- Weekend Heat
- Emergency Notifications
- B Hold
- 716 Cases
- Yorkville Market
- PA Lighthouse
- Philo Produce
- Election Info
- FB Church
- Water Emergency
- New Normal
- Mendocino Ferry
- Ed Notes
- Maintenance Yard
- Big Bust
- Coast Funeral
- Firefighter Bill
- Missing Catch
- Velvet Bandit
- The People
- First Flight
- Generals White
- 1956 Hotrods
- Grid Improvements
- Final Pose
- Lethal Moron
- Baby Duck
- Bee Day
- Casette Tape
- Arresting Vandals
- Pandemic Days
- Willits People
- Trump Unity
- Yesterday's Man
- Found Object
HOT AND DRY weather will continue across inland northwest California through next week, with near record heat possible Sunday and Monday. Otherwise, marine layer clouds will be persistent resulting in cooler conditions along the coast through at least Friday. (NWS)
RECORD HEAT possible once again Labor Day weekend; wildfire risk to worsen following reprieve. Wildfire situation remains serious, despite improved weather conditions
A rather extraordinary, record-strength late-season ridge of high pressure will build along US West Coast in coming days, bringing widespread record heat to California, Oregon, Washington, and British Colombia.
MEASURE B SPENDING ON HOLD
by Malcolm Macdonald
On Tuesday, September 1, Mendocino County's Fifth District Supervisor, Ted Williams, made a motion to halt any further Measure B Committee spending until a business plan is approved by the Board of Supes. Fourth District Supervisor Dan Gjerde more or less immediately seconded the motion. Supervisor John McCowen voiced his approval of the motion and three agenda items that would have added up to multiple millions in Measure B expenditures were stopped dead in their tracks.
There exists a direct line of recent cause and effect events that triggered Williams' motion. We'll get to that, first readers should be reminded that Supervisor Williams proposed the business plan model for Measure B nine months ago, so for him matters may not have appeared as swift.
The two most expensive of the three items put on hold involved an allocation of $350,000 per year over a four year period of Measure B service funds to a contracted agency to provide community education, awareness, and support services, and a one-time allocation of $1,300,000 of Measure B services funds to purchase and renovate or build permanent housing for individuals on the coast who are homeless, chronically homeless, or at risk of chronic homelessness who have a mental health condition, as recommended by the Mental Health Treatment Act Citizen's Oversight Committee (Measure B).
Long time mental health advocate Sonya Nesch alleges that these items were concocted by Dr. Jenine Miller, head of Mendocino County Behavioral Health, and Donna Moschetti, current chair of the Measure B Committee and chair of the Mendocino County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Nesch supplied a timeline of events dating back to early July of this year. That timeline supposedly found its way into the hands of the two coastal supervisors.
Nesch titled her document, “Timeline of Jenine Miller and Donna Moschetti for “Measure B Program Funding Suggestions.”
The document highlights the following dates and events Nesch was privy to as a then-member of NAMI Mendocino County's board of directors:
July 9 -- Take [suggestions] to NAMI Board of Directors-- I [Nesch] spoke against it and Donna didn't call for a vote. Instead, Donna sent us the following email and called her 3 shoo-in voters and declared it passed.
Nesch contends that on Jul 13 after 10:30 PM, Donna Moschetti sent an email to NAMI board members:
I neglected to call for a vote last Thursday, please respond with your vote of yes or no by Wednesday at noon.
I have attached the document again for your review.
July 15 -- Take to Behavioral Health Advisory Board-- At the meeting, Jenine asked that the money to NAMI for “Community Education, Awareness, and Support “be removed due to conflict of interest. Jenine presented the other 5 items, and they only voted to approve them “in concept.” Jenine said she and Donna would rewrite it to bring to the BHAB in August.
July 22 -- Take to Measure B Committee--Jenine presented it as approved by BHAB and NAMI Board and they voted on each of 5 items (not the 6th which was the PHF). When money for NAMI came up, County Lawyer Christian Curtis said to drop NAMI as it is a conflict of interest. An RFP is suggested and Jenine instead of that wants to be able to choose who gets the $1.4 million.
Go to BOS and say this is what they all want.
According to a correspondence with Nesch regarding this timeline of events, she claims Jenine Miller “suggested no RFP and she would decide who gets the money.”
In reaction to all this Nesch resigned from her seat on the NAMI Mendocino County board.
Let us go back to the July 22 Measure B Committee meeting. That's where the $1.3 million in Measure B money to purchase and renovate or build housing for the homeless on the coast came into play. It is also where an even heavier hitter took the field. Fort Bragg City Council member, and Vice Mayor, Bernie Norvell responded with a letter to all five supervisors worthy of a read here.
“I am reaching out to express my concern at the recent action taken by the Measure B Committee on July 22, 2020. The action I am referring to is a motion to recommend the Board of Supervisors allocate $1.3 million of Measure B funds to purchase, build or renovate, for the purpose of providing Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)) on the coast. I was taken aback to be hearing about it for the first time. As a member of the Fort Bragg City Council and a member of our Mayor-appointed Homeless Ad Hoc Committee it was indeed surprising. One would think the City Council or the Homeless Ad Hoc Committee would have at least been included in the discussion of what is needed on the coast.
“It is no secret when the coast is mentioned in county business, it generally refers to Fort Bragg. I heard no mention or discussion from the Measure B Committee about the DANCO Project, which includes 20 units of [permanent supportive housing] PSH, on Fort Bragg's South Street. It received three million dollars’ worth of HEAP funds. I am concerned that many Measure B Committee members may not be aware of Fort Bragg's ongoing DANCO project and its emphasis on PSH. Without access to mental health facilities treating the true underlying conditions, PSH will be ineffective in the long term. PSH does not equate to treatment. It provides transitional housing, a place to house not treat, the mentally ill. This is not what the voters intended when they approved Measure B.
“I am guessing that any discussion around purchasing involves an existing hotel or motel. Both of which contribute directly to our already suffering General Fund. It sounds like this was the first time this topic was discussed and I found no direct mention in the agenda. This is reminiscent of the all too familiar situation in Willits, where the Measure B Committee made plans to utilize the old Howard Hospital without talking with the city first. The city then organized and rallied against the idea. I would hope that the committee would have learned from past mistakes and when considering moves that impact Fort Bragg, you would include our city in the discussion before taking action. Working together to understand the needs of all of our communities first is what will lead to positive solutions.
“I am also concerned with the continued distancing from Measure B's original plan and the primary reason the public voted in favor of the measure. As the Measure B pot of money grows, it also becomes attractive to fund otherwise worthy projects outside the original scope of Measure B's intentions. I urge you to stick with the plan we, the voters, put in place. If you continue taking these funds because the big picture has not come to fruition, there will be no big picture. The voters of the county are counting on you to get this right. Please keep your focus on mental health facilities and services and seek other sources for housing. If anyone would like to hear about or discuss the DANCO project, please reach out.”
It came as no surprise then that Council member Norvell would reach out to the supervisors yesterday morning once again. “I have some concern with how the Measure B Committee approved the recommendation of certain funds on two different occasions. The most important issue for me is the process. The Measure B committee meeting talked about putting out a RFP in hopes an organization would take on the project of mental health education. In the middle of the discussion NAMI was mentioned as the likely go-to for this and perhaps just handing it to them would be the easiest and most expedient course to take. County counsel stepped in and recommended not talking about who should get the money, for obvious reasons. This, after the B Chair who is chair of NAMI Mendocino County's Board of Directors spoke on the matter then pulled herself from the discussion.”
Clearly Vice Mayor Norvell had access to Sonya Nesch's notations. He refers to it in the final paragraph of his September 1 letter to the supervisors. “The attached timeline was sent to me and outlines what happened leading up to the July 22 Measure B meeting. Although this is a worthy cause, I feel the process of how it came to you should be noted. Please question the process and ask for accountability on this issue as we move forward.”
TWO MORE COVID CASES reported in Mendo on Wednesday. Total cases now at 716:
YORKVILLE MARKET UPDATE
The store will be closed starting today, Wednesday, 9/2 through next Tuesday 9/8. We will be open for normal business hours (11-5) on Wednesday 9/9. Wishing you all a fantastic Labor Day Weekend!
Lisa Walsh, Yorkville Market
POINT ARENA LIGHTHOUSE
THIS WEEK AT BLUE MEADOW FARM
- Heirloom, Roma, Early Girl & Cherry Tomatoes
- Corno di Toro, Gypsy, Bell, Pimiento Peppers
- Jalapeno, Padron & Ancho Peppers
- Walla Walla Onions
- Zapallito & Patty Pan Squash
- Satsuma Plums
- Nancy’s Broccoli & Cabbage Starts
- Zinnias & very last Sunflowers
Blue Meadow Farm
Holmes Ranch Road & 128
CANDIDATE STATEMENTS & LOCAL MEASURES ARE ON COUNTY ELECTIONS WEBSITE
Candidate Statements (Statements of Qualifications) and Full Text of Measures, as they will appear in the Sample Ballot for local races, have been uploaded to our website and are available to the public for viewing, according to Assessor-County Clerk Recorder Katrina Bartolomie. Candidates who submitted candidate statements for the following jurisdictions: Fort Bragg Unified School District; Point Arena Schools; Ukiah Unified School District; Willits Unified School District; Supervisor, 1st District; Supervisor, 2nd District; City of Ukiah Council Members; City of Willits Council Members; Mendocino City Community Services District; Mendocino Coast Recreation & Park District and Potter Valley Irrigation District can be viewed at mendocinocounty.org/government/assessor-county-clerk-recorderelections/current-election-information
Measures Submitted to the Voters - Full Text of Measures: Measure I - Willits Unified School District; and Measure K – City of Willits can be viewed at mendocinocounty.org/government/assessor-county-clerk-recorder-elections/vitalsfees/measures-on-the-ballot
If you have any questions, or need assistance, please call our office at 707 234-6819 or email our office at email@example.com
FORT BRAGG CHURCH
FORT BRAGG DECLARES WATER EMERGENCY
“At the August 31st Special City Council Meeting, the Fort Bragg City Council unanimously passed a Resolution declaring a Water Emergency and implementing mandatory Stage 2 water conservation measures.
Stage 2 water conservation measures target a 20% reduction in water use for this time of year. The emergency water declaration follows a request on August 10th by the City Council that residents and businesses voluntarily comply with Stage 1 water conservation measures.
City staff closely monitors the flows in all three of the City’s water sources: Waterfall Gulch, Newman Gulch and the Noyo River. During the winter and spring, pumping of the Noyo River is used only to supplement the Waterfall Gulch and Newman Gulch sources. The two tributary sources generally provide a higher quality of raw water and they gravity-feed to the water treatment plant, whereas water from the City’s Noyo River diversion must be pumped.
As summer progresses and the flows in the tributary streams diminish, the Noyo River diversion is used more frequently and in greater quantities.
During June and into early July, flows in the Noyo River remained above drought year conditions.
However, mid-July and into August, the flows dropped faster than any other summer on record, surpassing the 2015 and 1977 low flows. Staff expects flows to continue to decrease through
September and into October, prompting the Water Emergency declaration.
In order to meet the 20% water use reduction goal, Stage 2 water conservation measures prohibit use of a water hose without a shut-off nozzle, washing of driveways, sidewalks, or building exteriors.
Irrigation is prohibited for lawn or aesthetic landscaping.
Irrigation for gardens and agriculture is only allowed between 6:00 pm and 10:00 am and cannot occur within 48 hours of rainfall. Restaurants may only serve water upon request and hotels must encourage guests to forgo daily linen service.
Leaks must be repaired as soon as possible, but no later than 5 days after notification by the City. Violation of the Stage 2 water conservation measures are subject to fines.
For more information visit the City’s Water Conservation webpage.”
‘THE NEW NORMAL’
by Tabatha Miller, Fort Bragg City Manager
For months, we have all been referring to the “new normal” which tries to sum up our lives since the pandemic was declared. In the last couple of weeks, we have added several emergencies to our “new normal.” The week of August 17, 2020 the state faced energy shortages that caused rolling blackouts during a heat wave. Luckily, Fort Bragg was spared most of the impacts from this emergency, except that on August 19th, the PG&E generators at the Fort Bragg substation were powered up for about seven hours to reduce the demand on the power grid. Good news is that they worked and are here and ready for a PSPS event. On August 18th, the Governor declared a state-wide emergency due to the fires and extreme weather condition. Again, locally we have been spared the losses caused by fires and the ongoing hazardous air quality but it is a reminder of our own vulnerability. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Laura. While spared from the emergencies impacting much of Northern California, we have not been spared from the drought. On August 31st, the City Council declared a water emergency and implemented mandatory Stage 2 water conservation measures.
On September 1, 2020, Governor Newsom proclaimed September 2020 as “Preparedness Month” and urged all Californians to learn about how they can keep their loved ones and communities safe during an emergency. When I first read this, it seemed like a cruel joke. But on reflection, it is a reminder, even if cruel. We need to prepare for this new normal and as we conserve energy, water and resources, we need to consider that this is the start of wild fire season, the start of PSPS season, the start of the water drought, the start of hurricane season and the prelude to winter storms. If you have not, I encourage you to take stock of your home and make sure that you have flashlights, batteries, extra water, nonperishable food, an extra supply of medications, a radio (battery or crank powered), a “to go” bag packed and an evacuation & communication plan for your family, friends and even neighbors.
Back to the pandemic or emergency number one. The Legislature passed and the Governor signed a new law that provides protections from eviction to tenants and protection from foreclosure to property owners. The legislation comes just as the California Judicial Council’s emergency rule 1 and 2, which prohibited courts from processing nearly all unlawful detainers (evictions) and foreclosures expired on September 1, 2020. Under the Legislation, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021, for rent owed due to a COVID-19 hardship accrued from March 4 – August 31, 2020. Tenants must declare a COVID-19 hardship to qualify for the protections. For rent owed from September 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021, tenants must declare a COVID-19 hardship and pay at least 25% of the rent due to avoid eviction. The legislation does not forgive unpaid amounts and landlords can start collection on March 1, 2021. Fort Bragg offers both residential and commercial tenants protection from eviction with Ordinance 960- 2020, which is effective through September 30, 2020. To provide small landlords protection from foreclosure, the Legislation extends the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords. For low to moderate income residential tenants needing assistance, the City is still accepting applications for the COVID HOME Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) program. The funds are limited and will be distributed on a first come first served basis to qualified residential renters within the City limits. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For local businesses, a reminder that West Business Development Center is accepting Business Innovation and Resiliency Grants in amounts up to $5,000. The grants are available to Mendocino County micro-businesses who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and need funds to pivot or reboot their business model. The application deadline is Friday, September 4, at 5pm. This program is made possible by The Community Foundation of Mendocino County and the generosity of local donors. Visit West Business Development Center for details. Local Fort Bragg businesses who received grants in July include: At One Yoga, Country Inn, Lunar Tide, Style Saloon, The Color Mill and Toscano’s Auto Repair.
On Friday, August 28th, the Mendocino County Health Officer updated the Shelter-In-Place Order to be consistent with the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The new order allows hair salons and barbershops to open indoors, limits retail establishments to a capacity of 25%, grocery stores are restricted to 50% of normal capacity and Childcare units are expanded from 12 individuals to 14 children and 2 supervising adults.
Finally, the most recent results of the City’s COVID-19 sewer test from 8-18-20 came back with none detected for both strains of COVID that the testing targets. This could be good news or a testing error. It is a little hard to believe that no one in Fort Bragg had the virus on 8-18-20. The test is a 24-hour composite test so it will pick up a complete daily sample. On the other hand, I have noted that the County positive reports have been relatively stable for the North Coast over the last two weeks, which does include Caspar to Westport, as opposed to the City proper.
I'VE WRITTEN to the four candidates for Supervisor — Glen McGourty; Jon Kennedy; Mo Hulheren; and Mari Rodin for their opinions about the new County Courthouse, silently, inexorably making its way to the area of West Perkins where the former train station was located. The first (and so far only) candidate to respond is Mari Rodin whose answer follows:
Thanks for asking your question about how I feel about the plan for a new courthouse at the old Ukiah rail station. The fact of the matter is that officials in Mendocino County—elected or otherwise—have very little say about the construction of a new courthouse in Ukiah. (I’ll get to the siting a new courthouse below.) The California Judicial Council oversees the matter of courthouses in all the counties. See q&a below:
I support a new courthouse for Mendocino County. Our current courthouse is not built to withstand an earthquake, is barely accessible to people with disabilities, and does not have a private or secure way for “in-custodies” to enter the courthouse. Nor is there a secure place inside our present courthouse for the “in-custodies” to wait until they are called before a judge. These are serious deficiencies.
I was the Ukiah City Council’s representative to the committee working with Judicial Council staff, a County Supervisor, a few local attorneys, and State-contracted architects (around 2011-12) to identify potential sites for the new courthouse. Everyone from Mendocino County felt strongly that the new courthouse should stay on the west side of State Street, as close to the heart of downtown as possible. We also examined the feasibility of remodeling the existing courthouse. Unfortunately, the requirements for the new courthouse (e.g., size, parking, etc.) precluded our preferred sites on the west side of State Street. The current site at the former train depot was the best we could get. (There were proposals to move it to the Brush Street triangle, which would have been terrible for myriad reasons.)
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
THE GOOD NEWS: Serial Killer Week kicks off Sunday on the Discovery Channel, not that I'm not much into psychos myself being more of a Joe Kenda, Homicide Hunter kinda Kenda guy, but since the covid monster kicked in I've noticed that HBO and Netflicks seem to have bought up every cool-o documentary out there, so many this documentary fan can't keep up. Watched one called “Tread” on HBO the other night that was absolutely riveting about a guy so angry with officials in his little Colorado town he bulldozed city hall. Tragically sad and hilarious all at once.
MORE GOOD NEWS if you're in the marijuana business. Growers are expecting to get $1500 to $1700 a pound, the higher price in the early market, which probably accounts for gardens everywhere, so much that dope prices are certain to be driven down, down, down. Around the Anderson Valley people who were out of the business are back in in anticipation.
A CALLER said that Confederate flag, since taken down from where it flew alongside 128 in Philo, wasn't “the slavery Confederate flag, it was the Confederate battle flag,” a distinction with nary a diff but there it is.
HOW MUCH CLEARER can it get that Joe Biden, 77, can't even read his lines without botching them, that the masterminds at the DNC are going to have to bench him, that even the inarticulate Trump will chew up Delaware's errand boy for the extortionate credit card industry if they “debate”? The other day in Pittsburgh Biden got lost in this simple sentence: “The outbreak, has taken more than 100 years… Look. Here's… The lives… It's just… I mean, think about it.”
TRUMP was everywhere on the media Monday, claiming on Fox that “a plane full of thugs” were planning chaos at the Republican National Convention. When he elaborates on the outside agitator theme, Trump says mysterious people are funding them, “people in the dark shadows, people you have never heard of.” I'd bet the people doing the arsons and window breaking are overwhelmingly young, non-ideological white guys who are basically recreational nihilists of the type plaguing Oakland under the guise of Black Lives Matter — suburban thrill seekers. It seems from here, though, that Trump has succeeded in his Big Lie that Democrats are synonymous with chaos rather than the principle-free Republican Lite foisted off on us by the Clintons first, then Obama.
BUT TRUMP'S DAILY malaprops sail on by. Describing the 7 rounds pumped into Kenosha's Jacob Blake, Trump excused the police shooter's psychotic break, “They choke, just like in a golf tournament, they miss a 3-foot putt.” And, natch, the president has defended Kyle Rittenhouse, saying the 17-year-old “probably would have been killed” by the mob if he hadn't shot two dead and badly injured a third. Truth to tell, looking at the videos of the episode, it does appear that Rittenhouse fired in self defense, although he was probably out there hoping he could shoot someone. The Kenosha cops have a lot to answer for in the way they let the punk wander around armed like he was, jogging right through police lines, too. Does it even have to be said that a black guy running around with an assault rifle in the Rittenhouse context would have immediately been shot?
DC MAYOR Muriel Bowser says that she fears the US is “descending into a race war.” The mayor was lamenting the violent demos in her city, which also happens to be the nation's capitol. She said that “70 percent” of the people arrested were from out of the area, i.e., young white guys and a few hefties, large white women.
LAYTONVILLE ROAD MAINTENANCE YARD
28,000 PLANTS, 5000 POUNDS OF BUD & $100K
During the week of Aug. 24, wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in collaboration with the Humboldt County, Trinity County, and Mendocino County Sheriff’s Offices, served eight search warrants on 11 parcels on Island Mountain Road (on or near Raff Creek Road) for illegal commercial cannabis cultivation. The Island Mountain area is at the heart of the Emerald Triangle where Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties converge.
A records check confirmed that none of the sites had a state license for commercial cannabis cultivation.
During the operation, officers eradicated over 28,000 illegal cannabis plants, removed over 4,900 lbs of processed cannabis, seized six firearms and confiscated approximately $100,000 in cash. CDFW’s environmental scientists documented more than 75 environmental crimes. Violations included unlawful stream diversions and alteration, and water pollution from sediment, the placement of petroleum products and litter where it can enter waters of the state among other activities that harm the environment.
During the operation, officers also observed two subjects associated with the illegal cannabis grow actively poaching. Both were seen with a shouldered rifle on a nearby cattle ranch and cited for that offense as well.
Several subjects were detained during the investigations. Due to multiple limiting factors, no physical arrests were made. Formal complaints will be filed with the Trinity and Mendocino County District Attorney’s Offices for consideration. No further information is available at this time as these are ongoing investigations.
To report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching, call the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or text information to “TIP411” (847411).
 Why arrest or cite ’em? They’ll just be back at it, killin’ fish, poisoning wildlife, rapin’ the woods and, hell, let’s start a fire while they’re at it. Shoot, shovel, and shut up – the Triple S. Eliminates repeat offenders every time. Also cuts back on new offenders, who see more than a slap on the wrist.
 It’s meant to show that even if you are coaxing water out of a tiny spring that is little more than a wet spot in the ground, you are diverting water illegally, altering a streambed, desecrating a wild and scenic waterway, and probably a few other things, and a team of experts who learned about the outdoors in a classroom are writing you up for several thousand dollars per day in fines. Had you been a grape grower diverting water in huge pipelines, or a logging company denuding the hillsides, you would not have garnered any attention from CDFW. I hope that answers your question.
CA PASSES BILL ALLOWING FORMER INMATES TO BECOME FIREFIGHTERS
Nonviolent former prisoners who participated in fire camps will now have an opportunity to become year-round, full-time firefighters.
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 2, 2020
(Unavailable due to lack of photos and updates at the Sheriff’s Booking Log site.)
A NIGHT ON THE TOWN WITH THE VELVET BANDIT
THE COLD-WAR MOVIE “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” is a 1966 comedy filmed in the Mendocino coastal towns of Fort Bragg and Mendocino (playing the part of a New England town). It is a spoof on the hysteria about the looming USSR at the time. The youthful extras in the film, some of them, still prowl the streets of this west-coast “Gloucester Island.” They're now gray and gimpy.
We need an update. The modern Russians gave us Donald Trump, our Wise Ones say, and are planning to ensure his second term.
Donald J. Trump was conceived an asshole by assholes, raised as an asshole to be a model asshole and has enlarged himself as sorry assholes do. There are a few things he has done and said that do not bolster his assholedom. He commented that he doesn't like his sons' shooting of wild animals in Africa. That was one. He said that improving relations with Russia and China is not a bad thing. That was another, given no reasonable consideration because Trump is an asshole.
(We are instructed by the dimwit “liberal” media that if Trump said it, it must be wrong. That's generally true, but not always, and we follow the instruction unthinkingly. He used to be pro-choice.)
I don't doubt Russia meddled in 2016, nor that Russia has never desisted from meddling in our affairs. Like Captain Renault (Claude Rains) in 1942's movie “Casablanca,” I am, nevertheless, shocked, SHOCKED to learn that election-rigging is going on around here. That the hated RUSSIA is sneakily doing it is YET ANOTHER OUTRAGE!
Kindly answer me this, FB frenz, when and where was the last election that transpired without the US of A's fat thumb on the scale? Anywhere, foreign or domestic?
Thank you. That's the right answer--NEVER!
This doesn't mean we shouldn't push back--you have to--or that we should not maintain our surveillance of the Russkies and the Chinee, but I submit that reduction in international tension and conflict, in Hamlet's words, is a consummation devoutly to be wish'd.
While our profiteers (our leading citizens) stoke the fires of enmity because they stimulate, wildly, our military-industrial fraudsters (our finest, most security-guaranteeing, patriotic, profitable, high-ticket industrial sector) tell us to be afraid, anybody with an ounce of brain can see that amity is cheaper and funner than enmity.
While our militarists have been growling at their militarists (and, in secret meetings, sharing cigars, liquor and pretty girls), our Norman-Rockwell folks, those forgotten and innocent babes, those cellphone-less naïfs, have been trying, since WW2, to foster some friendship between the competing countries. Jewish and Palestinian women reach across for each other. The two Germanys eventually reconciled. African countries forge alliances. Fellow ancients will remember when we sent Van Cliburn to Russia to play the piano for them, and he walked on Russian water. That was during the height of Cold-War saber-rattling by the greedy and stupid on both sides.
WAKE UP, FOLKS! Don't listen to hardly anybody. THINK! Your private lucubrations are way more valuable than the stream of piss we're all soaked with every goddamn day. “THE PEOPLE” is more than two words we invoke as our favorite subject; it is the name of the majority of us--not as great as we should be or think we are, but not too bad, either, and THE PEOPLE are ALWAYS ahead, at least here in the shining new world, of their lame old Establishment leaders.
BIDEN, yes, but we need a “woke” citizenry to drive him. It's already become a 2020 meme, an election-season cliché, but it's no less true: DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT. If the horrors of having an asshole in The Oval yield nothing else, if we learn that passivity and militant ignorance will destroy the world if we don't change, it will have made the Trump years worth something more than shit.
— Mitch Clogg
UKIAH’S FIRST PLANE, 1912
UKIAH’S FIRST PLANE WRECK (Same Day)
THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE WHITE: THE MARINE CORPS BALKS AT PROMOTING GENERALS OF COLOR
A respected, combat-tested Black colonel has been passed over three times for promotion to brigadier general. What does his fate say about the Corps?
MENDO RACERS, 1956
Renewable energy was not responsible for the recent blackouts. Poor grid planning and management was.
But the solution isn’t holding onto polluting natural gas plants. Recent science indicates that California’s emission reduction targets aren’t sufficient. We must modernize, decentralize and decarbonize the grid more rapidly.
We need to continue adding renewables and storage, including offshore wind and geothermal, which will add more stability to the grid.
A reliable 21st century energy system must better manage the demand side. We have the technology to automate energy demand; we just need agreements with customers, particularly heavy-load commercial and industrial customers, to compensate them for making more power available when needed. In the short run, this could more than make up for the power shortfall we just experienced.
Longer term, a decentralized system of community microgrids with clean power and storage could reduce the number of outages, both planned and unplanned. This system would enable utilities to better target outages and isolate local electricity generation from the larger grid. This would ensure that health and other critical services would have power even during outages.
These technologies are available now, but California regulators could make it far easier to add this flexibility to the grid.
Chief operations officer, the Climate Center
MEMORIAL DAY this year is the welcome mat to our hard time. We’ll be lucky if some honorable as-yet-unknown colonel in the wadis of Afghanistan comes home to overthrow president Glenn Beck, or whichever lethal moron ends up in power after 2020. We’ll be a very different America then, with no going back.
— James Kunstler (May 31, 2010)
WORLD HONEY BEE DAY – Another Reminder that 40% of Insect Species Now Threatened With Extinction
by Kathleen Rogers & Dr. Anne Bowser
World Honey Bee Day came and went, but it wasn't a celebration: over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction. Thanks to science, we know exactly why: habitat loss, pollution from pesticides, invasive species, and climate change all play a significant role. But because professional scientists only have so much time, they cannot always collect all of the data needed to understand where different species are or how populations are changing at the local or global scale. And without our help, professional researchers can't speak strongly enough to advocate for the policies we need to reverse current trends.
One obvious solution to both challenges is citizen science, which brings the public into the research process. Through crowdsourcing, citizen science leads to more data, including from places that professional researchers cannot always access. Citizen science also provides an opportunity for the people who contribute to research to advocate to drive direct change, letting their voice be heard through direct actions that can solve global problems.
Estimates of the number of people who engage in citizen science vary wildly but conservatively tens of millions of students and adults do some form of citizen science every year. Citizen science happens in schools, in informal education settings like museums, through corporate social responsibility expeditions, and in people's backyards. So, too, the economic value of citizen science projects is uncertain, with some estimates calculating the value in the billions of dollars for biodiversity monitoring alone.
Since 2010, there has been a significant rise in the number of peer reviewed publications that mention citizen science. But the impact of citizen science reaches far beyond the production of data. It is a powerful form of experiential learning for everyone, children and adults alike. It also supports an enhanced scientific literacy among different public community members. Engaging people in citizen science and making research data open also democratizes science, which can increase belief and trust in science.
But while thousands of citizen science projects are conducted every day, many are missing two key elements: first, providing access to comprehensive open source data, and second, providing pathways for participants to engage their governments through civic action. Without these two elements, citizen science misses an important opportunity to advance scientific research, and limits the potential to deepen the public's engagement at the intersection of science and public policy.
A new citizen science project, Earth Challenge 2020 — led by Earth Day Network, the Wilson Center, and the U.S. Department of State — takes a step forward to address both of those issues. First, while some citizen science data is open source, it is not easily accessible to everyone in one place. One solution is creating the Citizen Science Cloud, a one-stop-shop for citizen science data collected from a wide range of projects. Professional researchers can take advantage of open APIs, while everyday people can use data visualization and mapping tools to see what's happening in their own communities.
Second, the Earth Challenge mobile app (available in the Apple and Google Play stores) directly links science to action, an opportunity to use technology and data to drive change that is unique in the citizen science world. Once a user contributes data, whether taking a photo of a bee or classifying photos of plastic in the environment, they can take country-specific civic engagement actions, such as signing petitions, that are focused on impacting current policy decision-making processed at their national level. To address bee declines, for example, participants can petition their governments to ban certain pesticides, address agricultural practices that are decimating bee populations, or create habitats for bees and other pollinators. Guiding citizen scientists down the pathway of civic action builds a deeper relationship between critically important data and its natural outgrowth, strong science-based policy.
Citizen science projects, if created with solid hypotheses and engaging technologies, can aid professional scientists who are interested in acquiring more data and support global monitoring against targets like the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Engaging the public broadly in citizen science can also lead to stronger knowledge and deeper trust in science. Adding a civic action component to citizen science initiatives will build a broader, more diverse, and more active global community of ordinary people who will take action to save their communities and the planet. Well-constructed citizen science, supported by open data and civic action, is a powerful force for the change our planet needs.
(Kathleen Rogers is President of Earth Day Network. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. EDN, the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, now works year-round with tens of thousands of partners in 192 countries.
Dr. Anne Bowser is the Director of Innovation at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a quasi-government think tank. and the official memorial to President Woodrow Wilson. Her research explores how new advances in science and technology can lead to positive social and environmental outcomes. Outside the Wilson Center, Anne has formal advisory roles with the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and the United Nation’s Environment Program.)
PORTLAND & KENOSHA
To the Editor of the NY Times:
Every day, on an endless 24-hour loop, I see coverage of vandalism going on in American cities after peaceful protesters go home.
What I don’t see is law enforcement descending on these lawbreakers. Nor do I learn if they are ever arrested and, if so, who they are. And if not, why not?
If the media are able to film these criminal acts in real time, why don’t the police intervene and put an end to them?
We are left in the dark about what is really happening.
MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES ARE FAILING
To the Editor:
We the People must continue to organize and build popular power if we are to win the changes we need. What does this mean at the local level? Right here in Willits!
The Republican and Democratic Party conventions showed that both major parties are failing to control the pandemic and protect people, address the climate crisis and clean up the environment, support families and businesses during the economic collapse, prevent police violence or deal with any of the other major problems we face.
These were two substance-less conventions. The Democrats focused on criticizing Trump without putting forward an agenda while the Republicans claimed Biden was a front for socialism when he is a deeply embedded corporate Democrat. Trump’s term as president has been a disaster and Biden has been consistently on the wrong side of history over his 47 years in politics. On issues today, both are out of step with the views of the majority of voters.
The two parties demonstrated that people must lead from below because the parties represent the wealthy and transnational corporations. All sides of the political spectrum can be found in Willits. This is good, as it allows us to seek what we share in common and build upon that! We can do that. It will require a conscious effort. It won’t take up too much of our time, and we’ll get to know our community a little better. We can all act together to build resiliency, self-reliance, in our favorite hometown.
We must continue to organize and build popular power if we are to win the changes we need.
BIDEN NEEDS MONEY
by Christian Lorentzen
‘Yesterday’s Man: The Case against Joe Biden’
by Branko Marcetic.
Verso, 288 pp., £12.99, March, 978 1 83976 028 0
The state of Delaware has given the world three gifts: chemicals, debt and Joe Biden. Each promises great things but may deliver undesirable side effects. Until the 19th century Delaware’s primary crop was tobacco. Then a French Huguenot called Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, son of an adviser to Louis XVI, began manufacturing gunpowder on the Brandywine River, north of Wilmington. His firm became the largest supplier of explosives to the Union during the Civil War and it now ranks fourth among US corporations as a generator of air pollution. Among its innovations are nylon, Teflon, Mylar, Tyvek and Kevlar. It made the powder that fired the bullets and it perfected the bullet-proof vest.
By the 1970s the DuPont family’s hold on Delaware was total. “General Motors could buy Delaware if DuPont were willing to sell it,” Ralph Nader said. As Tim Murphy wrote last year in Mother Jones, “the state’s center of gravity began to shift from the world of chemicals to the big business of other people’s business – banking, accounting, law and telemarketing.”
Delaware is suited for this: a chancery court was created for the settlement of business disputes in the state’s constitution, and its 1899 General Corporation Law allowed any American to form a company in Delaware and made it a haven for the refugees of busted trusts. Many companies, including 63 per cent of the Fortune 500, are incorporated there simply because it is, in one governor’s phrase, “the Luxembourg of the United States’. Over the decades, corporate accommodation has extended to a light tax regime, no limits on the interest rates and late fees creditors can charge, and a quick green light to home foreclosures for those whose payments are in arrears.
‘It puts me in a precarious financial position when you fellows don’t pay,” Joe Biden wrote to his tenants when he was a landlord in his mid-twenties. “To get right down to it, I need money quickly. Please get in touch with me this weekend so that we can make some definite arrangements and I can get myself out of the hole.”
Just out of law school, Biden had borrowed money from his father-in-law and bought three houses, renting out one to students (“you fellows”) from the University of Delaware. Biden and his wife, Neilia, lived in a cottage on the grounds of a swimming club in exchange for managing the pool. “I was probably the only working attorney in Delaware who lifeguarded on Saturdays.” Even when he was elected to the Senate at the age of 30, Biden hadn’t got into the black. In What It Takes (1992), a breathless work of campaign stenography, Richard Ben Cramer described the confession Biden made to his aides before deciding to run: “The debts – he went through his finances whole, the mortgages, the credit cards. He was into Visa, Amex for thousands.”
The letter to his tenants appears in Biden’s 2007 autobiography, Promises to Keep, a chronicle of his lifelong efforts to be both a regular guy and a Democrat palatable to Republicans. The book – highly readable thanks to the efforts of its ghost, Mark Zwonitzer – opens with a kitchen table conversation at Biden’s grandparents’ house in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the 1950s:
“Grandpop, his pals from the neighborhood, maybe a crony from the Scranton Tribune, and my Finnegan uncles, Jack and Boo-Boo, settled in at the kitchen table. They’d sit in the spreading afternoon light talking sports and politics. These men were educated, informed and eclectic – and they loved to debate. They’d argue local politics, state politics, world events, Truman against MacArthur, Truman against the steel companies. They were Truman Democrats, working men, or sons of working men, but they had to admit Truman might have gone too far when he tried to take over Youngstown Steel. Probably the Supreme Court was right when they knocked him back. A president’s a president, not a dictator. It seemed un-American. Still, at least he was up front about it. That’s the thing they liked about Harry Truman: no artifice. He knew where he stood, and he wasn’t afraid to say it. The fellows at Grandpop’s table didn’t trust the new Democratic standard-bearer, Adlai Stevenson. They thought he might be a little soft. They were willing to give Eisenhower the benefit of the doubt; he was a hero of the war, after all. My dad, who didn’t join in the talk much, trusted Ike because he had been able to win a war while negotiating the competing national prerogatives of the Western allies and the substantial egos of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Field Marshal Montgomery and General Patton. Dad thought Eisenhower was a man with ballast, a leader. But the Finnegans wanted to argue Ike’s policies.”
Note the trace of red-baiting in the bit about the steel company (“un-American”); the implication that Stevenson was, if not effeminate, a bookworm (“a little soft”); the appeal to masculine authenticity and action (“a man with ballast”). It might seem an odd posture for someone whose purpose, when the book was published, was to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. His Bush Lite campaign died in Iowa that January with a fifth place finish and 0.9% of the vote. But the pose had been proven to work. “We’re Eisenhower Republicans here,” Bill Clinton told Bob Woodward after taking office in 1993. “We stand for lower deficits, free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great?”
“My dad always said you couldn’t blame a guy for being rich,” Biden writes. “I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders,” he said in 2018. “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys.”
During the Second World War, Joseph Sr. could have been forgiven for thinking he was on the way to being rich. He worked for his uncle Bill Sheen, the inventor of a sealant used in cemetery vaults and a military contractor. The job came with perks: free plane tickets, a Buick Roadster and a big house for his family. After the war he started a Long Island airfield with Bill Jr., but his cousin’s profligate ways put them out of business. His wife, Jean, insisted that they move back to her parents’ house in Scranton, where he did odd jobs before becoming a car salesman in Wilmington. Their son would combine the common touch of his mother’s side of the family with his father’s sense of himself as a would-be wealthy person.
Scenes of the young Biden ingratiating himself to Republicans recur during a youth spent winging it, hustling, and depending on the kindness of a series of characters who, in the words of his letters of recommendation, took “a chance” on him despite his “lousy marks,” because he was “a natural.” For spring break in his junior year he flew to the Bahamas, despite having only a fraction of an $89 tax refund left to spend. On the beach he met a blonde, Neilia Hunter, who picked up the tab for hamburgers for two and got him into a club for free because a friend of hers was dating the owner. (“I fell ass over tin cup in love – at first sight. And she was so easy to talk to.”) By the end of the weekend they had decided to get married. Biden, a mediocre undergraduate at the University of Delaware with a spotty disciplinary record (he once sprayed a dorm adviser with a fire extinguisher), quit the football team and mustered the grades and testimonials for law school at Syracuse. There he managed to scrape through despite a charge of plagiarism – a matter of poor citation, he explains – and won the reluctant approval of Neilia’s father, who didn’t want to see his daughter marry a Catholic or a Democrat.
His father-in-law’s generosity set the pattern for Biden’s career in politics: he scrambled along on a shoestring budget, showing gratitude and deference to the holder of the purse; he set expectations low and either by a stroke of luck exceeded them or came home empty-handed because he never really had a chance.
Early on he was very lucky. Joe and Neilia were living out their “adventure,” put in charge of managing her father’s swimming pool while having three children as he found his way into Delaware politics. While working at a prestigious Wilmington law firm, he turned down offers from local Republicans to stand for office. He didn’t like Nixon. Then he quit his job and became a public defender with a civil practice on the side. (Along with a teenage summer spent as a lifeguard at a pool in a Black neighborhood, this constitutes Biden’s pre-political ties with Delaware’s Black community. “I was never an activist,” he admitted.) In 1970 he won a seat as a Democrat on the county council, putting him in a position to recruit candidates for what seemed like a hopeless run against the Republican senator, Caleb Boggs, who hadn’t lost a race since 1946. There were no takers so he ran himself. Backed by a scrappy volunteer effort coordinated by Neilia and his sister Val and facing an opponent who seemed exhausted, showing up to one debate late and unprepared, he made a campaign pitch that would serve him for decades: “The Sussex County parent worries as much as the Newark production-line worker about the drugs that threaten the children of both. The fabric of our complex society is woven too tightly to permit any part of it to be damaged without damaging the whole.”
This young man was no hippie. A couple of scenes in Promises to Keep show him accepting donations from a national union representative and a set of wealthy Republicans, making no promises to either. He won the vote. “Well, Joe,” his father-in-law told him. “If my daughter has to be married to a Democrat, he might as well be a United States senator.”
There’s a credible alternate universe life for Biden as a prosperous attorney and happy suburban dad, mowing his own lawn, hair plugs optional. He and Neilia might have started voting Republican in 1980 and would now be wealthy suburbanites of the sort the Democrats are desperate to lure back into the fold as they stress Trump’s indecency and pledge to return America to “normalcy.”
Instead, Biden went to Washington, and Neilia was killed with their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, when their car was hit by a truck. Much has been written about Biden as “America’s mourner,” given preternatural powers of empathy by the loss of his wife, his daughter and then, in 2015, his son Beau, from brain cancer. “The sensation I had,” Biden wrote, “was best captured in a line I knew from a sonnet by John Milton: ‘I wak’d, she fled, and day brought back my night’.”
Biden became the tragic young man of the Senate, uncertain whether he should resign to look after his surviving children. But in his account the Senate’s old guard welcomed him and gave him unexpected responsibility in the form of committee seats. Ted Kennedy was responsible for Biden’s social initiation, taking him to the steam room in the Senate gym, where he met Jacob Javits of New York and Stuart Symington of Missouri: “They were standing there, two feet away from me, reaching out to shake my hand. And they were all as naked as the day they were born.” It must be easier to reach across the aisle when you’re hanging out with your buddies in the steam room.
Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana taught Biden not to question his colleagues’ motives after Biden said that Jesse Helms, the infamous racist homophobe from North Carolina who tried to ban HIV-positive travelers from entering the US, had no heart. Mansfield told Biden that the Helmses had adopted a nine-year-old with cerebral palsy after the child had appeared in a newspaper ad pleading for a new mommy and daddy for Christmas.
As for his own motives, Biden seems to have got into politics simply because he could: for the fuck of it, not out of any ethical commitment or bracing ambition. Unlike most recent Democrat and Republican nominees for president he isn’t a meritocrat (Dukakis, the Clintons, Obama) or an aristocrat (the Bushes, Gore, Kerry), or the son of a powerful father (McCain, Romney, Trump). Not being an egghead is his biggest asset in the fight v. Trump.
With his famous love for “the poorly educated,” Trump often seems to be campaigning on behalf of those Hillary Clinton called the “deplorables” and against the figures of the teacher’s pet and the goody two shoes. (His Democratic rivals have embodied these types but in a way he sought to paint as phony: Clinton, Trump claimed, was secretly corrupt and deserved to be locked up; Obama, according to the birther libel he flogged, was an illegitimate president because secretly foreign.) Little in their actual political records differentiates Biden from Clinton, but he can more persuasively tell an autoworker that his industry will return to the glories of the 1940s.
When Trump first campaigned on the slogan “Make America Great Again,” he liked to do so in the shadow of abandoned steel mills. “They” – Democrats, Republicans, globalists all – had done away with the jobs. As a campaigner, Biden seems oblivious to his complicity in this process.
Biden remarried after being set up with Jill Jacobs on a trip to Philadelphia in 1975. He knew her face already, because she had been on a billboard he had noticed at Wilmington airport. “She was blonde and gorgeous,” he wrote. “I couldn’t imagine who was looking at trees with her in the photograph. I remember thinking to myself: That’s the kind of woman I’d like to meet.”
His luck had returned, but in the Senate luck wasn’t enough. In Yesterday’s Man, Branko Marcetic details the fruits of Biden’s decades of bipartisanship. The book was published too late to make much of an impact on the primary race, though a few of its themes were raised by Biden’s rivals. Biden opposed mandatory busing (as school desegregation was called outside the South) in Delaware in the 1970s, as his future running mate, Kamala Harris, pointed out in a primary debate (though it was later revealed that they were both in favor of the half-measure of voluntary busing).
In 1977 he moved from the Senate’s banking committee to the judiciary committee, where he focused on crime legislation. “That Biden gave up his place on Banking’s housing subcommittee to do this was grimly symbolic,” Marcetic writes. “Instead of providing homes for the poor, he would spend the following decades housing them in jails.’
During the Reagan administration Biden took part in the hysteria over drugs, and often tacked to the right of the president on narcotics law enforcement. “The drug trade,” he said, “is as much a threat to the international security of America as anything the Soviets are doing.”
Along with the former segregationist Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, he was an early proponent of the idea of a US drugs czar, who would unite the narcotics activities of various agencies and have unprecedented authority over the attorney general. Reagan reluctantly agreed to the proposal in 1988. Biden, here, was trying to dispel the image of Democrats as soft touches, just as his hawkishness about budget deficits was meant to rid them of their reputation as spendthrifts. (Increased expenditure on prisons put the two goals in tension.) These efforts culminated in the 1994 Crime Bill, drafted in its Senate version by Biden and signed into law by Bill Clinton. “What do we have to do, put half the country behind bars?” Bernie Sanders, then the House representative for Vermont, said of Biden’s proposals in 1991. America’s incarcerated population peaked in 2008 at 2.3 million, a number that doesn’t include detained migrants, prisoners of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, those held at Guantánamo Bay, etc.
In the 1976 primaries Biden had been an early supporter of Carter. In 1980 he served as a lackluster campaign surrogate, saying on the stump: “Let’s face it, Jimmy Carter is not the finest thing since wheat cakes; he’s not the second coming … He’s not going to go down in the history books … but he is doing a good job.” When Carter, along with many Democratic senators (Frank Church, George McGovern, Birch Bayh), lost out in that year’s elections, Biden found himself with increased seniority and free to tack further right. “In a strange way,” he said, “the election of Ronald Reagan is more consistent with the budgetary thrust that a guy like me … has been going for for the past few years.” His own campaign for president, in 1988, was a dress rehearsal for the Third Way politics that would send Bill Clinton to the White House four years later. Its failure is usually attributed to Biden’s lifting of passages from a speech by Neil Kinnock about his working-class upbringing, but in fact he was following his mother’s advice when he dropped out. “The wounded, limping campaign was finally given its mercy killing,” Marcetic writes, after Newsweek unearthed C-Span footage of an April 7 event in New Hampshire, where an audience member had asked Biden which law school he had attended and where he had placed. Perceiving it as a slight, Biden had reacted badly. He’d shot back that he had “ended up in the top half” of his class, graduated with three degrees, was “the outstanding student in the political science department,” and had gone to law school on a full academic scholarship. He then told the questioner he would “be delighted to sit back and compare my IQ to yours if you’d like.” All of this was proven to be untrue: Biden had placed toward the bottom of both his undergraduate and law school classes, had a single degree with a double major, had only been nominated for the political science award, and had received a partial scholarship based on financial need. “I exaggerate when I’m angry,” he now explained.
The insecurities about an undistinguished academic career two decades in the past – one the young Biden, per his memoir, had never seemed too bothered about – suggest that Third Way politics was best suited to a technocrat with elite credentials like Dukakis or the Clintons. The scandals also affected his work as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he tried to grill the Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork on his voluminous writings on constitutional law. Biden offered to resign, but Thurmond and Kennedy told him not to. Bork’s nomination was thwarted, but Biden was still chairman four years later when George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas.
The story of those hearings has been told many times, but Marcetic adds to the picture. Biden had cut a deal with the Republicans a year before when Thomas was nominated to a lower judgeship: he promised he would get Thomas confirmed if they would pledge not to nominate him to the highest court. The Republicans welched on the deal. Biden knew about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas, but didn’t inform his committee colleagues of them before Thomas appeared at the Senate for confirmation. At least four other women were standing by to elaborate on Hill’s testimony, but Biden, caving in to White House pressure, stopped them from turning up. Things could have been different.
Marcetic traces Biden’s evolution on foreign policy from dissent on Vietnam (“I have only been here two years, but my little generation, which was the guys you fellows were drafting for war, is sick and tired of that war,” he said in 1975) to abetting Bush’s invasion of Iraq as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to guiding Obama’s extension of the War on Terror. In 1976 he called Kissinger “the most brilliant secretary of state the United States has ever seen.” He voted against the first Gulf War but later recanted: “Bush took a real political chance. This could have been a long war based on what we knew, with 40,000 casualties. But the president said, “I don’t think so,” and gambled the whole presidency on his decision. For that he deserves credit. That’s leadership.” (Marcetic points out that the war left “110,000 civilians dead, more than half of them children under 15.”)
Biden was a cheerleader for Clinton’s interventions in the Balkans. “Biden,” Marcetic writes, “had taken away an important lesson from the preceding decades: if you cared about political survival, it was safer to err on the side of war.” Biden’s record after voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq is a muddle of political posturing, culminating in his pitch to partition the country between the Kurds, Shias and Sunnis – an idea he championed after a chance encounter on a plane with Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Look, I know these people,” Marcetic quotes Biden telling a Middle East expert who had said to him Iraqis wanted an end to sectarianism. “My grandfather was Irish and hated the British. It’s like in the Balkans. They all grow up hating each other.” One intervention Biden didn’t support was the toppling of Gaddafi: it was Hillary Clinton who persuaded Obama to join in the bombing of Libya.
Obama chose Biden as his vice president because he was fond of him personally, because the choice would assuage the party establishment, and because Biden wasn’t a Clinton and wouldn’t hoard his own power. He also served as a neutralizing aged-white-guy foil to Obama’s 2008 opponent and Biden’s partner in chummy bipartisanship, John McCain. As vice president, Biden was responsible for conducting negotiations with the Republicans in Congress (Marcetic shows that he often made excessive concessions to the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell), for safeguarding the post-crash economic stimulus from corruption (as part of this he scotched jobs programs and cut aid to a non-profit organization that fed the hungry) and for various foreign missions (“Joe will do Iraq,” Obama said). In Biden’s second memoir, Promise Me, Dad – released in 2017, again with Zwonitzer ghosting, and focusing on his vice presidency and his son’s illness and death – he recalls a trip to Moscow where he met Vladimir Putin:
“As the meeting was coming to an end, Putin asked me to have a look around his office. The furnishings were elaborate and impressive. ‘It’s amazing what capitalism will do, isn’t it?’ I said, gazing up at the high ceiling. ‘Magnificent.’
“As I looked back down, I was face to face with him. ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes,’ I told him, smiling. ‘I don’t think you have a soul.’
“He looked at me for a second and smiled back. ‘We understand each other,’ he said.
“And we did.”
This is an amusing post-Cold War anecdote, poking fun at Bush’s claim that he understood Putin’s soul by looking into his eyes, but its real purpose is to pander to the current Russophobia in the political center.
Biden on Iraq is grimmer reading: “The irony of all ironies was that the very outfit that intended to tear the country apart, ISIL, was actually bringing Iraqis together, at least temporarily.”
His bond with Obama remained strong, though the president’s aides were tipping towards Hillary Clinton for the 2016 race. After Beau Biden’s cancer progressed to the point where he felt he had to step down as Delaware’s attorney general, Obama offered to lend the Bidens money when Biden’s only other option for supporting his son’s family was to take out a second mortgage on the family home. “I’ll give you the money,” Obama said. “I have it. You can pay me back whenever” – friendlier terms than you get from the banks and credit card companies of Delaware.
It’s to Obama that Biden owes his place at the top of the Democratic ticket. In a field of 29 candidates, only he and Sanders were established national figures. The rest of the slate was a vacuum of charisma. When Sanders emerged as a genuine threat after winning New Hampshire and Nevada, the endorsement of Congressman Jim Clyburn swung a tightening race in South Carolina and led to a Biden landslide. The last remaining centrists dropped out and endorsed Biden: first Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – one imagines they received incentivizing phone calls, perhaps from Obama himself – and then Michael Bloomberg, who was in any case only running to thwart the socialist Sanders. Elizabeth Warren, briefly a front runner, held on through Super Tuesday, though by January her campaign had cratered and a desperate attempt to paint Sanders as a sexist did nothing to revive it. The centrist fix was in. At the funeral of the civil rights icon John Lewis in June, Bill Clinton thanked Clyburn for ending the “intra-family fight” within the Democratic Party. Instead of a left platform including universal healthcare and a reining in of corporate power, the Democrats would be running against Trump on a promise of a return to the status quo ante.
After the primaries, Sanders and Biden met to set up a number of task forces, made up of both leftists and centrists, to issue reports on the economy, healthcare, education, climate change, criminal justice and immigration reform. “At the end of the day,” Sanders told David Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine, “if the reports of the task force are implemented, Biden will in fact be the most progressive president since FDR.”
With unemployment above 10%, a coronavirus body count exceeding 180,000, evictions and home foreclosures mounting, and a national protest movement still in full swing, there does seem to be a window for government intervention and further deficit spending. Universal healthcare is off the table, but Biden has pledged to spend $2 trillion on efforts against climate change – or, as Wallace-Wells put it, “twenty times the size of Barack Obama’s biggest green-energy investment – the $90 billion he snuck into the Recovery Act, which effectively kick-started the rapid global decline in the cost of renewables.”
Yet platforms rarely become reality. “When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” Ted Kaufman, Biden’s long-time chief of staff told the Wall Street Journal on August 19. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit … forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” We’re still Eisenhower Republicans here.
The Democratic National Convention, in its socially distanced Zoom infomercial incarnation, was largely aimed at wooing white suburbanites away from Trump, with many citizens expressing repentance for having voted against Hillary Clinton in 2016. The montage tribute to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement was scored to a Bruce Springsteen song. “There is no vaccine for racism,” Kamala Harris said – a good line but not much of a policy proposal. “We’ve gotta do the work,” she continued, the work being a vote for the Biden-Harris ticket.
Harris, a former attorney general of California, was painted by the left as a “cop,” an image she tried to soften in her own memoir, The Truths We Hold, published last year: “When activists came marching and banging on the doors, I wanted to be on the other side to let them in.” During the convention, it was reported that California was short of firefighters to douse its raging wildfires because its standard practice is to employ prison inmates at a wage of $1.45 an hour, and many of them are sick with coronavirus. It’s a practice Harris upheld as attorney general, with lawyers from her office arguing in court that prisoners shouldn’t be given early parole because they were needed to fight fires. (She has since reversed her position.) Her nomination pleased donors from Wall Street and Silicon Valley – a boon for Biden, who has never been a star fundraiser outside Delaware.
The convention wasn’t short on therapeutic vibes – especially in Michelle Obama’s speech about unity, character and empathy – and had more talk about the logistics of voting than I ever hope to hear again. Barack Obama’s speech was an elaborate guilt trip aimed at non-voters. The highlight reel of Biden’s career focused on his authorship of the 1994 Violence against Women Act and his early support for gay marriage, two of his most admirable accomplishments. His role as architect of the Crime Bill and the Patriot Act – and his abetting of Bush’s gutting of bankruptcy protections, a policy friendly to Delaware’s lenders and cruel to the nation’s borrowers – were not part of the program.
On the first night of the convention I flipped over to Fox News to watch Trump speaking at a rally in Wisconsin. So often recently a hapless buffoon, he was now in the vicious mode that won him the GOP primaries in 2016 and edged him past Clinton in the electoral college. The Democrats, he said, were “insane” radicals who were going to destroy the country, allies of the looters wrecking America’s cities. Biden was a “puppet” of the radical left. The Democrats would open the borders to hordes of criminals and ruin the American dream by moving low-income housing and crime into the suburbs. Trump was repulsive and rawly racist. The next week the Republican National Convention delivered more of the same, though the president’s own speech, despite its Citizen Kane theatrics, was prolix and dull.
In his acceptance speech, Biden said he would do what Trump had failed to do: protect the country. Of coronavirus he said: “I know how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest. That you feel your whole being is sucked into it. I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.”
I’ll vote for him – ass over tin cup.