Damp Weather | 28 Cases | Health Team | Caspar 1866 | Closed Session | Albion Bridge | Philo Hum | Cliff House | 10,000 Honeybees | Florence House | Veggie Starts | Public Disagreement | AOC Search | Landline Backup | Ed Notes | No WiFi | First Shots | Yesterday's Catch | March Merch | Soft Poets | Morning Swim | Brutal Business | Clean Electricity | Tree Goat | Wildlife Checkpoints | Acceptable Opinion | Brakeman Swung | RBG Supreme | Human Dignity | Ed Pearl | Biker Break | Remember Art | Opium Den | RFK Jr | Acorns
DAMP WEATHER will continue for much of Humboldt and Del Norte today, with some partial sunshine toward Lake County this afternoon. Another couple rounds of beneficial rain and high mountain snow will pass by tonight into Saturday, and later Sunday into Monday. (NWS)
28 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Thursday bringing total to 3659.
WE JUST NOTICED, belatedly apparently, that Mendo’s Public Health Officer Dr. Coren, who has his own consulting co-public health officer from San Diego, Dr. Noemi Doohan, now also has a Public Health Public Information Officer, Ms. Ashley Toxqui-Martin, helping him. Ms. Toxqui told MendoFever.com Thursday that Mendo’s 40th death due to covid was “a grim milestone for our community,” which it is, of course, but apparently too grim for Dr. Coren to announce himself. Fortunately, Ms. Toxqui-Martin is on staff to help. After all, with the County’s many public information officers and social media consultants and so forth, we’re all very well informed about the virus and the vaccination rollout, especially those grim milestones. (Mark Scaramella)
MENDOCINO COUNTY’S 40TH DEATH to COVID-19 is a ‘Grim Milestone For Our Community’
Ashley Toxqui, Mendocino County Public Health’s Public Information Officer, told us “Our 40th death, which marks a grim milestone for our community, was an 81-year-old American Indian male from the South Coast region. He passed away in the hospital.”
DIRECTION WAS GIVEN TO STAFF
by Mark Scaramella
On Tuesday, the Supervisors had a largish seven-item closed session agenda which was scheduled to take a whopping three hours. Instead, they remained cloistered for over 4.5 hours. As best we recall, that’s a record as the longest closed session in modern Supervisor history.
The first closed session item was the CEO Evaluation.
Background: In October of 2018, CEO Angelo gave herself a giant raise plus a four-year contract in a rigged meeting that she herself orchestrated which guaranteed her four more years (ending in October of 2022) at a guaranteed salary and benefit increase starting with raise to $195k per year base salary then increasing annually to $220k per year in the fourth year. At that time, Supervisor John McCowen, who later became openly frustrated at CEO Angelo’s constant foot dragging on, if not downright quashing of, many board directives, praised the CEO for essentially being CEO and lame (duck) Supervisor Dan Hamburg, who, soon after the CEO raise, went on mental health leave then high-tailed out for Oregon when his health care bennies ran out, called the unprecedented $200k per year giveaway to Angelo a “bargain.”
Previously: Our $225k Bargain Basement CEO
All the Supes who rubberstamped Angelo’s raise and contract back then are gone now except for Dan Gjerde. Yours truly had submitted a critical assessment of the CEO for last week’s closed session (reprinted in these pages) which we’d like to hope was at least considered in the over-long closed session. However, after over four and a half hours, Board Chair Gjerde emerged in virtual form to announce that for all seven closed session items: “Direction was given to staff.”
The CEO’s “evaluation” is a secret, of course, because she’s an “employee,” you see, and such “personnel matters” are top secret because we can’t have the rabble involved in the evaluation of the most important public “employee” in the County. It doesn’t matter what the Supes evaluation was anyway because even if the new Board grumbled and griped (courteously and on tippie-toes, of course because they know they don’t dare get on the CEO’s wrong side), Angelo’s sweetheart contract guarantees her raises until October of 2022 as well as the subsquent enormous pension she’ll get for as long as she lives after she retires. (Assuming she’s smart enough to max out her pension, she’s on track for a pension based on 30-years employment at 2.5% of base salary per year which would come to 0.025 x $220k x 30 = $165k per year. More if she can come up with some kind of medical or stress condition and/or arrange for a post-retirement double-dip consulting job when she moves back to San Diego.)
One of the items on Tuesday’s lengthy closed session agenda was entitled: “Public Employee Appointment – County Librarian.” Which you’d think would be a simple rubberstamp if it was on the agenda that way and since Mendo’s Library webpage already announces that a woman named Deborah Fader Samson, formerly of Tuolomne County (a victim of budget cuts, it seems), formerly of Albuquerque, is Mendo’s “Cultural Services Director / County Librarian.” Last year former County Librarian / Cultural Services Director Karen Horner simply up and vanished without notice — no presser, no “social media,” nothing — like a lot of CEO Angelo’s top henchpeople lately, come to think of it — and ended up as a librarian in Wyoming, far away from Mendo and CEO Angelo. Did the Board have some problem with making Ms. Samson’s position official? Did they express skepticism about the CEO’s chosen librarian? All we were told was, “Direction was given to staff.”
The Supes were also scheduled to discuss two apparent wrongful termination lawsuits, one the well-publicized suit filed by former Public Health Director Barbara Howe; the other a newer one filed by former Deputy Board Clerk Meribeth Dermond (an employee of Board Clerk/CEO Angelo). Maybe the new supervisors needed extra time to explore the ugly details of those cases. All we know is: “Direction was given to staff.”
We doubt the other items in closed session — labor negotiations of some kind and a possible upcoming additional lawsuit (the always ominous sounding “pending litigation”) — took much time, but even on those all we were allowed to know was, “Direction was given to staff.”
TRANSPARENCY? Hell yeah, we say how important that is all the time, unless we have to protect our overpaid selves, then the subject is managerial bungling, er, “a personnel matter.”
THE PHILO HUM?
ON LINE LOCAL QUESTION: Anyone know what that loud noise has been for the past several days, into the late night, near downtown Philo?
Tex Sawyer, who lives nearby, explains: It is PG&E. They have semi truck size generators running 24-7 as they are installing a whole new sub-station upgraded equipment and the generators are running everything right now. It should be going for a few more days.
Dear Beekeeper: Exciting news! Honeybee Packages-$175 ready to pick up early April
If you have already made your reservation by placing your $20 deposit per package at ApriLLanceBees.com, we will be ready for you! It is not necessary to call or email again. We will email you directions to our Healdsburg ranch, specific pick up dates, times and more. Exciting! Thank you for supporting a tiny backyard beekeeping business!
To order click here: ApriLLanceBees.com leave your email, phone number AND number of packages you would like with $20. deposit for each package. One package has about 10,000 (3 pounds) beautiful, lovingly raised, calm, gentle to work honeybees and one well-bred 2021 queen (no chemicals ever used).
Your sweet honeybees will come in a sealed screened box, so nothing special is needed to transport them, just keep them cool and allow air circulation. If we already have your deposit, thank you and please disregard this message.
Other helpful info and enjoy reading “A Sweet Note to Beekeepers” and “How to unpackaged your Bees” on the website.
LOCAL VEGGIE STARTS
Seed potatoes people ordered through me were shipped Monday. I'll weigh them this weekend & contact folks to arrange distribution. It’s possible there will be a few extra pounds but I won’t know until I’m done with the orders.
I plan to grow vegetable starts again this year. However, since nobody has stepped forward to be a manager for the Boonville Farmer’s Market the plan is to only plant enough for our garden and for people who pre-order from me.
Interested people should contact me soon. I intend to be planting seed before the end of the month. email@example.com, 707-242-3494
In addition to the ‘modern heirlooms’ I've grown for some years, I bought fresh seed for the following cultivars:
- Spineless Perfection Zucchini
- Sugaretti spaghetti squash
- Jambalaya Okra
- Cheyenne F1 pepper (compact heavy fruiting conical hot orange)
- Carranza Pepper for stuffing, drying, etc.
- Just Sweet Pepper - heavy fruiting golden mini-pepper, a recent AAS selection
- Roulette mild red habanero - billed as 'heat free' but some sites say 100-200 Scoville units
- Shishito pepper - wildly popular prolific fruiter
- Takii’s New Ace - early bell pepper that fruits well in cooler climates
- Slim Jim Eggplant -compact slender Italian type
- Comet Purple eggplant -Oriental type
- Sungold (Brix - 8-9)
- Nectar (Brix similar to Sungold. some say ’sweeter’)
- Matt’s Wild Cherry (Brix -11.5)
- Candyland Red (Brix - 12)
- Sweet Aperitif (Brix up to 13)
- Black Cherry - heirloom
- Kellogg’s Breakfast - orange heirloom
- Black Krim - ‘Black’ heirloom
- Momotaro/Tough Boy -popular Japanese pink
FORT BRAGG MAYOR, HOSPITALITY CENTER AT ODDS OVER WINTER SHELTER
Fort Bragg mayor Bernie Norvell and the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center have been in a public disagreement for several weeks, the issue flaming up most recently after the mayor released a statement that questioned the Hospitality Center’s ability to maintain the annual Winter Shelter without the city’s intervention.
CALIFORNIA REQUIRES LANDLINE OPERATORS TO HAVE 72 HOURS OF BACKUP POWER FOR DISASTERS
State regulators will require landline companies to ensure critical and vulnerable phone systems have 72 hours worth of backup power, a mandate imposed a little over a year after PG&E’s widespread, self-directed electricity shut-offs cut communications for hundreds of thousands of Californians.
THUS SPAKE the Covid Oracle, aka Dr. Fauci, who said Thursday that "By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for better wording, ‘open season,’ namely, virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” The prob, excluding anti-vaxxers, has always been confusion at the federal level under Trump and, of course, supply. By April, Fauci says, supply and the logistics of supply will have been worked out.
I'VE READ 'The Catholic Worker' for at least fifty years. It's managed to follow me from address to address all that time. I used to know some Workers, and have always admired their selflessness in putting themselves where their Catholicism is in feeding and housing the destitute, some of the food being raised on the Peter Maurin Farm at Marlboro, New York. Of all my radlib affiliations, the Workers, and don't laugh, have been the steadiest, dare I say the most wholesome. An odd choice of words, I know, but it's the word that pops up when I think of their commitment, their reliability put up against… Well, the flesh seems especially weak on the left. The Catholic Worker costs one cent and appears seven times a year. It was begun by the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, pacifists and politically left radicals whose lives make interesting reading for those of you still able to focus on long-distance prose. Send them as many cents as you can afford and get yourself a sub: Catholic Worker, 36 East First Street, New York, NY 10003.
THEY ALL DO IT, from city councils to school boards, to supervisors. The Willits City Council has hired a “search firm” to find a new police chief. But Willits has teetered on the edge of bankruptcy for the past decade, and might have fallen clear into civic dissolution were it not for its citizens passing a sales tax increase last November. Call me naive, but aren't theoretically reliable people elected to public bodies to assume responsibility for their towns, school boards and so on, and shouldn't basic key position hiring decisions be theirs, not delegated to “search firms” responsible to no one? Willits has the dough to squander on a search firm?
MAYBE WILLITS is gun shy (sic) after its most recent police chief, a black woman, departed, claiming racism, sexism and general cracker-ism from the white boys she was hired to supervise. For their Woke deficiencies, the former chief wants half-a-mil. We haven't heard from the white boys yet, although according to the newly-formed, all-female electronic lynch mob run out of KZYX, the Willits Police Department wears Klan robes under their uniforms.
THIS IS HOW INSANE the Cancel Culture has become: Seth Brenzel, a gay white father of a bi-racial child, has been denied a spot on the San Francisco Board of Education's volunteer parent committee. Brenzel was cool every which way until it got to his, his, his whiteness.
THE RELIABLY TRUCULENT David Gurney wrote on the ava's comment line: “What happened to Justin Timberlake? Arrested for Disorderly Conduct & Resisting but it looks like from the picture, whoever did the arresting got carried away. Another case of ‘almost all the people who do this impossible…do it humanely?’ You should change your name to the Anderson Valley Apologizer”
WELL, DAVE, I'm sure if you asked you could get a copy of the police report, or catch Timberlake in a sober moment to ask him if he remembers how he got banged up. I doubt the arresting officer did it deliberately or at all, but people stuck in Blue Meanie Mode won't be convinced even if they have all-angle film of the episode. Now, if you'll join me for a walk down Memory Lane, the first time I got arrested for a non-political reason, circa '61, I was cuffed to a chair in, of all places, the Pismo Beach Police station. (Bar fight with locals started by them. No, really.) My fellow arrestee kept inviting the cops to “Go fuck yourself” until this one cop yelled, “Everytime you say that I'm going to hit this asshole.” Which happened to be me, who got slapped several times before my arrest buddy finally shut up. But since the advent of the Universal Camera the police are pretty careful, tempting as it must often be, to beat people up. If the Mendo cops were recreationally smacking people around, the mighty ava, its tentacles deep in the Defendant Community, would hear about it and write about it, from both sides.
ACCORDING to the highly respected British medical journal, Lancet, many of the Americans killed by COVID-19 might have lived if better political decisions had been made before and during the pandemic. The Lancet study, titled Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era, rips Trump, saying he “brought misfortune to the USA and the planet.” It describes Trump’s response to COVID as “inept and insufficient,” though it says the roots of the nation’s public-health problems go much deeper. Mary Bassett, a Lancet commission member and director of Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, told The Guardian: “The U.S. has fared so badly with this pandemic, but the bungling can’t be attributed only to Mr. Trump, it also has to do with these societal failures.” The Lancet study estimates that, had America’s virus death toll matched up with the rates in other high-income G-7 countries, some 40 percent of deaths could have been avoided. Almost 470,000 Americans have died so far.
ADD ALYSON BAILEY to Mendo's long roster of the disappeared. The young Measure B Project Manager has, without explanation, been replaced by all-purpose Mendo bureaucrat Jenine Miller. Ms. Bailey seemed in over her head, but then so does the unfocused, inept Measure B advisory committee, not to mention the Mendo managers involved. Bezos himself would be hard put to bring order to this mess. “Our goal is to move forward at a faster clip with increased transparency, while continuing to maintain a strong, collaborative relationship with our Measure B Commission,” Miller told the UDJ. (Huh? Continuing what?)
JANUARY 6TH was ugly for a fact, as mob actions almost always are. And Trump clearly encouraged his cretinous legion to invade the Capitol, but it wasn't an insurrection in any sense of the term. An insurrection is planned and armed, although some of the morons would have harmed the most famous libs, and even pathetic old Pence, if they had found them. But they didn't. The impeachment hearings are living evidence of how far we've fallen, a parade of hacks mouthing tired platitudes in a process whose outcome is predetermined.
ON LINE PRAISE FOR ADVENTISTS: My wife and I got our first shots last Wed at the Adventist HealthClinic. We arrived early and told not a problem, get in line. Registered and shots within 10 minutes, scheduled for second shot. Wait for 15 minutes in the observation tent and gone! Could not have had a more friendly or better organized group running the clinic! Wow - good work, Adventist Health team!!!
CATCH OF THE DAY, February 11, 2021
ANTONIO AISPURO, Desert Hot Springs/Ukiah. DUI, more than an ounce of pot, controlled substance, suspended license (for reckless driving), probation revocation.
SHAREEN LENZI, Talmage. Stolen property, failure to appear.
LUIS MANZO-GARCIA, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
LUIS ORTIZ, Ukiah. Stalking with prior felony, annoying phone calls, violation of court order to prevent domestic violence with prior, county parole violation.
“You’re not making this easy.”
"I THINK YOU HAVE TO GET YOUR FACE in the mud now and then, I think you have to know what a jail is, a hospital is. I think you have to know what it feels like to go without food for 4 or 5 days. I think living with insane women is good for the back-bone. I think you can write with joy and release after you've been in the vise. I only say this because all the poets I have met have been soft jellyfish, sycophants. They have nothing to write about except their selfish non-endurance."
— Charles Bukowski
ALICE GOODRIDGE using a sledgehammer to break up the ice at Loch Insh in the Scottish Highlands before her morning swim. Photo by Euan Cherry, February 2019.
'I LEARNED TO AIM for my opponent's temple, or for his heart. It sounds brutal, but boxing is a brutal business. Most spectators seem to think that the jaw is the primary target, or maybe the solar plexus. Perhaps it is with some fighters, but I learned to look for the temple and the heart and the liver. Hit a man in the liver and his pain is excruciating.'
— Sugar Ray Robinson
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Hah! I’m not like you suckers. I have an electric heat pump, so I don’t depend on gas or oil, which destroys the environment. While you guys are paying through the nose for oil, I won’t care because I use electricity. And I have a hybrid RAV4, so I don’t care if gasoline goes to $10 per gallon. Me and my green cohorts will be fine, while you “normies” freeze during the upcoming winters.
FISH & WILDLIFE: What they can do:
Question: Do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens have the authority to search a sportsperson’s truck, boat, cooler, etc. without a warrant or probable cause? If so, how would an abalone check point (for example) not be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the constitution? I’m all for stopping poachers, but not at the cost of violating what makes our country so special. Thanks. (John McClellan)
Answer: In the hunting and fishing context, wildlife officers are authorized to conduct compliance inspections that would likely require warrants or probable cause in other contexts. Hunting and fishing are highly regulated activities. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual. Many states, including California, recognize this and have enacted statutes to allow Wildlife Officers to conduct regulatory inspections when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities. Some of these include:
• Authorization to inspect boats, buildings other than dwellings, and containers that may contain fish or wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 1006)
• Authorization to “enter and examine any…place of business where fish or other fishery products are packed, preserved, manufactured, bought or sold, or to board any fishing boat…or vehicle or receptacle containing fish…and may examine any books and records containing any account of fish caught, bought, canned, packed, stored or sold.” (Fish and Game Code, section 7702)
Also, people are required to exhibit upon the demand of a wildlife officer all licenses, tags, wildlife, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 2012)
The courts have consistently upheld these inspection authorities. As for check points, CDFW has used check points for the past 25 years as a focused and effective means of educating resource users and deterring violations of our wildlife laws. In a state as vast as California with a population of over 38 million people and with a staff of only 400 sworn officers, CDFW needs to ensure that the funds and manpower resources we have are put to the most efficient use possible. Conducting checkpoints allows us to contact thousands of people who are using our public trust resources with a handful of officers. For those who are not using our public trust resources, the check points provide us an opportunity to educate them about our state’s wildlife resources and our role in protecting those resources. The courts have established minimum standards that must be followed when we conduct checkpoints, but just like DUI checkpoints, wildlife checkpoints have been upheld by the courts.
“THE SMART WAY to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum…”
'WHEN I WAS FIGHTING as an amateur, I used to ride the freight trains, and once I had an experience I'll never forget. I was on a freight returning to St Louis when a brakeman got after me. I had been standing there on the side of a tank car - it had molasses in it, I think - and I was day-dreaming, without a care in the world, when a sixth sense told me I was in danger.
I pulled back just as the brakeman swung at me with a club. He missed, and the club splintered on the handrail of the car. I would have been killed sure if he had hit me. I was scared and excited, but I got away from him. I ran. I was as surefooted as a goat. I've always wondered why that fellow wanted to kill me. I was just a harmless hobo; I wasn't bothering anybody. I suppose that brakeman will never know the grief he caused me. When he swung that club, I dropped the little bag I was carrying.
I lost all my fighting equipment. I had a pair of nice white trunks, a pair of freshly shined shoes, and my socks all neatly rolled. Those things meant a lot to me, and I was heartbroken over losing them.'
— Archie Moore
ALEXANDER HAMILTON MEETS RBG & THE SUPREMES
by Jonah Raskin
“I don’t think my efforts would have succeeded had it not been for the women’s movement that was reviving in the United States and more or less all over the world.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2013
In 1788 in The Federalist Papers, “Publius” (aka Alexander Hamilton) argued that the judiciary branch of the American republic would have less power than the executive and the legislative branches. ”It may be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment,” he wrote. If only it were so.
Contrary to Hamilton’s wishes, the judiciary, and especially the U.S. Supreme Court, has exercised both force and will for hundreds of years. While it has rubber stamped freedom for corporations and the few, it has often annihilated life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the many.
In fact, the court has acted not only as judge, but also as a jailer and as executioner. Five days before Biden became president, the Supremes issued an order that made possible the execution of Dustin J. Higgs, a 48-year old African-American sentenced to death for murder. Higgs was the 13th person executed by the state between July 2020 and January 21. Justice Sonia Sotomayor called it “a spree of executions.”
From the earliest tentative beginnings of the American experiment in democracy, to the present day, U. S. Supreme Court Justices have shaped the political contours of the nation and altered the lives of individuals, including Dred Scott, an escaped slave made famous by Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), and Charles Schenck, an anti-war protester who figured in Schenck v. The United States (1919).
In Dred Scott the Supreme Court ruled that Scott was private property, and that as a Black man he could not claim U.S. citizenship and therefore was ineligible to bring a suit in federal court. Sorry Scott: back to bondage.
Sixty-two-years later, the court ruled that Charles Schenck—a pacifist and a member of the U.S. Socialist Party—could not claim that the anti-draft leaflets he distributed to young men during World War I were protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Sorry Schenck: go to jail, buddy. Rulings like Dred Scott and Schenck have been the norm ever since the Supreme Court was established in 1789.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)—which ruled 5-4 that corporations have the same free speech rights as citizens—is one of the most recent egregious examples of the Supreme Court’s drift to the right and its exercise of both force and will.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, wrote the decision for the majority in Citizens United. Justice Bader Ginsburg, who joined the court in 1993 and who died in 2020, joined with Stephen Breyer, a Clinton appointee, and Sonia Maria Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, as well as Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the dissenting opinion. A 5-4 decision: a familiar story on the court.
American citizens who grew up in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s tend to remember the court as a bulwark for basic freedoms and for landmark decisions like Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Loving v. Virginia (1967) and Roe v. Wade (1973). Alas, though some Supreme Court decisions have been worthy of cheering, they have not resolved for all time issues such as freedom of speech, abortion and affirmative action. It took the Civil War, not arguments in court, to end chattel slavery.
Few liberal judges have had a wider, deeper impact over the past half-century than Bader Ginsburg, who wrote majority opinions in United States v. Virginia (1996), which struck down the male only admissions policy at Virginia Military Institute, and Olmstead v. LC (1999), which held that individuals with mental disorders had the right to live in a community, not in an institution, when appropriate. Also, few judges have been as beloved as Bader Ginsburg, especially among women of all ages.
Of the 114 Supreme Court Justices in U.S. history, all but six have been white men. RBG joins a pantheon of exemplary judges that includes Louis Brandeis, who aided the development of the right to privacy, William O. Douglas, a bold environmentalist, and Earl Warren, who presided over the court for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which helped end legal segregation.
More than any other justice, Bader Ginsburg feels like a member of my extended family. My mother, Mildred — who was Jewish, a Lefty, and born in Brooklyn — never knew Bader Ginsburg, who was also born in Brooklyn to a Jewish family. Bader Ginsburg died on September 1, 2020, twenty-five years after the death of my mother, who aimed for gender equality all through her marriage and after my father’s death.
Like my mother, Bader Ginsburg usually knew when to speak and when to remain silent, as on the occasion when Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist asked her, after oral argument in the case of Duren v. Missouri, “You won’t settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?” Justice Ginsburg would explain that she thought she might have said, “We won’t settle for tokens.” Instead she chose to seal her lips.
But she spoke out again and again, as when Columbia University, where she taught law, fired 25 women who were maids, but fired no men on the staff. Bader Ginsburg told the vice president of the university that the institution was violating Title VII, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Columbia administrator told her, “Columbia has excellent lawyers and would you like a cup of tea?” Later, Title VII was expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. That was, in part, Justice Ginsburg’s doing. Indeed, she helped engineer a gender revolution and bring women’s liberation to the Supreme Court, though she wore black robes, along with a white collar, and used legal language.
“The Supremes,” as my friends and I have called the justices on the highest court in the land, often sided with money and power and against working people, immigrants, citizens of color and women. All through the 1960s and 1970s, I believed that if Americans wanted justice, they ought not to take a case to the Supreme Court, but rather to the streets, and to march, protest, sit-in and picket in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Justice Ginsburg showed me and many of my peers that the Supreme Court could be an effective instrument for social justice, though her approach to adjudication was cautious and measured. During her lifetime, she adhered to a sense of civility which I sometimes found troubling, especially during the years of her genuine friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia — they attended the opera together — who seemed to be her ideological adversary.
Ginsburg wasn’t infallible and knew it, too. She came to regret her decision in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York in which she dismissed the Oneida tribe’s legal claims to its ancient lands. She changed her tune and her rulings in matters that concerned American Indians. In 2020, as though to make amends, she suggested that U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa, a Hopi, be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Diversity was one of her rallying cries. So was play, in more ways than one.
In Venice on vacation, Bader Ginsburg was invited by actor and director, F. Murray Abraham, to take the role of the judge in a reenactment of the trial of Shakespeare’s Shylock from the Merchant of Venice. Ginsburg accepted the role. After closing arguments, she found the merchant not guilty by reason of mental incompetence. Murray Abraham came away from the experience impressed with Ginsburg’s “grace,” “intelligence” and “most of all her humanity.”
A woman of her time and her place, Justice Ginsburg also transcended boundaries, broke with traditions and set a high standard for women who entered the legal profession, dreamed of becoming judges and advancing the cause of social and gender justice. I like to imagine that RBG might haunt Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s last appointment to the Court. In 1972, the year Barrett was born, Bader Ginsberg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Barrett assumed office less than two months after Justice Ginsburg’s passing. A staunch defender of “originalism,” Barrett has insisted that the U.S. Constitution must be understood and interpreted in ways consistent with what it meant to the Founding Fathers in the late eighteenth-century. Justice Ginsburg might well have argued that Barrett aims to turn back the clock, find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, overturn the Voting Rights Act, undo landmark decisions like Roe v. Wade and reaffirm the Second Amendment, which the National Rifle Association has exploited.
Maybe the newest associate justice will have a change of heart. Perhaps as the mother of seven children, as a Catholic, and as a descendant of Irish immigrants, Barrett will come to see the world through the eyes of Americans who have unjustly suffered wrongs. Stranger things have happened on the highest court in the land.
Alabama-born Hugo Black, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin D. Roosevelt, belonged to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. He consistently opposed anti-lynching legislation. But on the Court he ruled in favor of African-American criminal defendants who were denied due process of law. Near the height of McCarthyism, Justice Black opposed the Smith Act, which made it a crime to advocate or teach the overthrow of the U.S. government. Not to actually engage in an insurrection but to share the idea. “There is hope, that in calmer times,” Black wrote, “this or some later Court will restore the First Amendment liberties to the high, preferred place where they belong in a free society.” Like Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter and Thurgood Marshall — the first African American on the Supreme Court — Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood that the Supreme Court was shaped by “political climate” and that it was essential for laws to change, as society changed.
The death of justices, along with appointments to the Supreme Court have never taken place in social, political and economic vacuums. Last year was no exception. President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Court on September 26, 2020, just eight days after Bader Ginsburg’s death, with the nation caught up in a terrible pandemic, the economy in a tailspin and a campaign for the White House mired in lies, untruths and fear mongering. After her passing, Ginsburg became the first woman and the first Jewish American to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.
At the Rose Garden nomination ceremony for Barrett many of the two hundred or so guests did not wear masks. Trump wore no mask. Soon after that ceremony, on October 2, 2020, he tested positive for COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, called the ceremony a “super-spreader event.” The senate confirmed Trump’s nomination by a vote of 52-48, that split along political lines. Barrett was sworn in by Clarence Thomas who was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill.
Across the country, fans of RBG went into mourning after she died and decried the Supreme Court’s shift to the right.
Ginsburg told her granddaughter, during one of her last conscious moments, “My most fervid wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” After her passing, Anita Hill observed, “You don’t always have to be in the winning column to be powerful.” Alexander Hamilton, who insisted that the judiciary would be the “least dangerous” branch of government, might rise from his grave and warn citizens that the Supreme Court could be as dangerous as the executive and legislative branches.
Harvard University law professor Randall Kennedy recently warned that the Republican justices “will act calmly, quietly and deliberately to entrench the policies propelling the degradation of democracy in America.” They’ve had lots of practice and they have the examples of many of their predecessors on the court, including Roger Taney, Melville Fuller and Oliver Wendell Holmes, who offered in their decision a ”clear and present danger” to equality, justice and freedom.
(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)
ED PEARL, A FOUNDER OF PEACE & FREEDOM PARTY, DIES AT AGE 88.
Ed Pearl, who owned the landmark folk and blues hot spot the Ash Grove in the 1960s before briefly relocating it to the Santa Monica Pier, has died from complications of COVID-19 and pneumonia.
NEGOTIATIONS were already on foot to make Kipps into a draper before he discovered the lights that lurked in Ann Pornick's eyes. But school was over, absolutely over, and it was chiefly present to him that he was never to go to school again. It was high summer. The "breaking up" at school had been hilarious, and the excellent maxim, "Last Day's Pay Day," had been observed by him with a scrupulous attention to his honor. He had punched the heads of all his enemies, wrung wrists and kicked shins; he had distributed all his unfinished copybooks, all his school books, his collection of marbles and his mortar-board cap among such as loved him; and he had secretly written in obscure pages of their books, "remember Art Kipps." He had also split the anemic Woodrow's cane, carved his own name deeply in several places about the premises, and broken the scullery window. He had told everybody so often that he was to learn to be a sea captain that he had come almost to believe the thing himself. And now he was home, and school was at an end for him evermore.
--H.G. Wells, 1905; from "Kipps"
HUFFMAN ON ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: “I've met RFK Jr. many times since we were both Senior Attorneys at NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council]. He's a talented advocate and I think very highly of his work on environmental issues and human rights. But on vaccines and autism, frankly he's lost his marbles and I applaud Instagram for taking away his platform to spread dangerous bunk. I say this as the father of an autistic son. Every autism parent wishes for a simple causal explanation, but at this point we just don't have it. RFK Jr. does a huge disservice to the autism community and really to all of us by peddling junk theories that try to blame vaccines. Especially right now, when public confidence in vaccines is so critical to saving lives and ending this deadly pandemic.”