, and dreams crashing together in a cacophony of noise and ideas. These are recordings that will live long after the world has forgotten GWBush, Creed, Pat Robertson, Britney Spears, Andrea Bocelli, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Gene Scott, Sean Hannity, Pope Joey Ratz, Celine Dion, Chris Matthews, Tom DeLay, Scott McClellan, Barry Bonds, John McCain, Ricky Martin, Jerry Falwell, Kyra Phillips, Nance Grace, Joe Lieberman, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Tim Russert, Pete Rose, Donald Trump, Ricard Perle, Kenneth Starr, Bob Novak, and so many many more.

Rejoice that we have these triumphs, large and small, to listen to, to remember how we got where we are. At the end of the day, it's ALL about the music.

This Land Is Your Land

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

© Copyright 1956 (renewed), 1958 (renewed), 1970 and 1972 LUDLOW MUSIC, INC, NYC

Friday, November 11, 2005

Slipping into darkness

The Los Angeles Times has taken another "Mother May I" step toward irrelevance with the dismissal of Robert Scheer, announced today. From his email:
"On Friday, I was fired as a columnist by the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, where I have worked for thirty years. The publisher Jeff Johnson, who has offered not a word of explanation to me, has privately told people that he hated every word that I wrote. I assume that mostly refers to my exposing the lies used by President Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq. Fortunately sixty percent of Americans now get the point but only after tens of thousand of Americans and Iraqis have been killed and maimed as the carnage spirals out of control. My only regret is that my pen was not sharper and my words tougher."

Sheer is irascible, cranky, and unforgiving. He's an unreconstructed anti-war leftie, who regularly critiques the ever rightward trending Democratic party. And he's often correct, focused like a laser on what he sees as hypocrisy and corruption in the ruling elite of both parties. He thankfully will still appear in The Nation, Huffington Post, as well as his own site,

As the Times founders and wallows, clearly not finding its way through the political mess surrounding the US, it looks ever more cross-eyed at the world and its place in it.

When the Op-Ed page was reorganized a few years ago, those of us who yearned for leftist perspective were encouraged. Michael Kinsley took over as Editor, and while he was hopelessly untelegenic and outgunned on the original Crossfire, we held out hope that his wit and intellect could energize the sagging section. Of course, at the same time, right-wing cartoonist Michael Ramiriz, who never met a Democrat he didn't dispise, took his place at the center of the right hand page, becoming the turd in the otherwise watered down punchbowl that was Kinsley's domain.

And now the page has changed its name from "Opinion" (simple, clear) to "Currents" (pretentious, silly). Instead of 'Current' call it 'Undertow' as good writing and common sense are swept out to sea to drown. In their piece on the troubles of the United Nations last week, the front page offered reasoned opinions by David Bossie, Ron Silver, and some tool from the American Enterprise Institute. Imagine! That's like asking David Duke, Strom Thurmand, and Clarence Thomas to offer opinion on the NAACP. Such balance, such fairness.

And just last week the recommendations for Schwartzenfartzen's hideous special election were published: my God, what were they thinking! Regarding one proposition: "It's not a good bill, but it's a start"! What the hell does that mean? No, it's not a good bill, and it's a lousy start toward corporate control of the state house. This from the paper of the solidly Democratic LA city and county. If we want conservative opinion, we'll listen to the radio and TV. Now there's even less reason to read the Times, especially since they long ago took their restaurant reviews out of the Sunday section and put them behind a pay wall. Looks like the only paper left in town is the LA Weekly.

Bastards, that's all I have to say.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Money is a drag

Tyson Foods, about whom we've written a geat deal here, tried to sneak on through the back door. As we reported a while back, they have legal problems, culminating in a class action lawsuit joined by the EEOC for discrimination in the workplace.

Not to be deterred, they tried the oldest trick in the book: they tried to buy some credibility. As Saadiq Mance writes at
Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN) has donated $26,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) to support the non-profit organization's leadership education efforts, the company announced.

This morning Tyson Foods issued a press release stating that the majority of the money will be used to fund CBCF scholarships in six congressional districts where Tyson operates plants. This includes districts represented by Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. It also includes the state of Illinois represented by Senator Barak Obama.

Hoping it would result in some congressional Get Out Of Jail Free card, I assume. Mance goes on:

However, America should not be fooled by this new found gratitude of Tyson Foods, Inc in light of a lawsuit the company faces for violating federal civil rights laws.

On August 12th, 2005, Emerging Minds News reported that twelve African-American employees of Tyson Foods, Inc. filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, alleging that a "Whites Only" sign and a padlock denied them access to a bathroom in the Ashland plant. The complaint states that numerous white employees had keys to the bathroom that were not provided to African-American workers.

Tyson followed in the proud tradition of other corporations who, when embarrased, decided to give some racial love. The article goes on:

Tyson Food’s donation of $26,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus is in the wake of Wachovia (NYSE: WB) and Bank of America’s (NYSE: BAC) admission of guilt for historically building its company from money made from the forced servitude of Africans that were brutally brainwashed after they were kidnapped from their native lands.

Both Wachovia and Bank of America have attempted similar tactics of paying off “mainstream” Black organizations to quiet down potential backlash from the Black community.

As a result of Wachovia’s admission of guilt for slavery the company told the press that it plans to distribute only $10 million over a five year period through a string of new and enhanced partnerships with at least two of the "good ol’ boys" of civil rights pacifiers, the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP.

In turn, Bank of America pledged only $5 million over a three-year period for institutions and programs involved in preserving African-American history. In addition, Bank of America said that the $5 million offer will build on “existing commitments”, inferring that no new initiatives will be started and failed to cite which organizations their monetary pledge will benefit.

As Wilson Pickett once sang, "Do you like soul music, yeah, yeah".

Friday, November 04, 2005

Don't you forget about me

Howie Klein, mentioned in the last post about Gen. Clark's World Tour appearance here in LA, emailed me to let me know that I had inadventently done him a disservice. In that post, I had mistakenly said that Howie wasn't a blogger, and nothimg could be further from the truth.

Down With Tyranny
is Howie's blog, and it's some damn fine writing. He is smart, well spoken and well written, and has a ton of insight into politics, and the entertainment biz, that I find fascinating.

Here's part of a bio from EWorldPress:

Like many in the music business, Klein got his start booking bands while a student at SUNY Stony Brook in the late 1960s. However, unlike most young student talent buyers, he booked the entire gamut of the psychedelic era's top artists including Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who and Pink Floyd. Klein eventually relocated to San Francisco where, in addition to co-founding the nation's first FM punk radio show (The Outcaste Hour on KSAN), he also started 415 Records. He has been a cornerstone presence in the record industry ever since applying his trademark focus on "long-term artist development" at Columbia, Sire and eventually Reprise Records.

Klein's last official post in the music industry was as president of Reprise, the AOL / Time Warner label that is home to such marquee artists as Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Lou Reed and Green Day. Having found that his focus on the long term artist had become antithetical to an overly commercialized record industry, Klein had since moved on to education, public speaking, and devoting more time to progressive political activism.

Welcome to the world of blogging, Howie. Kick out the jams.