Mendocino County Today: Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016
by AVA News Service, December 3, 2016
NERVE GAS BOSCO: THE RELOAD
by Mark Scaramella
BOSCO, the eternal curse. Frankly, we enjoyed the guy when he was an automatic Congressional vote for nerve gas, always waffled on offshore oil drilling, functioned as a total slave of corporate timber, and otherwise drew pay as a Congressman working steadily against the interests of most of his constituents. Back when people still read newspapers we so often referred to Bosco as Nerve Gas Bosco or, simply, N.G. Bosco, that Bosco said he often got letters addressed to him as N.G. Bosco.
WHAT WE LIKED best about Bosco was his temper. He'd go completely off at hostile questions, which is why the Congress-ciphers who succeeded him — Riggs, Thompson, Huffman — only meet the great unwashed in highly controlled contexts, like rsvp sessions in winery tasting rooms, the ante rooms of the fancier Northcoast hotels.
ANYWAY, Bosco married the daughter of a Eureka timber bigwig, lost his seat to a Republican and wound up half-owner of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat whose pages faithfully reflect Bosco's self-interested views on matters that could cost him money. (Bosco's loss of his seemingly safe Congressional seat to Republican Frank Riggs served as one more example to local professional officeholders that their support is soft, very soft, outside their immediate families. Because Bosco, a self-alleged liberal, voted against the Northcoast, Peace and Freedom Party candidate, Darlene Comingore, siphoned off the left votes, electing Riggs who voted pretty much like Bosco during his tour of Washington, DC.)
NO SURPRISE that Bosco and his Democratic Party gofers control the train that will never again run between Southern Marin and Eureka, but still generates enough income to keep Bosco and friends interested.
SO, HERE WE ARE with a dispute between the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) and Sonoma Marin Area Rapid Transit (SMART) that we summarized a few days ago. Neither train really runs along the same tracks, of which there is one set, although Bosco’s choo-choo occasionally moves some barley or grain a few miles. SMART might actually get a train going, albeit with about as many passengers as our local MTA, but Bosco and the NCRA will never, ever pull into the Cloverdale Station with a merry, "Cloverdale! Cloverdale! Next stop Willits! All aboard now for Eureka!"
LAST TIME that happened was, I believe, 1965. Anyway, the two flamingly mismanaged train companies are in an argument about some Liquid Propane Gas tanker cars, which we have described previously.
On Friday, the Press Democrat — which happens to be co-owned by Bosco, attorney for and co-owner of the Northwestern Pacific, ran an update on the NCRA-SMART dispute (“Gas tanker cars moved from Sonoma tracks as SMART and freight operator spar,” by PD reporter Derek Moore).
In that story Moore quotes Bosco with statements that are so arrogant that they remind us of the old Bosco circa 1980s when then-Congressman Bosco shilled for the most destructive extractive industries on the north coast: Big Oil and Big Timber. Bosco’s arrogance and detachment back then got him unseated when a large portion of his Democratic Party based abandoned him for Peace and Freedom Party candidate Darlene Comingore, allowing upstart Republican Frank Riggs to win.
Since then Bosco has slowly morphed from corporate attorney to big time property owner, fueled primarily by the huge inheritance his wife, and former SoCo Superior Court Judge, Gayle Guynup got in 2003 when Guynup’s wealthy father died. Bosco now owns or co-owns large timber tracts, gravel mining operations, mining operations, ranches and not so long ago he went from attorney for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP), which has the freight operations contract with the NCRA which Bosco set up and which is run by his former Chief of Staff Mitch Stogner in an arrangement that is more economically incestuous than any local non-profit could ever dream of.
To Bosco, the long-inoperative NCRA/NWP railroad is the link between his extractive industry business interests and he’s not going to let some penny-ante upstart local officials get in his way.
The SMART officials have so far avoided making many public statements beyond their entirely reasonable request that the NCRA/NWP should provide notice to them on those rare occasions when they move freight, especially hazardous cargo. SMART wants Bosco to have a plan in place before storing or shipping hazardous materials on the commuter tracks which run past wetlands and through residential neighborhoods.
Bosco told his employee/reporter Moore on Friday, that “the railroad will continue to refuse [SMART’s request to provide info on hazardous shipments] on the grounds that SMART is not entitled to that information.... ‘We don’t disclose their business anymore than they disclose ours’,” Bosco informed his amanuensis, Moore. Moore did dare to point out that Bosco “is an investor in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.”
According to Moore, “The city of American Canyon and Napa County also have entered the legal fray over concerns that the movement and storage of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions pose a public safety threat. In their federal filings, attorneys for American Canyon, a city of about 20,000, outlined safety concerns with moving and stranding gas tankers along a rail line that passes through populated areas, ‘under busy freeway overpasses’ and next to wetlands.”
In the face of numerous incidents with railroad derailments and spills all over the country, “Bosco insists that the gas tankers pose no safety concerns. The former congressman also said the dispute highlights the reason why local jurisdictions should not be involved in the regulation of interstate commerce.”
“In a way, this is a good thing,” Bosco told Moore. “It should show people the mess you can get into whenever everyone thinks they have a say what railroads transport.”
Bosco! Monarch of all he surveys!
* * *
PERSONAL SPECULATION: Why is the NCRA/NWP even handling LPG tanker cars? Obviously, they’re not going from point A to point B anywhere on the Northcoast. They may be a holding zone for Bosco’s oil industry pals at the giant Tesoro refinery just across the Carquinez Strait rail bridge outside of Martinez or the huge Valero refinery outside of Benicia. Or both. So the “news” that the dozens of LPG tanker cars were recently moved may mean that the refineries were just using Bosco’s tracks for temporary storage until the refineries wanted the LPG to make their winter fuel mixes. So Bosco & Co get a little PR value out of ordinary business as if they were doing the North Bay a favor by moving the tankers in the face of public complaints, when in reality they would have been moved anyway. The imperious Bosco now wants to continue to use the NCRA/NWP tracks as tanker storage for East Bay oil but doesn’t want to bother asking pesky locals for permission. So he’s turning to the federal Surface Transportation Board (which he probably has old-time political connections to) to make the locals get outta the way because that’s much easier than dealing with the “mess” — i.e., the public and their local reps.
Valero Refinery, Benicia
LITTLE DOG SAYS: You can drop all your good quality dog food at my secret hideout in Boonville, and I SWEAR I’ll give a few cans to the poor saps at the shelter.
RIP TAYLOR, LIVE!
Interview by Basam Habal
Rip Taylor is a classic comedian whose career in show business spans over 50 years.
He is known to many as the king of confetti for his trademark act of throwing confetti into the audience. First gaining initial prominence as the crying comedian on the Ed Sullivan show, he has worked on various TV shows including the Jackie Gleason show, the Monkees, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, the Gong Show as well as on stage broadway and Las Vegas. He has also been in various films including “Things Are Tough All Over” with actors Cheech and Chong. A new documentary has just come out about him called “Rip Rip Hooray.”
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Rip at his favorite restaurant to talk about his new documentary and his long career in show business.
Taylor with the Interviewer
BH: We are here talking with the one and only comedy legend Rip Taylor.
RT: Hi everybody.
BH: Let me tell you Rip, it’s an honor to meet you.
RT: He’s been drinking folks so don’t blame me.
BH: So there was a new documentary that just came out about you called “Rip Rip Hooray.”
RT: Yes, it came out last week and it was at the silent picture theater which was even funnier that we rented to show it there cause it is not a silent picture and there were like 500 people there, and I did a Q&A for an hour and a half after. Why they were so receptive I was quite surprised. I was very happy and very proud, it was packed. I couldn’t wait to see it.
BH: How long was the documentary in the works for?
RT: I think too long. I don’t wanna embarrass the producers. Four years! Oh, I’m sorry. Did that sneak out? He would have done it in four minutes.
BH: How involved were you?
RT: I just kept talking and filming and we didn’t edit too much from it. But what they did edit was very well received and shown what I wanted to be shown. You know I’m not always on, but I can go on easily. That’s the gift.
BH: Was there anything in the documentary they left out that you wished was in there?
RT: Not necessarily no, except I was quite surprised that the theater was jammed. I don’t know why it was, and they want me to do it again. Show it elsewhere, and that’s what the producers are going to do. And hopefully networks like Amazon and Netflix will buy it.
BH: Any desire to have larger theater runs?
RT: Oh, that’s what they do when they sell it. They show it to bigger theaters. That’s how they do it.
BH: I’d love to see it in the Bay area.
RT: Yes I hope so, I hope so too.
BH: Before the documentary, you did a one man show called “It ain’t all Confetti.”
RT: Yes, I did. I did it in a theater in North Hollywood. I expected no one to show up and there were lines around the block. Very flattered. Wonderful director David Galligan. We did it for 2 to 3 weeks and they want me to do it again.
BH: And how did that come about?
RT: I wanted to do other things cause I didn’t wanna do clubs anymore. I was tired of clubs and I had been asked to do a play. And I said, “Why don’t I do my own play?” and they said, “Can you do that?” And I said, “I Don’t know.” We sat down and we wrote it and we did it. And it was very well received. I was quite surprised and they all liked it. I don’t know, I’m humbled but I’m not stupid. I’m too close to it. That’s why I hoped they liked it and they did. And I’m gonna show it again and do it all over. Called “It ain’t all Confetti.”
BH: Speaking of confetti, how that that shtick originate?
RT: I was doing an act and I had these cue cards cause I don’t remember jokes that well and they were not going well at all. So what I did, I said, “I’m gonna give up” and tore the jokes up and threw them in the air and that’s how confetti started. And they laughed louder at the confetti than they did my jokes, so I kept it up. Something came to me to tear them up and now it’s a trademark. Thank you Jesus.
BH: It’s as much of a trademark for you Rip as one of the most famous handlebar mustaches in American culture.
RT: I was gonna call Lyft limousine service and see if I could get my mustache on the beginning of the car. That’s funny.
BH: Lyft and Rip, a wonderful combo.
RT: Wanna get a lift, call Rip. That’s what I was gonna say. I think they are taking it off but it was a good idea.
BH: When did you grow it out?
RT: So long ago I don’t remember. I didn’t do it as a joke. I just didn’t shave for a while and then people started staring at me and they said “What’s that hair on your lip?” and I said, “It’s called a mustache, not a hair lip.” How rude. And that’s how it happened and I kept it. I didn’t know it was gonna become a trademark but it kind of became one. Thank you Jesus. And it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t itch. And it looks good when I mug a lot and make funny faces, so that’s why I kept it.
BH: I was gonna say yours and pitcher Rollie Fingers are probably the two most famous mustaches. … Did you have a desire to become a comedian as a kid?
RT: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I wanted to go into politics. I got a job in the kitchen in the United States Senate and I had to go to school when I was working in the kitchen. So I went to school with the other pageboys. They were a trip, little snotty boys and I was a busboy in the kitchen. One day there was a vacancy and I said, “Can I become a page?” “But you’re a busboy” and I said, “I wasn’t always a busboy.” And it ain’t hard to be a page. They snap their fingers, you run to the senator, you go get the document and you go back to the congress and you sit and wait. They snap there fingers and you go get another document. I remember saying to the Secretary of the Senate, “There’s a vacancy,” and they said, “Where are you from?” I said, “Washington DC,” and they said, “You can’t vote, you can’t be a page.” And I said, “But you can give me patronage, Mr. Biffle,” and he did. Look at how all it takes is just ask. All they can do is say no… in life.
BH: I think that’s how I got this interview
RT: Isn’t that amazing?
BH: So how do you go from being a page into comedy?
RT: I got drafted into the army, shut up, our side.
BH: And from the army?
RT: Korea, special services. I didn’t wanna do shows in the front. They were shooting the people in the front. We did shows and I got discharged and stayed in Tokyo and did shows. Got an act together, the record “Pantomime.” You play the record, you mouth the words. Umm umm yumm. One day the record broke and I haven’t shut up in 50 years. That’s how it happened and I’m still at it.
BH: Who were some of your comedic inspirations?
RT: Red Skelton was the only one. He wasn’t dirty, neither was I. He made faces and laughed at his own jokes. I did too at the time and one day the record Pantomime broke and I haven’t shut up since. And you end up buying jokes from writers and that doesn’t work and you end up thinking up jokes yourself. That was a gift but you still need writers, people to help you with things and that’s how it happened. And then one day Ed Sullivan saw me. And I got to the Ed Sullivan Show, people saw me and put me on TV, the Jackie Gleason show. Then Merv Griffin saw me and put me on all the talk shows and all the Johnny Carsons. And that’s how it happened. This and that and then the Monkees, and then from the Monkees into the movies and then the movies into television and that’s how it happened. And then Vegas into reviews. People see you, Debbie Reynolds saw me and made me a co-star in all her nightclub engagements. We still work with Debbie Reynolds, we still do our night club act. We’ve been doing it for (mumbles) years. And that’s how it happens and we’re still at it. God gave me the gift of comedy. And the sad thing is, I laugh at the jokes more than the people sometimes.
BH: Now on Ed Sullivan, you became known as the crying comedian. How did that shtick happen?
RT: One day the jokes didn’t work. They weren’t laughing. So I sobbed, “They were funny to me,” and then I tore the jokes up and threw them in the air, crying. So crying and the jokes in the air, I became the crying comedian which is what Ed Sullivan called me, after that it stuck. “Get the guy that cries.” “Oh not Rip Torn, Rip Taylor.” And that’s how it happened, amazing isn’t it? You couldn’t make that up.
BH: Who do you fondly remember working with on the Sullivan show?
RT: Everybody. Because it wasn’t my choice of who to work with. It was his bookings and you get on whenever he called you. Then Gleason saw me and I became a regular on Gleason and then people see you and get you in a series and that’s how it happens. Word of mouth. After the Monkees, it was something else. And then it was the $1.98 beauty show, Chuck Barris and the Gong Show and the game shows and the knock knock show, the poo poo show. Then I became that character and still am. Get the guy that makes you laugh and I was it. That’s how you did it.
BH: I always wanted to know, Were there people who got gonged who were legitimately upset they got gonged and confronted the panelists after the show?
RT: Pal, the whole thing was a joke. Period. That answers your question. You figure it out. Was it a set up? I don’t know (said jokingly). But wasn’t it a successful show? You better believe it. So who cares how it worked? They are bringing it back, you know.
BH: With someone else.
BH: What is your take on Chuck Barris, host of the Gong Show, being a CIA agent?
RT: I think it’s wonderful. I hope it’s true. I do. I hope its true. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Cause he was so daring anyway. He got the show on, didn’t he?
BH: From there he liked to put you on as the host of the $1.98 beauty show.
RT: Which was more fun cause we never made the girls cry, cause they knew it was all a joke. The whole thing was a joke. It was outrageous.
BH: People often confuse you with Rip Torn; do you remember the second time you got confused with being Rip Torn?
RT: No. I would correct them. Not mean. “No, I’m Rip Taylor.” There was never any conflict at all. There could have been. It was a joke if nothing else. It’s not important. I had the caricature and he didn’t. He was a serious actor and a good one.
BH: Now you went on tour with Judy Garland in ’66? Was that your first time in Vegas?
RT: First time in Vegas was with Eleanor Powell, movie star. That was the first time. Judy was sensational. Fun to work with. Connie Francis wouldn’t talk to me. I was the opening act. You don’t talk to the opening act. Shut up.
BH: What was Judy like on the road?
BH: What do you remember about working as the character Sheldon on the show, “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” (which also featured actors Billy Barty and Johnny Whitaker)?
RT: What was that, a cartoon?
BH: The Sid and Marty Kroft…
RT: Oh yeah, yeah yeah. They were wonderful. They did a lot of shows. We did a scene once on the Columbia lot in which behind me, cameras shooting, there was a fire that started on the set behind me. So the cameraman said, “Was there a fire in this scene?” I said, “No.” And he said, “Well look behind you.” There was a fire. And then they had made the set this way instead of that way which wasn’t fireproof. Weird. The whole set started catching on fire. Everybody is running out of the building. I picked up Billy Barty, helped him get out. We all got out safely, Johnny Whitaker. We all got out. Now I was staying at the Continental Hyatt House which is fifteen blocks from Columbia studios right down Santa Monica Boulevard. I had to walk to the hotel in the full conch suit, the green costume, the green makeup, the green suit, the green shoes, the green hair. I’m hitchhiking down Santa Monica Boulevard in this costume. It was 15 blocks to the hotel. People yelling “Faggot,” screaming “Queer.” They wouldn’t pick me up. They wouldn’t give me a lift. Cabs wouldn’t stop for me. I had to walk all the way to the hotel. Got to the front desk, and the front clerk said, “Hey Rip, you want your key?” — dressed like that. I was furious. So that’s it. That was hysterical. But those things happen. I just remember them.
BH: What are your memories of Billy Barty?
RT: An angel. A professional actor. Angel. He was wonderful. Sweet man. His whole family was wonderful.
BH: So tell me about your involvement with the Monkees as the famous Evil Wizard Glick?
RT: They called me to do it. Ward Sylvester was the producer and we did it. We rehearsed, we shot the scenes and they never spoke to me.
BH: The directors?
RT: No, the directors did, but not the cast. So I had to work with those conditions. When there was a scene I would do the scene and sit back in my dressing room and they would call me back. I’d do a scene again. And that was my experience with the Monkees. Thank you. Next question.
BH: You worked with all the members of the Rat Pack, Frank, Dino, and Sammy?
RT: A long tour with Sammy. Long tour. He was the funniest man. He was so funny. He was so giving. He would go on stage first, and come out and introduce me. Usually the comic opens the show to set it up for the star. He said, “No. No, my name is on top and I’m introducing my dear friend, a funny guy, bring out Rip Taylor.” And that’s how he did it. Sensational. You never heard of that before in show business. Then the parties with all the names, Liza. Jesus. Everybody. It was phenomenal. And they accepted me and let me in. Cosby, we all worked together. It was just wonderful. Then we did Sugar Babies on Broadway with Anne Miller. That was a breakthrough theater to me, musical theater. Cause they didn’t think I would stick to the script cause I was always that funny comedian who cries. Well, I stuck to the script and tap-danced with Anne Miller. Then when she left the show they put Carol Lawrence in and we toured with Carol Lawrence in Sugar Babies. And then Juliet Prowse. We did it in Lake Tahoe, Reno and Vegas, all over the country. Unbelieavable, that crying comedian.
BH: Crying Comedian takes to Broadway. Who would you say of Frank, Sammy and Dino, Sammy was your favorite?
RT: Well, my favorite was Sammy cause I worked with him more. More than the others. The others were very wonderful people and fun and laughing and always having fun. But Sammy was the longest. We did a bus tour in Florida, hotels. He drove the bus. Unheard of. It’s unheard of.
BH: You did voice acting work. Was your first the Addams family?
RT: They were wonderful
BH: You did Uncle Fester
RT: That was fun too. I didn’t know I could to do those voices but the sound director said, “You can do that” and I did it. I don’t know how but we did it.
BH: You’ve done a lot of great movies and scenes. What are your memories about working with Cheech and Chong?
RT: Oh god, they were hysterical. We drove from Vegas to LA in an open convertible with all of my props. I have the damnedest props in the back seat and Cheech is driving. People staring at us, honking at the car, all the way, four hours. And I’m throwing confetti in the air over the highway and people just screaming, laughing. They recognize Cheech and Chong in an open convertible Cadillac. There’s a picture of it somewhere. Fun fun fun. I never smoked with them but you had to inhale when you did the scene to get through it.
BH: Was there anyone you never got to work with that you wished you did?
RT: Well it isn’t over yet for me. No, there’s none yet that I’m waiting for. I like the next page to be a surprise. I’m on hold waiting for the phone to ring and the phone rings and I go. And that’s what the fun about it is, the unexpected, improvised or not. And because they see me as the character that they see me as that I play, that I have no discipline. And then when I get into the studio and the doors close, and the discipline shows, they’re surprised. You see it in their faces — “I didn’t know you could do that.” Well I did. You know what I mean? And still at it. That’s even more amazing.
BH: You got a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. What year was that?
RT: I really don’t know. A few years back. You can look it up. It’s in the Chamber of Commerce. Debbie Reynolds was supposed to present the star to me on the street. Of course, she got sick that day. So she got Zsa Zsa Gabor to come. Now Zsa Zsa’s gonna introduce, big crowd on the street. “Now ladies and gentleman, it’s a pleasure to give the star on Hollywood boulevard to my dear friend.” And she forgot my name. Forgot my name on Hollywood Boulevard in front of all those people. I’m saying “Holy Jesus.” So she turns to her husband and he says “Rip Taylor.” She says, “Of course, darling, Rip Taylor.” So then Rip Taylor comes up and I say, “Thank you Gaga, it’s a pleasure.” And that’s how it happened and the star’s on the boulevard. It’s such an honor. I clean it every week and the humor of the chamber of commerce is they put the star in front of the ugliest wig shop on Hollywood Boulevard. That’s funny. And I go and clean the damn thing once a month on my hands and knees. People flock around me. Course you don’t get that honor. A comic?
BH: Who is your star next to?
RT: I don’t care. I look at mine. Let them clean their own.
BH: Well, Rip, it was an absolute pleasure to speak with you.
RT: Well, you’re on drugs anyway, what do you know? The man drinks 15 ice teas and two pieces of cheese sticks and feels like he’s happy. Jesus.
BH: Finally, How would you like to be remembered?
RT: What an old question. Someone who is funny and kept people happy. And it’s not easy. Course, now they’re all jaded and know everything and don’t know anything. You can spot them a mile away so you steer away from those people. Not that I’m always on, cause I’m not. I don’t wanna be. It’s boring. Not for me, for them. He’s always on. No, he’s not. He’s very serious sometimes and serious doesn’t mean boring. It means you’re serious. You carry on a conversation without throwing paper. You know what I mean?
BH: Absolutely. And the final question, what changes in your lifetime have you seen in the history of comedy and what would those be?
RT: Donald Trump.
AN UNRELIABLE MOVIE REVIEW: Manchester By The Sea.
It held my feeble attentions, but it was slow moving, often very funny in its tragic context, carried along by really good acting, especially from the female leads. Parenthetical comment on the audience, mostly older. I've wondered about those pre-curtain movies that ask people to turn off their cell phones, and otherwise be courteous. I now know why they're necessary. The woman seated next to me wasn't rude exactly, but she laughed so hard at all the unfunny trailers, especially a painfully unfunny one featuring a dog, that I was tempted to move to a less annoying sector of the theater. But she calmed down for the main event although she laughed ostentatiously several times, but sat silently through the truly funny stuff. Braying your amusement so it can be heard down the street is, I guess, a major sign of major neediness but really, keep it to yourself. And she elbowed me a few times as she dove into her giant handbag to rummage around for negative food value items, eating her way through a two hour film. No "Excuse me's" either. Food anxieties? Feral childhood? She was 70 if she was a day so I knew she was formed in a time where basic manners were still taught in most homes, the same homes — sexism alert! — that taught girls not to talk through their noses or to talk like little girls when they were big girls. And not to laugh like a drunken man. These days, though, you hear women who make their livings talking on the radio and television who talk through their noses, or speak age-inappropriately. Back to the movie, which is about a guy destroyed by personal tragedy who is legally bound to caretake the teenage son of his late brother. The traumatized guy moves through life in a virtually catatonic state, sitting so silently in social situations that his stepson blurts out, "Can't you just make small talk about pointless bullshit for a half hour like everyone else in the adult world?" This is a good movie.
Road to Hull Mountain (photo by Annie Kalantarian)
WE CAN USE THE MEDS
A day after admitting in a podcast interview witih Warriors Insider Monte Poole that he has tried marijuana for back-pain relief, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he hopes the NBA’s upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement allows players to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
“The league should look into the use of medicinal marijuana for pain relief,” Kerr said during his pregame news conference Saturday night. “As far as recreational, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about pain relief, and what’s best for our players’ health. That’s what should be in the CBA, and that’s what our owners and the league and the players union should be most concerned with.
“Maybe part of that is educating the public about how bad some of this stuff that players are being given for pain relief actually is. So the education is important. And I think as the public gets more educated, and as people get more educated, there will ultimately be a policy that includes medicinal CBD, oils, ingest — whatever is best suited for pain. And hopefully it’s something that comes in the next CBA, but I have no idea. That’s not my responsibility.”
Kerr, who missed the first 43 games of last season (2015) with complications stemming from back surgery, has tried marijuana twice within the past 18 months. Though the drug did little to alleviate his nagging pain, he still considers it a better option than some commonly prescribed opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin. (Kerr didn’t try smoking, only “ingesting.”)
“Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, and a lot of pain, I had to do a lot of research,” Kerr said. “You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, NFL players, that’s what they’re given. The stuff is awful. The stuff is dangerous. The addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long-term health risks. The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players.
“But I understand it’s a perception issue around the country. And in the NFL, NBA, it’s a business, so you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is. But, to me, it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues, because the education will overwhelm the perception.”
(The San Francisco Chronicle)
HOW I SURVIVED THE OAKLAND FIRE
Anon man describes how he got out
There was only one exit. I was on the top floor when the fire started, so I don't know how it got started. I distinctly remember thinking that this probably wasn't a big deal and/or that it was maybe a prank.
After the fire started I walked to the top of the stairs where there was only enough room for one maybe two people to go down at a time. At this point I still didn't think it was a big deal. It wasn't until a girl ahead of me came back up the stairs and yelled that "it's too thick everyone back up to the top." (This may not be exactly what she said but I'm this whole period is kind of a blur it's the gist of it however)
That was when I realized that this was very serious and that I was in big trouble. At this point I realized that my best shot at survival was to find my way down the stairs and and try and find the exit. My decision to go down was a coin flip at that point because I was terrified. The kind of fear I felt was not the kind of fear I have ever felt towards anything in my entire life. This was a primal sort of fear. I very much didn't care about other people making it out as long as I did at this point. Luckily I don't think I smashed into anybody or hit them on my way out. I completely lost track of my two friends during this time period to give an example of how one track minded I was. I feel really bad that I didn't care and I feel like I should have said something to all those people before I jumped down. Maybe give them a fighting chance if they realized that down was the only potential option for survival.
Bear in mind that the time it took for me to first see smoke and reach the top of the stairs before things got really bad was only like a minute.
So once I slipped and slid down the stairs keep in mind that these were the worst crafted stairs ever. (The first bit was like a ramp almost. And then the steps had varying heights sometimes almost coming up to thigh level. I'm 5'9 so while I'm not super tall that's enough for some of the steps to be way too tall for stairs.)
Once I made it down the stairs I tried to crawl to where I knew the exit was. I had a good general idea of its distance from me but I would have to find two doors and to try and get out. Even though I had an idea of where I was because of coming down the stairs the way I stumbled down basically made it so it's very likely that I wouldn't find an exit.
Once I was down there it was awful. I couldn't see or breathe. It was hot smoky and hard to focus. Thankfully at this point it wasn't so hot that I was burning just being there. There were other people crawling around on the floor too.
So I was down there and I was having trouble finding the exit. At this point I genuinely thought I was going to die choking on smoke in these horrid conditions. Part of this was definitely because the lower level is like a fukking maze. The stair room had three different exits and only one would have been the way to outside.
So I had only been down on the floor for 15ish seconds. (Even though it genuinely felt like I was down there for eternity.) As I was down there blindly trying to find the door to get out I got really lucky. Some dude who had already gotten out stood right by the exit with all the billowing smoke and was repeatedly yelling "this is the exit" "exit." I can say without a doubt that that dude saved my life. If he wasn't there yelling I would have never found the exit and I probably would have died.
Once I got outside I ran into one of my friends who had been inside. He had been behind me to go down the stairs and had somehow gotten out in front of me. I was so happy that at least we had made it out.
The outside looked to me like a fukking warzone. People were covered in soot and crying and hugging each other and screaming. Lots of people were calling out their friends names in an effort to find them. I just kind of stood and there and stared hoping that my other friend had made it out and that everyone would make it out safe.
Once I got out, only two more people made it out after I did.
In around five minutes or so the fire department showed up. By the time they reached the scene the entire building was in flames. For a thirty or so minute period I stood there waiting for the them to try and get people out in the vain hope that my other friend had made it out and that they would be able to get everyone out.
During this time period it really looked like the fire was starting to go down. And there was a chance of saving more lives. Unfortunately everyone's hopes were crushed when in the space of one second the fire got like three times worse. It started coming out the windows and the roof caught fire. I waited there for close to three or four hours hoping that we could get some information about our friend. I still don't know what happened to him or if he's even okay.
Also I should note that the building went up so fast. I'd have to say it was probably 3/4s on fire in under 3 minutes.
I'm really tired and the night is very blurry, plus i'm typing this on my phone so if there are any spelling/grammar errors and the story isn't very coherent I apologize. I might have messed up some of the details as well. It's also very hard for me to talk about this but I still decided to because I think that my memory of the night is only going to get worse from here.
PS: I just want to say that everyone has been incredibly supportive and nice and I really appreciate it.
PPS: Whoever gave me gold I appreciate it but I would rather if you have extra money that you do not give me gold and instead donate it to local Oakland charities.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 3, 2016
August, Bucio, Buenrostro-Rodriguez, Dahlund
CHRISTOPHER AUGUST, Ukiah. Community supervision violation.
DANIEL BUCIO, San Jose/Ukiah. DUI, petty theft.
JORGE BUENROSTRO-RODRIGUEZ, Ukiah. DUI.
KEVIN DAHLUND, Willits. Burglary, receiving stolen property, petty theft, vandalism, probation revocation.
Gonzalez, Grinsell, Macias-Fernandez
MANUEL GONZALEZ, Willits. Drunk in public.
SKYLA GRINSELL, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
EMANUEL MACIAS-FERNANDEZ, Napa/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
Minutelli, Pelkey, Romero, Sullivan
MICHAEL MINUTELLI, Murrieta, CA/Ukiah. Pot sales, leaded cane or equivalent, evasion.
MICHAEL PELKEY, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
ALFREDO ROMERO, Hopland. Failure to appear.
FRANK SULLIVAN, Petaluma/Ukiah. Burglary.
Torres, West, Wilson
CHRSTINA TORRES, Hopland. Protective order violation, probation revocation.
CHRISTOPHER WEST, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
ERICA WILSON, Ukiah. Forgery, controlled substance, paraphernalia.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Anyone who believes they will be better off a year from now, or even four years from now is terribly deluded. The inmates are in charge and they only care about themselves so they, and their cronies, will be better off, but despite the rhetoric the average person will not be.
The cost of healthcare will be greater and the quality and accessibility will be less. Medicare and Medicaid will be privatized or eliminated and social security won’t exist or benefits will be reduced. The numbers don’t lie. It isn’t fiscally possible to continue the way we are going.
Yes, taxes will probably go down, but how has that worked out in the past? It has forced governments into austerity which meant...
Wall Street fat cats will be richer and you will be poorer.
If you fall behind a month on your mortgage your ass will be on the street. There won’t be any rescue programs.
If a credit crisis comes about there won’t be a TARP program. Depositors will have their savings confiscated to bail out banks.
If unemployment spikes there won’t be any extended unemployment benefits or job programs.
There won’t be any forgiveness of student loans or programs to make an education more affordable.
If your parent is in their 90s and needs long term care it will wipe out every penny they have saved and they will be on the street or living with you while your 30 year old unemployed son and his pregnant wife will be sleeping on the pull-out couch.
Sure, we might slow down immigration, but Europe is a basket case and will only get worse. What happens when the English, Irish, French, Italians, Spanish and Germans want out. Think we are going to make friends with Russia? Think again. Putin will slap Trump on the back while he invades what’s left of the Ukraine and forms an alternative SWIFT with the Chinese. Speaking of monetary policy, what happens when the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency?
If there is to be a great wind down it will be unequal (meaning those with money and influence will suffer less if at all) and will present an excuse to victimize. My vision of what we are about to see is simply this: wealth and income inequality will result in neo-feudalism and the white folks not building meth labs will be trading in their $50,000 a year job for a $3.50/hr job and living in dormitories. Yes, the minimum wage will be reduced to $3.50 an hour because that will make us competitive.
This will happen no matter who is charge you say. We will be safer with Trump you say. No. We. Won’t. He will hurry the decline in ways no one can anticipate. His big plans for infrastructure development and investment will never happen. This fragile economy will come unraveled like the carpet in a bankrupt hotel.
That doesn’t even address the militaristic and authoritarian response we will see from this president. We will not have seen anything so repressive in this country since the 1760s as we will see when this administration begins to go after the dissenting bloggers and protestors over the next 4 years.
Buckle up friends. Buckle up.
TRUMP & HIS BETRAYING MAKEOVER
by Ralph Nader
Attention workers who voted for Trump, either eagerly or as a vote against the hawkish, Wall Street favorite, Hillary Clinton: Donald Trump, less than a month after the election, has already begun to betray you.
You can often see where a president-elect is going by his nominations to high positions in his forthcoming administration. Across over a dozen crucial posts, Mr. Trump has chosen war hawks, Wall Streeters (with a former Goldman Sachs partner, Steven Mnuchin, as his pick for Treasury Secretary) and clenched teeth corporatists determined to jettison life-saving, injury and disease preventing regulations and leave bigger holes in your consumer pocketbooks.
In addition to lacking a mandate from the people (he lost the popular vote), the president-elect continues to believe that mere showboating will distract from his breathtaking flip-flops in his campaign rhetoric. Remember his last big TV ad where he blasted “a global power structure” responsible “for robbing the working class” with images of Goldman Sachs flashing across the screen?
Fast forward several weeks and he has selected cabinet secretaries who want to dismantle the public school system with your taxes going to private schools, reduce regulation of banks, cut consumer protections and weaken labor laws and job safety standards. Other appointees say they want to privatize Medicare, which has led health insurance company stocks to soar, and some want to transfer Medicaid to even more hostile state manipulations.
Regarding national security, his White House advisors are advocates of imperial intervention and bombing Iran. Trump wants to renege on the Iran nuclear agreements the U.S. made with a dozen leading nations and risk escalation of hostilities. Granted, Trump did talk about the Iran deal, with little knowledge of its careful safeguards and ongoing implementation. He also told voters that he didn’t believe in the U.S. policing the world with costly military might.
Perhaps the best sign of where Trump is heading comes from the major surge in the stock markets, the booming bank stocks anticipating looser regulations so they can speculate more readily with “other peoples’ money” and industries looking forward to more easily emitting pollutants into your air, water, and soil.
As an accomplished sleight-of-hand specialist – a failed gambling czar who always jumped ship with his gold and left his workers, creditors and shareholders stranded – Trump recently traveled to Indiana to brag about the decision by Carrier to keep intact 800 of the 2000 jobs it plans to ship to Mexico. You’ll recall Trump made Carrier, a subsidiary of giant United Technology (UT), his poster-child for showing how the U.S. is losing jobs under NAFTA.
Well Trump’s boast, for starters, will cost Indiana taxpayers $7 million for Carrier to agree, with presumably, additional goodies for United Technologies coming later. Already, UT and Carrier have long been loaded up with tax and other “incentives,” subsidies and all the complex corporate welfare that defense companies receive from the Pentagon.
Being a long-time recipient himself of crony capitalism, Trump hopes that his working class supporters will never catch on to this kind of back room “deal-making” when he is in the White House. Big corporations are drooling at the prospect of further tax cuts, weaker law and order (e.g. deregulation) and the many sub-visible freebies of the corporate welfare state.
Guess who gets left holding the bag? Why, you, of course, the workers and small taxpayers. Stay tuned, for more corporatists, Wall Streeters and militarists are on their way to Trump’s Washington.
A French writer once said, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” Then there is Trump’s highly bruiseable and dangerous ego, as he gets up at 3am to tweet his mad impulses and false assertions.
Trump doesn’t like to be accused of disloyalty by workers who supported him. Therein lies some leverage. Laborers, who were crucial to the Boaster’s Electoral College victory, will have many opportunities to laser-focus on Trump’s betrayals in very personal ways. They should take them.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!
PET HOMES: Mendocino County Animal Care Services will celebrate the season with a Home For The Holidays Adoption Special. On December 15th, 16th and 17th spayed and neutered cats and kittens can go home with all adoption fees waived. Spayed and neutered dogs can also leave those days with a reduced adoption fee of $50, plus a $25 dog license fee if adopter lives in Mendocino County. There will be many pets ready to go home with you during this Home For The Holidays event. Usual adoption requirements will apply. Cat adopters are encouraged to bring a cat carrier. The Ukiah Shelter is located at 298 Plant Rd in Ukiah. For more information call 707-467-6453.
Photo: Sparkles, By Sage Mountainfire
SAMUEL BECKETT: THE CHAOS BETWEEN TWO SILENCES
by Manuel Vincent.
Translated by Louis S. Bedrock
Samuel Beckett was born on Good Friday and died on Christmas Day according to his legend, which is further aggrandized by his shrug of the shoulders in the face of chaos.
He was very tall, very thin, and had the profile of a bird of prey: a straight, prominent nose; very blue, icy eyes; a face formed by a mere three strokes of an ax. Even today the creases seen in photographs, etched into his face and running down his cheeks to the edge of the mouth, have an interpretation inseparable from his work.
One day in Paris, when he was already an old man, I saw him exit the Cafe Deux Magot and walk to the other side of Boulevard St. Germain at the crosswalk. That's Samuel Beckett, someone told me. He was alone, wearing a fur-lined coat, and he had the air of one of those prophets of the desert who subsists on locusts and grasshoppers; he also resembled a bronze statue by the sculptor Giacometti: one of his metaphysical walkers. I watched until the man, bearing the Nobel Prize on his back, got into a Citroen 2CV and disappeared around the first corner.
Samuel Beckett was born in Foxrock, which lies to the south of Dublin, on the 13th of April in 1906, the child of a middle class Irish family. He studied at Portora Royal School and then at Trinity College where he began to acquire an interest in literature and to write poems and stories that were not unmarred by youthful pretentiousness.
—If I stay in Dublin, I'll end up as one more drunk: a poet next to a pint of beer in a pub — he said to himself one day.
That's why he traveled to Paris in 1926 with the sole intention of meeting James Joyce. He knew that the author of Ulysses liked to have an afternoon snack at the Shakespeare And Company bookstore where other struggling writers also roamed: Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, all suckled with alcohol by the American Sylvia Beach. A poet friend, Thomas McGreevy, who was also Irish, introduced him and in that moment he became part of the group.
The talent of Joyce annihilated any talent his disciples might have. When he was almost blind, he would award them gifts of neckties in exchange for reading him fragments of The Divine Comedy. Beckett developed a cautious affection with his mentor, often close to hatred, because he realized it was dangerous to spend too much time beside a genius.
There was another obstacle: Lucia, the unstable and convulsive daughter of Joyce, had fallen in love with him:
—I come here to see your father, not you — he would say to her. And that provoked a storm that eventually made him end his visits.
There's no record that Joyce ever gave his devoted Samuel a tie but he did give him this advice: Aesthetically, the fall of an angel has the same value as the fall of a leaf.
Beckett lived with Suzanne Deschevaux, seven years older than he was, whom he married in 1961. In their apartment on Boulevard Saint Jacques, there were no chairs nor paintings nor any household appliances other than its own emptiness. There, Suzanne would sew and give piano lessons to feed him; but Beckett was also a great machine for loving women.
He had many lovers. The most famous was Peggy Guggenheim, who thought him a frustrated writer, but found him attractive because of his eccentricity; he was an unpredictable fellow who could spend the entire morning in bed without doing anything. When the Jewish millionairess reproached him one day, he told her to worry about buying paintings and leave him alone.
Then one day, spots began to appear on Beckett's neck and, thinking it was cancer, he began to write as if he were wrestling desperately with death. Drag yourself through the dust, but do so fighting.
During the period of 1947 to 1949, possessed by an intense literary fever, he published the trilogy Malloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable. But fame came to him on January 5th, 1953, when his play Waiting For Godot debuted in the small Théâtre de Babylone on Boulevard Raspail. After this success, he began to flee and his flight reached its maximum incarnation when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. He received the news in Tangiers, and after expressing his gratitude, he said, "What a catastrophe!" and disappeared in the north of Africa.
Beckett was sure of two things: He had been born and he was going to die. Life was an absurd dance between two silences, and he was driven to tell this to someone. He knew that everything had been said and that only form gave structure to chaos. If the sun rises every day it's because it has no choice.
He played the piano; he played pool; once in a while, he would spend the afternoon with the sculptor Giacometti in some cafe in Montparnasse, silently eating fried potatoes together and exchanging monosyllabic thoughts about their work until sinking into a stone-like silence.
One day, as he went around a corner, Beckett was stabbed by a clochard whose knife missed his heart by two centimeters. When he got out of the hospital, he visited the prison of his attacker and asked him one question:
—I don't know — answered the clochard.
Ever since the play that crowned him King of the Absurd, critics have asked who is this Godot for whom everyone waits; who is coming but who never arrives. They say it is God, Beauty, or Beckett himself; he says if he knew, he would have written it.
Some believe it's a cyclist who became very famous in France because he always arrived at the finish line unpredictably. Spectators always waited to see him finish last, but sometimes he never arrived. The cyclist's name was Godeau.
Once, when Beckett was travelling in a flight from Paris to Dublin to see his mother, who was very ill, he heard the senior flight attendant say that he was speaking to the passengers in the name of Captain Godot. Beckett wanted to throw himself out of the airplane in mid-flight.
Nihilist, allegorical Christian, he would write what was in his blood, not what was in his mind; he would write between impotence and ignorance, with a dazzling, poetic humor--as meaningless as the blade of the knife that almost killed him.
"Customer: God can make the world in six days and you can't produce a pair of pants in six months."
"Tailor: But sir--look at the world and look at your pants."
If on that day in Paris when I saw him, I had had the courage to approach him, I would not have asked him about Godot, but rather about the tailor who had sewn his elegant fur-lined coat.
MCN DOES ISLAM
Subject: Islam and Liberal Principles
John Redding: Hi Marco, I am also struck by the fact, again, that you seem to know so much about my character and personality traits.
Marco McClean: I'm never just talking to you. I'm answering your points, such as they are, and explaining, sometime in allegory, why and how they're wrong. When you're right, that's covered, and why should anyone write to tell you you're right, unless you need it, right or wrong, because you're insecure, in which case, okay, there's no shame in that. I don't know anything about you that you haven't written. And you frequently contradict yourself, as we all do. When we learn that our most preciously held beliefs might be wrong, we change our story. I do anyway, not that I have anywhere near the shitload of preciously held beliefs you and nearly everyone else seem to. You inflate bags of them, and either they pop themselves or someone else is required.
Redding: There is no direct evidence of a multi-dimensional universe or parallel universes. There is a mathematical model that predicts these things. But can you bring to mind any experiments that give us proof of these things?
McClean: Speaking of which, that right there is a balloon being inflated as we speak. But at least mathematics and physics are part of the ongoing serious attempt to actually figure it all out, unlike your and Ellen's (and a billion others') insistence that a self-creating god just put everything here and told it all what to do; there's ZERO proof, evidence and reason for that idea, much less for a god-created universe-creating god and the god-creating god before him, and him, and him. And clearly there was enough time in our own vast old universe for us to eventually develop on earth. We are here. Here is where we are. That's the result of observable and inferrable processes in a natural experiment involving all the particles and energy and time in the universe we have, to move about in and observe and learn about. That's a big sample size. And -- we've had this discussion before ad nauseam: science is the best way we've come up with to establish what's true. Here we are, John, using the result of just a few hundred years of science to communicate mind to mind across the miles, fly to Paris sitting in a stuffed chair and looking out the window, genetically repair a little girl with cystic fibrosis, feed billions of people, etc. Compare it with thousands of years of praying to elephant gods and rabbits' feet and strings of beads for things like that.
Redding: One last thing, Marco. I study things like the origin of life, especially in light of scientific advancements, because I am curious and open my mind to new possibilities. You seem to find pleasure in mocking me for that. That's what children do, btw.
McClean: John, I take pleasure in discussing lots of things. That's what we're here on the listserve for. If you feel mocked it's likely projection on your part. Consider the possibility.
MY UNHAPPY LIFE AS A CLIMATE HERETIC
My research was attacked by thought police in journalism, activist groups funded by billionaires and even the White House.
by Roger Pielke Jr.
Much to my surprise, I showed up in the WikiLeaks releases before the election. In a 2014 email, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, took credit for a campaign to have me eliminated as a writer for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. In the email, the editor of the think tank’s climate blog bragged to one of its billionaire donors, Tom Steyer: “I think it’s fair [to] say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”
WikiLeaks provides a window into a world I’ve seen up close for decades: the debate over what to do about climate change, and the role of science in that argument. Although it is too soon to tell how the Trump administration will engage the scientific community, my long experience shows what can happen when politicians and media turn against inconvenient research — which we’ve seen under Republican and Democratic presidents.
I understand why Mr. Podesta — most recently Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman — wanted to drive me out of the climate-change discussion. When substantively countering an academic’s research proves difficult, other techniques are needed to banish it. That is how politics sometimes works, and professors need to understand this if we want to participate in that arena.
More troubling is the degree to which journalists and other academics joined the campaign against me. What sort of responsibility do scientists and the media have to defend the ability to share research, on any subject, that might be inconvenient to political interests — even our own?
I believe climate change is real and that human emissions of greenhouse gases risk justifying action, including a carbon tax. But my research led me to a conclusion that many climate campaigners find unacceptable: There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the U.S. or globally. In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather. This is a topic I’ve studied and published on as much as anyone over two decades. My conclusion might be wrong, but I think I’ve earned the right to share this research without risk to my career.
Instead, my research was under constant attack for years by activists, journalists and politicians. In 2011 writers in the journal Foreign Policy signaled that some accused me of being a “climate-change denier.” I earned the title, the authors explained, by “questioning certain graphs presented in IPCC reports.” That an academic who raised questions about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in an area of his expertise was tarred as a denier reveals the groupthink at work.
Yet I was right to question the IPCC’s 2007 report, which included a graph purporting to show that disaster costs were rising due to global temperature increases. The graph was later revealed to have been based on invented and inaccurate information, as I documented in my book “The Climate Fix.” The insurance industry scientist Robert-Muir Wood of Risk Management Solutions had smuggled the graph into the IPCC report. He explained in a public debate with me in London in 2010 that he had included the graph and misreferenced it because he expected future research to show a relationship between increasing disaster costs and rising temperatures.
When his research was eventually published in 2008, well after the IPCC report, it concluded the opposite: “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.” Whoops.
The IPCC never acknowledged the snafu, but subsequent reports got the science right: There is not a strong basis for connecting weather disasters with human-caused climate change.
Yes, storms and other extremes still occur, with devastating human consequences, but history shows they could be far worse. No Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, by far the longest such period on record. This means that cumulative economic damage from hurricanes over the past decade is some $70 billion less than the long-term average would lead us to expect, based on my research with colleagues. This is good news, and it should be OK to say so. Yet in today’s hyper-partisan climate debate, every instance of extreme weather becomes a political talking point.
For a time I called out politicians and reporters who went beyond what science can support, but some journalists won’t hear of this. In 2011 and 2012, I pointed out on my blog and social media that the lead climate reporter at the New York Times, Justin Gillis, had mischaracterized the relationship of climate change and food shortages, and the relationship of climate change and disasters. His reporting wasn’t consistent with most expert views, or the evidence. In response he promptly blocked me from his Twitter feed. Other reporters did the same.
In August this year on Twitter, I criticized poor reporting on the website Mashable (http://mashable.com/2016/08/18/hurricanes-global-warming-damages/) about a supposed coming hurricane apocalypse — including a bad misquote of me in the cartoon role of climate skeptic. (The misquote was later removed.) The publication’s lead science editor, Andrew Freedman, helpfully explained via Twitter that this sort of behavior “is why you’re on many reporters’ ‘do not call’ lists despite your expertise.”
I didn’t know reporters had such lists. But I get it. No one likes being told that he misreported scientific research, especially on climate change. Some believe that connecting extreme weather with greenhouse gases helps to advance the cause of climate policy. Plus, bad news gets clicks.
Yet more is going on here than thin-skinned reporters responding petulantly to a vocal professor. In 2015 I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paige St. John, making the rather obvious point that politicians use the weather-of-the-moment to make the case for action on climate change, even if the scientific basis is thin or contested.
Ms. St. John was pilloried by her peers in the media. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me what she had learned: “You should come with a warning label: Quoting Roger Pielke will bring a hailstorm down on your work from the London Guardian, Mother Jones, and Media Matters.”
Or look at the journalists who helped push me out of FiveThirtyEight. My first article there, in 2014, was based on the consensus of the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. I pointed out that the global cost of disasters was increasing at a rate slower than GDP growth, which is very good news. Disasters still occur, but their economic and human effect is smaller than in the past. It’s not terribly complicated.
That article prompted an intense media campaign to have me fired. Writers at Slate, Salon, the New Republic, the New York Times, the Guardian and others piled on.
In March of 2014, FiveThirtyEight editor Mike Wilson demoted me from staff writer to freelancer. A few months later I chose to leave the site after it became clear it wouldn’t publish me. The mob celebrated. ClimateTruth.org, founded by former Center for American Progress staffer Brad Johnson, and advised by Penn State’s Michael Mann, called my departure a “victory for climate truth.” The Center for American Progress promised its donor Mr. Steyer more of the same.
Yet the climate thought police still weren’t done. In 2013 committees in the House and Senate invited me to a several hearings to summarize the science on disasters and climate change. As a professor at a public university, I was happy to do so. My testimony was strong, and it was well aligned with the conclusions of the IPCC and the U.S. government’s climate-science program. Those conclusions indicate no overall increasing trend in hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or droughts—in the U.S. or globally.
In early 2014, not long after I appeared before Congress, President Obama’s science adviser John Holdren testified before the same Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He was asked about his public statements that appeared to contradict the scientific consensus on extreme weather events that I had earlier presented. Mr. Holdren responded with the all-too-common approach of attacking the messenger, telling the senators incorrectly that my views were “not representative of the mainstream scientific opinion.” Mr. Holdren followed up by posting a strange essay, of nearly 3,000 words, on the White House website under the heading, “An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr.,” where it remains today.
I suppose it is a distinction of a sort to be singled out in this manner by the president’s science adviser. Yet Mr. Holdren’s screed reads more like a dashed-off blog post from the nutty wings of the online climate debate, chock-full of errors and misstatements.
But when the White House puts a target on your back on its website, people notice. Almost a year later Mr. Holdren’s missive was the basis for an investigation of me by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Grijalva explained in a letter to my university’s president that I was being investigated because Mr. Holdren had “highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change.” He made the letter public.
The “investigation” turned out to be a farce. In the letter, Rep. Grijalva suggested that I — and six other academics with apparently heretical views — might be on the payroll of Exxon Mobil (or perhaps the Illuminati, I forget). He asked for records detailing my research funding, emails and so on. After some well-deserved criticism from the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, Rep. Grijalva deleted the letter from his website. The University of Colorado complied with Rep. Grijalva’s request and responded that I have never received funding from fossil-fuel companies. My heretical views can be traced to research support from the U.S. government.
But the damage to my reputation had been done, and perhaps that was the point. Studying and engaging on climate change had become decidedly less fun. So I started researching and teaching other topics and have found the change in direction refreshing. Don’t worry about me: I have tenure and supportive campus leaders and regents. No one is trying to get me fired for my new scholarly pursuits.
But the lesson is that a lone academic is no match for billionaires, well-funded advocacy groups, the media, Congress and the White House. If academics — in any subject — are to play a meaningful role in public debate, the country will have to do a better job supporting good-faith researchers, even when their results are unwelcome. This goes for Republicans and Democrats alike, and to the administration of President-elect Trump.
Academics and the media in particular should support viewpoint diversity instead of serving as the handmaidens of political expediency by trying to exclude voices or damage reputations and careers. If academics and the media won’t support open debate, who will?
(Mr. Pielke is a professor and director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His most recent book is “The Edge: The Wars Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports” Roaring Forties Press, 2016. The Wall Street Journal).
Stepped out for two beers and a
Shot o' Chivas Regal @ Vesuvio's
Followed by spicy seafood in the
Clay pot at Yuet Lee and then got
An It's It Mint before returning
To my room listening to the original
Compared to What from Montreaux '69
What in the world is America today
Trying to get get get get get, okay?
Drop the body and forget the mind and
Just go with the river's flow, ya know?
–Craig Louis Stehr
Emperor Norton Inn, San Francisco