Bruce Blog

Halloween 1951 and the good old days in Rock Rapids, Iowa

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The tale of what really happened on Halloween Eve in 1951 in Rock Rapids, Iowa.  (Updated by popular demand.)

By Bruce B. Brugmann

Back where I come from,  Halloween was one of the most culturally advanced holidays of our era.  We had some fast times and created some enduring smalltown legends on Halloween. This was in my hometown of Rock Rapids, a small farming community nestled along the Rock River in northwest Iowa just five miles south of  the Minnesota state line.  I can speak for a generation or two back in the early 1950s when Halloween was the one night of the year when we could raise a little hell and and hope to stay one step ahead of the cops.

Or, in the case of Rock Rapids, the one and only cop, who happened to be Elmer "Shinny" Sheneberger. Shinny had the unenviable job of trying to keep some semblance of law and order during an evening when the Hermie Casjens gang was on the loose and genial mayhem was on the agenda.  Somehow through the years, nobody remembered exactly when, the tradition was born that the little kids would go house to house trick and treating but the older boys could roam the town looking to make trouble and pull off some pranks.

It was all quite civilized. Read more »

Meister: A Halloween invasion from Mars

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Guardian columnist Dick Meister is a longtime Bay Area journalist.

"2X2L calling CQ ... 2X2L calling CQ, New York ... Isn't there anyone on the
air? Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone?"

Millions of Americans -- panic-stricken, many of them -- waited anxiously
for a response to the message, delivered over the CBS radio network in slow,
flat, mournful tones on the crisp Halloween eve of Oct. 30, 1938.

"Isn't ... there ... anyone?"

There wasn't. Listeners heard only the slapping sounds of the Hudson River.

Many of New York's residents were dead. The others had fled in panic from
"five great machines," as tall as the tallest of the city's skyscrapers,
that the radio announcer at CQ, New York, had described in the last words he
would ever utter. The metallic monsters had crossed the Hudson "like a man
wading a brook," destroying all who stood in their way.

"Our army is wiped out, artillery, air force -- everything wiped out,"
gasped the radio announcer.

It was the War of the Worlds, Mars versus Earth, and the Martians were
winning with horrifying ease. Their giant machines had landed in the New
Jersey village of Grovers Mill, and soon they would be coming to your town,
too ... and yours ... and yours. Nothing could stop them. Read more »

Meister: The Legislature shows Congress how

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Guardian columnist Dick Meister has covered labor and political affairs for more than a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which contains several hundred of his columns.

Forget for a moment what's happened ­­ or not happened  ­- in Congress. Concentrate instead on what's meanwhile gone on in the State Legislature, much of it for the benefit of California's working people.

 The State AFL-CIO cites, for instance, the Legislature's passage this year of more than a dozen decidedly worker-friendly bills sponsored by the labor
federation and strongly backed by the federation's Democratic Party allies in Sacramento.

The most important of the bills will raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour by January of 2016. Other key laws: Read more »

Solomon: Obama will launch a huge propaganda blitz--and may attack Syria even if he loses the vote in Congress

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information on the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Grassroots pressure has forced President Obama to seek approval from Congress for an attack on Syria. But Obama is hell-bent on ordering a missile assault on that country, and he has two very important aces in the hole.

The administration is about to launch a ferocious propaganda blitz that will engulf a wide range of U.S. media. And as a fallback, the president is reserving the option of attacking Syria no matter what Congress does.

Until Obama’s surprise announcement Saturday that he will formally ask Congress for authorization of military action against Syria, the impassioned pitches from top U.S. officials in late August seemed to be closing arguments before cruise missiles would hit Syrian targets. But the pre-bombing hyper spin has just gotten started.

The official appeals for making war on yet another country will be ferocious. Virtually all the stops will be pulled out; all kinds of media will be targeted; every kind of convoluted argument will be employed. Read more »

Extra! Extra! Calling all Nebraska Cornhuskers!

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How to watch the Nebraska vs. Wyoming game at 5 p.m today on 403 cable and at the Final Final bar  in SF (Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013). Plus: Some inside Nebraska football.

Well, today, first game day at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, I got out my red Nebraska cap and my white sweat socks with a red trim and the former Jean Dibble got out her red Nebraska sweater.   

Today is the opening game of the season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and we planned to watch the game. We faithfully watched every game last year and we planned to do so again this year. Jean and I are both graduates of the University of Nebraska. I was editor for a semester in the spring of 1956  of the Daily Nebraskan (known affectionately in my day as the Rag) and we plan to return in October for a grand reunion of the Rag staffs through the years.  Our grandson Nicholas Perez of Santa Barbara is a sophomore mechanical engineering student and has season tickets. And so we became even more faithful fans.

Normally, the opening game is a breeze for the Cornhuskers, but the opening game of the 1955 season, when I was the sports editor of the Rag, was a classic Nebraska loss in a state where NU football losses aren’t tolerated. Nebraska played terribly and lost, 6-0, to the University of Hawaii at Memorial Stadium in a game so humiliating that the Cornhuskers never got closer than Hawaii’s 13-yard line.

Immediately, the Nebraska press and the sports writers across the state  erupted virtually in unison and started pounding on  Bill Glassford, the coach, and kept piling  on with increasing ferocity  for the rest of the season.   Read more »

Solomon: What the assault on whistleblowers has to do with Syria

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Without whistleblowers, the mainline media outlets are more transfixed than ever with telling the official story. And at a time like this, the official story is all about spinning for war on Syria.

Every president who wants to launch another war can’t abide whistleblowers. They might interfere with the careful omissions, distortions and outright lies of war propaganda, which requires that truth be held in a kind of preventative detention.

By mid-week, media adrenalin was at fever pitch as news reports cited high-level sources explaining when the U.S. missile attacks on Syria were likely to begin, how long they might last, what their goals would be. But what about other (potential) sources who have documents and other information that contradict the official story?

It’s never easy for whistleblowers to take the risk of exposing secret realities. At times like these, it’s especially difficult -- and especially vital -- for whistleblowers to take the chance.

When independent journalist I.F. Stone said “All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed,” he was warning against the automatic acceptance of any government claim. That warning becomes most crucial when a launch of war is imminent. That’s when, more than ever, we need whistleblowers who can leak information that refutes the official line. Read more »

Solomon: You failed to break the spirit of Bradley Manning: An open letter to President Obama

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information on the documentary based on the book is at WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Dear President Obama: Read more »

Solomon: Oiling the war machinery, from Oslo to Heathrow to Washington

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information on the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

In Oslo, the world’s most important peace prize has been hijacked for war.

In London, government authority has just fired a new shot at freedom of the press.

And in Washington, the Obama administration continues to escalate its attacks on whistleblowers, journalism and civil liberties.

As a nation at peace becomes a fading memory, so does privacy. Commitments to idealism -- seeking real alternatives to war and upholding democratic values -- are under constant assault from the peaks of power. Read more »

Dick Meister: Still dreaming of justice

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Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based columnist who has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century.  Contact him through his website,www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Think back to Aug. 28, 1963.  More than a quarter-million labor and civil rights activists led by Martin Luther King Jr. march onto the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to demand good jobs at decent wages and strict enforcement and expansion of the laws guaranteeing meaningful civil and economic rights to all Americans.

The demands, spelled out in Dr. King's famous "I have a Dream" speech that day,  will be forcefully raised once again by  a fiftieth  anniversary March from the Lincoln Memorial  to the King Memorial  on the  Mall  this August 24.

The 2013 march has been called for very good reason: The need for greatly strengthened labor and civil rights is at least as urgent today as it was in 1963. Read more »

Solomon: Memo from Oslo: If peace is prized, a Nobel for Bradley Manning

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."

Oslo, Norway: The headquarters of the Nobel Committee is in downtown Oslo on a street named after Henrik Ibsen, whose play “An Enemy of the People” has remained as current as dawn light falling on the Nobel building and then, hours later, on a Fort Meade courtroom where Bradley Manning's trial enters a new stage -- defense testimony in the sentencing phase.

Ibsen’s play tells of mendacity and greed in high places: dangerous threats to public health. You might call the protagonist a whistleblower. He's a physician who can't pretend that he hasn't seen evidence; he rejects all the pleas and threats to stay quiet, to keep secret what the public has a right to know. He could be content to take an easy way, to let others suffer and die. But he refuses to just follow orders. He will save lives. There will be some dire consequences for him.

The respectable authorities know when they've had enough. Thought crimes can be trivial but are apt to become intolerable if they lead to active transgressions. In the last act, our hero recounts: “They insulted me and called me an enemy of the people.” Ostracized and condemned, he offers final defiant words before the curtain comes down: “I have made a great discovery. … It is this, let me tell you -- that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.” Read more »