Category Archives: Rants & Raves

Senators hear how DOD let tail bite tooth in Iraq

tn_dina.jpg Dina Rasor, co-author, Betraying our Troops

Dina Rasor is a Northern California woman who has been investigating waste and fraud in the Pentagon for going on 25 years. Most recently she is the co-author of “Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War.” The book argues that an incredible and unmonitored expansion in the use of contract firms to supply U.S. troops with water, food and other supports led to unconsionable waste and worse — the endangerment of our field troops.

In milspeak logistics and supply functions are called the tail. Fighting troops are called the tooth. Rasor testified before a U.S. Senate committee in January. She said the Pentagon outsourced logistics to an extraordinary degree in Iraq. One contract (LOGCAPIII) had been a $60 million — with an M – deal under which Halliburton/KBR would support U.S. troops in the Balkans. Rasor told senators that “the Army took the LOGCAP III contract . . . and exploded it to replace the people and supplies that they did not have in the Army . . . To date, the LOGCAP III contact is estimated to have cost the Army $26 billion.”

The taxpayer might wonder whether the cost controls of the original contract were sufficient to monitor what amounts to a 430-fold increase in expenditures. But that’s only money. What should boil our blood is Rasor’s testimony about:

“a manager for KBR, who was contracted to provide food, water, supply transportation and other services to our troops in Iraq. He told a general at his Iraq base that unless KBR was paid for their submitted invoices, his workers would stay in their housing containers and do nothing until the money was paid. In other words, KBR was threatening a work stoppage in a war zone. This was not an isolated incident.” 

Scott Horton, a contributing editor with Harper’s Magazine interviewed Rasor and co-author Robert Bauman last fall. In that article Rasor said the Pentagon has attacked critics of its outsourcing program — most notably the military officers who have stepped forward to blow the whistle on contractor malfeasance.

“The primary whistleblower featured in our book, Major Rick Lamberth, has suffered retaliation and threats of his career being ruined by the Army if he continued to talk publicly about the problems. Harsh treatment and retribution has been a pattern against those who dare to blow the whistle about contracting problems for Iraq. There have been very few, if any, success stories for whistleblowers trying to expose fraud during this war.”

A year ago Congressman Henry Waxman introduced H.R. 985, the Whistleblower Protection Act. It has passed the House but it seems like it’s been stuck in the Senate subcommittee on government oversight since last June. We need this law. There is no way Congress or the media can penetrate the Pentagon. We need honest officers and civilians to step forward and reveal how these REMFs — “rear echelon mother figures” — robbed taxpayers and stabbed soldiers in the back.

Santa Cruz media event 2nd hand report

Documentary film makers should work together documentarist Danny Schechter told an audience of about 175 persons at an alternative media summit in Santa Cruz. I plucked that from a summary of the proceedings written by New England media entrepreneur Bill Densmore who notes that:

“Documentary producer and author Kristina Borjesson suggested establishing a ‘standards and practices cookbook’ that could be followed by progressive media-makers and would raise their credibility with the public. ‘We have to be organized,’ she said. “We have to be brutally organized. We have to be more bottomline.’ “

Along these lines film makers might look to the The Empowerment Project which “produces and distributes its own documentary films and videos, and provides facilities, training and other support for independent producers, artists, activists and organizations.”

The conference, Truth Emergency 2008, was organized by Project Censored and According to Densmore the speakers included Peter Dale Scott, an emeritus professor at UC Berkeley, who urged speakers not to use words like fascist to describe the current situation in the U.S. because in such a state an opposition meeting of this sort would not be tolerated.

FYI, in visiting Scott’s web page at UC Berkeley, I noted this request:

Jan. 17, 2008: I need urgently to raise U.S.$25,000 dollars, for a project, otherwise in place, for an international colloquium leading to a book. Since 2006 I have been attempting with Prof. Eric Wilson of the Faculty of Law, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, to put together a colloquium with the following title and summary description: Hidden Forces and Assaults upon the Public State.”

Seems I’m not so much untethered as unhinged


MiniMediaGuy gets egg on face — again!


With such pride and fanfare I announced on Dec 10 that I had severed my land connection to broadband in favor of the Verizon EV-DO service that dials into some sort of cellular broadband service. I was excited because I paid only the sales tax on four $170 modems that I distributed to my family. I thought — erroneously — that all four modems were activated by a single $59.95 monthly charge. That is what I had been paying for Comcast. So it seemed like a great deal to get four completely mobile broadband connections for the same price.


Indeed it would have been a great deal — had it been true. But apparently each of those four EV-DO lines carried a $59.95 charge. That would have given me family broadband for $240 a month — not such a deal.


Fortunately I discovered my error a day ago and was able to take back all four devices and cancel the service within the 30-day cooling off period.

I am not the sharpest of consumers as this makes clear. But I’m pretty sure that I asked, repeatedly, whether all four modems were covered by the same $59.95 charge. Perhaps my salesperson thought I was asking whether the charge varied from device to device. But I think I pretty clearly said that I intended to disconnect my cable modem and hand out EV-DOs to my family. Was the sales guy not listening or not thinking or not caring?

I am grateful for Verizon’s 30 day return policy. It allowed me the time to undue a hasty purchase. That is the lesson to me. I didn’t spend much more time on this decision than I would have spent deciding whether or not to have whipped cream on my mocha. I can’t afford to be so careless with recurring monthly expenses.

. . . From a man with wooden teeth, 4 of 4


Part Four: Dreams or delusions trump drifting or despair

(Editor’s note: This is the final of four postings that originally appeared in November 2006 as a parable of youthful folly. If you’ve only just stumbled upon this installment part one appeared on Christmas Day. It tells how I moved to the Northern Californian town of Eureka to start a community newspaper only to lose my nerve and open a typesetting shop as a fallback plan. That sets the stage for part two in which I am found by the man with wooden teeth. In part three I am married in a big, fat Greek wedding — and learn to accept a certain foolishness in lieu of convention.)

I’m not sure when I told my wife that I wanted to pull out of the Barter Bank paper. We had no time to talk before the wedding, what with all the feasting and preparations. As it was my wife had been 45 minutes late for the ceremony which had set off a buzzing in the church. The Sunday morning after the wedding was our last party. Surrounded by the immediate family we opened gifts in my mother-in-law’s living room as my wife’s aunts — my new Theas — explained the genealogy of each and every dish and towel. Perhaps we talked during the long drive home. Hundreds of empty miles separate Sacramento from Eureke. There’s plenty of time to stare out the window and think. But it was clear that I had been bilked, and that if we didn’t disentangle ourselves from this scheme we’d put our new typesetting business and our reputations at risk.

When we got back to Eureka I sought out Rama at his apartment and told him we were finished with him. Its a long time ago and my memory of the particulars is dim. I don’t think he protested much, almost like he expected it. He tried to get the papers that I had printed but I refused. If he wanted them he could give us our money back. Otherwise we had produced the paper and paid for the printing. As far as I was concerned they were ours. I think I eventually threw them out.

I saw Rama one more time. A few weeks later in mid December, when Eureka gets wet and cold, he sought me out at our live/work loft. I wouldn’t let him in as I recall. We talked on the sidewalk. He offered to sell me the other half of the NorthCoast Journal and Barter Bank for $250. I laughed. He was obviously looking to skip town but I had no intention of giving him another nickle to help him “manifest.” I last saw him walking down to 5th Street, which is what Highway 101 is called as it cuts North through town. I’ve always imagined that he went looking for the Bhagwan. I didn’t begrudge him any happiness he might be able to find. He was just a wet and pathetic creature wrapped in orange. I wasn’t angry at him. In fact by then I’d even gotten over being angry at myself. I just chalked the whole thing up to experience.

My wife and I heard from Rama once more during the 10 years we lived and worked in Eureka. It was around 1988 or 1989. I can’t recall any more specifically. By then we had already produced a few local books and publications. My wife and I had bought, and were living on, a piece of land that we still own.

In the letter Rama asked our forgiveness, as I recall, and also talked about how much he missed the beautiful Redwoods. That last part alarmed me as I took it to me he planned to return and I made it my business to track down the return address — which turned out to be a federal prison someone in Tennessee.

In 1990, my wife and I — by that time we had one child — left Humboldt County so I could attend graduate school in journalism at Columbia University. We were following another one of my angsts. What would’ve happened if I’d done the sensible thing 10 years prior and gotten a newspaper job? I’ll never forget what one of my professors told me when I arrived at Columbia, disoriented at being back in the city and back in school, and worried about the prospects of finding a job. His name was Dick Blood. He had been a New York Daily News editor back in the day, a tall imperious man with silver hair and bushy eyebrows. He told me in essence, not to worry. That I was probably already successful. At the time I didn’t quite understand what he meant but I found it reassuring.

And I eventually did find a job, in San Francisco, where I like to joke that I’ve spent 15 years as an ill-tempered reporter for a middling metropolitan daily. For most of that time I’ve covered Silicon Valley. I’ve followed Apple through various of its gyrations, witnessed the birth of the World Wide Web, saw the rise and meteroic fall of Netscape, and dozens of other dramas. Four of those years I followed the evolving mystery that is biotechnology.

In that time I’ve covered big businesses and large characters, not silly little ones like those of my Eureka days. But the common thread I see in my personal experience and these larger events is the predominance of failure and the glory of perserverance. In Silicon Valley failure is no shame. At least not honest failure, the idea that sounded plausible but just didn’t pan out. There’s a metaphor that goes back to the Gold Rush. California was born of boom and bust and grandiose dreams. It’s in the nature of Californians to try and fail and sometimes come back again. Steve Jobs is the poster child in this regard. I met him during the dark days when his NeXT Computer was floundering. Now the world is at his feet. Most people only see the success. I’ve caught glimpses of the struggle.

I dwell on this to put my own shortcomings into perspective. Even my foolishness in buying half-interest in a newspaper from a man with wooden teeth pales in comparison to to the debacle. How many people got sucked into that insanity? People with suits and tassled shoes, with MBAs and leather briefcases that buckle on the side. And what of the thousands and millions of people were were lulled into thinking that the stock market would keep going up, up, up, and never had to come down?

So I’m no longer so ashamed of this episode as to keep it buried. I made a mistake. I corrected it. And I moved my life forward. And I learned from the experience, going back to my move to Eureka in the first place. That I don’t regret in the slightest. To this day we have great friends and great memories and a wonderful place in a circle of Redwoods where my heart yearns to be. Perhaps the only real error I made was in giving up on the idea of starting the community paper. Yes, I was ignorant of local conditions when I first arrived and the whole notion was an exercise in arrogance. But I wouldn’t have remained ignorant long, and I’ve seen passionate effort succeed against long odds. That’s been one of the privileges of being a Silicon Valley reporter.

And if it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between a dream and a self-delusion, I don’t find that particularly troubling. Either way I need some goal beyond simply living day to day, and the only difference between the two may be in the outcome, which is beyond anyone’s control. So maybe my real error way back then was to squander the invincibility of my youth. Because, since then, I’ve seen that all the belief and effort in the world can’t guarantee success. But the perverse opposite is true. Once you see youself as beaten, you’re done. Finished. Kaput.

So even if it seems self-delusional at times, all you can do is hang onto your dreams, put forth your best effort and improve your odds by trying. If the plan is well-conceived; if the circumstances favorable; if your karma is good; who knows, you may even manifest.

. . . From a man with wooden teeth, 3 of 4


Part Three: My Big Fat Greek wedding.

(Editor’s note: This is the third of four postings that originally appeared in November 2006 as a parable of youthful folly. If you’ve just stumbled upon this posting, part one appeared on Christmas Day. It tells how I moved to the Northern Californian town of Eureka to start a community newspaper only to lose my nerve and open a typesetting shop as a fallback plan. That sets the stage for part two in which I am found by the man with wooden teeth. Today I take a healing dip into the bosom of my family.)

As I recall, my wife-to-be had flown from Eureka to Sacramento a day or two ahead of me to get fitted for her wedding dress, and wasn’t around when I picked up the first issue of the NorthCoast Journal and Barter Bank and threw it into the trunk of my car — along with my misgivings about this second attempt at community publishing.

With her literallly out of the picture for a moment, this would be a convenient place to explain why you hear so little from or about my silent partner. In the first place this is my blog. If she wants to tell this or any other tale she can start her own. Secondly, this entire escapade was my fault. She was then young and impressionable and trusted me (I think the passage of time has cured that naivete). Finally, she was reluctant to get hitched and would’ve preferred to shack up. I argued that, as we were in business together, we ought to marry as it would provide clear case law to divide the property should we ever part. She eventually argreed to marry but imposed a condition — that she keep her own name. I iconviently nterpret this to mean that she is the keeper of her own persona and not my prose fodder.

But I think it’s fair to say, and no violation of anyone’s privacy, that both she and I have unusual logic patterns, and during the long drive south on Highway 101 — through the tall trees and windy mountain passes, past the spindly oaks of Willits, east on Highway 20 along the silvery Clear Lake and south on the fast highways into the lights of Sacramento — I was wondering how to break the news to my poor, suffering darling that I had blown it once again and pissed away what little money we had left getting us into bed with a con man. Because, unless I’m mistaken in this belief, to her mind the deal with Rama had been a ray of hope. She never wanted to quit our original quest because her one concern — clearly expressed before she agreed to join me in the original move from Berkeley to Eureka — was that she not get stuck being a typesetter.

As she saw it therefore, co-publishing with Rama offered her — the person who had to pound away at the keys and do most of the work — the comfort of believing she was not simply stuck in the job she had specifically not wanted to do. But even after I reached Sacramento there was no chance to discuss any of this because I was immediately swept up into the great big bosom of her Greek family, and the raucous embrace of that wild tribe of Brooklyn-born Italiian-Americans from whence I had issued forth.

I can only share scattered images of the four days of celebration that followed. There was the Thanksgiving table that groaned under the weight of turkeys and hams, black olives and feta cheese, and the butter-soaked Greek delicacies I could never stomach, like baklava. The wine flowed freely and fueled the loud conversations of the two families being folded together here who met for the first time to discover that they shared the most important value, a love of family itself, in addition to a particular fondness for the progeny each was contrubuting to this relationship.

My immediate family — mom and dad (since deceased) and my five younger brothers and sisters, flew out for the event, plus my one living grandmother, Tessie, my mother’s mother, who was also Greek, a fact that delighted my in-laws-to be. But I don’t want to mislead you about the character of my family. We were Abates. We were Brooklyn Italians. We were in your face, table-pounding, and opinionated — usually at volumes more befiting an opera hall than a living room. But did love them! For them, it was not just a wedding. It was a visit to California (as Easterners they had only no grasp of the bigness of the state, and the differences between north and the south, and the fact that Sacramento was in the central valley farm zone; I think they half-expected to see beaches). We drove to the Golden Gate Bridge and shivered in the fog while we snapped pictures. I remember one sweet moment when I walked with my brothers and sisters down to a bend in the American River, which flows clear and fast not far from my mother-in-law’s home. They’re all grown up and married themselves now, with families, but this was so long ago they were kids, most of them, and they marveled that something so fresh and beautiful could run through a city.

As for my wife’s family, I had already met her mom, the matriarch, Yia Yia (grandmother) Dimitra, her sweet and numerous aunts (called Theas in Greek) and uncle (Theo George), not to mention her older sister (who took me aside at one point in the midst of all this celebration to warn me that if I ever hurt her sister, she would come after me.) This sort of family I could understand and love, but what I had no idea until the ceremony and reception was just how large this family was. The wedding day itself had some funny moments. But for now I’ll just say that the entire Greek community of Sacramento must have turned out the Saturday afternoon we were married because the wooden pews on both sides of the aisles were filled. I realized later that they weren’t alone. Though I wasn’t able to see this as I walked down the aisle — incense nung in the air like a smoke screen and not much light filtered through the stained-glass — a large cohort of my friends were also present because my wife had secretly invited some of my Navy buddies, some crazy Irish high-school buddies who had migrated out to California, a crop of our student newspaper buddies, and of course my lifelong friend, Cousin Charles.

All of these friends I only got to meet after the ceremony, which was long and bewildering as it was conducted entirely in Greek. Indeed, to this day I’m not covinced that I am married, because no one ever asked me if I do. My sister-in-law just walked around the altar three times, then held a white halo over my head. The priest (who had a beard suspiciously like Rama’s) said some words in Greek then waved the brass incense holder at me as if I were a bug he wanted to drive away. And then it was time to meet the rest of family; the Thea who had drawn water from the well not far from the place where YiaYia Dimtra was born; the Theo who was her son, and had gone to school with one of my wife’s Theas. My cheek was pinched. My head was patted. I’m surprised no one went for my package to make sure I had the gear to do my part in producing the offspring that were clearly expected. I must’ve met 400 people that night. I never got to spend much time with any of my friends but they didn’t seem to mind. It was a wild party, with Greek dancing in a big hall filled with laughter and voices. And then it was over, and my new extended family loaded the wedding gifts into waiting cars, and a couple of them carried my passed-out Cousin Charles onto the top of the last load. Someone put one of the Cow Lillies from the table settings in his hands as a joke. He snored through it, oblivious.

And I realized that night that I was not the fool who had twice now failed as a community newspaper publisher. Yes, I had been foolish in two instances, but who doesn’t do foolish things. No, I was the man who all these people loved, and whom they expected to do the right thing, as much it was within my ability to do, now and forever after. And I knew exactly what that was. I only had to do it. (to be concluded).

. . . From a man with wooden teeth, 2 of 4


Part Two: Meet Rama Bhagwan.

(Editor’s note: This is the second of four postings that originally appeared in November 2006 as a parable of youthful folly. Yesterday I explained how I moved to the Northern Californian town of Eureka to start a community newspaper, only to realize my that I knew next to nothing about my adopted community. I ended that chapter with the decision to open a typesetting shop as a fallback plan — which allowed the man with wooden teeth to find me.)

My ego was just beginning to recover by the time that Rama Bhagwhan showed up at our typesetting shop. We had decided to operate out of the front parlor of our Victorian flat to save money the live-work way. Rama explained that he had only started the Barter Bank newspaper a few weeks earlier and wasn’t satisfied with the look of the first issue. This conversation occurred sometime in October 1980 although the passage of time has erased my memory of the specifics. But I recall that I was floored by the fact that this improbable character had perservered where I, the former campus newspaper editor, had quailed. This is no excuse. It is simply an explanation for an incredible lapse of judgement. For though I did not then know that Rama Bhagwan had wooden teeth, every visible clue screamed flim flam.

He had a tangled black beard and a pony tail that he flipped nervously when he spoke. He had wrapped his torso in some imitation of a bright orange toga, which he wore over blue jeans and hiking boots. He said the orange was a token he wore to honor his spiritual leader, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who either had or was about to start a commune further north in Oregon. From the Bhagwan he had also taken his name. I’m not sure if I ever knew and I certainly don’t recall what his given name might have been. I took a guy named Rama at face value.

I cannot recall the precise chronology of what transpired next, except to say that, knowing me and my tendency to reveal skeletons that most folks have the good sense to keep locked in the closet, I must have let on to Rama that my partner and I had a similar plan for a community paper but lost our nerve. It must have been Rama who proposed that we join him in putting out the NorthCoast Journal and Barter Bank. To have turned a potentially paying project into a labor of love would have been foolish enough. But Rama drove a hard bargain. He proposed that we pay him to become partners in putting out what would be the second issue of this eight-page tabloid rag that had a few ads for healing arts and odd bits of text that looked like they were copied out of other publications. So whether it took hours or days for me to commit this next monumental stupidity, I know that Rama exited our shop one day with a check for $1,500 and left behind a scrap of paper on which was written our agreement: that he would sell the ads, I would take charge of editorial, and my partner would do layout and production.

Days passed. I started to find my way about town, looking for stories, snapping pictures. Rama would occasionally show up with some ad copy (but never any checks or even billing information). The second issue of the NorthCoast Journal and Barter Bank began to take shape, and while I should have been pleased that I was finally putting together a community paper, I was more and more nervous. There seemed to be no periodicity to the Barter Bank paper. It wasn’t weekly. It wasn’t bi-weekly. “It will manifest,” Rama would say when I confronted him. Manifest was his favorite word and it fell powerfully upon my ears, as it reminded me which of us had accomplished the task we had both set out to do.

But as November started to ebb away I lost patience. Copy I’d written weeks before was getting stale and I had other dealines looming (my partner and I were supposed to get married just after Thanksgiving as I’ll explain the next installment). I drove over to Rama’s office/apartment in Arcata, the college town that’s just around the curve of Humboldt Bay from Eureka — but several states of consciousness removed from that blue collar town.

It was during that surprise visit — Rama had no phone and so I could tell him I was coming nor be certain he would be there — that I learned about his wooden teeth. They were sitting on a tiny table alongside a picture of the Bhagwan that he had turned into a shrine. I must’ve asked about the teeth because it was he who told me they were wooden but I wasn’t there to talk about dentures and so I turned to the business at hand: we had to set a deadline, we had to manifest this goddamm paper and soon because my family was flying out from Brooklyn to see me get married and I was going to put my premier issue as editor of the NorthCoast Journal and Barter Bank to bed first.

It was an odd conversation, the only part of which I remember was the whiny sound of his voice without his teeth and how ludicrous he looked every time he opened his mouth to reveal his tender red gums. I recall that I stood the whole time while he sat cross legged in a lazy lotus position. I think I left there with a couple of ads he had yet to turn in and informed him that I would be taking the issue to the printers — which, of course, meant paying for it.

Meanwhile, my partner and soon-to-be-bride was making a go of the typesetting business. We only had one machine at the time, and she was the only one of us who really knew how to use it (later I would learn, but my unofficial motto when it comes to typesetting was, “I may be slow, but I make a lot of mistakes”). But she had the gift. If you wanted a menu, she would create one that would set the customers to drooling. If you needed a resume, she could bang out something that would make mean old Donald Trump sit up and take note.

We had arranged, as I recall, to close the typesetting shop early on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, drive down to Sacramento, where she was from and where the wedding would be held, get married on Saturday, honeymoon all day Sunday, and make the seven-hour drive back to Eureka Sunday night so as to be open for business on that Monday morning.

I can’t recall when I had my showdown with Rama, but I recall with certainty that I only picked up my first issue of the paper just before we set out for Sacramento. I set off on that long drive with the bundles in the back the old Ford Cortina that had sustained me through my Navy and college years. My dream of being a community publisher was there in the trunk, wrapped up in several bundles tied with string. Why then did I have a gnawing sense of what is meant by that old adage: be careful or you’ll get what you wish. (to be continued … )

The time I bought half-interest in a newspaper from a man with wooden teeth


Part One: Plans go awry.

(Editor’s note: This posting originally appeared in November 2006. I rerun it here with only spellling fixes and minor changes. I hope you emjoy this true parable of folly. Merry Christmas!) 

For some time I’ve been pontificating about new media from the relative security of a day job. It occurs to me that the reasonable reader might ask: who does this guy think he is?

Well, who I am is a story more than 50 years in the making, but the distilled version is that I am ABD from the University of Trial and Error — a perfect example of which is the embarrassingly true tale of the time I bought half-interest in a newspaper from a man with wooden teeth.

To understand this particular boo-boo, I have to take you back to 1980 when I graduated the University of California after having more or less majored in putting out the campus newspaper, the Daily California. That experience convinced me of two things: that newspaper reporters were a sick, bitter breed, and that I was perfectly suited to be one of them.

The sensible strategy would have been to gather my clips and resume and go looking for a job, presumably at the Nowhere Gazette, where I could work long hours for low pay and begin my career climb. But I had other plans. At Berkeley I had been what was then called a “nuke nut” and I feared that nuclear war might be imminent. Plus I had been an editor in Berkeley and thought myself quite the businessman as well. Finally, having been raised in Brooklyn, where the proverbial tree grew, I thought it would be a good thing to return to the land. So rather than job-hunting to be a reporter, I decided to become a gentleman-farmer and publisher in the Northern Californian city of Eureka.

The choice of Eureka was dictated by a careful study of nuclear fallout maps, which showed the cities of central and Southern California bearing the brunt of any missile attack and the radiation being blown eastward by the offshore winds. The fact that I wanted to become a community publisher in a community that I only discovered in the summer of 1980, as I was laying these plans, did not seem at all troublesome. (I recently heard Shel ( Naked Conversations) Israel say something apropos: in Silicon Valley the only thing that changes is the faces of the 26-year-olds; the constant is their conviction that they can’t fail. I was 26 at the time.)

So with the appropriate hubris I set my plan in motion. I had convinced a partner to join me in this quest and she had a $10,000 insurance settlement that we used to buy the typesetting machine we would need to produce the text and advertising copy for our community paper. We rented a space to live and work. By late summer everything was ready. All that remained was for us, or rather me — I would do sales and editorial, my partner, production — to get out into the community.

I can still remember the revelation that punctured my carpetbagging scheme. I was listening to the radio when a commercial came on that mentioned “Friendly Henderson Center.” And it struck me that I had no idea where to find this oasis of amicability. All at once the preposterousness of the entire plan hit me. Doubt ushered in self-defeat. I knew I had been foolish and now the question was what to do next. We were about 270 miles north of San Francisco, with a typesetting machine and a layout table. As a fallback plan I came up with the idea of opening a job shop to do graphic design, brochures, company newsletters and whatever else local businesses and organizations might need in the way of printed materials.

This whole process played out over a period of several months and by roughly October of 1980, through hustle and hard work, word had gotten around that we were a cheap place to get good work. Thus appeared at our door one day a most improbable character who called himself Rama Bhagwan. He plopped a ratty-looking eight-page tabloid newspaper down on our reception table and told us that this was the first issue of a newspaper he had started called the NorthCoast Journal and Barter Bank. He said he wasn’t satified with his current typesetting vendor and wanted us to give him a competitive bid. (to be continued … )