Letters To The Editor
by Letters to the Editor, March 4, 2011
RECRUITING THE DEAD TO WAGE PEACE
They repose in a verdant park with manicured lawns, bright flowers and splashing fountains near Romaone-sous-Montfaucon, France. They are the dead of the Meuse-Argonne battles in 1918 in Europe’s largest American cemetery. To be exact, 14,246 “doughboys” are interred here, with almost another thousand missing from units that participated in the bloody firefights, bayonet charges, bombardments, and gassings in the hills and valleys nearby.
Their bright, white crosses and stars of David are perfectly lined up as the mostly young Americans often were in life on the parade ground while being trained to kill mostly young Germans.
Privates William Mulraney and Saul Solomon died six days apart, never having realized they, like warriors throughout history, were conned to death by monarchists and the later-day-royals called “capitalists.” They never learned of the large number of American millionaires newly minted from the huge profits made supplying the machine-of-war while they were dying in the muddy, bloody trenches.
Mulraney and Solomon never made it to Washington, DC in 1932 with the “Bonus Army”—those unarmed veterans of the “Great” War, some with families, some homeless, all unemployed because of the stock market crash a few years earlier. The two never suffered the humiliation or wounds when Pres. Herbert Hoover reneged on a promised bonus for service in the war and ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur to destroy their shantytown and disband the rabble. MacArthur’s aide d’camp was Captain Dwight Eisenhower. And against the vets, Major George Patton led a cavalry charge with drawn sabers.
Mulraney, Solomon and other American soldiers in WW I were called “doughboys” because of their love of the donuts served by winsome, young, women volunteers who joined them in France to cheer them on and remind them of what they were fighting. Later the medals and monuments and well-tended cemeteries would be a cheap “thank you, son” for services rendered and lives, eyes, limbs, minds, and buddies lost.
Now like the wealthy everywhere, the dead doughboys have an impressive estate, carefully tended by an army of groundskeepers. They repose in a verdant park with manicured lawns, bright flowers and splashing fountains.
It was supposed to be “the war to save democracy” and “the war to end all wars.” For a price, a public relations or advertising firm can sell anything. Like the lie about Saddam Hussein’s troops stealing incubators from Kuwaiti babies in the run-up to the first Gulf War, Americans in the run-up to WW I were being told by propagandists the Kaiser’s soldiers were cutting off the hands of young Belgian boys.
And like another Democrat twenty years later, Pres. Woodrow Wilson, claiming to be neutral, made Wall Street very happy by supplying the allies with war material. He promised no American boy would fight in Flanders…until it looked like America’s market was about to dry up because of the German juggernaut.
Before visiting the doughboys at Montfaucon in the summer of 2006, I paid my respects at French and German cemeteries around St. Mihiel and Verdun. Especially at the latter, the cemeteries were so large, each was called a “necropolis” as in metropolis — but a city of the dead. And one huge mausoleum or “ossuary” holds the remains of one hundred thirty thousand unknown soldiers of both sides. On some of the markers of the known dead are sometimes three and even six names. It was as if detached body parts of poilus were thrown in a burlap bag and buried in the same grave.
“Merde, mes amis, what good is the body when the soul is finished with it,” the head of the burial detail might have said around lunch time one day in 1915 with shells and men screaming all about them.
French soldiers in WW I were called poilus meaning “hairy ones” because of the beards and handlebar moustaches many of them favored. On a single cross at Verdun were the names of Gilles, Curez, Lenud, Montagner and Soubran—poilus all killed the same day in 1914, very soon after hostilities commenced.
And at Verdun, I saw few markers with stars of David but many for Muslims of colonial France who were probably promised full citizenship and so many hectares of the moon. One such marker told that Yalichani Haddi ben Moussa of Algeria had mort pour la France le 01 03 1916.
Days passed and I visited so many battlefields, cemeteries, monuments and museums of Le Grand Guerre, I began to feel like a participant rather than a tourist. And I began speaking to the dead, eventually trying to recruit them into Veterans for Peace, a group that has waged sanity for decades and is most probably on the FBI’s list of terrorist organizations. Only socialism can strike more fear and loathing in any capitalist than peace.
At the German cemetery at Epionville, I asked the silent, dark crosses, “You died for your King? And what did Kaiser Willy ever do for you beside feed you like powder charges into the breeches of the cannons made by Krupp that made the family even wealthier than they already were?
“Verdamnt, kamaraden, think for yourselves. We are all royals. The Creator doesn’t make inferior beings,” I told them including Landsturman Karl Meck and Unteroffizier Karl Kruttschmitt, both killed the same day in May 1916 and sharing the same grave.
I don’t know what the folks back home in Germany called their fighting men or what the soldiers called each other, but allied troops called their opposite numbers “huns” and “boches” (French for pigs).
On none of the military markers of the graves of the French, German or Americans were there any indication of age of the occupant. Only on some of the headstones of fallen British soldiers does one get the idea that the military-industrial complex over the centuries seduced or shanghaied the young and the strong with quick reflexes. Undereducated, idealistic teenagers are best, of course. Scare hell out of them in boot camp, create rivalry and that peer-bonding thing, then mould them to kill on command. And teach them to never, ever question authority.
At a Commonwealth cemetery near Guillemont, I saw the graves of three 19-year-olds lined up together with two more behind. And unlike the Germans, French and Americans, some British grave markers have personal messages such as “A fine lad of Dame Allan’s Boys’ School” and “Too far away/ Thy grave to see/ But not to far/ For us to think of” and “Eternal love from Brokenhearted Mother and Father” and “Rest in Peace/ The Dearest Wish of/ His Wife and Son.”
British soldiers in the Great War were named for a fictitious character, Tommy Atkins, and called “Tommies.” In Pozieres is a monument to the Australians who fought there and the remains of a well-fortified German blockhouse they captured and named “Gibraltar.” In town is a pub called “Le Tommy,” guarded at the entrance on nice days by two manikins in WW I British uniforms. Inside so many mementos of the fighting make up the décor, the place is also called a museum.
As impressive as the American cemetery at Montfaucon in the Meuse-Argonne and the French Ossuaire de Douamont at Verdun is the Thiepval Memorial in the Somme. Almost 150 feet high, the Franco-British memorial can be seen from many miles around. On its walls are carved the names of 73,367 men, the “missing of the Somme” who have no known graves.
On many of the markers of the British graves are the words “Known Unto God.” On many of the French crosses is written Inconnu (unknown). And many fell July 1, 1916.
In just that one day, in just the one battle of the four-year struggle for the Somme in northern France, the British Army alone lost more than twenty thousand killed and almost forty thousand wounded or missing. There was virtually no gain and the casualties were never matched before or since by any army in the world.
Can you imagine dealing with twenty thousand corpses and thousands of wounded? Logistics alone of the dead and dying must have been a nightmare. Many of the dead were buried by explosions of artillery shells, never to be seen again. Bones of others killed that day are still being unearthed by farmers. They work their way up through the soil to remind us of old hatreds long healed. (Today a wiser Germany and France are best of friends. Both even refused to supply troops for America’s second war on Iraq in 2003.)
And imagine the number of widows created on that single day in 1916. It had become fashionable back then for young women to marry their sweethearts just before they left for France—a blessing to return safe.
On that first day of July 1916, Private George Nugent “went missing.” His remains were found eighty-two years later on the edge of a huge crater still clearly visible, created by tons of explosives near Lochnagar, France. The crater, now fenced in and marked for tourists, measures three hundred feet across and ninety feet deep. A family home with ample curtilage could easily fit inside. The explosion kicked off the failed British offensive to relieve German pressure on Verdun.
Although George’s remains were ceremoniously moved to Ovillers Military Cemetery July 1, 2000, a cross marks the spot where his bones were found near what has become known as Lochnagar Crater. So I said to the spot where at least most of his flesh and blood remain, “You didn’t die for your country, George. You died for capitalism. Buddy, you were tricked by the warmongers—those fat-assed politicians and businessmen and those fucking generals who ate so well in such comfortable villas while you were fighting in the muck and cold.”
It was the same recruiting pitch I gave at the dozen or more military cemeteries I visited in northern France. I talked tough to them but usually wound up weeping when in my mind’s eye I could see their young, mud-spattered faces, staring at me in wonderment. “Rise from your grave and help us wage peace against the Bush and Blair Administrations,” I demanded of the British soldier who left this life in the Somme, so far from home nine decades ago.
“George, we’re outnumbered and outmonied,” I said. “We need you to use the same intelligence, the same imagination, and the same ingenuity you used to kill Germans to help us now create a true Golden Age of peace and prosperity. War is not part of human nature,” I told the Brit. “That bullshit is straight out of the bible of capitalism called ‘It’s a Dog Eat Dog World’ and with which so many clergymen go along.
On a plaque in St. Croix Cathedral in Orleans are these words—“One million soldiers of the British Empire fell in the Great War and most are buried in France.”
Half a million British horses also died in combat during the same time and place, according to another source.
On a monument erected at Varennes by the State of Pennsylvania in 1927 and dedicated to the American dead of WW I is this inscription, “The right is more precious than peace.” Interpret that one for me, please!
And a photo in the Ossuary at Verdun shows a priest in fine enough garb to be a bishop, a civilian dressed smartly enough to be a politician or businessman or both, and a man in uniform fancy enough to be a general. Church, state and the military at the dedication of another war memorial and . . . necropolis. In another more recent war shared by the French and Americans in South East Asia, a bumpersticker said it all, “WAR IS GOOD BUSINESS, Invest your sons.”
Today in every big city and tiny hamlet in France is a monument to the dead of le Grand Guerre. Affluent communities hired noted sculptors of the 1920s for a fancy memorial. Less fortunate ones purchased theirs out of catalogs. This may be why a rooster, symbol of France, was so popular. And no self-respecting village could be without a monument for none were spared men killed in action or died of wounds in 1914-1918.
There is a gross difference in the numbers of French war dead of the two world wars as recorded on the monuments, observes my friend Dr. John Cooke, a veteran of the British Royal Navy. The names of the dead of WW II are conspicuously fewer. At least one reason may be the memory of the toll of casualties in the Great War was still to vivid for the French in 1940 when within mere weeks the French Army capitulated to Hitler.
Not only was it such a large scale horror in which perhaps seventy million people perished, but WW I was the first conflict in which the following weapons were used effectively and in great numbers; the machine gun, the airplane, the flame-thrower, the tank, poison gas and last but not least—the submarine. Within a very short span of time, very soon after the war started in 1914, the German Unterseeboot U-9 sank three British cruisers. This had to be as big a shock to the Royal Navy as was the casualties of the British Army in the Somme July 1, 1916. To show what a sporting event war is to some, dinner plates were crafted with an illustration of the U-9, celebrating the success of the sub. One is on display at the Historical de la Grand Guerre Musee in Peronne, France.
Men are so ingenious, so creative about constructing things, then destroying them. In the Haute Chevauchee near the N3 highway to Chalons-en-Champagne is another huge crater. This one was made by the Germans December 12, 1916, months after the one made at Lochnagar by the Brits the previous July, Not to be outdone, Gott forbid, German miners dug a tunnel under French trenches, packed a section of it with 52.5 tons of explosives and made the crater that is 150 feet across and more than 30 feet deep, perhaps half the size of the British one.
So if you were a young European or American back then, you might have been given a choice of dying in a bayonet charge “over the top” of the trenches or dying in the “underground war” of mine shafts and tunnels that I knew nothing about until I saw the crater and the “Kaiser tunnel” entrance nearby. With a slight case of claustrophobia, my choice would have been quick.
The following is from my journal of Saturday, July 1, 2006—ninety years to the day of the blackest time in the history of any army.
I’m going to spend the night here by the (German) crater and a monument to the poilus and doughboys who died in this thickly forested part of the Argonne. No camping is allowed but I’m going to chance it. I’ve never experienced a ghost but if I was ever to, this must be the place.
It’s getting dark and already I feel creepy like planning to to sleep in a cemetery. But if possible, I want to hear the story of any soul who died here, angry at who sent him to an early death and why.
“If I’m Not at Roll Call, Kiss Mother Goodby for Me,” is the title of a piece of sheet music printed in the U.S.A. and on display at the museum in nearby Varennes.
Well, I survived the night without an encounter of the mysterious kind or being run off by a French forester. Just after dark though, I heard the shouting of a single man not far away in a valley thick with trees. Despite qualms, I hiked down a hill in the direction of the voice to investigate and found a group of tourists near the entrance to the Kaiser tunnel, sitting around a man in the uniform of the French Army of WW I, obviously retelling the story of the struggle for this area. Relieved that he wasn’t in distress and not understanding French, I hiked back to my van and went to bed.
In the long struggle for Verdun, the German troops forced a bulge in French lines in 1915. This became known as the “St. Mihiel Salient.” The town of Ally is in this area and in its woods (bois in French) nearby, trenches and reinforced concrete strongholds are still clearly visible. Time and French groundskeepers have sanitized the place but it doesn’t take too much imagination to visualize the mud, the shattered trees, the water-filled shell craters, the rats feeding on carcasses in “no man’s land” between trenches, and the unholy stink of the living as well as the dead.
Paul Cazin was there in 1915 as a rifleman with the 29th Regiment, 16th Division of the French Army. Here is his legacy printed in French and English on a waterproof marker near the trenches:
“The Bois d’Ally was white in the moonlight. The tall thickets felled by axes and decimated by shells, threw up their blackened plumes against a romantic sky,” he wrote.
The young poilu went on to describe horror beyond horror that Hollywood couldn’t possibly facsimilate even with all of Wall Street’s money.
Paul Cazin ends his epitaph with a cry for justice once and for all, “Cursed be he who does not curse war.”
Comment on Bart Boyer’s letter: “The Fruits of Stability.”
Concerning your recently published letter to the editor, we would like to assist in clarifying some “Fruits of Stability,” in order to encourage hearing/seeing beyond the cuckoo clock. Firstly, cuckoo clocks were not invented in Switzerland, but in the Black Forest of Germany.
There might be some truth to the implication that Switzerland could be boring. There’s a huge middle class, everybody has health insurance, everything is so ridiculously tidy and the only excitement of the day might be when the train is five minutes late. But hey, it possibly sports the highest concentration of Lamborghinis and Ferraris worldwide, despite the strict speed limits making it absolutely superfluous having such a car.
Yet, with a little bit of research one can find what fruits grew in the stability of Switzerland — not only some of the best chocolate, tastiest cheese and good quality watches. Some great minds enjoyed and flourished in the Swiss stability, with at least three Nobel Peace Prize winners and some two dozen Nobel Prize winners in Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine. Not too bad for a country of barely seven million.
Ever heard of Albert Einstein or C.G. Jung? And going beyond William Tell and Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi,” you might look into other fascinating personalities who were either Swiss or took advantage of Swiss stability, such as Gottfried Keller, Hermann Hesse, Friedrich Duerrenmatt, Max Frisch, Andreas Vollenweider, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Arthur Cohn, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi or Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross.
And if you keep looking even closer, you’ll find that thanks to the scanning tunneling microscope invented in Switzerland, we can look at atoms. (It shall be admitted here that IBM paid for its research.)
And by the way, the origins of the American Red Cross are, believe it or not, in Switzerland, where Henry Dunant brought the Red Cross into life.
While Switzerland doesn’t have a pope, it did have a fascinating religious revolution headed by Huldrych Zwingli and Jean Calvin.
As for the “purity” of Swiss democracy, it only allowed women to vote since 1971, however now women are the majority in its government.
And if you’re into bizarre, creative fun, go check out the carnival in Basel and Luzern.
While some might find these obscure personalities, facts or traditions not so interesting, at least you can give the Swiss stability credit for Albert Hofman’s discovery of LSD.
Sandra, Hans, Yvonne
Zurich & Boonville
Moammar Qaddafi, Scott Walker, Raymond Davis and Pakistan
Were it not for the fact that an estimated thousand Libyans have lost their lives these last few days, we might thank Moammar Qaddafi for providing us with a little comic relief amidst all the dire goings-on around the world; I used to kind of like the guy, perhaps purely out of a tendency toward contrarianism. I thought that his buffed-looking female bodyguards provided an innovative touch for a dictator from the Islamic world. However, his appearances over the last couple of days have gone from the merely absurd to frighteningly loony, considering the fire power that is, as of this writing, still, unfortunately, at his disposal.
In the State TV broadcast messages to his people and the world, he appears to exhibit the deranged disorientation of, say, Mr. Magoo or John Bolton; at any moment you expect to see him start swatting at the visible-only-to-him flying vampire spiders, as he stammers out his unhinged stream of consciousness, apparently accusing his opponents of being influenced by Osama bin Laden, who somehow managed to slip “psychedelic drugs” into the morning coffee of all those Libyans who were out on the streets protesting his bizarre junta. Clearly, if anyone is on a bummer psychedelic trip, it is Col. Qaddafi himself.
Back here in the land of the free, day two of the fallout from Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker's world class crank call punking, where he was exposed to the whole world as nothing more than Charles and David Koch's sock puppet. It turns out that one of the things that he was bragging on to 'David Koch' was how he was going to chum the Democrats back to the state legislature with some clever ploy, then exploit his quorum to pull off his reactionary legislative wet dream. Of course, now that the cat is out of the bag, those Democrats are sure to stay out of the state.
Of course, none of this unionbusting (read Democrat campaign de-funding) agenda was ever mentioned during his campaign, so even those who voted for him are not in favor of it, and rather than being “the first domino to fall” in a nationwide campaign to strip all public sector unions of their bargaining rights (as he gloats about to 'Koch') his fellow new Republican governors are all distancing themselves from his self-inflicted wounds. That's the problem with the corporate-funded Republican agenda; the slogans and shibboleths that are fed to the electorate before the election have little or nothing to do with their actual agenda once they are in office, so of course even those who voted for them immediately turn against them, at least those amongst them who are observant enough to see what they are actually doing once in office.
On another subject entirely, the case of Raymond Davis, in Pakistan, points out once again the completely out-of-control nature of our military/security/intelligence colossus; I mean, every time I hear of these drone strikes there in Pakistan, I've got to think of these young military glorified computer gamers who fly those things from Reno or Dallas or somewhere. How on earth do they have any idea who it is down there that they are obliterating? What kind of snafu military paperpushing process precedes their squeezing of the trigger that unleashes a hellfire missile halfway around the world? Was some hapless Pakistani goatherd tortured into giving up some BS accusation of Al Qaeda affiliation about someone, somewhere, in order to stop the torture? Is there anyone in the Obama administration who can answer any of these questions? I doubt it. The train of DOD/CIA/NSA etc.'s deadly action is completely off the rails and out of anyone's control. Check out the firedoglake.com article about the thousands of Blackwater/Xe mercenaries who have been allowed to roam freely around Pakistan, using deadly force as they see fit, with no apparent oversight. No wonder the people of Pakistan are so pissed-off about the idea of giving this particular double-homicide mercenary diplomatic carte blanche and a plane ticket home. Who are all these people we're killing over there? What possible danger that they pose to us all the way over here in North America? I, for one, would like to know!
PS. Check out my blog at http://inarationalworld.blogspot.com/
HOLES IN THE CONTRAILS
To Marvin Blake
Your contrail conspiracy theory has a few holes in it (AVA 2/16/11). All jets ﬂying at high altitude can create contrails. All carbon-based fuels from combustion engines create water vapor which at very high altitude condense into water droplets and ice crystals that we see as contrails. At the altitude of commercial ﬂights, winds are very light, temperatures are very low and contrails can persist for miles and long time durations as my colleagues at NASA where I worked for 38 years have documented in detail. At lower altitudes, contrails may or may not be generated depending on atmospheric conditions. This is not to suggest that contrails are totally benign. Jet exhausts also contain nitrous oxides and other air pollutants. And if conditions are right, the ice crystals can trigger cloud growth or haze which is an unnatural modiﬁcation of weather conditions. The real problem then is that too many ﬂights can trigger unforeseen consequences, which gets back to the basic problem of human impact on the globe.
There are too many of us burning too much fuel. But to suggest that government agencies or military forces are spraying chemicals over our skies is an irrational extrapolation from reality to conspiracy. If there were these innumerable ﬂights and tonnage of chemicals being dumped why havenʼt the facts been leaked veriﬁably by the ﬂight crews or ground crews or shipping companies or chemical factories? When people retire from service they tend to talk. And what would be the motivation for such an assault on our citizens? Certainly geo-engineering ideas for blocking sunlight are being evaluated by atmospheric scientists as a desperate attempt to stop global warming. But we are a long way from putting those plans into action as the scientiﬁc community is well aware of the potentially disastrous consequences of atmosphere or ocean modiﬁcations. Cloud seeding for rain has been around for a long time but the level of activity suggested by your letter is way beyond rainmaking. I suggest we focus on the problem of human impact on the environment and the choices we make consuming energy.
Amen to Mark Scaramella’s excellent dissection of Obamacare, “Judge Vinson Does Us A Favor,” (AVA, 2/16/11).
I agree that criticism of the appalling bill was scarce from progressive forces, but provide the links below as examples of the best responses I’ve found to this disgraceful piece of legislation.
(National Nurses Union)
(David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woodlandler)
All the above articles are excellent. I will cite one paragraph from the Hedges’ article that will delight Mr. Scaramella and all who oppose this chicanery.
“This bill is not about fiscal responsibility or the common good. The bill is about increasing corporate profit at taxpayer expense. It is the health care industry’s version of the Wall Street bailout. It lavishes hundreds of billions in government subsidies on insurance and drug companies. The some 3,000 health care lobbyists in Washington, whose dirty little hands are all over the bill, have once more betrayed the American people for money. The bill is another example of why change will never come from within the Democratic Party. The party is owned and managed by corporations. The five largest private health insurers and their trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug maker, spent more than $9 million during the last quarter of 2008 and the first three months of 2009. The Washington Post reported that up to 30 members of Congress from both parties who hold key committee memberships have major investments in health care companies totaling between $11 million and $27 million. President Barack Obama’s director of health care policy, who will not discuss single payer as an option, has served on the boards of several health care corporations. And as salaries for most Americans have stagnated or declined during the past decade, health insurance profits have risen by 480 percent.”
Thank you, Mr. Scaramella for writing the article. Thank you, Mr. Anderson for publishing it.
Louis S. Bedrock
Roselle, New Jersey
ms notes: Yes, those are good references, but they were (correctly) aimed at the bill before it was passed into law. My main problem was finding comments about Vinson’s recent ruling that Obamacare was unConstitutional. Even the Liberals and progressives who criticized Obamacare before it passed, seemed to have a hard time agreeing with the right-wing Judge Vinson even though mandatory health insurance is unConstitutional no matter what your politics are.
WHO'S THE BAD GUYS?
We hear all the time “no one is above the law,” but they left out except government officials. Our Mendocino County supervisor Kendall Smith puts in a false travel claim for some $3000 and gets it. The grand jury is a group of local people whose job it is to oversee our government and keep them all honest. It's a very important protection put in the Constitution by some very wise men. The grand jury gives the case to the district attorney. Nothing happens. A clear cover-up.
The Anderson Valley Advertiser files a case in small claims court on behalf of the taxpayers of Mendocino County. Again the judge does nothing to make her pay it back. Why didn't anyone in authority — the district attorney, the judges, or other supervisors — do anything? They are all accessory to the crime.
The law states clearly that anyone who knew or should have known who files a false claim is subject to treble damages and it goes on to say that if a person did not know but finds out later — by the grand jury — they should pay it back immediately. Kendall Smith still refuses to give it back. A known false claim subject to treble damages. So far a blatant cover-up.
Last year the Rossi family hired an appraiser to appraise some properties in a court case for an orally agreed figure. The appraiser got the money up front and then later sends a bill for twice as much. As anyone can tell you: the Rossi family always — I repeat always — has paid all their bills immediately for over 70 years.
This is an apparent fraud and the Rossi family doesn't pay the extra charge. The appraiser put it in small claims court in Fort Bragg apparently knowing that judge Lehan would decide in his favor no matter what is brought up. The Constitution says a trial will be held in the place of occurrence which was Boonville and should be in Ukiah court. Judge Lehan is asked to transfer the case to the right court. He says that Fort Bragg is the right court. A lie. Any person has a right to excuse one judge from a case if they feel he or she is not fair for any reason. He is asked to step down. He says you can't do it. A lie. A legal paper is obtained and personally delivered to the Fort Bragg court. It's changed to Ukiah and a different judge. The point here is this judge lied twice and got away with it.
Neither one of these cases would happen unless government officials had been getting away with these things. For the rest of us it's a crime. Everyone — no exceptions — has to be held accountable for their actions. Hitler took all the power away from the people and could do no wrong. He pulled the German people out of the depression but the end result was disaster.
CANNABIS CARD COMMENTARY #1
I read a letter in the Anderson Valley Advertiser from Pebbles Trippet a few months back about the Cannabis trading cards that she and Fred Sternkopf of Dr. Doo fame had created. They were caricatures of 10 famous people who used pot. I decided to order a set. They sold for $20 for a set unless you bought six sets for $10 each. I sent $60 to Cannabis Cards intending to keep one set for myself, gift one for Xmas, and sell the remaining 4 at $15 each to the pot store up the street to get my money back.
My wife Katheryn and I have had our 215 cards for a number of years. We’re both acquainted with the ebb and flow of cannabis dispensaries here in San Diego, a very conservative city. If it was up to the County Supervisors, they’d shut down all the dispensaries in San Diego. But times are changing--the dispensary up the street from my house on University Avenue used to be the Wells Fargo Bank.
Sternkopf, Dr. Doo, sent me 7 sets, a bonus for ordering six. He wrote me a letter, by hand--with the Cannabis Card gold seal at the top of the letter. Fred wrote it in the same lettering he does for Dr. Doo. I liked it so much I framed the letter and hung it on the wall next to my Jasper Johns American flag. Fred had written to ask me to be the San Diego rep for Cannabis Cards and without knowing what that would mean I said, you betcha.
The Cannabis Cards are laminated full color portraits, caricatures, that measure 2½ by 3½. On the back of each card Pebbles writes the commentary for every person--a little history. The cards start with Queen Victoria, the most conservative of British royals whose doctor prescribed cannabis for her menstrual cramps. Her doctor told her that cannabis was a miracle drug. Her great-great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, had ordered her land-owning gentry to grow marijuana or face a fine--not to grow for the THC or it’s medicinal properties but for hemp to make rope and clothing.
Other Cannabis Cards feature Jerry Garcia, Bob Marley (both surprises, eh?); the slugger and future baseball Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez; Lenny Bruce and 5 others. Dr. Doo’s portraits catch the spirit of each person as good caricatures will do. Two extra cards have info on cannabis, news about the cards that are coming out next, and how to order them. They come in a made-to-fit zip-lock bag. I’m sounding like a sales rep already.
Clever by half, I took 4 decks to the dispensary up the street 5 blocks away to sell them and get my $60 back. They loved them-- except they weren’t interested. They only sold product. Well, there went my easy sixty buck recompense. But there were 85 more dispensaries in San Diego County to visit, and it was beginning to look like fun.
I didn’t even know how to spell cannabis before I thought I’d take a try selling the Cannabis Cards. I’ve been smoking pot for 50 years--not daily and rarely all day. But I’ve never had any problems with it other than missing an exit on the freeway. Marijuana would give me the normal illusions of grandeur and, early on when I started smoking, I’d have episodes of paranoia. They would fade and turn into fits of laughter at the absurdity of the paranoia--although back in the 60s the paranoia was deserved--you could go to prison if you were caught with even a roach.
I qualified for my first 215 card after I developed arthritis in my hip. Vicodin was prescribed and it works fine, but the pot worked almost as well. But I’d be using pot anyway without the card. I like getting high, and I like to think it helps me write. The publisher of this paper might say that what the pot does is make me think I write good, not to mention my excellent grammar on Wednesdays.
So this began my adventures selling Cannabis Cards. Katheryn and I had been planning a trip to Europe for six months and our first stop is Amsterdam. I thought the cards would sell there since cannabis is virtually legal. Fred and Pebbles told me they’d send some extra cards for me to take.
The final question in the interviews always throws me: “Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?”
Every time I read it, my mind just balks. So much is assumed.
So, as I was sweeping the porch this morning the answer finally came to me: if everything fell into place the first thing I'd like to see is Craig Stehr getting his 55 bucks. The Big Guy peeling off three fat twenties (a little interest, don't you know) and both of them laughing about what cheapskates they are at East Bay Food Not Bombs.
Anything after that would just be gravy.
Beyond the Deep End (Navarro)
In culmination of a 72-year struggle with the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, women in the United States of America won the right to vote. Women's vote supported maternity and infancy protection. It also some opposed lynching and child labor. However, the racist and anti-immigrant women voters became the women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). From 1923-1930 women poured into the Klan to oppose immigration, racial equality, and Jewish-owned businesses. These Klanswomen called for white, native-born Protestants to preserve “home and family life.” The Klanswoman's ideology of the 1920s was against blacks, Jews, Mormons, immigrants and Socialists in support of white “pro-family” Protestants. Traditional accounts portray the KKK as hooded, masked marauders which ignores the Klanswomen who participated in numerous anti-pacifist, right-wing activities. These actions contributed to persecution of racial and religious minorities and to the poisoning of American public life. They promoted a right-wing agenda of racism and bigotry. The WKKK absorbed white Protestant women over the age of 16 who had been members of patriotic societies and Protestant women's clubs that began after World War I.
This Memorial Day let us celebrate that today's Kamelias (Women's Klan) have become background figures; that fusion of women's rights with a reactionary and racist politics has lost strength and support.
Farina bangs her anti-KKK and anti-WKKK dish for Memorial Day.
READY, SET, GO!
This is a letter of appreciation for the community members who have stepped forward and provided the organization, transportation, equipment and labor to improve and maintain the track at the elementary school. Robin Bird from Greenwood Aggregates and Antonio Soto came in on a Sunday to deliver and spread crushed gravel and then roll it, leaving the track ready for the upcoming mile run. Kira Brennen who has been on leave for the past two years from the school district, has come back and not only organized and facilitated the mile run for the elementary school students that she initiated five years ago, but also arranged to have Robin and Antonio perform the maintenance on the track. The AVES students, staff and administrator are very grateful to our wonderful community members who make such a difference in our school.
SAVING DEPUTY WALKER
Our next Steering Committee Meeting is on Wed. March 2nd at 5 pm in the Family Resource and Career Center at the high school. Hope to see you then. We'll update on the Save Our Deputies Task Force and other AVCAC Projects.
Community Action Coalition
MILE DAY IN MAY
The Anderson Valley elementary school and all the runners and walkers of the lower field track send out a big huge thanks to Robin Bird of Greenwood Aggregate for donating two truckloads of gravel for the maintenance of the elementary track and to Antonio Soto for bringing in his equipment to roll out the track into a smooth surface.
We thank you for your generous donation of time and resources.
This track, now four years old, is the culmination of a solid community effort and is used almost on a daily basis by the elementary and middle school students as well as the community. It is this continued spirit of generosity, exemplified by Robin Bird and Antonio Soto, that makes this such a great community. Please come and join us for the annual Anderson Valley elementary school Mile Day Ron on May 5 and 6 and take a lap on this beautiful track.
Kira Brennan, former PE teacher/Mile Day coordinator
Dear Sir's and madams,
Please extend subscription of your humble and obedient servant. Unsure of stability of empire beyond that.
PS. Time goes / you say. / Ah no, / time stays. We go. (Believe source was a bishop in the middle ages.)
MANY, MANY MILES
Greetings from the “colony”! Can I please talk you into extending my complimentary subscription? It would be most appreciated. Every issue gets many miles. I pass it along to several other inmates who look forward to it as much as I — if that's even possible. The AVA is loved by all who see it.
Thank you in advance. If it's not too presumptuous of me: have a nice day!
San Luis Obispo
WEEEE R FAMILEEEEE
As your journal champions debate along with downtrodden undocumented Mexican immigrants and the free flow of humanity south to north (this evidenced by David Bacon's January 5 piece “Immigrant Raids on the Rise” and previous missives from Frank Bardacke) I thought you might publish this politically incorrect adverse response.
The current Anglo, Asian and black population of the United States is close to ZPG. Growth now comes almost exclusively from roughly 1.5 million legal immigrants and some 70,000 illegals yearly plus offspring. We know this growth rate taking us from 308 million now to 400 million by 2050 bodes bad for every United States watershed. So the AVA must agree that environmental preservation demands a major reduction in current immigration levels.
Because the AVA invariably supports labor against capital, it's obvious you're aware the corporate bosses encourage an unending illegal Mexican resupply of the unemployed army. Our history shows that it was only during our low immigration years prior to Kennedy era reforms that labor made the gains required for America to become a massive middle-class nation. Since the 1970s, because of radical increases in legal as well as illegal immigration, labor unions have been in decline and the middle class likewise. The only way to reverse this power dynamic is to significantly reduce the current massive flow of the desperate to our labor market. Obviously, recent immigrants from Mexico will benefit most from a reduction in all immigration.
In response to the claim that as a rich nation we owe it to humanity to receive with welcoming arms all wanting to come here regardless of environmental degradation, we ask, Where's the evidence that this immigrant invasion and the billions in remittances it generates have done anything to reduce the pollution, poverty, birthrate, illiteracy, misogyny, government by bribery, and narcoviolence endemic in Mexico? One wonders when the reconquest is complete and California becomes Mexico will Mexicans residing here emigrate north to get away from the culture they fled in the first place?
We know the response of NCLR — national Council of La Raza (the race) funded by such corporate capitalist foundations as Pew, Rockefeller and Ford — and other open border cheerleaders like Jaime Ramos, Univision (NBC) news anchor and author of “Latino Wave.” They chauvinistically claim the values of Mexican culture are better than those of Anglo-America. Racist Ramos, for example, writes that Hispanics living here “consider the moral values and beliefs in their home countries to be superior to those found in US society.” He goes on to claim proudly that Mexicans “have morals and family values that differ distinctly from the rest of the American population. It's their way of life — a unique outlook on life.”
Ramos, Bacon, Bardacke and La Raza fail to remark on the unique Mexican outlook that includes the “Casa Chica” — the married male striving for machismo with a mistress on the side. They fail to note that transcendent Mexican morality uses “Que Padre” and “Padrismo” for anything seen as great, awesome, cool — while the word “madre” is used in nearly every conceivable derogatory comment. Is it representative of superior values that litter on our roadways grows with Mexican immigration and that trash is the most common roadside attraction in Mexico? Is it a “superior moral value” that Mexican parents teach their children to keep their own dwelling clean but to litter the commons? (We don't have space to discuss “superior” Mexican graffiti, surging gang violence, and lack of interest in book learning.) Those championing La Raza refuse to admit that no jurisdiction in Mexico has ever provided its people decent drinking water, sewage treatment, schooling, housing, or jobs. They conveniently refuse to recognize this failure is the reason for Mexican immigration to gringolandia. Many, if not most, here 20 years illogically cheer the flag of snake and serpent rather than stars and stripes. Legal and illegal Mexican immigrants have in unison booed the US soccer team in competition with the Mexican. Little wonder that among legal immigrants the Mexican is the least interested in becoming a US citizen.
One does not need to support current and past unjust US policy to appreciate that African and Asian immigrants to America, unlike Mexicans, rationally avoid such acclaim for the corrupt or inept nations from which they fled. The National Council of The Race (La Raza) and other open border advocates (generally fawning anglo liberals believing this helps their little brown brothers) fail in the logic test when they oppose racial profiling, when they promote the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe in a culture that uses “madre” as a profanity, and when they idealize the failed state of Mexico.
Isn't it time to stop celebrating diversity, never more than a gimmick for rich liberals to avoid the guilt of class conflict, and to defend our watersheds from California's unsustainable population growth, nearly all from south of the border? Surely the AVA agrees that securing the border is the only way to empower labor against capital and simultaneously improve the lot of our most recent immigrants.
Ed reply: Not that this particular blast seems amenable to rational discussion, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, "Most analyses have found that the fiscal impact of immigrants as a whole, both legal and unauthorized, and including all levels of government, is slightly positive — the tax revenues generated by immigrants exceed the cost of the government services they use." Isn't it obvious by now that without Mexicans whole sectors of the American economy, especially those sectors dependent on hard physical labor, would simply shut down. (Healdsburg would be a ghost town overnight if Mexicans disappeared.) But relax, Bub, love is smoothing things out. Right here in Mex-dependent Boomsville, we're into our second decade of intermarriages. Another ten years and we'll all be family. Better looking, too.
THANKS FOR THE SUB, LOUIS
Re:: “How To Thwart Aphasia.”
I couldn't help but smile as I read Lewis Bedrock's letter in the February 23 AVA.
Mr. Bedrock, I take my hat off to you for staying so busy, physically and mentally. You are leaps and bounds more active than many people around me — and I am in prison!
Also thank you for your service to this great nation of ours.
In your letter you mentioned that you were enclosing a check that would cover your subscription and also cover one of the subscriptions that Mr. Anderson provides to so many prisoners free of charge. Your support is genuinely appreciated, Mr. Bedrock.
And thank you to you at the AVA also.
Hello Darwin — alive and well in Washington! Excellent example of those foot draggers who continue walking on knuckles as though recently descended from the trees at the Gorge in Africa.
Parties, indeed, are partying on while the country crashes by any measure.
And so — here we are at the mercy of these retro-sapiens with their inherited millions such as the Koch brothers and so forth dumping big bucks via the Supreme (sic) Court's decision declaring corporations to be people with First Amendment rights to speech (read money) into elections without the attending responsibilities of people.
Progressives can only be such inasmuch as they rebel and push evolution into the 21st century. Hello Darwin, we graduated.
Dan (Head in the Clouds) O'Malley
PS. A nod to Crawdad from Sis Deyane sequestered in the hills above Klamath! Love and blood conquers all.
WHO PAYS FOR SMARTMETERS?
Dear California Utilities Commission (505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco 94102) —
This article was printed in the Anderson Valley Advertiser newspaper. I would be interested to read your side of these issues, especially:
1. Has the CPUC accepted money and/or signed any agreement obliging ratepayers to pay for smart meter systems?
2. What exactly is “on the plate” in terms of dollars and cents for ratepayers, PG&E, and for smart meter technology vendors?
Dear Supervisors Smith, Brown, McCowen, Pinches, and Hamburg:
The days of racking up huge unfunded pension liabilities are rapidly coming to a close. In short, our bailout options are disappearing fast. During the last week, the Press Democrat has done a good job in explaining why. I'll explain further.
Option #1: Stock markets returns were never going to bail us out. An assumed, actuarial, annual 8 % rate of return is unrealistic over time. Want to hear a factoid that will break your heart? From December, 2000, to December, 2010, the annual, compounded, real rate of return for the S&P 500 was a paltry 0.899%, even when including reinvestment of dividends. I manage money for a living, so you can believe me. That means that the 0.899% real rate of return is 7.1% short of the target 8%. Ouch! There's other bad news. Lately the real action hasn't been in the S&P 500 at all; it's been in emerging markets, i.e. Latin America and Asia-Pacific. Public pensions have limited exposure to these markets, but there's also significant foreign currency risk. Also, commodities, like oil, grains, sugar, industrial metals and precious metals, were red hot during the last ten years. Some have doubled or tripled in value. But the by-laws of most pension systems bar them from direct investments in commodities. Same is true for most pension systems with regard to investing in hedge funds, long-short funds, private equity funds, vulture funds, and other alternative investments. Too much risk. That leaves the lackluster S&P 500. So, scratch the stock market as a bailout option for sick and dying public pension systems..
Option #2: The 10-year US Treasuries are priced to yield 3.44%. The 2-year US Treasuries are priced to yield 0.70%. Corporate bonds fare better, but carry greater risk than Treasuries. The FINRA/Bloomberg Investment Grade US Corporate Bond Index has an average redemption yield of 4.64%. That's pretty good, with moderate risk, but still short of the 8% target rate of return that actuaries say we need to break even. So, scratch the bond market, too.
Option #3: Can't raise taxes. The resounding defeat of Measure C by a 70 to 30 margin by the citizens of Mendocino County was as much of a vote of “No Confidence” in the Board of Supervisors, as it was a defeat of a new sales tax increase. Measure C was widely perceived as a “pension bailout” that was endorsed by the Board of Supervisors in a 5 to 0 vote. Their bad. It bombed. Big time. So, scratch new taxes.
Option # 4: And now, we won't even be able to bail ourselves out with another issue of Pension Obligation Bonds, like Mendocino County did in 1997 and 2002, and like Sonoma County will do in 2011 with a monster $290 million issue. Why? Click on the link below. Read it and weep. Moody's, the bond rating company, will start to use pension liabilities -- funded and unfunded -- in calculating bond ratings. This is an exceedingly bad development for public sector spendthrifts. Bond rating downgrades mean higher borrowing costs. So, scratch Pension Obligation Bonds going forward into the future.
Bottom line? The party's over, folks. No quick fixes. We're going to have to balance our budget. Sounds impossibly old-fashioned, doesn't it? Almost quaint. Sounds even faintly prudent. It's enough to make a public sector spendthrift woozy.
Letter to the Editor—
Where the hell are you?
In his Letter to the Editor (Ukiah Daily Journal 3/1/11), John Pearson writes: “I am amazed that so many people would put so much energy into keeping an old building [Ukiah downtown Post Office] in place... Perhaps if these same people would have put these same energies to use we would still have a manufacturing base here in the valley that paid living wages instead of low paying entry wage jobs we now have... Where were they when Masonite was getting ready to close?”
Well, we were right here, desperately protesting the massacre of our forests so we could save them to produce sustainable manufacturing jobs for the long term. We were here protesting the poisoning of our community by Masonite, asking them to clean up their act. Instead, corporate loggers and sawmills ignored our warnings that they were killing future jobs and ruining their welcome. We were right. The jobs are now gone because the forest was raped and ruined. Where the hell were you?
Pearson writes: “Where were they when we entered this godforsaken unwinnable war in the Middle East?” We were here, protesting along with millions around the globe. We were right. Where the hell were you?
Pearson writes: “We need to get out of the 'not in my backyard' mentality that has seized this area for decades.” Oh? Wendell Berry says it best: “There’s a lot of scorn now toward people who say, 'Not in my backyard', but the not-in-my-backyard sentiment is one of the most valuable that we have... It’s your own backyard you’re required to protect because in doing so you’re defending everybody’s backyard. It is altogether healthy and salutary.”
And that's why we want to save the old Post Office that is in our backyard. We are here, trying to hold on to a valued community resource, just as we have been doing here in Mendocino County for many years. We are organizing to keep it. We are protesting its closure. We are right again. Where the hell are you?