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Flipped out

Last Mexican of Venice


The Last Mexican of Venice is gone. The flippers got her. Yanked her like a rotten, smelly tooth. Sent L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies to do it.

Jeannine Mendoza grew up in Venice. She and her four siblings waded in the marshes before there was a Marina, built bonfires on the beach before it was illegal, delighted in its unpretentious working-class Little Rascals streets. Her parents bought an unassuming house in what avaricious realtors would one day dub “The Golden Triangle,” but it was just a sidestreet niche in 1957. And Mom and Dad had grown up in West L.A. and Santa Monica.

For that matter, the Last Mexican of Venice was descended from the Marquez family, recipients of an 1839 land grant that included Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades.

You want your “roots?” There are your “roots.”

But Jeannine Mendoza, a great-granddaughter of Old California, has been kicked out, under threat of arrest, from the home she and her late husband, Aaron Hassman, bought back in the ‘70’s. A 500-square-foot matchbox on Superba Avenue near Lincoln where they somehow managed to raise two boys, while Jeannine’s Nana lived in a mother-in-law apartment out back. Typical circumstances of old Venice, long replaced by millennial tekkie royalty, movie royalty, developer royalty.

Royalty. I remember an old bum I met on a pier long ago, declaiming. Everything in his speech somehow came back to the word, “rat.” “Royalty!” he exclaimed, spit hanging off his white stubble. “Roy. Al. Ty. RAT!”

The RATs got the Last Mexican of Venice, which is how Jeannine wryly referred to herself in recent years, just as they have gotten countless others in her heavily white gentrified neighborhood, and flipper-infested neighborhoods everywhere. The RATs smell money, and nothing else matters. Not someone’s hard work or integrity, not suffering, not tragedy. Only money. It’s really just the old Vaudeville play, “The Drunkard,” on a huge scale. The poor widow (Jeannine lost her husband several years ago) being evicted by the rich landlord.

Jeannine Mendoza grew up believing that you should give back to the community, the world, in some way. Most people used to believe this way, before college kids answered “icon” or “rich” when polled as to their career ambition. She went to Cal State Northridge on loans and financial aid for minorities (Educational Opportunity Program) in the early ‘70’s, got a degree in education. Then a Master’s degree. Eventually, an Ed. D. Right. Dr. Mendoza.

And she taught. . .kindergarten. Occasionally first or second grade. She believed this is where she could make the most impact, and that the most impact should be made here, when brains and hearts are so malleable. She was dedicated, she was effervescent, she adored her students. Many came back years later to thank her. Radiant reviews from supervisors. Always.

And so it went. She taught, she raised a family, she paid off her gigantic student loans. Her husband taught grade school, and supplemented income by becoming a boat captain for hire, piloting outings to Catalina, Baja on weekends. The Hassmans got by. They were a happy couple, in love with each other, their kids, their home, their work.

Except. . .

Venice, California, pre-gentrification in the '70s and gentrified today. Where are the People?Venice, California, pre-gentrification in the '70s and gentrified today. Where are the People?

Of scientists and charlatans:

Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster


Republican presidential aspirants Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum all describe themselves as devout Catholics and, like most Republican candidates, they argue that religion should play an expanded role in American politics and government. However, on matters related to global warming, Messrs. Bush and Rubio both agree with Mr. Santorum, stating that we should, “...leave science to the scientists.”
Fortunately for these Republican candidates, Jorge Bergoglio, a chemist from Argentina, has stepped forward to address the concerns of those who think that global warming issues should be only confined to scientists. Recently, Bergoglio, analyzed the available data and produced a most remarkable treatise titled “Care for Our Common Home.” His book is well worth reading.

Bergoglio has an interesting past. In 1929 his family fled fascism in Mussolini’s Italy and migrated to Argentina, where he was born in 1936. He is well credentialed. He attended Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles, a school of the Salesians of Don Bosco, in Ramos Mejía, Buenos Aires, and entered the technical school Escuela Técnica Industrial #27. After graduation he began work as a chemist at Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory in Buenos Aries (to finance his education, he also worked as a bouncer in an Argentine bar). 
Thanks to a most magnificent, almost lyrical writing style Bergoglio's book should be be easily understandable by the general public — and even by politicians. His words are firm. He resolutely reflects on the general state of our environment, and particularly on the contribution of modern society to environmental degradation. He writes:

Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.” He continues, saying that society creates a  “… pollution that effects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. 

Seeing little hope in industrial technology as a solution, he states:

Technology, which linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create another.

As global warming melts Greenland's massive ice cap, its surface exposes centuries of soot and ash, becoming ever darker and melting ever faster -- just one of myriad vicious climate change circles.As global warming melts Greenland's massive ice cap, its surface exposes centuries of soot and ash, becoming ever darker and melting ever faster -- just one of myriad vicious climate change circles.

The L.A. Times goes to Cuba:

OMG! The Food’s So Proletarian, and Pets are Hard to Find


The Los Angeles Times sent one of its managing editors to Cuba a few months ago, to report on the status of the society, culture, etc. Good that they sent a big gun, instead of just a run-of-the-mill reporter. Here are two of the stunning findings from this report. (brace yourself!):

If you travel to Cuba, be prepared for a squash fest. At every lunch and dinner, we were offered pumpkin soup or cooked butternut squash or squash stew. It was rarely bad but never great, which was true of much of the food we consumed.

Annnnnd. . .

Cuba doesn’t have the agriculture, the infrastructure or the economy to support anything resembling the flatbreads, house-cured pastrami and vinegared cauliflower that we’ve come to expect in Venice or Los Feliz or DTLA.

Well! That darn Cuba! Here the USA has reestablished relations, and Cuba does not even have the goddamned decency to offer squash stew that is "great." Sheesh. Harrumph! How dare those tyrannized, dirt-poor people! Good thing the LAT sent one of its managing editors to get this scoop. I mean, think of how an inexperienced reporter might have handled the assignment!


And then we have the vital, earth-shattering news that Cuba does not have the "agriculture, infrastructure, or economy" to produce the "flatbreads, house-cured pastrami, and vinegared cauliflower that we’ve come to expect in Venice, Los Feliz or DTLA” (the new “hipster” way of referring to downtown L.A..) Darn that Cuba again! Here Obama went to all that trouble to let American citizens haul their fat asses down there, and my God, those Cubans don't have the courtesy to produce pastrami as good as Venice, Los Feliz, and "DTLA." Unforgivable! Didn’t they know that U.S. citizens with big, rumbling guts and discriminating palates were coming? Thank God for this hard-hitting, incisive, pithy, empathetic, moving account of life in Cuba under Castro! Can a Pulitzer be far off?

Hot and dry in the heartland:

Radioactive Texas Waste Dump Threatens Key US Water Resource


In a remote place in the desert of West Texas, outside the small town of Andrews, something dirty has been going on which threatens the water supply of nearly a third of America’s farmland (and perhaps the millions of people who eat the food grown using that water).  

The highly radioactive spoils of nuclear power plants from 36 states -- as well as other seriously toxic or carcinogenic substances, such as PCBs dredged from the Hudson River -- are being dumped there on a regular basis, and this will continue until the designated hole in the ground is filled.  

That designated hole happens to be right on the Ogallala Aquifer, according to environmentalists. 

At 174,000 square miles, the Ogallala Aquifer is the world’s second largest, providing water to 27 percent of the entire agricultural land in the United States.  An aquifer can be a superhighway for nuclear waste, as shown by studies of the movement of waste at polluted nuclear sites such as Hanford, Washington

The dirty dump owes its existence to dirty politics. Local residents say officials came to town to conspire with billionaires on ways to silence their opposition to the dump. Owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), the site was built by Harold C. Simmons, a top contributor to the campaigns of George W. Bush, Rick Perry and the Super PAC run by Bush confidant and Republican Party strategist Karl Rove.  Opponents say that WCS amounts to “a privatization of nuclear waste to help a billionaire make billions of dollars more.”  

Activists charge that the state of Texas granted WCS its license after repeated intervention by politicians bought by Simmons. And unlike most applicants for licenses, WCS bought the site even before it had performed a proper environmental study of it.

This Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump site in Texas threatens the nation's largest water aquifer, activists warnThis Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump site in Texas threatens the nation's largest water aquifer, activists warn

We’re the heroin business!

US Lost in Afghanistan, But Did Manage to Make Afghanistan the World's Top Heroin Exporter


Afghan Brigadier General Abdul Sama was accused recently of smuggling over 40 pounds of heroin.

It should come as no surprise that an Afghan general was caught smuggling heroin, the surprise is that any high official in that country should be charged with a crime for profiting from the trade in illegal drugs while under the watchful eye of American forces.

Under American occupation, Afghanistan quickly became the world's leader in opium production, producing over 90% of the world's supply. The Taliban had almost shut down opium production prior to the US invasion in 2001 to the chagrin of international drug runners, and no doubt the international banking industry, which earns big profits laundering billions of dollars in illegal drug money annually. Illegal drugs account for about 8% of all international trade.

Few Americans are aware of the long history of the CIA's running illegal drugs internationally, thanks to the untiring efforts of the mainstream press. Were citizens aware, few would be surprised that heroin production has skyrocketed under US occupation of Afghanistan.

The tragic case of journalist Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News is a case in point, and represents perhaps the widest-known attempt at suppressing the story of CIA drug-running endeavors, with the mainstream US press shamelessly and dutifullly attacking Webb for attempting to expose the inconvenient truth.
Afghan harvests opium as US Troops ignore him (or protect him?)Afghan harvests opium as US Troops ignore him (or protect him?)

We don't do body counts

Have Millions of Deaths from America's 'War on Terror' been Concealed?


How many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days
'Til I die?

Do I know any ways
I can make you laugh?
Or do I only know how
To make you cry?

― Leon Russell, Stranger in a Strange Land

The US invasions of Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2001 have produced holocausts in both countriesThe US invasions of Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2001 have produced holocausts in both countries

The mass media in the US have covered up the most important fact in America’s ongoing wars: the number of people slaughtered. Even before the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the mainstream media served as cheerleaders for the bloodshed, spreading the major lies that led us to war.

As a combat vet still shocked by what I saw almost 50 years ago in Vietnam, where we earlier slaughtered millions in another war based on lies, I decided to look into what is happening in the current wars. I discovered that as many as seven million innocents may have been slaughtered in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I say "innocents," because even most combatants American forces have killed were merely defending their homelands from invasions by foreigners (that is us). The invasion of Afghanistan was avoidable ― the Taliban had offered to give up bin Laden if the USA would show them proof that he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
The invasion of Iraq meanwhile violated international law and was little more than genocide.

I first looked for government or mainstream media reports in researching this article, but found little help there, forcing me to conclude they are not at all interested in counting victims. Anything they've put out to date is so simplistic that it should be ignored by anyone seeking facts. They wouldn’t even report on or take seriously a 2006 report by the respected UK medical journal, the Lancet, which, based upon household surveys and other data, concluded that between the March 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the beginning of 2006, Iraq had suffered over 650,000 war-related deaths, representing an astonishing 2.5% of the country’s population.

It should go without saying that nobody has a completely accurate count of the dead. But over the years, the impact of a corporate media and National Security State have taken their toll on the truth, warping it to imply that relatively few people have died in America’s phony "War on Terrorism."

The charge of a cover-up by the mass media seems obvious, as it is unconscionable that major media, a multi-billion dollar industry, could not find the numbers if they made even a feeble attempt. It seems obvious as well that such numbers would shock the public and turn them against the wars, which probably explains the silence of the mainstream, which is in line with their avid war support and simply echoes the words of General Tommy Franks that "We don't do body counts."

Guest poet:

I feel like I should send you a poem or something


Something about how life or God or who ever is behind the curtain of
all things pulling all our strings,
the strings that jerk us up out of the void and into the light and
heat and cold and make us put on
our boots and start walking and talking and eating cornflakes for
breakfast and slaps us around and
dumps us in the middle of deep dark holes of despair and desperation
where monsters come out of the night
and gobble up our happiness when we aren't looking and then throws us
in the ocean of self doubt and confusion that dries up the
next minute and leaves us spread out like dead butterflies on the
specimen table of alienation...
Only to have the phone ring and someone tell us that the person we
love most in the world just died
and now we have to look at the sunrise and wonder what we ever thought
was beautiful about it and if it will
ever look beautiful again. . .
And how wonderful it is that after all that happens Life or God or
who ever it is that is behind the curtain of all things pulling
our strings now Jerks up out of the void the most incredible being
that says, "Look at me! I'm going to start it all over again.
And I'm so beautiful none of what has come before me matters a flea's
butt because I bring with me the promise that
life can be different and nobody can deny that who looks at my tiny
fingers or by big bright eyes and the way I wiggle my toes
at the cosmos because I'm alive and that's all that matters and if
there's anything
at all close to pure being it's me!”
  -- Frank Asch
This poem was offered to ThisCantBeHappening! by Frank Asch, the noted children's book author/illustrator. He lives in Hawaii. (It is copyrighted may not be reprinted without permission of the author.)

Coming next: Year-round worker protests at Walmart

Walmart Black Friday Strikes Become a Thanksgiving Holiday Tradition


Bellevue, WA -- Yesterday marked the third annual Black Friday protests and strikes at Walmart, the largest private employer in this country. The Walton family, controlling owners of the company, is America’s richest family, with holdings valued at almost $150 billion dollars. For decades, Walmart has remained an employer powerhouse based upon a business model of low wages, poor benefits and union busting.

Walmart officials categorically deny any efforts to squelch workers’ organizing. At the protest at Bellevue, WA, yesterday, officials are quick to argue that the small percentage of employee participation in the strikes proves that the vast majority of workers are happy. When I asked their public relations representative to comment on the counter interpretation that limited employee participation could be due to an intimidating environment that scares would-be strikers into silence, she had no comment.

And though the spin-doctors of Walmart would have you believe that these protests and strikes are simply exaggerated demonstrations from a very vocal minority, the growing number of petitions, strikes, and studies say otherwise.

Walmart’s abuses are too numerous to catalog in their entirety. The most famously egregious includes a company-backed Walmart employee food drive during Thanksgiving last year for other Walmart workers living on Food Stamps and too poor to buy food for the holiday. In 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed alleging that women are paid, on average, $5,200 less per year than their already low-paid male counterparts. In 2005, Walmart shut down a profitable store in Quebec simply because it successfully unionized. In 2012, Walmart helped sabotage a safety improvement movement in their contracted overseas sweatshops, including a building that collapsed in Bangladesh and killed over 1,000 people.

It’s not just the Walmart workers who suffer. While folks might think that they’re saving money by shopping at Walmart, a 2013 a congressional report found otherwise. Walmart’s wages are so low that many of their employees require public assistance such as food stamps. The report calculated that a single “Walmart Supercenter” cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million dollars a year in taxpayer subsidies for employees. Another study estimated that that total annual cost to tax payers nationally was a staggering $6.2 billion dollars. And the kicker? Eighteen percent of the food stamp distributions are spent at Wal-Mart stores; that means that taxpayers essentially subsidized the $16 billion dollars in profits that Walmart made last year twice—once to subsidize wages, and once to subsidize the shoppers buying company products on sale in the stores.

Walmart protesters in Bellevue, WA on Black Friday, part of a nationwide movement against the giant chain (photos by Stefan Moritz)Walmart protesters in Bellevue, WA on Black Friday, part of a nationwide movement against the giant chain (photos by Stefan Moritz)

Ten Acres & A Yard Tractor

Plowing Under The Great Kansas Corpone Revolution


North Jefferson County, Kansas -- The Sept. 6, 2014 Kansas State Fair debates in Hutchinson, with a maximum arena crowd of 2500, had satellite trucks linked to MSNBC, CNN and reporters from as far away as New York. Certainly proof something was happening in Kansas, but for too many in the state that “something” remains unknown.

The “something” is easily found, though, by shaking any distracted screen grazer, instructing them to google “Traditional Republicans for Common Sense” and informing the techno-dummies that the holiest of holy, the Republican Party of Kansas, is split. Over 100 trusted, life-long members of the “Traditional Republicans” have stood up in name and print against Brownback’s Great Cornpone Revolution.

The True Believers’ Coup

The True Believers in the New Republican Party of Kansas are a mixed-blood group, part Tea Party, part “conservative” libertarian, with a sprinkling of government conspiracy freaks and “pro-life” religious zealots, many secretly funded by the infamous “non-profit” Wichita plutocrats like the Koch brothers. 

Invoking fear of “Big Government,” the New Republicans of Kansas, reliably stark raving mad about funding bigger war industries, have kept the Great Bush/Cheney Recession going here by letting every millionaire and billionaire run loose, mostly tax-free.

The New Republican Party was long in coming; I date it to before the abortion wars of former state Attorney General Phill Kline, but the 2010 elections parovided the decisive battle. That was when the True Believers took over and started targeting their own party members for political oblivion.

 Charles Koch and the man he's backing in Kansas, incumbent Gov. Sam BrownbackFair game: Charles Koch and the man he's backing in Kansas, incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback

Labeling Latino Kids as Gangsters:

DA says Speaking Spanish in Public and Wearing Sportswear Signify Gangsterism


Santa Barbara, CA -- What can we learn from the medieval church about biometric identification? Quite a lot it turns out, at least according to Santa Barbara city officials.

Biometrics is the science of human identification based upon an individual’s unique characteristics, which are used to classify them for authorized activities and pursuits. This technique gathers information about the appearance and mannerisms of an individual, using markers like fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition and gait to determine whether or not the individual will be permitted entry to restricted sites or become the target of surveillance.

Social classification is a function of institutional paradigms in any epoch. In the Middle Ages, the dominant social institution was the church and one of its greatest concerns was identifying those suspected of heresy, witchcraft or demonic possession. Church officials developed several ingenious methods for identifying such individuals. For example, they could examination the suspect’s body for telltale warts, moles, birthmarks and other signs of heresy, or even test them by throwing them into a pond to see whether they would float. Individuals who floated were deemed witches and promptly burned at the stake, while those who sank...well. Many an alleged heretic and witch met their fate at the stake for failing such church biometric standards.

Since at least the 18th century, the dominant social institution involved in such “scientific” stigmatization of individuals based on physical characteristics or behaviors has been the state, and one of its biggest concerns has been the identification of those considered to be predisposed to criminal behavior.

Nineteenth century biometric techniques included the “science” of phrenology, a method of cranial measurement that was believed to map the human head for signs of unusually concentrated brain activity as evinced by the bumps, protrusions, and other outward manifestations of potentially deviant cognitive dispositions. Though later dismissed as psuedoscience, dedicated phrenologists nevertheless played a role in the development of the idea -- still widely held -- of the innate criminality of certain groups based on the observable traits and mannerisms of their members.

Fast forward to present-day biometric discussions prompted by the national security state and its growing interest in the identification of terrorists — particularly domestic terrorists as defined by the Patriot Act. On that front, Santa Barbara’s city prosecutor Hilary Dozer last month made the case for a gang injunction in the Superior Court of Judge Colleen Stern. His goal is to combat the alleged public nuisance posed by Latino youth in this university city about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

Latino protesters against proposed Santa Barbara, CA gang injunctionLatino protesters against proposed Santa Barbara, CA gang injunction

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Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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