How to watch TV without Time Warner

Time Warner and CBS, two gargantuans of television, are bickering with the result that a few million people are not able to view CBS via Time Warner Cable. I somehow feel this is all part of the ongoing reconcentration of wealth into the hands of fewer segments of society. Just my gut feel. Whatever the ultimate reason, those few million people are denied seeing the channel 9 news and other favorites that are defacto part of our social fabric in spite of being owned by the corporatcracy. In short, since these are not truly public institutions, we don’t get to decide how they are managed. The corporates do. The “Free” Market decides.

LA Times clip on Time Warner vs. CBS - 2013-08-03

It’s not like TV in the United States has not always mostly been privately owned (even though airways are in principle a public resource). We used to have commercial-free public television. In days gone by. The Libertarian Fundamentalists long ago convinced too many that government is bad (implication, corporations are good) and that how dare “they” (the government, elected by you and me), i.e., us, use tax dollars to fund quality programming.

The good news is that, at least so far, there is still freely available channels, including CBS, thanks to the good old rabbit ear antenna.

All modern digital HD TVs can view channel 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 28, 34, etc here in Los Angeles. Without cable TV. For no charge. You just hook an antenna up to your TV using the coax connection.

I took a vacation from cable TV in recent years but recently subscribed to Verizon FIOS so I could watch the Dodgers, another defacto part of public society but, now, unlike before, NOT available most days on public air waves. Actually the real reason I subscribed to FIOS is that I work on the Internet so need high speed internet and Verizon almost gives away FIOS TV once you have FIOS internet. Ironically, I changed to FIOS internet away from Time Warner Cable Internet and am so happy to have done so. Time Warner simply did not know how to keep a router up 24×7 (it was more like 23.9 x 7) and that got real old real fast. FIOS for me has been operating for two straight years without any outage (maybe one short outage). I guess that’s a plug for Verizon FIOS (a trade name and color scheme I dislike but a technology I love that should be available to everyone as a public utility).

Let me repeat the good news about how to bypass Time Warner Cable to watch channels 2, 7, 9, 28 (KCET) etc. all in HD (High Definition) without paying a cent for a cable TV subscription…

You use a rabbit ear antenna. I would recommend setting up a long wire and moving the antenna to the attic or the roof. I did that and the HD reception of all the above channels is outstanding. I think it’s even better than what comes in on cable.

Once you do this, you might even conclude that spending $80 per month for cable (that’s about a $1000 per year), isn’t worth it. You can can still listen to the Dodgers on radio when they are not televised on the public air waves. They still haven’t figured out how to force us to pay money to listen to radio. Not yet.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica,
August 7, 2013

The case of imprisoned Barrett Brown of Anonymous

Barrett Brown is less known than Edward Snowden but is no less a hero of truth.

If you care about freedom of speech, you should read about another unjustly imprisoned whistleblower, covered by the Democracy Now story on jailed Anonymous member Barrett Brown

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
July 19, 2013

Amnesty International statement on Edward Snowden

Here is a link to the Amnesty International statement on Snowden:

Listening to the interview with Edward Snowden by Glenn Greenwald aired on the Democracy Now I hear an honest intelligent person who is coming clean and revealing activity of the US government which should not be kept secret.

Since this interview was made public in June, many in the US government, the US press, and even some liberal friends of mine have referred to Snowden as a “traitor” and as someone guilty of espionage. As many have asked, if he is a spy, who is he spying for? The American people? In that case we need more spies like Snowden to inform us about the back room deals and activities done by those who purport to represent us. Where is the transparency Obama promised? Transparency shmerecy.

Some people state that Snowden has information that might harm American operatives. Says who? An unamed representative who says Snowden has other secrets in his possession but the nature of those and any proof that he has such secrets will remain secret and he will be prosecuted by a secret court in a secret place in secret? At some point you have to say fuck secrecy.

The use of “spy” and “espionage” is Orwellian scare tactic speech. As best as I can tell so far, reading between the lines of the New York Times and other US press much as Russians used to read Pravda to distill the truth, Snowden is no spy, he is a whistleblower and should therefore have his rights respected.

No, what’s going on is that the NSA is pissed that their secret massive bugging campaign has been revealed. They knew that the public would not like having their phone calls monitored (and if you don’t mind the government monitoring your phone calls, fine, but that is a separate subject than the fact that they have been doing it without telling you they’re doing it, which is basically all that Snowden has revealed). So now the US power structure wants to make an example of Snowden by bringing down the hammer on him. He doesn’t have any information that will harm anyone. If I’m wrong I’ll eat my words. I’ll just say this, remember Vietnam and remember the Pentagon papers. Our government has done horrible wrong and illegal acts. When a whistleblower helps reveal those acts, this one being minor compared to what happened in Vietnam, he or she is a hero in my book, especially given the hatred that he or she will endure from a fawning obsequious public and the risk of solitary confinement by our new order so-called security state. These same words apply all the more to Bradley Manning, another hero who did hero work.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
July 4, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty, a review

Here is my review of Zero Dark Thirty. For me, it’s a story, about the movie, about going to see the movie, and about this life I find myself passing through. It’s always that way.

I previously shared my thoughts about the politics of the making Zero Dark Thirty in
a prequel to this review. I didn’t have a lot of good things to say then, and I have mixed things to say now. Let’s put it this way, I’m glad this did not win Best Picture, not that Argo deserved it.

My friend Juan and I decided on the spur of the moment to go see Zero Dark Thirty, which we had been planning to go see for some time. The only show left that night was over in Century City at a fancy massive mall I had not been to in ages. So we got into my 1991 Audi Coupe Quattro and hit the road from Santa Monica toward the lights of Century City.

Mall Entrance Century City Mall Map

We are both interested in politics and were looking forward to see an entertaining movie that, at the same time, dealt with issues about use of US force in far away places. I had enjoyed the evening so far, since I don’t drive often but when I do, LA at night is a wonderful experience, with distant views of the Hollywood hills and the ballet of cars moving at high speed on the freeway. We navigated our way to the mall and entereed an enormous parking structure, itself an architectural wonder. We were careful to remember where we parked.

We were early so walked around the impressive wide outdoor walkways of the mall lined by store fronts offering luxury goods to the upscale community around Century City and Beverly Hills. It was past closing time for most stores, which gave a bleak feel to the large corridors normally filled with passing shoppers. There were a few straglers still walking around as if this were a park.

Mall Corridor Centry City Mall Glamor Centry City Mall Shopper IMAX theater

We had almost an hour to fill before the movie so we found our way to an Italien pub-like restaurant on the second level near the escalator. It was layed out like a sushi bar but served Italian specialties. We sat at the bar. We were the last customers of the evening so we engaged in banter with the crew, most of whom seemed to be from different parts of the world. Our main server seemed to have a Russian accent. I wondered how much she was paid and how many hours of her salary would be needed to cover the price of a movie at the IMAX theatre where I had pre-booked seats at $18 each. Here she was, still working at this late hour after the mall rush, still serving food to a couple of wanderers from Santa Monica would could easily afford the high priced seats and who needed a last minute bite to eat before exiting back to the mall corridor and into the megalithic theater complex located nearby.

It was time to see the movie. It was what I expected. Entertaining, well acted, good cinematography. It had more torture scenes than I had been lead to believe from the reviews making me wonder if there is that much difference in how much we hate other cultures compared to how much they hate our culture. The physical IMAX screen was incredible. I only then realized this was IMAX. I had never been to see IMAX and this was, by far, the largest most beautiful screen I had ever seen. Lousy sound though, as if recorded in an empty gymnasium with very hard walls to bounce the sound off of. Not the sound system, that was great. I mean the recording of voice in the movie. I wondered if maybe they just had the sound turned up too high in the theater. But no, I think it was lousy sound engineering in the film itself.

The script was written in a frenetic sytle we have to get used to these days. It has this cutsey way to throw so many Arabic names at you in rapid succession and allusion to a juxtoposition of supposedly correlated events that you would need to pay another $36 each to see the movie two more times in order to really figure out what the hell was going on in the CIA agent’s stream of consciousness.

Anyway, the movie has two parts, the lead up, most of the movie, with frentic evidence gathering and somewhat over-acted CIA interactions. Probably somewhat exaggerated and maybe a bit over acted in a couple spots.

zerodarkthirty01 zerodarkthirty02

Then, the last part, about the last half hour or more, where Seal Team Six did its thing. THAT was well done. Very realistic. No Rambo here. Just extremely well trained, well armed, and high tech soldiers going into a feudal state at night to kill someone. Which they do expeditiously. Not legal by any international standards, but this is the American Empire speaking. You blow up 3000 people, you are going to be toast one day or another. Of course, there being no time for character development of the soldiers, you are watching a skit, basically, dropped into the movie to show what the rest of the movie was supposed to be about. Kind of two movies in one really, both ultimately superficial, with us in the theater playing our part and being entertained. Did we learn anything? I don’t think so. Were we entertained? Yes, I was. Does this movie give pause for thought and lead to a discussion of the issues involved? I don’t know. Did it in your circle of friends?

After the movie ended, Juan and I discussed it as we walked back to the enormous parking structure. On the way out we showed our parking validation to the attendant, which let us out free. The attendant was standing there, in the cold night, next to the stark cold mechanical exit gate, owned by whatever mega-corporation rakes in the millions of dollars per year in parking fees levied on visitors to that particular Century City parking complex. I pulled out a five dollar bill and handed it to the guy. He deserved much more than that, but his boss, the corporation who owns that parking structure does not care. That is how it is.

There are other young men being better paid to become Seal Team warriors. And others being trained to sit in a bunker and command drones to do our robotic killing for us. That is also how it is. The movie made me think about all of that, being part of an immersive experience I had that evening.

Zero Dark Thirty (before I saw the movie)

This is my a prequel to my review of Zero Dark Thirty. My review of Zero Dark Thirty was written later.

The radio advertisements for Zero Dark Thirty are insulting. “We all remember where we were when Bin Laden was killed”. No we don’t. I didn’t and that event doesn’t merit that much mental real estate. That being said, I plan to see this film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow who also directed Hurt Locker, a well made and entertaining but apolitical and overrated film. On IMDB Hurt Locker received many bad reviews by US Military veterans and by people who know movies, so I was not alone in my opinion and was grateful for the company. From the bad reviews for Zero Dark Thirty so far (and I actually don’t usually read reviews or base my movie going choices on them), I will walk into the theater with lowered expectations. So hopefully I will be entertained and possibly even informed. Yes, I am for the Seals and glad they got Bin Laden. What I’m not for is elite movie makers having access to privileged interviews with CIA officials on company time then going on to tell a tale of torture that is not true.

Kathryn Bigelow and company had access to the CIA to obtain background about the Navy Seal raid on Osama bin Laden. See: Los Angeles Times post about Kathryn Bigelow and Bin Laden.

The Navy Seal raid was an inevitable action taken by the US military in the quasi-feudal state of Pakistan although it arguably violated international law. Bin Laden should have been arrested and tried.

The access by Kathryn Bigelow to CIA data about that raid is an insult to normal people and a testimony to the absurd amount of power and influence held by oligarchs and those who kowtow to the oligarchs.

I don’t often find myself agreeing with Republicans. But here’s a case where just plain normal people would surely come together in accord. The statements by Senator John McCain about Bigelow’s misportrayal of the use of water boarding are a case, one of few, where I can applaud McCain.

One last thing. “We” (I must quote here) don’t need to torture people to get to the Bin Ladens of the world. They are not worth it and lowering ourselves to their level of activity is a travestry of our so-called values. Instead, we need to change our system to not be sponsoring the future Bin Laden’s (as our system has done and continues to do). That change to the system will not be easy. Kowtowing to the logic of torture is not a start down that path. (To be continued).

All that said, I’ll be viewing Zero Dark Thirty this week and will most likely enjoy it, while conscious of my own duplicity.

ESPN Radio ads during play by play

Sunday Dec 30, 2012. Complaint posted to ESPN Radio.

I was listening to this morning’s ESPN Radio football game broadcast on AM 710 Los Angeles. On every possession during the game, while the clock was running, an irritating 5 to 10 second ad was announced by the broadcaster interspersed with play by play as if the ad were part of the play by play.

Is that what ESPN markteting weenies are coming up with now?

If this continues I will not be listening to ESPN radio game broadcasts anymore.

I will post this complaint and your reply to my blog.

Dear President Obama

Wednesday Nov 8, 2012

Dear President Obama:

You have have been elected to serve four more years.

Now you may use your influence and power to make some changes.

Please stop the insane “War on Drugs” that has failed for decades and only serves to prop up the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels who have murdered thousands upon thousands of people. Decriminalize drugs, require that people who purchase hard drugs receive counciling paid for by the ensuing tax revenue. Treat the drug problem not as a crime but as the social and medical problem that it sometimes is. Casual use of marijunana isn’t even a problem. Rather, attempts to thwart the importation of marijuna are an enormous waste of police and prison resources and a lost source of tax revenue.

Please remove all US troops and private military contractors from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine how the trillions of dollars spent there could have been used to do road repair and build transit systems and levies and just, say, paint homes and apartment buildings in our own cities. Why not change our priorities and start spending that kind of money here at home?

Make the small adjustments to the social security fund needed to assure that it is solvent for the rest of the century.

Bring back the Public Option to the health care system.

Respectfully yours,

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica, California

The NHL owners are cancelling the hockey season?

I have lots of friends, even male friends, who don’t watch sports much and even more female friends who don’t. They consider sports to be uninteresting, not vital to life. They read books and actually do things like going on hikes and being active instead of just passively sitting in front of the tube watching high paid athletes do stuff.

I respect those friends. But I have other friends who really follow sports, be it baseball, football or, the eventual topic of this column, hockey. I’m not football, especially college football or any college sport. I view that past time, college sports, as a massive fraud on the American psyche as a way for Nike to push the swoosh in front of more eyes and for colleges and universities and the gambling industry to rake in millions while paying the coaches insane salaries while paying faculty members who do things like study advanced molecular structures far less per year. So something is wrong. It’s no one’s fault. It’s “the system”.

Nevertheless I put economics aside and like professional sports for the love of sport. I prefer baseball since the game has no clock. But hockey is the most exciting to watch. If you take your eyes off the action for a few seconds you are going to miss something. The players are the best skaters in the world while also being endurance atheletes and phycially strong sons of bitches.

This year, the Los Angeles Kings are the Stanley Cup Champions. It is supposed to be a fun hockey season.

So this morning I wake up to read today’s Los Angeles Times article that the NHL is cancelling the first two weeks of the scheduled season. Note the term “NHL” in that title. Who is that anyway? And how can they cancel our hockey season? The reason is simple, it is not our hockey season. They own it. They are the owners. The people who make the most millions due to what they own and not what they do. The people doing the work, i.e., the hockey players and the ticket sellers and the janitors, they are what create the hockey season. The owners are smart people, they solve complicated problems such as how to put together teams and organize and promote the season. Sure, they do some work. But that is not what makes them become absurdly wealthy men (and in the Canadian culture of hockey it’s even more men than in other sectors of society that sometimes actually includes women in the power structure — my father was French Canadian so I can bash Canadian maleness if I feel like it and I feel like it right now). No, what makes these sons of bitches too wealthy and what gives them too much power, enough power to cancel our hockey season, or part thereof (they actually cancelled the whole damn thing in 2004-2005) is because the own it, i.e. they can.

It’s not just hockey that is like this. It is everything. Everything.. The way capitalism works.

I heard a funny joke this morning on KPFK I believe. The joke goes like this. Capitalism is a system where some people dominate others. Under socialism, it’s the other way around. The guy saying this joke was a Hungarian who claims to be one of only two Marxists he knows who left Europe after the Soviet breakdown. If anyone is reasding this (a dubious proposition I admit) and happens to know who this guy is, please send me a link so I can refer to him by name. He has an eastern european accent and eastern european humor. Very smart, very funny. I think we’ll be hearing more from him soon.

The Privatization of Education

This morning, Uprising Radio addressed the issue of how education is being privatized and how test scores are being given more importance than education.

The story is heart wrenching, explaining for example how little kids from the ghetto are asked to start taking tests in kindergarten, the kind where you have to mark the right answer with a lead pencil.

The MP3 file of the program contains an interview with Jonathan Kozol, author of “The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.”.

There is a short final commentary by Glen Ford, “Black Agenda Report on the Privatization of Education” (at the 49 minute 20 second mark of the MP3 audio playback). Glenn Ford provides an alternative point of view to the seemingly generous donation made my Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark New Jersey public school system.

Why does KPFK give air time to Gary Null?

I have tired of turning on KFPK radio (90.7 FM, Los Angeles) at night only to hear the self-aggrandizing voice of Gary Null being emitted into the vacuum of the Los Angeles radio air.

At first one tends to like what Null is saying, since he is critical of the pharmaceutical industry and promotes exercise and a good diet. Those are easy targets. But then, very soon, his rants become intolerable.

Null represents the cult of the individual self-promotion of self. The self-referring radio “star”. I think that Null is a disgrace to the left, rivaled by the 911 falsers. When Null is asked a question he seems to not care about the person who asked it or have any interest in dialog. He goes on and on and on ad nauseum listening to his vitriol that often drifts to topics having nothing to do with the question asked telling people what important unique work he claims to have done. Worse, much of what he says has the feel of a snake oil salesman. (See the references at the end of this post.)

That KPFK puts Null on the air so often is testimony to the fact that the left has as many sheep amongst its ranks as the right. So Null is not going to go away. There are myriad people who want to hear his claims.

All I can do is change the channel.

In the mornings, on KPFK, there is world class reporting and news and commentary from Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Sonali Kohatkar, Margaret Prescod, Lila Garrett, and Richard Wolff. But late at night, I turn off KPFK and search, mostly in vane, for good radio. What ever happened to good radio? I end up listening to KFI so that, at least, be entertained by Phil Hendri or George Noori, where lunacy is expected and funny.

This is, of course, just my opinion. But after once again turing on my radio to KPFK last night and hearing Null’s boring voice yet again, I had to vent. And I’m not the only one who has so vented…

Gary Null’s Goons Threaten to Sue Me: My Response

Quackwatch — A Critical Look at Gary Null’s Activities and Credentials

Doug Henwood’s article on Gary Null