Mendocino County Today: Saturday, May 13, 2017
by AVA News Service, May 12, 2017
ALBION RIVER BRIDGE RECEIVES HISTORIC LANDMARK DESIGNATION
Yesterday, at a public hearing in Pasadena, the California State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously to approve the nomination of the Albion River Bridge as a state and national historic landmark.
The commission received ten letters in support of the nomination, and one local letter of opposition. Caltrans did not comment on the nomination.
Present at the meeting and speaking in favor of the designation were Albion resident John Johansen, who worked over a period of more than two years to prepare the historic landmark application; and Dr. Hassan Astaneh, professor structural engineering at UC Berkeley.
Video of the entire commission meeting is available here: http://bit.ly/AlbionRiverBridge
Because it's a nearly four-hour meeting during which many properties were discussed, I've also extracted the portions relevant to the Albion River Bridge, and will be posting them on the ACAB website. I'll also be posting the video from last Tuesday's Caltrans meeting at the Albion school.
–Jim Heid President, Albion Community Advisory Board http://albioncab.wordpress.com/
THE FIRST MEETING of the Board of the Ukiah Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board was Wednesday, May 10. This is a new state-mandated “Joint Powers Agency” formed in response to the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 during the recent drought. They are charged with developing a “groundwater sustainability plan” by January 31, 2020. The basic idea is supposed to be conservation so that groundwater isn’t depleted in places like Ukiah where it is depended on for part of the town's annual supply.
BUT, just like with the many other water organizations in the Ukiah Valley, the new Agency Board is dominated by wine people who wormed their way into the process at the earliest opportunity when they realized that their carte blanche access to the Russian River and all other sources of public water might be threatened.
THE REMAINING Agency Board members are people who can be relied on to go along with whatever the wine people want.
CARRE BROWN (Wine Rep and Farm Bureau Rep on the Board of Supervisors) is the Agency’s Board Chair. The other Board members are Doug Crane (a Ukiah “conservative” with no known wine connection) of the Ukiah City Council, Jerry Cardoza (retired parole officer, Millview Water District Board member; connected to wine via Millview District’s water contracts), Al White (grape grower and founding member of the Mendocino Chapter of WineFirst! And member of Russian River Flood Control District Board); and Brandi Brown, the “tribal rep” from Hopland (no known wine connection).
THERE'S ALSO an as yet unnamed Ag representative who is sure to be another wine person. (Our guess for “Ag rep” is Glenn McGourty, a wine industry tool who gets paid public money to promote wine by the UC Ag Extension program.)
AS IF THEY don't have already have enough groundwater dominance, the Farm Bureau says they’re working on selecting three (wine) nominees for the Ag seat to be presented to the already wine-dominated Board for their approval.
AMONG the legal requirements of the SGMA are: “bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge,” and “develop monitoring, management, and reporting of those data necessary to support sustainable groundwater management including: (1) sufficient land and water resource data to establish an accounting of the short- and long-term trends of the basin’s water balance; (2) measures of basin sustainability; and (3) those data necessary to resolve disputes regarding sustainable yield, beneficial uses, and water rights.”
"BENEFICIAL USES" in the Ukiah Valley means: Grape growing and wine-making.
THE “Plan” is then supposed to be reviewed and approved by the State Water Board.
UKIAH was correctly named in the SGMA as a “high priority groundwater basin” because excessive water use in the Ukiah Valley began with the wine industry and the industry, by ensuring they dominate regulation, aims to keep their water prices low.
WE CAN SAVE EVERYBODY a lot of time, money and hassle since, given the makeup of the Agency Board, we know what the “plan” will say: “Everything’s fine as is. We promise to continue exactly what we’re doing now (for the wine industry) which is already fully sustainable — according to us.”
HOW CAN WE BE SO SURE that the entire process will be so wine friendly? At the end of the 40 minute organizational meeting, the dependably egregious Al White piped up with: “I can’t keep quiet! I just want to say that this agenda and the agenda summary and the way it’s put together is great! This was so helpful for me in going through the agenda and the summaries and the recommended actions and backgrounds and so forth. It’s just right! It’s really good! I really appreciate it!"
THE ONLY QUESTION will be whether the State Water Board approves Ukiah Valley’s Business As Usual Plan. But that question won’t even come up until 2021.
IF, YEARS FROM NOW, the Water Board actually requires anything remotely resembling real “sustainability,” the wine people will probably sue the Water Board like they did in 2014 when they sued the state for requiring them to develop THEIR OWN PLANS to save fish in the Russian River and won in the local courts presided over by their friends. They ultimately lost on appeal and are supposedly now working on their “plans.”
THE WINE BLOC is still working on their water management plans and they will continue to do so ad infinitum. It’s a strategy modeled after Big Timber’s famous 90s tactic known to enviros back then as “talk and cut.” The wine industry’s version is called “talk and pump.” We give you all the meetings, and consultants, and bafflegab and paperwork you want, and you give us all the water we want. It’s a wine-wine! Er, we mean, Win-Win!
OH! We forgot to mention marijuana. Surely the dope lobby will want some of the Ukiah Valley water too. But the pot people are too disorganized and distracted with their own new rules to get involved in the Sustainability Game. By the time the pot people wake up and realize what’s happening the wine people will have already locked in their water rights and the newly legalized pot brigades will be left holding their very dry turkey bags. (—ms)
PUBLIC BUREAUCRACIES talk a lot about "strategic thinking." I wonder about the command abilities of a couple of the police agencies I've seen in action lately.
TWO WEEKS AGO, a suicidal young man hurled himself in front of a bus on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in San Anselmo, a country lane widened in the 1950s to two lanes each direction to accommodate increasing traffic. That traffic rationally exceeded the carrying capacity of the road years ago as this area's 'burbs grew far beyond all reason, its once golden hills becoming a warren of crisscrossing pavement and cul de sacs with thousands of homes sitting like giant boxes of inflammables just waiting for the inevitable summer match. A fireman I know casually told me, "We worry about it all the time. Big fire, narrow roads, it'll be worse than the big one in Oakland."
ANYWAY, when the kid threw himself into oblivion the other afternoon, it looked like every police car, every fire truck, every emergency services district vehicle from miles around descended on the area where the kid died. The emergency turnout constituted a traffic jam of its own. Traffic was backed up for three hours because the police blocked off all four lanes, which seemed to me unnecessary when the tragedy was confined to two lanes and, not to be harsh about it, the event was not a mystery requiring lengthy detective work, and those two lanes could have been cleared a lot faster. Why the massive turnout of cops, firemen and EMT's? It was nuts.
THEN, THURSDAY, just as I happened to be southbound on 101, traffic was halted at Lytton Springs, which began life in the late 19th century as a rural orphanage and is now, I believe, devoted to drug rehab.
ALL US trapped lemmings inched forward to the Dry Creek turnoff which, even at 6am when I get there every Wednesday to retrieve the AVA from Healdsburg Printing, can back up at what is essentially a three-way junction.
AT DRY CREEK THURSDAY, 101 southbound was totally shut down. All traffic was being diverted on to Dry Creek, resulting in a nightmarish Healdsburg-wide traffic jam that lasted, according to the news, well into the night. It would have been tactically wiser to simply keep people on 101 until the highway was clear.
AND WHY was it closed? A couple of mopes had driven up on two men driving south on 101 and opened fire on them. The four of them had gotten into some kind of beef at the taco truck parked near Lytton Springs. The gunmen followed their adversaries out onto the highway and bang-bang, wounding two. If the shooting had commenced in the stretch of 101 that transects urbanized Santa Rosa, given the times, it would just be one more chaotic interlude in THE WAY WE LIVE NOW, but drive-bys and the tidy bourgie bastion of Healdsburg have not heretofore computed.
THE CHP had closed down the southbound stretch of 101 from Dry Creek Road to the Westside off-ramp, just about the entire length of adjoining Healdsburg. When I got to Dry Creek I could see uniformed officers in a skirmish line looking for shell casings. But just as I got there, the road was re-opened. Off to the west, I could see cars and diverted big rigs backed up going nowhere on all the side roads.
EMERGENCY RESPONSES should be re-thought. These kinds of endless shut-downs are not, in most cases, necessary. The two I've described didn't require the equivalent of a military company to sort out.
THESE SIGNS are popping up everywhere. We understand and agree with the sentiment, but with this caveat: The kind of neighbor who plays boom boxes full blast at all hours and keeps pit bulls chained up all day in his litter-strewn backyard is not a good neighbor, but a crumb bum who happens not to speak English. We have an immediate neighbor like that in Boonville. He isn't welcome.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Not to be a snob about it, but I don't like people who take liberties, people who walk up on me and say, "Wuzzup, dawg?" I don't like that kind of informality. When you know me you can call me dawg. Until then, my name is Little Dog.”
FORT BRAGG NOTES: Just Kidding.
by Rex Gressett
The last city council meeting was a smorgasbord of cautionary tales, low drama and unexpected nuttiness. In other words a normal meeting.
In mid stream they were paddling down the river of happiness in admirable snyc when councilman Turner, that crazy guy, threw them a deliberate procedural witticism. It was unheard of but perfectly legal and excellently timed. They were just making final their innovative, possibly wildly unpopular (no one knoweth) opening of the Coastal Trail to Segways. These are the little machines you stand on and ride around scaring the peds. Great for the trail, they thought. They are constructed with high technology somehow, to make it impossible to fall off of them. I am certain I can figure that part out. In a wild gesture, the City Council has decided to release the little buggers on to the coastal trail, more or less without restraint.
On this issue the ex-mayor had taken a stand staunchly and all by himself against the Segway innovation. As they tied the last ribbon crazy Dave removed the item from the consent calendar and sent it back to committee, Shocking everybody.
Stunning. Has it ever happened before? It was like a corpse had sprung up out of his coffin and commenced to tap-dance. Lindy Peters (Saint Lindy of our perpetual uncertainty) looked politely down on his desk with a slight tight smile as though to say, Oh shit.
Had things gone that far to hell? Were they really going to start negotiating? Was this an unprecedented use of procedure to broker a deal? Was this someone actually having the temerity to disagree? Possibly even (God forefend) start a debate? Was Dave Turner, once easily voted least likely to demur, now in his wild new liberated status as ex-mayor going to start interjecting procedural strategy into council meetings and on principle provoke a raging debate and public controversy over Segways? Was he going to do it all just when they thought they had gotten away with it? Had he…?
Councilman Turner had observed with his practiced legislative eye that the code alteration specifically said SEGWAYS. Which is a brand name and which the machines proposed by the newly appointed monopoly holder on the trail are not. These machines were to be like Segways not Segways. They were Segway like.
The famous duck of Groucho Marx, long absent from duty in North America and thought to be retired, descended from the Fort Bragg town hall ceiling quacking and we all broke into unrestrained and very welcome laughter.
Segway-like machines would be permitted. Linda Ruffing made a gesture like wiping a gnat from her nose and inserted "Like" into the alteration. Everybody laughed some more. That’s crazy Dave.
To the Editor:
I write to express my support for consolidation of the Ukiah Valley water districts.
Fragmented districts that are prone to the following.
- Wasteful duplication of staff, equipment, inventory, processes, and regulatory compliance costs.
- Wasteful “turf wars” for customers and resources between districts.
- Artificial and political boundaries separating districts that are not the best demarcations for operational efficiencies.
- Shortage of good governing board members in small rural areas.
- Difficulties stemming from continuous negotiations between districts seeking to share resources as demand and resource availability ebbs and flows.
Preferred future state
Combine five (or more) current water districts in the Ukiah valley into a single entity with a single board of directors.
Combine the water districts to avoid much of the duplication shown above. Staff could be reduced by attrition and much of that is already being planned where some of the board members and managers are expecting to retire with consolidation. Field personnel, parts inventory and equipment will be better utilized because the larger district will not need as much excess capacity to deal with exceptional circumstances. Regulatory compliance costs could be spread amongst more rate payers reducing their impact.
Arguments between agencies would be eliminated as they are consolidated significantly reducing legal fees and political strife. Over time, resources would be more efficiently and seamlessly connected to demand as waterlines crossed current boundaries only considering operational efficiencies.
A single, democratically elected, board of directors where the best applicants could be attracted and engaged. Currently there is a dearth of citizens willing to step into the yoke of community service resulting in board burnout and board elections having no applicants. Most board members are appointed or elected uncontested.
A single district provides for economies of scale in all operations and processes. Division of labor provides for better specialization. Available water becomes seamlessly available to its highest and best use without the need for wheeling agreements or interagency agreements.
I am hopeful the community will support consolidation while the Ukiah valley’s multiple district boards and staff are willing, and working toward, their shared vision of a single, efficient, and capable water district.
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 12, 2017
Clemons, Degroot, Doak, Leite
ARTHUR CLEMONS, Fort Bragg. Vehicle theft.
JENNIFER DEGROOT, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
BILLY DOAK, Willits. Paraphernalia.
LEINA LEITE, Ukiah. Parole violation.
Leon-Mulgado, Lopez-Martinez, Mansfield
JAVIER LEON-MULGADO, Ukiah. DUI.
MARIA LOPEZ-MARTINEZ, Ukiah. Controlled substance, false reporting of crime.
GEORGE MANSFIELD, Fort Bragg. Vehicle theft.
Mtichell, Rosado, Squires
RILEY MITCHELL, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
SATASHA ROSADO, Willits. Drunk in public, criminal threats.
TRAVIS SQUIRES, Willits. Drunk in public, probation revocation.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
It is all farce and has been for many decades now as you do well to point out. There are two main reasons that the system will never recover and cannot ever get any better. The first is that there are NO leaders of character that could ever rise to the level required to make any serious improvements or corrections. The system itself is far too corrupt and degraded to be repaired. The fact that they call themselves “Parties” should tell you all you need to know about their intentions. The second is that there are far too many, and I mean WAY too many Mindless American Idiots that do not vote at all, vote for a candidate based on the color of their tie or the line of happy horseshit that it spews, or vote simply for an “R” or a “D” line because that is the limit of their abilities. Sorry, but Americans are simply no longer able to rule themselves or even smart enough to choose which Sock Puppet will be lifted onto the stage for the next go around at the Show. In the end, what does it matter anyway since the Sock Puppet does not actually rule anyway, the Money Masters do. It may even be in all of our best interests if They simply appoint the next Sock Puppet so that things go smoothly even if in the wrong direction. In the end, slavery for the masses is the final destination and the people will even beg for it I assure you. There is a certain comfort in being subjugated for after all they will never have to think again and it is clear that having to think is something that bothers them anyway. Bring it on, they will embrace it.
Letter to the Editor
Can’t anybody shut this guy up?
For a White House that for all the world appears to be in chaos, with a near total breakdown of the man in charge, it is AMAZING that no one has the ability just to shut him up. How many times can that man shoot himself in the mouth before someone, anyone, in the Republican party says “Enough already! Let’s get an adult in here to replace the clown.” As one who did not vote for that man, I am almost to the point of feeling sorry for the Republicans. It is like having a deranged relative living in the house who no one can reason with, let alone control. Pity them for their temerity and lack of backbone? No, they brought it upon themselves. The worst part is that we, as neighbors, also have to put up with his rants, shameless lies, and determination to unravel the very fabric of civil society that is supposed to hold us together as a nation.
We can only hope that the Republicans come to their senses before that creature reaches, on impulse, for the nuclear button.
COAST LIBRARY CLOSES NEXT WEEK
The Mendocino County Library Coast Community Branch Closures for the Week of May 14, 2017 Through May 20, 2017
The Coast Community Branch Library in Point Arena will be closed May 14, 2017 through May 20, 2017 while work begins on the earthquake retrofit. After the initial closure the Community Coast Library will do it’s best to maintain regular hours, but may have to close or altar open hours while work continues on the retrofit. Library services and programs may also be altered due to the construction. We will keep everyone updated via the library website and the Coast Facebook page. We do not have a date on when the work will be completed.
Administrative Services Manager I
Mendocino County Library
105 N Main St
Ukiah, CA 95482
NOYO RIVER REVIEW
As part of Flockworks' "Art of Letter, Word & Book Exhibit" join us Sunday, May 14, 2:00 pm, upstairs at OddFellows Hall, for the launch of the Noyo River Review, presenting the best writing from the 2016 Mendocino Coast Writers' Conference. Over a dozen writers from around the state will be on hand to read their work.
Hope to see you there,
MOST AMERICANS AGREE WITH SF
Since the early 2000s, the public’s views on sex and marriage have changed drastically, as the percentage of Americans who say gay relations, conceiving a child outside of wedlock, extramarital sex, and divorce are morally acceptable have all increased by double digits.
(Click to enlarge)
These shifts have been powered by the growing liberalism of America’s elderly — itself a product of the success of social movements and, well, father time thinning the ranks of more conservative generations. By contrast, America’s growing intolerance for cruelty to animals is driven by the sensitivities of those under 50.
(New York Magazine)
WITTY. SEXY. HILARIOUS.
Don't miss the Mendocino Theatre Company's production of Liz Duffy Adam's outrageous comedy "OR,"! It's a sexy, modern account of one night in the life of Aphra Behn who, in addition to being an important playwright, was an international spy, a libertine, and a friend of King Charles II. As she struggles to complete her script, she is interrupted by friends, lovers and the king himself. The show plays weekends through May 28th. Purchase your tickets at mendocinotheatre.org/single-tickets/, or call the box office, 707-937-4477.
Watch the video trailer.
- Nicole Traber as Aphra Behn
- Kerel Rennacker as King Charles II/William Scott/Jailer
- Pamela W. Allen as Nell Gwynne/Lady Davenant/Maria
- Alice Williams, Stage Manager
- Diane Larson, Set Design
- Ann Woodhead, Costume Design
- Dave Gealey, Light Design
- Susan Juhl, Sound Design
TEMPORARY FIRE POSITIONS FOR 2017 SEASON
Mendocino National Forest announces temporary fire positions for 2017 season
WILLOWS, Calif.; May 12, 2017 - The Mendocino National Forest is seeking qualified applicants to fill temporary, full-time fire positions for the 2017 season. The vacancy announcement is open May 12-18, 2017. These are forestry technician positions for fire crew members within the fire management organization. The grades range from GS-03 to GS-05. The number and location of positions to be filled is determined by individual unit needs. The work locations include Covelo, Elk Creek, Paskenta, Stonyford and Upper Lake. Vacancy announcements are posted on the USAJOBS website (http://www.usajobs.gov). Applicants can find contact information for each duty station within the vacancy announcement. The only one of California's 18 national forests not crossed by a paved road or highway, the Mendocino National Forest offers nearly one million acres and is especially attractive to people seeking an outdoor experience of tranquility and solitude. Elevations in the forest range from 750 feet in the Grindstone Creek Canyon in the Sacramento Valley foothills on the forest's eastern edge to the 8,092 feet of South Yolla Bolly Mountain in the northern part. The vacancy announcement flyer is posted on the forest website at http://www.tinyurl.com/mcs4jy9.
ON THE OFF CHANCE…
[from Mendocino Transit Authority]
Happy to tell you all that we now take credit cards for the purchase of bus tickets, punch cards and Summer Youth Passes at our Ukiah office, 241 Plant Road. 800-696-4682 or stop in: MENDOCINOTRANSIT.ORG
RE: TRUMP: Next headline: "Comey vanishes without a trace. Trump tweets, 'Comey told me three times I did not have him killed.'"
by James Kunstler
What you’re seeing in the political miasma of “RussiaGate” is an exercise in nostalgia. Apart from the symbolic feat of getting a “black” president freely elected in 2008 (remember, Mr. Obama is also half-white), the Democratic Party hasn’t enjoyed a political triumph in half a century to match the Watergate extravaganza of 1972-74, which ended in the departure of Mr. Nixon, the designated Prince of Darkness of those dear dead days. Watergate had had a more satisfying finale than The Brides of Dracula.
So, in its current sad state, devoid of useful political ideas, mired in the mostly manufactured conflicts of race and gender, psychologically crippled by the election loss of a miserable candidate to the Golden Golem of Greatness, the Democratic Party is returning full steam to a gambit that worked so well years ago: beating the devil by congressional inquiry.
In President Trump (uccchhh, the concept!), they’ve got a target much juicier even than Old Nixie. It wasn’t for nothing that they called him “Tricky Dick.” He came back from political near-death twice in his career. The first time, running as Dwight Eisenhower’s veep, he was accused of accepting the gift of a vicuna coat for his wife, Pat, and other secret cash emoluments. He overcame that with one of the first epic performances of the TV age, the “Checkers Speech” — Checkers being the family’s cocker spaniel, who Nixon invoked as a proxy for his own guileless innocence. It worked bigly.
The second near-death was his defeat in the California governor’s race of 1962, following his 1960 squeaker presidential election loss to John F. Kennedy. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore…” he told the press. But he rose from the grave in 1968 — after fortifying his bank account in a Wall Street law practice — when the Vietnam War was tearing the country apart (and wrecking the Democratic Party of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey).
It is not unrecognized that in his first term Nixon functioned as a very capable executive, presiding over social and environmental legislation that would be considered progressive today — though he remained mired in the tarbaby of Vietnam. But then, in the reelection campaign of ’72, he got a little too cute — or, at least, his campaign show-runners did, hiring a klatch of bumbling ex-CIA errand boys to burgle the DNC offices, who were then caught red-handed at the scene, which was the basement of the Watergate apartment complex… and the rest is history.
What a fabulous inquisition Watergate was! What a colorful cast characters: the wily old “country lawyer” Senator Sam Ervin, the dashing chief staff inquisitor Professor Sam Dash, the fallen Republican knights, Elliot Richardson and Archibald Cox, the lonely and heroic bean-spiller, John Dean! And many more. The Watergate hearings on TV were more thrilling than Downton Abbey. Once Old Nixie went down the path of stonewalling and evasion — covering up an escapade he might not have even known about at the time — he was dead meat.
I remember that sweaty August day that he threw in the towel. (I was a young newspaper reporter when newspapers still mattered.) It was pretty much a national orgasm. “NIXON RESIGNS!” the headlines screamed. A moment later he was on the gangway into the helicopter for the last time. Enter, stage right, the genial Gerald Ford….
Forgive me for getting caught up in the very nostalgia I castigate. And now here we are in the mere early months of Trumptopia about to hit the replay button on a televised inquisition. In my humble opinion, Donald Trump is a far more troubling personality than Tricky Dick ever was, infantile, narcissistic, at times verging on psychotic, but the RussiaGate story looks pretty flimsy. At this point, after about ten months of NSA-FBI investigation, nothing conclusive has turned up about Trump’s people “colluding” with Russia to gain unfair advantage in the election against You-Know-Who. Former NSA chief James Clapper has publicly stated twice in no uncertain terms that there’s no evidence to support the allegations (so far).
And there remains the specter of the actual content of the “collusion” — conveniently ignored by the so-called “Resistance” and its water-carriers at The New York Times — the hacked emails that evince all kinds of actual misbehavior by Secretary of State HRC and the DNC. The General Mike Flynn episode seems especially squishy, since it is the routine duty of incoming foreign affairs officials to check in with the ambassador corps in Washington. Why do you think nations send ambassadors to other countries?
The upshot of all this will be a political circus for the rest of the year and the abandonment of any real business in government, at a moment in history when some very weighty black swans circle above the clouds waiting to crash land. Enjoy the histrionics if you dare, and pay no attention to collapsing economy as it all plays out.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/JamesHowardKunstler)
COMEYTOSE IN WASHINGTON
by Jeffrey St. Clair
So our Mountebank-in-Chief, Donald Trump, has finally fired James Comey. Good riddance. I’ll shed no tears for our vain Inspector Javert. But once again Trump, the Master of the Self-Inflicted Wound, has done the impossible. In a single stroke, he has transformed the almost universally loathed Comey into a sympathetic, if not heroic, figure.
Trump, who once fired people for a living on TV, bungled the termination of the director of the FBI director so badly that he also succeeded in reigniting a scandal that had started to cool to a slow simmer — and, not incidentally, may have committed the impeachable offense of “obstruction of justice,” motivated primarily by personal pique.
(See Article One for the Impeachment of Richard Nixon.)
One might be tempted, like Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss, to assess the fallout from Trump’s slow-motion purge of the prosecutorial state (Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and Comey) as the best of all possible worlds: Comey is gone, the Department of Justice is implicated, the FBI is internally splintered and Trump is wounded, perhaps mortally.
Yes, all very good — except, naturally, for the intervention of the liberals, who have adopted Comey as a martyr in their Russian witch hunt and have started praising the FBI — an agency literally engineered to prosecute (if not invent) the Red Scare — as a “beacon of integrity and independence.” A few minutes after the news broke, even Michael Moore panted: “COMEY FIRED! Dirty, corrupt things afoot.”
Comey is a self-righteous prude, whose preening sense of rectitude is more than “mildly nauseating.” It’s not surprising he is despised by many on his staff, who feel Comey sucked up all the oxygen in the dark chambers of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Comey’s awful tenure at the FBI, though brief, was cruelly destructive to basic liberties. Comey’s counter-terrorism record consists largely of having his FBI agents fabricate plots and then entice mentally disturbed misfits, druggies and loners to join them.
Let us also recall that James Comey was one of the leading propagandists for the phony War on Cops, a smokescreen to hide the carnage inflicted by the police’s pitiless war on black street kids. This spring Comey ordered the FBI’s terrorism task force to investigate Standing Rock protesters. How can you repress your revulsion to lavish praise on such a man?
Trump’s welcome cashiering of Comey has been called Nixonian, the go-to metaphor for any executive temper tantrum. Yet this comparison demeans Nixon, who at least had the sense to fire Archie Cox on a Saturday. (In Trump’s defense, perhaps the president had a weekend tee-time he couldn’t break.)
Trump could have dismissed Comey for almost any reason or no reason at all. But the president couldn’t resist the temptation to create a cover story for Comey’s firing that proved as flimsy as a Kendell Jenner fashion shoot.
By all accounts, Trump became enraged with Comey after he learned that the FBI man had requested additional resources from the Department of Justice to expand his investigation into the Trump team’s ties with Russia. The FBI is apparently hot on the redolent trails of lucre left by Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, which confirms my suspicion that the real scandal isn’t Russian meddling in the 2016 elections but shady financial dealings by Trump’s dubious ensemble of associates. It always comes down to money, especially with people, and Team Trump is filled with them, who are stimulated by any opportunity for self-enrichment. Manafort and Flynn are both vulnerable on these counts and thus are likely targets for being squeezed by the Feds until they squeal on Trump and his inner circle to save their own asses.
So Trump went on the offensive. He told Jefferson Beauregard Sessions that he wanted Comey’s head on a platter and Sessions, a nasty but dull piece of work who had already perjured himself before Congress, wasn’t smart enough to simply advise Trump that he had the power to can Comey without cause. Instead, Sessions instructed newly-minted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to prepare a brief against Comey based on the G-Man’s buffoonish mishandling of Hillary’s email entanglements. Rosenstein was viewed as the perfect patsy in this scenario, because he had recently been lauded by many Democrats (useful idiots in almost any grifter’s game) as a “man of principle and integrity” and had been robustly confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 94-6.
The key element in this charade was that Rosenstein’s bill of indictment against Comey had to sedulously avoid any mention of RussiaGate© in order to keep Sessions — who vowed to recuse himself from such matters — in the loop.
Then the President, in true Trumpian style, undermined the whole plot by writing in his dismissal letter this damning sentence: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” Damning to Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein that is, because Trump couldn’t resist revealing that the real motive was to bury the Russia investigation. Trump’s letter is a kind of forensic IED, detonating legal shrapnel toward anyone who had a hand in it: Trump, Sessions, Rosenstein, Doug McGahn and Mike Pence.
When the affair immediately blew up in the face of the White House, Trump’s team reflexively tried to pin the blame on Rosenstein, saying the Deputy AG’s memo was the sole reason for the firing of Comey. After Rosenstein got wind of these reports, he called White House counsel Doug McGahn and threatened to quit unless the White House clarified that the impetus to fire Comey came from Sessions and Trump not him. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein told McGahn that “he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately reported.” Which begs the question, what administration did he think he was joining two weeks ago? In the end, Rosenstein’s threats were idle ones. He lacked the courage and character of Elliott Richardson and Bill Ruckelshaus. Threatening to quit and not following through is more ethically deficient than just quietly serving as a compliant Trump tool.
The blending of hubris and stupidity on display in the Comey affair is a recipe for political comedy and legal disaster. By concocting a false story for Comey’s expulsion, the Trump team, including the President and the Attorney General, have exposed their consciousness of guilt and laid the groundwork for charges of obstruction of justice against them — if there’s anyone left in the Justice Department or the Congress with the guts to bring it. Perhaps Ralph Nader will sue, as he did in 1973, when he won a seminal verdict in federal court that Nixon’s firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox was illegal. (The torrent of bullshit Ralph has had to endure from Democratic Party crybabies since 2000 has largely eclipsed public knowledge about the profound service Nader has done to protect the lives and rights of American citizens over the last six decades.)
So here we are adrift in uncharted waters. No president has ever fired an FBI director on a personal whim. The only other termination occurred in 1993, when Bill Clinton gave William Sessions the boot for using FBI funds to install a new security system on his home and for travel to see his daughter at college. Even then Clinton treaded cautiously, relying on a 161-page report on Sessions’s improprieties compiled by George HW Bush’s Justice Department. Still it took Clinton six months to summon the courage to send Sessions packing. Clinton said he moved so slowly to evict Sessions because he feared “politicizing” the FBI. This is laughable. The notion that the FBI is somehow an “apolitical” enterprise is one of the most preposterous, if enduring, fantasies of the Beltway.
FBI directors have largely remained immune from executive meddling out of fear of reprisals from the agency, a practice of bureaucratic blackmail perfected over the decades by J. Edgar Hoover himself and passed on to his administrative descendants. As Lyndon Johnson once said of Hoover, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”
Did Trump somehow miss the news that Deep Throat was revealed to be FBI agent Mark Felt, who turned into Bob Woodward’s snitch because he was irked at being passed over by Nixon to become FBI director after the death of Hoover? (Perhaps when Trump hears the phrase “Deep Throat” his mind fixates on other images.)
Comey still has friends in the agency, many of whose pumps have now been primed to leak. Remember most leakers, like Felt, are not acting out of selfless concern for the integrity of the democratic system. They’re out to settle scores. Blood, piss and semen will flow, Donald, most likely yours. Surely, vendettas are something Trump understands at a visceral level.
Chaos politics is Trump’s calling card. But invariably Trump’s distractions end up creating bigger and more enduring messes than the one’s he is trying to flush down the memory hole. Four months into his administration, I think we can safely say that Trump’s learning curve is flatter than Kansas. He repeats the same blunders over and over. There’s almost no need for FOIA with Trump. His shadiest maneuvers are completely transparent. And if you don’t pick up on them at first, just wait awhile and Trump will Tweet you a trail of clues. And if you still don’t get the message, he’ll drive it home in a meeting with the Russian ambassador (and alleged spymaster) Sergey Kislyak and a photo-op with Henry Kissinger — a sure sign that someone will be bombed in the coming days.
Equally predictable, and perhaps more disgusting, is the risible response of the Left, which is congealing in defense of the fallen head of the American Police state. Grandstanding aside, Comey’s main objective during his recent appearances before Congress has been the reauthorization of the wiretapping provisions of the Patriot Act, the sinister legislation which Comey helped to shape and enforce during his time in the Bush Administration. Now liberals are protesting his firing outside the gates of the White House.
Who says the center will not hold?
* * *
+ Apparently Jeff Sessions confused the term “recuse” with “rescue.” He blames his dyslexia.
+ HRC’s new PAC is called Onward Together, which is Newspeak for Lemmings United.
+ 69 new cases of cholera were registered at a state-run hospital in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa last week. Cholera is a form of biological warfare by proxy, which the Saudis and their US allies are now inflicting on Yemen, as the US has done on Haiti and across Indigenous America….
+ Overheard on the bus: “I’m bracing for Trump’s next round of bombing a Muslim country so the media can go back to declaring him ‘presidential’.”
+ Meet the real Enemy of the People: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who fired off a memo to federal prosecutors this week ordering them to seek the maximum charges and sentences for all drug crimes. The diktat overturns one of the most humane acts of the Obama administration, the so-called Holder Rule of 2013, which advised prosecutors to avoid charging drug offenses that would trigger long, racially-biased minimum mandatory sentences. We are returning, step-by-step, to the Age of Cruelty.
+ A rare victory. The lush 82,000-acre Elliott State Forest, which the state of Oregon wanted to sell off to a timber company, will remain in public hands after a 3-0 vote by the state land board.
+ When in trouble, bomb Afghanistan.
+ Trump is putting up a color-coded map of his “amazing” electoral victory in the Oval Office. It shows most of the country bathed in red, including the unpopulated National Monuments, which all seem to have gone for Trump. So why’s he want to get rid of them?
+ In the dark of night, the City of New Orleans pulled down a statue of Jefferson Davis, the Kingpin of the Confederacy, which is a small step for mankind and a giant leap for the Deep South. The removal has its obvious parallel in Baghdad, with the made-for-TV toppling of Saddam Hussein’s monument to his own vanity. But the greatest flying statue is surely that of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in “Goodbye Lenin,” the funniest film on that brief interlude of time known as the Post-Cold War Era:
Now if someone could find a way to hoist Gen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions off of his pedestal. (Don’t worry, General Sessions, flying by crane is the safest form of air travel these days.)
Back with my wife in New Orleans,
when one day she called to me:
“Virgil, quick come see,
uh, there goes Jefferson D”
Now I don’t mind pumping oil
and I don’t care if there’s dioxins in the soil
You grab what you need and you piss on the rest,
But they should never have hoisted away the very best….
The night they tore old Dixie down,
And the people were singing…
+ It’s a bracing epiphany when you realize that Trump is far from the most insane person in the room. Consider Tulsa lawmaker Mike Ritze, who said this week that he wants ICE to round up 82,000 non-English speaking students attending Oklahoma’s schools as a cost-saving measure. “Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens,” Ritze said. “Do we really have to educate noncitizens?”
+ It turns out that there was no “Comey Effect” on the election, only the Mother of All Political Bombs, the Hillary Effect.
+ The moment you realize just how weak the Paris Climate Accords really are…
(Click to enlarge)
+ Trump warps your sense of time. I recently told my friend the environmentalist Marnie Gaede that it seems like we should be about halfway through Trump’s first term by now, but in reality the shitstorm hasn’t even started yet on the ground. Like the news coming in this morning that the EPA has reversed course and is giving the go ahead for the colossal Pebble gold mine near Bristol Bay in Alaska, one of the most pristine salmon-estuaries in the world.
+ Word is that Trump is now itching to fire HR McMaster, the belligerent National Security Advisor who Washington elites hope will stabilize the White House. Maybe they can bring in someone even crazier than Michael Flynn, like James Woolsey, who still believes that Iran and Iraq were behind 9/11.
+ The conservative-in-exile George Will has a new gig with MSDNC. Maybe Rachel and George will co-star in the network’s remake of “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming!”
+ Apparently no one sees the irony in Trump going to extreme measures to force the “TransCanada” Pipeline down people’s throats….The environmental movement was brain dead for ever calling it something as innocuous as “Keystone” or anodyne as “KXL.”
+ Conservative fumerole Charles Krauthammer predicted last week that “we’ll be in a single-payer system in seven years.” A delay of seven years in adopting single-payer means that Krauthammer would be willing to swallow at least 250,000 deaths (See this Harvard study on annual deaths attributed to lack of health insurance). How much more suffering and death will the Democrats countenance?
+ According to The Hill, there are at least 43 politicians and celebrities (assuming there’s a difference) considering running against Trump…and still not one worth voting for.
+ Trump’s chief virtue is his unerringly bad taste. Only John Waters should be allowed to direct the bio-pic.
+ The F-35: useless in combat (fortunately), but great at terrorizing American neighborhoods and wild lands…(Thanks Bernie!)
+ Best news of the week. Faux-philosopher BHL gets pied — for the 9th time……..
+ Poor Marcel Proust seems to have been sequestered for years in his garret at Number 102 Boulevard Haussmann, haunted by sex, apparently unable to recover from a single horribly botched encounter with a prostitute in the Pigalle district of Paris, which saw the young Marcel get so prematurely agitated that he broke a chamber pot and fled the room.
This frustrating experience launched Proust into a period of compulsive masturbation, his vexation exasperated by the sounds of sex seeping through those famous cork-lined walls. “Beyond the partition,” Proust wrote in a letter to a friend, “the neighbours make love every two days with a frenzy of which I am jealous.” Ultimately, Proust was determined to try to cure his “awful habit” by risking another assignation in a Parisian brothel. Lacking the funds for such a transaction, Proust had to write his grandfather with a request for 13 francs confident that “it cannot happen twice in one lifetime that a person is too flustered to screw.”
If only Freud had found the opportunity to record Proust’s erotic reveries, as he reclined on a couch nibbling on Madeleines.
+ Stephen Fry came under investigation for blasphemy by Irish police after saying in a TV interview from 2015 (news travels slow to Éireann) that God, if he existed, was “totally selfish” and “quite clearly a maniac.” The case against him was bollocks, naturally. Fry should have been put under investigation for his deplorable portrayal of Mycroft Holmes in the execrable “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows!”
+ When Uday whines….Eric Trump is complaining about how “mean” people are The Unnameable” reads like a dime novel….on Twitter.
+ Clarification from Trump on the origins of the term “priming the pump:” “‘Priming the Pump’? Well, I may not have come up with the term, exactly, but you know I did have a walk-on in the movie. The one with Jenna Jamison. Ever seen it? Amazing film, especially the golden shower scene, after the pump was fully primed. Wow.”
+ Remember when Town Hall meetings would feature one obligatory Code Pinker getting hauled away in a costume they bought from Wavy Gravy’s Outlet Store? I was sure glad they were there when no one else was, but today’s episodes of genuine popular outrage are so much more fun.
+ Why study history, Paul Street asked in his excellent CounterPunch column from last week. This was the exact question I asked myself while trying to burrow my way through Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip 2 in time for the notoriously sadistic final exam, which was based almost entirely on a deep understanding of the thousands of footnotes to that sprawling, at times impenetrable, text that makes Samuel Beckett’s “
+ In the wake of Trump’s Very Bad Week, the president said that he may cancel all future White House briefings because his press office staff can’t keep up with his rapidly changing thoughts on the various issues of the day. This will come as a huge blow to Saturday Night Live and, of course, to Sarah Huckabee & Sean Spicer. What other jobs could they possibly be qualified for after these auditions?
+ When there’s a bustle on your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just Sean escaping from the White House lawn
What I’m listening to this week…
Let It Go by Norman Brown
Late Nights, Early Mornings by Niji Adeleye
Cultural Capital by SexMob
Tributary Tales by Gerald Clayton
Middle of the Road by Eric Gales
What I’m reading this week…
The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman
An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business by Elizabeth Rosenthal
An Outlaw and a Lady: a Memoir by Jessi Colter
The Invader’s Fear of Memories
Mahmoud Darwish: “We have on this Earth what makes life worth living: April’s hesitation, the aroma of bread at dawn, a woman’s point of view about men, the works of Aeschylus, the beginning of love, grass on a stone, mothers living on a flute’s sigh and the invaders’ fear of memories.”
(Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: email@example.com or on Twitter @JSCCounterPunch. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org)