- Veteran Reporters
- Inmate BBQ
- Drawing Fire
- Conspiracies from Injustice
- Thoughts Stream
- Wolfe's Resignation
- Murder Trial
- Revolutionary Mischief
- LakeCo Realestate
- Yesterday's Catch
- Child Mailing
- Charles Willeford
- Incoherence Reigns
- Warrant Wednesdays
- Debate Drinking
- GOP Woes
- NJ Incest
- Wet Greens
- Campbell's Stonewall
LOCAL NEWSPAPER with the highest percentage of veterans? You guessed it. The mighty AVA! In order of rank, Major Mark Scaramella, US Air Force; Bruce Patterson, US Army (combat veteran); Bruce McEwen, US Marines; Bruce Anderson, US Marines.
WE CELEBRATED the 9th Annual Veterans bbq for inmates who are also Veterans on Wednesday. I have had many people roll their eyes over this event, but it is an event that is a wonderful way to recognize some of our Veterans who are often forgotten. "Just because someone had done something wrong, doesn't mean that they haven't also done something right." Thanks to the VFW and American Legion for your support.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman
A VETERAN’S DAY RECOLLECTION
by Mark Scaramella
One of my civilian coworkers when I was in the Air Force in the late 1970s while I worked in the Boston area on radar and electronic systems acquisition was a former tank driver for George Patton in Europe during World War II named Guido ‘Guy’ Ferlo. Ferlo was trained as a gunner on an M-5 light tank. But his actual duty was to draw tank fire from the Germans, off and on, for almost two years in the period leading up to D-Day.
Ferlo was a little guy, 5-4 or 5-5, he was picked for the draw-fire job because he was small and weighed less than his fellow tank drivers. (And he volunteered.) He reminisced about his wartime experience frequently. He also played saxophone and guitar in our little office pickup musical group and we spoke off-duty about his was experiences on several occasions.
His “light tank” was even lighter when drawing fire. He carried no ammo (which not only made his tank lighter but also meant there was nothing extra to explode in case he was hit) and minimum extra fuel. The “tank” was more like a tracked truck in that configuration. “We could do 50 or 60 mph on a flat road," Ferlo would brag.
Technically, Ferlo’s duty was “reconnaissance.” But combined with tactical intelligence, his job was to go out in the open within range of where they thought German tanks might be hiding and try to get shot at. The object was to draw the fire, then get the hell out. Obviously, he was never hit.
“We had a significant advantage because our tanks at that time had electric turrets and could aim and re-aim much faster than the Germans could with their hand-cranked turrets. So I was never really that worried,” although Ferlo said there were a few close ones when the Germans got lucky and their first shot blew up near his tank.
Once a German tank fired on Guy’s tank though, their position was exposed and Patton’s own regular tanks or the Army Air Force P-38s, P-45s or P-51s would target the enemy tanks and frequently eliminate them from the German armament collection. The entire little dance was done with binoculars on both sides. Guy had to get close enough and act like he was hittable to induce the wary Germans to take a pot shot at him. His associates in the background had to stay out of sight to keep the ruse from being blown (sic). Part of Guy’s confidence in this seemingly dangerous duty was based on the fact that he wasn’t shot at all that much because the Germans became increasingly cautious about firing on lone tanks — which turned out to be one of the side-benefits of the tactic.
Between “reconnaissance” missions they spent a lot of time on maintenance, keeping their vehicles in tip-top condition. They also sometimes wandered into abandoned French and later German towns to look for a few creature comforts.
Once in Germany, Guy told me, they were sleeping on the balcony of a bombed-out building in a small town. Ferlo woke up early and smelled coffee brewing. But neither he nor his crew had any coffee.
Ferlo crept to the edge of the balcony and listened to the voices. About eight German soldiers were below him and the crew. Ferlo went around to his fellow crewmembers and quietly woke them up, putting his hand over their mouths, whispering, saying something like, “Krauts. Downstairs.” He told everybody to keep their guns handy, even though the Germans had machine guns. For about three hours Ferlo and his crew sat as quietly as possible. Fortunately, none of the German soldiers took an interest in the second floor. Ferlo was sure they’d have been killed if they’d been discovered. But the Germans left in their own two large tanks and Ferlo and his crew escaped.
Ferlo liked to show us his scrapbook of pictures he took with his small Kodak, plus some related clippings from the war. He was surprisingly matter of fact about it all, considering that for almost two years his job was to try to get shot at by a German tank.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES, INJUSTICE AND CIVIL SOCIETY
An odd letter by one of Mendocino County’s career outlaws, which appeared in a recent issue of the Anderson Valley Advertiser (October 28, 2015), underscores what can happen when a community believes justice has not been served. The writer, a convicted felon named Walter Miller, linked his own legal appeal to claims of a bizarre conspiracy in the office of the county District Attorney. In meandering prose, he wraps what he calls “the cold-blooded murder of the late Susan Keegan” into a diatribe about the power of money, the prestige of being a physician, and the reality of bias.
This is, in part, what Miller wrote:
“I always thought that justice was blind. Obviously not with Mr. Eyster as the district attorney…. I wonder what Dr. Keegan is doing for Mr. Eyster? Or vice versa? Hmmm?”
To be clear: The Justice4Susan Committee does not harbor the slightest suspicion that DA David Eyster and Dr. Peter Keegan have any kind of cooperative relationship whatsoever. They obviously do not. It has long been apparent that the District Attorney wants to prosecute this unsolved homicide and that his office is frustrated and embarrassed by its failure to take action.
Why, then, quote such nonsense? Because the speculation in Miller’s letter demonstrates how conspiratorial thinking can seep into civil society, and faith in its institutions can seep out.
Five years ago today, Susan Keegan died in her home after spending the day visiting friends, attending an art class, and planning her post-divorce future. As is well-known to the many readers of this blog, her husband had been filled with rage about her legal rights to half the family assets; gone “ballistic” in a divorce mediator’s office the day before she died; and hired a defense attorney one day afterwards. Susan’s death was declared a homicide in 2012 and Dr. Keegan remains the only suspect in the case.
In Mendocino County and beyond, hundreds of people who knew Susan, and thousands who did not, still don’t understand why charges have not been filed. The DA has never made a public statement about the case, except to say, year in and year out, that it remains under investigation. When a case is open, the DA is allowed to keep the evidence out of sight – no autopsy report, no photographs, no investigatory notes, no interview records, no toxicology report can be released. The search warrants in the case – at least two visits were made to the Keegan home in the years after Susan’s death – are sealed. Freedom of Information Act requests will be denied.
That level of opaqueness gives rise to conspiracy theorists like Mr. Miller. What evidence led law enforcement authorities to officially call Susan’s death a homicide, and why have they failed to act on what they know? Why won’t the DA’s office convene a grand jury to consider the strength of the evidence, and allow the legal system to work as intended? Why won’t the DA talk to the community he is elected to protect, and explain the inaction of the past five years?
Without answers to these most basic questions, rumors fill the gap.
A healthy civil society needs institutions that work. A credible system of law enforcement functions without fear or favor to protect the innocent, give suspects their day in court, and punish guilty parties. Susan, offbeat though she was, believed in those principles. Five years on, the pain of her loss has not diminished for her family and friends. But what it has done to the community at large may be even more damaging: the passage of so much time without a prosecution has created a platform for cynics.
* * *
SUSAN KEEGAN WAS MURDERED
by Bruce Anderson
The cause of death on Susan Keegan's death certificate has been changed from “accidental” to “homicide,” meaning that Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster has new evidence that the popular Ukiah woman did not die in November of 2010 from an accidental fall in her bathroom as initially found by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department.
Dr. Peter Keegan said only he and his wife were in the Keegan home the night of Mrs. Keegan's death. Dr. Keegan told police he found his wife dead in her bathroom early in the morning after her return from a visit with friends in Santa Rosa.
Peter Keegan is as well-known in the Ukiah Valley as his late wife was. He has functioned as family doctor to many inland families and was briefly notorious a few years ago as an advocate for marijuana. As a pot advocate, Dr. Keegan also did a thriving business in medical marijuana prescriptions.
Mrs. Keegan, as her husband told investigators, allegedly died while she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs in a bathroom fall, managing to twice lacerate the top of her head in what has been characterized as a vertical drop. Her husband, the only other person in the house at the time of his wife’s death, said Mrs. Keegan was drunk, and probably had been drinking after taking the pain medication he said she regularly took for a back injury.
The doctor told police that his wife was addicted to both drink and pharmaceuticals, but Mrs. Keegan's closest friends said they had never seen Mrs. Keegan take more than a social drink or two, and that they had never seen her drunk.
The night of her death, Mrs. Keegan had visited friends in Santa Rosa. She had consumed one glass of wine with her friends, then drove north to her South Ukiah home, arriving at about 10pm. Friends say it is highly unlikely that Mrs. Keegan began drinking at that hour. Her husband said the couple lived separately in their home each with his and her bathrooms.
Dr. Keegan said he found his wife dead in her bathroom the morning after she had visited her Santa Rosa friends. She had a deep gash or gashes to the top of her head, which officers investigating the scene, led by Sgt. Poma of the Sheriff's Department, concluded had resulted from a fall in the bathroom where Mrs. Keegan was found. An autopsy revealed alcohol and prescription drugs in her blood.
It is known that Doctor Keegan had demanded a divorce from his wife of 32 years with whom he has two grown sons. Friends of the couple say that Peter Keegan had become verbally abusive towards Mrs. Keegan, and unreasonably irate when he discovered that under California law a wife is entitled to half a couple's property. Mrs. Keegan had planned to resume her life as a single person in the Santa Rosa area where she'd been the night before her death looking for possible places to live.
Soon after his wife's death, Dr. Keegan began a relationship with Elizabeth 'Libby' Crawford of the Ukiah Valley's Crawford Ranch. He also soon retained the services of the talented Ukiah criminal defense attorney, Keith Faulder, causing persons following the case to wonder why a man would need a criminal defense lawyer if his wife had died accidentally.
Doctor Keegan presently works at the Indian Health Center in Covelo. He had been quick to brandish the old death certificate that said his wife had died accidentally in a bathroom fall. He isn't likely to brandish the re-write that strongly suggests he's a killer.
RANDOM THOUGHTS from a failing mind:
I don't understand why there aren't effective non-lethal police weapons. Yeah, yeah, yeah there are stun guns, bean bags, various sprays, and so on, but one would think there would be something in quick-draw gun form the cops could use to defend themselves in death-likely situations without killing the perp.
There's an epidemic of "incidences" in on-air interviews, both from the theoretically trained interviewer and the interviewee, many of the latter allegedly college-educated, not that a college diploma is a guarantee its owner has achieved anything resembling educated status. (cf, the Mendocino County Office of Education) The plural of incident is incidents.
Regarding the incidences at the University of Missouri, I think the walkout by the football team was a promising start to what I hope becomes national football walkouts. These kids should be paid regular salaries instead of their present compensation in cheerleaders and freelance bimbos. College sports are full-time jobs, and football at that level is a dangerous job. See how fast the weasel-lipped college president resigned when the football team walked? Without football, most of this country's so-called institutions of higher learning would collapse. Football and basketball produce huge revenues that largely fund these places.
I don't get these preposterous salaries paid college administrators. That guy in Missouri would have trouble managing a car wash. Ditto for Mendo's salaries public administrators get. Come on, $270,000 a year to "manage" the City of Ukiah, population 16,000? $50,000 to part-time manage the City of Point Arena, population 500?
THREE LESSONS from Univ. of Mo. President Tim Wolfe’s Resignation
by Dave Zirin
In shocking news that comes in utter contradiction to a statement released just yesterday, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe has announced his resignation.
The move comes after incidents of bigotry and racial vandalism that scarred the Columbia campus, followed by weeks of protest, a hunger strike by grad student Jonathan Butler, as well as the announcement that faculty members would not be showing up for work. Yet the tipping point for Wolfe’s departure was the announcement Saturday night that the black football players at Mizzou would be refusing to practice or play until the school president was gone. Their announcement was followed the next day by a widely circulated photo of most of the team, including many white players, sitting with head coach Gary Pinkel, and the statement that the players had full support of the coaching staff in their efforts. Tim Wolfe makes $459,000 a year and the school would have to forfeit $1 million just for missing this weekend’s game against BYU. In other words, math was not on Tim Wolfe’s side and he was as good as gone.
There are some immediate lessons from this that should be absolutely glaring.
1) Don’t be Tim Wolfe. In 2015, you cannot run a school while being blasé in the face of acts of racist harassment. You cannot, as Wolfe’s supporters bragged when he was brought on in 2012, “run the university like a tech company.” You can’t raise tuition and slash funding for things like health-insurance subsidies while pushing a $72 million expansion of the school’s football stadium. When asked about “systematic oppression,” you can’t say “Systematic oppression is when you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success,” as if marginalized students are just making up the slurs, the vandalism, and the general feeling of being unsafe on their own campus. Don’t be Tim Wolfe, unless you want to be unemployed.
2) Athletes — so often scripted as powerless — have tremendous social power on campus. Too often, those sympathetic with college athletes define them by their hardships instead of by their dazzling, inescapable strengths. We rightfully look at their absence of due process, their lack of access to an income, their hellacious practice and travel schedules, their inability to take the classes of their choosing, and their year-to-year scholarships that consign them to being more “athlete students” than “student athletes.”
Yet they also have a power that if exercised can bring the powerful to their knees. So much of the political and social economy of state universities is tied to football, especially in big-money conferences like Southeastern Conference, where Mizzou plays. The multibillion-dollar college football playoff contracts, the multimillion-dollar coaching salaries, and the small fortunes that pour into small towns on game day don’t happen without a group of young men willing to take the field. The system is entirely based on their acceptance of their own powerlessness as the gears of this machine. If they choose to exercise their power, the machine not only stops moving: It becomes dramatically reshaped.
The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement threatens the operating of this machinery like nothing since the black athletic revolt of the 1960s and 1970s. These conferences, particularly the Southeastern Conference, field teams that, in the words of sports sociologist Harry Edwards, “look like Ghana on the field and Sweden in the stands.” In other words, black football players in particular have a social power often unseen and not commented upon. It’s there all the same.
These athletes are a sleeping giant. At a school like Mizzou, where just 7 percent of the students are black but a whopping 69 percent of the football players are, one can see how their entry in the struggle had a ripple effect that tore through Columbia and into the college football–crazed national consciousness.
3) Don’t erase the mass struggle of students and faculty members that preceded the football strike. Yes, what the football players did was critical, perhaps even a tipping point in the battle to remove Wolfe from power. But if the football players had acted in a vacuum, then Wolfe would still be in charge. It is also difficult to imagine the football players acting at all without the broader struggle on campus. The protests of students and faculty members whose names the public does not know is what laid the groundwork for the players to showcase their courage. It’s like a stool: students, faculty, and athletes. When one leg on that stool isn’t there, this falls apart.
If there is a lesson here for student activists around the country, it should be to try to connect with so-called “student athletes.” Don’t treat them like they exist in their own space. Don’t accede to the way schools already attempt, with separate dorms and cafeterias, to create an environment where they are segregated from normal campus life. Fight that. Talk to them, listen to their grievances, and make clear to your administration that the athletes, students, and faculty united will never be defeated. The administrators created this world where our universities revolve socially, politically and economically around the exploited labor of big time football. Now let them reap what they sow.
MENDOCINO COUNTY HAS A PROSECUTOR ON A TRIAL IN HUMBOLDT COUNTY. The Jason Warren murder trial. Warren is accused of murdering a woman at her home in Hoopa before running over three joggers near Freshwater. The double-murder trial of Warren began with jury selection late last September. Warren’s defense attorney is Glenn Brown with the county’s Alternate Counsel office, and prosecutor Paul Sequeira, an assistant district attorney from Mendocino County brought in for this case by HumCo DA Maggie Fleming. Warren stands accused of the 2012 murder of Hoopa woman Dorothy Ulrich, plus another murder charge stemming from running down three women jogging on Old Arcata Road. HSU geography instructor Suzanne Seemann was killed while fellow joggers Jessica Hunt and Terri Vroman-Little were seriously injured. The jury trial started Tuesday with opening statements from the prosecutor Paul Sequeira. Sequeira says evidence to come will show that Warren was responsible. Two survivors testified, but they had traumatic brain injuries and much more. They were professional, experienced marathon runners and knew the area. The prosecutor says the hit and run was on purpose. The trial is expected to run through the middle of December.
I’VE COME TO REALIZE that almost all the mischief I got into as a kid was of a revolutionary, anarchistic or heretic nature. I destroyed heavy earth-moving equipment, and twenty years later the practice was named “monkey-wrenching” by Edward Abbey and taken up by serious environmentalists. I stole religious icons and defaced the front entrance to the high school with them, and tore up golf courses with cars. All these, it turns out, were either symbols or actual implements of class oppression, destruction of the earth, or brainwashing.
— Jeff Costello
HOME PRICES ARE REPORTEDLY UP just a bit in Lake County although the Valley fire has had an effect in the overall active listings. Lake County News reports the latest Lake County Association of Realtors report says the median sales price for a single family home went up from $200,000 in August to $211,500 in September, a rise of about 5.75-percent. And it’s up more than 14 percent from the same time last year when it was $185,000. The total number of sales dropped though with the Association president telling the news site that more than 20 homes that were listed before the fire were either damaged or destroyed.
Courtesy, Kwine News (94.5 fm)
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 11, 2015
MARIC ARRIAGA, Ukiah. Possession of controlled substance, false ID, probation revocation.
DEREK CLARK, Vacaville/Mendocino. DUI, suspended license.
CHRISTOPHER DOYLE, Hopland. DUI, ignition interlock override, probation revocation.
ROBIN DUNCAN, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
ERIC GARCIA, Redwood Valley. Carjacking, vehicle theft.
CLINT GUNTER, Ukiah. Petty theft, suspended license.
ANDREA KIDD, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ASHLEY LENHART, Ukiah. Suspended license, ignition interlock override, probation revocation.
TATE MADSON, Willits. Failure to appear.
RICK MONUGIAN, Commerce/Ukiah. DUI-Drugs&alcohol, false ID, parole violation.
SHERLYN MEHTLAN, Ukiah. Court order violation.
JOSEPH MORK, Ukiah. Burglary, grand theft, conspiracy, probation revocatioin.
DENA MORRIS, Willits. Probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
ERIC ROBERTS, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, community supervision violation.
ALEJANDRO VILLEGAS-MEZA, Willits. Drunk in public.
SHON WARE, Los Angeles/Redwood Valley. Resisting, false ID.
CHILD MAILING: PARCEL POST
It was once socially acceptable and surprisingly affordable to send children by parcel post
THE TRAIN-HOPPING, NAZI-FIGHTING LITERARY HERO YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF
by Jacob Siegel
He wrote books of poetry, won a chestful of medals, helped inspire Pulp Fiction — and loved a good bathroom joke. Meet First Sergeant Charles Willeford.
Charles Willeford, author of novels like Pickup, High Priest of California, and Miami Blues, was one of the most unusual war heros America ever produced. Only a few years after fighting in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, he published his first book, a collection of poems. Yet, to point out that he was writing poetry in the Army doesn’t do justice to just how rare a specimen he was, a war hero who made his reputation as an author without writing about war.
There’s a memorable shot of Willeford in his posthumously published collection, Writing and Other Bloodsports, a book that contains his most scholarly work, including a version of his master’s thesis, New Forms of Ugly: The Immobilized Hero in Modern Fiction. The author, 52 and wearing every year on his face, sports a flashy striped shirt and Campbell’s Soup print necktie. You can’t see much of his mouth beneath the combed mustache and busted boxer’s nose, but you can just make out a grin in the eyes. He looks like someone who’d seen enough that he might have given up, but developed a sense of humor instead. There’s a hint in that photo of all the lives that led up to it — the orphan who hopped freight trains during the Depression, the career soldier, scathing critic of American life, war hero, boxer, literature professor, professional disappointment, committed existentialist concealed as a pulp writer, and late-life minor literary sensation. At one time or another, Willeford played half the deck of familiar American archetypes but was too exquisitely weird to ever fully cash in on any of them.
The Miami journalist John Keasler, a friend of Willeford’s joked that his backstory couldn’t be true. There was a record of Willeford’s existence in his published work, military file, and the alimony owed to several wives, and the fact that Keasler knew him personally, but that was nothing compared to the sheer improbability of anyone having lived that life. “Who ever heard of a career soldier, a Regular Army first sergeant in the Infantry at that, publishing books of poetry with titles like Proletarian Laughter?” Keasler asked.
No one. The line of American poetry has not traditionally flowed through the Infantry First Sergeant. So, without precedent, and out of necessity, Willeford formed his own tradition.
He could have been a professional hardass in print but had no desire. He studied Joyce and Kafka along with Himes, Hammett, and Chandler. And anyway, he wanted to be funny. Instead of a war memoir he wrote things like A Guide for the Undehemorrhoided, which opens opposite an epigram from Ezra Pound with these lines:
“In hospital language a patient does not urinate, micturate, pee, piss, or take a leak. He voids. Or, as in my case, he is unable to void.”
This is trademark Willeford. Broken down, stoic, and comic where it hurts. And that’s before he gets to describing the procedure on his asshole.
These days, Willeford is best remembered for the South Florida noir series that began with the novel Miami Blues (later made into an excellent Alec Baldwin film) and for being name-checked by Quentin Tarantino as an inspiration for Pulp Fiction. Those crime novels helped pay his bills but the Tarantino imprimatur never elevated him, as it ought to have, from hip obscurity to wider recognition.
The handful moved by his name are collectors of crime and hardboiled writing who appreciate his contributions to the genre and the aficionados of oddball genius who like him for the ways his work defied and subverted genre.
He belongs to a certain school of American writers, truants really, that the novelist Jonathan Lethem called “these exiles within their own culture.” Writers like the hobo laureate Jack Black, science fiction’s Philip K. Dick, and newspaperman-turned-novelist Charles Portis were outsiders, not in the high art sense of a cultivated avant garde, but in the practical sense—they had chops and insights but no gate into the literary club and no intention of doing a soft shoe to get in.
And there’s the problem with Willeford. A pulp modernist with a Silver Star medal and a military pension, he ought to be remembered by both literary critics and war buffs, but was too weird a specimen to belong to any canon.
The big names in the American war writing pantheon, your Cranes, Mailers, Hemingways, O’Briens, saw combat and had a lot to say about it in their work. Willeford’s trick, and his work offered plenty of elegant sleights of hand, was to be a war hero who established himself as one of the best American writers of the last hundred years while hardly ever writing about his war.
Why wouldn’t a decorated career soldier who fought in the Battle of the Bulge draw on those experiences to make his name as a writer? For one, he had other things to write about. At 16, when he lied about his age to enlist in the Army, he’d already lived his way through prime material.
The Willeford family was all but gone before Charles was 10. He was 2 when his father died of tuberculosis and his mother took him out of Arkansas to live with her family in California. At 8, the tuberculosis took his mother. He was left with his grandmother Mattie. In a few years the family went from well-to-do to fallen poor. Mattie sent Willeford to a boarding school for the children of working parents with the promise that she would take him out at 10, when he could watch after himself. She kept her word and earned the dedication in his first published book.
For Mattie …This book, when so much more is due
At 13, after his grandmother Mattie lost her job selling hats on commission, Willeford left home. He didn’t want to be a burden and his “position became untenable,” he later wrote in I Was Looking for a Street, the first part of his autobiography. It was 1932, the lowest point in the Great Depression, and Willeford had company riding the rails. “I wasn’t alone. There were thousands of boys my age riding freight trains to nowhere. But no one can ever tell me I didn’t have a happy childhood.”
At 16, looking for a way off the street, Willeford found the Army. He joined the California National Guard by lying about his age, then a few months later joined the regular Army and was sent to the Philippines. There were a series of subsequent discharges and re-enlistments but his military career took him through the war years, and transfers between service branches. It lasted until 1956, when he retired from the Air Force with a full pension.
In American letters it’s usually draftees writing chronicles of war. The career soldier, if they write professionally, pens military histories or memoir. For officers, and it’s mostly officers, there is the added genre of tactical or strategic analysis. The type of personality that fits inside a uniform for 20 years, it’s understood, is not cut from the same cloth as the literary type. A writer has to be subject to passions and unfettered in their creative pursuits. A soldier has to wake up at 4 a.m. and go march around before cleaning the barracks and biting their tongue before the dumb face of authority.
Willeford just could not play to type. He wasn’t an officer with the requisite college degree but a sergeant. And not just a sergeant but an Infantry First Sergeant, a grunt’s grunt, the “top kick,” as the position was called in Willeford’s day. As the senior non-commissioned officer in the company, the first sergeant is the saltiest character of all. He’s there to watch officers come and go in processions of command while knowing that the company actually belongs to him. In the infantry, where grunts pride themselves on toughness and a stomach for misery and daily bullshit, the first sergeant is expected to be the most professional, the most jaded, and the least forgiving. “Tougher than woodpecker lips” is what you call a first sergeant well suited to their job.
His first book, the collection of poems Proletarian Laughter, was published while Willeford was still serving as a first sergeant in the infantry. It was put out as an Alicat Chapbook by the cult publisher that also ran work by one of Willeford’s heroes, Henry Miller. The book was an obscure item even when he had a bit of fame, and the only thing he ever wrote that directly addressed his experiences in the war. It’s an awkwardly sentimental and coldly vicious little book of poems interspersed with short prose pieces called schematics that collect stories of brutality told by soldiers warming themselves around Jeep radiators, popping in and out of tank hatches, or remembering, years later, the stories from that European winter. The book, far from Willeford’s best, has been largely forgotten. For most readers, it was likely hard to hear the laughter in it.
That slim volume of poems is the only combat writing Willeford ever published. The second part of his memoir, Something About a Soldier, is only something. It’s a great piece of writing that’s full of vivid storytelling but it keeps itself to his early years in the Army before the war.
By Willeford’s own account he didn’t write about war because other authors, like Mailer and James Jones, had already done it better. Maybe. But Willeford didn’t always like to play it straight, either in his art or when he was forced to explain himself. Even Willeford fans who have clamored for more straightforward answers to the meaning behind his life and work are missing the point, says Don Herron, author of the authoritative biography, Willeford. “[They] don’t understand. If he didn’t want to tell you something he didn’t tell you and if he thought he could kid you he was just all over you, forever; it could go one for months.”
It’s hard to imagine, if war had been the story Willeford wanted to tell, that he didn’t think he had anything to add. I think that Willeford just didn’t want to write about war. It was something he didn’t want to tell you. He had different game to hunt. He wanted his characters to live closer to the grain of daily life, and to locate any failure and heroism, such as there was, as far as he could get it from the warp of grandeur.
As an author, it took Willeford another decade to find his voice after getting his start as the poetry writing top kick. But, by his own account, the military afforded him plenty of time to read and practice his craft.
If it offered nothing else, the military gave the author a chance to hone his comedic sensibility. “When I was an Infantry First Sergeant,” Willeford told an interviewer, “I wrote a review of Ezra Pound’s poetry for the Fort Benning Infantry journal. The troops showed no overt reaction.”
(The comic style matured in Writing and Other Bloodsports, which was published with this note, reportedly penned for an ex-wife: “Dedication Withdrawn.”)
The military also gave him his first interaction with critics. “Once a gunnery sergeant of mine said he didn’t understand my poetry. I asked if he understood the gunnery rules. He said, well, not exactly—that he had to memorize them. I had him memorize the poetry. It didn’t help.”
Willeford’s first great work, The Woman Chaser, was published in 1960 after he had left the service. It’s a novel structured as a screenplay about a used car salesman, Richard Hudson, who shares an Oedipal dance with his mother, deflowers his stepsister, and decides to write a film. Hudson is both an average middle-class climber and a violent narcissist gripped by a spasm of artistic vision for which he’s willing to sacrifice everything. It’s a beautifully strange book and shows Willeford, for the first time, in full control of his powers as a writer.
As a critique of American strivers and crass materialism, The Woman Chaser has similarities with the social realist novels produced by some of Willeford’s contemporaries. But it’s weirder than anything a committed Marxist could have written at the time, closer in its critique to Miller’s anti-bourgeois fear of the air-conditioned nightmare, and more concerned with psychology and cultural rot than the predations of capitalism. It is also one of his only books to feature a veteran, a retired master sergeant who joins the protagonist’s sales force. There is a clear parallel between the veteran character, an enlisted man who retires with the same pay grade that Willeford held when he left the military, and the author’s own experience. The character, Master Sergeant William Conan Harris, isn’t Willeford. Harris is depicted, initially at least, as a thoroughly institutionalized man with no artistic ambition. But Harris is also someone Willeford knew especially well, perhaps as a part of himself. That closeness to Willeford’s own background is more compelling because it doesn’t spare Harris from coming in for special abuse from Hudson, the book’s protagonist.
In this early scene the recently retired Master Sergeant Bill Harris is being interviewed by Hudson for a position at Honest Hal’s car lot.
I gave Bill a little test. After digging into my pocket for some change, I tossed some coins on the desk. “How about getting us a couple of cokes out of the machine, Bill?” “Yes, sir, Mr. Hudson,” he replied. He used his own dimes, ignoring my change on the desk. After working the machine, he handed me an open bottle before he sat down with his own.
And with that servile display he gets the job. The retired master sergeant is hanging on to his code of loyalty, which earned him a pension after years of doing other people’s work. In the hardboiled ethos of the book, his loyalty marks him as a sap, destined to be exploited by the more cunning and mercenary Hudson character. After their inevitable falling out, Hudson reflects, “I felt sorry for Bill Harris, and yet, I was happy for him in a way. He had discovered that loyalty was not enough. Loyalty may be fine for the army, but it has no place in the outside world.”
You can easily read that as scorn for Harris, as contempt for the military company man who can’t get by on his own, or even as a bit of self-flagellation on Willeford’s part. But over the course of decades in writing full of practical philosophy Willeford showed sympathy for both Hudson’s knowing cynicism and Harris’s faith in the need for order. Reviewing a biography of Dashiell Hammett, Willeford addressed that tenuous balance: “Existentialism is a practical philosophy for urban males to follow;” he declared, “and if a man develops a professional attitude towards his work, he will probably succeed where others fail.” The universe is dumb chaos so you better quit looking to be saved and make your own meaning but, also, it’s good to wake up early and work hard. Take Willeford’s secret to writing a novel as recounted in Marshall Jon Fisher’s profile of the author, The Unlikely Father of Miami Crime Fiction.
“Never allow yourself to take a leak in the morning until you’ve written a page. That way you’re guaranteed a page a day, and at the end of a year you have a novel.”
A novel, Willeford wrote, “is a case study of the author.” His work had plenty to draw on and said a lot about the passions of his own life: in the bottom-of-the-bottle realism of Pickup, with its twist ending; The Burnt Orange Heresy and its sendup of art world frauds and forgeries; Cockfighter, wherein the hero takes a vow of silence; and in his two fantastic volumes of autobiography, one devoted to his time in the military. In all of his writing there was an account of his own experiences and there is something, too, in the blank spaces that he left.
This much is public record, contained in Willeford’s citation on the Arlington National Memorial Website, with a picture of the military marker where he is interred:
In the winter of 1944-45 Willeford fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a tank commander. He was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest combat award for valor, for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy” under the order of the 10th Armored Division headquarters. He also earned the Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, showing he had been wounded in battle more than once.
In all of his best work, Willeford showed himself to be a master raconteur. From his early childhood he held on to stories that would fill his autobiography, told with spare but vivid detail. He’d thought about it and knew what he wanted to say. The war was a chapter he chose to keep silent.
There are two kinds of writers in America — the ones who want to write a Great American Novel, and the ones who don’t know how to speak for that many people at once and only want to write something that’s remorselessly funny and true. And then there’s Charles Willeford.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The economic picture manufactured by the national consensus trance has never been more out of touch with reality in my lifetime. And so the questions as to what anyone might do can hardly be addressed. How can I protect my savings? Who do I vote for? How do I think about where my country is going? Incoherence reigns, especially in the circles ruled by those who guard the status quo, which includes the failing legacy news media.
— James Kunstler
Joshua Corrigan is wanted on a $75,000 felony warrant for causing a fire of a structure while manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, armed with an assault weapon and possession of an assault rifle.
Height: 5' 10"
Age: 36 years old
Hair: Blonde Eyes: Blue
Weight: 150 lbs
If you have any information regarding his location, please call MCSO Dispatch at (707) 463-4086
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Joseph Mendoza is wanted on a $150,000 felony warrant for assault with force and battery. Height: 5' 11" Age: 23 years old Hair: Brown Eyes: Brown . Weight: 200 lbs. If you have any information regarding his location, please call MCSO Dispatch at (707) 463-4086. (Update: Mendoza has been arrested. Thank you to the California Highway Patrol.)
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Jose Acosta is WANTED for on a felony warrant for fleeing from an officer and petty theft. Bail is set at $35,000. Age: 41 years old. Height: 5' 07" Weight: 170 lbs . Hair: Black Eyes: Brown. If you recognize this individual or have information which could lead to their arrest, please contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office at (707) 463-4086. (Update: Acosta has turned himself in.)
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Erreon Jackson is wanted on a $25,000 felony warrant for Possession of a Firearm.
Height: 5' 5" .
Age: 23 years old
Hair: Black . Eyes: Brown .
Weight: 160 lbs.
If you have any information regarding his location, please call MCSO Dispatch at (707) 463-4086.
(Update: Jackson has been arrested. Thank you to Hawthorne Police Department.)
THE OFFICIAL GOP DEBATE DRINKING GAME RULES, PT. 4
This isn't getting any easier.
by Matt Taibbi
From: Press Credentials
If you are receiving this email we were unable to grant you a credential to cover the debate in Milwaukee on Tuesday, November 10th.
Please let us know if you have any further questions.
Thank you. GOP.com
* * *
Your candidates are all mental incompetents, and the world would be a safer place if they were to fall down a cobalt mine and cannibalize one another.
Also, the race you're conducting this cycle to choose a party nominee is a train wreck unparalleled in the annals of modern democracy. There will be people laughing at your debate in places like Belarus.
However, thank you for processing my request for a credential.
Matt Taibbi , Rolling Stone Magazine
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"Screw your drinking game," a reader wrote to me a few weeks ago. "What are you, 15? I just line up shots and start downing them the minute they start talking. Because I'm depressed, you understand?"
Going into the Fox Business Network-hosted debate in Milwaukee, there are a few major themes swirling around the campaign. Ben Carson's theories about pyramids are a hot topic, as is his anger that the mainstream press refuses to believe he tried to kill two people, including his mother.
Marco Rubio just released credit records showing he charged $3,800 worth of new flooring and a trip to Vegas on a Republican Party AmEx card — but by accident.
And there's a general furor among the entire field over the outrageous decision by Starbucks to issue a plain red cup for the holiday season, the latest blow in our ongoing atheistic War on Christmas.
The cast is a little different now. Sadly, one of the consistently more amusing participants, Mike Huckabee, has been relegated to the kiddie-table debate. Less tragically, so has Chris Christie. They will join Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum, who are apparently still running.
For the first time, two well-known candidates, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, have been exiled from the kiddie-table debate, having been consigned to Naraka, the underworld state of torment common to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Tea Party traditions.
That leaves Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich and Rand Paul. Without further ado, here are our rules for the fourth installment of the Republican Party Presidential Debate Drinking Game.
DRINK EVERY TIME:
- Anyone mentions stabbing, hammers, belt buckles, grain or pyramids.
- Anyone says they would kill a "baby Hitler," or any other historically villainous baby – a baby Vlad the Impaler, for instance.
- Donald Trump mentions his SNL appearance. Make it a double if he brags about the ratings.
- Anyone who is not Trump mentions that leadership is not about being on SNL.
- Anyone mentions "red cups" or the War on Christmas.
- Anyone brings up Rubio's credit problems. Double shots for mentions of "Vegas" or "tiles."
- Anyone hits any variation of the theme that "facts are a liberal smear conspiracy."
- Anyone mentions "baby parts." Shot of Jager for "harvest brains."
- Kasich seethes that everyone besides him is full of it. Drink to words like "goofy ideas" or "unrealistic plans," or if he says something like, "Why not offer everyone a free house while we're at it?"
- Rubio says "America" more than twice in the same sentence.
- Anyone talks about how they are the son/daughter/husband/wife of a humble bartender/maid/tow truck driver/whatever who made it because America and dreams.
- Trump uses the words "loser," "lightweight," "disaster" or "yooge."
- Anyone makes a gratuitous reference to the Packers, cheeseheads, Aaron Rodgers, or the Discount Double Check. Double-shot if it's that fake-ass football fan Marco Rubio.
- Anyone strokes the wonderful union-bashing legacy of Scott Walker and the teacher-hating people of Wisconsin.
- Carly Fiorina whips out a statistical number that is debunked within minutes by Internet fact-checkers. Double if it's that "73,000-page tax code" line she always falls back on even though nobody cares.
THE EVERGREEN RULES
ALWAYS drink, in every debate, when:
- Trump brags about how much money he makes.
- Anyone says, "I'm the only one on this stage who…"
- Someone says, "Hillary lied," or something along the lines of, "None of us on this stage are the problem, the problem is with those socialists on the other side."
- The crowd breaks into uncomfortable applause at a racist/sexist statement.
- Any candidate evokes Nazis, the Gestapo, Neville Chamberlain, concentration camps, etc.
- Anyone force-feeds an Israel reference into a question where it doesn't belong. As @gokzarah on Twitter calls it, this is the "Ann Coulter rule."
- Anyone pledges to "take our country back."
- The Jim Webb rule: a candidate complains about not getting enough time.
- Any candidate illustrates the virtue of one of his/her positions by pointing out how not PC it is.
- Someone invokes St. Reagan. Beware, people: This is an every time rule this time.
In watching most of the GOP debate, it is quite clear most of the positions on undocumented immigrants and improving the income and health care of those below the poverty level certainly will not help them with the African-American and Hispanic communities. While the GOP candidate does not need 50% or more support from these communities he/she certainly cannot win without a significant increase over recent presidential elections.
The GOP through various new Jim Crow laws is trying to make it difficult to vote. Needless to say the Democrats will mount an all out drive to get these folks to the voting booth.
The debate also made it clear there is no place in their party for single women and the LGBT community. In looking at the demographic changes in the US where now whites will be in the minority, unless the Republicans dramatically change course a GOP president will be something of the past.
In peace and love,
BESTIALITY OUTLAWED, BUT INCEST STILL LEGAL IN NEW JERSEY
WET POEMS FOR A DRY PLANET, V.
shades of green,
shades of gentle rain,
Shades of finite spring sprung
before summer springs
Now, shades of pregnant green
hallucinogenic hillsides throb,
green oaks sequester the sky,
sea greens, emerald greens, golden greens
yellow greens, angry greens,
turquoise greens, electric greens and
the greenest of greens that spring from
the black black womb of the
Earth deep down underground.
MCPB Executive Director and station General Manager, Stuart Campbell, refuses to tell me, a sitting Director of the MCPB Board, who our landlord is for the Philo studio and what the terms of the lease are.
Also, Campbell refuses to tell me who is the MCPB Board's legal adviser.
I am now making a second request for this information.
I am also making another lawful request for an inspection of books and documents in the corporation's custody or power.
Refusing these demands for important corporate information requested by a Director are yet three more violations of the California Corporations Code per Section 1600-1605.
Section 1500-1512, Section 300-3018, and other law may also apply.
Violations may result in an action in Superior Court, and may ultimately result in MCPB losing its tax-exempt status.
John Sakowicz, Ukiah
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From: "Stuart Campbell" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [KZYX-Board]- requests
It is not true that I have refused to tell you who our landlord is and the terms of the lease. You only made the request yesterday, and I only work three days a week, and have not yet had time to pull up the lease. I’ve attached the most recently executed lease extension (through October 2015), but would have to dig through files to locate the original lease, and I do not currently have the time to do that. I am in communication with our landlord regarding another extension of our lease. Our monthly rent is $852.00.
You made a demand to see documents some time ago, and at that time were given the conditions for coming to the station, and you never made those arrangements. The ball is in your court.
The station’s legal counsel is:
GARVEY SCHUBERT BARER | Suite 200 | 1000 Potomac Street NW | Washington, DC 20007
Interim Executive Director/General Manager
Mendocino County Public Broadcasting
PO Box 1, Philo, CA 95466
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Conditions? I don't see any conditions in the California Corporations Code except that my inspection be made during business hours.
I reiterate the demand for inspection, as soon as possible.
I will not agree to any conditions not set forth in the Code, nor will I tolerate the humiliation to which you recently subjected the members during their limited records inspection when you called the Sheriff's Office and had two patrol cars stand-by.
I have encouraged the Sheriff's Office to investigate your action as "making a false report". See California Penal Code 148.5.
Also, the law firm below is located in Washington, D.C. They represent us in regulatory matters, i.e. the FCC license renewals. Who advises us on possible violations of the California Corporations Code and other California law?
And who exactly is our contact person at Garvey Schubert Barber? Is anyone there admitted to the California Bar?
John Sakowicz, Ukiah