About manuelgarciajr

An engineering physicist and independent thinker, always learning.

Looking Back I See

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Looking Back I See

I could’ov lived a poet’s life
roving ‘or the world of my dreams,
but wives ’n kids would not’ov stood
for unplowed furrows ’n nights unseen.
Hitched-up horses and dogs on leash
reassure more than mottled gleams
of moonlight shadow rippling ‘cross
tomcat’s wandering wild screams.

Longing’s fear in ignorance
threw chains on artist caperings
with love and safety held so dear
one’s spring and sparkle cooled and stilled.
An unburnt candle casts no light
nor wax-drip sears the hand ’holds it
but blaming others I cannot
for all my grasping at the wind
to root unlikely chance to ground
as time invisible slipped by.

Freedom’s mooring to throbbing life
is owning choices one has made
both all the triumphs and regrets
breath and heart have passed through beating
out life’s stream of incidents that
flow words thoughtless ’n wordless thoughts,
rising smoke in forgetting’s night,
mist burned clear in oblivion’s light.

Trust can be a rock secure as
haphazard happiness drifts by,
each man’s an island on his own
every woman’s a hurried sea.
The randomness of time and tide
lap eddies onto shores of mind,
a poet’s life must always be
lost starlight glinting on the sea,
harmonic chaos elegant
is understanding clarified.

Money is all evils’ flower,
evil is all money’s root,
Commodifying, life’s reduced
to lowest cost at highest price
in great lovelorn America
misled by those who make you see
the poetry in guillotines.
Why weaken truth, dull clarity
placating insecurity?

Poetic thought dissolves at last
in old hens’ prattling done and drowned,
Dylan Thomas died one night
from swelling of the brain, infused,
and so doth booze insight expand
the oft crabbed musing consciousness.
A failure I would bound to be
if questing life eternally,
but be assured this won’t be so
of me being free curmudgeonly.

12 February 2019

<><><><><><><>

The Western Desert

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

The Western Desert

Wild
expansive
empty
dry airless heat
choking windblown dust
the forgotten dreams of forgotten souls
now grains of salt
left by a lost ocean of tears
their songs now crunching tracks being laid
by chance wanderings of fleeting life
shifting from the unseen to the unknown
evaporating in time to ripples of light
and fallen crystals of grit.
My sunset will emblazon a vast horizon
for I jettison stuff in trade for space
and I jettison illusions in trade for time.
Tranquility, a timeless peace, is time with space
reconciled to casting away fear, desires and friends
illusions imprisoning bits of time
liberated for mindful living
all too soon just dissipated heat
the forgotten dream of a forgotten soul
empty
expansive
wild.

9 February 2019

<><><><><><><>

The Liberation of Ellsworth Street

Night Rider

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Not so very long ago in Berkeley, California…

The Liberation of Ellsworth Street

Old Dog turned off of Bancroft Way and shuffled himself through the night fog down Ellsworth Street, looking for a warm place to piss. He didn’t want more cop hassles, so he passed up the usual spots against the church walls near Durant Avenue, and the scraggly hedges along the way lit by street lamps. It made him mad to think it’d been easier to find a good piss spot in broad daylight under mortar fire during the war than it was here in Berkeley, even at night! God damn it! They owed him a piss spot at least, as he didn’t even have an inside flop! That’d be worth more than that scratched and ragged Purple Heart he used as a pocket knife, and nobody ever wanted to buy so’s he could get some juice or pain pills.

Old Dog got to Dwight Way and waited to cross as there were always bullet-boy bikers and preppy college kids in their German cars racing up the street toward Telegraph Avenue. They never gave him anything when he sat out on the sidewalk against the cafés and froo-froo shops, with his sign out and playing his harmonica. Hell, he even put his cup out by his feet, far enough so’s they’d never have to smell him if they stooped to throw in some change. Anyways, it was dead of night and traffic was gone, so he crossed over Dwight to shuffle on down Ellsworth. Against the telephone pole at the corner he saw a poster, dimly lit by the streetlamp. “Reward,” it read, “Berkeley Police Department seeks information on the possible murder of Howard W. Johnson at the intersection of Ward and Walker streets.”

Old Dog had known Howie Jo, who was found burned half to a crisp about a month ago, right there against the street barrier at the end of Walker Street. Howie Jo had been a nomad, like Old Dog, all scruffy, sunburnt, with two old coats on, and a mass of sprawling kinky salt-and-pepper hair and beard. Old Dog had told Howie Jo many times that looking at him was the same as looking into a mirror. That joke didn’t work anymore. The scuttlebutt was that Howie Jo had gotten himself a whole bottle of hard stuff, and later got so sloppy drunk he probably passed out while trying to light up a smoke, setting his alcohol-spilled coats on fire with the bottle in his lap. Unless somebody lit it after he’d passed out.

Ellsworth Street is blocked, past Dwight Way, on the far side from Bancroft Way and the University. Two pairs of bollards, like solid cement garbage cans, are anchored into each side of the roadway, leaving a narrow gap between them wide enough for a fire truck. In that gap there is a short, thick steel rod lined up with the bollards, and just tall enough to rip the bottom out of any car that tried moving between Dwight and Ellsworth.

Old Dog couldn’t abide looking at those barriers anymore since he now imagined seeing a smoking black crispy pile of charcoal on them with Howie Jo’s untied army boots sticking out on the street. Anyways, Old Dog wasn’t getting any warmer, didn’t see as he was likely to get any reward, and had to piss even worse than before. “Well, fuck ‘em,” he thought, “I’m gonna’ piss right here, and put out that fire on Howie Jo’s ghost!” Old Dog was a man of vision, many of them. He stood over the barrier, his back toward Dwight, and watered that damned monument to exclusion real good.

Old Dog went back for his pack, which he’d laid down in the black night shadows behind the big telephone distribution box near the utility pole. Just then a motorcycle came purring slowly up Ellsworth toward the bollards. Old Dog crouched down into the blackness to hide. The rider, all in black leather and helmeted, reached under the weeds spilling out over the top of a bollard and pulled out a packet or small pouch which he put in a plastic carrying case on his motorcycle. He then took a different packet out of the plastic case and buried it under the same weeds. He eased his bike through a gap in the barrier and sped away up Dwight.

It didn’t look good, but Old Dog was still curious to look. Just as he thought to step out of his hide, he noticed a dark car with its lights off gliding quietly up Ellsworth toward the bollards. No time to run, he hunkered down. The black limousine stopped and a chauffeur in uniform, with a cap and all, emerged noiselessly from the car, walked right up to the bollard where the drop had been made and retrieved what had been hidden there. Old Dog expected the limo to back up to turn around and leave. Instead, he saw it rise up slowly till high enough to easily clear the metal pipe in the street, glide past over it, and then lower itself back down.

As the limo began its right turn onto Dwight, the house windows behind Old Dog suddenly lit up dispelling the black shadow he’d been hiding in. The limo lurched forward, its back tires almost chirping and, as it turned onto Dwight Way, Old Dog saw that the car’s back window had been opened, so any eyes behind it would have an easy view of him. It gave Old Dog a shiver, and it wasn’t from the cold.

<><><>

Sergeant Wanda Travers was sitting in Precinct Captain McCready’s office, getting a new and special assignment. “Travers,” he said, “see what you can find out from the street guys that tend to sleep out at Willard Park, and wander down from the University area along Bancroft Way, and out of People’s Park, into the Willard-Bateman-LeConte neighborhood below Dwight Way, between Shattuck and College Avenues. The public’s coming down hard on the city, and the mayor’s coming down hard on the chief to solve the Johnson killing, and nab the murderer if that’s what it was.” Wanda had been a lacrosse player in school and was a stocky, muscular but not fat, medium height woman. All the cop gear strapped around her waist made her look stouter than she really was, and quite formidable, but she could remain calm and low key enough to be able to approach the street people and patiently tease out bits of street-sightings information from them better than anyone. Maybe she could fish out a lead on the Howie Jo immolation. “Go plainclothes on an unmarked bike, so you can get closer to what’s going on in your neighborhood. And give me, and only me, detailed reports,” concluded McCready. “Yes sir,” and off she went, pleased because this kind of assignment was basically a promotion.

“Come on Old Dog,” Wanda said as she crouched down near his head, barely out of his frayed sleeping bag in the shadows off the grass in Willard Park, “did you see or hear anything on the streets recently that might be connected to Howie Jo?” Old Dog had a wild-eyed tense look and was shaking his head “no” like a vibrator. “There’s somebody out there messing with those that live on the street, and we’ve got to get them and keep the people safe.” Old Dog just looked at Travers speaking, his head shaking a “yes” in tiny trembling vibrations, and holding his sleeping bag close and tight under his chin. Travers knew Old Dog and his pals were always worried about being searched, so she tried to calm him on that score so he might listen better and maybe talk about anything that might be a lead. She tucked her card and a small basic cell phone into his bag even as he held it closed tight, saying “Keep it. It’s got my number on it. You can call it any time, no charge. I’m not going to be looking through your stuff, no hassles. Anything you see could help us out.” Travers got up to leave.

“Black Limo!” said Old Dog. “What?” Wanda looked down at him. “Black Limo!” he repeated. She sat down and just waited. “They says a black limo passed by Howie Jo that night.” Wanda stayed quietly listening. “Big Black Car! The Mother Ship!” and he went silent. “What kind of black limo? Tell me about it.” Old Dog seemed to sink into a well of lost thoughts, his eyes looking out far past Travers. “That’s what they says about Howie Jo, but I never seen it before. But t’other night I saw one pass over the street bar at Ellsworth. Could have been the Mother Ship cause it passed right after a Black Rider left something for it.” Wanda figured Old Dog had seen a drop for a drug connection. “Was this down by Ashby?” “No, not that far.” Now Wanda knew it was Ellsworth at Dwight Way. “What’s the Mother Ship?” she asked. “Peoples say there’s a Black Rider whose poisoning dudes whens they sleep, shoots them up!” Wanda wondered if this was a myth born out of fear, because there had been a higher incidence of street people dying of heroin overdoses during recent months. “And this Black Rider” she prompted. “Some says there’s Black Riders coming out of the Mother Ship, and going everywhere! Some say they’ve seen it!” Wanda tried bringing it back down to earth, “You mean they’ve seen this black motorcycle rider connect with the limo?” “Yes!” exclaimed Old Dog, “I seen them, and they seen me! I gotta’ keep low, so they don’t find me!” Despite her cautious probing, those were all the details Travers could get out of Old Dog that day.

Wanda’s phone rang as she was biking up Hillegass Avenue toward People’s Park. “Any progress?” McCready asked. “One of my regulars at Willard reports a story going around among the people about some combination of a big black car, or limo, and a motorcyclist all in black offing the people by injecting them with heroin overdoses, or burning them up, like Johnson. Could just be paranoia fantasies because of the ODs happening among them, besides the usual night crimes they suffer. My guy’s all panicked because he claims he saw this Mother Ship and the Black Rider, as he calls them, during a drop and pick-up on Ellsworth, and thinks they’re now after him.” “Good work, keep me informed,” and McCready hung up.

<><><>

“Hey, what you doin’ here?” Old Dog asked Lenny the K under the big trees by the corner of Willard Park at Hillegass Avenue and Derby Street. “I’m looking for a quieter night, People’s is getting noisy, too crowded.” Old Dog looked at Lenny dubiously, “you just mustn’t wanna’ share.” Old Dog knew Lenny shot up the haphazard mixed poisons they called “heroin” on the street, and he must have made a big score. “You’s best do your shit outta’ sight, ‘cause the cops come ‘round here as’in it’s a good neighborhood” warned Old Dog. “Where you sleeping” asked Lenny. “I likes under dees big trees, snuck in back d’bushes. Best for one, so you take it. I’m going t’other side.” Old Dog wandered across the park, and was lucky to find some unfinished discarded picnic food, and by early evening had discreetly ensconced himself behind the Recreation Hall, along the fence in the shadows below the bushes. As dusk slowly faded into night, Old Dog was able to get himself between his dark green blankets with some leaves scattered over them, looking like a low pile of grass clippings and leaf debris, if anyone could have even seen him through the dark from Hillegass just a few steps away. He fell asleep.

Old Dog stirred awake to a low purring motor, and low voices, in the dead-of-night street by him. He poked his head out cautiously and looked toward Hillegass. The Black Rider!, he was there under a patch of streetlight by the telephone pole! The Black Rider switched on his motorcycle with little noise, pulled out then purred down Hillegass toward Stuart Street and out of earshot. Even as Old Dog was trembling in fear, he noiselessly edged himself forward just enough to see past where the Black Rider had been parked: the Black Limo! In the streetlight Old Dog could see the license plate! In another minute the limo pulled away quietly and disappeared after the Black Rider.

Next morning, as Old Dog walked up Hillegass headed to all the action and possible handouts around People’s Park and Telegraph Avenue near the University, he saw a police car and ambulance flashing their lights by the big trees at the corner with Derby. It was Lenny the K. He’d OD’d and they were carting him away. Old Dog fished out the phone Wanda had given him and called. “I seen it,” he told her. “Lenny the K OD’d last night at my big trees spot. They’s just took him away.” Wanda listened intently, she’d already seen the dispatch report of the fatality. “And I seen the Black Rider and the Mother Ship! They for sure musta’ done Lenny!” Wanda coaxed “did you see anything about them?,” she wanted an identifying clue. “Yes!, I gotta’ number on the Mother Ship. Its B-L-T-1-3-K-K-K. I looked at it good, and I wrote it down!” Wanda replied “Listen, Old Dog, stay at Willard. I’m going to get you to a safe place, and some food. You’ll be okay during the day. We’ll be out there before dark. Promise me, so I can find you.” “Okay, I’ll do it.”

“Captain, I got a line on the black limo,” Wanda told McCready. “I got the license plate, and it’s registered to Berkeley Luxury Transport. It’s one of a number of businesses, most real estate, owned by Paul Malverson. He’s that big booster of the Police Benevolent Society, and supposed to be the real estate industry’s next candidate for mayor.” McCready beamed praise at Wanda, “Excellent work!” Wanda continued “I can’t get anywhere with BLT, so I need to interview Malverson so he can help us find out what’s going on inside his limo business.” McCready shot back “I’ll arrange for that, and call you back as soon as I can. Where’s your informant?” “He’s at Willard. I told him we’d move him to a safe spot before dark.” “Perfect, I’ll call you soon,” and McCready ended the call. Wanda rode down Telegraph Avenue, found a sandwich shop, and brought back some lunches that would keep Old Dog for a day or two; then she biked to the precinct hall.

“Wanda,” McCready told her, “Malverson is happy to see you this evening, I just talked to him. He says he’ll have his manager of Automobile Fleet Operations at BLT with him, and they’ll do whatever it takes. Malverson’ll be at an event with the Mayor and council members till about nine tonight. So, they want to meet at a complex his company manages, on Ellsworth between Parker and Carleton, after nine” and McCready rattled off the street number and the access code for entry. “Also, we picked up Old Dog, and he’s being well taken care of, don’t worry. You can interview him tomorrow, to nail down his testimony. Okay, finish up all your reports here so I have them before you go, and I’ll buy you dinner so you can get them all done. Chinese?, Thai?, Japanese?, Mexican?, pizza?, or burger?” Wanda set to work on her reports, and to thinking about the whole case.

<><><>

The big garage door at Malverson’s apartment building on Ellsworth Street swung open, and Wanda walked her bike into an expansive, neat and well-lit garage with doors to other rooms at the far back. A tall, well-built Chinese man dressed in a crisp chauffeur’s suit, complete with cap and gloves, emerged to greet her. “Hello, Sergeant Travers, I’m Peter Chan, Fleet Manager at BLT,” and he led her to a large office in back, where Paul Malverson was waiting seated behind a big desk. Chan showed Wanda to a plush office chair and left, closing the door.

“Well, Sergeant Travers,” Malverson began, “Pete and I have made detailed inquiries with our fleet supervisors and dispatchers, and have not been able to find any unusual or unauthorized activity by our drivers. Because of the sensitivity of our business – we transport many important people, and host very sensitive meetings for both corporate clients as well as facilitating social functions. So we require our drivers to pass the most rigorous security background checks, and we require periodic interrogation updates with polygraph testing. We conducted quite a number since receiving Captain McCready’s call earlier today, on all personnel who have had any contact with the vehicle you identified, as well as other vehicles from the same pool. Naturally, every now and then we find the usual sort of hanky-panky: a little drinking, or some amorous connections in a waiting vehicle while clients are engaged at a lengthy function. But, we have not been able to find anything of the sort of surreptitious and continuing activity that Captain McCready is concerned about. Is it possible that as your informant is an indigent street person, like so many others in Berkeley, that he may be a bit unbalanced and prone to flights of fancy?”

“Mister Malverson,” began Wanda, “the facts are that we’ve had a sharp increase in heroin overdose fatalities over the last few months, and even a homeless man burned to death in the streets. For many of these incidents, the people who are the closest witnesses report sightings of the limousine we’ve identified near the scenes. I agree, the sightings are not exact eyewitness testimony, nor are the people involved the most reliable of our citizens. But, the weight of evidence points to a real connection, if still unclear.” Wanda was overstating her certainty a bit to see if she could agitate a substantive tidbit out of Malverson. “I’m going to pursue this case to find that connection, because lives have been lost, and other lives may be at risk.”

“Admirable determination,” Malverson said while looking down and stroking his left eyebrow as he thought about it. The office door behind Wanda opened and Chan returned. “Pete,” Malverson instructed, “we’re going to have to clear this up without delay, we can’t leave it hanging.” Wanda turned her head around to see Pete holding a pistol with a long black silencer pointed straight at her face. “Don’t move, for your own good.” At that moment, a fully helmeted person in a black leather body suit entered. So there it is, thought Wanda, the Black Rider is Malverson’s man; but why? The Black Rider took Wanda’s gun from her waist holster under her jacket, then zip-locked her hands together in front of her, and her ankles, and then connected these with a third plastic zip-lock tie.

“Well Miss Travers,” Malverson began, “your investigation is very inconvenient for us, so we can’t let it continue. Sadly, you’ve allowed yourself to become indoctrinated by the false ideology of coddling the losers and the parasites on American vitality and progress. These street people you worry so much about are simply vermin: dirty, deranged incorrigibles without any merit, without any contribution to furthering American prosperity, either by productive work, useful talent, or substantive investment. In fact they are a total drain on the public resources essential for investing into the expansion of business activity and wealth enhancement. In any neighborhood in Berkeley, property values would rise at least thirty percent, and in many cases double, if these street vermin could be completely and permanently cleared away. In this very apartment complex, rents could be doubled overnight if we could eliminate the hordes of filth that ooze out of that People’s Park and contaminate the surrounding area. There are people of means all over the world who compete to send their brilliant sons and daughters to the University here, and who would be delighted to house those students in the rental properties along this street, and other streets near the campus, at significantly more profitable rental rates, if we could provide them with clean and comfortable neighborhoods. That unrealized profit potential is being destroyed by the dirty, noisy and importuning parasitic losers we allow public resources to maintain unendingly. Since government is incapable of solving anything that advances economic progress, it is essential that the private sector solve the problem, quickly and permanently. Our country is beginning to wake up to this socio-economic reality, but much too slowly. I am not waiting for the clarity of that truth to dawn universally in some far future, we are acting on it now! As our Cleanup Crew advances the disinfection, beautification and habitability of our city, and property values balloon, commerce accelerates, and a greater influx of the successful people who drive the engines of prosperity settle into our previously blighted neighborhoods, the realization I am talking about will become accepted as the universal norm. For a healthy garden you remove the weeds and litter, for a healthy farm you fumigate the parasites, for a healthy body you purge the pathogens with antibiotic and antiviral drugs and then inoculate against further infection, and for a healthy society you purge the incorrigibly lazy, obdurately unproductive, contagiously filthy and demented parasites and willful losers. Members of your trade, police workers, should rightfully apply their labors to protecting productive society and the corporate engines of prosperity from the degenerative elements of present society, which are so inexplicably tolerated and maintained in Berkeley. By rights, you should be a vigorous member of the Cleanup Crew. Fortunately, some police are, but not nearly enough.”

“You’re mad!” Wanda yelled at him, “inhuman! Do you really think you can get away with all this?” “I’m afraid you’re on the losing side of history, Sergeant Travers, and I regret that this is so.” “Even if you get rid of me, the department will investigate intensively. They’ll follow up on my findings, and certainly look into whatever becomes of me.”

“I don’t think so” said Malverson. The Black Rider pulled off his helmet, and Wanda’s heart stopped, it was McCready. “Traitor!” Wanda yelled at him, “you’re using the department to betray the people!” ”Now, now, Travers,” McCready replied, “the department works for the people who can pay for it to work. Malverson is right. The only way for a working man to have a stake in the prosperity to come is to work for those who make that progress happen. You don’t advance yourself by wasting your time and energy on the useless and the losers. That’s just stupid socialist bullshit that brings you down to their level, and keeps you down.”

“I wondered about you,” Wanda glared at McCready, “when Lenny the K turned up dead after I told you where Old Dog was sleeping.” Malverson’s eyes shifted toward an impassive Pete holding his gun on Wanda, as Malverson’s left forefinger traced a line down from the outside corner of his left eye to the corner of his mouth, then led his hand laterally into stroking his chin, while his eyebrows arched a tad for a moment; then he returned his attention back to the exchange between Wanda and McCready.

“You’re scum,” Wanda glared at him, “groveling so low for money, you’re not even part of the human race anymore.” McCready started to raise his hand as if to slap her, when Malverson interjected “McCready, let us not descend to the level of the degenerates. We do whatever is needed as a business necessity, but we never sully ourselves with crude displays of emotion, nor disreputable actions that can cloud our minds and distract us from our actual objectives. It is because we keep our control that we are superior. So, let us conclude our business.”

McCready put on his helmet and stepped out. Pete taped Wanda’s mouth shut with a big swath of heavy-duty black tape, and wheeled her bound in the chair out toward the garage. The Mother Ship, license number BLT13KKK was parked facing outward. She saw McCready setting an unconscious Old Dog into the front passenger seat. Malverson soothed her, “Don’t worry about your odiferous friend, he’s only asleep under the influence of a mild, and entirely safe sedative.” Malverson tore off a small strip of newspaper and held it under Old Dog’s nostrils where it gently fluttered. “See, he’s breathing.” Pete and McCready lifted Wanda into the back seat of the limo, behind Old Dog. “Close up, then meet us there,” Malverson told McCready, then got into the limo next to Wanda, the garage door swung open, and Pete drove the Mother Ship out into the night.

<><><>

The black limo eased up Ellsworth Street towards the bollards before Dwight Way. Paul Malverson sat in back on the left, with a sly smile of satisfaction at the smooth progress of his plan. Wanda Travers sat to his right with her hands and feet each bound in front of her, and these two plastic bindings connected by a third tie-wrap. Her mouth was taped shut by a big swath of heavy-duty tape, and Malverson’s gun was pointed at her left temple. Old Dog was slumped in the front right seat, unconscious. About half a block before the barrier, Pete swung the car around to the left, then backed up to park facing away from the bollards.

McCready quietly rode up Ellsworth from behind them on his motorcycle. He eased to a stop before the bollards on the other side of the street, shut his motor off and dismounted, then walked over to the parked limo. Pete unlocked the limo doors, got out, walked to the back of the limo where McCready met him, and opened the trunk. Pete took out Wanda’s bicycle and put it down against the curb a short distance behind the car. He then pulled out two bottles from a case of twelve that were labeled “White Vinegar” but were actually filled with ethyl alcohol; he also pulled out a near-empty bottle of cheap whiskey. McCready dragged the unconscious Old Dog out of the limo and to the bollard in the shadows near the telephone pole and utility box, propping him up against the bollard. Pete followed and put the alcohol bottles down near the crumpled Old Dog, then went back to the car. McCready planted the whiskey bottle in Old Dog’s lap, and doused him with all the ethyl. He picked up the vinegar bottles and returned to Pete, behind the limo, and put the bottles in the trunk.

“Okay,” said McCready, “all set. I’ll light him up once you get moving. What about Wanda?” Pete smiled, pointed a gun with a long silencer straight at McCready’s chest and fired. McCready staggered, fell to his knees dumfounded, looking up with pleading eyes into Pete’s face. “She’s going to be a hero,” Pete sneered, “she just killed you.” He shot again, shredding McCready’s heart. McCready fell on his face, and a dark pool began widening beneath him. Pete briskly unscrewed the silencer from Wanda’s gun and slipped it into his pocket. He walked over to the bollard on the other side of Ellsworth, by McCready’s motorcycle, and planted Wanda’s gun in the weedy top. Pete returned to the body to pull McCready’s gun out from his ankle holster inside his right boot, then he screwed on the silencer.

“It was very perceptive of you to forward your reports to McCready’s superiors. Ah, well, this car will have to disappear. I’m sure in time they’ll name this street after you, for the heroic service you provided the City of Berkeley,” said Malverson. Wanda just stared at him with pure hatred. “You will have come upon the crooked cop who was the entirety of the Cleanup Crew, while he was in the process of eliminating another one of the street vermin, and you will have neutralized him in a gun fight which, for the benefit of the nocturnal tranquility of the neighborhood, we are muting.”

Pete opened Wanda’s door, pulled a wire cutter out of his left pocket, and snapped off the plastic tie-wrap around her ankles, and the one that had linked her bound hands to it. “Pete,” said Malverson, “close up and get the car started so we can go quick after you move her bike and light the barbecue.” Pete went around back, closed the trunk lid, and returned to the driver’s seat. “Get out,” said Malverson to Wanda, pointing with his gun, “time to close escrow.”

She swung her legs out to step onto the street. Malverson slid right a bit, then half turned, tapping Pete on the shoulder, “Give me McCready’s gun and those wire cutters, can’t leave the plastic.” As Malverson was in his half twist grabbing McCready’s gun and the cutters with his left hand, Wanda bolted out of the car slamming the door behind her, and raced back toward the trunk to gain cover and reach her bicycle. “Turn ‘round!” yelled Malverson even as Pete switched on the air pump to raise the car height, and gunned the motor to swing the car into a u-turn for the chase.

Wanda jumped on her bicycle and pedaled hard toward the barrier, her steering wobbly because her tied hands were clasping the handlebar at the stem. Pete would be on the wrong side of the limo to shoot her until he’d made the u-turn, and, if she was lucky, Malverson would be pulled to the left into the car by the g-force of the turn and have trouble opening his window to take a shot. The car quickly swung around and was bearing down on Wanda and toward the big gap between the pairs of bollards.

She jumped off her bike, leaving it down in the middle of the road, and dove behind the bollards in front of McCready’s parked motorcycle; her bound hands searching desperately in the bollard’s weedy top for her gun. “Pfft! Pfft!,” chips of concrete flew off the bollard, ripped through her hair and stingingly pitted her right arm. She found her gun!, rolled to the ground between the two bollards just as the raised limo slammed into her bicycle and scraped it forward trailing a wake of sparking red flames.

Wanda fired six shots in rapid succession into the left front wheel arch, exploding the suspension air bag so that corner of the car collapsed and veered the limo straight toward her bollards. Pete swung the steering wheel hard to the right to aim the limo back through the central gap. The smoldering wreckage under the limo hit the central steel barrier and the car stopped dead, its passenger safety airbags bursting open with stunning suddenness to engulf Pete and Malverson as the limo pivoted left, sweeping up McCready’s motorcycle and slamming into the two bollards that Wanda was furiously rolling away from onto Dwight Way. The collision ruptured a fuel line spilling gasoline into the burning already underway causing flames to erupt upwards and engulf the car.

Wanda got up, seeing she wouldn’t be needing the bullets still left in her gun, if any. She could already hear the wail of sirens, racing in from afar, as she ran up to see after Old Dog. She grabbed his coat collar and pulled him off from the bollard he was propped against, and further away from the fire to just past the telephone pole at the corner of Dwight. Wanda peeled the tape off her face as Old Dog stirred awake. “What the hell?,” he said, looking at Wanda wild-eyed, with her two hands wrapped around her bloody glistening gun. “It’s okay, they’re all gone. We made it,” and nodded her head towards the burning limo.

As they watched, the ethanol exploded blowing the trunk lid off, expanding the conflagration, and buffeting Wanda and Old Dog with the shock. Then the fuel tank exploded into a fireball that pulsed out a blast wave that stripped leaves from the trees and ripped posters off the telephone pole. Wanda and Old Dog were showered with this haphazard confetti, and a shredded piece of poster fell into Old Dog’s lap. “Reward,” it read, “Berkeley Police Department seeks information on the possible murder of Howard W. Johnson at the intersection of Ward and Walker streets.”

Wanda looked at Old Dog with an amused expression. “Well, old guy, it looks like you’re going to get a reward.” Old Dog looked at the poster, then the fire, then at Wanda, “my own indoor place to sleep, with a shower?” Wanda looked at him with kind determination, “It better be.”

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Climate Crisis, Elite Panic, and Mass Exclusion

John Davis’s interesting article in Counterpunch,

Are We Moderns Or Terrestrials?
7 February 2019
https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/07/are-we-moderns-or-terrestrials/

Describes the idea of “social triage” practiced by a global wealth elite, to exclude the mass of Earth’s people from the finite natural bounty our planet can supply to humanity; this drive being accelerated by the obvious threats of the accelerating Climate Crisis. Davis writes:

In [the book] Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, 2018, Bruno Latour, the French philosopher and sociologist, writes, “To the migrants from outside who have to cross borders and leave their countries at the price of immense tragedies, we must, from now on, add the migrants from inside who, while remaining in place, are experiencing the drama of seeing themselves left behind by their own countries”.

Davis’s article reminds me of earlier sallies on this topic.

The most prescient, to my mind, was Tony Judt’s essay The Social Question Redivivus, which appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs in 1997 (and is still behind a paywall) and was reprinted as the last selection in Judt’s book Reappraisals, Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century (Penguin Books, 2008). Except for the mention of Climate Change, Judt’s 1997 article laid out a very detailed exposition of the same form of triage as Davis (and Latour) now describe 22 years later.

I wrote a short gloss on Judt’s books and this topic in particular as

Tony Just, Edward Snowden, And “The Excluded”
1 July 2013
http://swans.com/library/art19/mgarci66.html

Also, on the idea of triage being practiced by the global wealth elite to separate “the excluded” from the finite bounty of the Earth, a very similar idea formed the core of Joseph Heller’s 1994 novel Closing Time (Simon and Schuster, 1994), which is both a reminiscence of their youth by WWII generation Brooklyn NY Jews, and a scathing satire of late 20th century American political attitudes. In the novel, a nitwit President of the U.S. plays a video game called Triage, which is actually a command console connected to an underground technological complex (based on the Reagan Administration idea of an underground mobile MX missile complex) for secretly controlling the day-to-day process of manipulating both selected individuals and the population as a whole, and ultimately of mass exclusion by nuclear war.

Davis notes that the basic practice by wealth elites of working hard to exclude the mass of people from prosperity, and to enslave them, is ancient. His (and Latour’s) point is that climate change is adding pressure to that elite drive for mass immiseration.

The implication of the above is that some form of serious and vigorous populist movement that successfully addresses climate change despite elite opposition (combining geo-technical strategies of direct mitigation, individual and societal adaptation, and — obviously — economic justice, a.k.a. “socialism”) is necessary for an organized human survival with decency.

We all know the problem. Our challenge (which may be tragically beyond us) is to triumph over the Climate Crisis and the elite selfishness driving it.

<><><><><><><>

Aesop’s Puerto Rico

MG,Jr. in Puerto Rico in August 1967.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Aesop’s Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, conquered and taken during the Spanish-American War has been part of the USA as a Commonwealth since 1898; prior to that is was a Spanish colony for four centuries. The people of Puerto Rico were given U.S. citizenship in early 1917, during the Wilson Administration, a few months before the U.S. entered World War I on the side of the Allies: Britain and France. So, men from Puerto Rico could be drafted for that war, as they were in subsequent US wars, like WWII and the Vietnam War.

The people of Puerto Rico have elected representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, but those Puertorriqueño representatives cannot vote in nor introduce legislative bills to the U.S. Congress; they can only observe and lobby. Puerto Rico is neither a state of the U.S. (like New York, and Hawaii), nor an independent country (like Cuba). A 2017 referendum in Puerto Rico, hoping to show a popular majority in favor of either statehood or independence, showed an overwhelming preference for statehood (97.18%) but only among the 23% of the electorate who actually voted. Those opposed to statehood for a variety of reasons (whether preferring some form of Free Association, or the status quo, or — least popular — pure independence) boycotted the referendum.

The Republicans in the U.S. proper are against the idea of letting Puerto Rico become a U.S. State, because that would introduce two new senators (to the U.S. Senate) and several new representatives (to the U.S. House of Representatives), all fully enfranchised and who would certainly all be Democrats. Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote for the U.S. President and Vice President, only for their local representatives and governor within the island itself, and for the observer representatives sent to Washington, D.C. People from Puerto Rico can vote in US presidential elections and for active members of the US Congress only if they move to the mainland (or Alaska or Hawaii) and establish residence there.

I, among others, think that the Republicans (and many Democrats) want Puertorriqueños to emigrate as economic refugees seeking jobs on the mainland so as to depopulate the island of its ethnic population, and make it easier for real estate speculators and developers (people like Trump) to move in and buy up land cheap, and then make big profits on hotel and vacation property developments. Because the people of Puerto Rico lack direct representation in the U.S. Government, they are dependent on the charity and goodwill of the US President, Senators and Congressional Representatives of the fifty US States to address their island-wide needs, such as hurricane disaster aid, and island-government financial security. It has been evident that there is not much of such charity and goodwill available to Puerto Rico from its US master.

In early 2017, the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis posed serious problems for the island government. The outstanding bond debt had climbed to $70 billion at a time with 12.4% unemployment. The debt had been increasing during a decade-long recession. This was the second major financial crisis to affect the island after the Great Depression when the U.S. government, in 1935, provided relief efforts through the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. On May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico filed the debt restructuring petition which was made under Title III of PROMESA. The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) is a 2016 US federal law that established an oversight board, a process for restructuring debt, and expedited procedures for approving critical infrastructure projects in order to combat the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis. Through PROMESA, the US Congress established an unelected Fiscal Control Board (FCB) to oversee the debt restructuring. A draconian austerity program had been imposed on the island, and by early August 2017 the debt was $72 billion with a 45% poverty rate. In late September 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, causing devastating damage. The island’s electrical grid was largely destroyed, with repairs expected to take months to complete, provoking the largest power outage in American history. Recovery efforts were slow, and over 200,000 residents had moved to the mainland State of Florida alone by late November 2017. The island population was 3.7 million in 2010, and 3.2 million in 2018. [This last paragraph is taken from wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico, and edited with additions by me.]

Among several major pro-independence Puertorriqueños was the great singer (and disobedient WWII US soldier) Daniel Santos [Porque Soy Boricua, https://youtu.be/tfZXaAnwNdk]. Independence would be better for Puerto Rico, even if that island-nation were poor, because at least it could then direct its own affairs, like Cuba. The con of Commonwealth is that being totally dependent on the paternalism of the U.S.A., the promise of “protection” and “prosperity” handed down from Uncle Sam can be (and has been) withheld, leaving Puertorriqueños poor (except for those connected to the high-end capitalist classes), unprotected (as with Hurricane Maria and from vulture capitalists) and politically powerless (they can’t go on their own to get loans and foreign aid on the world market).

The sad state of Puerto Rico is an example of Aesop’s fable of The Wolf And The Dog. A gaunt Wolf almost dead with hunger happened to meet a well-fed Dog out for his daily scamper. “Cousin Wolf,” said the Dog, “why suffer with such an uncertain life when you can work regularly under the protection of my patron for certain meals, as I do.” “I would have no objections,” replied the Wolf, “show me how.” So, they set off together to the master’s estate. On the way, the Wolf noticed the worn and ruffled fur around the Dog’s neck, and asked about it. “Oh, that’s nothing,” said the Dog, “it’s just from the collar master puts on me to keep me chained up every night. It chafes a bit, but you soon get used to it.” “Oh, is that so,” said the Wolf, “well then, goodbye to you. Better to starve free than be a fat slave.”

The tragedy for Puerto Rico is that it is both collared and chained, and starved.

<><><><><><><>

52 State Flag (proposed); if add Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.