Tracking human chess

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“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” – C. Northcote Parkinson, “Parkinson’s Law” 

Waco – Any survivor of corporate gamesmanship will recognize the moves.

Parkinson’s law of bureaucracy is played out in real time as wheels within larger wheels within larger wheels have created more power, more prestige, and more executive positions with greater salaries while relinquishing more of that which is constitutionally defined as a ministerial duty of a Constitutional office to a contractor, a private sector corporation.

Sheriff Parnell McNamara’s administration has refined a new and improved way to make the end run around the legislative body with oversight of the department’s budget through the industrial psychology gambit of reduction of jail staff through attrition that is driven by unpleasant conditions, increased the overtime budget $300,000, and swapped a Lieutenancy vacancy created through the criminal indictment of Jennifer Howell in favor of the promotion of a man who by his own sworn, notarized admission of the commission of a felony as a Lieutenant in charge of training and personnel in net effect ensured his demotion to a Patrol Division Sergeant’s position through rehire.

Chris Eubank admitted he shredded a report of an employment termination of a corrections officers by shredding the paperwork reporting  the fact to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) of the dismissal for misconduct of former Corrections Officer Spencer Rowell because it “wasn’t final.” When confronted, he resigned, only to be re-hired by Sheriff McNamara as a Patrol Sergeant.

He is now a Lieutenant. Here’s how that was done:

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(click image to view document full-size)

Jennifer Howell made a meteoric rise through the ranks as a Corrections Sergeant, then following a recent promotion to Lieutenant furnished information on a vehicle license registration to a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club following the gang assault of one the members of that organization by members of a rival club.  When she was allowed to resign, Eubank returned to his former pay grade. And then they arrested her. A former star employee with a fast track record of promotion now faces indictment.

Former members of the jail staff swear up and down it’s a routine matter to obtain that kind of information for acquaintances and constituents, even though misuse of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Texas Law Enforcement Teletype System (TLETS) is classified as a felony crime.

We have obtained through a Public Information Act request the official record of a similar case in which a patrol officer made the same misuse of the TLETS system, only to be disciplined by a having to attend a training session and having a reprimand placed in his personnel file.

The following 7-page file details the play-by-play results of an internal investigation and its disposition for a similar offense. 

Knowledgeable observers have made note of the one-third attrition in jail staff during the first quarter of the year, a fact that places the factor right on track for the annual trend of a 50 percent turnover in that division.

It all works out nicely on a double-edged basis. Because of a contractual obligation to LaSalle Corrections to maintain a minimum population of inmates at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, the $50 million boondoggle with the $100 million debt service that favors tax free muni bond coupon clippers while at the same time discouraging any notions by staff to unionize or demand civil service status.

Most Constitutional Officers treat their at-will employee force equitably by requiring a new application for employment with each successive term of office. They  then either offer the position, or not, at the time of the new term.

The McNamara administration has found a way to downsize its publicly employed work force through the creation of miserable working conditions. Employees are routinely denied their day off, vacations are cancelled at the drop of a hat when staff to inmate ratio drops perilously close to below Jail Commission standards, and – of course – there is no happiness about any of this.

The Legendary has obtained proof of the Commissioners’ Court’s acquiescence to this bit of sociopathic chicanery through – you guessed it – a Public Information Act request duly approved by the Attorney General’s staff.

As one may plainly see, the practice is to reduce the budget for payroll of full-time employees by $300,000 and – wait for it – increase the overtime budget by the exact amount.

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America’s standing Army

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M-16 with select fire, set for fully automatic operation

It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – George Orwell, 1984

Waco – While Americans slept in 1997, oblivious to the danger, Congress and the defense establishment quietly undermined a key foundation stone of the U.S. Constitution.

America acquired a standing Army, equipped with armored vehicles, aircraft, weapons of all descriptions – including fully automatic rifles – all of which are “loaned” to civil police forces for nominal fees in a program overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).

With one master stroke, Congress converted a Republic into a dictatorship – a banana republic – by enacting the entirely routine, ordinary – massively dull – National Defense Authorization Act of 1997, a document thousands of pages in length.

It’s the kind of law once described by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in these terms.

You have to pass the law to find out what’s in the law.

The founders of the United States of America wrote a guarantee into the Constitution of 1790 that there could be no standing Army operating within the borders of the nation. They inserted language in Article One, Section Eight, Clause Eleven requiring the reauthorization of funding for the national defense with each biennial setting of the House of Representatives.

Section 8. The Congress shall have the power…To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

And then some bright men with global experience in third world toilets everywhere reacted to a lust for power; they moved the entire operation to state and local cop shops with what is called the “1033 program.”

That law provides for the use of “surplus” weaponry by law enforcement agencies that consist of at least one sworn peace officer with the power to arrest those suspected of breaking the law.

Chief among the goodies offered in the program are firearms – rifles and pistols – which are handled by an Army weapons depot at Anniston, Alabama.

We are talking M-16 rifles, the completely modularized military version of the full-auto Armalite AR-15 that fires the ultra-supersonic 5.56 millimeter round at a muzzle velocity that causes the quarter-inch bullets to hit flesh, tumble and rip off the copper jacketing, then explode into thousands upon thousands of tiny pieces of lead shrapnel that renders entire limbs useless, fit only for the amputation knife, thoracic cavities laid to devastating waste, abdominal organs turned to massive hemorrhaging quantities of dying flesh.

The rounds have the power to penetrate a steel helmet at 500 meters.

There are M-14 rifles available, the hefty magazine-fed powerhouse that fires the .308 round, deemed obsolete for use in the sweltering jungles and rice paddies of Southeast Asia.

The 1911 ACP .45 Caliber pistol is an item that will knock a human being completely off his feet if its nearly half-inch in diameter round strikes so much as a hand or a finger. Colonel John Browning developed the weapon for use in the the Spanish American War against Fillippino tribesmen who were so pumped up in battles to defend their homes that .38 caliber revolver rounds made only a slight impression on them when fired point blank.  They just kept on fighting, got up and kept on charging straight ahead, rice flails at the ready to kick any Marine or dog face dead in his ass.

We’re talking instant standing Army operating within the borders of the United States of America, here. In Texas, the Department of Public Safety administers the program in cooperation with the ATF. 

Though it’s been years since the Army actually issued any weapons from its depot in Anniston, the items are available upon application through state agencies such as the Texas Department of Public Safety following allocation limits of 100 percent for M-16 rifles and 1911 .45 Cal. pistols, and 50 percent for M-14 rifles.

Here’s the catch. When a law enforcement agency turns in damaged or serviceable weapons for which it no longer has a use, other agencies may apply for the loan of those weapons – and get them – simply by filling out some ATF forms available on-line.

Have you heard the one about the rural Tennessee Chief of Police who runs a department of 31 sworn officers? He asked for and received 161 firearms through the 1033 program. Said there was a little error in the paperwork.

Asked why he needed that many weapons, he said he was thinking of a future when he would have that many officers under his command. 

True story.

This is Texas; home of the art of the possible, known as local politics.

There is a place in Hill County, Texas, known as Carl’s Corner; there is a place by the Rio Bravo, located in west Hell and Jesus, far out back of beyond and bide a wee forever and ever, Texas, known as Langtry, the “law west of the Pecos.” At both of these places, highly civilized bastions of law and order, a man could drink a cold beer in peace and dignity, a high priority for life in this lovely corner of the world.

We will pause here for our Prayer for Relief, as our choir sings…

Comes now McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who reportedly learned that a police agency in south Texas turned in their machine guns, applied for their loan under the 1033 program, and got them.

Asked through a Public Information Act request to tell what kind of weapons they are, their caliber and capability for select fire, he declined, citing the exception in the Open Records Act that allows law enforcement agencies to decline to answer any questions or reveal any records that could possibly put the officers in a position of being vulnerable to attack by terrorists or crooks of any description.

Loose lips sink ships and all that, you know, according to Records and Warrants Division Chief Tamma Willis.

The Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General responded to her appeal by agreeing that no, Parnell doesn’t have to tell us anything about how many, or what kind of guns he got from the Army – ATF – or anyone else.

None of our business. He, Parnell McNamara, the Lord High Sheriff of McLennan County, Texas, will determine what is good for us to know, and what we should not know.

This is a beginning of the balkanization of the United States, a world of taxes and tariffs, rules both written and unwritten, codes and criminal statutes to be interpreted by psychos with guns and ammunition, kith and kin standing by to prove with the flick of a finger that blood is just another stinking commodity.

Avanti; the Rubicon awaits hobnails and horse shit, boots and saddles.

C’est la guerre.

So mote it be.

  • The Legendary

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Much ado nets little dope


2708 Skyline

2708 Skyline Dr.

Waco – Skyline Drive is a sun-spashed suburban street that appears to be straight out of a sixties television series.

Meticulously kept lawns and well-appointed, upscale homes line its winding length. People in their front yards glance with suspicion at an out-of-place vehicle slowing to check for an address.

A pair of bachelors named Paul Farney and Vernon Brown who live at a shaded hillside villa with sweeping lakeside vistas of one of the city’s most opulent neighborhoods overlooking Lakeview Country Club attracted the attention of narcotics officers operating out of the suburb of Woodway, who over a period of months went through the garbage and questioned persons who visited their home.

The surveillance operation, which yielded used syringes and baggies with methamphetamine residue, culminated when officers from both Waco and Woodway apprehended a female visitor to 2708 Skyline Drive whose purse yielded three marijuana pipes, a “usable” amount of the herb, and a meth pipe with residue of the drug clinging to its glass surfaces.

Officers arrested Amanda Chamberlain of Valley Mills as she left the residence when they discovered a bench warrant for her arrest had been issued because she had failed to appear for a Bosque County court date.

In an affidavit, a narcotics officer noted there were letters found in the trash “within the last 72 hours” that had been addressed to the residents, Paul Farney and Vernon Brown,

Acting on the information, Officer Larry Adams obtained a “no knock” search warrant for the house, and when SWAT Team members approached, they learned the outer doors were fortified. They also found a large number of firearms in the residence, according to a statement by Woodway Public Safety Director Yost Zakhary, who noted that officers seized nothing other than drugs and paraphernalia, including .91 grams of methamphetamine; 41 grams of marijuana; 22 grams of hydrocodone, and 2.5 grams of Xanax.

According to an affidavit, officers deployed “flash-bang” grenades in their entry at the residence, where they arrested Paul Farney for the State Jail Felony of possession of less than a gram of methamphetamine, detained his bachelor friend Vernon Brown, and a tenant who rents their garage apartment at the same address named William Newton, described in the affidavit as “a suspicious male suspect in the street in front of the suspected premises.”

Public info embargo explained – our story


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Powerful officials in McLennan County government have targeted Legendary information activist R.S. Gates for his meticulous pursuit of public information. It is a provision of a state statute, Section 552 of the Texas Government Code, the Public Information Act, that was designed for news organizations.

Waco Trib reports how the private law firm representing the county needs a raise. (click here)

McLennan County’s attorney hopes leaders adopt a policy aimed at deterring “intentionally abusive” open records requests, while others say the move could be construed as having a chilling effect on access to public information.


By intentionally abusive, he means those requests that seek information they do not want to release but have to by law. How is that abusive? It is a crime to withhold public information. They consider it abusive because they don’t want to do it and there is a consequence.

Attorney Mike Dixon, who represents McLennan County and its officeholders, said county staff is trying to process burdensome active requests before looking into a provision in the Texas Public Information Act that allows counties to charge high-volume requesters for staff time.

Mike Dixon is an attorney who works for a private law firm and charges around $175.00 hr. The interesting thing is Dustin Chapman is an attorney who is a county employee who works for the county Judge but it is unclear exactly what he does or why he can’t do what the private law firm is bilking taxpayers for doing. Could be that taxpayers are only paying Dustin $76.000.00 a year.


“There’s an inherent flaw where government assumes that people are going to use the act responsibly and for proper purposes,” Dixon said. “All too often people use it as a means to inflict cost, inflict a lot of burden on governmental entities.”

Dixon said a few people abuse the system by overloading staff with submissions and refusing to clarify broad information requests. Dixon said the county receives some requests that read as if the individual is seeking information from the beginning of time, and when they are asked to clarify, the requester says, “No.”

Their objective is compliant subjects who take the information given and are thankful for it. They deem a request abusive if the person exercises their statutory right and insists on access to information the government does not want released.

An Earlier Investigation Into Purchase of Diamond Jewelry:

The limit does not apply to elected officials, nonprofit groups or most governmental bodies, political subdivisions or news publications.

Because news publications give you that in depth coverage and ask the probative questions.

The TCOLE Investigation of the Sheriff’s Office:


“There’s significant pushback that either intent or the effect of any limitations would be to chill or discourage or prevent legitimate access and thus undermine the ultimate goal of the Public Information Act, which is to ensure the public has access to public information,” Hemphill said.

Here is what the law says. I think it is profound.

Sec. 552.001. POLICY; CONSTRUCTION. (a) Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.


“The act is flawed in a lot of ways in that it doesn’t provide any protections against abuse really,” Dixon said. “It’s taking so much time that it’s crazy.”

What is crazy is the extent government will go to to bilk taxpayers. One of the most common requests is for the “bookmarked agenda,” which is the document they send to commissioners in advance of the meeting. They could put it on the website, but this is all about making up a problem to apply to most extreme fix. The bookmark agenda is often 400 pages – a large file.

Mike Dixon was called in to consult in a press conference with the national media, representatives of which were seeking facts about the federally-mandated Emergency Committee of industrial operators and local government officials who are responsible for preventing or reacting to such disasters as the explosion at the West Seed Company, with its attendant destruction of property and loss of life. 

After an hour of ranting and angry behavior in which he would not let network correspondents and reporters for the “Wall Street Journal,” the Associated Press, and Reuters ask questions, Dixon stormed out of the Commissioners’ Court chamber when this reporter asked him for his name. 

“You mean you won’t tell me your name?” I asked, as Dixon fled out the door. I heard from an acquaintance as far away as Rome, a news video editor who saw the interchange. He regarded it as a comic interlude, an example of a very little man clearly overloaded with a responsibility that overwhelmed him with frustration over an unfortunate and disastrous situation in all its complexities.

“They just don’t understand, do they, Jim? They just keep on asking those infernal questions of theirs, don’t they?”

When Gates visited the joint City-County office that oversees the operation, they called the Waco Police, who escorted him out of the building, accusing him of criminal trespass in a public office whose door was unlocked and standing wide open when he arrived.

So mote it be.

  • The Legendary  

Illicit new rite of spring –

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Golden Gate Park, Haight at Stanyan Streets – The new, illicit rite of Spring known as 420 died on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, when perhaps a hundred thousand stoned-out people congested traffic in this city by the bay – right at quitting time – just by showing up and toking out at exactly 4:20 p.m.

Next year, the cops and city dads vowed, there will be a permitted, controlled and well-planned event.

And so, another Hippie Legend, “born in the magic and the dust of history,” bites the dirt.

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Crystal, an Earth Mother in Steam Punk goggles, teaches a message from the Earth Goddess about healing and LSD…

Like any flowering rite of the Vernal Equinox, it was doomed in the evolution of the planetary year, by any means. In this case, the means are that the state’s largest cash crop in terms of cash flow is on the verge of going mainstream, commercialized, taxed, controlled and, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” a part of the greater culture.

The new Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving – all rolled into one – is an opportunity for folks to gather together after a hard and lonely season in the woods controlling the pollination of a precious and potent herbal crop brought to market through illicit means to cheat the tax man and King’s Men of their due.

A great tradition evolves.

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Naturally, Bay Area broadcasters reported in their five o’clock news broadcast that there were “shots fired” shortly after the magical hour of 4:20 because, like the fella in the movie “Hard Times” said, “Sooner or later, somebody always shows up with a gun.”

By the time the 6 p.m. broadcast rolled around, it turned out that a pit bull – a breed considered de rigeur for dealers, runners, and other posse members – lunged, and the crowd reacted by running away. No blood. No foul.

Why 4:20?

Because the Legend says a bunch of stoners from an area high school used to gather daily at that hour to pay homage to the police 4-code for “marijuana smoking in progress, 420, and light up at exactly that moment.

The civilly disobedient act caught on when the Grateful Dead began to carry its Legend from parking lot to parking lot, and the rest is history. A folk holiday is born, legitimized, inculcated and placed in the mainstream, just like that.

The barbecue, water salesmen, blunt purveyors and bud peddlers left behind 10,000 pounds of garbage, and an area Medical Marijuana Dispensary jumped in with a pledge to clean up the mess, a fact duly noted by ad-revenue hungry broadcasters in their “happy news” reports, live at five.

And to think it all started because of a phrase from MartianSpeak spoken and broadcast – flung into the electronic village – from the cop shop.

The philologists will have a field day. Everyone else is expecting rain.

So mote it be.


– The Legendary

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Portals of memory palace

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Yerba Buena Cove, 4/20/16 – Images bounce out, strike the eye from displays on walls, graffiti, paintings, billboards.

It’s a big and vital market, once named for the herb cultivated in the shady spots along the sandy shore of a shallow cove on its eastern edge where goat herders grew their grass.

You get your passport when you reach dotage. They grant you a discount on the muni railway – unlimited rides for $24 per month. I do remember the Muni was a dime when I arrived, and later went up to fifteen cents for a period before it reached the astronomical sum of a quarter, but that was long ago.

Icons of the City remain in revolutionary terms. Bill Graham’s countenance leaps out of a litho pinned to a bakery shop wall in Polk Gulch.

One remembers his confrontation with a Fire Marshall one night at the Fillmore where he stood beside the barrel of apples and shouted from his perch on the stairs, pointing finger leveled at the man, “You! You will not do this to me. I walked across Europe; I was born in a fucking concentration camp; I drove a cab on the streets of New York, and you – you…”

Words failed him. He walked away in desultory defeat, only to return from his office when the coast was clear, ushering people inside with conspiratorial glee. “That’s all right, come on in. No fascists are going to stop us now. No way. Get your ass in here, by God. We will rock it, tonight.

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And then came the day at John Wayne international Airport in Ontario’s Inland Empire when a friend put me on a jet to the north forty and I got a seat next to Mr. Graham and his lady. He talked rapidly, non-stop, all the way to the City about I know not what while the woman in his life gazed out the window.

When we deplaned, he looked at me and said, “Where the hell you think you’re going? You even know? You look like you’re stoned out of your fucking mind, man. Come on, get in the car, we’ll run you into the City.” He let me out where I could catch a ride to Bolinas and the tree house on the reef that Wally built.

It was an ordinary day.

 Filled with magic.

Today is not any ordinary day. It’s the first day of the rest of the revolution, and it heralds a truth none of the big shots want to acknowledge.

Yerba Bunea is this state’s number one cash crop, and its number one export cash crop, mostly to other states in the land of the homeless and the brave.

Should you get a marijuana medical card? Should the states legalize and tax the good herb in order to create badly needed cash flow?

Badly needed by whom? For what?

And then the thought hits like a ton of bricks. What if they just left us the fuck alone to do with our heads what we wish? Would it harelip the Governor? Good God, I hope so. Anything would improve that dude’s looks.

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Down another corridor, there is a place where we all sat on the hill one morning, taking the sun, and three little soul brothers came along with a bag of reefer – skipping school – trying to roll a joint, talking trash, until two San Francisco cops came out of the eucalyptus grove on trail bikes and another rode up on one of the city’s fabulous Morgans.

The cop from the horse jumped down, shouted to the head little dude, “What’s your name – MOTHERFUCKER!”

My man said, “Tyrone…”

“Where did you get this reefer?” the cop asked, rolling the bag between his thumbs, opening it and taking a whiff, checking out the buds.”

“My brother.”

“He sell it to you, or what?”

“I be done stole the shit, man.”


Then he flung the bag in the middle of a little smoking circle of a half-dozen of us who sat watching in fascination. We started away in a panic, and he shouted at us:


Down on the conga line, by the bench, the soul brothers had stopped drumming. They, too, sat in silence, digging the scene, until an old grandfather with a white beard said, “Shee-it!”

Then they started back up drumming again and the cop told the kids, “Get the fuck out of here! I suggest you go back to school, where you belong.”

As they slunk away, the cops mounted up and split.

It wasn’t a minute before our smoking circle had expanded to at least three times its size.

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This is the way it sounded:

When you arrive at the intersection of space and time, ask them where you may find the the hill. THE HILL. The one in Golden Gate Park. Be there.

Need to bring some grass? A Medical Marijuana card will cost you $60 following a visit to a practitioner’s clinic for evaluation. A local dispensary on Market Street called The Apothecarium sells one-eighth ounce doses for prices of $40 to $55. After three visits, a patient is eligible to buy one ounce twice daily at the price of $300 to $400.

So mote it be.

  • The Legendary

Thump tubs for safety


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Survivors of the 1906 Earthquake made a comeback appearance

Union Square never looked better as San Francisco’s crack 10-man ladder crew put on a demonstration hoisting the six–story, 65-foot rescue ladder and Firefighter Yu Su Fu climbed up, over and down the other side for a throng of onlookers to demonstrate the “church and auditorium hoist” of the huge ladder.

A training and safety officer narrated, telling the crowd that the ladder has been in use since it was built at the City’s Corporation Yard carpenter shop in 1926, its uprights fabricated of Oregon fir and hickory dowels used for its cross members.

The team has traveled throughout the nation and to some foreign countries as far away as Colombia to demonstrate their prowess with the behemoth ladders, which are used in the City’s narrow alleys where motorized equipment will not fit.

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They can reach a fifth-floor window or a sixth-floor roof to rescue those stranded by smoke and flames, and were the city’s only alternative before motorized snorkel and rescue ladders were invented.

As the climber reached the top and “topped out” the ladder with an American flag, the crowd observed a moment of silence for the 149 San Francisco Firefighters who have lost their lives battling blazes in the department’s 150 years of experience.

That’s what the observance is all about, according to a State Senator, who presented the Chief with a proclamation in recognition of public service at disasters far and wide, where firemen have traveled to assist in far-flung localities such as New Orleans in the aftermath Katrina. By the year 2040, the City will add another 100,000 population, the metropolitan Bay Area predicted to top nine million.

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As the crowd eased away, the department spokesman explained that the museum is located at the Presidio Fire Station, where the earliest fire engines acquired by shipping them around the horn or across the Isthmus of Panama are kept on display.

A number of pieces of apparatus were placed on display, including the City’s first fire engine, emblazoned with the motto, “Protection.”

According to the Legislator, the city has burned to the ground three times and is still by and large filled with structures constructed of wood. A wrinkle on the horizon is the high incidence of cancers in firefighters due to chemical flame retardants that “do little to retard flames and smoke, but do a lot to increase profits for chemical manufacturers.”

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What can you say? The town is a total circus; always was, and hope it always will be. The politician even mentioned Lily Hitchcock Coit, an aficionada of fire fighters who made it her business to donate funding for early fire apparatus and in whose honor an art deco tower was erected atop Telegraph Hill.

Facts surface in Twin Peaks bullet wounds

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The findings of ballistics reports counter the prosecution’s story by 180 degrees – The Bandidos and Cossacks did not execute each other at Twin Peaks on May 17, 2015. Someone shot them with rifles as they lay on the ground or ran away. Cops are the only people known to have rifles loaded with cartridges that fire projectiles of these sizes…

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Bikers of all types attended the Confederation of Club meeting that day to learn about the status of pending handgun legislation that would allow open carry of sidearms.

They never got that far, never had a chance to hear the news. Shots rang out and 9 wound up dead, 20 wounded and 177 arrested for conspiring to commit capital murder through engaging in organized criminal activity, their bond set at $1 million.

The ambush was an assault on the First Amendment guarantee of freedom to associate with whom one may choose, to express one self through published items, personal adornment, or through speech, freely to assemble to petition the Government for redress of grievances, and to worship freely. None of these rights may be secured without the ability to defend one self by keeping and bearing arms.

ERGO: The facts and figures do not lie.

So mote it be.

  • The Legend

A tale of transport

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“Politicians and diapers need changing…and for the same reason.” – a card slipped to me by a gentleman shopper my age at Trader Joe’s, 1095 Hyde St. 

Gold Mountain – The last time I visited 1095 Hyde at California Street, it was a Safeway supermarket situated on the top deck of the same busy and practical building located at one of the major pivot points of foot traffic on the slopes of Nob Hill – an underground parking garage.

The market and pharmacy on the top deck are constructed of the same pre-fabricated, pre-stressed concrete girders and poured slab. The building makes great use of clerestory windows for natural lighting and there is ample off-street parking relieved by an elevator giving access to the lower parking decks.

The cable car line diverges on the corner, the Powell & Hyde splitting off down one of the city’s steepest grades and continuing down to the waterfront at Aquatic Park; the Van Ness and California Street Line continues west to Van Ness Avenue, the principal artery to Pacific Coast Highway 101 and the Golden Gate Bridge. Shaded benches line the California Street perimeter of the parking lot, and a handy bench by the front door provides a great place for your ride to pull in, load your groceries, and hit the street in a civilized and graceful way.

It’s all still there, but today it’s called Trader Joe’s, an upscale, upcountry, hip grocery chain.

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What was taught, what was told, what was learned in that long-ago year of 1969 was the vital role of conflict in business, commerce, banking, agriculture, transport, and, ultimately – politics.

Cesar Chavez was then a name in the daily headlines, not the busiest inner city streets throughout the southwestern U.S. As head of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, he put a lot of pressure on produce growers to allow elections for collective bargaining through union representation.

He was effective, and the struggle was at a near-dead stymie, the growers seeking and getting writs and the union just as quickly persuading courts to grant injunctions.

At that point, the conflict had centered on the highly perishable crop of table grapes coming off in the Central Valley surrounding Delano, Chavez’ home base of operations.

People in the cities were supporting the cause by organizing table grape boycotts, and the more militant focused on Safeway’s stubborn determination to market the product, no matter if strikebreakers organized by the Teamsters Union through sweetheart deals with the major growers picked them, or not.

I came to the story late; it was in the hands of the world-weary bureaucrat scribblers who follow cases through federal courts, updating the glacial pace of events with ponderous and rotund phrases both legal and politically acceptable to the barristers.

But I found a fireball radical, a practitioner of direct action protestation who had been giving Safeway fits everywhere from Dallas to L.A., Seattle to the Rio Grande valley.

She spoke Spanish like a Chicana, had worked all over Latin America from Mexico to points far, far south, and knew how to motivate a crew of Hispanic women to do just what she needed them to do in lettuce sheds, tomato packing plants, citrus processing lines – and the like. When I asked her name, my pen poised over my notebook, she just laughed, rocked her head back and said something in Spanish that made all the women titter, then added a rejoinder that made them slap their knees and horse laugh.

I learned then and there that Hispanic women will show you they like you when they get ready by telling you, “I am called…”

In a briefing at the college, she told her helpers, in Spanish, that the best items to go after first were in the spice racks.

The bottles are little and you can grab dozens of them and put them in your cart. It takes them a lot of time to re-stock them.” Then she told them to load ice cream and yogurt, fish, beef and port, popsicles, veggies, fruit, small packages of sundries such as razor blades, aspirin, buttons, bows, furbelows, as well as entire racks of bread, jams, jellies, salad dressings. Just keep shopping until the cart is jammed full, and then…

And then, just walk out the door.

San Francisco’s finest had caught the act in other neighborhoods. They were ready and standing by with summons books, filling them out and citing accused offenders to appear in municipal court to answer charges the equivalent of disorderly conduct – or some such.

After all, the city is, well, The City, and Nob Hill is – you know, Nob HILL! It’s the home of the nattering nabobs of negativism, as a White House speechwriter once caused Vice President Spiro Agnew to say, to the delight of pundits everywhere. 

Within only a few minutes, the crew had hit the shelves as hard as they could and were back in cars, vans and pickups, ready to go back to the Mission District with their summons in hand.

By the time my student days were over, the Nixon Administration had a plan through the works and in place. One of the first stories I wrote for a paycheck was about a reception for the Chilean trade attache hosted by the San Francisco-Oakland Port Authority.

Suddenly, what had been prohibited for decades was now totally okay.

Refrigerated ocean ships would be bringing – wait for it – table grapes grown in Chile to markets throughout the Pacific ports and to all those on the Gulf Coast.

The rest is history, the facts brought forth by the Church Senate Committee on the CIA’s involvement with the overthrow of President Salvador Allende, a Socialist M.D. who specialized in pathology, and the elevation by coup of the war criminal Admiral Augusto Pinochet. The revelations of the “disappeared” in Chilean society, the torture, beatings, midnight executions and incarceration of private prisons located in peoples’ homes and places of business – that was all in the future.

What I knew while I was getting stoned on the bosses’ martinis was that some days, the dragon wins and the golden rule is still operative.

He who has the gold makes the rules.”

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Within the smile of a Persian Princess

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Nob Hill, San Francisco – In a confrontation with the level gaze of those hazel eyes, that enigmatic smile so gently transplanted from a nameless ancient gallery, one yields to her sensibilities. You will settle for being reasonable and doing things her way, simply because her soul came through Earth.

One is reminded we all had mothers with each minor adjustment of her facial expression. It is the way we all learned to talk – more importantly, how to listen.

The conversation ranged over the politics of race and ethnicity, and she asked what is known, really known, about the very minor anatomical and neural differences between humanity’s tribes and extended families.

I suggested the excellent book of photographs cataloging the anthropological classifications, the monumental photo collection published by the Museum of Modern Art, “The Family of Man,” and she jotted the title down in her notebook without hesitation, asking for a moment.

Asked if she still believes in Hillary, she said, “I’m a Bernie fan.” Then she wanted to know why I care. “I can’t vote.”

I nearly said, “Pull the other one, sister; it has bells on it,” but decided at the last whisker of a milliflash of a fractuated moment to play it straight. Look into her eyes long enough, and you will, too.

And so this child of Persia who introduced herself as “half Iranian,” passed a pleasant time with me, and I never let on, not for one second, that she cannot gain any advantage, pass any barrier, or gracefully pass over any mountain, simply because she is a woman of the world.

I merely answered many of her questions regarding American policies and the chauvinism of men of great power with the phrase, “But you, dear, as do all women, have far too much common sense to get involved in all that.” It’s true. They can all do it. No one need teach them. Women can influence the decisions of men any time, anywhere, simply by smiling and raising an eyebrow.

After all, her nation is the product of Anglo-American foreign policy, a project of MI-6 and the CIA designed to conform to the First Sea Lord’s decision to power Royal Navy ships with petroleum rather than coal. Hence, the formation of the Iranian mega corporation, BP – British Petroleum.

There followed a spirited discussion and review of the Kennedy shift in policy regarding a Senatorial attack on the Oil Depletion Tax Allowance, and its effect on the geopolitics of petroleum. She made cursory notes, and when she mentioned her interest in neuroscience, particularly involuntary memory, I mentioned Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, the novel’s opening gambit that of the flood of memories caused by the first bite of a tea biscuit.

She copied that into her notebook, too.

We parted friends when the shadows lengthened.