Friday, June 29, 2007

Contemptible


Seven years is a long time, especially when you don’t deserve a day.

The Associated Press has reported that former Democratic Governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for bribery on June 28.

The charge was bribery, but according to an “L.A. Times” article from June 26, he didn’t really do that. Instead he was convicted of “persuading a rich business executive to put $500,000 into a campaign for a state lottery to support education.”

That’s not bribery.

“Hey highwayscribe, you penniless bohemian so-and-so, what the heck do you know about bribery?” (you might ask)

Well, if you came to highwayscribery every day, (and you don’t) you might know the highway scribe’s essay on bribery for the TRACE Institute, won “honorable mention” and that while writing that piece, the scribe learned bribery is very difficult to define and even harder to prove in court.

As such, the feds use all kinds of end-runs like mail fraud and wire fraud for convicting people on what is supposed to be a simple quid pro quo of money-for-political action on behalf of the giver.

The reason we focus upon this otherwise obscure issue for anyone other than Alabamians, is that Siegelmen says his prosecution was engineered by Karl Rove. And if you read the L.A. Times article linked above, you might agree that he has a point.

According to that report Democrats and Republicans alike agree, too.

If you don’t read the piece, then please know that Siegelman, first elected governor back in 1998, was something of a threat in an otherwise Red State fiefdom given his ability to get blacks and whites to vote for him.

Some “protege” of Karl Rove, Bill Canary, led the successful attempt to unseat Siegelman in 2002. His wife, Leura Canary, a Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney (who didn’t get fired recently), actually supervised the case for a time before Siegelman’s lawyers blew the whistle on her.

Dana Jill Simpson, a Republican activist, filed a sworn statement in the case, “that she was on a party conference call in 2002 when she heard Bill Canary tell other campaign workers not to worry about Siegelman because Canary’s ‘girls’ and ‘Karl’ would make sure the Justice Department pursued the Democrat so he was not a political threat in the future.”

It gets deeper and uglier, but highwayscribery gets off here to point out this is not novel. You can go back to the Reagan Administration’s prosecution of Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry for evidence of Republican U.S. Attorneys going after Democrats in their urban strongholds.

A few years ago, the city of San Diego got its first Democratic majority in history only to see U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, a Bush appointee (just chased out), indict three of them (all Democrats) on bribery and, yes, wire and mail fraud charges.

One guy died of a heart attack before the trial, another’s looking at jail, and the young and promising Michael Zucchet, wanders downtown a sadly broken man.

And there goes your Democratic majority in San Diego.

This kind of thing not only removes Democrats and progressives from positions of power, it also discourages any with a mind to enter public service.

Which brings us to the whole business of Al “Gonzo” Gonzales, the firing of U.S. Attorneys, and charges by Democrats (who ought to know), that the firings happened because these officials refused to take marching orders from Rove on issues political and important to the White House.

According to a “San Diego Union-Tribune” dispatch, Democrats have filed subpoenas to White House operatives.

President Bush is, of course, “firm” in his insistence he and his employees respond to nobody in the world. They will provide no documents relative to how they treated the Department of Justice as a political wing of Rove’s partisan operation.

What they know is that they can wait for Congress to sue them, lie low, and pick up their presidential pardon (and medal of honor), on they way out the door.

Yes, tough as it is to conjure, this gang will be gone in under two years.

What they’re less clear on is what happens if White House operatives are cited for contempt of Congress; a prospect raised in today’s article.

But if you can ignore a Congressional subpoena for one thing, can’t you ignore it for anything?

Probably. But then we’d come full circle, assured through their disdain for the contempt charges that they are truly...

...contemptible.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Faces of War


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Carmichael Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Raymond N. Spencer Jr., of Carmichael , CA :

"Maria and I offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Private First Class Raymond Spencer. His loss reminds us all of the perils he faced as he defended freedom and democracy for all Americans and his service will not be forgotten."

Spencer, 23, died June 21 as a result of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire in Baghdad , Iraq . Spencer was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, United States Army, Fort Bliss , TX .

In honor of Pfc. Spencer, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of two Camp Pendleton Marines

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Wilson of Duluth, GA and Sgt. Shawn P. Martin of Delmar, NY:

"Serving our country is a noble task that Staff Sergeant Stephen Wilson and Sergeant Shawn Martin performed with bravery and fortitude. They courageously stood proudly beside their fellow Marines to serve our country. We send our sincerest condolences to their family and friends in Georgia and New York ."

Wilson, 28, and Martin, 30, died June 20 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq . Wilson and Martin were assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton , CA .

In honor of Staff Sgt. Wilson and Sgt. Martin, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Fullerton Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pvt. Shane M. Stinson, of Fullerton , CA :

"As a member of the armed forces, Private Shane Stinson fulfilled a tremendous responsibility to our nation. Shane reminds us of the courage and valor of all our service men and women serving in our nation's military. Maria and I extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Shane."

Stinson, 23, died June 23 as a result of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire in Baghdad , Iraq . Stinson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Benning , GA.

In honor of Pvt. Stinson, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Congress: Checked-Out on Card Check



Alas, the elections of 2006 were enough to stem, in part, the right-wing assault on the things that make us unique and democratic, but not enough to permit any kind of progressive momentum.

Maybe that’s being greedy. Not so long ago it seemed that nothing could stop the Bush-Cheney juggernaut and its shredding of our environmental protections, civil rights, democratic checks-and-balances.

The elections, the installation of the first woman speaker, the assumption of committee chairmanships seemed to promise much.

Alas, the king is still at the top, finding solace in his veto pen, which suits him well; so adept at tearing down and so miserable at building up. The compassionate conservative.

And so the “New York Times” reports that the unions’ “card-check neutrality” bit the dust in the Senate yesterday.

Card-check neutrality allows unions to organize by getting workforce members to simply sign-off on their desire to join a union without all the cumbersome, outdated an ineffective provisions required by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) kicking in.

Card check's important today because unions, with all their flaws (and they are many) are still the best way of juicing pay rates and beefing up benefits, among other advantages.

The middle class is disappearing as a reality in this country, and an uptick in organization would mean more collective bargaining and less of a free hand for the corporate raiders currently ruling our lives.

We did an installation of “Vito Says...” some time back encouraging passage of the measure. (That’s veto during a New York waterfront strike long ago, around the time the NLRA was enacted).

The Republicans, pro-corporate, cloaked their opposition to card check in a desire to see the sanctity of the secret ballot maintained.

As with Iraq, they always find democracy when its most convenient for them. Meanwhile, "their" court has been slaying the rights of stockholders visa vis corporate boards, busting the union agency shop fee, and your First Amendment protection to have “Bong Hits for Jesus” on a t-shirt, in a series of recent decisions.

Free country, you see.

On card check, they called the secret ballot a “hallmark of democracy.”

That sounds good, but anybody whose informed on labor rights, which is just about nobody, is aware that campaigns for union representation are the domain of highly paid, savvy employer “consultants” who have made a mockery of the NLRA’s original provisions and that, even when a union wins an organizing campaign, bosses have found a million loopholes around the obligation to sit down and bargain collectively with workers who have chosen to do so - a real “hallmark.”

Mitch McConnell, who leads the Senate’s Republican caucus, is quoted in the "Times" piece as saying, “By preserving the secret ballot in union organizing drives, Republicans made sure America’s 140 million workers are not intimidated or coerced into siding with either labor or management.”

And that will be the last time, for a long time, Mitch will be working on worker protections.

His wife, Elaine Chao, heads-up the federal Labor Department; a place where the rights of employees are whittled daily into the life we’ve come to know without legal protection on civil rights, firings, safety, overtime requirements, nice vacations, and workplace democracy generally.

Sorry Vito. We let ya down.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Liquid Life (installment twenty-seven)


Stop your clamoring already! Elendele, Dominique and the other social maladroits of "The Liquid Life" are back after a brief hiatus brought on by the scribe's jaunt to Los Cabos, Mexico. You'll remember she was a little upset about having to bare her anatomy in "Elendele's Sex Scene Scene, "but now she's back.

BY THE NEXT TUESDAY HER TOWER HAD BEEN REBUILT

By the next Tuesday she had rebounded. She was writing up anti-vivisection petitions and a nasty letter to the famed bullfighter Curro Romero, when I got to her place.

She told me then that she’d decided to continue auditions. She’d flash her haute haunches in fifty features if she must, would bend on this one issue, but was drawing the line at advertisements or anything else she perceived as doing the bidding of commerce. It was good to hear her ramble on in recovery from the ravages of the sex scene scene.

We jousted it out when I started, “What’s wrong with commercials? How do you expect them to make any money to put these shows on? What do you think, that they put these things on here for free Elendele?”

The fact was I really liked the one she’d been in and enjoyed pointing her out to my friends while we drank beer and watched basketball games. It beat everything about the place I had come from and I was sure, upon her screen presence. that I would never go back.

She’s holding a joint, waving my waiting hand off and extending the length of her speech just so she can have more Maria for herself. She holds in the smoke while she talks, “Oh Dominique, it cheapens life when you must constantly be sold things. Who wants to be sold and sold and sold everything when all you can love is something, one thing, maybe, if everything works out alright?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean mostly they’re selling love as if you could buy it, as if it were an Article of the Constitution and it’s not. It’s a thing that no government can guarantee.”

She passes the joint to me and says then, “It’s not just ‘things’ that they are selling Dominique. They are selling you these downy girls with rosewater in their veins.”

“You were once...”

“And everyone knows what a lie it was,” rings her heartstring.

“Not me.”

“Oh,” she ignores, “they’re selling me salty cologne men. Look! Now don’t you want that girl there? Wouldn’t you shelve me to wait for her, or any of the other pricey femmes you’ve never been able to afford?”

I didn’t see why she had to bring my financial situation into it and was glad the salon was empty.

“Oh! There!” she rages continuous, “Now she’s gone, with not a sliver of her silver deity left. Oh Dominique. Who wants to go stale waiting and anxious for that one time luv, luv, luv? Who wants t miss the moon’s collision with the morning each 5 a.m… who wants to… who… wants…”

“Who wants to what, Elendele?”

Gently, disturbed, she says quietly now, “I’m so stoned I forgot what I was talking about. What was I talking about?”

“I don’t know,” is my foggy retort.” I forgot, too.”

WHAT THEY DID THEN

So then, we smoked more Maria on the roof at 6:48 p.m. Not because we needed, to, but because we wanted to. And we wondered upon close inspection of the sky, that perhaps a free Comanche had crushed yellow and orange desert rocks, painting with their dust above the hills at dusk…

…that perhaps shavings of rose quartz had fallen from his pouch and left trails of summer Christmas trim over the shaky ranges edging…

…that perhaps it was just the exhaust from a million buses taking people home again.
Modern life bleeding on the sky.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Answering to No One


It’s always good to be the king, which is why poll numbers in the toilet don’t particularly temper the action of the Bush administration.

The Associated Press reported June 21 that the Senate Judiciary Committee had approved subpoenas for White House officials in an effort at getting to the bottom of the whole illegal eavesdropping thing.

Good luck folks (including three principled Republicans); these guys don’t answer to anyone.

Tony Fratto, an administration mouthpiece said, “The information the committee is requesting is highly classified and not information we can make available.”

He is not talking about making it available to highwayscribery; he’s talking about the United States Congress, that bastion of irrational and irresponsible representatives of the people.

There are no “checks and balances” in the administration’s reading of the U.S. Constitution, no “separate and equal branches” keeping a wary on eye on the others’ gropes at greater power.

There is only the King and his courtiers doing whatever they darn well please.

In his recently released essay, “The Assault on Reason,”
Al Gore takes up the issue, noting how the administration’s claim that it need not consult a court or gain permission from Congress or obey enacted laws when it wants to know about the Web sites you visit, the books you’ve borrowed from the library, or the phone calls you’ve made, “comes as a surprise to those who are familiar with the U.S. Constitution.

“The courts,” Gore wrote, “have always recognized an inherent presidential authority in rare emergency cases to conduct surveillance and searches that would otherwise require a warrant. What is different is that this president claims the right to break and enter, tap your phone, and read your correspondence at will -- and to do so regularly, for a significant number of Americans, on a massive scale.”

The administration claims we are at war, and that under new powers granted the executive post-9/11 (courtesy of Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle), the president is very much within his right.

Gore does a great job picking this argument apart and throwing it onto the dustbin of history, but for the sake of debate, let’s assume the President’s right and ask...

...But for how long?

Here’s Gore again: [T]his war is predicted by the administration to last the rest of our lives. So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.”

Which of course is a way of saying the terrorists, WHO HATE FREEDOM, have won, and largely because the administration pretty much agrees with them on how authority works and who should wield it.

Apropos of everything just written above, Vice President
Dick Cheney is all over the news today for his novel reordering of constitutional prerogatives.

It’s all a bit Washington inside-y and over the heads of us outside-the-beltway folks, but from what the scribe can discern and translate, there is an entity called the Information Security Oversight Office that keeps tabs on the kind of intelligence people in the executive branch classify and declassify.

It has, apparently, done so since 1995, and even during the first two years of the current thugs’ rule. But in 2003, Cheney decided this protocol did not apply to him because, as the president of the Senate, he is “not a part of the executive branch.”

So what’s that office in the West Wing for? (and can the scribe, also not a member of the executive branch, get one too?)

Cox News Service quotes
Garrett Epps, law professor at the University of Oregon: “The vice president is saying he doesn’t have to follow the orders of the president. That’s a very interesting proposition.”

Not if you’ve been following this administration’s antics from the git-go and it’s not so interesting if you’ve been spied upon by Dr. Death’s shadowy minions.

In the same administrative breathe, Cheney has tried to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office, which is clearly not the provenance of the Senate president, sitting around waiting to break tie votes as he does. It would seem more of an executive decision, since that entity is part of the executive branch, of which the veep claims he is not a part.

So where does he come off trying to abolish an executive agency from the tie-vote-breaker’s seat in the Senate? Who does he work for?

Nobody. Cheney’s everything to everyone, everywhere. He’s found a glitch in the Founding Fathers’ scheme. He’s the most powerful man in the world, responsible only to himself and his unfailing philosopher-king’s wisdom for which we should all be grateful.

Buffalo chips.

Let us close with More from Gore, the most able man in America today:
“This administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

“That is, of course, not true. If our Founders could see the current state of their generation’s handiwork and assess the quality of our generation’s stewardship now, at the beginning of this twenty-first century, I am certain they would be amazed at the claims of the current administration.”


Run Al, run.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Vedette" on Video



(We're running this again, because people can't figure out how to scroll down to find it and they want to)


Last May 14, Omar Torrez joined the highway scribe for a televised recording session at the City of Calabasas library. The production of "Author's Night," hosted by our friend Karyn Foley, featured five pieces from "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows" to Omar's stunning guitar stylings, and two instrumental piece. It came out nicely and you can view it by clicking here. It runs about 40 minutes.

Some People to Remember

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Gold River Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Derek T. Roberts, of Gold River, CA:

"The personal sacrifices made by members of our armed forces to defend our nation epitomize courage and the American spirit. California has suffered a great loss with the death of Sergeant Derek Roberts, and Maria and I humbly pay tribute to the great sacrifice he made for our nation. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Derek."

Roberts, 24, died June 14 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Kirkuk, Iraq. Roberts was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Infantry Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, United States Army, Schofield Barracks, HI.

In honor of Sgt. Roberts, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Wilmington Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Alexandre A. Alexeev, of Wilmington, CA:

"Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Specialist Alexandre Alexeev. He committed himself to protecting the United States, freedom and democracy. We will never forget the sacrifices made by Alexandre and all those serving in uniform. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

Alexeev, 23, died May 28 as a result of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Abu Sayda, Iraq. Alexeev was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, United States Army, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Spc. Alexeev, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Diego Soldier
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Josiah W. Hollopeter, of San Diego , CA :

"Maria and I express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Specialist Josiah Hollopeter. In selfless service to our nation, Josiah courageously undertook his duties and responsibilities. We owe a debt of gratitude to Josiah, his family and all those who have made tremendous sacrifices in the fight for freedom and democracy."

Hollopeter, 27, died June 14 in Balad , Iraq , as a result of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using small arms fire in Al Muqdadiyah, Iraq . Hollopeter was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, United States Army, Fort Hood , TX .

In honor of Spc. Hollopeter, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Lakeside Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Damon G. Legrand of Lakeside , CA :

"Maria and I are saddened to hear about the loss of Specialist Damon Legrand. Damon's death is a painful reminder of the dangers our brave soldiers face in protecting our county and the sacrifices made to ensure our freedom. We extend our condolences to his family and friends in their time of grief."

Legrand, 27, died June 12 in Baqubah , Iraq , as a result of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with anti-tank mines, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire in Baghdad , Iraq . Legrand was assigned to the 571st Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade, United States Army, Fort Lewis , WA .

In honor of Spc. Legrand, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Johnny R. Strong of Waco , TX :

"Maria and I, along with all Californians, are saddened by the loss of Lance Corporal Johnny Strong. His dedication and loyalty to this great country will forever be remembered. Today we honor him for his courageous duty and send our most sincere thoughts and prayers to Johnny's family and friends in Texas ."

Strong, 21, died June 12 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq . Strong was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, United States Marine Corps, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Strong, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Corona Soldier
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Cameron K. Payne of Corona , CA :

"Private First Class Cameron Payne will be remembered for the selfless sacrifice he made on behalf of his fellow Americans. Cameron's courage and profound allegiance to freedom and democracy will not be forgotten. Maria and I send our most sincere condolences to his family and friends."

Payne, 22, died June 11 in Balad , Iraq , as a result of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device that detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad , Iraq . Payne was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Riley , KS .

In honor of Pfc. Payne, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Chula Vista Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Charles E. Wyckoff Jr., of Chula Vista , CA :

"As a member of our armed forces, Sergeant Charles Wyckoff fulfilled a tremendous responsibility to our nation's citizens. His bravery is an example of the determination and courage that makes our nation strong. Maria and I send our heartfelt sympathy and prayers to Charles' family and friends."

Wyckoff , 28, died June 6 as a result of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire in Helmand Province , Afghanistan . Wyckoff was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army, Fort Bragg , N.C.

In honor of Sgt. Wyckoff , Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Hayward Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Andrew J. Higgins, of Hayward , CA :

"Sergeant Andrew Higgins has shown great dedication to his country. His bravery will forever remain an inspiration to all Californians. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to Andrew's family and friends at this difficult time."

Higgins, 28, died June 5 as a result of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire in Baqubah , Iraq . Higgins was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), United States Army, Fort Lewis , WA .

In honor of Sgt. Higgins, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of La Puente Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Justin A. Verdeja, of La Puente , CA :

"Today we mourn the loss of Private First Class Justin Verdeja. His leadership and inspiring dedication is honored and revered. Maria and I want Justin's family and friends to know that Californians are forever indebted to him for giving his life to the cause of liberty."

Verdeja, 20, died June 5 as a result of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using small arms fire in Baghdad , Iraq . Verdeja was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Carson, CO.

In honor of Pfc. Verdeja, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Los Angeles Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Greg P. Gagarin, of Los Angeles , CA :

" California has lost a brave man who risked his life to preserve our country's liberty and freedoms. Staff Sergeant Greg Gagarin served his country with determination and courage. Maria and I send our heartfelt condolences to Greg's family and friends."

Gagarin, 38, died June 3 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Thania , Iraq . Gagarin was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), United States Army, Fort Lewis , WA .

In honor of Staff Sgt. Gagarin, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

the highway scribe "On Bribery"



Back in December, while reading The Economist, the highway scribe ran across the announcement of a $10,000 Essay Contest conducted by the TRACE Institute. TRACE is dedicated to transparency and the elimination of bribery in international, corporate transactions. The essay was to cover the question of, well, bribery and specifically address the four questions in boldfaced print found within the text below. the scribe did not win, although he probably should have. Nonetheless, an "honorable mention" was bestowed upon his work (small consolation) and the essay will appear, at some point, on the organization's Web site along with others mentioned honorably.

Perhaps you will find it interesting.


The Bottom Line and The Commonweal

by the highway scribe

Can Bribes Be Avoided?

“I’m a free citizen,” David Rosen, a former fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), told a badgering federal prosecutor in 2005. “Just because I work on a campaign doesn’t mean somebody can’t loan me a car.”

The car in question was a $90,000 Porsche that had been excluded from Rosen’s accounting of “in-kind” campaign contributions and Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Zeidenberger wanted to know why it was unworthy of reporting to the Federal Elections Commission.

Rosen responded that the Porsche was accepted, “As a gift from a friend.”

And therein lies the rub; before you can avoid a bribe, it must be recognized as such.

Rosen, by the way, was acquitted.

In “Bribes: An Intellectual History of a Moral Idea,” U.S. Appellate Court Justice John T. Noonan traces the pedigree of what he terms “reciprocity” from the earliest days of Mesopotamia, where the custom of bringing “gifts” to curry official favor was universal.

Centuries later, Popes at the Vatican regularly accepted munera in exchange for the cleansing of souls, and proper munificence toward a Catholic crusade bound for the Holy Land could assure a potentate’s place, and that of his family, in heaven, regardless of their earthly transgressions.

All along there were critics, from Cicero and Justinian in the Roman Empire, to medieval Christians Ysidro of Seville and Caterina of Siena, through Dante, Chaucer and The Bard himself, in the world of letters.

But their critique did not so much affect the universal practice that dare not speak its name, rather developed, brick-by-brick an “anti-bribery” ethic rooted more in personal shame than in concrete criminal retribution.

The term “bribery,” as currently understood, found its first expression in the writings of Hugh Latimer and his 16th century contemporaries.

Bribery was identified by name in the United States Constitution, and the first federal law addressing it was enacted in 1789. That legislation made reception of “any bribe, reward or recompense” for altering a customs entry, a crime.

In it, concern for commercial purity prevails over that of the government kind, which would remain the common pattern, at least in Anglo-American culture, into the mid-20th century. The measure recognized how business becomes a potential source of corruption where the state possesses the power to grant privilege.

Notable, too, is the buttressing of “bribe” with “reward or recompense,” just in case it wasn’t clear what was meant, since it rarely has been.

Wrote Noonan, “Need one catalogue the forbearances, the appointments, the promotions, the kindnesses to siblings and in-laws, the sexual favors paid for or voluntarily given, or the business opportunities afforded, which constitute the common coin of reciprocity as much as cash and which, escaping legal condemnation, are morally indistinguishable as returns to officeholders? The perfect impossibility of making any but arbitrary definitions of what is morally acceptable from what is ‘bribery’ is evident.”

In 1975, payments to whet the interest of foreign governments for planes manufactured by Lockheed Corp., became an international cause célèbre and target of the Senate Banking Committee.

Hearings were presided by Sen. William Proxmire. A Democrat from Wisconsin, Proxmire was well known for “The Golden Fleece Award” he meted out to egregious government boondoggles and something of anti-corruption populist.

“You say these bribes paid off to the best of your knowledge? It was money well spent?” Proxmire prodded his quarry, Lockheed Chairman Daniel Haughton.

“I don’t necessarily call these bribes,” responded Haughton.

“Maybe the customer does not feel that way about it. How do you feel about?” the senator pursued.

“Well,” said Haughton, “I feel under the circumstances that it is a cost of winning the competition.”

Haughton’s dodgy sense of the term’s meaning did not save Lockheed from financial penalty nor prevent passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA), which made it a crime to soil foreign officials with payments not concomitant with their position.

Can Extortion Be Resisted?

There exists a common and reasoned argument that bribery is not a question of corrupting a foreign official so much as a matter of being forced to corrupt one – of being extorted – although different cultures and epochs have treated briber and bribee with equal or uneven status, depending.

A. Karl Kotchian was instrumental in the distribution of Lockheed’s largesse to the governments of Japan and South Korea, and later wrote a kiss-and-tell account entitled, Lockheed Sales Mission, in which he explained the rationale that kept him bribing:

“I thought of all the effort expended by thousands of Lockheed men and women since the conception in designing and developing the L-1011 Tri-Star; our superhuman effort to avoid bankruptcy because of our own financial difficulties as well as similar difficulties of the engine maker; the successive defeats in both the KSSU and Atlas competitions in the European theater; I thought of the painful final efforts of the last 70 days; and I thought of being told that ‘If you make this payment, you can surely get the order (of as many as 21 planes).’”

The implication in Justice Noonan’s accounting of pre-FCPA corporate practices is that executives felt bribing was not a matter of choice.

On the eve of South Korea’s first democratic election in 1970, Gulf Oil Company’s vice president of government relations was summoned by the incumbent party’s leader, one S.K. Kim, who solicited $10 million for purposes that remain a secret of his own keeping.

Told the request was “preposterous” Kim responded, “I’m not here to debate matters. You are either going to put up the goddamn money or suffer the consequences.”

Did the Gulf official resist? Sure. After all, $10 million is not an inconsiderable hit to the bottom line, especially in 1970 dollars. Did the extortion prevail? Some of the money was paid.

That was nearly 40 years ago, but last December (2006), The Economist noted in, “Bribe Britannia,” that the British government had brought to “sudden end” an investigation into dealings between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia involving, “the country’s biggest-ever defense contract, the Al-Yamamah deal.”

Specifically, the Serious Fraud Office stopped probing whether the British company had paid bribes to Saudi Arabian officials in exchange for a contract to develop, supply, and train the country’s air force.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, hinted the move was meant to protect Saudi officials and relations with that country, “but suspicions linger,” the article inferred, “that an equal motive was protecting thousands of British jobs,” which is to say it takes two to complete a bribe and, once done, there’s corruption aplenty to go around.

Indeed, bribery cuts two ways; demeaning briber and bribee alike, endowing financial benefits upon the taker, while removing their purposeful obstruction to the benefit of the giver, who has much bigger fish to fry.

Once the bulwarks of fairness are breached, notions of good and bad are left to float in the light ether of moral discourse.

The surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel was no corporate honcho, but he was subject to the laws of the marketplace and made thirty-two films of the most unorthodox kind because they continually got producers a return on their investment.

A self-proclaimed anarchist, Buñuel was exiled to Mexico after his side lost the Spanish Civil War. Trying to escape one dictator in Francisco Franco, he found little variation in his adopted homeland where he observed the democratically elected president to be nothing short of “omnipotent.”

In his 1983 memoir, My Last Sigh, the director observed that, “The consequences of this enormous power, or ‘democratic dictatorship,’ are alleviated, however, when we add a certain amount of corruption to the system. The mordida, or bribe, is often the key to Mexican life. It’s carried on at all levels and in all places; everyone knows about it and accepts it, since everyone is either a victim or beneficiary.”

Ever attuned to life’s contradictions -- a keystone to his art -- Buñuel refused to make peace with the mordida, noting that, “Without this corruption, of course, the Mexican constitution, which on paper is one of the most enlightened in the world, would make the country the exemplary democracy in Latin America.”

Bribery is not for high-minded moralists, those who grow queasy when things get sleazy. It is for the hard-boiled realist whose acceptance of the practice is accompanied by the shrug and worldly rationalization.

The American muckraking journalist, Lincoln Steffens, traveled early 20th century urban America uncovering corrupt municipal practices and concluding, “That is the way it is done.”

He told a Los Angeles audience, “You cannot build or operate a railway, gas, water, or power company, develop and operate a mine, or get forests and cut timber on a large scale, or run any privileged business, without corrupting or joining in the corruption of the government.”

Eventually, this greatest of moral crusaders either soured or mellowed enough to declare that, “political business corruption is a natural, well-nigh universal process of change.”

James Wilson, a one-time professor of government at Harvard, opined in the early 1970s that moral questions often get in the way of practical issues, “even when the moral question is a relatively small one and the practical matter is very great.”

Americans he suggested, were “puritanical” in their elevation of the minor morality over the greater practicality.

Wilson might have added the qualifier, “sometimes,” to the analysis.

In The Gilded Age, his satirical turn on post-Civil War corruption in Washington D.C., Mark Twain had Colonel Beriah Sellers remark, “And yet when you come to look at it you cannot deny that we would have to go without the services of some of our ablest men, sir, if the country were opposed to, to, bribery. It is a harsh term. I do not like to use it.”

Save for the occasional and crusading journalist or reformer, neither does anybody else who resorts to the practice.

Bribery is mostly the provenance of society’s mid-to-high echelons. A business cannot gain official favor, or much else, from the poor.

Given the rank and station of its practitioners, at least up until the Watergate era, the anti-bribery ethic in Anglo-American culture rarely yielded more than a measure of shame, stained reputation, and expulsion from the halls of power.

Said Colonel Sellers of legislative inquiries into bribery: “They just say ‘Charge not proven.’ It leaves the accused in a kind of shaky condition before the country, it purifies Congress, it satisfies everybody, and it doesn’t seriously hurt anybody.”

Over the first 140 years of American history, neither president, vice president, cabinet member, or federal judge were criminally convicted as bribetakers.

But to borrow from playwright George Bernard Shaw, it is not ours to see things as they are and ask why, but to dream things that never were and ask, “Why not a business world without bribery?”

Do Businessman Try?

“Businessman” is a broad category encompassing just about anyone who plies a trade in the private sector.

“Businessman” applies to the gray-haired (to borrow from C. Wright Mills), “broad-gauged” oil executive, and snake oil salesman (Beriah Sellers’ Infallible Imperial Oriental Optic Liniment and Salvation for Sore Eyes), alike.

As such they “try” different things. Some try to engender well-run and transparent organizations. Costing a contract or two, it nonetheless keeps them from running afoul of the federal government; the maws of which it is tough to extricate a company from once ensnared.

And, if they’re upstanding conscientious sorts, it helps them sleep well at night and look loved ones in the eye with serenity.

Others try to work within the preexisting framework and conform to what Steffens referred to as, “the way things are done.”

All are concerned with the bottom line and the bribe is more often than not considered a cost of doing business, whether it is for Mafia “protection” in the case of a northern New Jersey pizzeria or payments to a South Korean party hack’s campaign slush fund.

They may view the extorting bribee as a despicable creature taking bread from the mouths of babes under their charge, but history demonstrates no shortage of merchants, large and small, willing to pay and go about, well...their business.

The merchant is less likely to be a reformer of corruption than the local pastor, the underpaid reporter, or self-envisioning alderman with pretensions of leading his district to the promised land.

Reformers must be paid for their grueling and sometimes perilous efforts at bringing the corrupt to heel, or feed off the mystical food of missionary zeal. The individual businessperson is likely to be distracted by more mundane considerations.

The concern of businessmen, or lack thereof, is inconsequential because, throughout all of history and every culture, the bribee awaits with itchy palms.

Do Companies Care?

The role of good corporate citizen is a well-defined one. Transgressions of the law and moral order, such as it is, are bad for business. There are companies that strive for a prominent position in the community, and still others with considerable philanthropic input.

Larger corporations maintain running relationships with regulators of all stripes: environmental, financial, work safety professionals often access a revolving door that drops them now at the steps of government, next at the corporate trough.

When Gulf Oil Company found its political contributions “fund” in the cross-hairs of Watergate prosecutors it was the founding Mellon family of Pittsburgh, Penn., that became indignant at the sullying of their name.

In response, an internal review committee was created to sift through the operations and actions of Claude C. Wild, head of the “Government Relations Office” under scrutiny.

Wild was a well-known source of political contributions and the Gulf auditors wondered how it was that top executives never inquired as to where the money came from. They concluded that Chief Executive Officer Robert Dorsey, “perhaps chose to shut his eyes to what was going on.”

Wild himself told the committee, “It was one of those things, I guess, that they – nobody wants to talk about but everybody realizes may be going on.”

Dorsey said he did not inform company directors of the payments because he found the topic “rather delicate,” adding that revelation would have been “embarrassing.”

The committee’s recommendations focused on making the professional class in Gulf’s employ responsible for eliminating off-the-books accounts, enhancing internal audits, and burdening in-house counsel with acting as the company’s legal conscience.

The harried small businessman can either pay up, move on, or divide precious resources between the bottom line and the commonweal.

The corporation, however, can dedicate resources to cultivating a class of employees that serve as a check on the more ambitious natures of those doing the buying and selling; to consider worldly concerns beyond profit and stockholder satisfaction.

With all its ambiguity, shadowy presence, and ancient persistence, a good businessman should know a bribe when asked for one.

And if he doesn’t, or chooses not to, somebody else in a good company is paid to do the job of reminding him.


ENDNOTES

1. Stephen Siciliano, “Defense Rests in Trial of Rosen, Former Fund-Raiser For Sen. Clinton,” Money and Politics Report, May 27, 2005, p. 1.

2. John T. Noonan, Jr., Bribes: The Intellectual History of Moral Idea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. 689.

3. Noonan, p. 658.

4. Noonan, p. 761.

5. Noonan, p. 638.

6. “Bribe Britannia,” The Economist, 23 Dec. 2006, pp. 83-84.

7. Luis Buñuel, My Last Sigh, (New York: Vintage Books, 1983), p 212.

8. Noonan, p. 534.

9. Noonan, p. 534.

10. Noonan, p. 547.

11. Noonan. p. 503.

12. Mark Twain, The Family Mark Twain, (New York: Dorset Press, 1988), p. 1311.

13. Noonan, p. 575.

14. Noonan, p. 635.

15. Noonan, p. 635.

16. Noonan. p. 638.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reporters and Terrorists


“We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.”
Edward R. Murrow


Never relax, never feel free. There is terror in your midst...forever.

The “San Francisco Chronicle” reported last Friday that Republicans were hampering efforts at legislating a “shield” to protect reporters from demands that they reveal their sources, because such a right would be EXPLOITED BY TERRORISTS!

Which begs the question: Aren’t all our rights exploited by terrorists to some degree? Which, in turn, begs another question: Does that mean we should do away with all our rights?

According to the article, someone named Rachael Brand from attorney general Gonzo Gonzales’ “office of legal policy” (Bushies offer the other kind, too) told the House Judiciary Committee it opposed a reporters’ shield because “terrorists might post documents or video on Web sites, then invoke the new protections for journalists in an effort to thwart prosecutors.”

Of course, that would involve a scenario where “suspected terrorists” and declared “enemy combatants” were actually given hearings instead of being locked up offshore at Camp Gitmo or one of the other secret prisons established in foreign countries for the same purpose.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called Brand’s assertions, “Absurd,” which is the proper response and one reason why Democrats were put back in control of the legislature last November.

Another was to stop the war, but we won’t get into that right now.

“Ever since 9/11, they [the Republicans] have used the incident to take things away from us,” Conyers said at the June 14 hearing. “We’re supposed to be afraid of terrorists. I mean who would believe that Hamas would be allowed in federal court to claim that they had the use of the shield to protect them?”

The Bush administration, that’s who.

Conyers, whom most people have never heard of, is not alone in these sentiments, enjoying concurrence from Al Gore, whom just about everybody in the world has heard of.

In his latest treatise, “The Assault On Reason,” Gore accused the administration of, “using the war against terrorism for partisan advantage and introducing far-reaching changes in social policy in order to consolidate its political power.”

The “changes in social policy” would appear to include this assault on the press. Which begs a third question: Does anybody expect the president to sign reporters’ shield legislation?

The consolidation of political power comes from the fact scaring people worked well politically, at least until 2006.

Gore noted in a chapter entitled “The Politics of Fear” that [in 2002], “the president went to war verbally against terrorists in virtually every campaign speech and fund-raising dinner for his political party. It was his main political theme. Democratic candidates like Senator Max Cleland in Georgia, a triple-amputee Vietnam vet, were labeled unpatriotic for voting counter to the White House’s wishes on obscure amendments to the homeland security bill.”

Whether they can ride another wave of fear to victory in 2008 remains to be seen.

“Washington Post” columnist E.J. Dionne, for one, is not so sure.

In a piece published the same day as the “Chronicle” article, he rendered a GOP apparatus lacking purpose and identity: “This could be the new Republican Party in the making: a disappointed, dissatisfied and inward-looking coalition that abandons Reagan’s hopefulness and tries to hang on by playing on fears of terrorism and anger about immigration.”

the highway scribe has more than a sneaking suspicion that, rather than terrorists or the immigrants it asserts represent a national security threat, what the Bush administration really fears is a leak to reporters of some new and hidden travesty cooked up by its terror warriors, that not only violates all notions of common decency, but the U.S. Constitution as well.

That’s how we found out about the secret prisons and the National Security Agency’s illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

When that happened, the administration started looking into ways they might screw reporters who fielded and amplified such leaks; reporters they despise only slightly less than the leakers themselves.

Even the dean of conservative hacks, William Safire, is appalled, having told the committee, (again according to the article), that “the Justice Department, federal prosecutors and judges were coercing journalists to reveal their sources -- with subpoenas, fines and the threat of jail time - at an unprecedented rate.”

Said Safire (and quoting him does not come easy): “The movement to force journalists to reveal their sources is an attempt to turn the press into an arm of the law. Believe me, when a journalist is threatened with jail, he or she feels a coercive chill.”

Overcoats all around, ladies and gentleman.

"Vedette Does La Danza" On Video






Last May 14, Omar Torrez joined the highway scribe for a televised recording session at the City of Calabasas library. The production of "Author's Night," hosted by our friend Karyn Foley, featured five pieces from "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows" to Omar's stunning guitar stylings, and two instrumental piece. It came out nicely and you can view it by clicking here. It runs about 40 minutes.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Film Nerd: "Bobby"


Emilio Estevez, the guy who made a movie with his brother Chuck called “Men at Work” about two fellows in what Tony Soprano would call the “waste disposal business” has directed a film about Robert Kennedy called “Bobby.”

But really, and all kidding aside, he’s done a very nice job. We don’t do box office here at highwayscribery and don’t care how much money “Bobby” made, glad enough the project could draw the Bill Macys and Sharon Stones and Harry Belafontes of this world.

A little umph helps in getting the word out about a fading personality like Bobby Kennedy.

highwayscribery just re-ran its post reserved for anniversaries of his death, this the 39th, just a few days ago on June 5.

You might say our partiality, passion really, for this man and what he stood for naturally lends itself to a positive reception, and you might be wrong. Such things can cut both ways when a topic or historical personality becomes one’s private property, part of an personal pantheon of heroes. If it goes against the grain of our preconceived and comfortable understanding of things there can be hell to pay.

Estevez opted for the creation of an ensemble piece, following a collection of characters gathered at the now disappeared Ambassador Hotel on the eve of Kennedy’s greatest political triumph - a 1968 Democratic primary victory in California - and the last, worst day of his invaluable life.

The closing credits claim these folks are loosely based on stories of actual people present on that fateful day. That’s fine. Plato reminds us that poets are liars and the scribe has lied plenty to make a good story better.

There are a few too many vectors to track so that things get kind of message-y and on-point since there’s little time for leisurely character development. Some you never get around to caring about like Emilio’s dad, Martin Sheen, and his relationship with a much younger Helen Hunt.

Even by Hollywood standards, the age difference is a little hard to buy. The scribe once had a romantic relationship with someone 15 years his junior, but that was in the flaming blossom of his manhood and DO YOU CARE?

But the business of the Mexican busboys, missing Don Drysdale’s shutout-record game-night because Kennedy’s in town and all hands are needed on board, works well. Truth be told, the scribe has never been able to tell who is really a good actor from a semi-good one, but the guys handling these parts seem to do just fine.

Since you’re asking, the scribe’s measure of good acting is if you forget who you’re watching and by that standard Sharon Stone absolutely steals the show with her racoon-eyed makeup and sunken face of devastation at the news her husband Bill Macy is cheating on her.

Demi Moore’s good, but “drunk-nasty-smoking” is not exactly a stretch for Hollywood types. Ashton Kutcher’s drug-dealing hippy seemed a bit canned, but certainly not grating. Heather Graham isn’t given enough room to do much good, but she can’t do much bad in the scribe’s eyes.

Anthony Hopkins is great in a single moment. A jaded old hotel hand who has seen them come and go, his face literally raises off its jowls in tempered joy at a simple brush with the senator and candidate as he rushes through the door. As a hyphenate, actor-director, Estevez is primed to capture this moment well.

Emilio is sympathetic, too, as the bruised husband (wife?) of the scowling Moore character. The two young guys playing the Kennedy volunteers who skip the final day of campaigning and drop acid with Kutchner are not as classically good as Stone, but are dead-on fantastic in the portrayal of loopy trippers throwing a television out the window and just nailing it with their tennis court hijinks. Great stuff.

The acid trip is something of a Hollywood institution, of course. The first one that comes to mind is that in “Easy Rider” when the boys dance with their N’awleans tarts through the cemetery; Peter Fonda kissing the face of a statue. There may have been others prior, but that’s the standard-setter.

They typically work on the usage of distorted cameras lens, colored filters, wacky angles, creepy extended voice tracks. In “Believe in Eve,” a feature-length film scripted by the scribe, director Javier Gomez Serrano put the mushroom-addled Juan Roman in an Orange County corporate park designed by a famous Japanese guy (Noguchi Plaza?) and successfully conjured a desertscape peopled with haunting images not technically toyed with, rather effectively placed in incongruous surroundings and set to acting in unfamiliar temporal sequences.

The one in “Bobby” is an excellent edition to the mini-genre. It’s most enduring image is that encountered by the trippers as they open the hotel door and are bombarded with images of planes dropping bombs and strafing Vietnamese villages.

Visually exciting as druggy juxtaposition, it is effective as narrative by getting at the root of what was bothering that generation and what drove them to drugs (in many instances).

A few years ago an excellent documentary on The Weathermen was released and it too drives home the obsession young people of that time had for Viet Nam, the horror it stirred up in them.

In the end, “Bobby” is a bummer and that’s not the fault of Estevez so much as that of Sirhan Sirhan, who robbed us of so much.

The final scene, by obligation, is of the shooting and its wrenching aftermath. A number of the film's characters are caught in the crossfire. We watch their stunned expressions and feel the pain in their perforated guts as Estevez cuts in pace to the pandemonium surrounding.

Of course, the most arresting parts of the film involve the footage of Bobby himself, the pure intelligence with which he spoke. The comparison alongside today’s canned pols is more than a little depressing...it’s devastating.

As they pull Kennedy toward the ambulance and his long night of darkness, the director cuts back and forth between his ensemble, and subtly spliced real footage, to the soundtrack of Bobby’s speech following Martin Luther King’s murder.

Was Kennedy a dark prophet? Were those times merely as cynical as these? Or has his relevance merely increased since his death?

You decide:

"This is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America, which again stains our land and everyone of our lives. It is not the concern of any one race, the victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old. Famous and unknown they are, most important of all, human beings who other human beings loved and needed. No one, no matter where he lives or what he does can be certain who next will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours. Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily; whether it is done in the name of the law, or in defiance of the law, by one man or by a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence... whenever we tear at the fabric of our lives which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, whenever we do this then the whole nation is degraded. Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force, too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings. But this much is clear, violence breeds violence, repression breeds retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls. When you teach a man to hate and to fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs, or the policies that he pursues, when we teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your home or your family than you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens, but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation, but with conquest, to be subjugated and to be mastered. We learn at the last to look at our brothers as aliens, alien men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in commonwealth, but not in a common effort, we learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. Our lives on this planet our too short, the work to be done is too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in this land of ours. Of course we cannot banish it with a program nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers. That they share with us the same short moment of life, that they seek as do we nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness; winning what satisfaction and fulfillment that they can. Surely this bond of common fate, surely this bond of common goals can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn at the least to look around at those of us, of our fellow man, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sammy Beneath the Freeway (a short story)


This story was published 20 years ago in a nationally distributed magazine called “L.A. Style.” Yesterday, a person from the scribe’s real job asked if he was the same person who conjured it. They explained that while in a writers' workshop in Wisconsin (!) somebody brought the piece in. That’s kind of amazing when you’re a writer hardly anybody (okay nobody) has ever heard of. the scribe read through the work, found it to be holding up rather well, and decided to post it. “Sammy” was an early, youthful and accidental triumph; a piece gone over again and again. And it is worth noting that as it was typed in tonight, the words flowed almost automatically, like water returning to a dry bed that once guided it to sea. The photo, which originally ran with the story, is by Merrick Morton

SAMMY BENEATH THE FREEWAY

AND ON SUMMER EVENINGS, the kind where the sun beats on your head while you walk the streets all day and then - wham! - it’s gone and suddenly cold the way it always gets in the desert city-by-the-sea, Sammy would lock the whole world out of his room in the big house beneath the freeway to be alone with the maddest passion in the barrio - Elena Gutierrez - while cars whooshed by above their lonesome loving heads. He helps her shed her clothes: classics. And I love you and I love you and I love you. And he feels here warm Summer breath against his chest of tattoos and gold chains. And the window is raised halfway, and sirens and endless moaning buses make noise all around them - as they embrace, skin dancing on skin, engendering gentle shudders and a parade of exquisite passions. And the clock stands still, breathless, and the city waits, breathless, outside his window for Elena to embrace them, too.

Abuelita

Abuelita once banged hard against his door with a heavy shoe - and him with Elena Gutierrez in there! She demanded that Sammy open the door in a way that said she meant what she said, and Sammy said, “Shhhhhhh.” He told Elena, “Be quiet and just act like you’re not here.” She told him, “I’m not and never have been. You’re such a dreamer Sammy.” They just looked at each other for ten seconds, neither saying anything and neither really understanding what it meant except that it couldn’t be good. Downstairs in the kitchen, Abuelita - little grandmother - waited so that she might have a word with Sammy about women and lust and this being a good Catholiic house. But she never had a chance to open her mouth because down came Sammy half hysterical at his unspent passion. Ranting and raving and finally growing sad, almost crying, looking out the kitchen window. “Goddamn it - what are we going to do about this arbol triste, this sad palm tree crying all over our front walk!” She snapped at him forgetting herself. “Sammy, don’t you dare take the Lord’s name in vain.”

She pleaded urgently: “Sammy, I don’t understand your modern world, your electric everything. I don’t understand your language. I don’t understand at all where you are coming from or rushing to. Good God, Sammy, isn’t there anything I can do to help you?”

Then she would get up slowly and place a dark veil over her face and leave to meet with gray ladies like herself at la misa where they would kneel and say prayers and sing sad psalms for el savior, the salvador.

He’d argue with Abuelita whenever he was around her. There was not one iota of respect for what the other generation thought or learned on either side, and she spit gray language at him and stared him down with gray eyes beneath gray brows. Just gray gray gray, that’s what he thought of when he thought of her, and it was too bad because she really loved him. She’d grow concerned and tell him of a time when the world was not so shamelessly mad and go on and on about education and jobs and how in the days of the Kennedys - and he would say, “To hell with the Kennedys. Nothing’s changed. Nothing.”

When Sammy finally got a job at the Davis Pleating Company for el minimo wage he almost immediately got involved with Jaime Torres and his rag-tag union of garment workers. Abuelita tried to warn him, to stay working, to stay away from that union - it was no good, Sara Martinez said it was ridden with Sandinistas and terrorists.

But when that son-of-a-bitch called the migra to clear out the organizers because they were all illegals anyway, they called a strike and they struck and struck and struck for months on end, sabotaging the factory and chanting UNION! UNION! UNION! at the lunch hour. Finally the company went broke and Abuelita said, “See now? What the hell good is a union without a plant in which to earn money?”

“If they start it, we can finish it,” was all he could say with his catkid kind of smile. “If they start it we can finish it.”

After Sammy shot the guy from Whittier dead because it’s an eye for an eye in this life, he said without blinking that he had not seen the face of the vato he had shot at the back of his poor stupid head. He just went with a feeling inside that told him it was the guy that shot his cholo long long before, and then he went to church to pray because Sammy believed in God when he was afraid or when he was sure he was gonna die.

Abuelita prayed for days when she heard, in church no less, that Sammy had killed another man, and she scolded him for days and stopped cooking caldo for days and decided that it was this goddamn barrio that had taught him to do these things, and he told her, “the barrio is just fine Abuelita. What about out there in Chino where they killed that whole entire family and chopped them up with axes and slit that little boy’s throat leaving him for dead? In Chino, Abuelita. In Chino.”

It had nothing to do with age, really. His street friends and cholos didn’t understand him any better, and he would be walking on the streets with them and the sun would be shining - but with the brightness filtered out by the filth in the air - and he would say, “What kind of fatal sunshine is this?” And shake his head, and they would spit on the ground and look at each other through squinty eyes, and nobody knew what the hell he was talking about.

It was orange and purple and beautiful, just like it had always been.

He looked at them poor stupid fools, all his beloved homeboys, and wondered, “How could it be that all these young cholos, the first Californians, be nothing but dirt in their own tierra of Aztlan, and what a bunch of losers we all are to never be the masters of our own destiny, to be condemned to eternal night-and-day passage of cars on the freeway above our heads and, after all, was this fair?”

Still, he was the happiest sad person that the wide streets of the town had ever seen, and before heading out on one of his endless boulevard nights, he would grab a handful of change from Abuelita’s silver cup for the gray-bearded bums and boys he would meet in doorways and alleyways of Streetworld, Eastside, L.A.

Puta

One chemical twilight along the Broadway, he fell head over for a perfect puta pushing herself on whomever. Sammy watched her sweet face and he wondered aloud, “My God, I would do you for love, poor puta. How can you do it with anyone and just for money?” And she told him straight away, without breaking stride or even stopping to look at him, “I can’t eat love, vato.”

He watched her roll past him down the street until she had gotten almost too far to hear him before shouting, “Go ahead, woman, and find your many sugar daddies and do what you must to survive in this terrible gringolandia. I’m sorry for bringing up love in this hopeless place. I’m sorry. I...am...sorry.”

Portia...

Late late at night, Sammy drank coffee and smoked mota and listened to the radio for this girl deejay on some forgotten fading-in-and-out station named Portia with a voice as smooth as streetsmack or midnight crack. He would listen for a while and then call in requesting this rap and that jam, and finally he began talking to her, holding full-blown conversations with her for extended periods of time, and everybody listening in. And, in doing so, he became a latenight legend - a sort of street prince. Really. Everyone knew this kid Sammy.

...And What He Told Her

He told Portia that all musical history, as far as he knew, was “nothing but white people and Rolling Stones ripping off what the blacks had thought up all on their own and turning it to money.” Now, there was no great love for the blacks, as between us we had what was left of the rest, but we were all niggers somehow, and the whole barrio nodded in solemn agreement in the earliest hours of the so cool cool California morning.

He told Portia about his fantasy girl, a white girl, the kind with taught face pulled down over high cheek bones. The kind in perfume commercials with sullen gray eyes and a cotton dress draped over a skinny skinny body.

He told Portia about his fantasy house. It only had to be a simple place where grayness could filter its somber way through a window of countless hanging green plants. It needed wooden floors and two pillows for each of their lonesome loving heads and maybe soft piano music that would echo up and down the wooden corridors of the simple city home of him and his gray girl in the cotton dress, and was that asking too much?

“It is from me,” Portia told him and giggled sexy, ruining the whole thing saying, “I’m a deejay and must avoid things gray at all costs. It’s a matter of professional necessity, Mr. Sammy Streetprince.”

He told Portia that he wanted to travel and see and meet and tell people that he was from a city where the poor begged the poor for money with little styrofoam cups. A city where deer walked in the gardens of castles in the hills and looked over an immense carpet of ribbons of white light that crisscrossed and endless valley, where dark silhouettes of Mexican palm trees popped up haphazardly like exploding fireworks of shadows and dark velvet.

A city where coyotes came down one cool evening and killed Abuelita’s rooster chained to a tree in the backyard.

“Some inner city,” he wondered over the airwaves. “Some inner city,” he said.

What She Told Him Then

“Quiet now, Sammy, my thunderbird prince so that I can play this cryin’ baby bluestime record for all those people who have forfeited the gift of sleep forever. Good night.” That’s what she told him.

The Cocoa Girl and Her East L.A. Blues...

One Sunday, after watching the Raiders and finishing up his carne de res, Sammy wore black gloves and rode his huffy bike up and down the street poppin’ wheelies for the rucas and firme baby dolls waiting on the corner - always on the corner.

“Que-vo-let Sammy!” they shouted at him, “You probably thinking you a kind of bad dude or sumthin’.” They were all there - Lil Payasa de Los Angeles, La Giggles (the one with the gun) and La Bambie de East Dallas - all watching and acting as if they thought Sammy was some kind of fool.

Sammy rode over to the teen angels like he was the baddest vato in the whole of Aztlan, checkin’ El Chivo’s chola and sizing up that new one, that sweet lil’ sad girl. “Oh!” under his breath, “La Bambie de E. Dallas! Soy tuya mi amor.”

She was a small girl with a kind of cocoa complexion and blue eyes by God knows who, and she left with Sammy, and the rucas began talking as soon as they were out of earshot. “Wait ’til La Crazy Loca hears about this,” Chata Galava did say. “Wait until she hears.”

Sammy walked and talked love with Bambie and he told her like he told them all that she was the most beautiful chola in all of Califas and that now he was la chola’s vato - her vato.

Then they drifted across town. Walking and taking the bus, walking and taking the bus, because nobody gets anywhere in this town without wheels. So much so, Sammy told the new girl, that the first thing he taught a new brother fresh from the rainforests of revolution to the south was how to say, “Five bucks gas please.”

“How else could they survive, Bambie? How else?”

Finally he made love to her gently, like with Elena, up on the two hundred steps of Micheltorena while the greasy smell of carne asada drifted up from Zamora Bros. carniceria way down below, and Sammy seductively securing her delicate heart, barrio blossom baby, for his growing garden of love. She flipped for him. Just flipped.

The next Saturday, when Sammy finished his carne de res, he wore black gloves and rode past all the firme baby dolls on the corner. They were always on the corner.

Bambie glowed in anticipation and licked tamarindo from her icy little fingers. She waited patiently. After all, he was her vato, and all that stuff with La Giggles was just Sammy playin’ - wasn’t it?

But Sammy did not come around to her and instead left with another ruca, telling her that she was the most beautiful baby in all of Califas, whispering the same steamy “soy tuya mi amor.”

...And What She Wrote Sammy

La Bambie de E. Dallas wrote a dedication beneath the crying palm tree on the sidewalk in front of the big house beneath the freeway named for another goddamned Spanish priest.

to Sammy from little ruca sadgirl
the one who really love you
lo mucho que te quiero/my room
is lonely without you...
let’s get it on

But these words were wasted ones, and soon the heart was broken forever, and the girl from East Dallas joined the thousands of others like her - the suffering madonnas de nuestra señora la reina de los angeles: riding the bus, toting children, never shaving their legs (letting the hair grow long on them) and working in la fabrica o la tienda.

What the Operadoras Said

Feeling for La Bambie and the hurt she carried forever inside, Abuelita warned Sammy that things go around and around in the timeless barrio. Sammy laughed at her for hours on the front step, just laughed and laughed - because he didn’t really have much to do or anywhere else to go anyway.

And soon after...he had his heart broken, too. Poor Bambie had heard the operadoras and sweatshop seamstresses saying that it had been the doing of La Crazy Loca from the 18th Street Gang. She’d heard them laugh, satisfied. She’d heard them say, “So he’s finally stopped playing reggae.” That his silly revolution had finally faded away.

She’d heard them say that Sammy had joined all the men in the doorways of downtown. The men with the enormous stomachs and sad eyes who stood growing old nursing countless Coronas, bottomless-bottles-of-beer men who watched the broken hearts in the buses go by.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bobby Kennedy - On the 39th Anniversary of His Death



(Reprinted from last year)

Tonight the scribe takes special pleasure in updating this Web log, for the subject is the memory of the late Bobby Kennedy. June 5th was the 37th anniversary of his assassination in Los Angeles.

the scribe thought it was today, and it is a reflection of our rightward drift and division that so little, if anything, was written on Sunday about this man whom, whatever his political inclinations, gave his life to the country.

In any case, we’ll do this a few days late; the sentiment is no less deep or profound.

Once a guy is dead and not around to defend his own name the enemy tends to do a dance all over their reputation. The Kennedys, Jack and Bobby, were by virtue of their murders raised to the level of saints. In reality they were politicians with all that implies and which left them open for some pretty vicious hits post mortem.

And furthermore, the scribe doesn’t go in much for family dynasties, which by their very nature are anti-democratic. You only need to look at what’s going on now to get an idea.

Nonetheless, the scribe lives his life in the belief that Senator Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign represented the high point of the American experience and that his murder marked the beginning of our decline as a special and enlightened nation which, through its ideas and not its armies, led a democratic revolution around the world.

To go back and listen to Bobby’s speeches from that terrible and tremendous time is to wonder what country they might have been delivered in, because it’s not the America any of us are experiencing. He and his brother the President were the closest thing to social democrats the post-war United States ever produced and both were shot like dogs for their efforts.

His own presidential candidacy featured a discussion about inequality and poverty never, ever repeated in American politics. He took the anti-war movement mainstream and gave it a head of steam and respectability it did not lose until they had killed him.

If you ever get frustrated at Democratic presidential candidates and wonder why it is so goddamn hard for them to just come out against a war they know is wrong, remember what happened to the last guy who tried it.

As they say in Spain, “Haz bien, trae mal” or “Do good, bring bad.”

That he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan is a certainty. That more bullets than the eight Sirhan’s gun could hold were found is also a certainty. That the doorway beam from which two bullets were pried was inexplicably burned by the Los Angeles Police Department is also a known fact. The rest can be left to those with the time to sort out conspiracies; for us it serves as a stark reminder of how the American right wing plays for keeps.

They talk a lot about the bankruptcy of American liberalism, the loss of direction and lack of ideas. They never wonder what the murders of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr., meant in that regard. They were young men, standard-bearers of the left with many years of fight, maturity and leadership still ahead when they were struck down. And they could not be replaced.

We should remember that.

The recently departed Hunter S. Thompson wrote about Kennedy in his classic “Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail ‘72”. He was addressing the McGovern campaign’s idea of using Bobby’s voice on commercial spots:

“In purely pragmatic terms, the Kennedy voice tapes will probably be effective in this dreary campaign; and in the end we might all agree that it was Right and Wise to use them...but in the meantime there will be a few bad losers here and there, like me, who feel a very powerful sense of loss and depression every time we hear that voice – that speedy, nasal Irish twang that mailed the ear like a shot of ‘Let It Bleed’ suddenly cutting through the doldrums of a dull Sunday morning on a plastic FM station.

There is a strange psychic connection between Bobby Kennedy’s voice and the sound of the Rolling Stones. They were part of the same trip, that wild sense of breakthrough in the late Sixties when almost anything seemed possible.

The whole era peaked on March 31, 1968 when LBJ went on national TV to announce that he wouldn’t run for re-election – that everything he stood for was fucked, and by quitting he made himself the symbolic ex-champ of the Old Order.

It was like driving an evil King off the throne. Nobody knew exactly what would come next, but we all understood that whatever happened would somehow be the product of the ‘New Consciousness.’ By May it was clear that the next President would be either Gene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy and that the War would be over by Christmas...”


the scribe lived that connection before ever reading the passage. The Stones marked the boundaries of his lifestyle as a young rake, Bobby his political activism as a reformed one.

As a reporter with the “Los Angeles Business Journal” the scribe had to do a story about the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was slain. He asked to be taken into the infamous “pantry” where the nefarious act went down. He didn’t stay long.

In 1966, Kennedy gave perhaps his most famous speech to an arena filled with young people in Cape Town, South Africa.

We close tonight with an excerpt from the same:

“[T]he belief there is nothing one man or woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence...Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

“It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Let it bleed indeed.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Many Dead


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Diego Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Gregory N. Millard of San Diego , CA :

"Losing a member of our nation's armed forces weighs heavily on the hearts of all Californians. Specialist Gregory Millard's death is a sobering reminder of the human price we pay for our freedom. Maria and I honor Gregory, his family and friends, and offer our condolences for their loss."

Millard, 22, died May 26 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Salah Ad Din province, Iraq . Millard was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg , NC .

In honor of Spc. Millard, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Carson Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Daniel P. Cagle, of Carson , CA :

"Maria and I extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Private First Class Daniel Cagle. With pride and honor, Daniel risked his life to protect fellow citizens. Daniel's sacrifice for this country and our freedoms deserves our utmost respect and gratitude."

Cagle, 22, died May 23 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit in Balad , Iraq . Cagle was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart , GA.

In honor of Pfc. Cagle, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Glendora Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Thomas M. McFall, of Glendora , CA :

"Maria and I, along with all Californians, mourn the loss of Staff Sergeant Thomas McFall. His death is a reminder of the dangers inherent in protecting this country, and his service will not be forgotten. Our sincerest condolences go out to Thomas' family and friends."

McFall, 36, died May 28 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol in Baghdad , Iraq . McFall was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis , WA .

In honor of Staff Sgt. McFall, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Moreno Valley Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Clayton G. Dunn II, of Moreno Valley , CA :

"Sergeant Clayton Dunn's death is a loss to all Californians. Clayton risked his life in order to safeguard the lives of all Americans. Maria and I offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends."

Dunn, 22, died May 26 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Salah Ad Din province, Iraq . Dunn was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg , NC .

In honor of Sgt. Dunn, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Villarreal, of Eagle Pass , TX :

"Lance Corporal Emmanuel Villarreal's loyalty to his country is deeply appreciated. His courage and brave commitment to civic duty has protected the lives of his fellow Americans. Maria and I, along with all Californians, send our thoughts and prayers to Emmanuel's family and friends."

Villarreal, 21, died May 27 from a non-hostile vehicle accident at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait . Villarreal was assigned to the Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton , CA .

In honor of Lance Cpl. Villarreal, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Stockton Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Mark R. C. Caguioa of Stockton , CA :

"The death of Specialist Mark Caguioa is a tragedy, but he leaves a legacy of honor for his family, friends and all Californians. Maria and I thank Mark for his dedication and love for his country. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this time of grief."

Caguioa, 21, died May 24 as a result of wounds suffered when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device in Baghdad , Iraq . Caguioa was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood , TX .

In honor of Spc. Mark R. C. Caguioa, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Nicholas R. Walsh of Millstadt , Ill :

"It is with great admiration that Maria and I offer our condolences to the family and friends of Sergeant Nicholas Walsh. As a member of our armed forces, he fulfilled a tremendous responsibility to our nation's citizens. Today we honor Nicholas who gave his life in the service of his country and freedom."

Walsh, 27, died May 26 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq . Walsh was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton , CA .

In honor of Sgt. Walsh, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Hanford Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Victor H. Toledo Pulido, of Hanford , CA :

"This past Memorial Day we were all reminded that there is no higher calling than to fight for one's country in the battle for freedom. Maria and I, along with all Californians, mourn the loss of Corporal Victor Toledo Pulido and thank him for his bravery and love for his country. We will continue to pray for Victor's family and friends."

Toledo Pulido, 22, died May 23 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Nahrawan , Iraq . Toledo Pulido was assigned to 3d Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Benning , GA.

In honor of Cpl. Toledo Pulido, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Los Angeles Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Romel Catalan, of Los Angeles , CA :

"Our nation has suffered a great loss with the death of Specialist Romel Catalan. Romel's bravery and devotion to his country and loved ones will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Together, with the community of Los Angeles , Maria and I mourn the loss of this courageous young man and will keep his family and friends in our prayers."

Catalan, 21, died June 2 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Ameriyah , Iraq . Catalan was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), United States Army, Fort Lewis , WA .

In honor of Spc. Catalan, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Milpitas Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Doonewey White, of Milpitas , CA :

"Maria and I, along with all Californians, are greatly saddened by the death of Specialist Doonewey White. He served our country with honor, and will be forever remember for his service with admiration and respect. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his friends and family."

White, 26, died May 29 in Balad , Iraq , as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations May 28 in Baghdad , Iraq . White was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, United States Army, Fort Hood , TX .

In honor of Spc. White, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.



Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Santa Maria Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Shawn E. Dressler, of Santa Maria , CA :

"Sergeant Shawn Dressler will be forever remembered for his brave and selfless service to his country. Shawn served with determination and bravery, making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and democracy. Maria and I offer our thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and fellow soldiers."

Dressler, 22, died June 2 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad , Iraq . Dressler was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, United States Army, Schweinfurt , Germany.

In honor of Sgt. Dressler, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.