Category Archives: History

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Dylan Thomas told us, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” As old age slips his hoary fingers through my graying hair and holds my hand in his, I sometimes think of Thomas’ words.

However, many years before Thomas’ time on earth, another character expressed somewhat the same concept to death’s approach. As Gilgamesh’s BFF Enkidu is facing his imminent demise, he curses the gods with this pithy series of suggestions:

“May wild dogs camp in your bedroom,” Enkidu rants. “May owls nest in your attic, may drunkards vomit all over you, may a tavern wall be your place of business, may you be dressed in torn robes and filthy underwear, may angry wives sue you, may thorns and briars make your feet bloody, may young men jeer and the rabble mock you as you walk the streets…”

For those unfamiliar with Enkidu and Gilgamish, they’re characters in an epic narrative written sometime about 2200-2500 BCE, or slightly more than four millennium in the past. That’s about a thousand years before the Trojans and the Greeks hacked and whacked each other in Homer’s Illiad.

Well said, Enkidu. (From Stephen Mitchell’s translation, A New English Version: Gilgamesh)

 

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Fake News Part II

Fake News stories aren’t accurate. Usually the inaccuracy is intentional, agenda driven distortion. No shit, I can imagine someone murmuring. How long did it take for you to figure that out?

Interestingly enough, these distortions have been with us for many years, varying primarily in the sophistication of their distortion. Fin de siecle (end of the 19th century) newspapers published in New York City by Hearst and Pulitzer were noted both for their extravagant claims and the bright yellow ink splashed across the front page. Yellow ink in a day of black ink, white paper, drew attention to the stories so effectively that the technique was eventually known as Yellow Journalism.

Examples of the genre: news coverage of the sinking of the USS Maine when it was anchored in Havana harbor back in 1898. Blatant charges of Spanish complicity in the explosions of the ship soon resulted in a war between the United States and Spain even though the US Navy itself believed the battleship fell prey to coal dust ignition in the hold. Of course those claims of Spaniards planting a mine of the outside of the ship’s hull had been preceded by many stories concerning mistreatment of the Cubans rising to the level of human rights atrocities.

The US won this little fight, and as a settlement claimed control over both Cuba and the Philippines. Well, our guys  won…so no harm, no foul. Right?

Skip forward a few years. WWI-era US newspapers were rife with vilification of people of Germanic descent, folks who thought socialism might have its merits, delusional union workers who thought the common guy had inalienable rights…the list goes on and on.

Two more modern examples of Yellow Journalism or…Fake News…occurred in Vietnam and Iraq. Lyndon Johnson wanted…really wanted…a war to be waged against the Communists in North Vietnam. Troops, supposedly unarmed and there for humanitarian purposes, had been crossing the Pacific to assist the South Vietnamese government since the time of President Dwight Eisenhower. Under President John Kennedy the flow of men and materiel had increased. A bit of manipulation by Johnson resulted in the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, unfettered flood of soldiers guns, planes and all the other delightful accoutrements of war and…as we know…the collapse of the South Vietnamese nation, loss of more than 50,000 American lives and so on.

Then, we have President George W. Bush and his fixation with Iraq, massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and, of course, another war. The US media was complicit by adding its own weapons of mass distraction so that we were mired in the mess before most people realized that once again we, the people of the US, had been bamboozled.

All of this Fake News, this Yellow Journalism, is old news. Men with an agenda, especially men with power and money, win out over the best intentions of honest legislators and forthright journalism every fucking time.

Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell’s1984–the guidebook of the twenty-first century–is alive and in deep shit. Big Brother, antagonist of Orwell’s book, has just been elected President of the United States and Breitbart News, now reborn as the Ministry of Truth, has provided a slovenly advisor to the about to be crowned fat man in the White House.

In Fake News Part III we’ll examine the state of truth and honesty in journalism and why the paradigm of words meaning whatever people of power say they mean at the moment has arrived. Bigly…

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Fake News – Part I

I’ve been seeing, encountering, reading more articles about…Fake News. Fake News? Yeah, the shit stories spread by minions of Donald Strumpet’s BFF Vlad Putin. Lies written by guys and girls working in alt.right dark environs like bugs under piles of feces and comments posted at the end of legitimate stories by paid shills for the creeps who are destroying our nation.

Note: Fake news as I understand the term excludes errors, misconceptions and poor research so endemic to newspapers and magazines. I should probably exclude radio, television and Internet writings from consideration as sources of fake news as these three categories predominently consist of erroneous material. Remove the fake news from radio, TV and the Internet and there would be no news at all.

The fake news so decried recently is merely our current iteration of fake news. In reality–if there is such a condition as reality–fake news might well have begun before there was real news.

David Brinkley–he of Huntly and Brinkley on NBC TV for those who aren’t old enough to remember the guy–was the speaker at an RTNDA convention (Radio Television News Directors’ Association). Brinkley noted, “The problem with TV News is it presents no news with the same emphasis that it presents news,” or words to that effect. I’m not quoting from an archive story, this is what I remember him saying, more or less.

He was right. I was a television journalist back in the 70s and when our small operation (WDTB-TV, Channel 13, an NBC affiliate at the time) in the panhandle of Florida had no real news stories, we presented whatever we could find. After all, we had to fill thirty minutes with something. OK, not really 30 minutes, since we had 6 minutes of commercials, 4 minutes of weather presentation, between 6 minutes of sports, another minute involved in intros, outros and segues, leaving us with between 12 and 14 minutes to shovel full of news or something that purported to be new. This sometimes included a local lede that was not really a lede (or lead, if that’s how you prefer the spelling). “City fathers announce funding for a new stop light at the corner of main and 7th…” uttered with urgency and backed by a chromakey slide of a stop light.

Part of a small market operation (larger markets, too) involved keeping a few video segments on hand that could be used to keep from having one of our female staff performing a strip on camera (thanks, Donald, for the suggestion…Megyn…que up David Rose…) while we searched for something to read. Where did those fillers come from? They magically appeared in the mail, sent to us from politicians, corporations, public relations companies, and so on, who knew the need for a well-produced segment to keep the system from toppling into the sounds of silence or a moment of the ever ready “We’re currently encountering technical difficulties” slide.

Did we vet the mail-in material? Sometimes. Maybe. Reels of two inch video were usually accompanied by a print read of the script. Maybe someone in news would read the shit. Other over-the-transom submissions were 16mm film, often with an optical sound track, sometimes with a magnetic track of single-system sound, occasionally with a separate script we could read.

Fake news, people.

All this nonsense with filler was worse when considering print journalism. Thousands of trees, maybe even millions, lost the lives to be pulped into pages of crap that appeared in newspapers without a cavaet concerning the source. If there was sufficient time available, the shit might have been rewritten or at least edited. Often it appeared with no more than a cursory jab with a pencil, a line or three deleted as too blatent to print…or maybe not even that. Images–yeah, black and white glossy prints which could be sized and tossed in to fill two or three, maybe even four columns wide by a proportionate number of inches deep with screened nothingness. Wonderful stuff to have when the advertising department came in with several inches of classifieds causing the paper to expand by two or four pages.

Some of this filler was submitted by political groups, people with an agenda other than just selling a product. Some–maybe even much–of it was ugly, material that shouldn’t have appeared in print because it was never vetted, questionable in value or occasionally even blatantly false.

Sounds much like what we encounter today, doesn’t it? Where did the term Yellow Journalism originate? Sure, with the color of the paper…but the moniker really referred to the content, the agenda-driven material that sucked readers into an emotional maelstorm of nonsense. Example: Remember the Maine? I don’t and I’m relatively old so I doubt you do either. Stories about the USS Maine’s destruction in Havana harbor led directly to a confrontation with Spain and the ensuing war. The perfidious Spaniards planted a fucking bomb in the innards of the ship and caused it to explode, destroying not just the ship but several hundred lives…at least according to the stories printed in newspapers from coast to coast of the United States.

False news, as it turned out to be. Likely culprit for the explosion was coal dust in the bin in the heart of the USS Maine. Oh, well. Tooo late.

In Part II of False News, we’ll look at stories which incited wars, destroyed nations and cost vast amounts of money and human lives. Part III of False News will move into the modern day lies of the Internet.

 

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Commands, Orders and Force Continuum…a Fire Burning Ever Closer

I began working on this post at the beginning of August, before the events that recently unfurled in Ferguson, Missouri. (You know the story: Cop shoots, kills, unarmed young black man following a brief confrontation. Community is outraged. Riots follow, local police see force continuum as the answer to the uppity people who demand change in procedures that all too often result in needless violence.) Yes, that’s a fire burning toward town in the image below. It’s not just Missouri or New York City or Los Angeles or Alabama or a tiny town in Arizona that’s in danger. The flames are licking up around the nation (and, for that matter, much of the rest of the world, too). Media images of lines of Missouri police who are uniformed (and armed) just like the soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Gaza kept focusing my thoughts on commands, orders and force continuum during the past couple weeks.

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Following is what I’d assembled prior to the killing in Ferguson:

A use of force continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officials & security officers (such as police officers, probation officers, or corrections officers) with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. In many ways it is similar to the military rules of engagement. The purpose of these models is to clarify, both for officers and citizens, the complex subject of use of force by law officers. They are often central parts of law enforcement agencies’ use of force policies.

Although various law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have developed models of the continuum, there is no universal standard model.[

The next time you’re reading a media release involving the police, note how frequently the phrase “issued a command” is invoked. “Officer Dimwitty did encounter a suspicious individual and did issue a command. The individual failed to obey Officer Dimwitty’s command and the officer, in fear of his life, did take action by shooting the individual fifteen times.” The suspicious individual, later identified as 78 year old Deloris Geezer of Anytown, was unarmed and investigators determined she was almost entirely deaf and suffered from bouts of confusion (as do most of us old people). Officer Dimwitty, a six-month veteran of the Anytown Police, was determined by Anytown police investigators to have acted appropriately under the circumstances.

This not-so-far-fetched story is a paradigm of Use of Force Continuum, a set of standards that the vast multitude of individuals acting under the umbrella of public security study to determine how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. Hypothetically these models clarify for both cops and citizens the subject of use of force by law officers. Unfortunately, the citizen (such as poor, dead Ms. Geezer) aren’t invited to the discussions of how these rules are applied and only infrequently do citizens help determine whether law enforcement officers (yes, Officer Dimwitty is a example) acted reasonably.

So, instead of Ms. Geezer, it’s a black kid who didn’t understand the rules of engagement and likely didn’t comprehend how quickly force continuum could result in a cop using deadly force because…of course…the policeman feared for his life. Sure, there are exculpatory details dripping out around the edges of this story. Ferguson police say that the kid who was killed–a young man who was both black and big, thus making him a double threat–stole cigars from a convenience store. OK, death is always an appropriate way of dealing with a criminal. Dead people don’t steal again…nor do they sell loose cigarettes on the streets of New York City…nor do they do any of so many of the minor activities that have resulted in death at the hands of the authorities.

Force continuum.

This concept is similar to an accident chain. Remove one link, change an aspect of the situation particularly during the early stages; there may be no catastrophic ending to the story. The accident may not happen. Unfortunately, the very individuals trained in the concept of force continuum, the people who make the rules, are the ones least likely to change their methodology. Why should they? Force is power. Increasing the amount of force increases the amount of power the interpreter of the situation can exercise. Rather than being trained to use each escalation of force only as a last option, authorities escalate immediately. Combined with other societal changes in law enforcement methodology and technology, the problems with force continuum as currently practiced are just beginning.

Changes? Making this concept even more deadly and more likely to result in more communities burning with rage answered by force is the US government “1033” program that involves turning over surplus military equipment to local police agencies. Yes, the cops in Missouri–at least many of them involved in the aftermath of the Ferguson killing–are wearing military gear, waving battlefield weapons at the local residents and driving along in armored vehicles provided free of charge through the largesse of the feds.

One of the requirements for keeping some of this gear is truly frightening. The equipment must be used at least once within the first year after the police take possession of it. Ah, so we make sure there’s a fuse sticking in the barrel of gunpowder. All we need now is a flame then, wherever we live, the wall of flames is ready to spring to life.

 

 

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Einstein and the Indian Girl

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The grinning gentleman garbed in a suit, holding a peace pipe and wearing a chief’s headdress in the Life Magazine image above is none other than Albert Einstein. The lady to Einstein’s left is his wife. Einstein’s enjoyment in meeting a group of Hopi native seems rather obvious. I’ve seen reprints of the photo many times over the years but don’t recall ever knowing the background of how and specifically when the image was taken.

Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West–One Meal at a Time by Stephen Fried, has been on my nighttime reading agenda recently. Among the many delightful bits of information about Fred Harvey, his family and the restaurant business he established, I found the details behind the Einstein encounter with a group of Fred Harvey .

The year was 1930 during the already famous scientist’s second visit to the US. This was Einstein’s first opportunity to visit Arizona and the Grand Canyon. Doubtful that Einstein realized the Hopis who presented him with the headdress were merely props for a Harvey diorama but his interest in the people was an outward manifestation of a speech he’d presented at Caltech which included the following words:

Why does this magnificent applied science, which saves work and makes life easier, bring us so little happiness? Because we have not yet learned to make sensible use of it… Instead of freeing us in great measure from labor that exhausts spirituality, it has made men into slaves of machinery…

Just consider a quite uncivilized Indian, whether his experience is less rich and happy than that of the average civilized man–I hardly think so. There lies deep meaning in the fact that children of all civilized countries are so fond of playing Indians.

A couple of years later, during Einstein’s third visit to the US, Adolph Hitler finally took possession of the levers of power in Germany. Einstein returned to Belgium (he did not want to enter German for fear of arrest) where he visited the German counsel to formally renounce his German citizenship. In 1940 he became a US citizen. I wonder if he ever returned to Arizona (or if he ever ate at a Fred Harvey restaurant during the years he spent in this country).

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Fireworks, Alcohol and Independence Day

June 30, 2014

Last day in June as I write this drivel so, unless our guv’mint alters the calendar, Independence Day will be here soon…with all its concomitant fireworks, alcohol and patriotic rantings. I wonder if the people in Iraq (yeah, the ones we emancipated from living under the boot heel of Saddam Hussein) are celebrating July 4th under the flag of a group of Muslim conservatives. Or, in a different vein, what do the troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan during the past decade think about the outcome of their sacrifices? I know a few soldiers (11B types, guys who lugged a rifle, same as I was back in the dark ages…) who have shared their thoughts on the matter. The grunts I’ve talked to recently don’t seem much more enthusiastic about the liberty we turned loose in Iraq and Afghanistan than my colleagues did about Southeast Asia’s aftermath.

When will we learn that freedom at the barrel end of a carbine usually doesn’t work out the way it was intended. Of course there are some groups that do make out quite well. I will paraphrase a Marine advertising slogan: The Few, The Rich, The Defense Contractors. That umbrella term of Defense Contractor now covers various “security” companies. An article in the New York Times reveals interesting information about the firm once known as Blackwater. Fascinating that the US State Department was confronted with a threat from a rogue company…and backed down from investigating charges against the firm. I doubt that the same diplomats would fear reprisals from members of the US military but the military doesn’t operate without restraints.

When will we turn security in this country, our homeland, over to private corporations?

What? Oh…shit. We’ve already begun the process…

So much for Independence.

At least my ticker is still tocking.

4thjulmuckSMNow, on to more pleasant considerations. Parades, celebrations–that’s a mucking contest in the image to your left, mucking and hard rocking drilling are traditional 4th of July events in western mining towns–toss in some drinking, a few fights, some family breakups, an occasional arrest, it all adds up to a good time.

I’ve been living in Arizona much of my life, part of the time as a kid then in college and, for the past 35 years or so here in the southeastern tip of the state. Strange, but I haven’t noticed many Native Americans, the people we used to refer to as Indians, attending the Independence Day events. Maybe there are still some uncomfortable memories. See above the references to the freedom that we bestowed on Afghani and Iraqi citizens all in the name of independence.

We’ll wrap up the day with a shower of fireworks, hopefully without causing a blaze in the dry brush that is waiting for a spark to flare into flames. Not possible? In 1989 that’s exactly what did happen. An errant skyrocket ignited the dry brush east of town and for the next two days we all breathed smoke and wondered whether the fire would be stopped before it reached our homes. Temperatures have climbed a few degrees higher in the last 25 years, we’ve had very little moisture. Let’s all hope the monsoon rains begin in time to quench the embers.

Do I sound like a party-pooper? Guess I am but my dismay at the concept of freedom for all and for all a good time took a dive back in the mid-60s when I spent 4th of July in Thailand. People in Southeast Asia didn’t seem particularly appreciative of our big holiday. I doubt that’s changed.

 

 

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Time to Fire General Alexander?

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Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for President Obama to consider firing General Keith Alexander. You know, Keith, the guy at NSA who Obama approaches hat in hand to request if, at least if it’s not too inconvenient, it’s possible for Alexander and his minions (all thousands of them…) to stop spying on everyone in the world. Alexander, of course, flicks off the President’s pleas as if they were stray lint spots on his uniform.

That’s Doug MacArthur on the left side of the image at the top of this post. Alexander is on the right, admiring Dugout Doug’s five stars. After all, why not? All it would require for Alexander to add another star would be an Act of Congress and Obama’s signature. Hell, NSA has enough dirt on the members of congress to get them to formally declare that shit is chocolate pudding then to eat a dish just to prove the point. (In case anyone wonders, I took the liberty of adding a few stars and ribbons to Alexander’s uni…I know he’d appreciate the gesture.)

11-02-Truman-MacNow, about MacArthur. He was a general for-fucking-ever. Dwight Eisenhower was a light colonel at the time he worked for MacArthur when the great one was Chief of Staff of the Army back in the 1930s. MacArthur fought in the Philippines, in WWI, then in WWII before saddling up for one last go during the Korean Conflict. Harry Truman–President Harry Truman, guy in the civilian suit and funny hat in image to the left–was the boss. Old Mac remembered when Harry was a major in WWI. MacArthur was already a brigadier at the start of that particular war. Truman didn’t want MacArthur to light the fuse on the Chinese bomb; MacArthur said he had it all under control and then ordered a massive attack across the Yalu River. The Chinese sent hundreds of thousands of troops into action to help the North Koreans. Bad, baaad scene. (I heard tales of just how bad from my father who flew F80 jets in ground support…)

Truman fired MacArthur. Period. Fired a man who many people–not just Americans, either–believed was the greatest general who ever wore stars. MacArthur went home.

Barack Obama doesn’t fire generals, not even piss-ant generals like Keith Alexander. He requests that they listen to his whining. Yeah, Obama accepted Stanley McChrystal’s resignation after the general criticized him and his policies in front of a reporter who rather rudely wrote about the comments. Though McChrystal didn’t have the obligatory three years in grade necessary to retain his rank for pension purposes, Obama let McChrystal keep his fourth star and his fat pension…don’t want to hurt his feelings…11-02-AlexanderInfoCenter

Back to Alexander the Not-So-Great. Now what the hell is that console in the image to the right? Well, it’s Keith Alexander’s command center from back when he only had 3 stars. Lt. General Alexander would invite important politicians in to sit around the table (which he referred to as his Information Dominance Center) when he ran the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command. General MacArthur used a crumpled hat and a corncob pipe as props for his grandiosity. General Alexander used a set from a shitty sci-fi series. How many millions did the Star Wars desk job cost American taxpayers? Something around $140 million. Stainless steel ain’t cheap.

I suppose President Obama does have an excuse for letting General Alexander and the National Security Agency get out of hand. After all, during the past couple of years Obama has been busy with his health care program and needed all his attention focused on getting the website right so there wouldn’t be any glitches when the system rolled out.

Maybe Obama could replace Keith Alexander with someone who knows how to administer a major program without causing the boss embarrassment. Kathleen Sibelius would be a good choice.

Yes, Alice, the Red Queen does believe six impossible things before breakfast. .

 

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RIP: Bisbee’s Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl

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Bisbee, Arizona’s fun time musicians Whiskey Girl and a Nowhere Man have moved on. Amy Ross, Whiskey Girl part of the popular duo, grabbed the next spoke in the inexorable wheel Monday, October 14, in a Tucson hospital as a result of complications from Lupus. Her husband, Derrick Ross, chose to join her just a few hours later on Monday night, his body was discovered early Tuesday morning. A story in Phoenix’s New Times is linked here and one from the Sierra Vista Herald/Bisbee Review here.

That’s Amy and Derrick in the images at the top and bottom of this post. Among the many venues that they frequented, Amy and Derrick performed at Bisbee’s Vista Park Farmers’ Market on many a Saturday morning. The top image is from January 14, 2012, taken as I was wandering around the park on a brisk late fall day with my camera, enjoying the sunlight, people and wonderful sounds. Photo below is from August 21, 1010, during one of their summer performances. I–we, all of us in Bisbee–shall miss Amy and Derrick.

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Chief Charley Beck’s “Tragic Misinterpretation”

News about seven policemen firing on a pickup truck in what LAPD Chief Charley Beck calls a “tragic misinterpretation” is even more appalling than the ex-Los Angeles cop going whacko and killing people. Remember, this is just one nutjob the police are after, not an army. According to news reports, thousands of California police have their fingers and triggers and, as Beck says, “they’re under incredible pressure.” All to stop one guy who Beck says is “unbelievably dangerous, after all, we trained him.” Oh? I thought he was a former Navy reserve officer who was trained by the military.

Let’s all take a deep breath and look at the details of the guys who shot the pickup. Not one, not two, but an entire group (at least seven) supposedly highly trained law enforcement officers blazed away at the errant vehicle, almost killing a 70 year old woman and her 47 year old daughter who were out delivering newspapers. Oh, fuck.  Two women, not one big, black ex-cop inside the vehicle. Which was the wrong make, too. The cops shot at a Nissan, not a Toyota Tundra. The Nissan was blue. The Toyota was gray.

A tragic misinterpretation.

Is that a…euphemism…for a Mongolian clusterfuck? What did the policemen fail to interpret? That they weren’t supposed to fire up any pickup truck that wandered near a senior cop’s house? That they were supposed to check out the vehicle before opening up on it? That all the other cars they hit with stay bullets to say nothing of the houses that were peppered in the melee might not have been a particularly bright move? That maybe this is all getting out of hand?

Which brings us to another point. California Senator Dianne Feinstein seems to believe we’ll all be much more safe if weapons are taken away from us. I wonder how the people in Big Bear Lakes feel about her ideas. Big Bear Lakes Mayor Jay Obernolte says people in the little mountain town aren’t afraid of the roaming murderer who might be in the neighborhood. Is that because of the multitudes of police wandering around in the snow, rifle barrels pointed everywhere looking for a pickup to shoot? Well, no. “No, there’s no panic,” Obernolte said. “We’re very hardy residents here in the … mountains. Many people here are armed.” Does that mean owning a weapon might provide a certain security? Surely not…

President Obama is quite clear that he doesn’t ever want our policemen to be “outgunned.” He said that at an appearance in Minnesota as he pumped the legislators for a new weapons ban. Outgunned? The police have radios, body armor, helicopters and, maybe even more daunting, regardless of the reason for pulling the trigger, seldom does a policeman get punished for shooting the wrong person. Is this what we get with a militarized police force? Just like Vietnam…or Iraq…or Afghanistan…where guys let loose with everything they have at any shadowy shape that might be an enemy. Oh, shit. We shot Pat Tillman. Collateral damage. A “tragic misinterpretation,” I suppose General Stanley McChrystal might have called the Tillman slaying. The squad was under “incredible pressure,” just like those poor guys who defended themselves against two women delivering newspapers.

Unfortunately for us, the sheeple, as many police like to refer to us, we’re the ones who get shot. Best the government take our guns away quickly. Arm us with rocks, that should be relatively safe. Well, unless one lives along the border when the federal constabulary makes a habit of firing on rock throwers. Pebbles? What about rubber-coated pebbles? Or pebbles made of foam?

Maybe we should be limited to quill, ink and paper (or their digital equivalent). After all, the pen is mightier than the sword.

There’s another phrase echoing somewhere inside my head. Oh, yeah. Sticks and stones may break my bones, bullets may fuck me up beyond all recognition, but words will never hurt me.  Unless, I suppose, they’re misinterpreted.

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Red Hartman, Early Arizona Harley Dealer, Rides Off into a New Adventure

Red Hartman, a franchised Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealer from 1948 until 1988, is now riding knuckleheads and panheads along roads the rest of us will eventually visit. Red’s first shop was Cochise County Harley-Davidson Sales in Douglas, Arizona. Years later he opened Hartman Harley-Davidson Sales in Sierra Vista.

When Cochise H-D rolled its first hardly-ablesons out onto US 80 in Douglas, there were no golden arches shovelling out little patties of shit to the locals, no Walmart sprawling across a giant parking lot just north of the US/Mexico border. DC3s, 4s and 6s emblazoned with American Airlines colors painted on shiny aluminum skins roared in and out of Bisbee-Douglas International Airport just outside town. Twin stacks at the Phelps-Dodge smelter belched a plume of smoke that drifted far across Arizona…or, when the prevalent winds shifted, down into the Sierra Madres of Mexico. P-D headquarters was located in Douglas, those airplanes at BDI served businessmen flying in and out of the little border town.

Not much was happening in Sierra Vista back when Red opened that first shop. Not too surprising, as there was no Sierra Vista with its row of fast food palaces and car dealerships on Fry Boulevard. It hadn’t been founded yet. Instead, the town was known as Fry Township, a few dusty bars that served the GIs from Fort Huachuca and some homes for the civilians but the big box stores, the multitude of Wendys, KFC, big Macs, Toyotas, Fords, Chevrolets, Kias and all their ilk wouldn’t arrive for many years. Fry became Sierra Vista and was incorporated in 1956.

Red saw it all. He sold Harleys back when women seldom visited motorcycle shops and men wore leathers even in Arizona heat to protect against the hot pipes and burning oil that frequently spewed from the big twins.

First time I walked in the door of Red’s shop was when I rode into Douglas on an XLH Sportster on my way to Mexico. Drank a cold Coke and asked about what problems I might expect across the border. Back in the early 60’s I was referring to road conditions, places where I might get a tire replaced if necessary, other establishments where I might get certain things of interest to a young man. Crossing into Mexico wasn’t a big deal. A few immigration guys worked at the Douglas/Agua Prieta Port of Entry along with a few more 25 miles west at Naco. One of the Border Patrol senior officers told me (years later) that maybe six or seven green-uniformed officers rode their horses along the barbed-wire fence that marked the international line back then. Like so many other changes, years would pass before two-thousand militarized Border Patrolmen would operate out of the thirty million dollar Douglas Station…and another couple thousand more would call the even more expensive facility at Naco their base of operations.

My last visit to Red’s shop was in 2002. I wanted new handlebars for my ’01 FXDP, something lower than the pronghorns that came with the twin-cam police bike. Red had them. I stood talking to Red in his cluttered little parts and maintenance shop in Sierra Vista, a place tucked behind Oil Can Henrys on Fry Boulevard. Red no longer represented Harley-Davidson, Harley doesn’t support small dealerships like Red owned, at least not in this country. Instead, corporations pony up several million dollars and agree to build impressive shops with racks full of clothing, rows of shiny bikes and a ton of chrome accessories that make the new bikes more reliable, faster, better handling. Well, they make the new bikes more shiny, anyway.

Red smiled when I told him about visiting his shop in Douglas four decades earlier; he certainly had no reason to remember me. I was one of many, many young motorcyclists who rode through southeast Arizona on the main US highway. (It’s now AZ80, a state road that meanders through the border communities then back northward. I10, the superslab, stretches along 50 miles north of here.) I wish I would have stopped in again, maybe taken some photographs of the shop, but it closed not too many years later and I never got around to seeing Red again. There wasn’t much H-D stuff left, just accessory parts and a variety of smaller bikes in various stages of disrepair. Red was 91 years old when he passed away a few days ago, that would have made him about 80 when I saw him. I didn’t realize how old he was.

Sometimes I don’t realize how old I am, either.

My last Harley (at least I assume it was my last, see ) is gone, too. I have a BMW K1200RS and a Ducati 907ie, I still enjoy riding, but my fascination with the big Milwaukee twins long ago disappeared. I can’t afford the tattoos that seem an obligatory part of the “rough edge” of the Harley culture and I don’t fit the image of a RUB, a rich urban biker, replete with expensive leathers, dazzling motorcycle and curvy young thing accessorizing the package. Neither did Red Hartman.

RIP, guy. Ride Into Perpetuity, smoke belching out the pipes and oil dripping on the ground.

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