Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Survivor Casting Call: "...and I'm unemployed"

Recently I entered a casting call contest for people who wanted to be on Season 21 of "Survivor". There were something like 525 video audition entries submitted -- and I watched almost half of them. One of main themes or threads that seems to run through all too many of these videos was the phrase, "...and I'm unemployed." Boy if you really want to see a cross-section of America, go watch some of these videos and count the number of times that the phrase "I'm unemployed" gets said.

However, one of the ten winners of the casting call contest does state that he works two jobs a day. You can't get much more American than that either!

Moving right along. I then watched the latest episode of "The Amazing Race". Yes, I know, I have no life. But to my surprise, the contestants were all sent off to Puerto Montt in Chile. Hey, I've been to Puerto Montt. They have great German food, a rodeo and a Studebaker museum.

And I want to be on America's Next Top Model next -- the geriatric edition.

PS: The Berkeley-Albany Bar Association just had its annual "Income Tax" luncheon, wherein we all learned about which changes have taken place regarding our tax laws during 2009. And guess what? Almost NO changes have occurred. Yes, there have been almost no changes in our income tax structure since the Bush years. Plus the IRS was taken to court by a single mother (
Vinatieri v. IRS) who charged that the IRS was being too draconian with their punishments despite resulting economic hardship. Ms. Vinatieri accused the IRS of abuse of discretion -- and she won her case!

Too bad that the guy who flew his plane into that IRS building in Texas didn't have a good tax attorney. If he had, he might have been a "Survivor" instead!

PPS: On March 9, 2010 (that's two whole years before the Mayan calendar ends) I'm going off to Honduras to see just exactly how many Mayan ruins my poor sweet bad knees can survive.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Honey vs. Vinegar: Survivor Afghanistan, episode 2

My friend the "Marine Mom" just shot me another e-mail. "If you are determined to write about the game of Survivor," she wrote, "why don't you write about 'Survivor Afghanistan'? I have a son over there now, serving in Helmand Province with the Marines -- and, more than anything, I want HIM to survive."

"But I know almost nothing about what is going on in Afghanistan right now," I shot back. "I haven't been there since 2006, plus it's never a good idea to write about stuff you know nothing about (even though Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, the New York Times and folks in the Senate appear to do it all the time). You can lose credibility that way. But I do know a lot of stuff about the TV show's 20th season, Heroes vs. Villains." For instance I know that, even after ten years on the show, Jeff Probst is still HOT.

And I also know that I just sent a video application off to CBS so that I can be on their season 21 show -- and that if you watch my video, you will be voting for me to win a free audition trip to L.A. Just click here: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/survivor/casting_call/video_player.php?vid=4972&playvid=yes.

I'd be great on Survivor! Except of course for my knees.

But Marine Mom wasn't going to let me off the hook that easily and she e-mailed me again. "I have heard from many Marines and others in the military that having our troops on the ground and endangering them is totally unnecessary. It's like Joe Biden said. We can watch this all from the air." That's true. Hey, even the Pentagon has access to Google Earth.

"Also, most of the enemy has gone to 'ungoverned' areas of Pakistan. Since they are ungoverned, and Admiral Mullen and others say that they are such a risk to the USA, then we could bomb there, or use hammer & anvil tactics and just tell Pakistan that they should get on one side and we will be on the other and the enemy in the 'ungoverned' area will get crushed. These could be solutions to the problem. But, basically, I believe that this war is non-winnable. But if the goal is to give Afghans trust in their government, that's totally impossible. We don't even totally trust our own government!

"Also, there is a 'bait and switch' con-game going on in Washington now," Marine Mom continued. "A former Marine that I know told me that the Pentagon and Washington never had any plans to totally leave Iraq all along -- and that it is only an apparent switch to Afghanistan. And it's not only just a switch to Afghanistan, but a bait-and-switch too! We Americans were sold the con that we were leaving the wars, but after voting for 'change' away from war, we now find out that it was all bait-and-switch all along! The bait: Get out of wars. The switch: The Pentagon's forces are still in Iraq, although claiming to leave, and there's a massive build-up and huge bases being built in Afghanistan too! And here our Marines go now, off to Marjah."

And then a friend of mine in Kabul e-mailed me too. "Kabul is calm after an explosion on the Jalalabad road yesterday, east of Kabul; where many military bases are located. The target was a military convoy but civilians were again the victims. And yesterday five suicide-bomber organizers were arrested by the Afghan police in the eastern part of Kabul. The organizers apparently got their training and equipment from the other side of the AfPak border. They had guns, bombs, special suicide jackets and other explosive materials with them at the time of their arrest."

So. Has hearsay made me an expert on Afghanistan yet? Yeah.

And here's even more stuff from Marine Mom, regarding gays in the military. "We don't need to be separating the gays out NOW, right in the middle of a war. What we really need to do is to separate the WINNERS and the LOSERS -- both in the general and in officer corps. If a heterosexual is a loser and has a culture of losing, and the gay has a culture of VICTORY, they need to pick the one with the CULTURE OF VICTORY. The key is to WIN the wars they are sent to -- and, even more important, have politicians in office who will only send our troops to war IF IT IS NECESSARY."

Hmmm. That's all well and good. I like a victory as much as the next guy. But what exactly does "victory" in Afghanistan consist of? From where I sit, "victory" seems to consist of winning as many big contracts and as much resource booty as possible for globalized corporatists with no loyalty to America and also for weapons manufacturers. That seems to be the whole rationale for our troops to be spending nine long bloody years slogging around in Afghanistan. And it seems to be the only rationale that I can see for the war on Iraq and the nightmare in Palestine too.

There can't be any other reason. Nothing else is logical. Nothing else makes sense.

If one were to actually approach world relations logically, one would also discover that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Take Norway for instance. Its government serves its people. It doesn't have an oppressive ruling class. Everyone likes Norway. The Norwegians use honey instead of vinegar. For example, have you ever heard of Norway being accused of torture?

Okay. Now that I (and Dick Cheney) have let the cat out of the bag, let's talk about torture. Villains in the employ of the supposedly freedom-loving, moral and honorable U.S. are torturing Afghans, Iraqis and Palestinians like crazy -- and these torturers are torturing some pretty hard-core dudes. These dudes that are now being tortured have already been abused and tortured since their childhoods. They know how to either resist torture or to make up fancy lies while on The Rack. These dudes are USED to torture and abuse.

But OMG! What if you treat these guys kindly? What if you surprise them with the very first gentleness that they may have ever experienced in their whole lives? They'll crack!

Just let ME at these hard-core dudes. I'd do a half-hour of Jin Shin Jyutsu acupressure moves on them and soon have them crying like babies. "No one has ever been NICE to me before!" they'd wail -- as they spilled all the beans.

Of course no one has ever been nice to you, dummy. Duh. If you are living on land that has water or oil or whatever under it or you are standing in the way of a freaking pipeline or are a pawn in the Great Game? Or you are the only thing standing in the way of the Western "capitalist" money-making juggernaut? What the freak else did you expect?

Let's move on.

On the TV show "Survivor Samoa," Russell tried to weaken and destabilize his opponents in order to win the game. And that's just like what has happened in "Survivor Afghanistan"!

Pakistan has spent the last 40-odd years trying to destabilize Afghanistan.

Russia and the USSR have spent the last 40-odd years trying to destabilize Afghanistan.

The powers-that-be in Washington DC, the CIA and the Pentagon have spent the last 40-odd years trying to destabilize Afghanistan.

And guess what? This strategy is working! Afghanistan has been destabilized like crazy. Their socks are toast!

Right now, Afghans themselves don't seem to have a snowball's chance in Hell of winning "Survivor Afghanistan". It's like on the first episode of the TV show's Season 20 -- when one of the Villains shouted, "Break her arm!" If the Pentagon does switch to drone-only warfare in Afghanistan, Afghans are going to immediately get voted off their own country. It's like Jeff Probst says. "Fire represents life." And after the "Tribe" gets done speaking in "Survivor Afghanistan," chances are rather good that, if you are an Afghan, your torch will be OUT. And you will be dead.

PS: Here's the latest report on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. Which players on the show used honey this week? And which of them used vinegar? Let's find out.

James definitely used vinegar on this episode. "Stephanie needs to be gone!" he cried. And she was. But Cirie used honey -- and that worked too. My money is on her. I bet that James is gonna be voted out as soon as there's a merge. And I bet that Cirie will be one of the finalists. Honey wins every time! That, and a little bit of skullduggery

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Amazing Race: TV shows vs. world domination

I didn't get to watch The Amazing Race's big season premiere on Valentines Day because I was off at Berkeley's famous Freight and Salvage Coffee House watching my old flame from the 1970s perform -- you know, the one that I begged not to go to Nashville because he would just get his heart broken by the music industry but who went anyway and ended up winning two Grammies? That one. But I taped The Amazing Race while I was gone and will watch it later.

Here's my point: In The Amazing Race (the television show), there are a bunch of couples who are racing around the world to win a prize of one million dollars. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE this show. But don't you think that it does seem kind of trite compared to America's other "Amazing Race" -- the one with a prize of over TEN TRILLION dollars!

And who are the teams competing in the amazing race for ten trillion dollars? First we have the military-industrial complex's corporate lobbyists' "DC Boys," racing to put U.S. military bases in every country in the world. That race is going really well. And why shouldn't it? The DC Boys are giving it their all -- because the stakes in oil, consumers, natural resources, cheap labor, etc. are far higher now than they were than back in the day when just the measly Roman Empire was looting the known world. MUCH higher.

According to journalist Nick Turse, "Counting the remaining bases in Iraq -- as many as 50 are slated to be operating after President Barack Obama’s August 31, 2010, deadline to remove all U.S. “combat troops” from the country -- and those in Afghanistan, as well as black sites like Al-Udeid, the total number of U.S. bases overseas now must significantly exceed 1,000."

And doing even better than the DC Boys in the Amazing Race for world domination, we have the down-and-dirty "Globalization Guys". Whew. They are winning this race bigtime, way ahead of even the no-holds-barred DC Boys. A friend of mine just visited me the other day and gave me a really good description of the GG team's latest brilliant moves in the game. My friend had gone to Cal back in the early 1980s. "After I graduated from UCB," he told me over enchiladas at Picoso on northside, "I went on to work in Silicone Valley. Those were such exciting times back then. Creativity, resources, ideas, money to work with, talent, drive -- Bill Gates, Steve Jobs? Those were amazing times back then." I nodded and looked like I knew what he was talking about. But frankly back then I couldn't even dial up my modem without major help.

"And now Silicone Valley is dead," continued my friend. "And this isn't just a slump either. It is permanently and terminally moribund. Silicone Valley will never recover. All of its creativity, capital and talent have been sucked off to Asia and India. And the dregs that are left? They have no ideas, no money and no drive. I live and work in that area. I've seen it all happening with my own eyes, Jane, and it's OVER down there."

PS: The Valentines Day show at the Freight was a huge success, it was totally wonderful to see my old flame again and I was totally glad that I went. And now it's time to watch the tape of CBS's version of "The Amazing Race". And guess what? The first leg of the race takes place in Valparaiso! I was just there! And I have the video to prove It! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2orPC3O7pU.

The next big surprise on this episode of the CBS Amazing Race was that Jeff and Jordan from last season's "Big Brother" were also competing. That's gonna be really exciting. Oops, I'll have to watch the end of the tape later. My granddaughter Mena just woke up from a very long nap. Her dad took her to the annual Valentines Day pillow fight over in San Francisco last night -- with hundreds of people at Embarcadero Plaza battling away at each other with pillows. No wonder the sweet little child is worn out! And now how are we gonna explain to Mena that "It's not nice to hit" after seeing all that?

And speaking of not hitting, somebody also needs to explain the "It's not nice to hit" principle to the DC Boys and the Globalization Guys as well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Survivor's 20th Season: I'm looking for a HERO...

Well it's Day 2 on the latest season of Survivor -- Heroes vs. Villains -- and so far no one seems to be making their move, not even Russell. And what the freak does Sugar think that she's up to in the middle of the night, waking everybody up? Heroes? Villains? So far it's just Losers....

But that's only what has happened so far. We're now at the mid-point of tonight's show -- at the Kay Jewelers commercial, that point where I run out to the kitchen and do dishes like crazy before the show starts again. Maybe the second half will be better. "Which chicken should we eat for dinner tonight?" seems to be the biggest challenge so far.

Colby: "It's the little things like the chickens that get you fired up." Yeah right.

Who do I like best on the show so far? Boston Rob. Coach is just plain annoying. As usual. And I hate to say this but the Immunity Idol looks just like Rupert.

Oh crap. The Heroes are losing their lead in the immunity challenge. "Villains win first immunity challenge!" Yaay Villains!

Ah. Here come more commercials. Sears Presidents' Day sale. Shutter Island. Charles Schwab. "At Charles Schwab, investors rule. Are you ready to rule?" Sure. Russell's safe. Whew. But Sugar and Rupert are in trouble.

It's the Disneyland commercial next. "If we stay for two nights, we can get one night for free." I wanna go play "Survivor" at Disneyland!

PS: I'm going to apply for the next season of "Survivor". I survived almost getting blown up in the Green Zone in Iraq. I survived being chased across the Yalu River by the North Korean border patrol on one side and the Red Army on the other. I survived being almost trampled to death at the Jamarat in Mecca, being chased by beggars on Chicken Street in Kabul, being threatened with guns by irate settlers in Hebron and giving birth to four children. Surely I will be able to survive "Survivor" too.

PPS: The tribe just voted off Sugar. That's just wrong. That's like pulling the wings off of a butterfly. But she did seem sort of glad to go. Next time on "Survivor"? "Rob! Something's happened to Rob!"

How could anyone not love this show.

PPPS: Yes, I know that this show teaches our children to lie and steal and be jerks for money -- but hasn't the Republican party done that already?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Calling Dr. Phil & Oprah: What should happen next in Haiti?

After the telethon fund-raising is over, the baby-snatching fundamentalists have done their allotment of good deeds and gone home, "compassion fatigue" has set in here in America like it did after Katrina, and the Marines, hopefully, have gone back to Afghanistan where they may or may not belong, then what will happen to Haiti after that? With beach-front property in the Caribbean now selling for up to $5,000 an acre and Port au Prince's cheap labor pool, Haiti will probably never be lacking for new resort developers, more sweatshop owners, even more corrupt politicians and bigger and better neo-colonialists. That goes without saying of course. But what about the Haitian people themselves? What will happen to them?

I ran into a Haitian woman at the library a few weeks ago and she still hadn't yet heard from her parents back in Port au Prince -- whether they were safe, injured or even alive or not -- even though it had been ten days after the earthquake. So when I saw her again today, I asked, "Have you heard anything more?"

"Yes! Most of my family is safe!" Whew.

"So what do you think will happen next in Haiti," I asked her, "now that the major impact is over?"

"Now we are going to have to deal with psychological damage. After the immediate physical danger is over, people will now have time to remember their losses and their horrors."

"Yes," I agreed. "They don't call it POST-traumatic stress disorder for nothing." With human beings, whenever there is trauma or danger, our minds and bodies go into hyper-drive and we do what we need to do to survive. But after the immediate danger is over, only then does the psychological impact of what has actually happened finally hit us -- and then it hits us like a ton of bricks. That's what has happened to many of our servicemen returning from Iraq. Over there, they are all in good spirits and revved up to do their duty. But once they get back home, many of them go into psychological collapse. And the same thing will probably happen in Haiti.

So. What's to be done? I suggest that we send Dr. Phil and Oprah down there, to give good advice. If anyone can heal the psychological scars of a nation, it's them. They have spent years healing America's psychological scars. I bet they would be able to heal Haiti's.

And then it hit me. I know of someone who would be even better at healing Haiti's psychological scars. Me! I'm the queen of healing psychological scars. I know Jin Shin Jyutsu! Send me down there!

But then my daughter Ashley came up with a reality check. "Calm down, Mom. We know that you are the next Mother-Theresa-in-training but sheesh. You have bad knees. You live on Social Security and can't afford it. And besides, you can't even speak French."

Oh. Then who WOULD be best person at curing the poor Haitian people's psychological wounds (assuming that Oprah and Dr. Phil can't make it)? Then it came to me, right there in the stacks of the Claremont branch of the Berkeley Public Library while I was desperately searching for my granddaughter Mena's lost shoe. Brilliant! Let's call in President Jean-Bertrand Aristide!

Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the only man in the world for the job. If the Haitians knew that President Aristide was coming back from exile, it would fill all the poor Haitians' hearts with such joy and hope that it would be like a Balm in Gilead for their troubled and disaster-seared souls.

As I sat and watched the "Hope for Haiti" telethon in January, I was shocked and dismayed that President Aristide's name was not even mentioned even once. President Aristide represents the heart and soul of the Haitian people. And if ever there was a time -- in post-traumatic-stress Haiti -- that a people needed more heart and more soul, this is it.

President Obama needs to call up United Airlines right now and buy President Aristide a ticket from Johannesburg to Port au Prince right this moment -- or even send Air Force One over to pick him up.

If any of us truly care about the Haitian people and are not just mouthing platitudes or looking for cheap beach-front property, semi-slave labor or available babies, then THIS is the thing that we should do.

PS: Here's a video of me explaining all this stuff to my granddaughter Mena while eating take-out burritos and pupoosas from Rosy's El Salvadorian restaurant, located on Folsom Street in San Francisco's Mission district: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgQr0sTlJZk

Friday, February 05, 2010

New tax cuts: The IRS's unofficial gift to America

This week, our local hometown newspaper's main headlines read, "Berkeley Daily Planet Hit by Massive Payroll Fraud". Our poor sweet Planet is already suffering from all the usual financial troubles that currently plague America's newsprint industry, plus it has also endured many threats to its advertisers from Israeli neo-con supporters because of the paper's free-speech position regarding Israel-Palestine. And now there's this latest financial assault on it.

Apparently, the BDP's payroll management contractor, Clickbooks, has absconded with its income tax withholding deposits (and about 100 other local small businesses' deposits as well), and then its owners skipped off to parts unknown. "A round of inquiries to the tax agencies produced the bad news: Clickbooks had been cashing our checks, all right, but they had been significantly underpaying the taxes and pocketing the difference. We are now engaged in the painful process of trying to figure out how much we still owe the various government tax collectors."

But while that unwelcome news sucks eggs bigtime for the Planet, there was also something mentioned in this article that gave me several interesting insights into the IRS. According to the BDP editor Becky O'Malley, "It seems that in all the cases I investigated, the IRS had simply not noticed, for periods of up to two years, that the payment amounts they’d gotten from Clickbooks didn’t match the reports of what was supposed to have been sent...."

But WHY did the IRS drop the ball? According to O'Malley, "It turns out that during the Bush years the number of IRS agents took a dramatic dive, and now there don’t seem to be enough of them in the agency to collect all the money owed.... [T]he difference between what is owed in taxes and what is paid, amounted to over $300 billion annually.... For comparison purposes, that much money would pay for two more wars as large as our two current ruinously expensive ones, plus covering all of the cost of the president’s currently unfunded health care plan. Dramatic evidence about why this gap exists is the decrease between 1995 and 2006 in the total number of IRS employees, down 18 percent, and in the number of IRS employees who perform audits, down by 30 and 40 percent in crucial categories."

Good grief! It looks like no one is minding the store at the IRS!

With April 15 already coming down on us so fast, this news is really HOT. Why? Because it indicates that the chances of American taxpayers actually getting away with one of this country's most popular gambling passions -- seeing how much one can shave off one's taxes and still not get caught -- is now a lot less of an extreme sport than it used to be. The odds are apparently no longer stacked in favor of the house. Your chances of being audited by the IRS have just been reduced by 30 to 40 percent!

Has the IRS just given America an unofficial tax break? If you are a gambler and like the new odds in your favor, it certainly looks that way.

But, according to the Planet article, all this firing of IRS agents took place while GWB was in the White House or when Bill Clinton was president -- so you can't blame this particular tax break on Obama.

PS: Speaking of federal agencies not minding the store, according to some recent U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security hearings, the "Underwear Bomber" was deliberately allowed onto Flight 253 on Christmas Day so that he might lead the feds to bigger fish. So. Apparently the Underwear Bomber was being deliberately allowed to blow up a plane so that various unnamed higher-ups in DC could have an excuse to invade Yemen? Hmmm.

Here's a link to a videotape of the hearing, courtesy of Mike Malloy: http://homeland.house.gov/Hearings/index.asp?ID=234. Listen to it yourself. About 30 minutes into the tape, Patrick F. Kennedy from the U.S. State Department testifies that, "We came across this person's name and were going to revoke his visa and someone came to us -- I can tell you in private who it was -- and said, 'Please do not revoke this visa. In order to break a potentially larger plot, it is of higher value for us to follow [this dude]'." And to be able to watch and see who reacts when flight 253 is blown up?

PPS: Someone I know just e-mailed me that I was losing my "credibility" by referring to the "Bush-Obama Administration". And he is right. What I should have actually referred to was, "The Johnson-Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama Administration". My bad.

However. If we ever finally get an administration in Washington that actually protects the working class people who elected it -- and if this fantasy administration actually stands up and declares that a corporation is NOT a person like you and me after all, I will seriously reconsider my position on this matter. But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen any time soon.

PPPS: Here's a video of me trying to explain about the IRS and the Underwear Bomber while trying to multi-task -- and not doing a very good job of any of it. But you get to see what my messy apartment looks like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmpCu4wX2jo.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The rich, the poor, sex & money: How to avoid "money pervs"

What sex fiends and perverts just don't seem be able to get into their thick heads is this: Just because you've gotten a nice a tingly feeling down in your private parts doesn't mean that you have to ACT on it. You can just appreciate it for what it is -- a surprise gift. Or you can do what a lot of Taoists do -- you can recycle it.

According to Taoist master Mantak Chia, all of us have a "microcosmic energy orbit" that runs up from the base of our spines, through our brains, down our fronts and then back around through our private parts and up through our spines once again. So. If you are starting to get all nice and tingly Down There, just suck that feeling up through your back bone and into your brain and then put all of that excess energy to work thinking good thoughts. Or something like that. Then you won't have to waste all your spare time stalking or raping or nothing.

And this same rule about sex also applies to money. Some people think that they can never get enough money. They become addicts. They become "money perverts". And right now "money pervs" appear to be running our world.

And what about the rest of us normal guys who would not hesitate for a minute to grab a child-molester who has stalked our children's innocence and to throw him into jail? Yet all too many of us are just sitting back and applauding while a legion of unbalanced perverts stalk our children's money.

And people like Rush Limbaugh and Benjamin Bernanke and folks in the Bush-Obama administration are actually cheering these money-pervs on -- while these perverts reach their hands down into OUR pants.

It really bothers me right now that there are millions of right-wing teabaggers out there who make less than $100,000 a year -- yet seem to hate us left-wing idealists who are poor as church-mice so much that they would do us bodily harm if given half a chance. And yet these same teabaggers seem to idolize and adore "money pervs" who cannot control their money addictions, who can never be satisfied and can never get enough dollars. These money-pervs will lie, steal, kill, sell out their families and country or do any other repulsive thing that they can to feed their insatiable habits.

These money-pervs are stealing the rest of us blind -- and yet everyone out there seems to love them!

My suggestion?

Anyone who has hoarded up more than one million dollars should have to be registered with a national (or world-wide) "Money Offenders" registry -- and shouldn't be allowed to move into any new neighborhood until all the neighbors are warned first.

PS: You wouldn't let a drug addict run your bank, your country, your army, your food industry or your health insurance, would you? You wouldn't fawn over and try to please a junkie or think that glue-sniffers are your social superiors or better than you? Probably not. Yet every single day we turn almost everything we hold dear over to "money perverts". Now does that really make any sense? Not to me!

PPS: Here's my new video on the subject of money addiction -- starring me, my granddaughter Mena and all the loose change in my pocket: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKRVLmTCHSk