Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: Ron Kovic Remembers 1974 Protest for Veterans' Rights

By Lyn Jensen
"You can't really respect and honor [America's Vietnam] veterans without acknowledging they were leaders of the antiwar movement." -- Tom Hayden
Ron Kovic remains perhaps the most famous face of the movement for veterans’ rights. In the early seventies he galvanized the peace movement, both as an anti-Vietnam activist and as the author of Born on the Fourth of July. That book, a searing account of one paralyzed veteran’s shattered illusions turning to activism, has become an American classic. It was even turned into an Oscar-nominated film in 1989, starring Tom Cruise as Kovic.
Today veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are complaining about the level of care they receive, and that makes Kovic’s experience freshly relevant. In particular what fueled Kovic’s transformation were the conditions he and many other disabled veterans encountered at the Long Beach Veterans Administration. Believing that the level of care amounted to patient abuse, Kovic organized more than a dozen of his fellow patients. Unable to create change within the system, they resorted to what might now be called “occupy tactics.”
On Feb. 12, 1974, Kovic and fourteen other disabled veterans (along with some supporters including two women) arrived for a meeting at then-senator Alan Cranston’s office at the Westwood Federal Building. Finding the senator absent, they refused to leave, or even eat, until the head of the VA (at the time, Donald Johnson) met with them personally and heard their grievances. The occupation of Cranston’s office ended on March 2, 1974, after then-president Richard Nixon sent Johnson to meet with them.
Now Kovic has written a book, Hurricane Street, about the protest and its aftermath. Like its author, the book was born on the fourth of July, published by Akashic Books on that date this year.
Hurricane describes how Kovic originally planned the protest to be the first action of a new American Veterans Movement, which he organized from his residence on Hurricane Street in Marina Del Rey. The next step was to be a veterans’ march on Washington on July 4, 1974, envisioned to rival or surpass both the 1964 King March and the protests that vets staged in Washington during the Depression.
The planned march on Washington ended in failure when other veterans’ groups refused to participate. Days later, Kovic was kicked out of his own organization (he suspects outside influences) and the movement disbanded.

At the age of 70 and still living in the South Bay, Kovic remains a patient of the Long Beach VA, where the reforms he demanded in 1974 have resulted in much higher standards of patient care. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: Robert Vivo Argues War is a Crime Against Humanity

by Lyn Jensen

"War is not, then, something that befalls man but rather a scourge intentionally invented and perpetrated by man," provides the thesis of South American author Roberto Vivo's book, War:  A Crime Against Humanity, that was published by Hojas Del Sur in Argentina in 2014. It has since been made available in English translation, in both e-book and paperback formats.

Unfortunately Vivo adds little to arguments already made concerning the immorality of war, and he also offers few suggestions as to how humanity may move beyond warfare to alternate means of resolving our differences. His first chapter, "Violence and Man" is an overly broad look at war's history that stops short of examining war's true economic, anthropological, psychological, social and political causes. It fails to answer or even ask some basic questions readers may have.

If you're looking for discussions on such topics as, "Why do politicians keep sending citizens to war?" or "Why do citizens keep allowing politicians to send them to war, for that matter?" you won't find them in this book. Readers will find better answers to such questions in, for example, General Smedley Butler's classic pamphlet War is a Racket. 

Vivo's second chapter, "A History of Peace," also does little to address the history of the peace movement. Much of the chapter is spent on distant historical examples of Christians, Moslems, and Jews co-existing and working together. Those examples might be better suited for studies in religion than for a book supposedly about the criminality of war. As for what Vivo says here about the modern peace movement, Ghandi gets two paragraphs. Nelson Mandela (and the entire South African anti-apartheid movement) gets one. Martin Luther King, Jr. gets nothing.

"Open Society and Closed Society," the third chapter, also suffers from overly broad generalizations that do little to advance the author's thesis. One might think that a South American scholar might provide a neutral viewpoint concerning examples of America's liberal-conservative divide, but that doesn't happen. Instead the chapter focuses on more distant history (some interesting insight into the political views of George Washington and Napoleon in particular). Vivo's book might be more relevant if it focused more on how to make today's peace movement heard above right-wing noise.

Only in the final chapter, which bears the same title as the book itself, do we find significant guidance pointing us to a world without war. Vivo begins here by using slavery, torture and racism as examples of moral issues the world has made great progress toward criminalizing in modern times. However, he fails to provide any concrete examples of how steps taken to eradicate those issues may be duplicated within the anti-war movement.

Vivo finally gets around to discussing of the criminal 2003 invasion of Iraq on pages 310-311 (out of 335 pages). Even then he only focuses on the British, as he relates how that nation flouted the Nuremberg trials' condemnation of aggressive war as the supreme international crime. Here we see we have precedent for war as a crime--the problem is Britain's government (and America's, and much of the rest of the world) routinely ignores it.

War does proffer the United Nations' International Declaration of Human Rights (IDHR) as one example of how the world is moving--stumbling, fumbling, bumbling, but moving--towards binding all nations together in criminalizing war, and also torture. Vivo stops short, however, of recommending ways the peace movement may ensure national and international leaders execute compliance with the IDHR.

Another example of enforcing international law is the International Criminal Court (ICC) but here, too, the United States in particular simply chooses to not accept the court's authority. Vivo proffers, "The United States is in the unique position of having taken part in the organization of the ICC and having signed its charter in 2002 [the year after we criminally invaded Afghanistan and we were planning to criminally invade Iraq] but having then (under the administration of George W. Bush) refused to ratify it. The United States is not a member of the ICC, nor does it recognize the authority of the Court within its own country, and this last is the case too of other world powers such as China, Russia, India, Iran and Israel."

In summary, Vivo argues, "[T]hat if a single individual's human and civil rights can be arbitrarily suspended, everyone else's rights are at risk too, it stands to reason that if a single major power is permitted to thumb its nose at the principles and institutions of international law and governance, the effective power and investiture of such institutions is severely undermined, as are any genuine possibilities for universal peace and justice."

A classroom, study group, or book club may be where War may prove most useful, where it can be discussed as part of more extensive anti-war studies. Youth, or others who are new to the peace movement, may find it a place to provide a broad overview regarding the criminality of warfare. Committed pacifists will need to seek out additional material that more directly addresses alternate means to resolving our differences.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Once Upon a Lie: Find Love By Practicing Peace

"Today I'm participating in a group blogging! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about finding love in unimaginable places. Why this topic? We're celebrating the release of Michael French's twenty-fourth novel. Once Upon a Lie (Terra Nova Books) is an exploration of the secrets families keep, and the ways those secrets can tear a family apart. Visit The Muffin (http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com) to read what Michael has to say on finding love in unexpected places and and view the list of all participating bloggers. Visit Michael's website (http://www.michaelrfrench.com/) to find out more about the author."

While teenagers in love--the subject of Once Upon a Lie--may not be all that unexpected, what about finding love through the pursuit of peace? To become an instrument of peace means to sow love where there is hatred. Let's list ten ways to spread peace and love around in a world that has too little of either:

  • Think globally, start locally.  Look around your neighborhood, workplace or school to see what conflicts exist--and take action to resolve them.
  • Put on a benefit concert (or festival or open mike night) for the cause of peace. Encourage all participating artists to speak out for peace. Give musicians a song list beforehand and ask them to choose from it. (Talk to a legal expert to make sure you have clearance to do this.) This idea can be adapted for an art show or poetry slam.
  • If you're part of a book club, suggest they focus on a peace-themed book, either fiction or non-fiction.
  • Organize a series of film screenings and discussions around the theme of war and peace.
  • Contact all your elected officials and urge them to support specific actions to bring about a lasting peace. Do it often.
  • Write an old-fashioned letter to your local newspaper on the subject of peace and how to find alternate means to resolving our differences.
  •  Volunteer with a peace group. 
  • If you come across some money unexpectedly, donate it to a peace organization. Also consider such organizations when it comes to recycling your unwanted things--see what kind of in-kind donations they may need.
  • Show mercy. Visit the grave of a loved one who was lost to war. When you do, ask if the cemetery needs any donations or volunteers. 
  • Look around the Internet for ways to take action for peace. The site dosomething.org for all kinds of personal actions is a good place to start.
  • Your own family could be the most damaging war zone of all. If you've had a falling-out with a relative, friend, or neighbor, do what you can to make it up. 



Friday, June 17, 2016

Random Lengths (Jun. 9-22, 2016): Carson to Appeal Rent Control Case

Link to one of three stories w/ my byline in the latest Random Lengths, Jun. 9-22, '16.
This one is titled, "Carson to Appeal Rent Control Case."
See the street copy for more Carson news ("City Considers Updates to Mobile Home Park Closure Ordinance") and my preview on the rock group Hard Rain appearing at the Long Beach Bayou Festival, Jun. 19:
http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/carson-appeal-rent-control-case/
In case the link goes down, the story follows:
In an ongoing dispute over a city board’s decision regarding rent-controlled property, a federal court this past month ordered the City of Carson to pay more than $3.3 million to Colony Cove Properties.
City Attorney Sunny Soltani told Random Lengths News in a phone interview that the decision, which Carson plans to appeal, will have no effect on the city’s rent-control ordinance.
“It’s specific to this one case,” Soltani said.
The litigation resulted from two decisions by the Mobile Home Park Rental Review Board, one in September 2007 and another in September 2008. Both involved applications for rent increases for Colony Cove mobile home park. Colony Cove and Colony Cove Properties are owned by James Goldstein.
Soltani said the case began when Goldstein refinanced his mortgage on the park, then asked Carson’s Mobilehome Park Rental Review Board for permission to raise the rent by $600 on every rent-controlled space. When the board approved a rent increase of only $50 per space,  Goldstein sued—and lost—six times in state court, Soltani said. When his legal options in state courts ran out, Goldstein decided to make a federal case of it.
“The city has essentially forced Colony Cove to shoulder an affordable housing burden that should be borne by the city taxpayers as a whole,” Goldstein’s complaint argued.
On April 28, a jury trial began in U.S. District Court. On May 5, the jury rendered a unanimous verdict in Goldstein’s favor. The jury decided both actions “constituted a regulatory taking without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” the judgement affirming the jury’s decision stated.
Soltani said Carson would appeal on grounds that the judge erred in making jury instructions.
“It is an error for the court not to define Plaintiff’s burden of proof for the jury,” the defendant’s trial brief stated. “In this case, the court must instruct the jury that Plaintiff has the burden of proof of showing that the Defendants’ actions under the three Penn Central factors were so severe that they effectively ousted Plaintiff from its property.”
Carson has 60 days to appeal the case, Soltani said, after which a hearing on the appeal is expected in about a year. She added the trial should have been a “bench trial” (before a judge only).
Carson’s rent control ordinance covers mobile home park spaces but contains no language applicable to apartment units. There is no similar city ordinance applicable to apartment units.
“Plaintiff’s assumption of debt that was unsupportable by rents at the time of purchase was self-inflicted,” the defendants’ trial brief responded. “Merely because a property owner is not permitted to reap as great a financial return on his property as he might have hoped, does not establish a taking.”
The website CITY-data.com lists the mean price of a mobile home in Los Angeles, as of 2013, at $120,527. By comparison, the Los Angeles Almanac website says that the average price of a single-family residence in Carson is $378,650 to $422,650.
Soltani estimated that about 80 to 90 percent of California’s cities are not in compliance with state-mandated affordable housing quotas.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Book Review: Hitler's Time Machine


Hitler's Time Machine by Robert F. Dorr (2015, a Robert F. Dorr Publication)

 

Robert F. Dorr is an Air Force vet, retired senior Foreign Service officer, and an author who's widely known in the aviation community. His non-fiction books in print include Mission to Berlin, Hell Hawks, co-authored with Thomas D. Jones, and Air Force One, a history of presidential aircraft 

He is the author of dozens of books and thousands of magazine articles about the Air Force, aviation, and military affairs. He has also written a weekly opinion column for Air Force Times, monthly columns for Combat Aircraft, Air International and Aerospace America magazines, and a quarterly column for Air Power History, a publication he helped create. His first paid magazine article was in the November 1955 Air Force magazine when he was fifteen.

Last year he began venturing into counter-historical science fiction with the self-published Hitler's Time Machine, a mash-up of actual World War II history with pulp. The premise is that two teams of the world's top physicists, one in Hitler's Germany and one in FDR's America, are developing time machines in order to win the war. Unfortunately the characters are lifeless and the plot development is at a comic-book level. It's more about the body count than crisis, climax, and conclusion.

The novel combines actual history with science-fiction overtones the way steampunk does--but it lacks the punk attitude that steampunk demands. Its historical passages don't bring history to life, and the science fiction elements aren't very original, either. There are times when the manuscript doesn't even appear to have been adequately spellchecked, let alone edited or copy-edited.

Since Hitler's Time Machine, Dorr has written a murder mystery, Crime Scene:  Fairfax County, featuring two characters who survived the body count in his first novel. You'd think such a careful historian--who's experienced so much in government and the military--would know there were no blondes in Congress in 1947.   

Dorr has 58 non-fiction books listed on the Barnes & Noble site but Hitler's Time Machine is not one of them. It is available on the amazon.com site, however.