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.

Friday, March 6, 2015

DVD Review: The Prosecution of an American President

This DVD review appeared in edited form in Random Lengths, Jan. 8-21, 2015

DVD Review:  The Prosecution of an American President
Based on Vincent Bugliosi’s Book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder
(First Run Features)

 When is war murder? With the recent release of the senate torture report, the discussion of enormities the George W. Bush administration committed has been reopened.  An earlier account of their wrongdoing was undertaken by eminent prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi who, in his 2008 book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, charged that America’s invasion of Iraq wasn’t war, it was mass murder. 
 
  Now a DVD-only documentary, The Prosecution of an American President, based on the book, is available at multiple online retail sites (it’s released by First Run Features). It primarily documents a lecture Bugliosi gave at UCLA in 2008.

 Like his book, Bugliosi’s lecture applies conventions of criminal law—finding evidence of murder—to the president’s words and actions prior to the United States invading Iraq.  Bugliosi starts with the legal principle of the effects doctrine, attempting to demonstrate, “Invading Iraq made absolutely no sense.”

 By documenting the administration’s false statements—more than 935 altogether—Bugliosi presents provocative evidence of pre-meditated mass murder. Those lies were deliberately calculated to kill American service members (and Iraqis) by the thousands. 

 To be murder, unlawful killing cannot be self-defense.  Bugliosi debunks as “preposterous” Bush’s lies that Iraq was an imminent threat. Bush didn’t invade Iraq in self-defense. The intention was to kill, not defend.

 Bugliosi argues it isn’t necessary to establish a true motive for the invasion—only to prove that the publicly stated motive, that Iraq was an imminent threat, was a lie.  Bugliosi does a masterful job of proving the lie.

 He primarily documents two very big lies built on hundreds of smaller ones.  The first was that Saddam Hussein and his regime were imminent threats. On Oct. 1, 2002, a classified federal intelligence report showed all sixteen federal intelligence agencies agreed Iraq wasn’t an imminent threat.  The declassified version (often called “the white paper”) shown to Congress was intentionally altered to appear otherwise.

 In the Oct. 7, 2002 “Niger Incident” speech, Bush deliberately spoke of a non-existent threat that was the opposite of what CIA sources told him numerous times. Bugliosi argues, “[The speech] knowingly used discredited bogus info.”

 The second big lie Bugliosi debunks concerns a false link between Saddam Hussein, Iraq, and 9/11. The day after 9/11, only 3% of the public believed there was any connection between Iraq and 9/11. At the time Iraq was invaded, that number went up to 70% and today, after the lie’s been repeatedly debunked, 50% of the public still believes it. What Bush did was run together the words “9/11” and “Iraq” repeatedly, misleading the public with linguistic sleight-of-hand.

 Bugliosi differs from other legal experts when he asserts Bush’s crimes are not against the Constitution—although he admits misleading Congress, as Bush did, is a crime against the Constitution. How Bush’s actions constitute “high crimes” is missing here.

 Some stark evidence is missing. Very briefly Bush crawls around the floor at a Republican banquet, bragging about looking for weapons of mass destruction. It’s a vivid demonstration this man knew his false WMD claims sent thousands of Americans to death—and he thought it was funny. This footage should have been given much more play.

 Footage of a reporter asking Bush “What did Saddam Hussein have to with 9/11?” and Bush’s nonchalant answer (“Nothing!”) is missing completely. Also absent is any discussion of how pro-invasion propaganda was eerily similar to Nazi Germany’s Big Lie.

 As for Democrats, Bugliosi argues Obama’s refusal to prosecute constitutes dereliction of duty and a violation of his presidential oath. After Democrats took control of Congress, Bugliosi pleaded with the House Judiciary Committee in 2008 to make a criminal complaint to the Department of Justice. They didn’t.

 Elizabeth De La Vega, a former federal prosecutor whose own book charged Bush committed fraud when he invaded Iraq, supports Bugliosi, “If you come to the conclusion the Bush administration has lied to us about the most serious decision a country can make, invading another country—that had done absolutely nothing to us--you have to decide what are we going to do about it.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Dollar Democracy

In his current book, Dollar Democracy:  With Liberty and Justice for Some, Long Beach political professor and oft-time Democratic candidate Peter Mathews argues government would have more than enough money to invest in healthcare, education, and environmental protection if corporate tax loopholes were closed and a progressive income tax reinstated on incomes over $1 million.
 
“Legalized tax avoidance and regulation avoidance are not victimless acts,” Mathews argues.  He cites studies (done in the eighties) to show campaign contributors get their way on how their chosen legislators vote about eighty percent of the time.

Mathews relates his own experience with corporate campaign funding as one example of how corporations get their way with politicians. In 1994 when he was running for what at the time was California’s Thirty-eighth Congressional District, ARCO PAC wouldn’t give him any money after he frankly told them he wanted to close corporate tax loopholes.

What Mathews calls "Dollar Democracy" resulted, hence, his book's title.  He was unable to fund his progressive grassroots campaign because the non-profit California League of Conservation Voters wouldn’t give him any money, either. Despite giving him a 100% favorability rating, they decided he wasn’t “financially viable.” The reasoning was that since his opponent raised money from corporations and Mathews didn't, Mathews couldn't compete as a serious candidate.

Much of the book discusses how Dollar Democracy victimizes California’s higher education system which Mathews, being an educator, knows first-hand. Mathews argues closing corporate tax loopholes would provide the state with $90 billion—and with $5 billion, every community college in the state could provide free education. (Just think what could be done with the other $85 billion.) The United States government could gain $1 trillion by closing corporate tax loopholes. For $400 billion, all American colleges and universities could be free, with $600 billion leftover.

California could close its oil severance tax loophole without damaging its economy, Mathews notes, as Alaska, Texas, and Louisiana have done.  He demonstrates how Dollar Democracy has defeated efforts to do so. Dollar Democracy is also how the Halliburton Corporation spent $747 billion lobbying politicians and in return got hydraulic fracturing exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Another notable example of Dollar Democracy, according to Mathews, may be found in the passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which was structured to benefit corporations--and they didn't like it anyway. He thoroughly discusses how Obama and the Democratic leadership caved to the healthcare industry’s heavy financing of many congress members.

Mathews observes, “The president never attempted to fight for a truly universal single-payer Medicare-for-all system.” As a result America remains the only major country with no universal healthcare, and Dollar Democracy allows corporate-funded politicians to get away with it.

Saddest of Mathews' many examples may be the effect of Dollar Democracy on Americans' jobs, as corporations outsource labor.  They do this by either moving to third-world countries, or being allowed to import third-world workers willing to work for near-poverty wages, because that's all those workers know in their home countries. Mathews vividly describes how Chinese factory laborers who cut iPhone glass work in conditions very much like nineteenth-century sweatshops.

Corporate politicians look the other way while corporations outsource jobs, and for former Long Beach resident Kevin Flanagan, outsourcing resulted in his death. He was a computer programmer at Bank of America’s Concorde office. He committed suicide after being ordered to train his replacement—an Indian immigrant that a government program allowed the banking giant to hire for barely above minimum wage. It wasn't the Indian immigrant who took Flanagan's job away--it was Bank of America, with a little help from Dollar Democracy. 

As a solution to Dollar Democracy, Mathews advocates public campaign funding (state and federal "clean money" laws), more citizen involvement, and more transparency. He suggests visiting the Web sites maplight.org and www.followthemoney.org for information on politicians’ support from the oil industry, for example.

Where Mathews’ book falls short is that it tries to argue every last subject that has anything to do with Dollar Democracy. It ranges across topics from labor to education to GMOs.  At the same time it neglects to argue thoroughly all sides of public campaign financing. It needs balance, giving little time for any solution other than the movement to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. 

Mathews does allow a counter-argument of sorts from Mark Spitzer, who originally was against government-funded campaigns. “I thought that the proponents were trying to take politics out of politics and that just doesn’t work,” Spitzer is quoted in one passage.

As for presenting a balanced argument, however, even the passage on Spitzer can't be counted.  Spitzer had doubts but he changed his mind when he campaigned for the Arizona Corporation Commission.  He’d have been vulnerable to conflict-of-interest charges had he accepted corporate money. He won, Mathews argues, thanks to Arizona's "clean money" law and nothing else.

Neither does Mathews say much about how politicians can win on ideas, not money, sometimes. He spends a considerable portion of Dollar Democracy discussing the campaigns of Paul Wellstone, the late senator from Minnesota who was outspent seven-to-one in his 1990 campaign but won on ideas. That actually may be the American public's best weapon against Dollar Democracy. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

News Link: Treasurer's Race in Carson

Here's a direct link to my round-up of candidates for treasurer in the City of Carson, which ran in the Jan. 22-Feb. 4, 2015 Random Lengths:
http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/avilla-out-throws-support-behind-duque/

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

News Link: "Recapping Carson's 2014 Reality Show"

I have a direct link (at least for now) to my news round-up that ran in the Jan. 9-22, 2015 Random Lengths News.  It's titled, "Recapping Carson's 2014 Reality Show" and it's a summary of the news that happened in Carson, California, in 2014:
http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/recapping-carsons-2014-reality-show/

Friday, December 26, 2014

BAM Review: American Martyrs (1987)

Of all the dozens of unsigned rock artists I reviewed back in the eighties, one of  the ones I most often wonder "whatever happened to?" is the American Martyrs.  They were named after their Catholic school in Manhattan Beach, so maybe someone there knows.  The lead singer's name, Mike Kelly, is too common to easily single out on social media.  Things ended badly with their one-time manager and she (the last I knew) severed all ties with them, so she probably wouldn't know either. To represent my body of live club/concert reviews in those years--I've posted below my review of the American Martyrs that ran in BAM, Sept. 25, 1987. 

With a college-circuit popular EP behind them and four years of experience, the American Martyrs are poised to follow in Wall of Voodoo's footsteps.  The two groups are similar enough to attract the same audiences, and like Voodoo singer Stan Ridgeway, Martyrs singer Mike Kelly is more a talker, with sharp-imagined New Wave poetics, while his moves have that herky-jerky quality.

However, to say American Martyrs are simply Wall of Voodoo types would be inadequate, for they have enough variety in their overall sound and image that they can appeal to a broad spectrum with sounding schizophrenic.  They're folksy without being New Folk, they're energetic enough to dance to, and relaxing enough they'll lull you into a satisfied stupor if you're not careful. 

Putting their most compelling song first tonight, their college turntable hit, "Soldier," got their set off perfectly. Unfortunately their entire set was not perfect--and here's a group that perfection's not too much to ask of.  The pace was rough--not slow, just rough--and some of the songs could use some revamping and editing--notably "Spare Friend" and "No Politics."  The American Martyrs remain a group to be recommended highly, because of their eccentric-without-even-trying visual style, and their, well, melodic melodies over punk rhythms.