Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ga'day, mates!

(And a brutal day so far...)

Up at the crack of 8:00 a.m. BodyPump at the gym from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Replenishment shake, shower, and then off to ShopRite. (Half-hour nap in the car in the parking lot!) Shopped there; then off to Walmart for certain specific items (including my beloved light cream).

Home now. Resisting the urge to take another nap. (Must be post-vacation blues; that and the crappy weather.)

So... let me get a few newsbites under my belt and then off to watched last night's DVR'ed episode of Sons of Anarchy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Judge England vs. Darth V... er... Eric Holder


*  *  *  *  *  *

Corrupt federal prosecutors presenting false evidence in order to shake down a blameless corporation and bring in tens of millions of dollars seems like a pretty dramatic story. Especially when former prosecutors support the charge and a chief judge acts on the allegations and takes dramatic action. Yet the media silence is deafening.


Eric Holder’s Justice Department is implicated in a dramatic and shocking case of alleged corruption that is so bad that the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of California has taken what can rightly be called the “nuclear option” and recused all the judges in the district from the case because they may have been defrauded by the DOJ prosecutors.


So far, aside from the local paper, the Sacramento Bee, it is only Sidney Powell of the New York Observer, writing in the opinion pages of that publication that has paid attention to what should be a prominent national media scandal.


In brief, the Sierra Pacific Industries, a lumber producer, was accused by the federal government of starting a large wildfire, and fined $55 million, and compelled to hand over title to 22,500 acres of land. The only problem is that the prosecution was allegedly corrupt, and knowingly submitted false evidence.

"In an extraordinary development, Judge England, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, ordered the recusal of all the Eastern District judges from the case because of serious allegations that the Court itself was defrauded by the government in the original prosecution. To avoid any appearance of partiality, he has referred the case to Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski to appoint a judge from outside the Eastern District to handle the case going forward. Judge Kozinski has excoriated prosecutors for failing to meet their legal and ethical obligations."


"The order notes that the defendants filed an action this week to set aside the $55 million settlement because, as the defendants allege, “the United States presented false evidence to the Defendants and the Court; advanced arguments to the Court premised on that false evidence; or, for which material evidence had been withheld, and obtaining court rulings based thereon; prepared key Moonlight Fire investigators for depositions, and allowed them to repeatedly give false testimony about the most important aspects of their investigation; and failed to disclose the facts and circumstances associated with the Moonlight Fire lead investigator’s direct financial interest in the outcome of the investigation arising from an illegal bank account that has since been exposed and terminated.”


"The Sacramento Bee reported on the Defendant’s filing. Indeed, the Defendants’ motion informs us that a former Assistant United States Attorney came forward and disclosed that he believes that he was removed from the original prosecution by 'his boss, David Shelledy, chief of the civil division in the United States Attorney’s office,' because he 'rebuffed' pressure to 'engage in unethical conduct as a lawyer.' Of course, like other former prosecutors who were unethical, Mr. Shelledy is to receive Attorney General Holder’s highest award for excellence — this week."


"The defendants also reveal that another former federal prosecutor, Eric Overby, left the Moonlight Fire prosecution team also, stating: 'It’s called the Department of Justice. It’s not called the Department of Revenue.' According to the motion, Mr. Overby told defense counsel that in his entire career, 'I’ve never seen anything like this. Never.'"


Powell aptly sums up the banana republic nature of what seems to have been going on:

"This is part of a disturbing and rapidly increasing pattern of abuses by this Department of Justice to line government coffers or redistribute the wealth to its political allies — using its overwhelming litigation might and federal agencies as a tool of extortion and wealth redistribution."

"The entire original prosecution against Sierra Pacific appears to have been driven by the Department of Justice’s interest in hitting a 'deep pocket' for millions of dollars of revenue. The Defendants’ motion to set aside the settlement reveals a series of fraudulent acts by federal and state authorities that defiles our system of justice."


If these allegations can be proven, federal prosecutors involved should receive lengthy prison sentences.

And if Eric Holder can be shown to be involved, he should join John Mitchell in the ranks of former AGs with a prison record.





Barker's Newsbites: Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Monday, October 20, 2014

Barker's Newsbites: Monday, October 20, 2014

Hey Gang!

Welcome home to... ME!

Back to the ol' grindstone...

Let's see how many newsbites I can post between now and midnight, shall we?!

Tally ho!

Dining in Key West (Oct. 2014)

OK, folks; first thing to keep in mind: This past visit to Key West was our fifth visit in eight years.

Am I (are we) Key West "experts?" Yeah... pretty much.

For what it's worth, I'm ALWAYS willing to share insights into... (well, anything, quite frankly)... travel destinations. Scrolling through the archives of Usually Right you'll find various travelogues (some unfinished, unfortunately - at least as of yet) including detailed reviews of restaurants, lodgings, and the general "vibe" of places around the globe.

Anyway... back to Key West and its restaurants...

As you can imagine, Key West has a myriad of fine restaurants and... er... "watering holes." We've been to most of 'em! Right now, for purposes of this post, I'm gonna focus on "new" restaurants we visited this trip - "new" in the sense of OUR first visit.

Our number one "new" restaurant... Azur.

Here's all you need to know: EVERYTHING was outstanding. EVERYTHING!

I'm not going to go into details (because it would take all day to describe each individual meal and do "complete" restaurant reviews), but suffice it to say that based upon our experience, Azur deserves every single accolade awarded it... and if you Google "Azur Key West" (after checking out the restaurant's own website) you'll get an idea of the esteem in which this establishment is held.

Azur has long been on "the list." I'm thankful we finally made it to Azur this year! This year... dinner; next time around... we'll try breakfast, brunch, or lunch there!

Let's see... for the most romantic fine dining in Key West... the award goes to La Te Da!

The setting... to die for! The mood... atmosphere... service... DIVINE!

The food...? Mine was EXCELLENT! Mary's... a bit of a disappointment. (We went on Prime Rib night... Mary succumbed to the $19.99 special and while her cut wasn't terrible... it wasn't an example of the best their kitchen could evidently dish out as evidenced by the high quality of my meal on all fronts.)

(Service was phenomenal as well!) 

In any case... we actually ended up closing the restaurant. And here's the bonus: Starting at 9:30 p.m. (while we were still outside enjoying our meal) the live entertainment took to the stage inside the exceedingly attractive (and air conditioned) bar. Three young... er... ladies... (female impersonators) made up for and singing "girl group" hits of the 50's and 60's! 

They were fantastic! We enjoyed the music alone for awhile (the bar actually kept the side door open for us so we could clearly hear the music) but following dessert we headed into the bar where we sat and enjoyed the rest of the group's first set before retiring back to Marrero's.

Next... (in no particular order)... allow me to give a shout-out to Antonia's. For "high end" Italian in Key West, Antonia's is one of your two choices - them and La Trattoria (which we're yet to try).

Folks... this is what it means to be Bill. (Or more specifically... "Vacation Bill.) Each day and nigh filled with decadent gluttony. (Only the best!)

And speaking of the best...

One planned and executed day stop of ours was to McDuffy's - Key West's premier (and only) authentic Hawaiian Shaved Ice truck!

Oh... my... friggin'... GOD...

Folks... if you've never had Hawaiian Shaved Ice... seek it out... fly to Key West (or Hawaii) if necessary... but seek it out and TRY IT...!!!

('Nough said...)

Also... a repeat stop but well worth it... Shanna Key Irish Pub and Grill! Great burgers! Friendly barmen/maids! And... of course... they pour an OUTSTANDING pint 'o plain! (Meaning Guinness, by the way.)


No, folks; while it's ALL "fine dining" in the sense of "the best of the best," not all "fine dining" need break the bank nor even require the wearing of a collared shirt!


OK... back up the scale... we finally made it to Cafe Marquesa.

Not to be rude or nasty... but they can stuff their "Zagat's Highest Rated Restaurant in Key West" brag up their arses! (Obviously a bunch of RUBES are rating Key West restaurants for Zagat's!)

Was the food BAD...? NO! Was the setting gorgeous... simply stunning, to be truthful...? YES! But did the food knock my socks off...?!?! NO...! Definitely not! (La Te Da kicks the $hit out them, quite frankly!)

The service was... uppity. The maitre d' was fine... but our waitress... if I weren't the kind, compassionate old softie I am... I would have summoned the maitre d' over to loudly suggest he clean house of any staffers who had the misplaced perception that their jobs didn't absolutely hinge upon making each and every customer feel welcome and valued based upon reacting specifically to the vibe put out be each individual diner!

I smile. YOU smile. I grin. YOU grin. I laugh. YOU laugh. Again... a good waiter/waitress works off the vibe of the customer... not by attempting to force the vibe of the restaurant down the custom's throat.

Folks... as you know... there's a FINE line between playful, friendly Bill and... er... displeased Bill. Cafe Marquesa displeased your beloved blog host! It could have been better. It should have been better. Cafe Marquesa aspires to the very highest level... and doesn't quite make it. Laying aside the problems with the service, the food was less than perfect. At that level... if you're the real deal... every bite... every mouthful... should elicit a sigh of joy from the diner. That's what separates a true world-class restaurant from a poseur.


Ah... Blue Heaven! They've been "on the list" since the beginning, folks; it's just that before this last trip we'd never been able to fit it in! This year we rectified that unfortunate lapse!

First... the "bad." (Not really "bad," but you'll get the point in a moment!)

MY meal DIDN'T knock my socks off. (It wasn't bad... it just didn't knock my socks off!) But that was my fault! I picked the wrong menu items! I was greedy... saw several "specials" I wanted... tried to "have it all" by ordering two appetizers as my entree... and while the appetizers (one scallops, the other, shrimp) were "ok," frankly they were both a little over-cooked and neither blew me away (in a good sense).

On the other hand... Mary's entree was AWESOME - as was my soup! And the atmosphere... the service... the whole vibe of the place... WONDERFUL...!!! (They even have a ping-pong table! We played prior to dinner! Oh... and live music provided by very talented young lady throughout the evening!)

Like Azur (and many other of the fine dining establishments in Key West), Blue Heaven also serves breakfast, daily lunch, and Sunday brunch. (We'll definitely hit one of those next time we're down; and as for dinner... next time I'll order their signature Yellow Tail Snapper dish!)

Another "return" was to Pepe's for lunch. (Friday is Mac & Cheese Day!)

Folks... Pepe's Mac & Cheese... fresh made... served only at Friday lunch... IS... TO... DIE... FOR...!!!

Pepe's Steak & Cheese is awesome as well... as is all the "comfort food" quite frankly... but Pepe's for Friday lunch is an institution for us! (One year we arrived late... were told they were all out... and I literally started to tear up; our waitress actually "saved" my dignity by soothing me with the offer to give me HER set-aside portion that she'd had put aside for her earlier that day!)

Pepe's is also the home of "Steak Smothered in Pork Chops." (Yes, folks... you read that right.)

Let's see... what else...? Hmm... happy hours!

La Concha...

The Hyatt Key West at 601 Front Street...

Oh... almost forgot... a nice midday stop for lunch... or perhaps just a snack... or even just drinks and a swim... The Pier House Resort & Spa! (What I like... beyond the pool and small beach... is that they have live music at the Beach Bar seven days a week between noon and 3:00 p.m. I was even doin' a bit of singing!)

Oh... back to upscale happy hours... can't forget to give a shout-out to the bar at the Key West Marriott's Tavern & Town Restaurant!

At this point, dear readers, you may be asking yourselves "When, where, and how did Bill and Mary find time to do anything beyond eating and drinking in Key West?" Au contraire, mon freres! For your enlightenment, Key West isn't JUST drunkenness, debauchery, and gluttony! Actually, Key West is drunkenness, debauchery, and gluttony PLUS...

Pool hopping! (Yep. We often take midday rides to various hotels and resorts so as to enjoy their larger, more elaborate swimming and other recreation facilities!)

Going out on the water! (This year we utilized Clearly Unique Charters to take us out sea kayaking amongst the mangroves and then snorkeling off the near reefs!)

(Usually when we're with Drunken Ted and Drunken Mary we simply hire a boat and captain. This time - since it was just Mary and I - we went "retail." It was good though! With tip... $170 for the TWO of us!)

I've already filled you in on the Inghram...

Past Key West travelogues found in the Usually Right archives give a fairly all-inclusive picture on what Key West is all about...

My buddy "He Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned" once asked me WHAT is is about Key West that's so great. I'll tell you all what I told him: Key West is whatever you want it... need it... to be at any one moment in time.

Key West is drinking... dancing... singing...

Key West is snoozing on a hammock.

Key West is trolling the bars...

Key West is browsing the galleries.

Key West is the gutter to the Penthouse!

Key West is Martin's - a high end restaurant on the south end of Duval (which I failed to mention up above but am mentioning now) which serves one of the best brunches in Key West (which we partook of on our last visit with Drunken Ted and Drunken Mary) and also one of the best dinners in Key West (which Mary and I enjoyed this time around; sitting inside at a back table and noticing the bar crowd was a crowd we'll join next time we visit)!

Key West is also El Siboney - a family owned "hole-in-the-wall" just a bit off the beaten track where "rich" tourists and "poor" locals go for perhaps the best Cuban "home-cooking" short of Abula's house! (The home-made Sangria is to DIE for...!!! As is the food...!!!)

Gay... straight... boozer... pothead... native born Floridian... New Jersey transplant... Leftist... Libertarian...

Key West is... KEY WEST! It really is that simple!

Anyway... I've been home since Wednesday night. Time to get back to politics and social issues. My newsbite fans tell me they miss me!


(And THANKS for that!)

So... this should do it for Key West posts. 

As always... questions and comments are welcome!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

(So...) Bill vs. The Navy

Yes! Our Navy!

So... if you've never been to Key West, understand, it used to be a major military command base.

It still is home to U.S. Naval and Coast Guard forces.

Then... there's the Truman Annex. This area used to be "on base," now it's "off base," but frankly... the demarcation can leave a bit to be desired - at least that was our experience last week when Mary and I barely escaped being shot... or at least charged with federal felonies!


OK... ok... perhaps a bit melodramatic... BUT...


OK. From the top...

The USCGC Inghram is berthed within the Truman Annex. The civilian part of the Truman Annex, that is. The actual gates to get through to the Annex property are still there... lovingly maintained... but unmanned. (At least during our visit they were!)

So... we drive (daylight) to the Inghram. We enjoy the happy hour. (Actually happy 90 minutes!) And... as one would assume... post-sunset it's... er... dark. Night-time!

We get in our trusty rental car... and we follow the arrows.


We could have turned around. We could have left via reversing our steps. But... we followed the arrows. We followed the arrows around the dock area to ANOTHER gate. We knew this was another gate... BUT... it was a twin to the gate we had come in through. In fact, not only was it a twin... but it appeared to be unmanned... AND... as with the "in" gate, our apparently "exit" gate had the right lane unblocked - the "bar" raised.

So... we precede to "leave" the Annex. In fact, as we're going through the gate we see what appears to be a Key West Police car. (Indicating to us that we were indeed leaving the "public" Annex area and entering "Old Town" Key West proper.)

OK... now here's where it gets a bit dicey: As we're going through the gate and (apparently) entering (what we believe to be) "Old Town," I hear a guard who must have been in the guardhouse "office" shouting out something to us. Well... I figured he was just wishing us a good night! As it turns out... he wasn't.


Anyway... we make a left in front to the (apparent) cop car and drive down the street looking to find our bearings. Before we'd gone a mile we thought something seemed a bit off; there was no other traffic. Then... we came to a sign that said "Only Authorized Personnel and Residents Beyond this Point." That's when we knew we'd goofed!


We immediately turned around and headed back to the gate. Upon arriving a gang of Navel Police were there. I opened the car window and said, "Er... I believe we made a wrong turn somewhere!"


Well... these guys weren't so amused. Indeed, they had us drive the car beyond the gate, onto "regular" Annex property, and asked us to please step out of the vehicle.

I told 'em... "Guys... it was an accident; we just followed the arrows... I didn't see anyone at the gate - the bar was up... there was a cop car across the street - and we thought we were LEAVING the Annex area."

The guard however was a bit teed off. As he put it... "YOU BLEW RIGHT BY ME!"

Now... folks... we're talking REAL Navel Police here... automatic weapons... camo... (Did I mention yet that Key West is a SEAL base as well as air/naval base?)

Well... at this point profuse apologies and absolution seemed to me the better part of valor. So... I immediately took responsibility from the guard (via not mentioning "no bar down" and not mentioning "guard not in view") and "explained" that we live maybe 14 minutes from West Point and that we were used to a more "open" security and truly did mistake his gate for the exit and not the entrance. As to "blowing on by him," we explained that we truly didn't realize he wasn't just shouting out a "good night," but was ordering us to halt.

(Quite frankly though... the BAR should have been down; the gate should NOT have been open.)

Anyway... finally the duty officer made it to the scene. We showed our ID's... gave him the paperwork for the rental car... explained exactly what had happened and how and why... and then waited while they followed protocol. (I wonder... SHOULD they have shot our car - and us - full of holes rather than let us "run" the gate? What if we HAD been terrorists...???)

Part of the protocol included bringing in the Key West cops... but the officer was cool about everything. (No awkward questioning about the Inghram's Happy Hour!)

(By the way... the cop car "inside" which we had taken as a sign were were "outside" - it was an empty Naval Police car.)

Well... we ended up with a warning and no doubt more details added to my files at the NSA...


Seriously, though, it COULD have been a real problem. Had they wanted to they could have arrested us on several federal felonies - specifically trespass and failure to follow a lawful order to halt.


All in all, another good story for the ages, though! Apparently our "trespass" DID lead to the entire base being put on security alert!

In the end, though... no harm... no foul! 

Bill vs. The Navy... (But First...)

But first of all, on a truly serious note... profound thanks to all those who served on the USCGC Inghram, presently decommissioned and maintained as an interactive public monument and museum by Bill Verge and the Southernmost Chief's Mess.

Mary and I had the distinct honor and privilege of visiting the Inghram and speaking to Mr. Verge and his fellow veterans last week. Not only did we take the tour... but that evening... we attended the Inghram's Sunset Happy Hour which is held every Friday and Saturday evening and is open to the public (in the know) for a mere $5 donation (which buys you your first drink) with drinks after that poured for a mere $3/$4/$5 donation depending upon what you're drinking!

Folks... FRIENDS... four links are provided up above. Right here, right now, I'm asking you to take a few moments to click on each one and explore... even if only for a few moments.

What you'll see is AMERICA. My America... your America... our fathers' and mothers' America... certainly our grandparent's America.

Most of my generation didn't serve. Depending upon how old we are - and how old our parents were - while many of us had parents who did serve... so too do many of us have parents who didn't serve.

Grandparents? Grandfathers? The odds are that they served. And our grandmothers? Whether in uniform or not... they - in one capacity or another - served as well.

I want each of you reading this to just stop for a moment and think... close your eyes... recall that photo or story which represented a loved one's service to our country.

Are you in the moment?

Are you feeling what I'm feeling... the gratitude... the pride...?


Yeah... yeah... yeah... I know... you already make more than your "fair share" of donation! Geezus... if you donated to every cause which asked you'd be living in a cardboard box!

I... get... it...

So... make an exception. No one says you have to donate $50. Nope. Donate $5.00! Or donate $10.00. Or, hell... donate $2.13 and pat yourself on the back for doing so! 

Using HAPPY HOURS to raise money? BRILLIANT! Get in the spirit and grab yourself a drink right this very moment and savor each sip as you DONATE a few bucks to this worthy cause! HELP these guys and gals - WW-2 vets... Korean War Vets... Vietnam War Vets and others - who are striving to save a remarkable piece of our nation's heritage!


And picture your kids... and their kids (one day)... for whom we must maintain our nation's history - our nation's heritage.

Those of you with children... share the websites I've provided up above with your children. Share what America used to be with your children! Impart to your children what you - and they - can do to save not just a ship, but save a nation... save an ideal!

Anyway... I'm halt this post here... for the moment.

I know! I haven't yet even gotten to "Bill vs. The Navy." (Give me time!)