Author Archives: billmohr


April 2, 2020

From “STOP AND FRISK” TO “STOP AND SWAB”: The DNA Feeding Frenzy

Michael Bloomberg’s major public outlet has just given a particularly insidious covert-19 (pun intended) proposal a “legitimate” forum. The American Enterprise Institute, which could be thought of as a pragmatic think tank version of individual possessiveness, is floating the idea of “test-and-trace” with a quick assessment process that would no doubt simultaneously provide the DNA profiles of tens of millions of Americans to be stored, analyzed, and ranked.

The article goes through the obligatory acknowledgement of “privacy concerns” by claiming “tech leaders (are) working on alternate solutions that do contact tracing while preserving anonymity. It’s possible that Apple and Google already have the data to do this.” You think so? Gee, no kidding. In addition, the American Enterprise Institute’s power-point enthusiast knows what would be most desirable in these perilous times: “a national surveillance system to tie local systems together and enable contact tracing throughout the country.” Is that all this new national surveillance system would enable? — Because I certainly hope it’s understood that the AEI is talking about a NEW national surveillance system here, and not merely an expansion of a national surveillance system already in place.

The AEI, in other words, in the guise of deploring “the deep state,” is doing all it can to embed its own “deep state” bureaucracy into national governance, all of which will be judicially inviolable thanks to Mitch McConnell’s stacking of the courts.

In other words, prepare for your DNA to be stopped and frisked. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it except not come into contact with anyone. Michael Bloomberg’s NYC experiment is now ready for prime time coding.

Welcome to the DNA feeding frenzy. Your DNA looks delicious.

*. *. *. *

“A Smart Plan to End the U.S. Lockdown Arrives Just in Time” by Noah Smith
Bloomberg March 30, 2020, 4:30 PM PDT

Trump in a Hazmat Suit

APRIL 1, 2020

Trump in a Hazmat Suit

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1968, I found myself taking a quick look at the Los Angeles Times for two reasons: Jim Murray’s sports column; and Paul Conrad’s editorial cartoons. “That’s no swimming pool Communist. That’s just Chief Davis, gone off the deep end again.” That may not be the exact punch line, but it will give you some idea of the daily edge that Conrad brought to his drawing and quartering table. He took no political prisoners. With amnesty for none, with disdain for all. Well, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

This morning, reading an account of Trump’s attempt to backpedal on over two months of perfidious delays with — let’s call it what it is: dapper bullshit worthy only of a novice used car salesman — I had an idea for a cartoon. Unfortunately, I can’t draw well enough to render the scene instantly, but picture this:

*. *. * *

The Setting:
NYC Central Park
Field Hospital
ICU Ward

A bed with a patient that has a chart above the headstand.
Patient name: W.H. Lies

TRUMP IN A HAZMAT SUIT at the foot of the bed: “I’m here to comfort you.”


“You look like you could use a cheerleader.”

*. *. *. *. *

The President said, “You know, I’m a cheerleader for the country.”

We don’t need a cheerleader. What we’ve needed is a Joe Montana. As Governor Inslee said, “We don’t need a backup (quarterback). We need a Tom Brady.”

Perhaps today Trump will hold an April Fools’ press conference in which he admits that he acts contrite and apologizes for his inept leadership.

April fools, indeed.

The Daily 202
Intelligence for leaders.
Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

James Hohmann By James Hohmann
with Mariana Alfaro

Tony Fauci put his hand on his face when President Trump referred to the State Department the Friday before last as “the Deep State Department,” concealing a bemused expression.

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, Fauci has counseled six presidents and become an esteemed pillar of the federal civil service that Trump has loved to hate during his three years in power. Until now.

Trump and the doctors went over slides that showed a best-case scenario of 100,000 to 240,000 fatalities in the United States, even with social distancing and school closures to slow the spread. Without mitigation, the models presented at the White House showed that 1.5 million to 2.2 million Americans could die of covid-19, the disease the virus causes.

He’s no longer downplaying the danger, saying that the virus will kill fewer people than the seasonal flu or car crashes. A week ago, Trump predicted the country would be “raring to go” by Easter, which is April 12.

Despite the bad blood exposed by L’affaire Ukraine, Trump also went out of his way Tuesday to praise foreign service officers for their efforts to bring home 25,000 Americans who were stranded across more than 50 countries as countries closed their borders. “I salute the incredible public servants at the Department of State,

The contagion has killed at least 3,900 people in the United States as of this morning, including 1,550 in New York. Listening to him speak, the gut-wrenching visuals from the president’s hometown of New York – where Fifth Avenue is deserted, and Central Park is now home to a field hospital – appear to have chilled him as much as any charts or models.

For context on Trump’s projection that 100,000 to 240,000 people will die of the virus, about 58,000 troops died during the entire Vietnam War. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 675,000 Americans, and the 1957 influenza epidemic killed 70,000 to 116,000 people.

The president explained his strategy this way. “You know, I’m a cheerleader for the country,” he said. “We’re going through the worst thing that the country’s probably ever seen … but I want to give people in this country hope.”

“Down to the Mud”: Song Lyric

April 1, 2020

“Down to the Mud” is an expression used to describe the worst case scenario for a drought in which the reservoirs are completely depleted. In mid-May, 1992, I applied it to the City of Los Angeles as it convulsed in the aftermath of the L.A. “Riots”/”Uprising.” Given the oncoming economic tumult about to be set loose on working people as a result of the federal government’s mismanaged reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, the lyrics still seem pertinent.

(Ballad for a city burning)

Weathermen scowl, “There’s no rain in sight,”
Asking each other, “When did this drought start?”
“Gotta ration — not enough to go around.”
“All of us get ready to do our part.”

But even if rains all along the coast —
Even if it pours until the rivers flood,
The faucets of the poor will tremble with thirst
And the rich insist, “We’re down to the mud.”

Down to the mud
Down to the mud
Not enough rain
Too much pain
Down to the mud
Down to the mud

Hot tubs, champagne and aquariums
Flickering with tropical fish
Carbonated soda water at the bar
Whenever the politicians wish.

Ever drink it, my friends, straight from the tap.
Just one sip and you know it’s chlorinated crap.
The poor mix it with sugar and crushed ice
Purchased at the corner at twice the price.

Down to the mud
Down to the mud

Up north’s the reservoir of hope
Where we once danced and drank our fill
The stupor of the sky’s a slippery slope
And the high flat clouds are still.

Look at the lake with the tree-line of despair
They don’t need a boat or a bucket of bait;
Just a stick and a hook and a badge to wear:
The color of your skin is the legal weight.

Down to the mud
Down to the mud
Not enough rain
Too much pain
Down to the mud
Down to the mud

Bill Mohr
May 17, 1992 / March 30, 2020

SONG – Interview with a Soul Mate

“Nothing’s more soothing
than fear and loathing”
that’s what the devil said to me last night
I got a take-out dinner
that’s fit for a winner
And on my way home I’ll take another bite

“Too Much Month at the End of the Money”

March 31, 2020

“Too Much Month at the End of the Money” and the Worker Bees of Social Wealth

I had been working as a typesetter at RADIO & RECORDS for four years and feeling stuck at my job like many working people in a situation that didn’t pay enough. I was 42 years old, and this was the first job I’d ever had on which I had lasted more than three years. Oh, I had been making money as a typesetter since the beginning of that decade, but when I started out at The Argonaut, under David Asper Johnson, just as it moved from Marina del Rey to Hermosa Beach, I had no idea that the profession would still find me at the keyboard on the other end of that decade’s insidious pendulum.

One of my tasks at Radio & Records was to put the finishing touches on music charts, and one day the Country Music chart had a title that summed it up: “Too Much Month at the End of the Money.” Country music was not the preferred genre of my fellow employees, so I never did hear the song itself, written and recorded by members of the Billy Hill band until just now, when my search engine tracked it down. Marty Stuart covered the song in 2003, but I much prefer the first version:

I thought of that song this morning because for millions of my fellow citizens the story in this song is about to double down. In the spirit of “Murder Most Foul,” I would suggest adding the following couplet:

When the rich start running out of money;
Play them “Got No Bees, Got No Honey.”

If the second line suggests a Marxist critique, then I’m glad you caught the drift.

“Murder Most Foul”: “…. play “Hello, Goodbye; …. play American Pie”

The Covid-19 virus is merely an opening act for the next pandemic:

Covet-20 is on it way, with those who covet authoritarian power and corporate largesse dispersing their delayed reaction viruses and time-lapse memes with hypnotically enhanced algorithms.

Meanwhile, self-imposed quarantines would be a lot easier to endure if radio stations would occasionally play two songs back-to-back:”Murder Most Foul” and “American Pie.” Bob Dylan’s influence on Don McLean was fairly obvious when McLean cranked out a song that began as a mournful tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Boppe,” but turned by the second verse into a generational lament.

In “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan pays indirect tribute to McLean with a litany of famous and obscure songs that mark “the day the music died” in November, 1963. Less than 25% of the American pubic can remember where they were when they heard the news that JFK had been shot; it’s likely that less than 10% — and possibly less than 5% — can identify the cultural figures and references in Dylan’s song. If the assassination remains a blurred event:

“It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done”

then the cauldron of popular culture is adroitly smudged by Dylan, too.

Maybe ten percent of the American population recognizes Wolfman Jack and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” but anyone betting the rent money that five percent of the American population can identify half of the following people must have a profound yearning to be served an eviction notice.

Etta James
Thelonius Monk
Oscar Peterson
Stan Getz
Dickey Betts
Art Pepper
Charlie Parker
Bud Powell

For that matter, how many can identify Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd? This kind of roll-call brings to mind Dylan’s early work as a collage lyricist. “Murder Most Foul” will not dislodge “Desolation Row” from the list of Dylan’s best songs, but he has done us the service of a playlist that no D.J. in the United States has ever featured on his or her show. The trick for millennials in assembling the complete playlist cited by Dylan will be to remember that lyrics to songs that aren’t mentioned by title are also in his song: “You make me dizzy, Miss Lizzy” and “Wake up, little Suzy.” If one were to compile a very quirky tape of songs, in fact, one would blend in the songs mentioned or alluded to in McLean’s song as well.

Post-Script: The title of Dylan’s song comes from a phrase uttered by the ghost of King Hamlet to his son, but the earliest significant use of Shakespeare in regards to JFK’s assassination was Barbara Garson’s play, “MacBird!”

Happy 70th Birthday, Laurel Ann Bogen!!!!!!!

LAB - Birthday
(card credit: Linda Fry)

Happy 70th Birthday, Laurel Ann Bogen!

Hello, Laurel Ann —

It’s 7 a.m. and still quiet outside, as it has been all week long, with the Great Sequestering turning daily life into a pantomime of minimalism. I am sipping my second cup of coffee and wishing that Linda, you and I could spend the day together. Since that won’t be possible, I hereby commence THIS day’s observances by sending you our fondest birthday wishes.

Bravo on reaching 70!!!! What a triumph! Truly, the rest of whatever is to come only asks of us that we reign well over the providence of the decades that have been (and still might be) given to us.

May you be the Queen of Stand Up Poetry, and Shoe, and the Memory of Chumley! “Supremo” in your performances, with every standing ovation that you so abundantly deserve — So be it!

Bill and Linda

Harry E. Northup: The Poet Laureate of East Hollywood (Emeritus)

Monday, March 23, 2020

After appearing in several dozen films and television series, Harry E. Northup, poet and actor, has retired from his lifelong profession as an actor. If he was a superb character actor whose devotion to his craft caught the attention of some of the best directors in the field — including Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme, then he also remains a poet whose work has earned the affectionate admiration of some of the best readers of poetry in the United States, who also happen to live in Los Angeles. Northup of course has his admirers elsewhere, too, but his core support is in the city where he also fashioned himself into a singular blend of cinematic poetics backlit by the cinema itself.

Today, I wish to call to your attention a new interview with Harry:

John Wisniewski interviews Harry E. Northup on “am/fm magazine”:

Harry E. Northup: From Acting In Martin Scorsese Films to Writing Poetry

Tanya Ko Hong’s New Book: “THE WAR STILL WITHIN”

Sunday, March 22, 2020 — 4:30 p.m.

I had the pleasure of being on a poetry panel with Tanya Ko Hong two years ago at the PAMLA conference in Pasadena. Organized by Suzanne Lummis at the behest of Steve Axelrod, the panel focused on the emergence of several communities of poets in Los Angeles as an unexpectedly prolonged renaissance continues to exceed its original expectations. I was fortunate enough to acquire a copy of one of her books, GENERATION 1.5 (1993); the title alludes to challenges encountered and endured by immigrant communities as the first generation’s tumult yields to the second’s withstood assimilation.

Tanya Ko Hong has a new book of poems out, and it well deserves its considerable advance praise from Ellen Bass, Terry Wolverton, Alexis Rhone Fancher, and Molly Bendall.

Acclaim for THE WAR STILL WITHIN: Poems of the Korean Diaspora

“Tanya Ko Hong captures in these spare, elegant poems, a world of cruelty, suffering and survival. Here is beauty juxtaposed with pain so deep it’s almost impossible to put into words. And yet this fine poet does just that. She breaks our hearts with the truth and astonishes us with her compassion.”
— Ellen Bass, Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets

“In The War Still Within, Tanya Ko Hong weaves a scarlet thread from Korea to the United States, from World War II to yesterday, from ancient stories to cell phone calls—this blood-soaked thread is the suffering of women and the legacy handed down from mother to daughter, for generations and across continents. These poems invoke exquisite imagery to tell the truth about exploitation, cruelty, betrayal, and displacement. The stories of these women burn themselves into your heart.”
— Terry Wolverton, poet, novelist, and author of 12 books

“Dedicated in part to her long-dead mother and to women who have lost their names, Tanya Ko Hong’s The War Still Within wages its battles in one exquisitely revealing poem after another. The author gives names to the nameless: the Korean comfort women during WWII, as well as women who came after, women who suffered too long in silence, whose sad fate shackled them to lives of quiet desperation. This extraordinary book is for them, and for all of us.”
— Alexis Rhone Fancher, poetry editor of Cultural Weekly and author of five books of poetry

“In The War Still Within, Tanya Ko Hong illuminates dark corners of forbidden territories. She exposes her own history and struggles as a Korean-American woman, and in a searingly frank sequence she writes in the voices of those who were Korean “comfort women” during WWII. She delicately balances a stance that is explicit as well as gorgeously reflective. She vivifies and deepens experience in this dynamic collection. We should follow her lead, follow her call as a way into the future: ‘Tonight my tongue cuts galaxy.’”
— Molly Bendall, author of five books of poetry and professor of English at USC Dornsife

“Listen Carefully as what has been unnamed is named, what has been silenced is spoken, as the war within laid across the page.”
— Alexandra Umlas, author of At the Table of Knowledge

The publication reading, scheduled for March 29, has been postponed because of the embargo on public gatherings.
In the meantime, though, here is a recent video made by POETRY LA, with Mariano Zaro as the interlocutor.

Mariano Zaro interviews Tanya Ko Hong:

Book Review: The War Still Within by Tanya Ko Hong

Three Poems by Tanya Ko Hongo appear in the Cultural Weekly’s poetry column, edited by Alexis Rhone Fancher:

Tanya Ko Hong: Three Poems

안녕하세요. 고현혜 입니다.
여러분 모두께서 안전하시고 평온하시기를 먼저 간절히 바랍니다.
이번에 제 영문시집, The War Still Within 이 나왔는데 여러분과 함께 출판 낭송회를 갖고자 했으나 연기 되었음을 알려드리며 몇가지를 함께 나누고자 합니다.
특이 어제 유트브에 제 인터뷰가 포스팅되었습니다.
이민에 관한 시가 읽혀 집니다.
시청해 주시고 함께 공유해 주시면 너욱 감사 하겠습니다.

AI “Drivers,” Truckers, and the Long Haul of “Jobless” Training

March 16, 2020

If Senator Sanders wants to eject Trump from the White House on Election Day, then he needs to continue to campaign on issues that will bring a sense of urgency to the platform that the Democratic Party will vote on at their convention.

One problem with Sanders is that he is too caught up in an old post-Fordist economy. The knowledge economy is now extending its grasp far beyond the robotic arm in the factory and the ability to detect and identity incredibly subtle variations in genetic sequences.

Day to day employment is on course to absorb another sucker punch, at least according to a recent news article on “60 Minutes” about the rapid development of driverless trucks. Hundreds of thousands of long-haul truck drivers will be losing their jobs within five years. Eighteen wheelers will be cruising back and forth across the country, never stopping for sleep or for a bite to eat. The only pit stops will be for fuel, and I imagine that the major gasoline companies are already figuring a way to design that aspect so that no human has to pump the gas. Specific stops will be built along the routes so that the trucks can pull off, idle under a hose, and have it inserted into the tank. It will all be done by electronic commands.

This is a predominantly male occupation, and the social challenge will be to develop meaningful work for these individuals. Job loss due to technology is nothing new, of course, and politicians such as Joe Biden will promise “job training” as a matter of a campaign’s rhetorical reflex. To say that he is mouthing meaningless “splatitudes” (platitudes that splat like shit on the ground from an overweight animal) is putting it kindly. Every Democratic candidate promises job training, and every one of them has betrayed the workers who voted for them.

I’ll grant the need for a workforce that can help care for the oncoming generation of aging senior citizens, but what is really needed now is “jobless training” — the retooling of our conscious existence so that each of us has fewer obligations imposed on us as coercion for having space to cook meals and sleep, not to mention the food itself.

Yes, job training is needed, but so is “jobless” training for a society in which time with our families and working in community gardens is given substantial priority.

If Senator Sanders addressed these issues, the Democratic Party might have a chance to win back the allegiance of echelons of the working class that have defected in recent decades. Unfortunately, even with an emphasis on “jobless training,” the ability of some people to vote against their own best interests will prove to be a stronger preference; but until a truly radical shift in our notions of work takes place, very little will change in the allocations of prosperity to the workers who create and sustain it.