Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arnieville: Cutting CA home-care will cost us six times as much

If you walk or drive down Adeline Street in south Berkeley right now, you will see dozens of disabled people camping out on the median strip in the middle of the street. "We call this place Arnieville," I was told. That, however, is not breaking news. That story has already been covered on TV.

People on crutches and in wheelchairs are out in force, protesting a whole bunch of huge new state budget cuts to their home-care provider's salaries. These care providers allow disabled Californians to live on their own. The disabled protesters have been camping out in protest against these radical and life-endangering cuts since June 22, 2010. But that's not hot news either.

The disabled campers are holding a press conference over the Fourth of July weekend. Is that going to be big news too? Probably not. Nor is it breaking news that someone just dropped off a homemade blackberry pie for the disabled protesters to eat as they camped. But it was good news for me! My two-year-old granddaughter Mena got a slice of the pie -- and she also got a ride on one disabled camper's wheelchair. Mena thought that was totally cool. But then she didn't have to be confined to a wheelchair and totally dependent on her home care provider seven days a week for the rest of her life.

Disabled people are the most courageous people I know.

However, one disabled person disagreed with me regarding wheelchairs. "We are not 'confined' to our wheelchairs per se," she said. "Actually, our wheelchairs liberate us and give us freedom. Without them, we would be forced to spend our lives just lying in bed." I don't think that Mena would like that either. And using one's wheelchair to give oneself freedom is a truly appropriate way to celebrate Independence on the Fourth of July -- far more appropriate than Washington's many attempts in the last ten years to disable the United States Constitution.

Perhaps it is breaking news that people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities are building a life-sized paper mache statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger right here on Adeline Street today. Or perhaps not.

It might be sort of newsworthy that a few dozen disabled people are now out here struggling to keep their protest going, to take care of their camp and to take care of themselves when most of them are physically incapacitated -- up to 80 or 90%. Please! If there are any civic-minded young and strong volunteers out there who can come down and lend a hand at keeping the camp running, you will be totally welcome.

"Can I help do the dishes or something?" I asked one of the organizers, a woman with an obvious degenerative disease. "Oh, that's okay," she replied, perhaps worried that I didn't look much stronger or energetic than she did.

No, it's not news that I'm not as able to do the heavy lifting needed at Arnieville as the Governator himself would be. "Hey Arnie! Come down here and help us pitch some tents!"

What really was the breaking hot news at Arnieville today was when my neighbor Jana Ovebo drove up in her wheelchair and said, "If the state eliminates our home care workers as planned, then I will have to be institutionalized -- just in order to survive." Jana has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was nine years old and can barely even move by herself. And yet she still manages to run her own business, Disability, Resources, Exchange & Mobility Supports (DREAMS). And she still manages to come down to Arnieville and protest.

"The cost of my care if I was institutionalized," stated Jana, "would be SIX TIMES more than what the state is now paying for home care providers." Without her home-care workers, Jana would either have to be immediately institutionalized or be allowed to die on the street. Either choice sucks eggs.

And one home-care provider involved in the protest just informed me that, "
It's not only our salaries that are at stake: The Terminator is also trying to eliminate 40% of state funding for the entire disabilities program. This would knock thousands of people off the program all together. Then there's the cuts to Medi-Cal, Adult Day Health and other services that keep seniors and people with disabilities in their communities." And these people would also have to be institutionalized at six times the cost of what we are paying now? Yikes!

Hurray for Arnieville! That's the GOOD news.


Photos by Bob Patterson

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Screw Iraq, Afghanistan & Gaza: Let's invade Detroit!

Returning from the 2010 Social Forum in Detroit, I saw several soldiers at the DTW airport, waiting for their flights. And once again I was struck by the thought that every American soldier seems to be a whole autonomous unit unto himself or herself. Every American soldier truly IS an "Army of One". Highly trained, efficient, skilled, confident and respectful -- these men and women in uniform are just the kind of people that Detroit really needs to get itself out of its slump. And every other city in America needs this caliber of person too.

So please tell me why, exactly, are these walking human resources being wasted way over on the other side of the world when their dedication and skill sets and -- let's face it -- salaries and healthcare benefits are so desperately needed here at home?

No, we don't need our soldiers' weapons skills in places like the Gulf Coast states or the Rust Belt. But we do need their dedication and heart.

We need the Marine Corps' skill sets. "The few, the proud." We really do. And we need that kind of bravery and willingness to get the job done here rather than there.

Second Marine Regiment in Al Anbar. Tarawa. "Keep Moving." I was there. I saw for myself what our Marines can do to help re-build a country.

We need our soldiers' ingenuity, dignity and courage here at home, helping to put America back on track -- not over in Afghanistan, not over in Iraq and not even over in Gaza -- where the corporatists who run America pay the cream of Israeli youth to do their dirty work for them, wasting their young lives being thugs to the brutal Occupation instead of being honorable men who refuse to shoot babies at point-blank range.

When I see a soldier at an airport, I just want to go up and hug him. Or her. You think that our boys aren't doing a good job? Then go see Sebastian Junger's new documentary movie "
Restrepo" ( That's the kind of ability and dedication I saw demonstrated again and again and again when I was in Iraq.

These guys are good.

But we need these men and women's dedication and skills here at home, not over on the other side of the world.

And we need to be paying these men and women to be using their skill sets here, in America, in civilian life -- in a job corps as well as a Marine Corps.

Screw bailouts for bankers, oil executives, Wall Street schemers and global corporations with no ties or loyalties to our country. They have done nothing with the money that Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama gave them except to use it to rip us off even more.

Let's take back all that money -- and give it to our returning soldiers instead. Let's fill up ALL of our airports with returning soldiers. We truly need this lost generation's abilities here at home. Now.

PS: While I was at the Social Forum representing the Free Palestine Movement, my booth was next to a booth manned by Peggy Logue and her husband. Logue is another dedicated Marine Mom. And she was selling her new book, "Skin in the Game," all about her Marine son's experiences in Haditha and her conflict between wanting to support her son's efforts and her moral obligation to try to stop the needless bloodshed caused by global corporate wars. "
Intense, raw, and profoundly honest, 'Skin in the Game' illustrates the human side of war and the daily struggle for peace."

At the Social Forum, I also talked with Kyle Kajihiro, a representative of the American Friends Service Committee ( in Hawaii, and he told me how the entire Pacific Rim area has become just another highly-militarized "American Lake" -- to the benefit of global corporatists, not us.

Screw that.

We need skilled men and women here at home, not hunkering off somewhere in faraway places like Guam or Okinawa, defending rich people's interests -- not ours -- because that's the only job that our young men and women can get.

PPS: The Detroit airport is the only airport I have ever seen besides, of course, the Norita airport near Tokyo, where all signs are printed in both English and Japanese.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Live from Detroit: Oliver Stone's new movie, Zionism & potato chips

I'm currently manning a booth at the Detroit Social Forum, and across the aisle from me is a booth run by Katrina victims who have driven all the way up from New Orleans. And guess what? Katrina is STILL the issue.

"15,000 perfectly good housing units have been destroyed in NOLA since 2005," said one woman manning the "Stand With Dignity" booth. "Not enough affordable housing is being built to replace the homes that were lost, and NO ONE is being issued HUD housing vouchers."

250 Katrina survivors came up here from New Orleans to make their pain known. And they gave me a free breakfast too. And sold me a mini Second-Line Club umbrella for my granddaughter Mena who loves umbrellas.

Then Forum members were given a sneak preview of the latest Oliver Stone movie last night. Did you know that Stone went to South America and did a documentary on the new "Bolivarist" leaders down there -- including a big long interview with Hugo Chavez that apparently lasted for days. They went to Chavez's hometown. He also drove Stone through some corn fields. "This is where we make all those Iranian atomic bombs," Chavez joked. Stone also included that famous clip of Chavez saying, "You are a donkey, Mr. Bush," wherein everyone in the audience laughed.

There was also an interesting clip of GWB saying, "The best way to revitalize the economy is war." Wrong, Mr. Bush. That's just the best way to revitalize the rich. The best way to revitalize the economy is to invest in jobs, education and infrastructure -- and to tell weapons manufacturers to go take a hike.

Then Stone interviewed Evo Morales and the "Bolivarist" presidents of Ecuador and Paraguay. Who would have ever thought that Paraguay would go socialist! Paraguay? And then Stone interviewed Raul Castro. I wanna interview Raul Castro! I'm all jealous.

Anyway, the Stone preview was a big success. People flooded the theater. People were jamming the aisles and even lying down on the stage. Don't tell the fire marshall.

I don't think that "South of the Border" will ever become a blockbuster at your local cine-plex but I gave it two big thumbs up.

Then I trudged back to my newly-found fleabag motel, past Cadillac Drive and Chrysler Drive and the General Motors headquarters, which appears to have been built from mostly glass and chrome. But its flags were all at half-mast. In honor of the long-overdue death of GM's famous gas-guzzlers? Then I trudged some more -- past several large buildings that were boarded up and deserted, and a convenience store where I bought a bag of "Better Made" potato chips, Detroit's finest chips. Founded in 1930. "For your eating enjoyment, our potato chips are cooked in the finest oils, contain 0 grams of Trans Fat and are flavored with the highest quality seasonings." I'm saving them for breakfast.

I also talked with someone who had just gotten back from Nepal. "I met an Israeli girl over there who had just finished her military service and was on walkabout. She said that she was a complete Zionist. She said that Israel used to be all theirs -- meaning the Zionists of western European origin -- but now Israel's majority consists of Sephardi and eastern European Jews. She hated that. And she kept talking about 'Zionism, Zionism, Zionism'. But then she also incidentally mentioned that she planned to get out of Israel and move to Europe just as soon as she could." Interesting.

But after working the Free Palestine booth for three days, I was beginning to fade. I mean, how many freaking brochures can one hand out? Hundreds! And how many arguments over the Palestine Question can one survive? Not all that many happened here, actually. Most people here at the Forum tend to agree that the issue of fairness for Palestinians is right up there with issues like fairness for Native Americans, oil spill victims, workers laid off when their jobs moved to Asia, voters, people who still believe in democracy and the Constitution, victims of corporate America's war on the middle class, Afghan and Iraqi women and children caught in war zones, victims of bank greediness, victims of media war-mongering, victims of environmental sloppiness, and victims of corporatists, racists, neo-colonialists and misguided viewers of Fox News.

Then Noor Elashi walked by my booth and told me her story -- and I was shocked. Apparently her father had been happily running a charitable organization called the Holy Land Foundation, which collected money for Palestinians in need. The foundation then gave its donations to a zagat committee to distribute in Palestine -- the very same zagat committee that distributed monies from the American Red Cross, US-AID, the United Nations, etc. Then Noor's father came under viscous verbal attack by Zionists for helping malnourished Palestinian children. And while under such severe attack, Noor's father kept asking the U.S. government to please tell him if he was doing anything illegal or wrong -- and they kept telling him, "No. You're fine."

And then suddenly Noor's father found himself being charged by the feds with financing a terrorist organization. And now he is serving a 65-year jail term -- and on trumped-up evidence too. Yikes! Shades of Nelson Mandela and Wen Ho Lee!

"But why aren't the American Red Cross, US-AID and the U.N. being charged with helping terrorist organizations as well?" I naively replied.

"Because of pressure brought to bear on the federal government by Zionists." Double-yikes.

Do you know what this means? It means that anyone who asks for justice for Palestinians -- or even just tries to raise their standard of living out of the dust -- may be facing a possible 65 years in jail! Even me. Even you.

Right now, all I have to worry about is figuring out what to eat for dinner tonight. But who knows? If I keep on fighting for justice for Palestinians, I may never have to worry about what I will be eating for dinner ever again -- or at least not for the next 65 years -- because I will be having all my meals catered for me until I'm 133 years old
by United States government correctional facilities.

PS: Here's an important editorial from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. I usually don't print other people's stuff in its entirety (because I like my stuff better), but this is important. The article is called, "Israel should be thankful it didn't make it to the World Cup":

An Israeli presence at this greatest of global sporting spectacles would have been guaranteed to attract an unrelenting wave of protests, PR stunts and bad publicity. As the World Cup progresses, Israelis might consider sending thank-you bouquets to the national soccer teams of Switzerland and Greece, who knocked Israel out at the qualifying stage.

Of course, it would be nice to wrap ourselves in blue and white, and cheer on the likes of Yossi, Guy and Ben. But on this occasion, one should probably be thankful that we didn't make it.

There were large demonstrations in Cape Town last week following the Mavi Marmara incident. An Israeli presence at this greatest of global sporting spectacles would have been guaranteed to attract an unrelenting wave of protests, PR stunts and bad publicity.

In the days since Operation Sky Winds, Israel has been able to get a glimpse of the future and into the abyss that awaits if we continue on our current course. It is a future replete with both insecurity and the indignity of global opprobrium and sanctions. Palestine has now irrefutably become a global cause. That is certainly inconvenient for Israel and maybe unfair.

Popular consumer, labor union, and cultural boycotts are gathering new momentum. Israel’s predicament will not be rectified by better PR or a new foreign minister; it has become structural and therefore far more worrying.

The logic of the kind of unarmed resistance represented by flotillas to Gaza is to shine a light on the wrongdoings of an offending party. Ideally, one will succeed in appealing to the better nature, to the humanity, of the offending party (Israel), and its behavior (in this case, the blockade on Gaza) will be corrected. If not, then one may seek to shame that party in the court of global public opinion. Any over-reaction or additional offensive behavior will only serve to strengthen the case of the light-shiner and "prove" the original premise of wrongdoing.

In this instance, Israel's leadership played its role with Lionel Messi-like perfection.

In short, the game is up. This is not defeatism -- it's an acknowledgment of a reality that, by ignoring, causes Israel to imperil itself. It cannot be reversed by a good YouTube video or by cloning President Peres. An occupation that just entered its 44th year and entails denying basic rights to millions of Palestinians can no longer be sanitized. As long as Israel maintains that occupation, the costs will become increasingly burdensome.

Having lost the world, Israel's focus turns in on itself. The country's leadership has to work harder to keep its own public on board for the occupation project. This requires a growing suppression of dissent, further ostracizing Israel's Palestinian minority, and ever-more aggressive appeals to Jewish national pride. Democratic norms are thereby eroded, further feeding the tarnishing of Israel's image. This is the vicious cycle in which Israel is embroiled.

It is true that there will almost certainly always be unjustified prejudice toward Israel. Whatever it does, some people will always be out to get us. But prejudice is not what motivates the vast majority of those mobilizing in solidarity with the Palestinians. The occupation is the oxygen of their campaign, and the vast majority seek an end to it -- not to Israel itself. An Israel that fails to appreciate this and which sustains the occupation is the single most proximate cause of its own delegitimization.

It is still in our power, however, to change all of this. We can genuinely end the 1967 occupation and live up to our declared democratic ideals.

But if Israel does not take the lead, then let us at least hope that our remaining friends in the world will step forward with their own proposals and that we in turn will have the wisdom to say yes to them.

Enjoy the World Cup, and let's look forward to Israel's qualification in 2014 being all about soccer and blissfully devoid of politics.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Report from the Detroit Social Forum: Networking & sleeping around

I arrived at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit today -- without a clue about what I was getting myself into. But it turned out to be a very amazing gig. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people were there, all trying to rack their brains for solutions regarding what to do about America's numerous major problems. Plus everyone was networking like crazy. And the grandiose size of this vast event made past Teabagger conventions look pretty puny. I had NO idea that there were so many progressives still left in America.

And I too was out there networking like crazy and racking my brains -- but mainly about where I was going to be sleeping tonight.

When people came up to the Free Palestine Movement booth where I was working today, first I would try to set them straight about what is really happening in Palestine. "Palestinians are basically just people like you or me, except for one big difference -- they have the jackboots of the world's fifth largest military machine slammed down onto their throats."

"And why is that?"

If you ask me, it's because American weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists keep goading Israel to keep on acting crazy; to keep on acting in ways that anyone with half a brain could easily see is going to totally piss everyone else in the Middle East off. So. Why do they keep doing these stupid things that obviously don't work? Why? In order to create and maintain the perfect Endless War. You can't sell guns if you don't have a war. Duh.

Anyway, back at the booth. First I would cover all the salient points about what the FPM is doing to break the brutal blockade of Gaza -- such as organizing ships and boycotts and divestments and perhaps even planning to fly an airplane loaded with humanitarian supplies into Gaza. The semi-crazy right-wing fundies currently in charge of Israel's "Big Guns and F16s Department" wouldn't shoot down an airplane with little old ME on board, would they? Don't answer that.

Then, after I'd handed out all of my FPM brochures, I'd ask people where they were staying while at the convention. Here are some of the replies that I got:

1. "The Super 8 Motel."

"How much does it cost?" I asked.

"It's located way out on the freeway near Lansing, so it's reasonable."

"But how do you get there?"

"We rented a car." Oh. Screw that. Too expensive for me and no place to park it here anyway. Next person.

2. "I'm staying in a church. In a sleeping bag. On the floor." Oh.

3. "I live here in Detroit. I can bike over." Lucky you.

4. "I've got a really nice room at the Regency." Expensive. "But I'm sharing it with five other people so it's not so bad."

5. "We drove down from Canada. We're staying with friends." Rats. I have no friends in Detroit.

6. "I'm at the Doubletree. But my boyfriend is paying for it." I shoulda planned ahead and gotten a sugar daddy. What was I thinking!

7. "We came up from North Carolina. The Victory Motel. Out on Route 94. $60 a night." Yeah, and I bet that you have a car also.

8. "At the Clarion. $62 a night. No car. We take the 125 bus to the airport and then take a shuttle to our hotel." How long does that take you? "Two and a half hours."

9. A woman with a child had no idea where she was going to be staying. "We just got in from Ohio." I felt her pain.

10. "Holiday Inn. Right down the street." How much a night? "I'm not sure. I'm here with my parents." I wish I had parents.

11. "I'm just down from Ann Arbor for the day. 45 of us chartered a bus."

12. "In the dorms at Wayne University. 35 bucks a night. You get your own room." I'm there! But when I inquired around, I unfortunately found out that there was no there there.

Then my friends said I could stay with them at the Code Pink house. Okay. But then Medea Benjamin got detained while crossing the border back in from Canada and the person detained with her was the one who owned the house here in Detroit and so that deal fell through.

Finally I decided to just go sleep on a park bench over by the river next door to Cobo Hall. On my way to the park, however, I saw some shuttle buses lined up to take conventioneers back to Dearborn. So I just got into the line. I'd never been to Dearborn before. And, once in Dearborn, I was lucky enough to find a cheap room for the night. And it is a good thing that I did too because it would have been like Dante's Inferno out on that park bench because there is nothing outside my window right now except lots and lots of rain and brilliant and terrifying flashes of thunder and lightning.

But at least it's not Operation Cast Lead.

PS: Perhaps you have noticed that without a car I have been pretty much stuck here in downtown Detroit, without many options. They don't call this place the Motor City for nothing.

And when I finally did get onto that bus to Dearborn and hit the freeway, I noticed a lot of crumbling and deserted industrial buildings by the sides of the interchanges -- but the freeways themselves were freaking works of art as they cut through Detroit like knives through butter. No neighborhood seemed to be spared. Freeways definitely take priority here.

And my experiences here in Detroit only fortify my opinion that without gas and cars, America is pretty much screwed. Without gas and cars, we are pretty much stuck wherever we are -- be it in the inner city or out in the suburbs. We don't have to wait for "terrorists" to come and blow us up. We appear to be pretty much doing that to ourselves without any help already, thanks to our crippling reliance on oil and cars.

"Don't forget the Motor City...."

No gluten, no dairy: My search for the perfect éclair

Recently I met a doctor who told me, "The first thing that I do when I get a new patient is to take him entirely off gluten and dairy for a month. And chances are good that, if the patient takes my advice, whatever symptoms he has will improve." I also read where autistic children do better without dairy products or gluten.

Okay. I've got digestive problems. I'll try it. It works.

But then I ran into a really big snag -- Solvang. You just can't visit the Danish pastry capital of America without having an
éclair. And what an eclair it was too! Seven inches long, covered with chocolate, with both custard AND whipped cream for filling -- and with a yummy cherry sauce in there too.

Sometimes you just gotta break down and go off your diet.

Even back home in Berkeley and safely back on my "no gluten, no dairy" diet, I still kept having dreams and fantasies about that perfect Solvang
éclair. What to do? You really can't justify driving 250 miles just to score another éclair. Can you?

So I started Googling around for a list of bakeries in Berkeley. Berkeley has everything, right?

Andronico's had an
éclair on offer but it was one of those fancy gourmet eclairs and just wasn't squishy enough.

Telegraph Avenue's famous Eclair Bakery had gone out of business -- and the Pastry King across from the Med only sold muffins and donuts.

"Love At First Bite" only sold cupcakes. Sweet Adeline didn't carry eclairs. Crixa, that fabulous bakery around the corner from me where visual masterpiece cakes are lovingly created by hand, also didn't carry eclairs. Rats.

Hopkins Street Bakery only carried
éclairs with custard filling. I was only interested in ones with whipped cream.

Then there was Massa's. Their entry into my
éclair sweepstakes was GREEN. It was a very interesting éclair, with pink marzipan flowers on top and flavored with lemon zest. I'm glad I bought it. However, it was NOT a real éclair.

Virginia Bakery scored triumphant points with a good-looking, good-tasting traditional old-fashioned whipped cream

And Toots Sweet? I almost forgot about Toots Sweet but we were driving back from touring the Red Oak Victory ship that is part of the Rosie the Riveter Home Front national park in Richmond and we drove by Toots Sweet. "Have any
éclairs?" I asked.

"We're sold out now but will have some tomorrow. Our customers say that they are very good."

Even the Berkeley Bowl offered a yummy-looking mini-éclair -- but it too was only custard.

But the winner of my grand search for the perfect éclair? This will come as no surprise to residents of Berkeley. It was La Farine. OMG. They used both whipping cream and custard. But what really tipped the scales in their favor was that they used dark chocolate -- even better than Solvang!

PS: I'm currently reading some books by futurist James Howard Kunstler, including "The Long Emergency" and "World Made By Hand". In the future, Kunstler predicts, the demise of oil and gasoline will produce a society with no cars and no electricity. The Industrial Revolution will have become merely a small blip in the time-line of human history.

Also, the London Daily Mail has just reported that, "A solar superstorm could send us back into the dark ages -- and one is due in just three years: Within an hour, large parts of Britain are without power. By midnight, every mobile network is down and the internet is dying. Television -- terrestrial and satellite -- blinks off the air. Radio is reduced to a burst of static." And this black-out could go on for two or three years.

What does all this mean for the future of civilization? It means that we all need to run out and stock up on éclairs right NOW -- while our refrigerators are still running. At the very least, we need to start stocking up on our MEMORIES of éclairs.

PPS: The Free Palestine Movement (, famous for organizing the first boats to relieve Israel's brutal and illegal blockade of Gaza, just asked me to help them man their table at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. So I'm there now. Stop by my booth and I'll hand you a brochure.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Obesity at Disneyland: It's down from four years ago

Four years ago I spent Thanksgiving day at Disneyland and was shocked to see so many obese teenagers there -- touring the place in wheelchairs and scooters because they were too overweight to walk. This sight made a lasting impression on me. I'm talking about 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds weighing up to 400 or 500 pounds.

So when I returned to Disneyland again this year on assignment from my two-year-old granddaughter Mena, I expected to see more of the same -- and I was completely delighted when I didn't.

What I saw instead was a group of obese young adults. Apparently the teenagers that I had seen four years ago had now grown up -- but there wasn't so many of them as before. Why is that?

My thesis is that Americans have finally become aware that the high-fructose corn syrup in their sodas and the partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fats) in their fries have caused them to balloon up far beyond anything that has ever happened before in human history.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Almost all nutritionists finger high fructose corn syrup consumption as a major culprit in the nation's obesity crisis. The inexpensive sweetener flooded the American food supply in the early 1980s, just about the time the nation's obesity rate started its unprecedented climb."

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, " In animal studies, eating trans fat promotes obesity and resistance to insulin, the precursor to diabetes."

Several scientific studies have clearly indicated that the teens I had seen in Disneyland earlier weren't just ravenous gluttons who couldn't push themselves away from the table and who had no will power at all. These teenagers have been chemically poisoned for profit by the food industry.

How else can you explain this phenomena?

I recently ran into a young woman who I hadn't seen in approximately the last ten months -- and in that short time she had gained over 100 pounds. How the freak can you gain 100 pounds in less than a year? High-fructose corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, that's how.

And diet soda might also be to blame -- where your tongue sends a message to your brain that something sweet is heading toward your stomach, but then it never arrives -- and this drives your spleen, pancreas and liver crazy!

According to an ABC News report, "Calorie-conscious consumers who opt for diet sodas may gain more weight than if they drank sugary drinks because of artificial sweeteners contained in the diet sodas, according to a new study. A Purdue University study released Sunday in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience reported that rats on diets containing the artificial sweetener saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food, casting doubt on the benefits of low-calorie sweeteners."

Not only that, but our livers are trained to filter out any chemicals that it doesn't recognize as something that our ancestors were familiar with. And no liver is gonna be able to recognize artificial sweeteners from back in the caveman days! And so our livers get screwed. And so do we. Why? Because basically all that diet sodas consist of are water and chemicals. But I digress.

Even with time set aside for obesity research, we still had a marvelous time at Disneyland. Ashley wanted to go see Captain E-O. I wanted to go see Small World, to find out if they had messed it up with all those new changes (they hadn't). And Mena just wanted to see Pooh. We saw A LOT of Winnie the Pooh. "He's ALIVE!" exclaimed Mena.

Mena loved the Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise. She hated the Haunted Mansion. And she started out to not like the Pirates of the Caribbean but was won over after a few minutes -- although that night, she talked in her sleep and said, "I don't like pirates."

In any case, we sadly said goodbye to Disneyland after it closed at midnight and drove back to where we were staying in Inglewood, having had a truly wonderful time. And here's the video to prove it:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Help spread the truth: 49% of US still thinks humanitarian flotilla to blame for deaths on the high seas

According to a recent
Rasmussen poll, "Forty-nine percent (49%) of U.S. voters believe pro-Palestinian activists on the Gaza-bound aid ships raided by Israeli forces are to blame for the deaths that resulted in the high-profile incident."

Even despite numerous eye-witness reports to the contrary, even despite graphic footage showing Israeli commandos in full battle attire brandishing deadly weapons aboard the ship, even after Israel admitted having doctored the video showing passengers swinging bars (we don't even know if that was really the Mavi Marmara in that video)
-- and even despite autopsy reports showing that several of the nine dead flotilla humanitarians were killed execution style, myths in the United States still persist that these nine brutal deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara were the result of actions taken by flotilla participants and not as a result of Israeli armed assaults.

Clearly our side of the story is not being heard. Clearly our side of the story needs to get out too.

Please take a few moments of your time to write to your congressional representative, your local newspaper and/or your editor-in-chief, telling them about what actually happened and also to demand that Israel release all the footage taken by all the independent journalists aboard the six ships
. And here are some links you can use as solid proof to back up your statements:

Here's an eye-witness account published on
Democracy Now: "The Images Israel Didn’t Want Seen: Video and Photographs from the Gaza-Bound Aid Flotilla." Filmmaker and activist Iara Lee was one of the few Americans on-board the Mavi Marmara. Her equipment was confiscated but she managed to smuggle out an hour’s worth of footage.

And legendary Israeli reporter Uri Avnery has at least 80 questions regarding the veracity of official Israeli versions of what actually happened aboard the Mavi Marmara -- and why it happened:
. His article is entitled, "Who is Afraid of a Real Inquiry?"

And here's an article regarding FPM co-founder Paul Larudee's own experiences with Israeli commandos and prisons: "Captured and detained by Israel, an American tells his story":

And FPMer Joe Meadors also speaks about his experiences on another ship during the flotilla seizure: "43 Years After Surviving Israeli Attack on USS Liberty, US Veteran Joe Meadors Seized by Israeli Forces on Gaza Aid Flotilla".

In addition to helping us get the true story out in the written media, if you would like to sponsor FPM speakers to come to your community and paint a more accurate picture of what actually did happen on May 31, 2010, please let us know by e-mailing us at

There are so many well-funded and far-reaching media sources throughout the United States right now that are currently spreading vague accusations, half-truths and even outright lies about what happened when this unarmed, humanitarian, legally-justified Freedom Flotilla set out to break the brutal and inhumane siege of Gaza -- and there are so few of us who can counteract all of this intensive media disinformation -- that all we can do is ask for you to help get the truth out.

And not only do we need help getting the truth out, we also need help persuading our government officials to bring Israeli attackers to justice so that something like this tragic incident will never happen again -- to anyone.

Thank you.

PS: Here's a URL that will take you to FPM's "Take Action" page:

PPS: Another major flotilla is being planned for late July and I plan to be on it! To donate to my "Let's "Send Jane to Gaza!" fund, just click on and type in the appropriate box. Thanks. I've always wanted to go on an exciting Mediterranean cruise -- but not TOO exciting.


Investigating Israel's Attack on the Freedom Flotilla:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Does Israel have a right to exist? Yeah but...

Forget about Israel's right to exist. Let's talk about America's right to exist. And let's also talk about every other nation in the world's right to exist as well. At approximately what point does a nation -- any nation -- lose its right to exist?

When it stops behaving itself?

When it starts using its power and resources for obscenely selfish reasons -- or even for evil?

When a country deliberately starts breaking the world's rules as set forth in the U.N. charter and the Geneva convention, does it then forfeit its right to exist? When America not only condones torture but performs medical experiments on the victims of its tortures, has America gone too far?

Did America lose its right to exist by lying about the Tonkin Gulf incident in Vietnam or the non-existent WMD incident in Iraq? Does Israel lose its right to exist because it lied about what happened during the recent Freedom Flotilla incident?

In the past, our world community has decided that the Soviet Union, Corporatist Germany and Italy and Imperial Japan did not have a right to exist -- but at what point did these nations cross over the line? Is America and some of its allies slowly edging up to that line now?

Let's look at this issue from a personal level. For instance, would I lose my right to exist if I murdered someone? Can they send me to the electric chair if I maliciously take human life? And just exactly how much human life will I be allowed to take before I am no longer allowed to exist? Will I be allowed to kill over a million people before I am stopped? Even if I present a really good excuse? And make money on the deal as well? And get some extra oil and real estate thrown in?

"An eye for an eye..." the old saying goes. Does that mean that if Americans and/or their allies have killed hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people in the Middle East, then Middle Easterners will be perfectly justified in killing hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Americans in return?

At what point does a nation -- or even a person -- lose its right to exist?

How come murderers in Texas are given lethal injections but murderers in Washington become billionaires?

Where exactly DO we draw the line regarding who has a right to exist?

PS: This brings up another point as well: If a person or nation misbehaves, do we take them out and shoot them? Or just send them to bed without any dinner? And who decides on the punishment?

PPS: America has just proved to me that it DOES have a right to exist. I just took my two-year-old granddaughter to Disneyland -- and any country that can produce something as joyful as Disneyland might possibly have a shot at redemption.

PPPS: I just came back from my Jin Shin Jyutsu class, where I learned about how to make our kidneys and adrenal glands work better -- by gently holding certain places on our bodies for three minutes each.

Our class covered a lot of material today but basically I learned that, "Sometimes we exacerbate our adrenal glands' load by expecting the world to be different than it is. People with adrenal burn-out suffer from angst because they can't get the world to be the way that they want it to be. And the more that we try to control the outside world, the more frustrations we will have."

So how much control of the outside world is really necessary? Or even effective? Dictators and tyrants try too hard to control their worlds. Billionaires seem to think that if they only accumulate enough dinero they will also be able to control their world. And I bet that people like Saddam Hussein, Republican neo-cons, media censors, Israeli commandos and BP executives thought that if they just had enough money, jails or guns, they too would be in control. But guess what? You can't EVER control the world (or the people) around you. You'll never be able too -- no matter how hard you try.

Unjust punishment ALWAYS leads to resistance.

PPPPS: Here's a step-by step description of the Jin Shin Jyutsu exercise I was talking about. It's good for calming ourselves and stopping us from tearing our hair out because we cannot control the uncontrollable.

First, take your left hand and place it gently over your right baby toe, holding it lightly from its top to all the way down to the very base of its bone at the ball of your foot. And while you are holding your left hand over your right little toe, take your right hand and cup it lightly over your public bone. Pretend that you are a hip-hop star. Hold this position for three minutes.

Jin Shin Jyutsu points are much larger than acupuncture points, BTW. Each one is the size of the palm of your hand. You pretty much can't miss them.

Next take your left hand and place it over your coccyx and just leave it there until further notice. Then take your right hand and place it over the middle of your bottom left front rib. Hold that position for three minutes too.

Feeling calmer already? We're almost half-way done. Persevere, okay?

Next, with your left hand still lightly clutching your coccyx, move your right hand to your left top front rib, right under your collar bone. This is the "I Pledge Allegiance" hold. Three minutes more.

And, last, keeping your left hand still on your butt, cup your right hand onto the back of your neck, on the left side, just behind your left ear. And hold that for three minutes -- and then you're done.
Here's the video:

And you can do this whole thing while watching TV if you want. "Survivor" or "Big Brother" would be good shows to watch. No one can truly control who will get voted off next on those shows.

And if everyone in the world everywhere did this exercise every single day, then perhaps we might not have so many blooming control freaks trying to run our world -- trying to run MY world. Then torture chambers and vast checkpoints and nuclear weapons and religious fanatics and Wall Street bailouts might no longer be necessary -- as people stop trying to control others and work more on trying to get their own selves under control.


Dr. Paul Larudee showing bruises inflicted on him when he was repeatedly beaten by the Israeli military during his detention

Monday, June 07, 2010

Corporatists' real target: Teabaggers, America, you, me & Marcy Winograd

I'm down here in Los Angeles at the LAX Motel 6, getting ready to take my two-year-old granddaughter off to Disneyland. At least that's the plan. You never can tell with two-year-olds. According to "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," they are basically cavemen -- unpredictable! But I digress.

Anyway, this Motel 6 has wi-fi so when I checked my FaceBook page this morning, my friend Les Aaron had made the following comment:
"During the time that America's infrastructure has fallen apart and we haven't been able to find money to fill potholes or rebuild bridges, China went from being a nation of peasants to a country of 121 modern cities with populations of over one million. In ten years, they built a city of skyscrapers in Southern China from nothing -- at the same time that we were talking about leasing our roads and our ports to foreign interests. Something has to change."

Les also stated that, "Over 1,750 out of 1,900 of WalMart's leading suppliers are based in Asia. This is money flowing out of our country. No big deal, you say? Consider that WalMart is an entire category by itself. Its 400 billion-plus annual sales is more than our entire retailing sector combined. More than the business of Sears, Macys, Target, KMart, and...
all other retailers combined!"

And then there's all the American money that has been sucked up by Wall Street in the past 30 years. And all the American money that has disappeared down the rat-hole of "war".

And who has benefited from all this -- if not us? Lobbyists, politicians, corporatists, weapons manufacturers and a couple handfuls of nefarious faceless billionaires who you and I will never EVER meet face to face.

And who loses? You, me and even the Teabaggers who now seem to be so up in arms about everything except what really counts -- outsourcing, Wall Street bailouts and War.

So here I am down in Los Angeles, staying in Inglewood, and steeling myself to spend a day in Disneyland with a two-year-old -- when I drive past a campaign poster for a Democratic candidate for Congress, and the poster actually reads, "Jobs not War". When have I EVER seen anything like that before!

Then I drive a little bit further and there's another poster. "Homes not Banks". Get outta town! Who IS this Marcy Winograd? And why aren't all Americans, even Teabaggers, demanding not only that Winograd get elected but also that someone like her get elected by every Congressional district in America!

Screw warmongers. Screw Wall Street. Screw WalMart. I want my country back. "Jobs not War"!

PS: And while we are happily visiting some home truths here in LaLaLand, let's also take a closer look at Israel's recent violent attack on humanitarian aid ships in the Mediterranean.
Israel has been trying to justify this brutal and illegal attack due to religious grounds or on the grounds of trying to protect its own safely or because it simply doesn't like its own creation, Hamas.

But the real motivation of Israel's attack and, indeed, the whole siege of Gaza itself, seems to be in order to keep things stirred up in the Middle East. Nothing else makes sense. If Israel was acting rationally, the Israel-Palestine problem would have been solved 20 years ago. However, if there is no peace in the Middle East, then there's no excuse to spend American money on "war". Your money. MY money. Israel appears to have been used (once again) as a cats-paw by corporatists, war lobbyists and all those money-grubbing billionaires who will NEVER be our friends or ask US over for dinner.

Winograd is right. "Jobs not War"!

PPS: Now we're off to Disneyland. I'll let you know how that goes.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Gypsy cabbie:

Author's note: The editors of Subversify Magazine ( are holding a writing competition for the best story written on the topic of either gypsies or carnies or cowboys. The winner gets chocolate. I'm there!

So here's the story I sent them. Wish me luck!

Gypsy cabbie: My windshield tour of Queens, New York

After attending the closing authors' breakfast at the 2010 Book Expo last week and listening to Jon Stewart, Condoleezza Rice and John Grisham talk about their new publications, it was time to fly back home to Berkeley -- loaded down with 50 pounds of free books.

Hauling 50 pounds of free books through the New York subway system to JFK airport in 90-degree heat is a daunting task. Trust me, I know. This is the third time that I've done it. Thank goodness for roll-away luggage but still...they obviously built those subways back before there were elevators.

To get down to below street-level with all those books, there's a trick to it. You gotta stand at the top of the subway entrance and look pathetic until someone offers to help carry your suitcase down all those stairs. Usually it's a young African-American, Latino or Arabic male whose mama has raised him right -- to be polite and helpful to little old ladies in distress. But I digress.

Laden down with lots of stuff, I checked out of my hostel and started to head for the 28th Street station on the Lexington line -- and was immediately stopped by some young Latino guy in a dark gray suit, a dark blue dress shirt and a pink silk tie. "Would you like me to drive you to the airport?" he asked.

Would I? Yeah, duh. But how much would it cost?

"Fifty-five dollars. No tip. I'll pay the bridge toll." Hmmm. Nah. Too expensive. But still.... It would be really nice not to have to lug around all these books.

"I'll flip you for it," I replied. "Do you want heads or tails?"

"Tails." It came out heads. "I'll do it for 50 dollars." Heads again. "I'll do it for 50 dollars and buy you a cup of coffee on the way." Heads again. Sorry about that.

But I was still seriously dreading taking that two-hour ride on the subway with all those books. "Look," I said, "how about you drive me to JFK but stop by Second Avenue on the way there. I have an errand to run."


Whenever I can, I always stop by B&H Dairy on the Lower East Side, on Second Avenue between Seventh Stree and St. Marks Place. I've been addicted to their kosher rice pudding since 1965. B&H used to be run by a Jewish family. Then it was run by a Puerto Rican family. Now it is run by a family that appears to be Ukrainian. But B&H is still kosher -- and still delicious (they also make an excellent borscht),

Anyway, Edward, my sharp-dressing Lexis-driving gypsy cabbie, waited for me outside B&H and then we were off to the airport and he started telling me about his life story.

"My grandmother was born in El Salvador and she came up here to work as a housekeeper and she really missed her family and so she moved back home. But then the people she had worked for here missed her and said that if she came back to New York, they would sponsor my mom and me to move here too. I was about one year old at that time. And now I'm a college graduate and an accountant."

"So why did you decide to do this instead of that?"

"I like to move around." Me too!

Then we got to talking about El Salvador. "I loved El Salvadore," I said. "Archbishop Romero's grave, Mayan ruins, Pollo Campero chicken...."

"Pollo Campero! You know that they've got one in Queens now?" Get out of town! "Want to go see it on the way to the airport?" Good grief, yes.

But then we got lost. Lost in Queens. It was so very Fran Dreiser. It was SO Ugly Betty. America Ferrera, where are you when we need you! We drove around for a whole hour.

"Sorry," said Edward. No problem. I got my very own windshield tour of Queens. How cool is that.

Then we both got the Pollo Campero chicken dark-meat two-piece special with a side of fried plantains. The chicken was a bit dry. And then Edward got me to the airport on time. And then my plane was two hours late.

Pollo Campero. In Queens. Who would have thought.

PS: If you ever need a ride to the JFK airport, some rice pudding or a windshield tour of Queens, here's Edward's digits (he gave me his card): 347-414-0230. He's not really a genuine gypsy cabbie because he's all licensed and stuff but he is the only almost-gypsy I know -- besides myself.

PPS: My son Joe is currently working on a new Indie film by director Maria Breaux and so he's been on the road for the last few weeks, filming in Albuquerque, Austin and El Paso. And now the crew is finishing up the film in Los Angeles. And I'm going to drive down there next week and meet him and try to get a job on the set as an extra. I do a fabulous bag lady imitation.

The name of Breaux's film is "Mother Country". It's a coming-of-age road trip movie and is bound to be fabulous. Here's a blurb on it:

And while I am down in L.A., me, Ashley and two-year-old Mena are also hoping to go to Disneyland -- so that I can do some investigative reporting on the teenage obesity problem in America. If you wanna investigate teenage obesity, Disneyland is definitely the place to go!


Please vote for me by June 12 so that I can win a scholarship to the Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas this July! Vote here:

Thursday, June 03, 2010

My front-row seat: Barbra Streisand tells all at the NYC Book Expo

At the 2010 Book Expo in New York City recently, the keynote speaker was Barbra Streisand. “No videos, no photographs and no taping during the event please,” they told us beforehand – so I just took notes like crazy. If I didn’t get Streisand’s words exactly right or get all of the words down, it’s my fault. But I really tried. I even sat in the very front row.

“How many people do you think are at this talk?” I asked a woman sitting next to me, but she didn’t know. So I started counting all the people myself. I was up to 75 when an usher asked me what the freak I was doing. “Counting the house.”

“2,700 people.” Oh.

Streisand was here at the Expo in order to plug her new book, “My Passion for Design,” all about her experiences in building her dream house. And on the cover of the book, there’s a photo of her and her little white dog. Then, just before the lights went down, a man came out of the wings, carrying that very same little white dog. How totally cool! I just saw Streisand’s dog in the audience!

Then someone introduced Streisand. “She has spent the last ten years obsessing about getting her home just the way she wanted it,” said the person doing the introduction. “We went to her home recently and were supposed to only interview her for half an hour but we ended up staying for four and a half hours, fascinated with the craftsmanship and attention to detail that she put into her home. And all the care that she has put into her house, she has also put into her book.”

Then Gayle King came out on stage. She’s an editor and collaborator for Oprah Winfrey and was going to conduct the interview. Then Streisand walked out and got a 2,700-person standing ovation.

“Everybody knows that Barbra doesn’t like orange,” said King, “so I changed the color of my toenail polish color just for this event.” And if King is gonna call her Barbra, then so am I. “You seem to be a very private person, so why did you decide to let everyone into your home?”

“When I was directing 'Prince of Tides,’ the script called for an old southern mansion and I needed to design that house – so I did. I did everything, including the closets. We live in our closets, don’t we? I visualized a two-story closet even, but never got to actually build that house. And then I wanted to do a movie, ‘The Normal Heart,’ and this project fell apart too. So instead of making the movie, I built a house.

“I have kept journals over the years and wanted to write an autobiography but that was hard so I wrote a book about design instead. It was easier.”

One subject that keeps coming up in the book, apparently, is the play between opposing forces. “The tension of opposites intrigues me – such as masculine wood combined with feminine roses. And also the soft complimenting the hard.”

“You had a hard childhood growing up?”

“We never had a couch. For me, couches were special. We sat on the dining room chairs. A1940s reproduction of European furniture. My brother slept on a roll-away cot. Then my mother remarried and we moved to a housing project and we finally got a couch. It was an ugly couch but I loved it.”

“So. What’s the matter with orange?” And Gayle also gently needled Barbra about not liking yellow either.

“I don’t know why I don’t like it.” Barbra doesn’t even have orange fish. They are mostly black and white. “Other people like orange. That’s fine with me. I personally just don’t like orange. It must be psychological, left over from our childhoods. When I was young, I went to a health camp because I was anemic. And we all had to dress the same – except that I had a burgundy sweater that the woman who watched me during the day knit for me. A burgundy sweater. With wooden buttons."

Barbra really cares about detail. “I feel that the exterior of a house should match its interior.“ Good grief. She even matches the flowers in her garden with her couch.

“There’s a chapter the book called ‘The Elegant Barn’.” Then a photo of the elegant barn flashed onto a big screen on the stage. And the barn really was elegant. It had a waterwheel and everything. No, wait, that was the Mill House that had the waterwheel. There are four or five structures on the property. Streisand’s place is huge. It has a whole bunch of buildings, not just the house.

“I like photography and I also like the process of building. I took most of the photos in the book myself.”

And Barbra herself apparently had collected a lot of the furnishings found inside her home. “What is people’s reaction when you show up when you’re antiquing?”

“I don’t even notice. I’m too tied up in the search.”

Then Gayle changed the subject to Barbra’s recordings and movies. “You don’t like to look at your records or movies after you’ve done them?”

“Because there is so much work going into them. I’m so sick of a record by the time I’m through with it that I never want to hear it again!”

“If you had to pick a favorite song...”

“That’s a terrible question. Don’t ask me that. I don’t want to offend any of my songs!"

Then they got back to talking about the house. “Here’s a photo of the Mill House. The beams inside are 200 years old. It’s both a curse and a blessing to see things the way I do.” Streisand tends to be a perfectionist and to want things to be perfect – which has its good and bad aspects. “I see symmetry and that’s sometimes a curse because you can always see what is wrong. Like in that photo of the mirror – it’s 3/8 of an inch off. There are things that you have to compromise on and accept what the universe is presenting -- so you have to accept what is here. But sometimes I don’t like to take no for an answer.” But she is also aware that sometimes you have to.

“One time a stone mason ripped out a little hill and replaced it with concrete blocks. But I had just returned from the north of England where there were no concrete blocks -- so I had to say no.”

“She let another contractor go,” said Gayle, “because he made a storm cellar too large because he thought he was bound by the building code.”

“I have two men who work for me and if I need something done, then they do it. They have no patience with waiting. I’ve worked with these men for years. But professionals promise everything and don’t deliver.”

She is also sometimes taken advantage of. “There is that factor; it’s a reality. They will charge me more because I am Barbara Streisand.”

“But you like what you create.”

“When I was growing up, I had a hot water bottle instead of a doll and my caregiver knit her a little pink sweater. But it made me use my imagination. And I don’t regret it. It added to my success.”

And Barbra, who was raised in Brooklyn, has a fondness for the architecture of the northeast. “Architects in the western United States use Douglas fir because they work in the west. I was disappointed with western architects because they don’t know about eastern architecture.” I think she was talking about the use of mortar and bricks.

“Does your home remind you of your childhood house?”

“No. My childhood home was a $40-a-month apartment.”

Barbra also had something to say about the color red. “I do appreciate a good red -- I’m not that crazy -- but I prefer red in a lipstick.”

While Barbra doesn’t miss or regret anything that she has given away, she hates it when she loses things. “There was this pin that you wanted,” said Gayle, “and you tracked it down and paid four times too much for it -- but don’t wear it.”

“It’s the hunt that I like. I never had a father. You can’t get a person back -- but you can always get an object back.”

“Do your regret being called a perfectionist?”

“I search for excellence. And I also understand that nothing is perfect.” I thought that the interviewer was being a bit hard on poor Barbra and had a sort of pushy tone of voice, but Barbra didn’t seem to mind and talked openly and candidly about whatever subject the interviewer brought up. Listening to Barbra talking onstage before 2,700 people was less like listening to a performance and more like eavesdropping on two people conversing in private.

“When I worked with one contractor, he had his vision and I had mine. People called me difficult because a contractor said to me, ‘Can’t you just leave the plans with me and leave?'”

She had a draftsman or two on site most of the time. “Who is going to notice if a beam is off? I will. And if it’s off, it’s off. They say that men are commanding but women are demanding. I make no apologies. They say that a man is a perfectionist, while a woman is just a pain in the ass.”

She also thought that a king-sized bed is too big for two people and that a queen-sized bed is too small. “So I built a bed that was in between. And I used king-sized sheets and pulled them tighter with a string.”

“But wouldn’t that be tacky?”

“Hey, sometimes I can be tacky.”

“You? Not you!”

Then Barbra and Gayle talked about cars. “I never drive. My husband drives. I found myself going up a down-ramp on a freeway one day and realized that my mind was too occupied with other things to drive.”

“Does your husband accept that you do everything at the house?”

“But I don’t. He designed his part of the house, and I like that about him. He has a life of his own.”

“Where does your fascination with details come from?”

“Perhaps from my dad. He died when he was 35 and I was 15 months old. But he was a scholar. He taught English at a reform school. His thesis was about Shakespeare and Ibsen. So what is the DNA? I didn’t find that out until I was doing Yentl, when I discovered some of his old books.” And it surprised her that she too loves Shakespeare and Ibsen.

“I don’t like TV. My husband has a TV on his damn wall, but I hide them. And for a while I hid my awards too, thought it was too egotistical.”

And during the time that she worked on her house, for five of those years she was hoarse from shouting above the whine of power equipment. “And the house took so long to do that I just recently had to redo the den -- based on a room that I saw 20 years ago. And it was a challenge to do that in just three weeks.”

“Do you have a junk drawer in your house?”

“I have several.”

Then as the interview ended and Barbra left the stage, she laughingly asked Gayle, “Can I take the flowers home?”

Since no one was allowed to take photographs, I didn't. But almost EVERYONE in the room was snapping away surreptitiously. You could hear the cameras click and whir everywhere. So I figured I'd at least video part of the interview. My bad. So here's my YouTube URL: But only the sound part came out. I hope that I don't get sued.

PS: As you may or may not remember, I had a choice of going to NYC to see Barbra or going on that ill-fated humanitarian aid flotilla to break the illegal siege of Gaza. And, due to financial constraints, I chose going to New York. But boy did I miss a hecka good story in the Mediterranean! The boat I would have sailed on got hijacked! You can't get a better story than that.

According to an article in Global Research entitled "Terror on Aid Ship: Plan Was to Kill Activists and Deter Future Convoys," all hell broke loose when the Israeli navy illegally seized the flotilla ships.

"An Arab member of the Israeli parliament who was on board the international flotilla that was attacked on Monday as it tried to take humanitarian aid to Gaza accused Israel yesterday of intending to kill peace activists as a way to deter future convoys. Haneen Zoubi said Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the flotilla’s flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and fired on it a few minutes before commandos abseiled from a helicopter directly above them."

Global Research's article also stated that, "Terrified passengers had been forced off the deck when water was sprayed at them. She said she was not aware of any provocation or resistance by the passengers, who were all unarmed. [The Knesset member also] added that within minutes of the raid beginning, three bodies had been brought to the main room on the upper deck in which she and most other passengers were confined. Two had gunshot wounds to the head, in what she suggested had been executions. Two other passengers slowly bled to death in the room after Israeli soldiers ignored messages in Hebrew she had held up at the window calling for medical help to save them. She said she saw seven other passengers seriously wounded."

One of the dead was a United States citizen.

The article then quotes the Knesset member further: “'Israel had days to plan this military operation,' she told a press conference in Nazareth. 'They wanted many deaths to terrorize us and to send a message that no future aid convoys should try to break the siege of Gaza.'”

So. I missed getting terrorized and executed? Wow.

Wonder what happened to the eight ships and the 10,000 tons of humanitarian cargo? It went on to Gaza? Yeah right. I'll bet you anything that somebody somewhere scored a big bunch of booty on that one!

PPS: Here's my report on the experiences of my friend Paul Larudee, who was also on board the flotilla:
Update on Paul Larudee: Non-violent pacifist badly beaten by Israeli commandos
By Jane Stillwater

San Francisco Bay Area resident Paul Larudee, who is instrumental in Berkeley's Free Palestine Movement, was taken and detained when Israeli commando forces boarded ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on Monday. The ships were in international waters. Official Israeli sources are stating that their peaceful boarding parties were met with violent resistance by passengers on the ships they were boarding and that the boarding parties only used force when necessary to protect themselves.

However, I have known Paul for many years and his whole credo is one of non-violent resistance. Working with the NorCal branch of the International Solidarity Movement since approximately 1996, Paul is very much a believer in and practitioner of Gandhi's principles of non-violence.

Given what I myself know about Paul, it seems rather odd that Paul would have been mercilessly beaten by Israeli forces. Yet I and other members of FPM just received the following e-mail stating that he was badly and, according to another e-mail I just received, "brutally" beaten:

"Hello, my name's Lindsey, I'm living with Betty Larudee while her husband Paul is overseas with the Gaza flotilla. We just got an email from the Israeli Consulate General Andrew Parker in Jerusalem.

"He said that Paul is alive and seriously beaten. Paul told him to call us so this is the closest contact we've had so far. He asked us to spread the word as much as possible. Betty was the one that talked to Parker but now she is upset and doesn't want to talk to anyone until she gets an email from the consulate tomorrow.

"Paul silently refused to follow Israeli orders so they beat him. Now he's being held in prison. He's in the same room with the captain of the boat. They have no windows, no telephone, nothing. He refused treatment by Israeli doctors, and only let the ship doctor give him aspirin."

Furthermore, I am currently receiving several other reports from various European, Greek and Turkish eyewitnesses that the Israeli boarding forces hit the ground running, armed with stun guns, tear gas, metal batons, rubber bullets, etc., and with clearly violent intent.

PPPS: I just got the following e-mail from Paul, who is currently receiving medical treatment in Greece:

"I and my colleagues are practitioners of nonviolent resistance, in the tradition of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others. I have not struck anyone in decades, and refuse to do so. However, I also refuse to comply with illegal procedures and activities. Unfortunately, this fact was apparently lost on our captors. Their operating principle seems to be that if pain and misery fail to achieve compliance, apply more pain and misery. There's hardly a joint in my body that was not twisted, or a bare patch of exposed skin that is not now multicolored."

And, yes, the Israeli hijacking really WAS illegal -- under the Geneva Convention (a document that American legislators signed on to originally but now pretty much chose to ignore).


Please vote for me ASAP so that I can get a scholarship to the Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas this July! Vote here: