Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day Off

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Iran Some More

I haven’t used this space to express my solidarity with the people of Iran in about a month. Apologies.

I remember back in the early 80s many of us wore a Solidarnosc button and then there were the CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) stickers. There doesn’t seem to be the same thing going on right now for the benefit of the people of Iran. And now is when there should be some form of solidarity.

I may be wrong, but it seems like things may have shifted momentarily to a somewhat more positive set of circumstances in Iran. Ahmadinejad picked a First Vice President even the hard-liners don’t like, Rafsanjani seems to be getting into the middle of things which may be keeping Khamenei sort of off balance by injecting some sense into the situation, having stated that many have doubts about the June 12 election results, and, most importantly, the will of the Iranian people has not been beaten. They keep coming back to protest despite threats of the police forces and the Basij.

At the end of Rafsanjani’s speech last Friday, when the traditional chant of “Death to America” is usually called, many chanted “Death to Russia”, according to the
New York Times, because Russia accepted the disputed election results.

Recently, Mohsen Rezai, a conservative political candidate warned that the rupture in Iranian society attributed to protests over the election results could lead to the disintegration of Iran.

We Americans need to do as much as we can to support those in Iran at war with their government. We must do everything possible as people to bring peace before the neo-cons can figure out an angle to go to war with Iran. It seems they may be stymied now, but neo-cons don’t need reasons other than those they can invent and tout by lying to the American people.

Thankfully this happened when Bush was out of office because he and his neo-conmen would use this as an opportunity to inflame the situation as a prelude to war.

It seems that this is a perfect opportunity for the youth of Iran and the youth of the U.S. to strengthen ties. We may need to learn their lessons one day, especially when Schwarzenegger and the Legislature keep screwing things up that we have to take back California from the politicians who are ruining it. Schwarzenegger is California’s version of Ayatollah Khamenei, refusing to look at reality. More on that tomorrow.

But back to the larger issues: I see these developments in Iran as an opportunity for Americans to reclaim our country as well, by honoring the anti-tyrannical, anti-oppression efforts of the Iranian people against their leaders. These are well-respected principles in America. It is exactly what our own Revolution was about 233 years ago.

Plus, we can exert our own foreign policy to become friends with the Iranians. American is hated by many throughout the Muslim world because of our country’s support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinians and because of our overthrow of this democracy for oil and this other hypocrisy between what we say and what we do and our--you get the idea.

But, more importantly, we the American people need the Green Revolution to help straighten up Iraq when that starts failing. Because when it does, the neo-cons will pressure Obama to do some stupid things just as they are doing now with Afghanistan.

Here are some websites to become involved.
NedaNet, Anonymous Iran, StopAmadi, and

I don’t watch much TV news. The only exception is MSNBC at night after work when I begin writing, but before escaping into the original SNL to regain some balance from the stress of the day.

I don’t understand what happened with MSNBC’s coverage of Iran. It was massive until Michael Jackson died.

Perhaps if Iran’s protestors all wore white sequined gloves or suddenly did the moonwalk they might just be back on.

Ahmadinejad’s choice for vice-president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, is reported as insisting on serving as VP. This brings American and Iranian people closer to together through the obvious similarity: we also had a vice-president who insisted on serving—Dick Cheney. He was only on the vice-presidential search committee and purposefully found no one so he could be VP.

Let’s hope the new round of demonstrations in Iran yesterday keep widening the cracks the protestors have already begun to make in their oppressive government.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Moonspiracy Theories

Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin left the safety of their Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), the Eagle, and stepped out onto the surface of the…Hollywood soundstage.


Since 1969 a number of people have come forward and offered a variety of theories that Armstrong and Aldrin did not land on the moon and that NASA faked our nation’s milestone in space. Having looked at all available evidence I’ve discovered many hoaxes in the moon-landing-was-a-hoax field. Here are four:

Perhaps the quickest moon landing hoax theory to be debunked was the one taken at Crater National Park and touted by Bob Jennings, former soup kitchen entrepreneur and chief of staff to Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who claimed the moon landing was faked because a “NASA photo” showed a discarded Marlboro pack he said belonged to one of the hoaxers while Jennings himself forgot to Photoshop out the moon from the sky of the “moon”.

Fisher Bartholomew, a former security guard from the Goddard Space Flight Center janitorial supplies warehouse, claimed to have built his own mock-up of the LEM in a desert in New Mexico to show that it could be done. But closer examination of the photo shows it was actually taken in a vacant lot near a K-Mart in Mormontown, Utah using trick photography and toys bought during that day’s Blue Light Special.

Buddy Ebsen Jr, son of the famed “Beverly Hillbillies” star and a one-time Elvis impersonator, claimed to have overheard Neil Armstrong bragging they deceived the world at a Denny’s in Fresno and uses the light and shadow dimensions on the above photo to argue the moon landing was a hoax. But the photo actually shows Ebsen, in full Elvis costume, giving hoax to his own hoax claim.

Perhaps the most disgusting of the moon landing hoaxes is this doctored photo by “Buster” Solzhenitsyn, a former Cincinnati 7-11 cashier and illegal Russian immigrant seeking to damage the Capitalist winners of the Cold War’s Space Race, who claims Buzz Aldrin drank so much Tang that he urinated on the set of the soundstage moon because he’d been holding it for so long in the unmanageable space suit that he could not wait to get to the bathroom.

Next 50 Years: The Men Landing on Mars Was A Hoax Theories Debunked

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11

One of my favorite TV shows as a kid was “Star Trek”. It was about hope and possibility and a future in space during a time that seemed difficult and dangerous while we were beginning the space program to meet Kennedy’s goal of getting to the moon before the end of the decade.

I was born the first full day of the space age. My first memorable introduction to the space program was being told about John Glenn orbiting the earth back in February 1962. I was only four years old but I still recall the feeling of wonder I had. I may even have seen something about it on TV to feed that wonder.

America’s early space program has been detailed in many documentaries, HBO’s “From the Earth to the Moon” and Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff”. Right now we have a shuttle in space and a permanently-staffed (I avoided using the word “manned”) space station. In fact, yesterday they were having toilet problems. My how our technological prowess has declined—they never had that problem in the LEM. We also have a space telescope, plans to go back to the moon and on to Mars, perhaps we or China landing a human there sometime in the next fifty years.

As I wrote in this space for father’s day, my father woke me and my sisters up in a motel room in Tennessee to see the moon walk live. I still remember that. What moves me most about that event is video of people around the world watching at the same time. We were truly one world during that moment, fascinated by the achievement. Perhaps through space exploration, we will be afforded an opportunity to become one world again.

This is a photo of a sunset on Mars, which fascinates me tremendously. I am also fascinated by the Times Square Cam that enables me to see Times Square live. So to have at least one photo of a precious in moment like a sunset—but on Mars!—thrills me.

I may sound nuts, but I believe there will come a time, perhaps in a hundred years, when humans will begin colonizing Mars and begin exploring Venus with the possibility of living there some time later. I believe humans will one day occupy three planets in this solar system.

Perhaps the technology this and subsequent generations will have to develop to reverse or control global climate change will be the foundation of the theoretical technology called
terraforming which will be needed to make Mars and Venus habitable to humans. The technology required to transform Venus is obviously outside our present realm of knowledge, but technology to get to the moon was obviously outside our realm a hundred years ago or so when people first began fantasizing and speculating about it.

Perhaps in two centuries, or less, we will have developed the technology to travel to other solar systems.

“Star Trek” had been cancelled by the time of the moon landing, but the space program continued. Many scientists in the space program and in consumer product technology were also fans of “Star Trek” as kids. They shaped the computer/cell phone world we live in.

With the various incarnations within the “Star Trek” franchise and the possibility Paramount will keep churning them out for fifty more years or so, future kids will be able to enjoy them and perhaps the vision of an inter-galactic human reality, inspired by “Star Trek”, will become reality because of it.

There is hope for humanity. We simply have to rise to the challenge of global climate change. If there is anything the space program has taught us, it is that we can rise to challenges like we did with Kennedy’s and achieve great things for all humanity.

Unlucky for us, we now have some very serious challenges to rise to.

Tomorrow: Debunking the Biggest Moon Landing Hoax Theory Hoaxes

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite

The greatness of the Twentieth Century began, perhaps, around 1920 when those men and women who shaped it were very young or soon to be born. As America went through the Great Depression and then World War II they all, like Walter Cronkite, pioneered everything that the Twittering, texting, Facebook generation may well be taking for granted.

Perhaps Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” explained it best as those who grew up in the Depression, fought WWII and came back to the States after the war to change America over and over again through entertainment, science, technology, politics, medicine, business and the expansion of America through suburban development and the building of an infrastructure of freeways and communications technology.

For so many things, from our current national security state to the feminist and civil rights movement, World War II was the incubator. The generation that changed America in the 60s, themselves now in their 60s, were born during WWII. Those who carried on those changes through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s were born immediately after WWII. And it is those people who are responsible for significant changes while the generation before them brought about some of our greatest achievements.

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the first man on the moon, perhaps the greatest of those many of humankind’s achievements, kids today have no idea what a world-uniting moment that was, not to mention the triumph of technology for live television—not from another coast or another continent, but from another celestial body.

The space program of the 60s was one of the most exciting things that a kid in the 60s could grow up with. More about that in Monday’s post for the Apollo 11 anniversary.

Cronkite was one of those greats because he developed his personal strength and toughness and journalistic ideals and ethics during very difficult times and went on to pioneer nightly network television news broadcasting.

Cronkite took over the CBS Evening News a little less than six months before Johnny Carson took over as host of the “Tonight Show”. Like Carson, Cronkite took us through the turbulence of the 60s, beginning most notably for Cronkite with the live, on-air announcement of President Kennedy’s assassination. He guided us through one of the most difficult periods in American history—the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, Watergate and various Cold War developments.

As someone about to turn 52, I remember a good portion of the 20th Century—at least the last 35 years of it. As a kid during the 60s and 70s, Cronkite was one of those who made the scary world seem less scary just because he was there. It may sound maudlin, but I felt that no one like Walter Cronkite would let anything bad happen to us—as if they had the power to protect. I was young.

Cronkite was voted as the most trusted man in America in 1971. Trust is one of those attributes that does not seem as prominent in adults today as it did to me then, given recent news of the deceit of the Bush-Cheney administration, the rise of neo-conservatism and the squirm of the Christian Right. What kids may not realize today—as many did not during the Nixon era—is that trust can go a long way in the positive development of the world view of our country’s youth, who are our world’s future.

Every generation believes they have it better than their parents. Let’s hope that is true for this generation. But let’s hope that they have not become so comfortable that they have become weak and apathetic. On the other hand, perhaps I am simply getting older and more crotchety, and it is easier to deride younger generations rather than understand just as I witnessed the Generation Gap or the war between the generations in the 60s and 70s when I was a kid.

Cronkite’s death is one of those events that makes people like me want to put things into perspective.

Many times I bemoan the state of popular music now, of today’s television, of modern journalism, and of contemporary politics and even comedy compared to the explosions of their predecessors, some of which began in the 50s, some long before, that grew in the 60s and on through the 70s.

If you can imagine, we had what seemed like the best of everything in the 70s. Walter Cronkite was doing the news every night, Johnny Carson hosted the “Tonight Show” almost every night, the original “SNL” was on every Saturday night, CBS’s Saturday night line-up at one point began with “All in the Family”, followed by “M*A*S*H”, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett—all classics in their own right in one night. What a great time to grow up.

Comedians like Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor and George Carlin were in their prime. Monty Python was becoming known in America. Rock n roll, punk and country produced some great music and musical events during the 70s. Watergate gave us one of the greatest political scandals—and a first for television—and, in movies, daring, personal and gritty cinema came of age and a new generation of young filmmakers: Coppola, Spielberg, Scorsese and Lucas changed everything. And through it all there was the continual threat of the Cold War. But every night Walter Cronkite told us what we needed to know of our world’s milestones and developments.

Many prominent people from our “golden era” have been dying recently—Michael Jackson, Karl Malden, Ed McMahon and now Walter Cronkite.

Perhaps a good analogy of the “golden era” which many of us experienced, like the 70s, is the sun shining brightly overhead. People like those above whose greatness is responsible for, or identified with, our golden era; their leaving is like the diminishing light of a sun that has set. With each person who passes on, more of that light disappears from the sky because the sun has dropped even lower below the horizon. With Cronkite’s passing more of that brightness is gone and we are heading, it seems, toward greater darkness. But, perhaps I’m just being a little too pessimistic about tomorrow.

As this and future generations face problems like global climate change, the “war on terror”, and increasing over-population and diminishing resources, the only consolation I can think of is maybe another golden era will come or that they see this time as their golden era.

If they’re lucky they will be told everything they need to know, not on Twitter or Facebook, but by someone like Walter Cronkite.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Controversial Ancient Horoscope Discovered

The photo above is of an ancient clay tablet that became of the center of a religious controversy last week. According to Tel Aviv University Professor of Archaeology, Avram Goldberg, the piece of clay with Aramaic writing on it is proof that ancient Hebrews dabbled in astrology.

Professor Goldberg says the clay tablet is a prediction for anyone of a particular astrological sign; in this case Capricorn. Professor Goldberg also claims to have carbon dated the clay tablet to the third week of March 33 CE.

Christian Evangelists along with the Catholic Church offered to purchase the clay tablet sight unseen from Tel Aviv University because they claim it pertains to the last days of Jesus Christ.

An independent translator hired by the Pope Benedict XVI has been allowed to view the clay tablet and has offered this translation of what many believe to be Jesus’ last horoscope:

“Next week you will come into a lot of shekels. Be sure to take time out to enjoy yourself and get plenty of rest. You deserve it. Friends tell you that family planning is a good way to spend the next few days. Listen to them. Your Sun in Virgo says it is a good time to buy a new pair of sandals.”

Professor Goldberg says that while ancient Hebrews wrote predictions commonly known today as horoscopes, he hastens to add that just because these astrologers were ancient does not mean they did not also write their horoscopes for entertainment purposes only.

The Jim Buck Blog Christmas in July Special Report

Join us on Christmas-in-July Day, July 25th, for our special investigative report that explores the questions, “Was Jesus a Socialist?” and “Is the Christian Right Wrong on Christ?”

Makes the Christian Coalition seem like the Moral Majority.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rebuild the Twin Towers

Although Liz Cheney claims Obama and the Democrats are making America less safe because they are timidly, in my opinion, asking questions about Cheney, Bush and the CIA, this post deals with the result of how the Bush-Cheney Administration failed to keep America safe. How conveniently they forget.

The photo above was taken in 1982. It was the view out of the window of the first apartment
Dennis Perrin and I lived in on Manhattan’s lower eastside—back when people with no money could still live in Manhattan. Can you imagine that?

When it comes to rebuilding Ground Zero, they just can’t seem to get it together. A June 9, 2009
New York Times article stated that Mayor Bloomberg’s deadline for Ground Zero lessee and developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to come to an agreement on the construction of three office buildings passed without them agreeing.

Further, the Freedom Tower still has its same old freedom from being anywhere near completion, with an expected opening in 2013. That’s twelve years after the Twin Towers’ destruction!

When I first visited New York in June 1982 for the big anti-nuclear rally, the first thing I saw of New York City while driving on, I believe, the Jersey Turnpike, was the tops of the Twin Towers. I was thrilled.

My first apartment in New York was on the Lower Eastside and I would lie in bed at night and look out at the red blinking light atop the TV tower.

Whenever I was in the village, particularly Washington Square Park, you could easily look up and see them. I had been to the top of the WTC twice—once by myself just for the hell of it and once with my family who were visiting me.

Everyone has their own fascination and appreciation for the Twin Towers. Last year I discovered a movement to rebuild them and I signed the
petition and sent emails out to friends and family.

This is a video from 2005. The models of the Twin Towers are enough to evoke some powerful emotions.

This is another video where MSNBC’s David Shuster rips into former New York Governor George Pataki, almost accusing him of corruption and cronyism for pushing the Freedom Tower design when most Americans—an certainly most New Yorkers—want the Twin Towers back. Pataki becomes visibly upset.

The Twin Towers can be rebuilt stronger and with a more modern look, sort of like the new Mustang compared to the old Mustang. And it’s not too late. Here are the models. Bring up any emotion?

They could occupy the space beside the footprints of the old WTC, which would honor their memories and the memories of those who died in the attack in a much more fitting way than a completed Freedom Tower.

Not only are there conspiracy theories about the destruction of the Twin Towers, but now there are conspiracy theories about them not being rebuilt.

For those interested in a bit of nostalgia about the Twin Towers, this is the first of a two-part documentary are their construction.

Rebuild the Twin Towers even if Donald Trump has to do it. And when they’re completed, force Liz and Dick to occupy offices on the 100th floor of each tower. They can wave to each other to allay their fears of our unsafe-ness.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kurdish Constitution & the Rights of Iraqi Women

Is this photo disturbing? Well, i
f you read my post yesterday about Liz Cheney, you will have noticed that I derided Dick’s daughter for her America-is-on-the-side-of-democracy-and-human-rights-and-judge-us-by-our-actions bullshit. She definitely has her father’s gift for meaninglessness.

What I took issue with was her work for Bush and her father’s re-election in 2004 from a woman’s perspective claiming that women have enlarged their scope of political issues and yet supported a controversial draft of the Iraqi constitution in her position of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Iraqi constitution diminishes the rights of women. There is an obvious contradiction here. She works for Republicans and attempts to get votes by claiming voting for Bush-Cheney in 2004 enlarges the role of women and could care less about the role of women in Iraq.

Let’s say in the near future, some foreign power, like the U.N., only a super-militarized version, tried to force through war, the U.S., Mexico and Canada, into becoming one single country and wanted to change everything we believed.

As you may have gleaned from my July 1 post, I spent some time back at the beginning of the Iraq war kind of working toward the goal of Kurdish sovereignty. Back then I believed the Kurdish region in the north should be an independent, autonomous and sovereign country. I still do. Given how America’s protection under the No Fly Zone under Clinton and Bush allowed the Kurds some large measure of self-determination, we saw what the Kurds developed. I still believe real democracy in the Middle East is the best way to stabilize the region and prevent American and war profiteering on the bloated corpses of Iraqi and Kurdish children, women and men.

Given some of the press last week, there seems to be some alarm brewing that Kurds in Iraq are looking at having their own constitution. But the Kurds have had a federal constitution for many years now—even before there was ever any hint of the Iraq war. This is not a new development. The Kurds’ constitution is not a reaction to or a development out of America’s war in Iraq.

Perhaps their constitution is different from the one I always new. Despite the rash of honor killings among Iraqi Kurds recently, the Kurdish constitution I had several years ago guaranteed the rights of women, whereas the Iraqi constitution, which would be binding on the Kurds, is about destroying the rights of women, according to Iraqi women’s rights activist Yanar Mohammed.

The history of the Kurds is important in understanding their deserved quest for independence and democratic institutions as Kevin McKiernan’s book,
The Kurds: A People in Search of Their Homeland will tell.

The U.S. twice encouraged the Kurds to rebel against Saddam Hussein only to abandon them, which resulted in Saddam persecuting the Kurds mercilessly, which later—finally—resulted in some protection for the Kurds via the No Fly Zone. And despite the genocide when America betrayed them, the Kurds still love America. But the Kurds do not trust Baghdad.

America wants one central government to make it easier on America, and with which to have access to all the oil in the region. They do not want independence for Kurds because then the Sunnis and Shiites will want independence and that may invite sanctuary for Al Qaeda or Iran will begin controlling, depending on who you listen to.

The more immediate problem is the growing distrust between Kurdish people and the corruption of the
two major political parties: the PUK, headed by former Iraqi president Jalal Talibani, and the KDP, led by Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and son of the now-deceased former Kurdish nationalist leader Mustafa Barzani.

At the beginning of America’s founding, was there not more than one faction that sought to determine the very type of our existence? Kurds are faced with the same questions and reality.

My fear is the U.S. will subvert the PUK and the KDP, and then the Kurdish people’s will toward democracy will be left to rot and languish. Apparently Noam Chomsky
feels the same. This Chomsky linked story is very brief. Anyone wanting a longer and relatively recent interview with Chomsky about Kurds should click here.

In fact, a New York Times
story last Thursday states that Joe Biden went to Iraq to handle this emerging threat to America’s Iraq and tried to talk the Kurds out of it.

The U.S. has done worse to the Kurds than just prohibit or interfere with autonomy, independence and democracy. My belief, and that of Chomsky’s, is that the Obama administration will be the same toward the Kurds as Bush was.

Democracy is good for convincing the American public to go along with war when it is only bandied about as a word or abstract concept (think lie), but as we all know any legitimate move toward true democracy will be crushed by America in favor of oil companies, and the profits of KBR, Halliburton, etc., and the multitude of
military bases in Iraq.

The New York Times story also states that the constitution creates in a Kurdish national leader, an “’absolute’ ruler”. But isn’t that just like American democracy recently? George Bush isn’t elected as much as steals elections twice and subverts our constitution to spy on us (and commits worse crimes) using terrorism as an excuse. And the guy we vote for after Bush decides not to fulfill his campaign promises, instead perpetuating some of Bush’s same old policies without offering any reasoning.

A people at odds with their corrupt but democratically elected leaders…?

For shame! Yes, we as America must prevent that! How dare it be allowed to happen in any country other than America?!

As I’ve stated before in this space, John McCain admonished Obama for not being vocal enough about siding with the will of the Iranian people in their recent efforts to change their government, but would McCain insist on the U.S. being the “moral leader of the world” with regard to the will of the Kurdish people?

I think not.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day

Happy Bastille Day, France. I was in Paris in 2004 and I loved the city long before I arrived there. In 1984 I had wanted to move to Paris, speak French and sit in caf├ęs drinking wine and discussing Andre Breton and surrealism. It never happened. Vive France!
Fun With Dick & Liz

It’s actually Dick and Jane. But this post is about Dick and Liz. And I don’t mean Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton either.

On the Moonie paper’s radio show interview, Liz Cheney says she may run for political office. Is there any crime she can be charged with before that irradiated creature grows into a 50 foot monster?

I’d love to see Dick and Liz go to jail together, but Obama probably won’t allow it. He’s weird that way. He bought a car and had mechanics remove the reverse gear. He doesn’t need to parallel park or get out of a driveway or parking spot now.

As Philosopher, poet and humanist George Satanyana said: those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Obama’s doomed.

Liz—the long “i” vowel sound version of her name being appropriately, “lies”—was appointed in 2002 by Colin Powell (who told him to do that, I wonder?) as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. She left that post in 2003 to work for the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign, working in a female aspect of the campaign called “W Stands for Women” to attract female voters and, reportedly “Spoke often of how women have enlarged their scope of political issues, invoking the September 11 attacks (Dick probably told her about the attacks before they happened) and “security”. Oh, what a surprise!

In 2005 her old position had been enlarged to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs where she supported a controversial Iraqi constitution which [emphasis added] DIMINISHES THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN!!!

Do people like Lies Cheney go through life so privileged that they are so disengaged with the work they are doing??!! Are they so disengaged from reality working in a bubble that they think we believe them or care what they have to say (sort of like me writing this blog)? No, they have an agenda and arrogance and they lie, lie, lie!

In an interview with Turkish CNN she was asked a question based in skepticism about American commitment to democracy and human rights after a Washington Post story about black sites. Part of her response was the pathetic and predictable, “Judge us by our actions.” Brilliant!

She continued, “Judge us by the extent to which we really are standing with the people who are working for freedom.” The Iraqi constitution is based on Sharia Law—the very same application of social control that Pakistan is trying to prevent the Taliban from imposing in the Swat Valley.

How great that Lies Cheney can lie like her father! I’ll have a post on the Iraqi constitution later this week.

In 2006 she headed the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group (ISOG) within the Bureau of Near East Affairs which was, according to a story in the New York Times, administering grants with a Republican foundation that critics said was plotting covert acts which could escalate into war with Iran and Syria.

Remember the late-60s anti-smoking PSA where the father and son are sitting under a tree and the father lights a cigarette and his six year old son picks up the cigarette pack and looks at it? Well, that’s Dick and Liz.

But instead of smoking, the bad habit she picked up from dad was lying, arrogance, scare tactics, illegal activities, obstruction of justice and subverting the Constitution. At least she can’t get cancer from it.

Her father was elected to Congress from Wyoming after working for Nixon and Ford during and after Watergate. She worked for Bush and probably internalized the vilification hurled at W like her father internalized the same about Nixon. What that means, under the principle of like father like daughter, is she will become the first female vice-president under president Mitt Romney in 2016 because she has foreign policy experience. And we will be treated to more lies.

With everything coming out now about Dick’s secret CIA “activities”, and Liz’s ISOG “activities”, I hope she gets elected to Congress, gets involved in a scandal and is investigated.

Have you noticed recently that the U.S. has a disproportionate share of nutcases in political office? I offer a possible solution in a post next week.

But for the near future, picture this: Liz is handcuffed and manacled in an orange jump suit, pushing the wheelchair in which her father sits also in an orange jump suit, handcuffed and manacled, escorted by U.S. Marshals with shotguns, as they enter Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Family

Skull and Bones, the Masons and now The Family. How many more secret societies that benefit the powerful and corrupt America are there in Washington?

On Rachel Maddow last week, in the context of the Ensign Affair-affair,
The Family: The Secret Fundamentlaism at the Heart of American Power author Jeff Sharlet spoke about The Family. I was horrified. Sharlet gave an interview last year that may be illuminating (not to be confused with Illuminati-ating) to some. Another interview Sharlet did in 2003 with AlterNet about The Family may be equally fascinating (not to be confused with fascist-nating) to some.

Sharlet also appeared on Rachel Maddow last week for two nights. Check him out on
Thursday and Friday. These links should take you right to the segments, if not, they are on the same scroll.

These people idolize Hitler for how he got things done. They want to use tools of Nazi rule to turn people to Christ—but their version of Christ. Aside from the obvious Jesus-was-Jewish argument about not mixing Christ with Nazis, don’t they see a philosophical difference between Nazis and coming to Christ? No, because they, like all these others, are only using Christ as a tool to attract. They brainwash later.

This collection of nutcases reminds me of the Moonies and Scientologists because they all want to connect to the seats of political and corporate power and all have built followings based on religions—although the Scientologists have L. Ron Hubbard rather than Jesus as their Messiah.

Reportedly Hillary Clinton used The Family’s leader Douglas Coe as her spiritual advisor. Barack Obama gave a speech at their National Prayer Breakfast where he adopted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as his First Friend

According to the Wikipedia article on
The Family, “Senators who have been cited as members of the organization include Don Nickles and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, John Ensign of Nevada, Bill Nelson of Florida, Conrad Burns of Montana. Members of the House who have been cited as participants include Frank Wolf of Virginia and Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is also a member of The Family.”

Also connected to The Family through having lived there are Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas. And, as we know from the Ensign scandal, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is also affiliated with The Family.

Their mission statement is against what their founder said was the vision he had of God when he founded The Family.

To develop and maintain an informal association of people banded together, to go out as "ambassadors of reconciliation," modeling the principles of Jesus, based on loving God and loving others. To work with the leaders of other nations, and as their hearts are touched, the poor, the oppressed, the widows and the youth of their country will be impacted in a positive manner. It is said that youth groups will be developed under the thoughts of Jesus, including loving others as you want to be loved.

Obviously the bit about the poor and oppressed were not to be confused with the oppressed under their one-world rule, as son-of-founder David Coe has stated. Their founder, Abraham Vereide, had a vision from god in 1935 wherein god told him concern for the poor was not what he had in mind. Vereide was a traveling preacher. So was Jim Jones. Does anyone remember Jonestown?

There was a story on
Huffington Post last week about attempts to Christianize the U.S. military. The Family has held prayer meetings inside the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. They are also said to have connections to the CIA. Talking Points Memo ran a bit about Christianizing the military back in August 2007 titled “Onward Christian Soldiers” which detailed attempts to fight against the process. You will have to scroll down several items.

U2 front man Bono spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast back in 2006. His
remarks seemed to rail against everything The Family stood for. I hope he was trying to tell them how full of shit they were.

C Street, the Family’s “church” (according to the IRS), where Ensign, Sanford and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn live seems to violate the separation between church and state. How can it be a church if U.S. Senators live there? Let’s hope after Attorney General Eric Holder investigates torture, he launches a probe into these whackos.

The recent scandals of Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford have brought public awareness to The Family. Let’s hope sometime soon that the public becomes more than aware and becomes outraged.


The Jim Buck Blog Christmas in July Special Report

Join us on Christmas-in-July Day, July 25th, for our special investigative report that explores the questions, “Was Jesus a Socialist?” and “Is the Christian Right Wrong on Christ?”

Guaranteed to make The Family seem like The Addams Family.

They’re creepy and they’re cooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re altogether ooky, The Fami-Family.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oscar Mayer 1914 - 2009

Our bologna had a first name,
It was O-S-C-A-R,
Our bologna had a second name,
It was M-A-Y-E-R,
Oh, we used to eat it every day,
But it won’t be the same, know what I say?
Cause Oscar Mayer died Monday,
From O-L-D A-G-E A.…

Funeral goers say that in keeping with the wiener mobile design, Mayer was laid out in a coffin made like a bun and adorned with a little mustard and sweet relish.

Anybody remember the classic?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

God Tells Me

God tells me that when he decided to create humans he originally considered a one-leg design, but changed his mind when he realized that people praying to him on bended knee would fall over a lot.

Friday, July 10, 2009

One Governor Stupidly Resigns, Another Governor Stupidly Doesn’t

Palin claims she’s a fighter and not a quitter, despite having quit her job. Painting herself as a victim stirs up the emotions in the base she is appealing to. She says she is summoned by a “higher calling”. I don’t think she means god.

She says she is going to work to change politics from the outside. The reason she is quitting her governorship is because the responsibility hinders her from traveling around the country stirring up the base. Another reason she is quitting her job is she does not want anyone to point at the lousy job she is doing which puts her on the defensive. As I said, she is playing victim to get the base to listen to her and cheer. But I think she sees herself as a conservative hero. Maybe her ego leads her to believe she has enough power to save Republicans and turn America around single-handedly.

She is convinced she can mobilize enough people to bring conservative values back to the forefront of American politics at the grass roots and kitchen table level in America. She thinks she can convince those Americans who may regret having voted for Obama to join her in tearing down Obama in 2012

Her eyes are on the bigger picture when she says she is a fighter. Her eyes are not on Alaska and have not been since her campaign-induced ego orgasm last fall when she began seeing herself as greater than she actually is.

Do I think she will run for president in 2012? Although that remains to be seen, my immediate answer is I doubt she will be able to.

She made big mistakes during last year’s campaign while she was under the control of others. She made mistakes as governor with Troopergate, etc.while she was under the watchful eye of her constituents, the opposing political party and even Alaska Republicans.

Palin is the psychology type who shoots herself in the foot. And she will. Unsupervised and unfettered in her “higher calling”, she will be able to do what she wants. And she will get herself in trouble because her ego’s voice continually tells her she is right and everyone who disagrees with her is wrong.

In giving speeches and appearing at Republican re-election rallies for 2010, as she will no doubt go around the country and she will eventually say or do something stupid and the media will focus on it and focus on it and focus on it. Palin will make the same, tired media elite persecution claim.

Republicans will begin to distance themselves from her especially when embarrassing details of how she governed Alaska begin emerging and/or from the tell-all book from Levi Johnston.

Palin has passed the Alaskan ball, as she said. As she rushes to the basket for the goal, to adopt her metaphor, when the ball is passed back to her, it will be a national ball because the basketball goal is a national political one, especially if Obama is unable to turn the economy around, which may be what she and others are counting on. Obviously he and his guys misread some things.

Palin is a fighter not a quitter. She just didn’t say how and where she would be fighting. And she’s not that great a fighter either.

And I predict…!

I predict when she begins, she will come out strong. But as time goes on (a month at most) she will stumble and falter and embarrass herself and embarrass others and when she has failed at everything she will have tried in 2012, she will be given a show on Fox where she will remain to criticize Obama’s second administration until her embarrassing interview with Joe the Plumber makes them both the biggest laughing stock ever in American politics and she is forced to resign.

Okay, maybe not the Joe the Plumber interview. And she may not resign Fox for reasons of embarrassment. But she will not be important, only annoying.

She isn’t mistaken in her seemingly contradictory statements about being a fighter/not a quitter and leaving the governorship before the end of her term, the media just didn’t ask the right questions.

But speaking of someone who should resign….

Hey, Master of Disaster, a woman has done right by her state and resigned, but you haven’t? What’s the matter, you don’t have the balls she has?? If you don’t resign, you are a girlie man governor because you are don’t have the balls to admit you are wrong and step aside.

Of course, the legislators are no better, but your policy of taking away money from education, the elderly, health care, law enforcement, etc., rather than raise revenue to cover the budget deficit is about to ruin California.

It is reported you want to gut welfare. Sure there is welfare fraud and it should be cleaned up. But is it enough to have any positive effect on the budget now? What about corporate welfare and corporate welfare fraud? Is that in your sights?

You are about to bankrupt, in the minds of voters all across California and America, the fiscal conservative ideology regarding taxes just as you are about to bankrupt California.

By that I mean, when all is said and done, you will have made many Californians realize they were wrong about taxes. But because of your cowardice, not your leadership.

Are you going to spend any money to help the new class of homeless men, women and children and the unemployed you will create with your budget cuts? Or is that not your responsibility? Get government off their backs? Is that your Nixonian-conservative philosophy?

This may be a long, hot summer. Do you have in your budget the extra cost for law enforcement and emergency services with all the civil disobedience that may well arise in protest to your cuts?

I have mentioned in this space that I manage a building with an elderly day care facility. Two days ago they stopped accepting seniors and their space has been without any activity. In fact, it has been empty.

The Tea Baggers wanted to recall you. Obviously Cornyn and Perry are not the only Republicans in their sights. But the Tea Baggers are reactionary, not thoughtful. Their thinking and the whole conservative philosophy of reduced taxation is the sinister culprit behind much of the problem. You only rode the wave of citizen cynicism about Gray Davis. All you had to do was offer movie catchphrases and Californians elected you.

I hope Californians learned their lesson, which is: if we get out of this with any kind of political and economic structural integrity, from now on, Californians cannot just think of themselves. They must also exercise wisdom. Democracy only works if the people are informed and smart, not if they are only thinking about themselves.

You, Schwarzenegger, will forever be remembered as the guy who sank California. Your accent was to your acting as your thinking is to your governing—bad, bad, bad.

Is it too late to deport you back to Austria for having violated the terms of your visa so long ago?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Jim Buck Blog Christmas in July Special Report

Join us on Christmas-in-July Day, July 25th, for our special investigative report that explores the questions, “Was Jesus a Socialist?” and “Is the Christian Right Wrong on Christ?”

More “Thy Brothers” than at a 1968 Black Panther rally.

Be here. Aloha.

Junoon – A Ground Breaking Pakistani Rock Band

Since moving to New York back in 1982, I have tried to explore music, to be open to other types and be a bit eclectic. New musical discoveries are exciting even if the music is not new.

About a year ago, while researching a screenplay about honor killing that I am about to finish with my co-writer Rinde, I clicked on a link that said “Sufi rock”, which, if memory serves, took me to a Wikipedia article about Junoon (which I mentioned and linked a video in my Monday post about Lennon and McCartney).

Intrigued, I decided to look them up on YouTube. I clicked on the video for their song, “Bulleya” and was mesmerized firstly by the sight of what I thought was a Taliban-looking guy in the desert playing a white electric guitar. I was mesmerized secondly by his ability to play that guitar. I did not understand any of the words because it was sung in Urdu, based on a poem by Punjabi Sufi poet Bulleh. But I wanted more. And I got it.

Junoon was/is comprised of lead guitarist Salman Ahmad, lead singer, Ali Azmat, and bassist, American Brian O’Connell. They are no longer together, having disbanded in 2003. However, they have done some reunion concerts in Dubai, and in 2007, at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Norway and Srinigar in 2008. You can read more about them here.

Junoon were called the “U2 of Pakistan” by the New York Times. But U2 never had to go through the attempts at repression that Junoon experienced. They were, at times, a political Pakistani rock band who criticized Benazir Bhutto’s corrupt government and held a concert in India at the height of nuclear tensions between Pakistan and India while calling for peace. This got them banned from Pakistan radio and television. Ironically, their ban was lifted by former Pakistani strongman, General Pervez Musharraf.

They were the first rock band ever to play a concert inside the United Nations General Assembly Hall.

Junoon is rooted in Sufi Islam, which is, as Ahmad has explained as “the mystical side of Islam, the anti-Taliban. People who follow Sufism are tolerant and love diversity; they seek knowledge in beauty and truth. I am a seeker of beauty and truth.”

Ahmad did a documentary in 2003 called “The Rock Star and the Mullahs” where he confronted fundamentalist mullahs regarding their insistence on Islam’s perceived prohibition against music. This is the first of six parts. In the last part, even the anti-music mullah sings for Ahmad.

Ahmad’s attitude toward his religion hints at John Lennon’s in his completely misunderstood remarks about being bigger than Jesus.

This is a 20 minute VH-1 documentary about the band, hosted by Susan Sarandon.

I think Bill Maher and Gene Simmons missed Ahmad’s point in the segment from Maher’s show. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding or disapproval on Maher's part of Ahmad’s use of the word “fundamental”.

And I think Maher must not have known enough about Junoon, unless his line about our commonality not solving the problem was taken out of context. If Maher was not fully aware of Junoon or Ahmad before the show, that would easily allow him to miss the point of Junoon entirely regarding "our commonality".

The power of Junoon is not just our commonality, but how Junoon, through Sufi Islam, can have a progressive impact on Islamic youth and challenge fundamentalists by giving Islamic youth something other than fundamentalism to adhere to since all youth need something to belong to. I think even Maher would agree on that. Simmons on the other hand, who cares?

Another one of my favorite Junoon songs, although not political, but which has much humor in the video, is Pappu Yaar. It take it to be a parody of a Pakistani music mogul auditioning the next one-hit wonder.

While all of these songs, and the controversy, are a few years old, the legacy of Junoon and Ahmad is very strong. Junoon has inspired a Pakistani rock scene that still thrives.

In May 2008, Junoon performed in Srinagar, in Kashmir, and invited militants and separatists to join them in song after receiving deaths threats from the militants who attempted to prevent their concert. Obviously, Junoon has resolved to not allow themselves to be intimidated in their pursuit of peace through music.

Recently, Ahmad spoke out against the peace accord Pakistan had made with the Taliban in their attempt to take over and impose Sharia law in northwest Pakistan. In this regard, he embodies Lennon’s legacy of peace through activism and music.

To quote from the Who album, The Who Sell Out—“More music, more music, more music, more music.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Would There Be A President Obama Without Michael Jackson?

I wrote the bulk of this piece the Saturday after Jackson died, before I knew Al Sharpton would say the same at Jackson’s memorial yesterday.

Sometime after Obama’s swearing in, Wyatt Cenac of “The Daily Show” presented evidence to substantiate his theory that the Obama presidency was actually the Cliff Huxtable presidency, due in large part to the immense popularity of the long-term number one rated Bill Cosby program in the 80s. The theory was that America became used to seeing black people in an upscale, normal manner and not as exaggerated characters like pimps, prostitutes, or “The Jeffersons”.

I would like to offer that Bill Cosby was not the only African-America icon that “helped” Barack Obama become our first African-American president. I believe Michael Jackson deserves much credit as well.

Indisputably, Jackson was a very, very powerful entertainer. The power of musical entertainment from highly iconic figures, as Nixon feared all too correctly about John Lennon, was the heavy political aspect to pop cultural fandom.

There is also the generational factor that exists at the heart of my theory. I am less than a year older than Michael Jackson. I grew up with him. I remember “ABC”, “I Want You Back” and “I’ll Be There”. Everyone was amazed by the dancing and singing talent that came out of that little kid.

In the 70s, racism was very evident and strong in America. On television in the 70s, blacks did not rise above thieves, pimps and prostitutes, unless they were in a singing group, on “The Jeffersons” or in “Roots”. The seed of the transformation Jackson would lead was planted in this extremely talented and innocent young black boy, who, when he grew into a young black man, made millions of whites, Asians, Latinos and the rest of his non-black fans, feel comfortable with him like no other black entertainer before except, perhaps, Sammy Davis Jr., although Sammy never appealed to kids and teens, really, only adults.

As I mentioned in this space on June 26, I was a fan of the album “Thriller” and listened to it in my first few months in New York. Jackson had many, many white fans, ten years old (and perhaps slightly younger) all the way up to their late-thirties—I am certain of that. And that was in 1982, barely out of the racially-charged 70s. And then it all began to seem different.

Perhaps that is because to many white people, Jackson was not a black singer, but simply a singer. He appealed to everyone in a way no R&B singer—or many other singers, period—had before or since.

“Thriller” was twenty-seven years ago. If a young white boy or girl was ten years old at the time of its release that would make them thirty-seven years old today—twice the legal voting age.

Jackson also made it possible for more black entertainers to hit the big time. Don’t forget the power MTV once had in this country until they lost it all to reality TV. With the possible exception of Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson was relatively alone in the size of his black star.

I know many of you out there are saying, “Oprah.” Sorry, she didn’t go national until September 1986. “Thriller” had been out for nearly four years by then.

While I am not saying Jackson made it possible for Oprah, Whoopi, Spike, Denzel, and the others to have successful careers, I will argue that Jackson’s gentle musical genius contributed to a lowering of the barriers of racial thought in many in his generation and many more in younger generations in his own very unique way for the past forty years.

Forty years!

That is a relatively long period of time during which there has been more racial healing in America and, arguably, the world—with obviously much more healing to go—than any other time in human history.

However, I want to re-emphasize the point that Jackson’s gentle genius helped bring about this change. In no way am I trying to dismiss advances by more political blacks. Malcolm X has been one of my biggest heroes since 1984 when I first read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told To Alex Haley” and began collecting books and seeing films on Malcolm.

By gentle, I refer to the ethereal, enigmatic, spiritual quality that Jackson had. He almost seemed mythical in life. This was reinforced by the “We Are the World” song which he co-wrote which took everything beyond black and white and beyond America. Although it was actually written and performed for Ethiopian famine relief, the song was about hope. Jackson used hope for a better future for all in that song to elevate everyone, in the context of responsibility and possibility, to make it so. And Obama capitalized on that theme and, to many, became hope incarnate.

To simplify my gentle point, the old adage, “You get more flies with honey than vinegar” illustrates. It is obvious Jackson’s persona and music attracted lots of white boys and girls who may not have been as easily intrigued by Malcolm’s fiery speeches or Martin Luther King’s pleas for justice. I can remember in the mid-80s, white boys trying to do the moon walk and singing his songs, but none of them reciting either of these two civil rights giants’ words.

Another analogy I think may be illustrative may be this: racism is like an ice cube. It is a block of frozen feelings. Those feelings, like racism, don’t change easily or quickly. Ice requires heat to melt it. Jackson had tremendous heat and he began to melt the ice of racism as ice melts, first from the outside. But the interior becomes the outer edges as the ice of racism melts, and with successive generations, until it’s simply gone.

Jackson’s sweetness and awkwardness and all those things that made women and girls want to love him melted that ice just as his talent and coolness that made guys and boys want to be him also melted the ice. Skin color didn’t matter. Just talent. That’s what Jackson communicated to hundreds of millions worldwide.

According to one report, 43 percent of whites voted for Obama versus 55 percent of whites who voted for McCain. Whites voted twelve percent higher for McCain. In 1980, 36 percent of whites voted for Jimmy Carter versus 56 percent of whites who voted for Reagan. The differences between Carter and Obama are obvious—and deep. No one ever accused Carter of not being American born, no one ever accused Carter of secretly being a Muslim, no one ever shouted out “Kill him!” about Carter at Reagan rallies, no one ever passed along racially stereotypical caricatures about Carter, no one ever—you get the picture.

Jackson never espoused a political position to my knowledge. Further to my point, I don’t remember him endorsing any political candidate. His type of political power was much more subversive. Obviously his skin color already spoke to civil rights, and justice and equality for him. He did not have to make speeches. He had to win hearts and minds through his music.

He was the “King of Pop”. To reiterate an earlier point, pop cultural icons intrinsically carry religious and political power. Need I remind anyone of the religious outrage John Lennon caused with his entirely misunderstood and distorted “We are bigger than Jesus” remark? Does anyone remember the particular reporter’s question at the JFK press conference that went something like, “Are you guys a communist plot?” to which McCartney responded, “We’re the biggest capitalists around.”

Inspiration is a big political tool. Jesse Jackson inspired many in 1984, John Kennedy inspired many more in 1960. Barack Obama inspired even more in 2008. Michael Jackson certainly inspired millions and millions—worldwide.

While there is no study that backs up my theory, perhaps I can make my point in an even more concise, but personal way. When I was twelve, Flip Wilson, who, like Michael, was a black entertainer with heavy white appeal, was one of my absolute comedy heroes. I studied his comedy. When I was twenty-six, the first person I ever cast a vote for was African-American, Jesse Jackson. I have voted five times in my entire life and four times I’ve voted for an African-American.

Is there a legitimate connection to Flip Wilson and my first vote? Well, not just Flip Wilson. Flip Wilson paved the way to Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. I got the message of “All in the Family”, although many maybe did not. I recognized that Johnny Carson opened his stage and launched into stardom, the careers of many black entertainers and he treated every guest with kindness and/or reverence. Lots of black music was played on the white radio I listened to in the 60s and 70s. These things may seem superficial, but they are important because they melt that exterior layer of mental separation.

Several times in my nearly fifty-two years on this planet, I have heard black and white people say that America will never elect a black president. However, I always believed America would elect a black president and would do so in my lifetime.

Obviously, Obama is not like other black presidential candidates of the past: Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, Lenora Fulani, Alan Keyes and Al Sharpton. Obama is reminiscent of a pop star—young, sleek, good looking, his humor, sharp mind, his voice. He is as close to what Michael Jackson made white boys and girls comfortable with (to borrow from Sharpton) as any black presidential candidate could be at this time in history.

While Obama’s victory was due to a seven percent gap, perhaps a white guy would not have beaten McCain-Palin. Jackson may not have been able to get a white male Democrat elected over McCain as easily as he did Obama.

So, to carry my Jackson theory to the next level, imagine the state of racism in America twenty-seven to forty years from now with children growing up with our first African-American president, especially if he serves two terms.

I do not mean to suggest that Jackson killed racism, nor that Obama will kill it in forty years. However, it may be crippled then and maybe the grandchildren of the white kids who voted for Obama may have as many black friends as white friends.

However, a president is not a friend, despite how desperately George Bush campaigned as a guy “you’d love to have a beer with” or Sarah Palin proclaiming her hockey mom-ness. A president is someone you put your trust in who you will never know.

But it wasn’t just Michael Jackson. Jackson led to Prince, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi, Oprah, Denzel, Tiger, Spike, Public Enemy, and on and on in this generation who would experience so many black entertainers, black politicians and black athletes that black didn’t matter anymore.

Many whites put their trust in some African Americans they will never, ever know or never, ever meet. Oprah is the perfect example. More than 99.9 percent of whites or non-blacks affected by Oprah would never know her on a personal level.

Maybe I’m wrong about Michael Jackson and President Obama. Maybe, I am just trying to project onto today’s world, how Flip Wilson helped me to cast my first vote ever—and volunteer in some projects in New Jersey—for a black man for president more than a quarter century ago.

Sharpton is right. Jackson created a comfort level.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Indian Health Dis-Service

As Obama and Congress, the health insurance industry and the AMA debate about what America’s public health care should be, American Indians and Alaskan Natives are provided health care as part of the government’s trust responsibility for them. However, this health care is not to be envied by non-Indians and hopefully is not to be an example of what Obama has in mind for non-Indian America.

On May 8, 2009, Dr. Yvette Roubideaux was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate as Director of the Indian Health Service. She will oversee the administration of a proposed $4.3 billion budget. Obama requested a 13 percent increase over the 2009 budget. Despite this hefty dollar amount, the quality of medical care on the reservations the IHS serves has been less than adequate in many cases.

Last month, the Associated Press ran a story about the death of the little girl whose photo graces the top of this blog. Her name is Ta’Shon Rain Little Light. She was a 5 year old little Crow girl from Montana. She died of cancer and her lung collapsed, according to the AP story, which you can read in full
here. The Crow Agency IHS clinic in Montana told Ta’Shon’s parents there was nothing wrong with her except that she was depressed. Obviously, there is a big difference between terminal cancer and depression.

Many health care horror stories have taken place in Indian Country since the advent of Manifest Destiny. After all, it was our government who handed out smallpox-infected blankets in winter so long ago.

Indians have the worst health statistics in America. According to the AP story when Obama was a candidate campaigning on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, where Dr. Roubideaux is a member, he cited the statistic that Indian men at Pine Ridge and Rosebud have the lowest life expectancy in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti. That’s Haiti.

Reportedly, American Indians have an infant mortality rate 40 percent higher than whites, twice the rate of diabetes, 60 percent more for strokes, 30 percent more for high blood pressure and 20 percent more likely to have heart disease. Obviously there is quite a need for good health care.

Although the AP story suggests money is the problem, the IHS website for the Crow Service Unit states that its hospital provides health care for the Crow and the Northern Cheyenne and employs 200 plus doctors, nurses, LPN’s, lab technicians, and all service personnel necessary to adequately staff a 24-bed health facility.

But perhaps the problem with health care on the reservations throughout the U.S. is not only with poor quality or lack of money, but with contaminates that cause the diseases for which Indians are receiving less than quality treatment. Between now and August 2011 a study through a grant from the EPA to Montana State University will be conducted on the Crow Reservation to assess the potability of drinking water.

A map of the Crow Reservation shows the heavy amount of surface coal mining on and around the reservation that would affect the drinking water and cause such rapid cancer development in little Ta’Shon Rain Little Light.

A Montana Fish & Wildlife report that states “CBM [coalbed methane] discharged water can contain high levels of ammonia, selenium, boron, iron, radium, and fluoride, as well as the most significant problem— sodium salts. Sodium levels in discharged water render it unsuitable for irrigation. Increased sodium bicarbonate levels in water are lethal to fish and all aquatic and riparian vegetation”.

Radium in drinking water has been known to cause bone cancer. Boron hydrogen compounds are toxic dependent on structure. Hydrogen is two-thirds of water.

Stomach cancer is associated with excessive levels of sodium salts as may be found in CBM discharged water. I’m no toxicologist or doctor, but the possibility that CBM discharge-contaminated drinking water caused little Ta’Shon’s cancer is heightened by the fact that she complained of stomach pains.

This reminds me of the film “Thunder Heart” with Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard, where the character Maggie Eagle Bear discovers that the drinking water is contaminated with uranium due to mining on the res. It also reminds me of is “Erin Brockovich”.

So the story here isn’t ineptitude or under funding at IHS clinics, it’s a story of lax EPA standards and mineral resource exploitation on reservations versus tribal health. It’s an old problem on the reservation. The Indian nation needs income. They have coal or uranium or other minerals. They allow them to be mined to make money. But because of relaxed EPA standards and mining company shyster lawyers, the Indian nation is stuck with the long-term problem of with the mining residue getting into ground water and rivers.

Perhaps the most famous instance was at the Laguna Pueblo Reservation back in 1979 where a hundred million gallons of radioactive water spilled into the Rio Puerco from a Kerr-McGee and United Nuclear Corporation mine. According to Wikipedia, approximately 1,100 tons of uranium mine waste contaminated 250 acres of land and up to 50 miles of the Rio Puerco. There was another
story recently of homes at Navajo built with uranium-contaminated materials which are being torn down and replaced with new homes by the Navajo EPA.

Minnesota’s new Senator Al Franken told reporters last week that he asked to be placed on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. I doubt there are many Senators who have requested to be on that committee, so it will be interesting to see what Franken does.

Back in the day, when I was producing Sequoyah, my weekly Native American news program for WBAI, I was also the weekly feature correspondent for the nationally-syndicated weekly half-hour, First Person Radio and the New York-based correspondent for the nationally-syndicated daily five-minute feed, National Native News.

One of the reports I produced was a 1988 interview with Sharon Esotoya, then Executive Director of the Native American Community Board on the Yankton-Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. She spoke about the forced sterilization of Indian women in Indian Health Service clinics.

Esotoya discussed how the forced sterilization practice worked and how the doctors got away with it by not documenting the conversation between doctor and patient, doctors telling the women the procedure could be reversed if they changed their minds and using scare tactics against the young women who didn’t know, saying if they don’t have the procedure they could get cancer, if they had another child they could get cancer.

The use of the contraceptive depo provera on Indian reservations was the subject of Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs and cited only 35-40 cases. Esotoya disagreed, saying many women were taking depo provera. While it was supposed to be illegal in most states, Esotoya said if you called any HIS pharmacy and asked them if they had depo provera they would say yes.

For that report, I called the Indian Health Service office in South Dakota for a comment about the use of depo provera and the forced sterilization and was referred to a series of IHS personnel until finally being referred to the main IHS office in Maryland where that person was also unavailable for comment.

Esotoya mentioned one woman who changed her mind about having her tubes tied only to have IHS doctors try to wrestle her down onto the table to administer the anesthetic until the anesthesiologist refused.

So, when insufficient health care is combined with poisonous conditions on reservations, a deadly set of circumstances is created like that which allowed little Ta’Shon Rain Little Light to die.

The worst thing for a parent is to lose a child. My heart goes out to Ta'Shon's family.

Obviously not much has much changed at the IHS in twenty years.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lennon & McCartney

52 years ago today John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at the Woolton Village Fete. The impact of that meeting is still reverberating throughout the world.

Three months later I was born. It’s ridiculous, but I have always felt a sense of connection in knowing that the Beatles first record was released on my fifth birthday and the same with Monty Python’s first show debuting on my twelfth birthday. I guess that means my destiny is to be a successful comedic-musical blogger.

I remember when they came over in 1964. There was an excitement they created that lasted years. I did not get to see them on Ed Sullivan because my father always watched “Bonanza” and I had no clue anyway. However, my aunts were about six and eight years older than me and they were into the Beatles. I remember sitting in their friend's bedroom listening to a 45 of “She Loves You”, I think it was. I also remember the Beatles’ picture postcards and buttons from 1964.

I remember “I Saw Her Standing There” emanating from our TV one night. I remember watching the Beatles cartoons every Saturday morning. The Beatles, and the British invasion that followed, and the immensely inspired creative response of American bands, plus the growing Motown Sound, plus the turbulent changes in the 60s we all lived through, made for an explosion in popular music that few today can comprehend and the world may never see again.

This past week, everyone has been talking about the genius of Michael Jackson, who only put out an album every four or five years while the Beatles were putting out genius albums every three to eight months and singles out every four to six months.

I diverged from the Beatles for many years because I didn’t own records at that age. I re-discovered the Beatles in December 1980 after Lennon’s assassination, as a young man, better able to understand and appreciate their music. The first album I bought was the White Album and then on and on. I read “Shout!”, the Phillip Norman book and studied their music. That fed my creativity no end, no doubt.

I mentioned in my Michael Jackson piece my theory about music and comedy. I really first grasped it with the Beatles, it became more specific with regard to structure listening to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”.

That was when Dennis Perrin and I began doing Kawasaki Rodeo, otherwise known as Karaoke Romeo, otherwise known as Kamakaze Radio, the misspelling of which we later claimed was intentional as a tribute to the Beatles spelling “Beetles” with an “a”. In fact, our first show was the same month as Lennon’s murder. Dennis and I discussed the Beatles constantly as well as other music he turned me on to. He and I used to refer to ourselves as the Lennon and McCartney of comedy. We would disagree over which one of us was Lennon. He always won, though, because he and Lennon shared the same birthday and his material was edgier. We copied the layout of the White Album for our programs for a particular show.

John and Paul, as we all know, came at music from opposite ends of the spectrum with their shared passion for 50s rock ‘n’ roll connecting them. As everyone knows, this is what made the Beatles so successful. They were both, in their own right, musical geniuses. Obviously their relationship became strained at the end, as this photo will attest.

How and why Mick and Keith were able to maintain their partnership through all the years and not John and Paul is one of those great unanswerable questions. And it is a shame. Lennon said they were only a pop group during the Beatles break up, but I think that was his justification for wanting to end it. The Beatles were obviously more than a pop group, and still, he had a right to live his life any way he wanted if breaking up was the only way he could.

As Lennon mentioned in the famed Playboy interview, and as was depicted in the made-for-VH-1 movie, “Two of Us”, directed by “Let It Be” director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, John and Paul almost made it to SNL to perform in 1976 as a result of seeing one of Lorne Michaels’ pitches for the Beatles to perform on SNL for $3000 the night that McCartney surprise-visited Lennon at the Dakota. A shame they did not, is an understatement.

I read the Albert Goldman book about Lennon and listened to all the things Julian said about Lennon as a father. It did make me see Lennon differently. He was a flawed man. And blind idol worship is wrong regardless of whom they are. The music and their other legacies are all that is really important.

It is impossible, and obviously unnecessary, for me to state all the changes the Beatles brought about which shaped our contemporary world. What may be most significant is they made the world much smaller and united its youth through music, desire for love and peace, hair, clothing, et al.

Today, because of the path the Beatles carved out, we all share the same predominate popular culture. Too bad it sucks now. Perhaps also, rock/pop stars as global social- and political-issue activists—like Bono and all the -Aid concerts back in the 80s, arose from the Beatles, especially Lennon.

Arguably, the greatest testament to the Beatles’ legacy is their influence on Muslim youth.

In my opinion, the best example of the Beatles' influence on anyone from a Muslim country is Salman Ahmad, a Pakistani musician and a phenomenal guitarist, who spent his youth in New York, and whose former band Junoon became the “U2 of Pakistan”. Ahmad has become an activist for many issues, and organized a concert for peace on Lennon’s birthday on October 9, 2001, barely a month after the WTC attacks, which was dedicated to the victims of 9/11 and they all sang “Give Peace A Chance”.

That the western world and the Muslim world have built bridges through music that may help us withstand and fight against the political acrimony of all of our governments, is a solid testament to the resonance of what began 52 years today.

The video below is my favorite Junoon song (the word means “passion” in Urdu), and then back to John and Paul, okay? The song is called “No More” and is their most recent English-language tune, also dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

More Junoon in a later post.

A long time ago, when I was nineteen, I was a disc jockey. While it may be an interesting blog concept, I only wish to upload/play one Lennon-McCartney song here, arguably their greatest collaboration, the title of which well suits the observance commemorated in this piece: “A Day in the Life”.

52 years puts a lot into perspective.