Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Gateway to Modern Fascism

People ask me how Hitler came to power; they can’t seem to grasp the fact that he was elected by a wide majority of Germans. They cannot fathom a nation that produced Niechze, Freud, Einstein and Mozart could fall into the grasp of such evil willingly.
They didn’t. Hitler was the head of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi), a party who promised a socialist worker’s paradise with jobs, schools, homes and healthcare for all. Hitler’s first three years were spent fulfilling this promise with all kinds of civic projects. They had dual purposes, the Autobahn was designed to move troops and tanks quickly across Germany and German industry added workers because the Third Reich mandated that a percentage of their production be devoted to the re-arming of Germany. People had jobs and people were happy. So happy that Austrians and Czechoslovakia begged to be annexed by the Third Reich. In much way, Hitler’s Germany was indistinguishable from Roosevelt’s America. Then came “The Night of the Long Knives”, where Hitler’s S.S. murdered the entire socialist element of the Third Reich, known as the S.A. or the “Brown Shirts”. The S.A. had become more and more critical of Hitler’s massing of personal power, calling it a betrayal of the socialist promises he’d made. In hindsight they should have seen it coming.

I’ve been watching a strange evolution of the onetime-Left since 9/11/2001 that I’ve finally figured out. They’ve embraced fascism, yet they aren’t aware of this fact. Like the well meaning Germans who lined up and gave a heartfelt “Siek Heil” to their Fuhrer, today’s “Left Wing” has become a Pinochet- Maoist style ultra-rightwing fascist movement. They’re most visible in the anti-war movement, where they embrace mass murderers like Saddam Hussein, Che’ Guevara, and wave anti-Semitic banners and signs.
These are supposedly Liberals, yet no other liberals call them on their transgressions, very few anyway.

I wonder why?

Then I looked to the main source of fascism in America, Colleges and Universities.
It’s been forty years since the “Free Speech” movement and “Sit Ins” of the early 1960s; where students discussed Vietnam and Racial Equality. Today, those “Revolutionaries” would be thrown off campus, not by the administration but by their fellow students in student government. University is no longer a place to open your mind and explore possibility; today it’s a place of Fascist indoctrination. Students are pounded into the new conformity by being told that there are words you cannot say, deeds you cannot do, political ideas that cannot be entertained and thoughts that they cannot even have. They are taught history with only half of the facts (if that many), they are taught that science is relative and that belief is more important than fact. Dissent against the government is good but dissent against the dissenters is forbidden. Those who dare to raise an opposing viewpoint on most college campuses are expelled. They are branded with a host of Fascist-Politically Correct labels like Racist, Homophobe and - ironically – Nazi. Gone are they days of the post 1960s freedom and experimentation. I don’t know exactly when it happened but the “Leftist” campus movement quietly slipped to the hard-right and nobody seems to have noticed. Even the average student who just wants to just get a degree and move onto a fruitful life is damaged and permanently handicapped by this Fascist atmosphere.

How? They learn to live with Fascism.

They become comfortable in a Fascist state, they are trained not to resist Fascist ideas and that it’s better for them to go along with whatever insanity is imposed upon them. They become comfortable with being trained like dogs, to sit, to stay and to speak at their master’s beckon call. They are trained NOT to question certain ideas while ridiculing other ideas with equal lack of insight.

What does this mean for the United States?

It can’t be good. Hitler would be very impressed.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hey, Didn't You Used To Be Eddie Van Halen?

Van Halen rules!

Van Halen's first album came out in 1978, my freshman year in high school. I remember the day too, my brother bought it while we were visiting my Grandmother in Modesto and he slapped it on the turntable as soon as we got home. "Running With The Devil" came on and there was this killer guitar sound coming out of our speakers. I'd never heard such power matched with such smooth playing. Then "eruption" came on and my brother and I looked at eachother with our jaws dropped, who the hell is this guy? More importantly, what planet was he from? We wanted to listen to that again but we were too stunned to pick up the needle and we ended up listening to the entire first side, my brother and I had transformed into the apes at the beginning of the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey". Now, I had started to learn to play the guitar this very same year but I wasn't good enough to understand what had just happened. The next most powerful memory was a Monday afternoon guitar class (the is back when they had money for guitar classes in high school). Black Sabbath had played a show up in San Francisco and all of the "Hot" guitar players had gone up to the show. That Monday they didn't play their guitars in the back rooms, instead they brought in their boom-box. Not to listen to Sabbath, not at all, Van Halen had opened the show in San Francisco and these guys weren't ready for it. They sat in the back and listened to "Eruption" over and over and over again. I wasn't cool enough to hang out with those guys but I was lucky enough to be on good terms with Christian Nesmith, Michael Nesmith's son, and Christain had seen Van Halen a few times already. He saw that I was shut out of the crowd and quietly pulled me into a side practice room. He then proceeded to show me the correct way to do the hammer-ons that the "cool" guys were desperately trying to learn in the other room.

I owe a big thank you to Christian Nesmith for that. He'd prematurely ushered me into an exclusive club of uber guitar players. Since I'd learned the proper mechanics, once I'd progressed as a musician I could employ the technique as smoothly as Eddie did.

Eddie Van Halen became my role model, not just because he's a great guitar player but because he was a great guy. My brother and I devoured rock music magazines, every month we bought Cream, Hit Parader, Rolling Stone and Guitar Player Magazine. I found that the great players tended to be cagey in interviews about their music and their technique. The giants of the day, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, seldom did interviews at all and since everyone else idolized them they did the same. Not Eddie, he'd talk to anybody (which he'd later regret) and Van Halen was always somewhere in those magazines every month. The fact that David Lee Roth was a motor-mouth just enhanced the whole thing. Eddie was happy to share his secrets in print and often did just that. Eddie was a family guy too, he was close to his parents and his brother and he wasn't ashamed to say so. He is an all-around good guy and I admired him and emulated him. I loved that his main red & white striped guitar was a beat-up piece of crap [ no, really, he had bicycle reflectors screwed onto the back and it has cigarette burns all over it], while everyone who came before him played expensive name models. I loved that he'd just throw his guitar case into the back of his pickup truck, much to the horror of an interviewer. Eddie was low-maintenance and had a good sense of humor about himself. He was always out ther doing something.

Then he found out he had cancer, it was a tense time. I'd lost Randy Rhoads and I remember how much that hurt and now my hero was sidelined. Thankfully, Eddie'd beat it in a year. Yet today it's hard not to say that we'd lost him. Since the ill-fated Van Halen 3 album, Sasquatch has been more visible than Eddie Van Halen. To be fair, he's had a divorce and he's lost his mother and I know that's got to be hard. It seems that Eddie has become sort of a hermit, staying at home and loosing himself in his studio. In a time when music is so empty, one of it's brightest stars sits behind locked doors playing with himself. I'm not sure what happened, maybe they treated Eddie with Krytonite, but it's hard to believe that he's the same guy anymore. The same guy who'd pop up here and there, special shows and other artist's songs is a phantom, a rumor generator.

A few weeks back, Eddie started popping up again. There he was with Kenny Chesney and a week or so later he's playing new music at a small festival. Music from an upcoming soft-core flick. The Van Halen world was a-buzz in cyber space, some happy and some not, I was happy to see a guy I recognize back out doing what I love him for. He still has a long way to go to live up to the standard he himself had set.

I know he will do it, Van Halen rules!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

JonBenet Ramsey And The News Media's Tablification

I'm a cable news junkie.

Even before cable T.V., I would watch the evening news with my grandfather. I had cousins in Viet Nam and I think my grandfather would watch the news in hopes of maybe catching a glimpse of one of his grandsons. Either way, it became a life-long habit. Along the way I learned that watching the news is an art and a science, there is almost always more to the story and the best reporters know how to tell you what's going on without actually saying anything. I learned that the really important stories were seldom at the top of the news or on the front page, they were presented in the middle of the broadcast in 20 second blurbs or buried in the second section of the news paper in a single-column. This was effective, it allowed reporters to report and readers to get a snapshot of events in the world on a given day.

CNN came along and for it's first decade or so did a great job bringing us the "Breaking News", along with so good analysis. Good enough that the CIA and FBI kept it on 24/7 because CNN would get the news before they did. CNN had some journalistic high points: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Desert Storm and the attempted overthrow of Gorbachev. When you've got the Russian section at CIA glued to your coverage that's just damn good reporting. Other cable news outlets sprang up along the way, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox News stretched the horizon of information that was available at the click of a remote.

Then, in June 1994, a white Ford Bronco lead Los Angeles police on a low-speed chase that lead to the capture and arrest of a Hall of Fame NFL running back for the murder of his wife and an unlucky waiter. Ratings went through the roof at the cable news networks and they scrambled to keep the case at the top of every newscast and featured it throughout their programming lineup. They hired legal experts of every strata of the justice system and stuck them in almost every show, since the accused was an NFL legend even the sports departments got into the act.
They had every aspect of the case nailed down and had convicted the suspect well in advance of the trial. Once the trial commenced, with the recaps we got a dose of "I told you so", which was in anticipation of the guilty verdict. The problem was that with all of the hot air from all of those talking heads they somehow didn't realize that TU jury wasn't seeing the same trial that everyone else was seeing. When the "Not Guilty" verdict was handed down, some of the talking heads were visibly ill.

One would think that they'd have learned their lessons and would have strove to improve their overall quality. Maybe even tone down the B.S. level a tad. Nope, what they learned was that sensationalism was great for ratings. They had also merged tabloid journalism with what used to be respectable reporting. Tabloid journalism has different standards and a pre-set playbook that they apply to specific types of stories, after this merge a story that didn't fit into a specific type of story molded until it did fit or it was ignored. This is how a little things like the collapse of tech stocks and Enron went undiscovered in advance.

Then came December 26th, 1996, and cable news was handed a story that was taylor made for the new "Tablified" cable news networks. The murder of a little girl, the murder of a cute little girl, a cute little girl who's father was a billionaire. The little girl's mother entered her in beauty pageants, and there was lots of video of her singing and dancing while wearing the makeup of a much older person. The machine that had been created for the cable news networks was dusted off and put back to work to cover this case. New experts were hired and the old ones now had their own shows, time was made for special editions where the new experts would argue with the old experts about a case that none of them had first hand knowledge. "Getting it right!" was replaced with "Getting it first" and many mistakes were made in the first days of this case by the local news media, mistakes about basic facts that would become gospel in the later phases of the coverage and are still quoted even after they've been refuted by the local law enforcement. The media would squeeze about a year out of this story, because of the mistakes in the intitial coverage the media had 22222 most people that the parents were the guilty parties in the murder of their daughter. The "Experts" sited case profiles where a parent had been guilty and since it had been true in those cases it then MUST be true with this case. Who cares what the evidence actually was? Yes, the Ramseys didn't help their image but being strange isn't a crime.

In the years since the murder, which is still unsolved, the media has a lot of hand-wringing over their coverage of the Ramsey case. There has been a lot of "Shame On Us" and wrist slapping, many questions of how they got so out of control. I notice that they never have answers for this introspection. The Tablification was complete, you can tell because they cannot tell between right or wrong, any behavior is acceptable in pursuit of the story. Then this week a man is arrested in Thailand and he confesses to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

It was a sight to see.

The media prefaced this story with an admission that they'd gotten carried away and made a ton of mistakes when the case broke back in 1996. They then spent the next 36 hours doing the exact same thing with this new addition to the story. I have whiplash. He's guilty, he knows only things the killer would know...No! Wait! He said things in his statement that don't match the facts (the real ones, not the made up ones). Has the Boulder DA blown it? Will this guy walk? Who is this guy?

I have an idea, why doesn't everyone shut the hell up and wait until they've done a little backround on this new suspect? Better yet, let the police do it. I don't need to know right now, and I don't want my brain filled up with crap.

Take your time, keep your cool and GET IT RIGHT.