Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Bernadette (Peters)!

Ms Peters


In "Silent Movie"

In "The Jerk"


1980 Vargas Girl Album Cover

The Real Thing

Playboy Cover 1981

Inside The Magazine

With Her Horse

In "A Little Night Music 2010

It is my great pleasure and honor this morning to celebrate the birthday of one of my very favorite singers, performers, authors, and actresses, Ms. Bernadette Peters!
Bernadette Lazzara was born at a very early age at exactly 10:15AM my time, which is the right time, here on the west coast of the United States of America.
She wasn't lucky enough to be born here though. No, she's a New York Girl, born in Queens. She is the youngest of three children. She has a brother, Joseph, and a sister, Donna. Her dad's name was Peter, and her mom, Marguerite... what a pretty name. Bernadette is too. Their ancestors came from a land far away called Italy.
Her dad delivered bread to other people and stores in a truck. Her mom put little Bernadette to work when she was three and a half by getting her on the T.V. show, Juvenile Jury (one of the first reality shows where kids got to send grown ups to prison). She also appeared on Name That Tune (an early musical influence) and The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour when she was five.
When she was nine she adopted her father's first name as her last upon receiving her Actors Equity Card as to not sound so ethnic, as that was a professional concern at the time, even for nine year olds. Besides she looks Irish.
That very month she made her professional stage debut in "This Is Goggle" (not Google), a comedy directed by the famous Otto Preminger. Pretty cool.
When she was ten she started on T.V., on NBC's Kraft Mystery Theatre in "A Boy Named Ciske." and in a vignette entitled "Miracle in the Orphanage", and "The Christmas Tree", a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, with Richard Thomas, who would later appear on "The Waltons," and the actresses Jessica Tandy, and Erin's friend, Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch of the West). She also started on the New York stage as Tessie in the New York City Center revival of "The Most Happy Fella."
As a teenager she attended Steven Tyler's (Arrowsmith) old school, the Quintano's School for Young Professionals. It's not there anymore. Tyler blew it up.
When she was thirteen she met a man who would become her long time musical accompanist, conductor and arranger Marvin Laird, while in the second national tour of "Gypsy." He was the assisstant conductor on that tour, and would step in for the main conductor if one of his batons broke. He thought of Bernadette at the time, "I heard her sing an odd phrase or two and thought, 'God that's a big voice out of that little girl,'"
When she finished high school she really got busy. She was just goofing off up until then. She appeared Off-Broadway in the musicals "The Penny Friend" in 1966, and "Curley McDimple" in 1967, and as a standby on Broadway in "The Girl in the Freudian Slip." She made her Broadway debut in "Johnny No-Trump" in 1967, and next appeared as George M. Cohan's sister opposite Joel Grey in "George M!" in 1968, winning the Theatre World Award.
At twenty she won her first Drama Desk Award for her performance as "Ruby" in the 1968 Off-Broadway production of "Dames at Sea." She starred in her next Broadway shows, Gelsomina in "La Strada," in 1969, and Hildy in "On the Town," in 1971, for which she received her first Tony Award nomination.
She got another Tony nomination in 1974 playing Mabel Normand in "Mack and Mabel." Clive Barnes wrote: "With the splashy "Mack & Mabel" ... diminutive and contralto Bernadette Peters found herself as a major Broadway star."
After conquering Broadway by the time she was twenty six, she moved forward with her plans toward world domination by moving here, to Los Angeles.
I guess my point up to now is that Bernadette is a product of the stage. Many are. I was myself. I'm a very good actor, if I do say so myself (if I can learn and remember my lines), and whenever I've acted in front of an audience it was in a stage production. I've never been on T.V. or a movie. I've come to grips with the possibility that I may never be on T.V. or in a movie. Many aren't (my mom was though. She was in the classic comedy, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," with my very favorite actor, Spencer Tracy). But I found working in the theatre very taxing. I mean you have to do the whole damn play again every freaking day. That's hard work! I personally don't get that much of a kick working in front of a live audience as others do. I couldn't care less actually. Actually, Id prefer not to if I could help it. So if I were a professional actor and I had my choice I'd always rather work in movies. Television if I had to, but that's harder than movies (sitcoms are just like acting on the stage, for instance. And hour long dramas, well they keep everybody quite busy trying to make a freaking hour long drama every week. Films are so much easier (that's why you'll never find Harrison Ford on Broadway).
I guess my point for the previous paragraph is... Bernadette just got tired of working her ass off all of the time on the stage for paltry wages, and decided to come out here, working in films and television, which are easy, and much more lucrative. I don't know why.
Film and television performances last forever as well. You'll always be young if you make a movie when you're young. I just saw "Taxi Driver," the other day. Contrast that Robert DeNiro with the one in "Meet the Fockers," Wow!
Anyway, Bernadette came out to L.A. in the early 70s to see about getting into movies and T.V. Unfortunately she met up with some unsavory characters like Steve Martin and Mel Brooks. Let's see what happened.
Of course she had already been on Television when she was ten in that Hallmark production. In 1970 she reprised her role as Josie Cohan in a T.V. movie of "George M!" this time with Red Buttons. In Los Angeles she began getting roles on T.V. as well that didn't have anything to do with singing. I'll mention the shows and movies I'm most familiar with because this is not a freaking encyclopedia, and my Internet isn't working properly and I have to do this from memory. Okay, here goes:
In 1973 she appeared on "Love, American Style," in the episode "Love and the Hoodwinked Honey." She was actually hoodwinked without a stunt person. What a trooper!
The next year she got her first part in a theatrical film, "The Longest Yard," with Burt Reynolds, about football in prison. She played the wardens secretary, I believe, who wanted some alone time with prisoner Burt. She got it.
A remake of this film was made a few years ago starring Adam Sandler. I don't know why.
She appeared on "Maude," and "All in the Family," and "McCloud," a T.V. show with Dennis Weaver that was a rip off of Clint Eastwood's "Coogan's Bluff." In 1976 she got another movie role in "W.C. Fields and Me," and that's when she met up with that Mel Brooks character, in "Silent Movie," which was about silent movies (an explanation for my lovely ex-case manager Erin... there was a time, long ago, that movies did not have sound. They hadn't figured out how to put sound on film yet, and they didn't have video. These movies are now called Silent Movies, and were shown in theaters accompanied with music. Text, similar to today's subtitles, would indicate what the actors were saying to each other). No one spoke in Mel's "Silent Movie," except for one person, the famous mime, Marcel Marceau. Bernadette was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.
In 1977 she appeared on "The Muppet Show." You know you've made the big time when you get a spot with the Muppets. Hey, and she earned an Emmy nomination for guest starring. How cool is that. Here's the entire episode in three parts:
That guy Steve Martin lured her into a romantic relationship fresh off of The Muppets, and starred opposite her in 1979's "The Jerk." Here's a clip:
Since they were going out and all, they made another film in 1981 called, "Pennies From Heaven," which got her a Golden Globe Award as Best Motion Picture Actress in a Comedy or Musical.
By 1981, she was so popular and so pretty (for a girl) that she got on the cover and in a photo spread in Playboy.
Now I've seen that particular issue (December 1981) as there was a fascinating article concerning Fourier transforms in it and I've seen her spread. I am happy (not really) to report that our wholesome friend, Bernadette did not appear nude in the photos, but modeled various lingerie designed by Bob Mackie. Good girl (damn it!).
In 1982 she starred with Albert Finney and Carol Burnett in the film version of the musical, "Annie." She would appear many times on Carol's own television variety show over the years.
Why here's a couple of clips of Bernadette and Carol in their soap opera version of "The Exorcist."
And a clip of Bernadette singing "All That Jazz," on the Carol's show from 1975. What a cutie!
In 1982 Bernadette returned to the New York stage after an eight year absence in one of her few non-musical stage performances, the off-Broadway Manhattan Theatre Club production of the comedy-drama "Sally and Marsha," for which she was nominated for another Drama Desk Award. She has continued switching to live thaetre and films and T.V. throughout the rest of her career, the poor confused girl.
She starred with Clint Eastwood in 1989's "Pink Cadillac." She played Circe, in the 1997 television version of Homer's "The Odyssey," Cinderella's step mom in "Cinderella," appeared on "Frasier," and "Ally McBeal," in 2001, appeared with three generations of the Kirk Douglas family in the 2003 film, "It Runs in the Family," in which she played the wife of Michael Douglas's character.
She's been on "Will and Grace," "Law and Order, SVU," "Boston Legal," "Grey's Anatomy," a recurring role on "Ugly Betty." Hell, the woman's been on everything!
She even has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theatre. I don't even have one of those.
Last March she starred in "Coming Up Roses," playing a former musical-comedy actress with two daughters. A stretch for her.
Bernadette finally married in 1996 to investment adviser Michael Wittenberg, at the home of her friend Mary Tyler Moore. We are all saddened to report that he died tragically in a helicopter crash while on a business trip to Montenegro in 2005. He was only forty three years old.
Bernadette has been nominated for the Tony Award seven times, and won twice. She has also been nominated for the Drama Desk Award eight times and won three times.
She has been cast in the role of Sally Durant Plummer in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts production of the Steven Sondheim musical, "Follies," which is scheduled to run at the Eisenhower Theatre from May 7 through June 19, 2011. I invite you to go see her. Perhaps I'll see you there.
Wow, not bad from memory, huh?
The above is only a small representation of her remarkable career on stage, and in films and T.V. Clearly an over achiever she is also an accomplished author of children's books. A recording artist (six solo albums (Erin, those round plastic things they used after silent movies, and before CDs)). Concert performer, here she is singing "Fever,: which I can't watch as it gets me too hot:
If all this wasn't enough, all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her continued good health and fortune in whatever she does, and a very happy birthday!
Happy birthday Bernadette!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Death Of Kristi Johnson


With Mom

Another sad story for me to write involving a beautiful young girl from Michigan.
A few weeks ago, a little more than a month, I wasn't feeling very well, and between bouts of running to the bathroom, for a time I stayed in bed, covers up to chin, while I watched MSNBC on my television. This was on a Saturday, near noon, and because there is no news on the weekends, MSNBC devotes it's programming time to stories about being locked up in prison, or in this case, the NBC newsmagazine, Dateline, of which most of the information in this post is based.
As I laid in bed I began watching the episode entitled "Death in the Hollywood Hills." The correspondent who reported this story was Keith Morrison, and it was first aired on March 1st, of 2007. It concerned the young woman mentioned above, 21 year old Kristi Johnson.
Like so many other hopefuls she came to Southern California in 2001 in search of a job in the entertainment industry.
Terry Hall, Kristi's mother: “She thought, 'I would really like to be involved in this industry but on the production side of it, on the other side of the camera.'”
She was exceptionally pretty, as the pictures above indicate (Hall: "She could you know tie her hair back in a ponytail and wear no make-up and look absolutely smashing. Or she could put on her high heels and a great outfit and look a totally a different way too"), and was repeatedly told she should audition for acting jobs.
Hall: "Kristi loved the beach. And she told me you know how beautiful it was and how much she was enjoying being in California."
Kristi and her mother were very close and spoke to each other every day. In 2003, on Valentine's Day, another Saturday, Kristi called her mother and told her she was going shopping at the mall. That was the last time she got to speak to her daughter.
A nightmare was about to begin for Terry. One that every caring parent must dread the possibility of enduring. Thousands of miles away, the link to Kristi's existence suddenly faded away. She should have called her mom back the next day. No word was heard from her.
Two days passed. No word... no call.
Terry filed a missing person's report with the police in Santa Monica. Det. Virginia Obenchain was given the case.
Det. Obenchain: "The original patrol officer that was sent to take the missing persons report didn’t feel too good about the circumstances, so he came upstairs to the detective bureau, and I was the only one upstairs. So he told me, and I remember when he explained the circumstances, the hair on the back of my neck started to rise.
We talked to the roommate, and the roommate told us that she had gone to Century City mall, went shopping there and was very excited when she came home because she was going to audition for a James Bond clip.
There are some girls that will go with perfect strangers in the hopes that they can make it big. They don’t know Hollywood. They just come in, and they figure, 'Oh, back in the old days where you used to meet at the drug store counter and then you’re all of a sudden a star...' some gals still believe that that can happen."
Morrison: "Does it?"
Det. Obenchain: "Not that I know of."
Kristi remained missing, and Det. Obenchain had few clues to work with. She held a press conference and explained Kristi's case, and got a call from another young woman on a tip line, who said that she had been approached too in the Century City Mall.
21 days before Kristi went to the mall to look for a Valentine’s gift, Susan Murphy was approached by a man who claimed to be in the entrainment business, and that his name was Victor Thomas.
Murphy: "He looked normal and he just said, “I think you’re very attractive. He said, 'I’m a director of photography and we’re casting for the new James Bond movie.' And he said, 'We’ve been casting all day and you’re the look we want, you’re perfect.'
I’d had enough experience to kind of know that this was a come-on, a pick-up. And I knew that and— I was very intrigued. If it’s true, hey cool, that’d be great. How fun would that be, to be a 'Bond Girl?' I think every girl has a dream about that."
Five years earlier this happened to yet another pretty girl, Cathy Debuono.
"He told me he really liked my legs and that he was working closely with the James Bond movies and that they were looking for new people, people who weren’t so recognizable. He talked about 'big bucks.' He named numbers of money that I can’t recall today, but it was a lot of money."
To Cathy the man's name was Brian.
"He wasn’t lascivious at all. He didn’t try to touch me. He didn’t try to flirt with me or come onto me. He seemed like he could be legitimately in the business and talking to me about a real opportunity."
Susan told Det. Obenchain that the man had requested she ware specific types of clothing for her "audition."
"He said it’s very important that I wear stilettos," she said. "Black stilettos as high as possible. And then he said a black mini-skirt preferably, but any mini-skirt would be great. Panty hose, pantyhose not nylons, a white man’s shirt, hair slicked back really tight in a ponytail. And a man’s tie. And he said he would provide the tie."
Det. Obenchain: "And, that happens to be everything that Kristi purchased on February 15."
In the hours before she disappeared, Kristi Johnson bought a black mini skirt, sheer nylons, stiletto heels, and the white shirt. This is what was so heart wrenching for me as I watched this on my television. You see there was actual video footage taken in the Mall of Kristi on that day, footage of her being approached by a man, although his features were indiscernible, and other footage of Kristi making those purchases. What I can't seem to wrap around my head is the report of Kristi's roommate saying that Kristi was so excited, so happy to be getting this break, and her apparent joy and happiness as she bought these items, you could almost see it in the videos, her hopes of getting that impossible opportunity that thousands of men and women dream about, only to discover a human monster instead, one that would use her and end her short life.
For that's exactly what happened very soon after those last video pictures of Kristi Johnson alive were taken that day. I'll never get those images out of my consciousness for the rest of my life.
I'm not a father. I've not been fortunate in life to have had that privilege. But I can imagine the pleasure of having a child that is part of you, to share that beautiful creatures early life, to help mold that child's world view, helping it to understand, and one day cope with the world's intricacies and joys, and dangers. Of sharing birthdays, and Christmases, and spelling tests, and first dates, and Halloweens, and everything else, and then to suddenly have all of that abruptly taken away by the insane acts of that human monster. Maybe just monster, for the act perpetrated upon Kristi can hardly be called human.
It rained hard during the winter of 2003. In the hills above Hollywood rivers of water poured off the hills, and mud, and one day some hikers found what looked like the remains of a female body.
Det. Obenchain: "Kristine’s body was found. Her hands tied behind her back. Her legs tied. She was partially in a sleeping bag, and she was severely decomposed from the shoulders up."
Morrison: "Simply by being out of doors in a very rainy, wet season."
Det. Obenchain: "Correct."
Morrison: "Dumped."
Det. Obenchain: "Dumped."
Terry Hall: "I think Kristi appreciated life very much. She was very aware that what there was in this world, you know that was beautiful about this world."
The name of the man who murdered Kristi is Victor Paleologus, 40 years old at the time, and had no connection with the film industry. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about this piece of filth. The two women he had attempted this scam on before had taken precautions when meeting him for the "audition," one taking a male friend along. They were able to identify Paleologus, after a police sketch had been issued of the person of interest in Kristi's case. A parole officer contacted Det. Obenchain and told her he was one of theirs. Fortunately for Det. Obenchain, Paleologus was already in county jail for an unrelated offense. He admitted to meeting Kristi on that day, but nothing else.
Any physical evidence that might have tied Kristi's murder to Paleologus had been washed away, but after his arrest got a little publicity other witnesses came forth, and...
Det. Obenchain: "We had another woman call us on the tip line, and she said that she saw Mr. Paleologus at the Century City mall on February 15. We also got a call from Mr. Paul Cady who is a realtor, who had shown Mr. Paleologus numerous houses, particularly one house on Skyline Drive that was several hundred yards away from where her body was found."
The prosecution brought in Susan Murphy, Cathy Debuono, and other women who had encountered Paleologus in the past.
Susan Murphy: "Anyone who was in that court will tell you my voice. I was shaking. There’s a jury right there. And then just looking at her family, that broke my heart. Broke my heart. And I kept thinking about, what if that was my dad sitting out there?"
Over 3 years after her disappearance, 13 days into his trial, Paleologus decided to make a deal and pled guilty to Kristi's murder.
The deal: He would escape the death penalty and get 25 to life with the possibility of parole but without the right to appeal.
Morrison: "Was it important to the family to hear him say, 'I killed your daughter?'"
Det. Obenchain: "It was."
Morrison: "Did they get as much as they wanted in that respect?"
Det. Obenchain: "No. I think they wanted to know why she had to die. I have a theory. I can’t prove it. Only Victor knows if it’s true. But I think he lured her up there for the purposes of raping her. He assaulted her, she fought back, he strangled her, went a little too far, she lost consciousness, he thought he had killed her and he dumped her over the hill."
Morrison: "You think it’s even possible she went down the side of that hill still alive?"
Det. Obenchain: "According to the coroner the head wound was peri-mortem, which is on the brink of death, so she may have still been alive."
Then Paleologus asked the judge through a letter if he could withdraw his guilty plea. The judge denied his request.
Kristi's parents were then allowed to address the murderer of their daughter.
Kirk Johnson, Kristi’s father: "The reason we are here is because of Mr. Paleologus. And there is a reason why this happened. Only God knows. And I can’t find an answer for that."
Terry Hall: "Victor Paleologus has been allowed the freedom to let the evil in his life escalate, resulting in the heinous murder of Kristi my beloved young daughter, a beautiful young woman on the threshold of her life."
Judge: "For the willful deliberate and premeditated first degree murder of Kristine Johnson, the court sentences the defendant to serve 25 years to life in the state penitentiary."
Christine Kludjian: "One had to die for us to pay attention? One had to die for us to look at a situation and say, 'Wait a minute, what is going on with our laws in this country that put repeat offenders who are not rehabilitateable out on the street again and again and again?'"
Back in jail Victor Paleologus continued to deny killing Kristi, stating he only pled guilty because it would cost too much to go to trial.
He continues to deny the murder to this day.
Here is the link to the Dateline story:

Today would have been Kristi's 30th birthday.

Below is an essay written by Kristi's mother, Terry Hall:

I reported Kristi as missing on Monday morning, February 17, 2003. It was about two weeks later that I retrieved a phone message telling me her body had been discovered. I was alone in the back of a limo at night heading into New York City. The plans had been to speak on a national talk show the next morning to continue efforts escalating publicity on Kristi’s disappearance in the hopes that she was still alive and would be found. The words on the voice mail from the chief of police confirming Kristi’s death extinguished all hope. I was engulfed with an overwhelming physical hollowness and a mental paralysis. At the same time, I was filled with a presence of strength and love. I was not alone in the back of the limo; a spirit resided within me. Kristi was now at peace in an everlasting world filled with love.
During the search for Kristi, everything moved rapidly — but not fast enough. The last time I had spoken with Kristi was on Saturday, February 15, 2003, the day of her murder. We spoke with each other daily. That morning we chatted a little about this and that; I thanked her for the e-Valentine she had sent me the day before. It was a sweet message accompanied by a song she liked. She was going to go to the mall later on; she wanted to buy some candles. I told her to pick some out. The candles would be my Valentine Day present to her. President's Day was going to be on Monday, she had to work but I had the day off.
Later during the day, I tried to call Kristi. She didn’t pick up. The next day I tried several times to call her again, still no pick up. I thought it was odd; maybe she didn’t remember to charge her cell phone or maybe she was busy with friends. Whatever the reason, I’d try back on Monday morning.
Monday morning came and still nothing. At 9 a.m., I called her office number; no pick up on her direct line. I called the main number and they hadn’t heard from her either. This was unusual since Kristi was always on time or would have called if running late.
The next call I made was to the Santa Monica Police Department to report Kristi as missing. I was concerned she had been in an accident. The SMPD suggested I contact local hospitals. I called multiple hospitals. Kristi had not been admitted to any of them. I called SMPD back to confirm reporting Kristi as missing. An officer was deployed to her apartment around noon to interview one of her roommates. The search for Kristi was on.
Every waking moment was spent ramping up the search efforts for Kristi. Any possible scenario of her whereabouts was ever present in my mind. Phone calls became constant. Missing persons and search organizations, the media, the police department, family, friends, Kristi’s co-workers. Pictures of Kristi were put together to assist in building the awareness of her [being] missing. The circumstances related to Kristi's disappearance combined with her beauty and innocence heightened media interest. I was grateful to get the attention to build awareness of search efforts. Time was lapsing but never my hope that she would be found. I hadn’t known at this time the fact that after 72 hours of a person [being] missing, they most would not be found alive.
Kristi’s birthday was coming up soon. She was born on February 27, 1981. She would have turned 22 years old on that birthday had she lived. I reached out to the Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to organize a vigil on Kristi’s birthday. I had been an Episcopalian all my life and Kristi and her brother grew up attending the Episcopal Church. Saint Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica welcomed me with love and support.
A candlelight vigil was held on Kristi’s birthday, February 27. On the evening the vigil was held, I received much love, support and prayers. The music at the service was beautiful. Two songs were sung, one “You Are So Beautiful To Me,” a song I used to sing to Kristi as a baby when I rocked her to sleep. The other song, “Hero,” by Enrique Iglesias, was the song Kristi had sent to me in her e-Valentine. The crowd that had gathered for the vigil proceeded outside to the courtyard while singing and holding lit candles. A circle of prayer was formed under a beautiful tree within the courtyard. This would eventually be the location of the Fountain of Joy in Kristi’s memory.
On March 3, 2003, Kristi’s body was discovered down a ravine in the Hollywood hills. The circumstances of her murder are beyond horrendous. After receiving the news of Kristi’s death, all my energy immediately went to planning a beautiful funeral. This was my last opportunity to lay Kristi to rest with the respect and dignity her life deserved. The activity of dealing with details of funeral preparation somehow kept me functional. It diminished my deep dark grief.
I shopped for Kristi for the last time, picking out a lovely sleeping gown and wrap for her to be dressed in. Even though the casket would be closed, it gave me comfort to know I could somehow make a contribution to honor her, no matter how unnecessary. I could barely see the road driving home as my eyes welted with tears, the shopping bag on floor next to me containing the sleeping gown packed in a gift box.
Kristi’s funeral was held at the Episcopal Church in the town where I was then living, Los Gatos, Calif. Simultaneously, a memorial service for Kristi was being held at the Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, Mich. A memorial service was also held later that week in Santa Monica, at St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church.
While Kristi's brother and I were planning her funeral with the Father at St. Luke’s in Los Gatos, he told us that his mother had always said, “Funerals are for the living.” These words still reside with me. Not only was Kristi’s funeral for the living, but also any future tributes to Kristi’s life would be for the living. Kristi loved life and that’s how she would want us to continue ours.
An incredible amount of people had given time, effort and support during the search effort for Kristi. People continued to give of themselves and made financial donations in her memory after her death. I contacted St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to discuss possible projects to channel contributions to. The church had started a project a couple years before to erect a fountain in the courtyard but the project had taken a back burner.
A fountain sounded perfect. My parents have a fountain in the courtyard at their home. This fountain had always been a focal point of family photo shoots during gatherings and events. The fountain could represent so much of what Kristi’s life emitted, it would be called the Fountain of Joy.
It’s been over three years since Kristi’s murder. The trial just recently completed with an outcome we can be satisfied with. The Fountain of Joy project is still living. As with many projects, it’s evolved into a larger undertaking than originally anticipated. The Fountain of Joy’s concept and intent have grown as well.
The Fountain of Joy is still a tribute to Kristi’s life and a gift to all inside and beyond the community who gave so unselfishly during a time of another person’s tragedy. Many of the people who donated their energies did not even know Kristi or anything about her. It was inspiring for me during my difficult journey to see how truly loving and generous people are.
In addition to these tributes, the Fountain of Joy will also be presented to anyone seeking a place of respite and meditation from the challenges of daily life. The fountains beautiful final design, comprised of natural elements; water, stone and light, will evoke the essence of the project, to “Celebrate the Quiet Power.”
How wonderful it will be to see a tranquil welcoming spot in the middle of a busy metropolis welcoming the human sprit to pause, gain strength and celebrate the beauty of this world. I hope the Fountain of Joy will help flourish the joy, love and celebration encompassed in Kristi’s life. Terry Hall, November 9th, 2006

I'm sorry to report that I took a trip to the St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica one recent Sunday morning, and no one there could point out, tell me about, or remember anything concerning the Fountain of Joy. After only five years it seems to have been discarded and forgotten, or perhaps it was never built.
But I, and this website will always remember Kristi and her short, beautiful, wondrous life, and will repost this story every February 27th for the remainder of Joyce's Take's active existence.
Not only for Kristi, though she would be enough, but for all of the children who have tragically died under similar circumstances. All of those children who disappear. All of the ones we have loved and refuse to forget.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bill 2

The "sunk-cost effect," relates to the tendency among many humans to hold on to a cherished belief, or belief system, despite overwhelming evidence that the belief has no basis in the real world, or to put it simply, is wrong or incorrect. Quite often these individuals would rather face certain ridecule, financial ruin, and imperial the health and safety of their own loved ones rather than admitt the possiblity that the belief they have held for so long, or that was inherited from the generation before them could be incorrect. The effect can be applied in such diverse fields as economics, sociology, and philosophy, as well as others. We've all seen it displayed in real life. We call it stubbornness often, intractability as well. We've all had arguments (concerning politics and religion especially) where it would seem that both parties have a vested interest in the outcome, disagreements that can never be resolved due to long held established ideas that have suited the owners of said ideas satisfactorily throughout the years even though there is no evidence those ideas have any bearing in reality. Some ideas are comforting to us and we are loath to give them up else we feel insecure and vulnerable. We don't even want to consider the slightest possibly that we may be faulty in our thinking, and that our world view is skewed in a way that allows us to see and live in a world which our ideas are consistently reinforced, associating with others who feel the same as we do for instance. Left to themselves it would appear to be a harmless phenomena, for how could someone else's misconceptions harm those who hold different ideas? But when those who hold such non-reality based beliefs and ideals band together into groups that gain political and economic power, and who then attempt to impose their beliefs and ideals on the entire population, well then that becomes a major problem, especially when as stated above, there is no room for compromise or negotiation, on either side. And quite often we discover that groups of individuals holding these non-reality based beliefs are too easily manipulated and led by powerful factions that may or may not actually share those same beliefs, but are rather guided by other selfish, short sighted interests, like the accumulation of wealth and power.
Now let us conclude the address by Bill Moyers given at the History Makers convention on January 27, 2001, in New York City.

"Disinformation is not unique to the right, of course. Like other journalists, I have been the object of malevolent assaults from the "9/11 truthers" for not reporting their airtight case proving that the Bush administration conspired to bring about the attacks on the World Trade Center. How did they discover this conspiracy? As the independent journalist Robert Parry has written, "the truthers" threw out all the evidence of Al-Qaeda's involvement, from contemporaneous calls from hijack victims on the planes to confessions from Al-Qaeda leaders both in and out of captivity that they had indeed done it. Then, recycling some of the right's sophistry techniques, such as using long lists of supposed evidence to overcome the lack of any real evidence, the "truthers" cherry-picked a few supposed "anomalies" to build an "inside-job" story line. Fortunately, this Big Lie never took hold in the public mind. These truthers on the left, if that is where GPS can find them on the political map, are outgunned, outmatched and outshouted by the media apparatus on the right that pounds the public like drone missiles loaded with conspiracy theories and disinformation and accompanied by armadas of outright lies.
George Orwell had warned six decades ago that the corrosion of language goes hand in hand with the corruption of democracy. If he were around today, he would remind us that "like the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket," this kind of propaganda engenders a "protective stupidity" almost impossible for facts to penetrate.
But you, my colleagues, can't give up. If you do, there's no chance any public memory of everyday truths - the tangible, touchable, palpable realities so vital to democracy - will survive. We would be left to the mercy of the agitated amnesiacs who "make" their own reality, as one of them boasted at the time America invaded Iraq, in order to maintain their hold on the public mind and the levers of power. You will remember that in Orwell's novel "1984," Big Brother banishes history to the memory hole, where inconvenient facts simply disappear. Control of the present rests on obliteration of the past. The figure of O'Brien, who is the personification of Big Brother, says to the protagonist, Winston Smith: "We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves." And they do. The bureaucrats in the Ministry of Truth destroy the records of the past and publish new versions. These in turn are superseded by yet more revisions. Why? Because people without memory are at the mercy of the powers that be; there is nothing against which to measure what they are told today. History is obliterated.
The late scholar Cleanth Brooks of Yale thought there were three great enemies of democracy. He called them "The Bastard Muses": Propaganda, which pleads sometimes unscrupulously, for a special cause at the expense of the total truth; sentimentality, which works up emotional responses unwarranted by, and in excess of, the occasion; and pornography, which focuses upon one powerful human drive at the expense of the total human personality. The poet Czeslaw Milosz identified another enemy of democracy when, upon accepting the Noble Prize for Literature, he said "Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember." Memory is crucial to democracy; historical amnesia, its nemesis.
Against these tendencies it is an uphill fight to stay the course of factual broadcasting. We have to keep reassuring ourselves and one another that it matters and we have to join forces to defend and safeguard our independence. I learned this early on.
When I collaborated with the producer Sherry Jones on the very first documentary ever about the purchase of government favors by political action committees, we unfurled across the Capitol grounds yard after yard of computer printouts listing campaign contributions to every member of Congress. The broadcast infuriated just about everyone, including old friends of mine who a few years earlier had been allies when I worked at the White House. Congressmen friendly to public television were also outraged, but, I am pleased to report, PBS took the heat without melting.
But shining the spotlight on political corruption is nothing compared to what can happen if you raise questions about corporate power in Washington, as my colleague Marty Koughan and I discovered when we produced a program for David Fanning and "Frontline" on pesticides and food. Marty had learned that industry was attempting behind closed doors to dilute the findings of the American Academy of Sciences study on the effects of pesticide residues on children. Before we finished the documentary, the industry somehow purloined a copy of our draft script - we still aren't certain how - and mounted a sophisticated and expensive campaign to discredit our program before it aired. Television reviewers and editorial pages of key newspapers were flooded with propaganda. Some public television managers were so unnerved by the blitz of misleading information about a film they had not yet broadcast that they actually protested to PBS with letters that had been prepared by the industry.
Here's what most perplexed us: the American Cancer Society - an organization that in no way figured in our story - sent to its 3,000 local chapters a "critique" of the unfinished documentary claiming, wrongly, that it exaggerated the dangers of pesticides in food. We were puzzled. Why was the American Cancer Society taking the unusual step of criticizing a documentary that it had not seen, that had not aired and that did not claim what the Society alleged? An enterprising reporter named Sheila Kaplan later looked into those questions for the journal Legal Times. It turns out that the Porter Novelli public relations firm, which had worked for several chemical companies, also did pro bono work for the American Cancer Society. Kaplan found that the firm was able to cash in some of the goodwill from that "charitable" work to persuade the compliant communications staff at the Society to distribute some harsh talking point about the documentary before it aired - talking points that had been supplied by, but not attributed to, Porter Novelli. Legal Times headlined the story "Porter Novelli Plays All Sides." A familiar Washington game.
Others also used the American Cancer Society's good name in efforts to tarnish the journalism before it aired, none more invidiously than the right-wing polemicist Reed Irvine, who pumped his sludge through an organization with the Orwellian name Accuracy in Media. He attacked our work as "junk science on PBS" and demanded Congress pull the plug on public broadcasting. Fortunately, PBS once again stood firm. The documentary aired, the journalism held up and the publicity liberated the National Academy of Sciences to release the study that the industry had tried to cripple.
However, there's always another round; the sharks are always circling. Sherry Jones and I spent more than a year working on another PBS documentary called "Trade Secrets," a two-hour investigative special based on revelations - found in the industry's own archives - that big chemical companies had deliberately withheld from workers and consumers damaging information about toxic chemicals in their products. These internal industry documents are a fact. They exist. They are not a matter of opinion or point of view. They state what the companies knew, when they knew it and what they did with what they knew (namely to deep-six it) at peril to those who worked with and consumed the potentially lethal products.
The revelations portrayed deep and pervasive corruption in a major American industry and raised critical policy implications about the safety of living under a regulatory system manipulated by the industry itself. If the public and government regulators had known what the industry knew about the health risks of its products when the industry knew it, America's laws and regulations governing chemical manufacturing would have been far more protective of human health. But the industry didn't want us to know. That's what the documents revealed and that was the story the industry fought to keep us from telling.
The industry hired as an ally a public relations firm in Washington noted for using private detectives and former CIA, FBI and drug enforcement officers to conduct investigations for corporations under critical scrutiny. One of the company's founders acknowledged that corporations may need to resort to "deceit" and other unconventional resources to counter public scrutiny. Given the scurrilous campaign that was conducted to smear our journalism, his comments were an understatement. To complicate matters, the Congressman, who for years had been the single biggest recipient of campaign contributions from the chemical industry, was the very member of Congress whose committee had jurisdiction over public broadcasting's appropriations. As an independent production firm, we had not used public funds to produce the documentary. But even our independence didn't stop the corporate mercenaries from bringing relentless pressure on PBS not to air the broadcast. The then president of PBS, Pat Mitchell, stood tall in resisting the pressure and was vindicated: one year later, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded "Trade Secrets" an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism.
Now, you can understand how it is that journalism became for me a continuing course in adult education. It enabled me to produce documentaries like "Trade Secrets" and out-of-the-box series like "Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth." It enabled me to cover the summits of world leaders and the daily lives of struggling families in Newark. It empowered me to explain how public elections are subverted by private money, and to how to make a poem. Journalism also provided me a passport into the world of ideas, which became my favorite beat, in no small part because I never met anyone - philosopher or physicist, historian, artist, writer, scientist, entrepreneur or social critic - who didn't teach me something I hadn't known, something that enlarged my life.
Here's an example: One of my favorite of all interviews was with my sainted fellow Texan, the writer and broadcaster John Henry Faulk, who had many years earlier, been the target of a right-wing smear campaign that resulted in his firing by CBS from his job as a radio host here in New York, one of the low moments in that network's history. But John Henry fought back in court and won a landmark legal victory against his tormentors. After he returned home to Texas, I did the last interview with him before his death in 1990. He told me the story of how he and his friend Boots Cooper were playing in the chicken coop when they were about 12 years old. They spied a chicken snake in the top tier of nests, so close it looked like a boa constrictor. As John Henry put it, "All our frontier courage drained out our heels - actually it trickled down our overall legs - and Boots and I made a new door through that henhouse wall." Hearing all the commotion Boots' momma came out and said, "Don't you boys know chicken snakes are harmless? They can't harm you." And Boots, rubbing his forehead and behind at the same time, said, "Yes, Mrs. Faulk, I know that, but they can scare you so bad, it'll cause you to hurt yourself." John Henry Faulk told me that's a lesson he never forgot. Over and again I've tried to remember it, too, calling on it to restore my resolve and my soul.
I've had a wonderful life in broadcasting, matriculating as a perpetual student in the school of journalism. Other people have paid the tuition and travel and I've never really had to grow up and get a day job. I think it's because journalism has been so good to me that I am sad when I hear or read that factual broadcasting is passé - that television as a venue for forensic journalism is on its way out and that trying to find out "what really happened" - which is our mandate - is but a quaint relic in an age of post-structuralism and cyberspace. But despite all our personal electronic devices, people are watching more television than ever. Much of this programming is posted online; I believe at least half the audience for my last two weekly series on Friday night came over the weekend via streaming video, iPods and TIVO. I was pleased to discover that the web sites most frequented by educators are those of PBS and that our own sites were among the most popular destinations. That's what keeps us going, isn't it? The knowledge that all the bias and ignorance notwithstanding, facts still matter to critical thinking, that if we respect and honor, even revere them, they just might help us right the ship of state before it rams the iceberg.
That's why, on balance, I count WikiLeaks a plus for democracy. Whatever side you take on the controversy, whether or not you think this information should be disclosed, all parties - those who want it released and those who don't - acknowledge that information matters. Partly because I grew up in the south and partly because of my experience in the Johnson White House, I'm on the side of disclosure, even when it hurts. The truth about slavery had been driven from the pulpits, newsrooms and classrooms during the antebellum days; it took a bloody civil war to drive the truth home. At the Johnson White House, we circled the wagons and grew intolerant of news that didn't conform to our hopes, expectations and strategies for Vietnam, with terrible, tragic results for Americans and Vietnamese, north and south. I say: "Never again!"
Here's a sidebar: I remember vividly the day President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): July 4, 1966. He signed it "with a deep sense of pride," declaring in almost lyrical language "that the United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded." That's what he said. The truth is, the president had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of journalists rummaging in government closets, hated them challenging the authorized view of reality, hated them knowing what he didn't want them to know. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. Only the courage and political skill of a Congressman named John Moss got the bill passed at all and that was after a 12-year battle against his Congressional elders, who blinked every time the sun shined on the dark corners of power. They managed to cripple the bill Moss had drafted and, even then, only some last-minute calls to LBJ from a handful of influential newspaper editors overcame the president's reluctance. He signed "the f------ thing," as he called it and then, lo and behold, went out to claim credit for it.
It's always a fight to find out what the government doesn't want us to know. The official obsession with secrecy is all the more disturbing today because the war on terrorism is a war without limits, without a visible enemy or decisive encounters. We don't know where the clandestine war is going on or how much it's costing and whether it's in the least effective. Even in Afghanistan, most of what we know comes from official, usually military, sources.
Thus, a relative handful of people have enormous power to keep us in the dark. And when those people are in league with their counterparts in powerful corporations, the public is hit with a double whammy. We're usually told the issue is national security, but keeping us from finding out about the danger of accidents at chemical plants is not about national security; it's about covering up an industry's indiscretions and liabilities. Locking up the secrets of meetings with energy executives is not about national security; it's about hiding confidential memos sent to the White House showing the influence of oil companies on policies of global warming We only learned about that memo from the Bush White House, by the way, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.
Consider WikiLeaks, then, to be one big FOIA dump. Were some people in high places embarrassed? Perhaps. They did squeal, but I don't think they were stuck.
And even so, we learned some important things from WikiLeaks. For example, as Reza Alsan writes in The Atlantic, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may not be as fanatical as we think he is; the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks portray him as "a moderate reformer who'd like to cut deals with the West, but can't because hard-liners are calling the shots." One of them even slapped Ahmadinejad across the face when, at a high-level meeting, he proposed that the government allow more personal and press freedom at the height of the 2009 public protests in Iran. Such information can help us evaluate the incessant demands of neoconservative warmongers - the very people who rode the circuit with news of "weapons of mass destruction" in an effort to build support for invading Iraq - that we use military force against Iran to eliminate its nuclear capacity.
There are other uses of the disclosures from WikiLeaks admirably compiled by Greg Mitchell in the current edition of The Nation, where the one-time editor of Editor and Publisher performed an important public service by culling the gold from the dust.
I will close with an urgent appeal to you about one fight we won't win unless all of us join it. I'm sure everyone here agrees that we will eventually be moving to the web, all of us and that "free, instant, worldwide connectivity" is the future. But I'm sure you know that this incredible, free, open Internet highway is at risk, that corporations are on the brink of muscling their way to the front of the line. Media companies want the power to censor Internet content they don't like, to put toll booths on the web so they can charge more for the privilege of driving in the fast lanes, to turn it into a private preserve.
You may have heard that last month the FCC decided to protect free/open Internet access only on landline connections, not wireless - which is to say, there's no net neutrality in most of the online world. As Jenn Ettinger of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Free Press reported in Yes! magazine just two days ago:
The rules that the FCC passed in December are vague and weak. The limited protections that were placed on wired connections, the kind you access through your home computer, leave the door open for the phone and cable companies to develop fast and slow lanes on the Web and to favor their own content or applications.
Worse, the rules also explicitly allow wireless carriers ... to block applications for any reason and to degrade and de-prioritize websites you access using your cell phone or a device like an iPad.
Perhaps the FCC is biding its time, waiting to see how things develop technologically, with the current FCC chair seemingly more open to citizen input than was his predecessor. Or, again, maybe the landline regulation was meant simply to get media reformers off the commission's back. We can't relax our vigilance. In Ettinger's words:
The FCC still has the opportunity to put in place a solid framework that would put the public interest above the profit motive of the phone and cable companies that it is supposed to regulate. And the FCC should take immediate steps to close the loopholes it created, to strengthen its rules and to include wireless protections. The fight is far from over. We can work to change the rules, demand better oversight and consumer protections and make sure that the big companies can't pad their bottom lines on the backs of their customers.
In this effort, we have a strong ally in FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who on my broadcast last year, spelled out how "our future is going to ride on broadband. How we get a job is going to ride on broadband. How we take care of our health. How we educate ourselves about our responsibilities as citizens ... And it's absolutely imperative that we have a place, that we have a venue to go to, to make sure that that Internet is kept open ... That's our decision to make as a people, as citizens: who's going to control this ultimately?"
With all the media consolidation that's happening today, the web may be the last stand of independent factual broadcasters like you. The stakes are high and we have come to the decisive round. I'll leave you with a story Joseph Campbell told me years ago for my series "The Power of Myth." It seems a fellow rounding the corner saw a fight break out down the block. Running up to one of the bystanders, he shouted: "Is this a private fight or can anyone get in it?"
The Internet fight for democracy is a public fight. Come on in!"

Friday, February 25, 2011

The LAPD And DOT Attack The Hippie Kitchen


Bastards. That's right, I said it... bastards, all of them!
I've recently began a diet regimen because I'm too fat (at my weekly yoga classes with Beth, whenever I do a shoulder stand I'm aware of a large blubbery flap of belly fat looking down at me. It's exceptionally disquieting). My ego just will not allow me to continue being fat, thusly I've curtailed my caloric intake and have largely switched to a healthier diet high in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, iron, and oligosaccharides... namely I've began eating a lot of beans.
And salad. High in fiber and low in calories. With fat free dressing of course.
And fat free bagels, using my non-fat lard as a topping.
I eat this all of the time. I'm going to have some right now. Please excuse me.
Eeemmmm, that was good. I'll have some more in a little while.
For variety I have different types of beans. There are many kinds. Too many to go into right now. Surprisingly the Hippie Kitchen (officially "The Hospitality House," administered by Los Angeles Catholic Worker, ) offers this very meal three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings from 9:30AM to noon. I can take special containers there to have filled up with beans and salad and bagels to bring back home to eat on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, when the Hippie Kitchen is closed. As a matter of fact for as long as I stay on this diet I never have to shop for food again!
Be that as it may, accordingly I left my box for the Hippie Kitchen yesterday at 9:15AM in order to see if they were giving away any bread before they actually began feeding the people of Skid Row. That's what they do at the Hippie Kitchen, they feed the people of Skid Row, have been for more years than I'd like to count. They feed, and feed, and feed. Beans and salad, and bagels or buttered bread (they don't use my non-fat lard, which is a shame). Sometimes they serve split peas instead of beans, like they did yesterday. Sometimes they serve pasta, like tuna casserole for instance. Yes, sometimes they add meat into the beans or noodles. Sometimes not. If you live on Skid Row, or happen to be near the intersection of 6th Street and Gladys on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday between 9:30AM and noon you're very welcome to come and fill yourself up with beans and salad and bagels (or bread). That's just they way the hippies are. They can't help it.
As I was saying, I made my way to the Hippie Kitchen yesterday. They had no bread, but were giving out oranges and apples. I don't usually bother with oranges, simply because they're too difficult to peel (the act reminds me of putting together a Rubik's Cube). Apples on the other hand are so much easier, so I grabbed three of those, and got a nice multi-vitamin from the dispensary, before joining the line to get a plate of beans and salad (actually split peas yesterday). The line for food generally runs from out front on 6th Street into the courtyard right next to the kitchen. I was there early when the kitchen first opened so there were a lot of homeless people there in line before me waiting to get fed. The line reached around the corner of Gladys a bit, which didn't bother me because the serving hippies don't dither, they put the food on the plate and move the folks through at a rapid clip, so the line usually moves pretty fast.
Just as I turned the corner onto 6th, I noticed two Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) cruisers making a left turn onto Gladys. The officers inside looked on at the line of homeless people, seemingly in a jovial mood. One of the people in line shouted out something about "LA's finest," and I heard one of the police officer's state "Move it or lose it." I didn't know what he was talking about, but soon found out.
It was a raid! Not of the Hippie Kitchen itself as the heading of this post would suggest, and for which I apologize profusely, but am completely unwilling to change. No they were after bigger game... shopping carts!
Not just any shopping carts, but shopping carts that were filled with people's possessions. The corner of 6th & Gladys is famous for being the base headquarters for three or four longtime homeless people who spend each and every day sitting around, or near three supermarket shopping carts filled to the brim (and beyond) with their many and varied possessions. All that they probably own is in those carts, and they manage to get a lot in those three carts.
I've been walking by that particular corner lately about once a day. Let's say on average two to four times a week over the eight years I've lived in my box. At three times a week for eight years makes 1,248 times. Out of those 1,248 times I've passed that corner I've never seen those three shopping carts not there. In other words they're always freaking there!
Except for yesterday when the police came. And not only the police. After those two cruisers passed a huge bulldozer type contraption, two stories tall with a guy that looked like Santa Claus driving, pulled up right in front of me and stopped. That's when all of the homeless people all around me knew what was going on. I caught on when I saw about three more Department of Transportation trucks filled with DOT workers, pull up and stop, backed up by about six more police cars, one actually blocking 6th Street traffic from coming through. The police got out of their cars, armed with guns and batons, and blatantly and unapologetically began pushing the carts over into the street, dumping the contents of each without regard to the owner's complaints, essentially commandeering the private property of these disadvantaged people without any mention of compensation. How is this possible in this country? I felt like I watching something out of "The Grapes of Wrath."
If anything a citation of some sort would be much more appropriate, I believe. The Hippie Kitchen itself facilitates the process of giving shopping carts to homeless people that are bought by benefactors for the sole purpose of giving them to homeless people, so the question of these carts being stolen from supermarkets is very much in the air. If the carts were owned by the homeless people, what law was being broken? The Hippie Kitchen sure didn't mind those people camping out there throughout the years. And since the carts were parked in front of the Hippie Kitchen, who else would care? It is not like the corner of 6th and Gladys is the garden spot of Skid Row that needs policing for purposes of aesthetics. So what law exactly was being broken? I don't know and the police sure weren't talking. They were too busy supervising their lackeys from the DOT to pay any attention to the homeless folks surrounding them.
Everything these people owned were probably in those carts. Important papers, clothes they would need for the cold nights we are currently experiencing, everything! There could have been Iran's secret plans to nuke Israel for all the police knew or cared.
The hippies in the Hippie Kitchen were outraged as well. Some of them gathered on the street to witness the devastation. One lovely lady, Catherine, who has volunteered at the kitchen for the last 39 years (and who can be seen in the above picture, white hair, third from the right in the top row), got vocal in her outrage, yelling at the police as they drove away, "Get a job!" and "This is outrageous!"
It was outrageous. And very courageous on Catherine's part. After all the Hippie Kitchen itself had been the target of federal investigators in the past for it's subversive activities. Here's an except from a Los Angeles Catholic Workers paper written in 2006 by Jeff Dietrich:

"I was not shocked that the government of the United States would spy on peace activists. It has happened in the past, most notably to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to Dan and Philip Berrigan. And even Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement and currently a candidate for sainthood, had, before her death in 1980, accumulated a 600-page FBI file, with agents going so far as to volunteer to serve soup to the homeless to spy on her. I just didn't think the meager efforts of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker warranted such government attention.
In his report on us, the unnamed FBI agent wrote, 'The Catholic Workers advocate peace with a Christian and semi-communistic ideology ... They advocate a communist distribution of resources.' He got the first part right. But the part about being communistic is true only if you think of our soup kitchen as a communistic redistribution plan.
Nevertheless, we're pretty good at running a soup kitchen, but we're terribly inept when it comes to being a terrorist cell or a threat to national security--something like the guys in that old movie 'The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight.'"

So we've got a bunch of pinko commies in our midst! I guess I should have known. You can tell just by looking at them.
Be that as it may, I've ran some figures on the economics of this little raid and come up with the following figures. Considering the police are paid approximately $37 an hour, and the DOT workers about $30, and that the raid took 3 hours to plan and organize supposedly by at least 3 high ranking police geniuses working at $50 an hour, and that it took at least 45 minutes to coordinate the raid before it actually happened, and the ten minute raid itself, well let's add it up:

16 police at $37 an hour

10 DOT workers at $30 an hour

3 hours to plan = 3 senior police geniuses at $50.00 an hour = $450.00

45 min to coordinate Police= $27.75 an officer. DOT= $22.50 per worker Total for 16 police $444.00 10 DOT = $225.00

10 min to implement police = $3.70 DOT = $3.00 Total for 16 police $59.20 10 DOT $30.00

Total for the entire operation confiscating a total of 3 filled shopping carts = $1,208.20

add the economic cost of holding up civilian traffic on 6th Street for ten minutes in lost productivity and lower promotional prospects for employee tardyism = $57,894.80

Total expenditures for the operation = $59,894.80

Average cost of recovered carts at $112.5 apiece, $337.50

Total value of items in the three recovered shopping carts = 0.57 cents.

So it cost a total of approximately $59,103.00 to recover $338.07 in shopping carts and homeless people's possessions.

If these types of raids occur on a weekly basis, and I have no reason to believe they don't, the cost to the City of Los Angeles, actually, the tax payers of the City of Los Angeles:

$59,894.80 a week for 52 weeks = $3,073,356.00, for 156 shopping carts = $17,579.64.

It would seem to me our precious resources could be put to use in a much more cost effective manner, especially in this day and age when the Republicans are cutting funds to everything, including police departments.
And I do not particularly care for my tax dollars being used to bully that part of the population that is least able to defend themselves.
But that's just me.
Just like the war on drugs, authorities tend to attack the symptoms of problems and not the root causes. To end homelessness in this country, supposedly the richest nation in the world, we need to seriously look at the reasons this phenomenon occurs and deal with that rather than criminalize and attack the homeless themselves.
And considering the state of the economy and the mortgage foreclosure crisis, too may of us may soon be facing their same fate.
Addendum: It is with great pleasure that I can report that on passing the corner of Gladys and 6th St. the day after this incident took place, the 25th, there was one shopping cart, filled with possessions, back on station. I passed again this morning, the 28th, and all three had returned to their former stature and position.
As in Wisconsin, the people have spoken and will not be deterred.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Discovery 2

Robonaut 2... Creepy

Okay, let's try this again.
Most of what is written below appeared in a previous post on November 3rd of last year, entitled appropriately enough, Discovery. I wrote it back then because the space shuttle Discovery, which is what these pieces are about, was supposed to have launched shortly after the first post was written (it was also supposed to have been launched last May, then September, then October, but it procrastinated). However, it didn't. It's launch was delayed repeatedly due to some pesky technical electrical problems, an approaching storm front, a fuel leak, and a couple of cracks in the external fuel tank.
I don't know about you, dear readers, but if I were one of the crew members about ready to ride in Discovery up to the heavens, I'd certainly want these little problems dealt with in a significant manner, namely I'd want them fixed.
Well the super glue has finally set, and the space shuttle Discovery is ready to launch today, in a few hours in fact, at 1:50PM my time (PST), for it's final mission to the International Space Station.
It's final mission period.
According to Steve Payne, NASA Test Director "we're working only one minor issue, we have a slight internal leakage on a reaction control system regulator, however we've seen this condition before, it is well within acceptable limits and we're going to accept it for flight, it should be waived here shortly."
At this time weather does not appear to be an issue with only a 20% chance of it prohibiting the launch. There is a very slight concern for showers and a low cloud ceiling. I can live with that.
There will be two more shuttle flights this year. Endeavor is scheduled to launch on April 19th, and Atlantis, the last shuttle mission ever, on June 28th.
One item I didn't mention in the first post is that mine, and my lovely ex-case manager, Erin's picture (photograph) will be sent along with Endeavor in April, in the NASA Face in Space project that allows people (folks) like you and me... well, just you, as I've already done it, to upload a head shot to their website after which it will be included on the flight. After the flight you can download a neat official Flight Certificate from NASA, stating officially that your picture had indeed escaped the earthly bounds of gravity, had said hello to the astronauts on the space station, and returned to Earth.
It's true, here's the web page right here:
So send your face to space dear readers. I'm going to send my grand nephew Jaxen's right now.
And here's everything you'd want to know about Discovery and it's last mission that was written last year:

Discovery is now the oldest shuttle still in service having already flown 38 flights since 1984. It has completed 5,247 orbits, and spent 322 days in space. The craft has a long history with the Hubble Telescope, having taken it into orbit in 1990, and flying two missions to service the bus sized instrument since. It also launched the Ulysses probe to study the Sun, also in 1990, the mission lasting until June 30th of 2009.
As far as I know, and my knowledge is vast, Discovery flew the first sitting member of Congress into orbit in 1985, Senator Jake Garn (R-UT), as a mission specialist. Considering he helped facilitate the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s, which cost the American tax payers nearly $125 billion dollars through his deregulative Garn–St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 (these guys never freaking learn), I wish the other astronauts on board would have left him up there (oh, am I being too cruel? Yes! And delightedly so!). It also took John Glenn back up into space when he was 77 years old, making him the oldest guy in space so far, and as he was a Senator at the time, he was the third sitting member of Congress to go to space (the second being Rep. Bill Nelson (D-FL), which makes the score Dems 2 to Repubs 1. We are winning the space race!).
Discovery was the first shuttle to return to flight after both the Challenger disaster in 1988, and the Columbia disaster in 2005. Since that flight Discovery's missions have primarily been involved with supplying and servicing the International Space Station, as it's last flight will be.
STS-133 will carry six astronauts to the ISS, who will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) Leonardo, which is a multipurpose module which is permanent, and will primarily be used for storage of spares, supplies and waste. It will also carry the third of four ExPRESS Logistics Carriers, which is an unpressurized payload project that provides mechanical mounting surfaces, electrical power, and command and data handling services for science experiments.
Very exciting.
Hey, they're also taking a robot! Robonaut2 is a humanoid robotic development project, the idea being to have a humanoid robotic apparatus which can work alongside astronauts while outside the space station, presumably attached to one of the station's robotic arms. I don't know why they need this. Robonaut2 will be tested for feasibility once it gets to the ISS. It is a forerunner to the HAL 9000 Series, and will one day take over the planet.
The astronauts on Discovery will also take with them more than half a million signatures of students, which is very cool, and part of the Student Signatures in Space program which has taken nearly 7 million students’ signatures from 6,552 schools on 10 shuttle missions.
The mission will feature two space walks, will be the 164th American manned space flight, the 133rd shuttle mission since the first in 1981, and the 35th shuttle mission to the ISS.
It will also be the third to last shuttle mission ever, Discovery being decommissioned after the flight. The last mission, STS 135, is scheduled to be launched June 28th.
NASA has offered to give Discovery to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, for public display and preservation as part of the national collection, which is entirely appropriate, as I certainly wouldn't know where to put it.
The freaking thing's huge.
Goodbye Discovery. You've served us well.

Addendum: It was a close one but the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery finally got off the ground at 1:53 my time (which is the right time, PST). I saw it with my own eyes (unless it was another of those elaborate hoaxes perpetrated on us by NASA and the media, like landing on the moon). The launch was three minutes late due to a last minute computer freeze on the ground. Somebody plugged the darn things back in and the countdown continued. Thank you again Discovery. Bring your astronauts back home in eleven days and enjoy your cool retirement at the Smithsonian. Peace

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Jaxen Lee!

What a cutie!

Jaxen Lee

In the Arizona snow somewhere,
with mom, and in need of a flash

Well it's happened. My grandnephew has completed his first trip around the sun and is starting another. Happy first birthday Mr. Jaxen Lee! May you and your mom have continued good health and fortune, and many more happy birthdays!

Bill Moyers & Facts Still Matter


With LBJ, as Press Secretary

The Journal

With some guy named Jon Stewart

Bill Moyers is one of my heros. I don't have many, and he's one of them. Wikipedia labels him an American Journalist and public commentator. That's it. But he is much more than that. He's one of my heros for one thing. Wikipedia doesn't mention that at all.
He was born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas. Well you've got be raised somewhere I guess. Thankfully that experience did not ruin him. He studied journalism at the North Texas State College, and the University of Texas at Austin, and in 1954 a Senator named Lyndon B. Johnson hired him as a summer intern, later promoting him and letting him manage all of his personal mail. That year Bill became ordained and planned to enter a doctor of philosophy program in American Studies at the University of Texas. By politics and journalism got in his way.
Bill was a top aid to Johnson when he unsuccessfully ran for President in 1960, and when John F. Kennedy choose Johnson to be his running mate in the general election that year, Bill acted as the liason between the two.
Hey, guess what? Kennedy won the election and Bill was given the job of Associate Director of Public Affairs for the newly created Peace Corps in 1961. He continued to move up in positions of responsibility, and after President Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson took office, Bill became his informal chief of staff from October 1964 until 1966. From July 1965 to February 1967, he also served as White House press secretary, a pretty important and ofttimes difficult position.
After leaving the government in 1967, Mr. Moyers started what would become a long relationship with the Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBS), hosting his own news program called "Bill Moyers Journal," which ran until 1981.
Concurrently he also began a relationship with CBS News in 1976, eventually working as senior news analyst and commentator for the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather from 1981 to 1986. He became dissatisfied with declining news standards at the network and decided not to renew his contract with CBS.
At PBS Bill found the freedom to engage in the type of journalism he considered important and free from corporate influence. He hosted several programs over the years, would go away for a while, then return, making specials concerning a myriad of eclectic subjects, usually with a progressive and often spiritual bent. He often criticized the media itself, and the hypocrisy found in modern politics.
I spent a good deal of time searching for a video clip that truly represents Mr. Moyers... but there are so many, with so many different subjects being examined in his always insightful, thoughtful, humorous, calm, and fair, intelligent manner. So I choose this, a compilation. Please enjoy:
He may not have served in the armed forces, but Bill is a true American hero, a patriot of the highest order.
He keeps retiring every so often. Shinning light on and exposing the powerful forces that plot against our democracy can be quite taxing. But Bill usually finds his way back into the country's consciousness when needed, or called upon. If he ever truly leaves us, a great voice for fairness and freedom will have departed our national discourse.
Below, and in Part 2 of this post, Bill addresses the very important issue of the media's role in defining issues to a particular maleable audience quite often to achieve a desired idealogical, or political goal, to a populace that is often ill informed and manipulated into believing what they are told by trusted outlets, and once those positions are adopted, they become owned by that public, even if they have no basis in reality. A phenomena we have glossed over before back in April of 2009 ( ), that many have termed "the sunk-cost effect." What he addresses may be one of, if not the most important issue of our time... truth, and how it affects our nation's sense of reality.
History Makers is an organization of broadcasters and producers from around the world concerned with the challenges and opportunities faced by factual broadcasting. Bill was the keynote speaker at the 2011 convention on January 27, 2011, in New York City.

"Thanks to all of you for your welcome - and for the chance to be here among so many kindred spirits. Your dedication to factual broadcasting, to our craft and calling; your passion for telling stories that matter; for connecting the present to the past, has created a community whose work is essential in this disquieting time when "what is happening today, this hour, this very minute, seems to be our sole criterion for judgment and action." It is a sad world that exists only in the present, unaware of the long procession that brought us here. As Milan Kundera’s insight reminds us, the struggle against power "is the struggle of memory against forgetting."
I talked about this gathering when I was in California this past weekend and spent time with a good friend and supporter of my own work on television, Paul Orfalea. He's the maverick entrepreneur who founded Kinko's in a former hamburger stand with one small rented Xerox copier and turned it into a business service empire with more than two billion dollars a year in revenue. After selling Kinko's, Paul became one of the most popular, if unorthodox, teachers of undergraduates at the University of California/ Santa Barbara. When I told him what I would be doing today he applauded and understood immediately the importance of what you do. He described to me how he teaches history "backwards" to college students who have learned little about the past in high school, don't know that the past is even alive, much less that it lives in them and question its value today. He hands his students a contemporary story from some daily news source, tells them to begin with the "now" of it and to then walk the trail back down the chronology to trace the personalities, circumstances and choices that made it today's news. Their assignment, in effect, is to begin at the entrance to the cave and rewind Ariadne's thread in the opposite direction, back to the deep origins of the story. In an era marked by the lack of continuity and community between the generations, this strikes me as an inspired way to stretch young imaginations across the time zones of human experience.
And it's, of course, what you do so often in your work. No one I know does it more effectively than "Frontline." and I was pleased to learn that you are honoring its executive director, David Fanning, who is a genius, in my book, at story telling grounded in fact and presented with perspective. Over the past quarter century, I have been privileged to collaborate occasionally with David. But beyond my own personal and professional gratitude to him, all of us who produce current affairs and history programming know that he has kept the bar high while producing a body of work unequaled since Fred Friendly. Most of you are too young to have seen the whole arc of David's extraordinary career or to have known Fred Friendly's work. But some of us can never forget we're standing on the shoulder of those two giants.
I also had the privilege of witnessing Fred in action. When he was president of "CBS News" and I was the White House press secretary, he would come down from New York on the shuttle and slip in the back door of the White House and along the hall past the Cabinet Room to the private entrance to my office for an hour-or-so chat. I had done some preliminary work at the Office of Education on the future of public television in 1964, and we were soon talking about the medium's future; he was a true believer in television "that dignifies instead of debases" and of the importance "of at least one channel free of commercials and commercial values." Little did we know at the time that he would soon quit the job he relished as president of the news division that he and Edward R. Murrow had built. The two of them created "See It Now" and "CBS Reports," which set the standard for investigative reporting and documentaries of unprecedented power and impact. One of their collaborations was the famous documentary on the demagogic and dangerous Senator Joseph McCarthy. They made the brilliant decision to let McCarthy speak for himself, an entire broadcast's worth of his bullying words and techniques. McCarthy obligingly hanged himself on national television, far more effectively and fatally than anyone else's words could. His own words had turned Americans against his demagoguery - something for which the right to this day has never forgiven what they denounced as the "Communist Broadcasting System." Watching that documentary over and again, I realized that it is through such unhurried honoring of reality that we can approach the myriad and messy truths of human experience. For lasting effect, those truths cannot be forced into the mind of the public; they must be nurtured.
Fred never wanted to leave CBS, but in 1966, when the network refused to carry Senate hearings on the Vietnam War, choosing instead to run a repeat of "I Love Lucy," he resigned, became the media adviser to the Ford Foundation and was the prime mover in the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He became our Johnny Appleseed, persuading the foundation to put its money - millions of dollars - where his mind was.
I had left the White House by then to be publisher of Newsday and would soon join public television as anchor of a weekly broadcast. Fred's first teaching assistant, Martin Clancy, was my star producer. It was usually one of Fred's people who taught me the most about our craft - how it was possible through the coupling of word and image to come close to the verifiable truth and an honest accounting of reality. Fred played a critical role in my life when, after stints at both CBS and PBS, I had to choose between the two. I had found it increasingly difficult at the network to do the work I most wanted to do, but was reluctant to take off the golden handcuffs and leap into the world of independent production. I went over to see Fred at the foundation and there was nothing subtle in his advice. He said, "You're never going to do the work you most want to do until you do it for yourself." So, I followed him overboard.
Fred was right, as he so often was: independence meant the best hope for me to pursue journalism as a mission. Perhaps, we were naïve, but in those days many of us still assumed that an informed public is preferable to an uninformed one. Hadn't Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government"? And wasn't a free press essential to that end?
Maybe not. As Joe Keohane reported last year in The Boston Globe, political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency "deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information." He was reporting on research at the University of Michigan, which found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts were not curing misinformation. "Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger."
I won't spoil it for you by a lengthy summary here. Suffice it to say that, while "most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence," the research found that actually "we often base our opinions on our beliefs ... and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions."
These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths. Any journalist whose reporting threatens that belief system gets sliced and diced by its apologists and polemicists (say, the fabulists at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the yahoos of talk radio.) Remember when Limbaugh, for one, took journalists on for their reporting abfabulistout torture at Abu Ghraib? He attempted to dismiss the cruelty inflicted on their captives by American soldiers as a little necessary "sport" for soldiers under stress, saying on air: "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation ... you [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?" As so often happens, the Limbaugh line became a drumbeat in the nether reaches of the right-wing echo chamber. So, it was not surprising that in a nationwide survey conducted by The Chicago Tribune on First Amendment issues, half of the respondents said there should be some kind of press restraint on reporting about the prison abuse. According to Charles Madigan, the editor of the Tribune's Perspective section, 50 or 60 percent of the respondents said they "would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, particularly when it has sexual content or is heard as unpatriotic."
No wonder many people still believe Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, as his birth certificate shows; or that he is a Muslim, when in fact he is a Christian; or that he is a socialist when day by day he shows an eager solicitude for corporate capitalism. Partisans in particular - and the audiences for Murdoch's Fox News and talk radio - are particularly susceptible to such scurrilous disinformation. In a Harris survey last spring, 67 percent of Republicans said Obama is a socialist; 57 percent believed him to be a Muslim; 45 percent refused to believe he was born in America; and 24 percent said he "may be the antichrist."
The bigger the smear, the more it sticks. And there is no shortage of smear artists. Last year, Forbes Magazine, obviously bent on mischief, allowed the right-wing fantasist Dinesh D'Souza to tar Obama with a toxic brew so odious it triggered memories of racist babble - a perverted combination of half-baked psychology, biology and sociology - that marked the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan. Seizing upon the anti-colonial views of Obama's Kenyan father, who had deserted the family when the boy was two years old and whose absence from his life Obama meditated upon in his best-selling book "Dreams of My Father," D'Souza wrote that, "Incredibly, the US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."
In a sane political world, you might think at least a few Republican notables would have denounced such hogwash by their own kind for what it was. But no. Newt Gingrich, once their speaker of the House, whose own fantasies include succeeding Obama in the White House, set the tone by praising D'Souza's claptrap as the "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama." D'Souza, said Gingrich, has made a "stunning insight" and had unlocked the mystery of Obama. I could find only one conservative who stood up against this trash. David Frum, the former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote on his blog: "The argument that Obama is an infiltrating alien, a deceiving foreigner - and not just any kind of alien, but specifically a Third World alien - has been absorbed to the very core of the Republican platform for November 2010." Once again, the right-wing media machine had popularized a false narrative and made of it a destructive political weapon."

To be continued.