Lost San Francisco: Embarcadero and Central Freeways

As a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake the city lost two iconic freeways– the Embarcadero freeway, aka California route 480,  ran along the eastern edge of the city from Broadway to the Bay Bridge; the Central Freeway still exists but has changed significantly since the earthquake, with the northern extension that ran beyond Fell street up to Turk demolished shortly after the quake. Further extensive modifications since have produced a very different structure and route. Here is what they used to look like (note that the folks on the Embarcadero trip have KALX on the radio):

Embarcadero Freeway:

Central Freeway:

Drive Around SF in 1955 (nothing about the Embarcadero or Central, just fun to watch):

 

Forward Into The Past: Utah Governor Signs Bill Allowing Firing Squad

BatistaFireSquadA notable philosopher once wrote: “all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice… the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

The tragedy: occurred in November 1915 when labor organizer and songwriter Joe Hill was convicted on uncorroborated circumstantial evidence and executed by a Utah firing squad. Hill’s case, appearing to be clearly rigged against him, became a national cause célèbre, with many personalities of the day weighing-in on his behalf. President Woodrow Wilson even tried to intervene to stay the execution. But in the grand tradition of states rights Utah would have none of it. After all, the after-party was set and invitations already printed. For his part, Joe Hill had already come to the conclusion (correctly as it turned out) that he was more valuable to the labor movement dead than alive. In a last letter to labor leader “Big Bill” Haywood, Hill asked to be buried across the state line, indicating that he wouldn’t want to be caught dead in Utah.  His last word, shouted while standing blindfolded, was “Fire!”  

The farce: who better to relay the story than America’s most trusted purveyors of farce, Fox News?:

Watch Fox and Friends Report

I love the “expert” who claims that death by firing squad isn’t that bad. In fact, as she so authoritatively instructs us, it is actually the poor sods firing the guns who are real the victims, due to possible psychological fallout!

You have to admit, it does seem a little old fashioned. I have an idea that may solve these problems elegantly. Let’s bring the execution process into the 21st century. Instead of marching the condemned out to the courtyard to stand against a brick wall, and instead of issuing one of the executioners a blank cartridge in order to mitigate “shooters trauma,” why not just put the prisoner’s name on the military’s High Value Target (HVT) hit list and send a drone to kill him one day while out exercising in the prison yard? Sure, I know that drones have a notoriously bad record when it comes to killing the correct target, and yes, they do have a tendency to take out swaths of bystanders. But as the military is quick to point out, once on the list never off the list (until DOA), so if at first they don’t succeed they will try, try again. Furthermore, far from innocent, these bystanders are clearly guilty by association. Who cares about a bunch of inmates anyway? Not Utah obviously.

Listen to Ohio State’s own rebel songwriter Phil Ochs sing “The Ballad of Joe Hill”:

Sequestration: The Real Enemy of DoD

sucking-money-vacuum-cleaner-13399508McHugh: America’s Army Facing Sequestration ‘Enemy’ at Home

“Not only does the U.S. Army face rapid, unpredictable changes in the geopolitical landscape, but also the uncertainty of an adversary — sequestration — here at home, Army Secretary John M. McHugh said before a Senate subcommittee…”

But not to worry Jedi Knights, it seems that the fix is already in for you. Here is what Rep. Rob Wittman, R-VA., the chairman of the House Armed Services had to say about it last month:

“Congress will likely act to repeal the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration during the budgeting process… the area where Congress can agree is on the Defense Department sequestration cuts, while lawmakers would have to figure out how to juggle non-defense spending by civilian agencies [author’s italics]… At least the defense spending sequester will be set aside. I think with all the dangers we see around the world it has to be.” — Notice that everyone else still needs to take the cuts!

So why the big deal? Well, if your beloved war machine, million $$ mansion, private plane and Ivy league placement for your kids was on the line, plus your future entitlements as a defense industry lobbyist, you’d try to hedge your bets too, wouldn’t you? Besides, who can trust politicians (or the American public) to do the right thing without a little cajoling, right?

So do what you do best– plan a covert mission:

Strategy: trump up the existential threats loud enough, and distribute troops broadly enough, to make it darn near impossible, both logistically and politically, to do anything but keep feeding the beast.

Tactic: work through the mainstream media to “familiarize” the public with the magnitude of the threats. Remember we are on the verge of all-out war at all times, hyper-vigilance being the only answer. Afghanistan (Taliban), Iraq (ISIL), Somalia (al-Shabaab), Yemen (Al-Qaeda), Iran (Death to America), Russia (Putin), Nigeria (Boko Haram), Al-Qaeda is everywhere, ISIS (same as ISIL, but to the less-informed it appears to be two different groups). Notice that Pakistan never seems to make the existential threat list?  And the poor old Communists must feel like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, no one pays any attention to them anymore!

Then send troops to as many of those places as possible, as discretely as possible, so when the time comes you can cry “You can’t cut our budget, you’ll be putting our boys (and girls) in greater harm.”

And let us not fool ourselves– the civilians (Executive and Congress alike) plus the CIA and NSA and Homeland Security etc…all take their places at the rampart to defend against the Philistines.

At any rate….

While you slept this weekend we received this news from the Pentagon:

US To Abandon Plan For Troop Reduction In Afghanistan

Notice how this announcement comes on a Saturday night, outside of the prime news cycle. Are we to believe that they didn’t know this during the week?

And last week our new defender of the realm, “Ash” Carter, had this to say to a Senate committee:

US War on ISIS May Expand to Include Boko Haram in Nigeria

Now this idea has not yet been properly “massaged” for US public consumption, so even though it seems like a pretty big deal it took the UK Guardian to print it. You can bet that if they want to go there, the mainstream media will dutifully play its role in convincing us that it is a good idea, or at the very least a necessary evil.

Does it make anyone else uncomfortable that our Defense Chief goes by the name “Ash”? Isn’t that all that’s left after a major conflagration? Maybe it’s just me?

If you want to get a sense for how mobilized the armed forces already are to win the battle for hearts and minds against the “enemy at home” check out the DoD’s “Sequestration” web site

Happy Trails….

Previous variations on a similar theme on ParallelNarratives:

Misleading Headline of the Week

SOUTHCOM Chief: Sequestration Will Bring “Defeat.” 

Misleading Headline of the Week

Putin_in_Su-27-1

Poles Steel for Battle, Fearing Russia Will March on Them Next

Front Page NY Times. Sunday March 15,2015.

What, the Polish Army has been put on high alert and troops are moving toward the borders to make a stand?

Uh…No. It turns out upon reading the article that the story is about 30 recruits, some younger than twenty years old, some war re-enactors, who have joined a paramilitary group called the Shooters Association to drill, ostensibly to defend the country against an impending Russian invasion. To make his point about the all-consuming fear that supposedly has gripped the nation, Times reporter Rick Lyman offers the following first-hand accounts:

“Thirty students took an oath to defend Poland at all costs, joining nearly 200 other regional members of the association — young men and women, boys and girls — marching in formation around the perimeter of the dusty high school courtyard here.”

“One of those who took the oath in Kalisz was Bartosz Walesiak, 16, who said he had been interested in the military since playing with toy soldiers as a little boy, but had been motivated to join the Shooters Association after Russia moved into Crimea.

“I think that Putin will want more,” he said. “Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are already getting ready for such a scenario, so Poland must do the same.”

Later in the article, a Polish General claims that there may be 80,000 such paramilitary-style drillers currently operating in Poland. But then of course he was forced to acknowledge that “this was just a guess. “

Amazingly Lyman outdoes himself by ending the piece with another substantial interview to help bolster his case:

“The youngest of the cadets, Grzegorz Zurek, 11, was having trouble keeping up, but he was stubbornly determined. As they arrived on the far side of the field, the cadets turned to cheer Grzegorz along.

“I think it is highly probable that Putin will do something against Poland,” Grzegorz later said. “I know from history that Russia has always been a totalitarian state. Now it is trying to regain the territory it lost at the end of the Cold War. Should it invade Poland,” he said, “I would not hesitate a second to fight against them.”

Wow! Embarrassing.

But the exercise serves its purpose nonetheless. Those who only read the headlines will come away with a much different impression. One that lends itself to reinforcing the notion that we are on the verge of all-out war at all times (and hence must continue to massively fund our military defense capabilities of course).

Read Article

SOUTHCOM chief: Sequestration will bring ‘defeat’

sucking-money-vacuum-cleaner-13399508

From MilitaryTimes.com March 12.2015:

The offensive launched by defense leaders against the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration continued Thursday, with the four-star chief of U.S. Southern Command predicting “defeat” in his missions if the budget trims go into effect later this year….Read entire article

In response to the article the following:

ParallelNarratives: This is the same tired line used by our proxies against us for decades– Rhee, Diem, Thieu, Karzai etc…”If you don’t continue to escalate $$ and weapons we’ll fall like a house of cards.” Basically extortion. Our generals haven’t learned (or have just plain ignored) many lessons over the years from these wars, but they have grasped, and in fact have embraced, this one.

Some may counter that ultimately Congress and the President drive the agenda, it’s their call on what we do and how we do it. And the General’s complaint in the article is merely a reflection back at national leadership – if  you want to bid at Christie’s then you have to pay the price, and sequestration will cause failure, just laying out the facts….

In theory of course this is true. It’s supposedly a hallmark of our democracy, civilian control of the military. Congress and the Executive do have the ability to drill down into the most minute matters of how the military operates. And yes they can fire military leadership (Truman for example) and they can make changes to the very fundamentals about how the military operates (Goldwater-Nichols for example). And by doing so they are reflecting the will of the government over the desires of the armed forces. According to the theory it’s the politicians who set the foreign and military policy and the Generals just dutifully carry out orders. And they can’t do that unless they get what they need/want. After all, they are the experts in war craft, right?

In practice the lines aren’t quite so tidy, in fact it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to state that the fix is in for the military elites….

Korea: There is a strong argument that the military desperately needed the Korean War after years of reduced funding, especially in Asia, in the post war period. When the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel the elites were presented with an opportunity to revive the Pacific force, and escalate funding for it to massive levels. And maybe, they might even get a chance to invade China and resurrect their beloved Chiang.

They got the funding, but the second part of the equation was shattered in the passes and along the roads of the snow covered mountains of North Korea when repeated warnings by Mao to turn back were ignored, primarily on the advice of MacArthur. Truman was forced to fire MacArthur. But only after he lost the nerve to stop him at Pyongyang, leading to a major military and political disaster at the Yalu. Even with that Truman backed down to MacArthur’s flagrant disregard for his leadership for a period of time after the debacle. It wasn’t until Mac’s public rhetoric about invading (and possibly nuking) China became unbearable for his standing as Commander in Chief that Truman took the ultimate action. But one can easily argue that MacArthur’s actions had a greater influence than did Truman’s on the outcome of not only that war, but also on escalating the Cold War and the resultant decades of massive funding for the military industrial complex.

Indochina/Vietnam: FDR had made it clear via the Atlantic Charter and comments at Yalta that he in no way supported France’s claim to Vietnam after the war, but alas he died a year too soon and a green Truman was led by his fervent anti-Communist advisors, civilian and military, to support the French reconquest in Indochina. The chickens came home to roost at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

At the time, the US Joint Chief Chairman Admiral Radford was advocating for operation Vulture, which had a nuclear component, to save the French and inject the US in to the war. Thankfully that was indirectly stopped by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at the behest of his deputy Anthony Eden, because Congress would not go along without British support. Eisenhower was largely on board with Radford and was disappointed in the outcome. This can be extrapolated by the fact that he sent Dulles on a whirlwind world tour to try to pressure the British to sign-on, and to drum up support from other nations for American intervention. This set the stage for American involvement in Vietnam.

It was Eisenhower (the most famous former General in the world) who began the doomed relationship with South Vietnam by helping bring Diem to power at Geneva, then by assisting him in holding power in his first major challenge against his rivals in Saigon in 1955. The primary American surrogate in the drama was Air Force officer Edward Lansdale. There was steady flow of American money and military expertise to Vietnam thereafter.

In the early 1960s, it was generals Maxwell Taylor (also a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) and Earl Wheeler (another Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) who made the early pushes for escalation of US involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy, and LBJ after him, could not abandon Vietnam to the Communists, that would have been political suicide. So the military and their right wing benefactors had them by the balls. Clearly the Americans, civilian and military alike, had not learned much from the French experience. As Bernard Fall famously said: “The Americans are dreaming different dreams than the French, but they walk in the same footsteps.” And of course, there was a massive funding escalation in it for the military.

Goldwater-Nichols basically increased substantially the powers of the Joint Chiefs Chairman, thus concentrating power in one person. As we have seen already maybe not such a good idea. MacArthur and Radford were itching for a fight with the ChiComs and both were ready to use nukes to that end. Taylor and Wheeler were vocal cheerleaders for what turned out to be America’s greatest political and military failure. And to add insult to injury, it was Colin Powell, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who led the famous dog and pony show on WMDs to legitimize the invasion of Iraq…

So it’s not so cut and dried as firing rogues and shifting the concentrations of power to “reflect the will of the government over the desires of the armed forces.” It’s a much closer thing than that. Whether overt, covert or implicit, the military establishment has a great deal of influence over national agenda setting. And they have strong incentive to keep the $$ pouring in. Remember what happened when Truman fired MacArthur, some say it’s the closest the country ever came to a military coup in the aftermath. Don’t think every president since doesn’t know it.

Further Reading: Truth Stranger Than Strangelove

Note: almost invariably it’s the nation’s establishment news media outlets that provide some of the best cover for these double dealings. The New York Times was one of the most vocal advocates for the Iraq War and its current ISIS coverage frequently refers to the existential threat it somehow poses. This Op-Ed piece appeared at the Washington Post yesterday :

War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option

NBC has a portion of it’s website devoted to “ISIS Terror” that keeps a count of the number of stories in the archive boldly displayed on the header. The tally stands at 788 stories at this writing. Here’s a new story introducing chemical weapons use for the first time:

ISIS Used Chemical Weapons in Suicide Attack, Kurds Say

And lets not forget the CIA:

CIA Director Calls Fight Against ISIL Long-Term Struggle

This just in:

US To Abandon Plan For Troop Reduction In Afghanistan

Doesn’t sound like they are bracing for big budget cuts. Maybe they know something we don’t? The best line from this article: “military officials want to maintain troops in order to protect America’s investment” I bet they do. America’s investment in them.

Notice how this announcement comes on a Saturday night, outside of the prime news cycle. Are we to believe that they didn’t know this during the week? But you can be sure they have mobilized the army of TV Generals, who are likely waiting at their phones right now, eager to accept those last minute requests to appear on the Sunday talk shows.

Happy 85th Birthday Ornette Coleman!

Lucky enough to have seen Ornette and Prime Time a couple of times in San Francisco in the 1980s, including one of the shows from the poster below..

F030-PO

Ornette Celebrates 85th birthday with Cecil Taylor

Still Going Strong!

Momentous Days: March 7-8, 1965

Yesterday we remembered the bloody Sunday march on Selma (March 7, 1965). By Monday morning LBJ was knee-deep in a political confrontation of epic proportions. His recorded phone conversations that day show that he was more upset with MLK than with Wallace. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, with much less fanfare, his Marines were landing on Red Beach 2 near Da Nang in South Vietnam, marking the beginning of what the Vietnamese call the “American War.” That was March 8, 1965. The next day LBJ authorized the use of Napalm. Before the year was out he would be “waist deep in the big muddy.” Quite a weekend.

Note: six years later, on March 8, 1971, anti-war protesters broke into a Media, Pennsylvania FBI office and stole a trove of classified documents that revealed the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program). The covert program was aimed at spying on, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations, primarily the anti-Vietnam War movement. One of the principal players in the COINTELPRO story was one Mark Felt, later revealed as “Deep Throat” in the Watergate Scandal:

http://www.monitor.net/monitor/0506a/feltcointelpro.html

Neon: the 20th Century’s Sign of the Times

“…a city that was to live by night after the wilderness had passed. A city that was to forge out of steel and blood-red neon its own peculiar wilderness.” – Nelson Algren

Click Here For Many More Examples of Classic Neon