Saturday, December 30, 2017

Getting ahead of the Ahed Tamini story....

     Did a sixteen-year-old Palestinian girl named Ahed Tamimi actually dare to slap an Israeli soldier?  Yeah she did.  And not only once but a bunch of times too.  How and why?  Listen up.  Here's the true story.  You heard it here first.

    Ahed and her BFF were just sitting around the house playing Candy Crush or whatever, when Ahed looked out her window and saw two Israeli soldiers enter the yard.  "Hey, you -- you with the body armor and the assault rifle and the stun gun," she said to the occupying invader.  "What the freak are you doing in my front yard!"   

     The occupying invader ignored Ahed.  Maybe he and his buddy had only just stepped inside the gate to take a piss?

     Then Ahed lightly poked at the occupying invader's arm a few times, just to get his attention because he was rudely ignoring her.  "This land is mine," she said.  "God gave this land to me..."  Or words to that effect.  And that's when the occupying invader suddenly hauled off and hit her -- and then Ahed slapped him back.  Oops.

   And then the BFF and the mom and the sister and the aunt all came out, held hands and made stink-eyes at the O.I. -- and the occupying invader backed away.  End of story?  Not.  The occupying invader came back late that night with even more buddies and more stun guns and assault rifles and, well, you know the drill.  Off to jail.

     That's just what happens when you object to Israeli soldiers cluttering up your front yard like some weird armed-to-the-teeth lawn gnomes. 


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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holiday blues: How I survived Christmas's war on Me

     When I was growing up, Christmas was always an ordeal.  My father was postmaster in our town and he always worked 15 hours a day during the pre-Christmas rush.  My mother always seemed to come down with pneumonia.  And my sister always got her physical work-out by beating me up.  I hated Christmas in Millbrae.  Christmas in Millbrae still haunts my dreams.

     So this year I decided to take the bull by the horns and actually spend Christmas in the belly of the beast -- exorcising the ghosts of Millbrae Christmas Past once and for all.  So I took a room at the Inn (obviously not the one in Bethlehem) and then drove around.

     I drove past my childhood home.  I drove past my old school.  I walked around the main street.  I got more and more depressed.  Back then I was an outcast, my high school's only Beatnik.  And here I am now, years later, still on the outside looking in -- like that old fairy tale about the little match girl.  Poor me!

     But then I trudged back to the Inn and checked my e-mail.  SO many sad stories there.  The Walker fire in San Diego.  Saudi Arabia's cruel plan to starve 17 million Yemenis to death.  The arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, Palestine's own Joan of Arc (along with an Israeli journalist's article demanding that she be tortured and raped while in prison).  The tyranny in Honduras, the typhoon in the Philippines, the idiocy in Washington DC.

     And then I started to feel better.  And then I even started to feel lucky and blessed.  l even realized that Christmas wasn't making war so much on me after all -- although American "Christians" seem to be making "war" on everyone, both here and abroad.

       And then a Christmas miracle happened.  My daughter Tanya showed up, took me out for the best Chinese food ever and spent the entire meal telling me what a wonderful mother I had been.  Doesn't get much better than that.  And her friend Anthony turned out to be one of the very few people in this whole world (besides me) who still knew how to dance the Four Corners!

     Nobody knows what the New Year will bring -- but I am hoping with all of my heart that it will finally bring peace to the world, and that all our wealth and hopes will no longer be squandered on creating a cruel and worthless American empire that benefits none of us except the shamelessly wealthy and the heartlessly mean.  And also I am hoping for many more trips to that wonderful Chinese restaurant in Millbrae.

PS:  About that so-called war on Christmas that the alt-right is always yelling about?  Bah humbug, just another example about how America's so-called "Christians" have got it so dangerously wrong.  Their idea of a "real" Christmas is when everyone  runs out and buys stuff that they can't afford -- in the name of Jesus.  Huh?  So much for fitting through the eye of a needle.

PPS:  My eight-year-old HP Pavilion Slimline computer just bit the dust, and now I'm using the public library's Intel Core to check my e-mail.  Santa didn't bring me a new computer for Christmas.  Obviously.  Does that give me a good reason to declare War on Santa?


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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Silent night: 12 weeks after the Wine Country fire

    I recently got a chance to spend a night at The Bergson, an upscale bed-and-breakfast in Calistoga, CA.  I jumped at the chance.

     And while I was up there, my childhood friend Ron offered to take me on a tour of the ruins of the Wine Country fire.  I jumped at that chance too.  All those hundreds of sad, broken and incinerated ruins of homes that we saw made me just want to cry.

     Here we are, just hours before Christmas, all snug in our beds -- and all those other families that lost their homes in that catastrophe, over 1,500 of them, have no room at the inn.

     "At midnight on October 6, 2017, a small fire started in the mountains above Calistoga," my friend Ron told me.  "By 4:00 am, the fire was already burning down homes 30 miles away...."  Who would have thought that a fire could travel that fast.

     "There were 80-mile-per-hour winds that night."  Who could have predicted stuff like that?

     And now, over two months later, these firestorm victims will soon be facing their first post-nightmare Christmas.  "Some of these victims are still sleeping on the couches of relatives.  Some have moved out of the area to places where rents are cheaper.  Some live in RVs and shower at YMCAs.  Before the fire, there was a 5% housing vacancy rate in this area.  Now 5% of the housing stock here has been totally destroyed."

     Seeing all those acres and acres and acres of ruins -- ruins of multi-million-dollar mansions and ruins of paycheck-to-paycheck trailer parks -- brought tears to my eyes.

     If your home was destroyed in that horrible fire, please know this:  Although the American news cycle may have forgotten about you and moved on to the next front-page story, many of us Americans have not forgotten you.  And to all of you who are homeless?  We wish you a merry Christmas.  And also a good night.  And a roof over your heads on Christmas morning as well.

PS:  Paying our taxes to the federal government is exactly like buying life insurance -- and auto insurance and fire insurance and insurance against theft.

     And yet when a disaster strikes and it actually comes time to collect on our insurance policies (like after the Wine Country fire or the Walker fire or Katrina or Hugo or Maria), at a time when we most desperately need it?  That's when we suddenly discover that our tax money has all been embezzled -- brazenly stolen by corporate con-men, sleazy "war" contractors, ponzi-scheme banksters and all those white-collar criminals in the White House, congress and the supreme court that Wall Street and War Street lobbyists have forced down our throats.

     Sucks to be us.

PPS:  I myself be spending Christmas in my old home town, trying to exorcise the ghosts of Senator McCarthy that haunted 1950s Millbrae, and also an unhappy childhood spent living in a small house with two parents who refused to speak to each other.  But at least I had a roof over my head.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Freud, Jung, dreams...and nuclear weapons

     Let's take a look at the big picture first.  

     The Pentagon is currently in charge of approximately 9,600 nuclear warheads.  They also own approximately 9,347 lethally-armored drones.  And on the local level in America, SWAT teams here conduct approximately 50,000 raids a year -- cops driving around in wannabe tanks and dressing like Transformers.  Plus untold numbers of American militias and bad guys have weapon arsenals like you wouldn't believe.  And  if that isn't enough to give us nightmares, our very own President and Congressional representatives mostly consist of out-and-out warmongers working for Lockheed, Raytheon, that crook Netanyahu, Saudi baby-killers and the NRA -- and our very own CIA secretly slips billions of our tax dollars into the pockets of al Qaeda and ISIS.

     And then of course there are the more mundane dangers that Americans face on a day-to-day basis -- bill collectors, jealous ex-husbands, car accidents, stressful performance anxiety, irate family members, kidnappers, pederasts, rapists, terrorist threats, school shootings and violence on television 24 hours a day.  And then there's also the ever-constant threat of dying from cancer, Altzheimers, obesity, iatrogenic medicine, high blood pressure, toxic chemicals, radioactive waste and/or lack of health insurance. 

     In America, is there no place left that is safe?

     Yeah, there is. 

     There really is one place in America that is completely and totally safe.  We are completely and totally safe inside of our own dreams -- no matter what Freud and Jung have to say.

     And not only are we completely safe inside of our own dreamtime -- but we are powerful too.

     All the nuclear weapons and military might that those power-mad bastards and bullies in Washington have access to?  They are all totally worthless, impotent and useless to get inside of our dreams and hurt us.  "Nah-nanny-nanny-nah!"  You can't catch me, fool.  "This is MY dream."

      All of those wannabe American bullies' huge stockpiles of weapons can (and will) overwhelm and control us in real life, but they don't have any control at all in our dream worlds.  We do.  They, for all their sick firepower and weaponry up the wazoo, are helpless to do anything at all in our dreams.  They've wasted all their damn money (and ours too) for nothing.  In our dreams, they are merely pathetic playground bullies who are still afraid of being dragged off to the principal's office and sent to detention.

     And no matter how many dollars that wealthy men on Wall Street can stockpile in their bulletproof vaults, they still can't harm us in our dreams either.  They can evict us and leave us homeless in real life or steal our pensions or gleefully send our jobs off to China -- but they can never get to us in our dreams.

    Just the thought of this fact makes me feel better -- but only a little bit.  Because one other fact still remains.  We as Americans shouldn't have to be hiding out in our dreams in order to feel safe. 

     What is wrong with this country!

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Friday, December 08, 2017

"Anything Trump can do, Netanyahu can do better..."

     Remember that old song, "Anything you can do, I can do better"?  Well, it's time to give it a more modern twist and bring it up to date.  Apologies to Irving Berlin.  Here's a more contemporary version: 

     Any lie Trump can tell, Netanyahu can prevaricate better.

     Any bullying of journalists Trump can do, Netanyahu can bully the press better -- although you gotta admit that Trump is hecka better at Twitter.

    Any neo-con undemocratic elitist fascist racist greedy thing Trump can do, Netanyahu can do way better (only don't use the F-word with Bibi or you'll be accused of being anti-Semitic).

     Any influencing of U.S. elections Trump can do, Netanyahu can influence them better.

     Any clandestine support for ISIS and al Qaeda that Trump can do, Netanyahu can do far better (and more clandestinely too!)

     Any womanizing Trump can do, Netanyahu has already done it -- they both cheated on their first wives.  I seriously doubt, however, that their third wives ever let them out of the house alone any more.

     Any religious hypocrisy Trump can do, Netanyahu can (and does) do better.  Not since Roman times has Judaism been used to such an elaborate extent as a flaming-hot excuse to commit grand larceny.  Trump's use of Christianity to line his own pockets pretty much fades in comparison.

     Any moving of the Israeli capital to Jerusalem that Trump can do, Netanyahu has already done better (by moving the capital of America to Tel Aviv of course).

     Any civil rights Trump can trample on, Netanyahu can trample on better.

     Any oil pipeline spill on native land or other ecological disaster Trump can create, Netanyahu has already gone there.

     Any Wall that Trump can build, Netanyahu already built one better (and one that's even more of a waste of American taxpayers' money).

     So.  What's my moral here?  That if you like The Donald at all, then you are really gonna love The Bibi.

     But if you hate Trump (and also Ronnie Popular, Tricky Dick and the Bush Brothers) for the mess he's created, then perhaps you should avoid Netanyahu altogether in order to keep your blood pressure down.

     "But if Netanyahu is so much better than Trump in so many ways," you might ask, "then perhaps America should just put Bibi in the White House instead?"  Oops, too late.  America already does have Netanyahu in the White House.  My bad.

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Friday, December 01, 2017

"13 Reasons Why": Suicide by propaganda

     I'm so full of gloom and doom these days that nobody even invites me to parties any more and most of my out-going e-mails end up in the spam box.  Relatives avoid me during holidays and I don't even like to spend time with my own self.

     Still and all, there really is a hecka lot of stuff to be sad and gloomy about these days.  I myself can easily think of at least 13 reasons why things are rapidly going to Hell in a hand-basket around here -- and yet even despite of all this, I am constantly being told again and again that all my clearly-obvious reasons for running screaming into the night are actually good things that are all making the world a better place.

     Yes, Big Pharma keeps selling us dangerous snake-oil medications that do us more harm than good -- yet we're still afraid to stop taking them because Big Pharma will get all pissed off at us if we do.  And we're also afraid to complain about all our constant super-saturation by propaganda commercials on TV for medicine that we really don't need.  And 225,000 Americans die each year from iatrogenic diseases -- diseases caused by medical treatment.  "Relax!" Big Pharma tells us.  "These pills are good for you!"  Except for the deadly side effects of course.

     And, yes, recent dramatic changes in our climate really are going to kill us -- despite what oil-baron propaganda keeps preaching to us night and day.  And "war" is the number-one cause of adverse climate change too.  All the various weapons that America sells to the Saudis, rains down on Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Gaza, etc. and uses to attack Americans in our very own cities will eventually come back and bite us in the butt in the form of floods and wildfires and droughts. So much fun!

     And, yes, the CIA really did assassinate John Kennedy, blow up the Twin Towers and embroil us in endless and unnecessary "war" in the Middle East -- even though we are bombarded daily (still!) with propaganda telling us otherwise.

     And, yes, 17 million people in Yemen really are being systematically starved to death by America and the House of Saud -- no matter what NYT propaganda tells us to the contrary.  Remember when Haile Selassie begged the League of Nations to save his country from genocide by fascists back in 1936?  And we all stood back and did nothing?  It's like that.

     And, yes, the German people were brainwashed by Nazi propaganda -- and look where that got them.  Then look where it's getting us.

     And, yes, America spends far more money on nuclear weapons than it does on repairing our infrastructure and educating our kids.  I think that the dollar-to-dollar ratio is approximately 20 to one.  Plus radiation and a decaying infrastructure will kill us.  Education won't.  But propagandists keep whispering into our ear, "Nuclear war is a good thing."   

     And, yes, during the 2016 presidential election we really did have a choice between a war-mongering fascist and a racist fascist, either one of which would be deadly to us.  Hard to decide which one was worse.  So the military-industrial complex decided for us -- and then came up with a whole bunch of propaganda to make us feel better about having their choices shoved down our throats.

     And, yes, America really did create and weaponize the Taliban, ISIS and al Qaeda.  Get over it.  The terrorist who blows you up tomorrow is being sponsored by the propagandist who created him today.

     And, yes, Israeli and Saudi neo-cons really do influence US elections -- and have been doing so for decades, much to our own detriment.  Russia influencing our elections?  Not so much.  Even though propaganda would have us believe the opposite.

     And, yes, RT America does tell us the truth.  And, no, CNN, Fox News and the New York Times do not.  But you gotta give American media snaps for being the best propagandists since Goebbels.

     And, yes, women in America are being treated like dirt.  And yet somehow propaganda tries really hard to make us ladies feel good about being treated like dirt.  And the same is true if you are an immigrant, a person of color or gay.  Everyone is (rightfully) getting on Harvey Weinstein's case these days but how come nobody is calling out all those woman-haters who virtuously claim that they are only being "pro-life" -- as our own life-blood ebbs away.

     And, yes, Monsanto is killing off all the bees -- and us too.  But a propaganda smiley-face makes us all feel better about that.

     And, yes, Syria's President Assad is actually a good guy.  And Russia's President Putin is too.  Who knew?  Besides the gigantic propaganda machine that lies to us daily, that is.

     And, yes, millions of Americans really are homeless -- and yet a small handful of Americans own all kinds of mansions, summer houses, penthouses, beach houses, ranches in Montana and whatever (and don't pay taxes on any of them either).  Propagandists tell us that this is the "American Way".  No it's not.

     Bottom line?  America is slowly but surely committing suicide -- suicide by corporate propaganda and lies.  No wonder I never get invited to parties.  Who the freak wants to hear that?

     But wanna know what else is really sad about all this?  After the entire human race is dead and buried, no one is going be left alive to make a Netflix "13 Reasons Why" series about us.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"One person, one vote," an idea that is pretty much toast

     At the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association luncheon recently, we had a choice between three different desserts -- cheese cake, chocolate mousse or both.  I voted for both.  We also had a presenter who spoke on the subject of voting access and gerrymandering in America.  The speaker made some very interesting points.

     "The democratic concept of 'One person, one vote' has actually never been applied to American voters on the federal level.  Ever.  Perhaps it applies when we vote for members of the House of Representatives, but as for our vote for who will represent us in the Senate?  Not so much -- because voters in rural states such as Wyoming have far more voting power than voters in urban states such as California."  Or words to that effect. 

     So from the very beginning, our founding fathers made it impossible for "One person, one vote" to actually ever happen.  A New York voter, both then and now, only has 78% of the voting power of an Alabama voter due to Senate restrictions.  Interesting for sure.

     "And Republicans are better at gerrymandering than Democrats.  In the 2012 elections, Dems got 51% of the vote but only got 39% of the representation."  Then he talked about something called "the efficiency gap" -- which involved higher math so he sort of lost me.  "In Wisconsin, the voter efficiency gap was 10 to 13 percent, guaranteeing Republican wins even in a Democratic state.  Our system today is profoundly under-representative."

     However, we can't just blame it on the Repubs.  "If the Dems were the ones doing the gerrymandering, the Republicans' love of it would go the way of their hatred of the deficit."  Out the window in a New York minute.

     "And what about Citizens United?" I asked myself.  "That ruling gives a small handful of rich people a hecka lot more votes than the rest of us poor schmucks."  Citizens United should be illegal for that reason alone.  And apparently the US Senate should be illegal too -- from the perspective of keeping America a democratic country.  But if you want America to be an oligarchy, then it's hardly worth rocking the boat about any of this stuff.

     But even though the speaker didn't have time to discuss the effects of voter identification laws, the New Jim Crow laws or electronic vote-hacking, his message was still crystal clear.  The idea of one person and one vote in America?  That ship has pretty much sailed.

     So what can we do to save the American ship of state from being run aground by vote-pirates?  Make sure we are the ones who count the votes?  Use only paper ballots?  Don't let dead people vote?  Make voting a legal requirement if you want to get a driver's license or whatever?  Reconfigure the US Senate to represent all of us?  Go after the oligarchs with torches and pitch forks? 

     There are all kinds of ways to make sure that Americans actually get "One person, one vote" -- and we can do this.  But the only real way to never ever allow "One person, one vote" to become an actual reality in America is to stay silent and do nothing.

     Damn it.  I am an American.  I vote.  And I want my vote to count.  I want a choice of three desserts in my ballot box -- not just one slice of dry toast.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I had the flu once, back in 1973...

      It had been a rather cold winter that year plus I had definitely burned the candle at both ends -- working late every night at the local folk-music coffee house, getting up early to take my daughter Ruby off to pre-school five days a week, spending weekdays over in San Francisco's Castro District as a docent at the Upper Market Street Gallery, hanging out with the Floating Lotus Magic Opera crew at the Woolsey Street House, playing on the Caffè Mediterraneum soccer team and spending time at the Albatross, the Midnight Sun, Brennan's and dancing to Commander Cody at Mandrake's whenever my parents could babysit.  Plus I had a Tibetan Buddhist boyfriend named Peter and also demonstrated against the corrupt Republican government in Washington during my spare time.

     And it was always cold during the winter of 1973.  And I was always exhausted.  So I dragged myself and little Ruby down to Puerto Vallarta for two glorious weeks in the sun on the beach at Yelapa.

     We got as far as San Diego before the flu struck.

     Good grief, do I remember having that flu.  And I vowed never to get the flu ever again.  And I haven't.  And it wasn't because of having no damn flu shots either.

     "Your mind wants to keep going going going like a robot," someone told me back then, "but your body needs rest.  So your mind and your body have a big struggle over this and your mind always loses -- because your body simply goes out on strike.  And that's exactly what a flu is.  It's your body going on strike until it finally gets to rack up more hours in bed than your mind thinks that it needs.  That's why, ultimately, there is no real prevention technique for the common cold.  Or for the flu either."

     "But what about germs!" I replied.

     "Flu germs are constantly with us, 24/7.  Constantly.  They are everywhere.  But they can only actually get to us when our body's defenses are down."


     So from that day to this, I have always made sure that my body has no real reason to go on strike.  And I never got the flu again.

PS:  It also helps a lot that I also wash my hands.  Back in the day, when terrible diseases were rampant, the average American worker avoided baths, lived in unimaginable squalor, had no proper sewage or indoor toilets, survived on bread and potatoes alone and worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week.  No wonder diseases were rampant.

     Thus it sort of pisses me off that Big Pharma is taking all the credit for stopping all their big long lists of hundreds of diseases -- when soap and water (and those brave labor unions that gave us the weekend) are often the real stars of the show.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Crazy Rich Saudis: Weird new happenings in The Kingdom

     After a whole shite-load of oil was discovered under the desert sands of Arabia (and long after Lawrence of Arabia had turned in his camel), unimaginable mountains of moolah started pouring into the treasury of the royal House of Saud.

     Back then, wealthy Saudi princes merely contented themselves with having huge harems, buying up Manhattan real estate, sending their sons to Oxford and buying Paris high couture burkas for their daughters.  However, after a while this playboy vida loca lifestyle seemed to get boring and these rich Saudi princes decided to try their hands at becoming a superpower instead.  "We've got the money.  Why not?"

     But they went about it all wrong. 

     Instead of heeding the teachings of Mohammed [PBUH], they heeded the teachings of Lewis Carroll instead.  "Off with their heads!" they cried.  No no no!  That's not how you become a superpower.  Trust me. -saudi-prince-helicopter- crash/

     America has already traveled down that slippery slope and look what happened to us -- broke, decaying internally, morally bankrupt and despised by the rest of the world.  "Off with their heads" can only be taken so far in life.  Doesn't anybody read DC Comics any more or go to Spiderman movies?  A true superpower uses its powers for good.

    The Saudis first entered the superpower arena when they got all tied up in the 1990 Gulf so-called "war".  Massacring thousands of Iraqis for fun and profit?  Yummers!  So much more exciting than buying fleet-loads of Bugattis and Ferraris.  But what next?  Buying all those 9-11 "pilots" of course.  Then along came al Qaeda and ISIS, the princes' new toys after that.  Isn't it amazing what money can buy?  Their billions and trillions even purchased them an alliance with murderous Israeli neo-colonialists so that the Saudis too could bomb Gaza (and score all-access passes to Tel Aviv's nightclubs as well as testing their new weapons on people who couldn't fight back).

     What a shame.  All that money -- now wasted on terror and death.

     But wait, things have just gotten even worse in The Kingdom.  ISIS is now a hot mess and Yemenis are heroically pushing back against the Saudis' genocide-for-oil campaign.  And now Arabia's crazy-rich princes are actually fighting each other as well as fighting Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Armani, Prada and the Green Party.  Yikes!

     In the past month alone, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been jailing Saudi princes, assassinating Saudi princes and generally shouting "Off with their heads!" to any and all princes who stand in his way.

     It's not easy being a crazy rich Saudi these days.  However, being a world superpower without a conscience isn't easy either.  Just ask America.


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