Saturday, November 27, 2010

Willie Nelson arrested on the road again

Why did the Border Patrol arrest 77-year-old Willie Nelson at a checkpoint outside El Paso? Of course he was smoking pot. He’s been smoking pot for almost 70 years. It's a pre-existing condition.

Give the guy a pass and send him on his way. Make it a lifetime pass.

The authorities said they smelled pot when they opened the doors to Willie’s tour bus. Hell, they would smell pot in that particular bus if it were a barn find.

At least Willie practices safe pot – he generally uses some sort of vaporizer. Hmmm. I suppose that does argue the point that the driver would also get high while driving inside that haze. Maybe he was wearing a mask. This is the flu season. Maybe it was medical weed.

Willie, ever the stand-up kinda guy, admitted the pot was his, got charged and the cops released him shortly thereafter. But he could be facing 180 days in county jail if convicted.

Get your bumper stickers ready: FREE WILLIE.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Crossed the Mississippi for what?

North is easy to find this time of year.

We've got a beautiful snowfall underway. Soft, fluffy flakes hushing straight down from the low cloud deck. The tree crotches are marked. Bare branches embrace the snow. No wonder so many babies happen this time of year.

Likely, this will be a light snow, only one to three inches. But it's going to decorate a gorgeous thanksgiving.

Every time I look out the window, I say the same thing:


Even as a winter novice, I had to get out. I had a mission. An old Texan will go to a lot of trouble for a Thanksgiving pecan pie. The wintry mix was not going screw with my tradition.

This morning before the roads turned treacherous, I managed to get to the pie place and back. Literally, I went over the river and through the woods – driving across the bridge above Lock & Dam No. 1 on the Mississippi River. The big river is already showing ice floes. Overnight lows of 2 degrees will make the topside ice more safe for those Sons of Herman who just have to see if it will bear their weight. And the pickup truck.

Hope these are Stuart pecans.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All turkeys are frozen in Minnesota

The temperature dipped to 14 degrees last night. But the weather heads says it’s going to get cold by Friday.

This kind of weather requires some planning, especially if you are not within walking distance of a liquor store. The grocery today was filled with demographics my age wearing mis-matched hats and gloves. I was there, too.

We’re expecting a wintry mix the next few days off and on. I don’t know how, but frozen mist hangs in the air. Ice is coating everything. I worried about the seagull cruising overhead looking for Lake Superior. What kind of de-icer do birds need?

Sunday, freezing rain made driving a contact sport. Nearly 500 fender-benders. Some serious. After all these years of winter experience, you would think people would stay home. Every year, ice is slick.

Reader alert: anybody who has ever said “ice fishing” out loud can skip the rest of this and go grab a beer. Everybody else, listen up. The state sets out guidelines for people who like to walk on water – after it has turned to ice.
2 inches or less – stay off
4 inches – ice fishing OK
5 inches – snowmobile or ATV
8 to 12 inches – car or small pickup
12 to 15 inches – medium size truck

At first, this struck me as humorous but it is serious stuff. Every year, people fall through the ice and die. A quarter of those who are killed are 9 years old or younger.

Bundle up. Preferably with someone you love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1963

Today usually sneaks up on me.

Nov. 22, 1963 was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a lone gunman in Dallas.

I was the newest, greenest cub reporter working in Dallas at the time. A 24-year-old skinny kid from Lubbock who was just damned glad to be here, I barely knew how to find my way to work, much less operate a movie camera. I had been on the job only six weeks.

Somehow, I survived the trial by fire and managed to help capture history on film. During those terrible events, I filmed the Kennedy arrival at Love Field, the beginning of the motorcade, chaos at Parkland Hospital, the perp walk on the Third Floor…

When Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, Ruby was standing right next to me as he lurched out to kill the man who had murdered our president. I got it on film.

I was working numb. We all were.

Nearly 50 years later, four of us who worked at KRLD Radio/TV wrote a book about our experiences as reporters covering those dark days. (Click on the book to the left and it takes you direct to Amazon, if you are interested.) The book was Bob Huffaker‘s idea and he was lead author with able assists from Bill Mercer, Wes Wise, and me.

In writing the book, we were surprised to discover something we had in common. To do our job, we had to stuff our emotions. It was days later when we allowed ourselves to cry in private.

To this day, I get choked up describing the Kennedys getting off the plane in Dallas. They were beautiful and this was Camelot.

I guess I’m still a little numb.

Addendum from Huffaker, Mercer and me

Posted 15 January 2007 - 01:22 PM
William Kelly, on Jan 15 2007, 06:11 AM, said:


Yesterday, in Sunday morning's Austin American-Statesman, I read a book review of When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963, a memoir by four Dallas journalists-George Phenix, Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, and Wes Wise-who covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It sounds like an interesting book. During the course of that memorable weekend in 1963, one of the men spoke with Ruby in Dealey Plaza the day after the killing, another interviewed Oswald's mother, another was present when Ruby killed Oswald, and so on. And yet, if you are looking for substantive information about the assassination, you are not likely to find it in this book. The review states: "From the get-go, the authors declare themselves 'weary of conspiracy theories.'"

It is not surprising that they should be so averse to conspiracy "theories," for had they embraced such "theories" in their coverage of the assassination they might have ended up like Jim Koethe and Bill Hunter. Koethe was a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald; Hunter for the Long Beach Press Telegram. On the night of November 24, 1963, the two ventured to Jack Ruby's apartment where they interviewed Ruby's roommate George Senator and Ruby's attorney Tom Howard. Less than a year later, Howard, Koethe, and Hunter were all dead. Howard died of an apparent heart attack. Hunter was shot in the head by a Long Beach police officer who, after repeatedly changing his story about the killing, was eventually convicted of manslaughter and given a probated sentence. Koethe was killed a few months later in his Dallas apartment when he emerged from the shower to be karate-chopped in the neck by an unknown assailant.

Koethe and Hunter's deaths no doubt served as an example to other journalists, and may have been a factor in the large number of Dallas journalists who left Dallas and found other professions in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.

Phenix, Hufaker, Mercer, and Wise, however, were not part of this exodus. Their coverage of the assassination turned out to be a boon to their careers, rather than an impediment. Not only did they remain in the profession, they prospered. Phenix went on to co-found the Texas Weekly; Huffaker became an editor at Texas Monthly; Mercer became a prominent sportscaster; and Wise served as Mayor of Dallas in the 1970s.

These men, then, owe much to the assassination-it got them where they are today. But they sure wouldn't have gotten there if they had embraced those wearisome conspiracy "theories."

Huffaker was an army reservist based at Fort Hood. That, coupled with his career in the media may indicate he was working military intelligence. His name was appears on a DPD list of people believed to hold information on a Ruby-Oswald connection. Others on the list included Pixie Lynn and George Butler. You can find what PL and GB had in that regard (PL supposedly told a barman that Ruby ad Oswald were attending gay parties - GB claimed he had info indicating Oswald was Ruby's bastard son) but all you'll ffind when looking for what Huffaker had to say is a report saying THAT report was already filed.

To Tony: great work.

It's even worse that this idiocy's theme is that we made our careers by keeping our mouths shut about "the conspiracy." And made ourselves rich. What a colossal joke.

There were two or three people who wrote this little exchange of silliness, which I copied and pasted from the Mack White blog. The one who assumes that I was a clandestine intelligence officer is addressing someone named Bill (probably the William Kelly). It appears that the Mack White fellow wrote the initial post. I don't know who the Tony is who is congratulated upon his "good work."


Here's a thing I wrote in our old blog:

Confessions of a Conspirator

By Bob Huffaker

OK, I'm part of the JFK assassination cover-up. I admit it.

Keeping the secret all these years hasn't been easy, what with those constant visits from the mob, Vladimir Putin, that diehard Fidel Castro, and LBJ's ghost. So now the truth is out at last, and I feel marvelous just having gotten it off my chest.

Some bloggists have criticized When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963 for ignoring the obvious horrible truth behind who really shot JFK. One fellow suggests that all four of us reporters somehow saved ourselves from certain death by keeping quiet for all these years about what we knew. He even hints darkly that each of us somehow advanced his career by joining the cover-up: Bill as famous play-by-play announcer, George as publisher of Texas Weekly, Wes as Dallas Mayor, and I as a Texas Monthly editor. That's one of the funniest things we ever heard.

Most conspiracy criticism has come from decent folks who are properly skeptical of an establishment that has damn well earned all the skepticism it gets. Some of them say they enjoyed the book even if they wish that we had dealt with the proliferation of conspiracy theories.

That would have been a different book. We dealt instead with things we know firsthand and those we have investigated.

The physical evidence of the murders of Kennedy, Tippit, and Oswald is incontrovertible, complete with complete and consistent witness accounts of Oswald's and Ruby's movements, ballistics, photographic and autopsy evidence.

Having covered these three murders four decades ago, I went back into Warren Commission testimony, police reports, FBI reports, and other reliable evidence for a year of research while writing the book.

All the best research confirms that Oswald acted alone in the murder of JFK and Tippit, and that Ruby was too flaky and too wired to have kept secrets. The controversy over the physical evidence is a shame, since it detracts from real questions that remain, such as the documented cover-up by the FBI and Oswald's associations with people who might have influenced or encouraged him to kill JFK.

We all agree that Oswald and Ruby both acted alone and independently, but none of us would ever claim that others might not have influenced Oswald, especially given the FBI's concealing their knowledge of the assassin and the CIA's shadowy presence. On CBS-TV the morning after the assassination, my first question to Chief Jesse Curry confirmed FBI surveillance of the suspect.

But Ruby was a police and media groupie, and nobody in his right mind would have chosen him as a conspirator--and certainly not as a hit man. I talked to Ruby enough to know that much myself, and his roommate George Senator had no secrets either. He was just a bartender who shared Ruby's apartment and might or might not have had a physical relationship with him--not that there's anything wrong with that.

I invite all conspiracy-minded folks to read When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963, give us your best shot, and let us know if you enjoyed the book.

This is almost funny if not so absolutely crazy. I interviewed a woman who claimed to have been a stripper at Ruby's club and was pushing a book in which she also claimed that Ruby and Oswald had dinner in Ruby's club the week before the killing. That ancient rumor has long been discredited.

To answer how we made our fortunes: I left KRLD News just before Christmas of '64 without a job! Huffaker quit and earned a Ph.D in English to teach and make a fortune? Wes won the mayor's contest and nearly went bankrupt. George Phenix founded and published Texas Weekly and other publications for two decades and is happily in Minneapolis writing The Blog of Ages. We all are retired with English Bulldogs and yachts? You can see why talking about conspiracies is a mite disgusting.

Bill Mercer

Maybe not you -- but I got rich. After I took the film of Ruby shooting Oswald, KRLD TV paid me a handsome bonus of $8.62.
That is not a typo.

George Phenix

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter grumble storm

When it snowed last week, I trudged out to get some pictures of the school yard three doors up from our home. It was a heavy, wet snow. Beautiful, but difficult underfoot.

About half way out in the playground, my hips complained. As I turned back toward the house, I was startled to get sniffed by a big brindle dog who was just happy to get outside. He was pulling his owner, a small young woman wearing something I had never seen in true life – she was wearing snowshoes.

Before I could gather all my amazement, I almost got clipped by another young woman who was little more than a blur. No snowshoes for this one – she was riding her bicycle. In the snow. Nearly seven inches was already on the ground.

This morning, in 19 degree weather but no snow, I watched an older couple briskly walking our block. They take this turn most every morning.

Last night, friends who are lifetime residents of the Twin Cities came over with pizza and booze. They were complaining that there was no snow. I don’t think it was the wine talking. They meant it.

Right on cue, the weatherman writes in the morning paper that an Arctic air mass may squeeze out “bursts” of powdery snow Monday through Wednesday.

Are you happy now?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gadsden Flag displays your ...

Display your (fill in the blank) with a personalized Gadsden Flag license plate on your car. Starting in Virginia, perhaps a national movement? Curious timing – just as the driverless car is ready for the road.

More transportation news. AMTRAK expects a bump in ridership thanks to the growing irritation with TSA airport pat-downs. Someone noted that not a single terrorist had been captured by TSA but 23 TSA employees have been arrested for stealing from passengers.

Nate Silver reports: "Other passengers may substitute car travel for air travel. But this too has its consequences, since car travel is much more dangerous than air travel over all. According to the Cornell study, roughly 130 inconvenienced travelers died every three months as a result of additional traffic fatalities brought on by substituting ground transit for air transit. That’s the equivalent of four fully-loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year."

Someone else has proposed special flights just for parents with unruly children. Might work. Already, there are planes set aside just for pets. Someone else wants jets just for geezers. Another wants special treatment for overweight people. Next thing you know, there will be flights waving the Gadsden Flag.

Personal note: The American Flag is my flag.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tea Party: Release the Kraken!

Come with me to yesteryear. Or at least to last Friday.

That’s when we left the Tea Party groups bitch-slapping each other over power and influence among America’s angriest voters. The show was put on by Freedom Works, Claremont Institute, and Tea Party Patriots.

Well, that was Friday.

Today, two more groups have announced plans to set up Tea Party farm teams supposedly, although unsaid, to pre-screen nutty candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell from ever seeing their names on another ballot.

Write these names down: American Majority and American Majority Action. Sounding close enough to be twins, these two non-profits are actually run by twins, Ned and Drew Ryun. They have a rich Republican pedigree having worked for Bush or the GOP or both. Did I mention their father was a Republican congressman?

But their new role as search party is for the Tea Party. Not the Republicans. Got that?

The brothers plan to spend a million bucks or more to anoint proper Tea Party Candidates for 2012. Like I said, the Tea Party is beginning to look a lot like a political party. Even if they represent the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

Admitting the obvious would give them much more credibility.

Release the Kraken!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tea Party lashes Tea Party

The freshmen congress haven’t even been sworn in and the conservatives are already pounding on their flesh. The Tea Party is acting a lot like a political party despite their protestations of purity.

Several groups are claiming squatters rights for the new members and demanding they are entitled to conduct orientation classes for the true believers.

First, high priests from Freedom Works, the front group for the right wing billionaire Koch Bros., invited the newbies to Baltimore to teach the cataclysms to the innocents.

The Tea Party Patriots were not in the mood to share mind control.

Enter the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank. Word got out they were holding orientation same day as the Patriots. As bona fides, both organizations featured geezer speakers from the Ronal Reagan empire. Nearly normal people.

The Tea Party Patriots send out an angry e-mail that was at the same time paranoid and rabid, They attacked fellow conservatives and Republicans with a clatter of facts that were wrong. To top it off, Patriots published cell phone numbers of most of the ’11 class of freshmen which resulted thunderous phone calls all around. They had to cease, desist and apologize.

That was Friday. Hurry sundown so we can see what entertainment Monday brings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seven point seven inches of snow

Oh. I almost forgot to tell you. It snowed yesterday. Big wet stuff that plops off trees and down your collar if you aren’t vigilant.

Yesterday, beautiful. Today, ugly. It’s those damned leaves we used to love. The Minneapolis municipal street sweepers didn’t make it to our neighborhood but the snow plows did. They shoved the snow, leaves and all, up onto the curb. Dirty stuff. But they had to clear the roads before the snow iced to the streets. Forgivable.

Right now, more snow. Light little flakes. Rear gunners as the storm system drifts toward Wisconsin.

This is my second Big Winter in Minnesota. And I think I’m losing my accent. People talk faster when it is cold.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Screw Nat King Cole

Just a few weeks back, we loved the falling leaves. Red, yellow, orange or brown. We were absolutely giddy when the winds shook the leaves loose from the trees and sent them skittering down the street. The banks of the Mississippi were celestial. Painted, surely, by a union member on loan from heaven.

Now, the leaves are starting to piss me off. Two or three times, yards pile up with decaying, brittle plant life devoid of charm, rank or station. Rake them up, mulch them, bag and tag.

Repeat. Often.

Millions are still in the street and are plotting ugly stuff. No longer do the leaves glide to earth on gossamer wings. No more. Now the last stubborn survivors thud to earth. Heavy and dingy.

Gotta get them up before the first snowfall. At this latitude, leaves can clog storm sewers and turn intersections into hockey rinks. Hurry. Snow is possible tomorrow and we live on a snow emergency route. Our street gets plowed early which is helpful because I do too.

The city is put on alert. Pay attention, citizens, to the street sweeper schedule. Your vehicle will be towed if you park in the to-be-cleaned zone. Expensive mistake.

Our street goes both ways. Minnesota is a fairly liberal state.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

GOP success? Don't count on it

Blame George Bush. Seriously.

In a way, his loss paved the way for Republicans to chalk up big wins.

Bear with me.

From 9/11 to the first stimulus package, nothing in Washington worked very well. If at all. So voters got a running start on their anger. That’s the GWB contribution. That's when voters struck the first match.

Obama got in front of that fire line and outran it to the White House. But things started going bad in a hurry. Much of the Democrats’ humiliation was self-inflicted. Obama promised change, but people couldn’t see it happen. Not fast enough for the firestorm building. He passed lots of legislation but his team was inept at selling his accomplishments. They let Republicans keep stoking the fires.

Smooth teleprompter talk, however, could not soothe the voter anger. Too much word jazz. Obama and his team failed to understand the frustration but conservative opportunists did and organized around the nasty mood.

The only good news for Democrats is – in this new world of 24/7 news, Twitter and Facebook – within two days, the voters will have forgotten who won and start printing angry bumper stickers again.

Jobs. The economy. Don’t count on it. Gridlock. Most likely.

Fix Washington? Ain’t going to happen. Too much big money in play. Too much conservative money. Re-boot. That’s about the best you can expect. Wasteful.

And it won’t be pretty. Too much vitriol.

Were it not so dangerous for our country, I almost wish more of their crazies had won (Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller) so we could really see how weird their ideas really are. We’ll just have to make do with Rand Paul.

No matter. The Tea Party need only look at the Census data to see the old white guys’ rule is on its last legs. America is growing more racially diverse by the minute. And someday soon, those new voters will take over.

Everybody will be a minority. With luck, even the K Street lobbyists.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert -- naive?

Here’s the thing: Glenn Beck wore a bullet-proof vest when he held his rally in Washington. Jon Stewart didn’t. Neither did Stephen Colbert.

Why is that?

I think it underscores the difference between hateful paranoia from Beck and smart-ass fun from Stewart. Anger begets anger. Fun. That’s one difference.

I love Stewart and Colbert. I stay up way past my bedtime to watch their shows. I loved their Rally to Restore Sanity at the Washington Mall.

Having declared my man-crush(es), I must tell you that I think the Stewart and Colbert boys are naive.

They ask too much. It’s too hard.

I want to put aside my anger at the Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, etc. But it’s tough when they keep saying stupid things and doing stupid things like handcuffing reporters and stomping women’s heads.

I want Fox to cool the jets of their on-air ninnies. Doubtful. Very doubtful. Glenn Beck is getting rich off fear. Ditto Rush Limbaugh. Fear laced with greed.

The MSNBC sages also need to dial it back a little. Chris and Keith and Ed don’t like getting poked by the comedians. But they could do us all a service by sweetening their shtick. Olbermann at least has discontinued his segment called “Worst Person in the World.” It’s a start. But he is still pouting at the comparison between what he does and what Fox spews. I’m biased; I don’t blame him.

OK. I’ve said my thing. As a wise man just said, now, you go.

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