Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Time Off for the Holiday -- Plus Recipe!

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. The guy's on the job for half an hour and already he wants a break. Well, despite the cautions of Felix Clay over at Cracked.com, I'm devoting some time to my family.

My youngest daughter moved to town last year and now I have no excuse to avoid being with family for Thanksgiving. In the past, when all of the kids lived about an hour and half south of here, it was easy to beg off with some flimsy excuse or another -- It's too dark. It's too cold. It's too wet. My probation officer won't let me leave the county. You know, the usual stuff. But now that she and two of my grandchildren live here, that's not so easy.

So we are committed to having dinner here (despite the fact that my granddaughter has to work on Thanksgiving night -- need I mention that she works in retail at one of the local malls?) and that means that I have to actually do stuff. Like prepare food.

I'm thinking about fixing this:



Chances are good that I won't be expected to contribute anything foodwise, ever again...



Note: This was, obviously, a Hellman's Real Mayonnaise ad from WWII, when housewives had to be conscious of conserving their food ration points, hence the "low-point-cost" reference. Even in WWII, baloney was not rationed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Some Free Advice for President Obama

The Republican-controlled Congress shows no signs of letting up for the next two years. It will be next to impossible for the President to get his legislative agenda through .

Unless...

Since the Republicans are acting like a rowdy bunch of stinky two-year-olds, treat them like two-year-olds and do a little of the old "reverse psychology" on them.

Everybody knows how this works:

  • Say that Global Climate Change (aka "Global Warming") is a fraud and a hoax, and there's no reason to do anything about it.
  • Say that you want to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") immediately.
  • Say that you will imprison and mass deport each and every "illegal alien" in this country.
  • Say that you are in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Say that you want to reduce Social Security benefits and eliminate the "socialist" programs Medicare and Unemployment Insurance.
  • Say that you want to eliminate the minimum wage and under no circumstances increase it to anything approaching a livable wage. 
  • etc. etc. etc.
Because the Republicans are at this point beyond being anything other than the knee-jerk party of "No", they will immediately say that he's wrong and rush through a set of bills to counter his ideas.

Then Obama pulls the "old switcheroo" and signs them.

Problem solved.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Point of Order -- The Army-McCarthy Hearings

The other day I posted Operation Abolition and the Red Menace, containing embedded YouTube movies about the student "riot" at the HUAC hearings in 1960 in San Francisco.

Reader Nan the Historian brought up the 1964 documentary Point of Order and asked if I'd seen it. Yes, I saw it once years ago, but now it is available of course on The Internets, and I was able to find it on YouTube.

It's about the 1954 Army-McCarthy Hearings, and it consists of nothing but the television coverage of the hearings. Two television networks provided live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the hearings, which was a novelty then. The producer of this film, Emile De Antonio, also did something novel: He used nothing but the footage itself, with no voice-over narration and no music. You get nothing but the actual hearings.

Of course, since the hearings took place over some 40+ days and this is only an hour and half in length, you are not getting all of it. But what you do get is a clear picture of Joseph "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy.

One thing is clear from viewing this film. Tailgunner Joe was a bully.

Check it out:



As an aside, if you look carefully, you'll see the youthful visage of Bobby Kennedy (that's him fourth from the left). It was a fact that that the Kennedys didn't particularly want publicized after his brother became president, but RFK had been counsel to the McCarthy-run Senate Committee on Government Operations. This committee was infamous for its role in rooting out "communists" from government, especially the "205" (the number changed depending on who McCarthy was talking to at the moment) in the US State Department.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 22, 1963

Those of us of a certain age can tell you, for a certainty, exactly where we were 51 years ago today. That date is burnt into our souls the same way that December 7, 1941 was for our parents, and September 11, 2001 is to our children.

Much has been made of the JFK assassination over the years. JFK Conspiracy Theory has gone from a cottage industry with the publication of Who Killed Kennedy? by Thomas Buchanan in early 1964 (the first "conspiracy theory" book) to the lucrative field it is today, with every possible scenario, from the military-industrial complex to the Mafia to the CIA to the South Vietnamese (as retribution for the killing of Ngo Dinh Diem, just three weeks earlier!) to the French.

And yet we are no closer to solving the case than we were in November 1963. Most serious critics of the Warren Report believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. From that basic premise it spirals out into the Oswald-Was-A-Patsy to Oswald-Was-An-Active-Communist-Agent and everything in between.

I've read extensively in the case, examined all of the evidence I could get my hands on, and I have yet to formulate a "unified field" theory of the assassination. No matter which scenario you follow, too many loose ends are left hanging.

I once heard it described this way (and I can't remember the source or I would credit him): At Judgment Day, when all will be revealed, the Big Question of Who Killed JFK? will be answered. Some nondescript guy in the back will say, "It was me. I did it."
And all of the assassination researchers will turn around to look at him, and then turn to each other and ask, "Who the fuck is that guy?"

November 22, 1963. That was 51 years ago today, and people of that "certain age" have crept up in years, to the point where now the person you are asking pretty much has to be older than 55 -- and that's stretching it a bit. But go ahead and ask anyone you know over 60. The only people who didn't know where they were that day were, of all people, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush and Howard Hunt.

Make of that what you will...

Reading The Wall on Veterans' Day

Since I am fairly well known in my community as "public veteran", i.e., I appear at a lot of functions and events wearing my Vietnam Veteran ball cap, I was asked to help a local grade school with their Veteran's Day celebration.

"I'll need to check with my parole officer first," was my first response. It was followed by a sharp intake of breath at the other end of the phone.

"I'm just kidding," I added quickly. "So what will I need to do?"

"Just read something to one of our classes. We have kindergarten, 3rd grade and 5th grade classes available for you to volunteer in."

A moment's thought. "Jeez, kindergartners are messy and smelly and have the attention span of a gnat, and fifth graders these days are already hitting puberty and some of them may be packing heat. I'll take the third graders."

Which is what I got. When I showed up at the Garfield School they gave me my reading material, a children's book called The Wall, by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler(!). When I first heard the title, I was expecting maybe an abridged version of John Hersey's great book about the Warsaw Ghetto, The Wall, which I thought might be a little age-inappropriate for ten-year-olds.

But no, to my surprise, it was a book about a young boy's visit to the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington DC with his father to look for his grandfather's name.

It was actually a very moving book and I could hardly keep myself from choking up a couple of times while reading it. If you know children about that age, I highly recommend that you get it for them. As I say, it was a very moving story and a great introduction for children to the concept of the Vietnam War.

The kids were great, each and every one of them was quiet and well-behaved, and either really interested in what I was reading or making a great face of looking that way. Afterwards they came up and asked a bunch of ten-year-old questions. At that age they can be fairly blunt: "Did you kill anyone?" No. "Did you have friends who died and are on the Wall?" Yes, about a dozen of them. And so on.

And then we all filed out of the classroom and down what seemed to me to be a tiny hall -- it was constructed for gradeschoolers after all -- to the gym, where I joined up with about a dozen more veterans who had volunteered for an assembly where we were all honored and thanked for our service.

It was really nice, a really sweet thing to do, and I was happy to be able to do it. Now I thinking of volunteering more at the school, since everyone knows that the public schools need our help. If you ever get a chance to do something like this, go for it. You will surprise yourself at what happens when you do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Operation Abolition and the Red Menace

The Red Menace. It almost has a quaint ring to it now, but in the 1950s it was the scariest thing imaginable for a gullible American populace. The US had just fought to an uneasy standstill in Korea, the Evil Empire that was the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons -- thanks to its spies at Los Alamos (including the most famous of the "atom spies", the Rosenbergs) -- and there was much fear and loathing in the land.

It became a terror-based witch hunt propped up by the likes of Senator Joseph "Taligunner Joe" McCarthy and his crowd, and by the most reactionary congressmen, who seemed to overpopulate the House Un-American Activities Committee.*

Lives were ruined from just the innuendo that someone was a Communist. People lost their jobs, especially schoolteachers and other government employees, their houses torched by arsonists, their children harassed at school, and for a while during the 50s you would have suffered less from an accusation of child molestation than you would from an accusation of Communism. With the passage of Communist Control Act of 1954 it actually became illegal to be a member of the Party.

In May of 1960 the Committee decided to hold its witch-hunting hearings in San Francisco. Stretched over three days, from May 12 to May 14 at the city hall, the participants included several dozen suspected Communists. The witnesses were characterized as active members of the communist conspiracy, their deluded supporters and their "commie dupes".

It was there that the 1960s got its kick-start when students from nearby Berkeley and San Francisco State staged protest demonstrations. On Friday a demonstration turned into what was labeled at the time -- by the HUAC -- as a "riot" when police turned fire hoses on the demonstrators. That weekend really set the stage for the rest of the 60s, and I believe that it marked the first time that large numbers of white middleclass youth felt galvanized into action.

Naturally, HUAC put the blame squarely on the Communists and their nefarious plans to subvert American youth. The students, in the view of the Committee, were nothing more than pathetic dupes who were tricked by their handlers in The Party to come out and protest the Committee. And create a riot while they were at it.

To further its ends, the Committee subpoenaed -- confiscated -- television and newsreel film shot over the three day period and then had their own sympathetic editor and hired-gun narrator stitch together a 45 minute "documentary" intended to show how the hearings were sabotaged by the Communists and their dupes.

They called the film "Operation Abolition", because the Communist goal was to abolish the committee.

Here it is in its entirety:


Joseph Goebbels himself would be proud of the Committee's work if he could see this film.

The Northern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union took the same footage used by the Committee and analyzed it for its handling of the truth of the protests at the hearing. With a different voice-over narrator and some telling subtitles it shows that much of the film footage was used out of chronological order in order to enhance the false narrative.

Here it is in its entirety:


I first saw these two films in college in the spring of 1969. They were shown in an English class with the purpose of illustrating how easy it was for "documentary" films to show a distorted reality. However, since the professor was also the leader of the local chapter of the ACLU, I suspect he had an ulterior motive. Especially when he was instrumental in bringing Frank Wilkinson (whom you will see in the movie) to speak on campus.

Oddly enough, by 1969 the New Left had taken over the political discussion on the left and Wilkinson was viewed as an odd historical artifact, a quaint flashback to a different time. I expected some kind of protest, if only a weak one, from the right wing element on campus (yes, there were some), but they were strangely silent. Probably none of them really knew of his Communist pedigree, or even his name.

So go ahead and watch both of these movies, and keep in mind that the "false narrative" is still alive and fully active, especially in the "documentary" productions of Faux News. But not only there. Pretty much all of the "news" media does it, which is why we all need to be informed consumers of the news, get our updates from numerous sources, and take everything with a grain of salt. A giant grain of salt. Or maybe a 50 lb. pound of salt...

Further Reading: A Focus on Rebellion, by Albert T. and Bernice Prince Biggs Anderson, 1962. Looks at the larger picture of student revolt, and has a long section on the San Francisco hearings, the "riot" and the trial of Robert Meisenbach, the only protester to face criminal charges resulting from the riot. Spoiler alert: He was found Not Guilty.




*As an aside, it should come as a surprise to no one that one Richard Milhouse Nixon was on the Committee when he was in the House before he moved on to the Senate, the Vice Presidency and finally the Presidency and the personal and political disaster that was Watergate.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Breastfeeding in Public and Wackjob Cousin II

My wackjob cousin hasn't sent me anything from the rabid right in a long time. She's probably written me off as a lost cause. It's likely I won't be invited to the next family reunion. And that's just as well, since there's an old saying among the men in the Farnsworth Clan that the best place to hook up with women is at family reunions and funerals... (we do have our roots in Appalachia, after all).

But, living proof that nature abhors a vacuum, we now have a contender for the official title of Wackjob Cousin II. This time it's a cousin of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed who fortunately, for all concerned, lives in SoCal and gets up here only once a year or so.

Sidebar: She works with the chronic poor and the thinking impaired in the WIC program, the significance of which will be apparent shortly.

So I'm doing my level best to avoid her, but SWMBO came into my study and asked me point-blank to come out in the living room or she'll think I am avoiding her.

If there was ever a Duh! moment, that was it. But those of you who have been in a "significant other" relationship for any length of time will understand why I didn't belabor the obvious and why I agreed to show my face for a while.

The saving grace was that we watched a movie on Netflix and that ate up about two hour and a half hours -- the movie was genius director David Lynch's great Mulholland Drive".

Then things turned to shit on me.
"So, do you ever watch The Daily Show?" I asked. Innocent question, right? I thought so too, but apparently WJCII had an issue.

"No," she shrieked, frightening the cats who ran under the furniture. "Jon Stewart said that women breastfeeding in public was disgusting!"

"Huh?" was my considered response, followed shortly by. "I don't believe it."

"I heard him say it! I heard him say it! Are you saying I'm lying???"

"Uh, okay, no...I believe you think you heard him. I don't believe he really said it."

"I heard him say it! I heard him say it!"

"Okay, maybe he did, but gimme a break. It was part of a bit. It's a comedy show."

"You just don't know! They are very subtle..."

"Okay, prove it to me. That show is online with all the episodes. It ought to be easy to find it."

And then the "conversation" took an unsuspected turn: "This is the only country in the world where a woman can't breast feed in public! And it's all because of Hugh Hefner!"

Me: "??!"

As you can imagine, this caught me flat-footed. I didn't think until it was too late to ask if that statement was true for places like Saudi Arabia or Yemen (I think not) or what the hell Hugh Hefner had to do with it, since boobs have been around since long before he was born.

"These," she yelled, pointing at her relatively flat chest, "are FOOD! How would you like to eat under a blanket?"

"It's a fucking baby! It doesn't know and doesn't care where it eats. If it comes with your attitude, then it IS disgusting!"

Well, given that this is an issue about which she obviously feels very strongly -- irrationally, some would say -- some more verbal dueling ensued in the heat of the moment, culminating in her screechingly repeated, "I am not coming back here! I am not coming back here! I am not coming back here!"

Jeez, have a cracker, Poll Parrot. So then I retreated back into my man cave. She whipped out her Apple laptop and started a search. Not trusting her, I did my own search.

This is what I found: Absolutely NO reference to Jon Stewart saying anything remotely like that, which didn't surprise me since it would have been totally out of character for him. But what I did find is that Bill Maher was the one who said it. And, as I suspected all along, it was a fucking joke. If you've ever watched Bill Maher in action, who can be an obnoxious asshole, you'll understand.

So, long story short, I ended up apologizing for my part in this. After all, I was as SWMBO pointed out baiting her. Kind of. But I also swore that if she goes back on her threat and does come back here, I will have some important business out of town to take care of during her visit. Like volunteering to pick fly shit out of pepper in a school cafeteria in Walla Walla.

I think I prefer my wackjob cousins to be in touch by email. If at all. It's too hard on me to deal with it in the personifiction of an escapee from the Atascadero State Mental facility.




Sunday, November 16, 2014

We've Had Quite Enough of Kim Kardashian

Jeez, let's just stop with all this Kim Kardashian crap. She has eaten up enough bandwidth already. (For those of you who have been living in a cave in Tora Bora, she is of course the poster girl for being Famous for Being Famous and nothing else.) Now apparently she has felt her fame slipping a bit, so she's come up with a new hook. Nakedity. Nudeness. Full frontal and full backal nudity. Showing off her butt and boobs with the hope of "breaking the Internet".  

"Breaking the Internet"? Really?

But I guess if it's all you've got going for her,  you go with what you've got.

Over at theGrio there's an interesting story about this cheeky display, called Kim Kardashian doesn’t realize she’s the butt of an old racial joke (ha-ha) that puts that famous-for-being-famous ass of hers in a little historical perspective.

Consider this: Black women with extremely large derrieres were quite the vogue in sideshows and freak exhibits (yes) in the 19th century, and Kim has -- wittingly or unwittingly -- brought that racist concept back into focus.

Read the whole story for a round and firm and fully packed insight into this. It's even got pictures (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)...

BTW, the Urban Dictionary has an apt (if marginally offensive, but hey, it's the Urban Dictionary...) appellation for Kim Kardashian and her ilk: Celebutard.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'm Still Alive!

In the words of Mark Twain, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." After posting I Didn't Mean to Leave You All Hanging, what's the first thing I do? Leave you all hanging.

I guess I didn't realize that it's now been a year and half. I still have the eye problem, and after getting a second opinion, and a third opinion, the consensus is that it's basically incurable and I'll just have to get used to it.

Which I have done, more or less. It's marginally better than it was, and I've adapted to it somewhat. It's meant things like moving my chair close to the television, getting a brighter light to read by, and monkeying around with the font and brightness settings on my Nook. And I am hesitant to drive at night, but I guess that's normal at my age.

I also had some "minor" surgery this fall, the recovery from which has been anything but minor. Add all this to the normal aches and pains that are attendant to someone of my advanced years and it was easier to laze back and retire.

But now that the Republicans have seized control of the Congress, I ought to have plenty to rail at. After the hectic frenzy of the holidays, I ought to be back in the saddle again after the first of the year. I'm sure they will provide me with more than ample fodder.

Thank you all for being concerned about me.

--The F Man

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

I Didn't Mean to Leave You All Hanging...

Jeez, I guess it's been more than a little time off. I really expected to be back before now.

But I'm still not back. I have some kind of weird-ass eye problem that makes things blurry, to the point that I can't read (figures -- the one single enjoyment that has been with me consistently for the past 65 years...), so I've been off the computer for the most part. Except of course for certain websites that don't require a whole lot of "reading"... (Sarge, I'm looking at you.)

I've been hassling with my eye doctor for the last six weeks or so, and she keeps telling me that it's no big deal, natural part of the aging process, dry eyes, blah blah blah.

I keep telling her that she's wrong, of course. Even though I got my medical degree from watching St. Elsewhere and General Hospital, I know that this isn't normal.

So anyway, I'm still taking some more time off. Thanks to all of you who posted or emailed me to see if I was okay. Yes, I think I am, but I'd rather be better than just "okay". Or at least better than this level of just "okay"...

--The F Man

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Taking Some Time Off

You know that old expression, "the hurrieder I go the behinder I get". Well, that's me. Now that it's spring-ish in Western Washington, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed has come up with a number of "essential" duties for me to perform, mainly of the outdoors-in-the-yard kind, so I'm taking some time off from my regular life to keep peace in the family. Those of you with a "significant other" will know what I'm talking about.

Catch you all later.

--The F Man