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He's Fighting for You! When last we checked in with L.A. Times "Consumer Confidential" columnist David Lazarus, he was thinking so "big" about transportation that he consigned the automobile -- far and away the transport choice most favored by, you know, consumers -- to the dustbin of history, while eschewing even the vaguest sense of economics, aside from the I-saw-it-work-in-Japan variety.

What'd he do for an encore? Warn that "free news online will cost journalism dearly." Because really, that's what the consumer is worried about these days -- getting too much quality journalism for free.

An example of Lazarus' logic:

Here's the thing: As long as the big papers give it away free, the little papers will have no choice but to do the same. Before you know it, no more little papers.

Meanwhile, blogs will continue sprouting like crab grass throughout the electronic ether. Soon, the line separating quality journalism from utter hokum will be too blurry to discern.

Actually, that line's easier than you think; it just isn't created automatically by the exertion of a printing press, as Lazarus' column amply attests.

12/27/2007 09:05 PM  |  Comment (2)

In Phoenix, at the Scene of the Crime: Thanks to the magic of Hotwire.com, and my ridiculously yuppie/pre-gay fondness for the category of lodging establishments known as boutique hotels, we have ended up Christmas night in Phoenix at a joint most famous for being the place where Arizona Republic investigative journalist Don Bolles was blown up to death by the Arizona mob in 1976. It is possible -- who knows! -- that right now our Acura is parked where Bolles' Datsun was sitting on that fateful day (his 8th wedding anniversary, gruesomely enough) when an explosive device turned his legs into jelly.

What's especially gratifying about The Clarendon is that the owner embraces the Bolles murder for what it is -- an important if ugly piece of Arizona history. Just off the lobby is a heartbreaking 10-part words-and-pictures exhibit about one of the worst incidents in both modern journalism and Arizona politics. From a July 2004 Phoenix Business Journal story:

It opened in 1975 as Hotel Clarendon, and a year later Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles was mortally wounded when a dynamite bomb exploded under his car seat in the parking lot.

Before he died 11 days later, Bolles gave information to investigators that led them to a Phoenix attorney, an Arizona businessman and others. Bethel said he plans to contact Bolles' family for permission to use his name in the hotel.

"In honor of Don Bolles and the freedom of speech, we plan on naming the restaurant and bar area the Bolles Lounge," Bethel said. "I honestly want to do something tasteful and nice as an homage to him. It was a huge incident. I don't want people to forget about it."

That permission, apparently, wasn't forthcoming; the lounge & restaurant is called "C4." But the display is 100% respectful and moving. Here's a 2005 Arizona Republic story about the obviously haunted locale:
For many years after the Bolles murder, the hotel was known as Les Jardins. It offered jazz on the weekends and a fine-dining restaurant. But the hotel in the city's central core slowly died. By the early 1990s, it had filed for bankruptcy. Its owner said the hotel needed to "reposition" itself.

The place did find a new clientele, but an unsavory type. In 2003, police busted the place, to the relief of long-suffering neighbors. Reports described a surreal scene of prostitutes and drug dealers plying their trade in the hallways. People slept on the floor in the closed restaurant.

Bethel first wanted to get the property when it was seized then. But he lost out. The next owner called it the Calamus Resort and attempted to make it a resort and, in the long run, a gay and lesbian rest home. That idea fizzled.

Lots of unanswered questions there. Chief among them: What's the connection to John McCain??

Ah, you think that I kid. I do not. Turns out, the guy widely suspected of ordering Bolles' hit was a huge Arizona mobster who employed Cindy McCain's convict father Jim Hensley, and who had just had his appointment to the state's racing board scuttled by Bolles' investigative reporting into his filthy career. From the Arizona Republic in 2000:


Jim Hensley had been an underling to well-known power broker Kemper Marley Sr., a rich rancher and wholesale liquor baron with suspected links to the 1976 car-bomb murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles.

After World War II (Hensley was a bombardier on a B-17 that was shot down over the English Channel), Hensley and his brother Eugene went to work at Marley-owned liquor distributorships in Phoenix and Tucson.

In 1948, the Hensley brothers were convicted of falsifying records to conceal, government lawyers contended, the illegal distribution of hundreds of cases of liquor. The sales occurred from 1945 to 1947, postwar years when liquor was rationed and in short supply.

Eugene Hensley was sentenced to a year in federal prison. Jim Hensley got six months, but his sentence was suspended. He received probation.

In 1953, Jim Hensley was again charged with falsifying records at Marley's liquor firms. The companies were defended by William Rehnquist, who would go on to become chief justice of the Supreme Court. Hensley was found not guilty.

That's the polite version. For fewer punches pulled, consult the Phoenix New Times, circa 2000:
James Hensley profited handsomely from his association with liquor magnate Kemper Marley, a man police suspect ordered the 1976 murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles, who had written about Marley's business and political dealings. The man convicted of placing a bomb beneath Bolles' car testified that Marley also wanted former Arizona governor and then-attorney general Bruce Babbitt murdered because Babbitt had filed an antitrust lawsuit against the liquor industry in 1975. (Marley, who died in 1990, was never charged in the Bolles case. Babbitt is now U.S. Secretary of the Interior.)

By 1955, James Hensley had launched a Budweiser distributorship in Phoenix, a franchise reportedly bestowed upon him by Marley, who was never indicted in the 1948 federal liquor-law-violation case -- or a subsequent one -- despite his controlling financial role in the liquor distribution businesses. [...]

Today, Phoenix-based Hensley & Company is the nation's fifth-largest beer wholesaler -- a privately held business that 80-year-old James Hensley still controls. He built the Budweiser distributorship into at least a $200 million-a-year business, with annual sales of more than 20 million cases of beer.

James Hensley owns nearly all of the voting stock, and most of the rest of the closely held securities are in trusts for his grandchildren or owned by his daughter, 45-year-old Cindy Hensley McCain -- wife of U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain. [...]

John Harvey Adamson confessed to luring Bolles to a Phoenix hotel parking lot and placing a bomb beneath the reporter's car. The bomb, Adamson testified, was detonated by James Robison, a Chandler plumber. Adamson testified he was hired to kill Bolles by Max Dunlap, a Phoenix contractor and close associate of Marley's. Marley had extended a $1 million loan to Dunlap, which had not been repaid. Adamson said Dunlap hired him to kill Bolles because Marley was upset over Bolles' stories.

Or there's this, from the Phoenix Gazette in 1990:
The liquor case is particularly intriguing as it resulted in criminal charges against Marley's subordinates, James and Eugene Hensley. If the last name sounds familiar, it's because James is papa to Cindy McCain, who is wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is infamous lately as a member of the Keating Five ... Marley also has been a shadow figure in the 1976 slaying of Republic reporter Don Bolles. Bolles wrote extensively about Marley's lucky past. And about how the Hensleys (Marley's managers) bought Ruidso Downs racing track in New Mexico. He wrote about Eugene Hensley spending five years in federal prison for a skimming scam. And about the Hensleys selling their track to a buyer linked with Emprise Corp. And about Marley's liquor ties with Emprise ... one of Bolles' final dispatches appeared as Marley was about to become a member of the Arizona Racing Commission - the agency that regulates racetracks, including those run at the time by Emprise ... the story dispatched Marley's appointment. Two months later, a car bomb killed Bolles.
The tenuous, transitive-property-squared connection between John McCain and Don Bolles has been tackled by several different news organizations over the years, including the Republic during the 2000 campaign (an effort that led to a hell of a lot of lawyerly jawboning with the McCain camp). Mostly, the results reside in the sweat-swamp of connection/conspiracy sites. But it's interesting.

As someone with 1.5 feet in the world of journalism, and 0.5 in the world of filthy music, Bolles is known to me twice over. It's one of those cases, like Ruben Salazar's, that you can read about over and over again. Even if doing so does zilcho in terms of bringing the evil perpetrators closer to justice.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention -- this hotel really is ace. The owner, who I wasn't lucky enough to meet, is a total Arizona-history geek; the bartender is a trained chemist who made the best margarita I've ever had east of the Colorado River; all phone calls are free, the food's pretty good (and pretty cheap), and the setting is just ace:

12/25/2007 08:40 PM  |  Comment (4)

A Nice Review Here of the Never-Released Second Corvids Record: Excerpt:

Transcontinental is musically close to Fought Down, straight on alt-country. The three tracks currently streaming at MySpace ["For What They Did," "Happy McKaye" and "Watching Over You"] give a good idea of the stylistic range. With the exception of "Happy" though -- which is a proper hoot and which I think of as the song Cormac McCarthy would write if he had a sense of humor to go with his sense of dread, a sort of Blood Meridian meets Butch & Sundance -- those samples don't convey the album's big thematic interests: the 19th century opening of the West, a love for wild and desolate places, and a recurring nervous thread of incipient violence. It is much more fun than I just made it sound.

12/24/2007 10:03 AM  | 

Well That Didn't Take Long: I think it was Rob Long who told me something like "Trust me, Washington's such a weird town that they'll actually make comments about the way you and Emmanuelle dress." (Whatever his quote was, it was much better than that; bad memory.)

Anyway, we're still a day away from making the drive east, and my pink vest and Emmanuelle's "leather" pants (the special kind of leather that costs $5 at a garage sale) have already made the Washington Post Style section, in an amusing piece about Reason's "bachelor-pad" socializing in DC.

Alex Massie -- who, I'm very bummed to say, is fleeing Washington just as I arrive -- has a funny comment.

12/24/2007 09:16 AM  |  Comment (3)

Hi! What are you doing down here?

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